previous next

Doc. 104 1/2.-capture of Union City, Tenn.

A correspondent gives the following minute account of this affair:

above Island no.10, Monday, March 31, 1862.
Since my last I have had the extreme pleasure of seeing the clearing out of that pestiferous centrepot of treason, Union City.

It may, perhaps, be recollected that when the National fleet first came down here, it found Hickman in possession of a company of confederate vagabonds, who plundered, insulted and outraged the citizens of Hickman, under the pretence of serving the Dixie government. For a week or so after this they held possession of the place, and compelled all who had shown any evidence of satisfaction at the arrival of the National fleet to leave the town. The gunboat Louisville, Capt. Dove, about this time went up and anchored abreast of the town. This, together with a battalion of the Twenty-second Missouri, under Col. Foster, that took possession of the town, convinced the rebels that thereafter there would be more danger than profit in remaining to insult and plunder the inhabitants; hence, true to their instincts, they sought a less exposed locality.

Dr. Catlett and some other citizens of Hickman, last week visited Commodore Foote, and asked reinforcements, as they feared that a body of rebels at Union City were being largely reenforced, and might eventually prove troublesome. The request was acceded to, and on Sunday two transports arrived at the levee, bringing up the Twenty-seventh Illinois, under Colonel Buford, and the Fifteenth Missouri, Colonel Hogg. The thing was managed very quietly, so much so that no one at No. Ten suspected the destination of the regiments, nor were even the Union citizens of Hickman admitted into the plans of the worthy commander, Col. Buford. By mere chance I had gone up to the town in the morning, and thus was present when they arrived, without suspecting the object of their coming.

Soon after arriving, Col. Buford gave out that he had come to the town merely to show the people a specimen of National troops; and furthermore that, a little after noon, he would treat the citizens to a grand review of all the National forces in the town. This information being circulated, aroused the curiosity of everybody, and had the effect to send all who could walk down to the levee to witness the grand display.

Just as soon as they were all there, a battery of six rifled pieces, under Capt. Spastmon of the Second Illinois artillery, and some two hundred Second Illinois cavalry, under Lieut.-Col. Hogg, that were encamped on the outskirts of the town, quietly limbered and saddled and pushed along the “lower road” in the direction of Union-City. An hour or so after they had gone, the forces on the transports were disembarked, and, together with the battalion under Colonel Foster, marched around town to the inspiriting music of a couple of excellent martial bands. About three P. M., conceiving that the cavalry and artillery had obtained a sufficient start, Col. Buford struck for Union City, under the pretence of giving the men a little march into the country after their long confinement on the boats. Col. Foster remained behind, with orders to allow no one to leave the city on any pretence until the result of the expedition should become known.

I may say here that the secessionists in Hickman, for the last week, have been throwing out hints of trouble from Union City; giving our forces to understand that the gallant chivalry would be in some morning for breakfast in. Hickman, after giving themselves an appetite therefor by demolishing utterly the Hessians that profaned the sacred soil with their presence.

We pushed on after the cavalry and artillery, and a little after sundown overtook them about four miles from Union City. It was determined to camp there for the night, and make the attack early in the morning. The men, who had one day's rations in their knapsacks, took a “cold bite” for supper, and then, after posting a strong guard, wrapped themselves in their blankets and lay down on their arms to sleep. No fires were of course allowed, but the night was as warm as the evenings of August in our more northern latitudes.

About four A. M., the troops were quietly gotten in order, and the march resumed. Great caution was observed to prevent our falling into an ambuscade, which it was more than probable might be found at any step of our progress. The country is favorable for such an operation. The road, the whole distance from Hickman, leads through a densely wooded country, broken here and there by clearings, on which the wheat and grass are already growing in green and velvety luxuriance.

A small cavalry force kept a short distance in advance, and carefully examined the country on either side of the road as we proceeded. Not the slightest symptom of hostility showed itself till we reached a point about two miles this side of Union City. Here, just where the road crosses the railway, our advance encountered a strong picket force of the rebels. Both parties immediately opened at long range; but after firing some twenty shots, the enemy turned and disappeared in a cloud of dust of their own raising, as they fled in to give the alarm. The National column immediately pushed on after them so vigorously that they had scarcely given the alarm to the main body ere our men were on them.

Union City is at the junction of the railroads from Columbus and Hickman, and consists of a depot, a dozen indifferent wooden buildings, the whole situated in a clearing less than a mile in diameter. As we reached within a half-mile or so of this clearing, the road widened somewhat, the trees became thinner, enabling one to see the settlement. As we reached this point, we first noticed [346] the white tents of the rebels to the left of the town, and next the rebels themselves drawn up in line of battle across the road, with his wings extending into the timber on either side.

The column was instantly thrown into line of battle across the road, skirmishers pushed in advance, the cavalry sent off to the left to make a detour, and get in the rear of the enemy, while the artillery turned to the right of the road and took position on a little eminence in a wheat-field. The battery went into position on a gallop, and almost as soon as I have written it, they unlimbered and opened on the rebels.

Alas! for the chivalry — alas! for those brave and chivalrous souls who profess to eat up five-fold their number in Yankees, and to die in the last ditch. The whiz of their first rifled shot affected them unpleasantly — the second made them worse, and then, as they looked and saw a regiment of steel coming straight at their breasts, and a force of cavalry creeping around to their rear, and reflected for a moment how unpleasant were the sensations caused by bayonet, sabre and cannonshot, they turned tail and ingloriously fled, without firing a gun!

It would have amused an admirer of speed to have seen these “natural lords of the soil” travel--to have seen these chivalrous scions — these “dying-in-the-last-ditch” fellows — these warm-blooded, gallant sons of the sunny South drop their old shot-guns, drop their variegated blankets, and shoot with straight coat-tails as fast as long legs, and be-threshed and be-spurred horses could carry them, and all this from a force not half their own in numbers! The platform seemed to be, “A fair start, or any start, and the devil take the hindmost;” the bull-calf, to which Falstaff was likened, never so ran and roared as did these valiant haters of Yankees — these bowie-knife, whisky-brave, nobly-descended sons of the Huguenots. Jamais arriere seemed to be the motto of all; and frantic and superhuman were the efforts made by each to bring no disgrace upon so worthy a sentiment.

Some seven individuals, who were swindled in getting a fair start, were cut off by our cavalry, and preferring surrender to death, quietly laid down their arms and gave themselves up. These were all the prisoners taken; the balance made good their escape, and probably ere this are safe in Memphis, and are rejoicing the hearts of the rebels there by relating how they slew hecatombs of Yankees, and after demolishing them completely, fell back in accordance with a “previous order.”

The haste of the rebels was such in leaving, that they left all their tents standing and their personal property untouched. There was a large amount of stores at the depot, but these had been placed on a train several days before, and were run off early Monday morning. The only articles found were the tents and baggage, and a mail-bag full of letters that had apparently just arrived, and had not been distributed.

Our forces advanced, preserving the line of battle, until they reached the centre of the clearing. The artillery was then brought forward, and placed in a position so as to command the country in every direction; after which, guards being stationed, a leisurely examination was made of the town. There were a few people left, who expressed the greatest joy at the sight and success of the Union troops. As a matter of course they were Union--always had been Union--and were only kept from a free expression of their sentiments by the presence of the Southern soldiers. These expressions of loyalty were not taken at par; in fact, I have the assurance that there is not a loyal soul in the whole place, except, it may be, among the negroes.

These came around in great numbers, and seemed mightily pleased at the pageantry afforded by the military gathering. One gaily-dressed female, who is blacker than a stormy midnight, remarked to another ebony damsel in my hearing, that “Dem Yankees is a heap better lookina dan de Suthen fellows!” She further remarked that she was “gwine to hev a dress made of red, white and blue,” which, of course, would be a compliment of the highest character to the National cause, and together with black, would afford a highly artistic grouping of colors.

The rebel force holding this place was composed as follows: Twenty-first Tennessee, Lieut.-Col. Tilman, and seven companies of cavalry, Lieut.-Col. Jackson.

The Twenty-first Tennessee numbered six hundred and sixteen men, and is the regiment formerly commanded by Col. Pickett. The cavalry was commanded by Col. Logwood, but since the affair at Columbus, he from some cause, has concluded to resign. The entire force, in round numbers, was about one thousand men. The infantry were well armed, having in a majority of cases either Minie muskets or French rifles; the cavalry had sabres, carbines, and generally navy revolvers.

Several flags and guidons were left behind. One of the latter is marked “C. S.,” and beneath this “M. L. D.,” either Memphis or Mississippi Light Dragoons. The usual number of shot-guns, blankets and other rebel equipments, were found lying around loose, and were, in the case of the first-named, loaded into a wagon and carried off. The blankets were discreetly let alone, as it is a very generally well-known fact, that rebel clothing is about as full of a certain nameless insect as the rebels themselves are full of chivalry and superiority to the balance of human kind, especially that portion known as Yankees.

The tents and barracks were committed to the flames, the mail-bag hoisted into a wagon, and soon after the National column started for Hickman, which place they reached about three o'clock this afternoon. Our arrival was the occasion of no little rejoicing to the Union citizens, and of chagrin to the disloyal. During our absence it was confidently predicted by the latter that we would “catch---” at Union City; and so certain did some of them feel of it, that they got pretty drunk, so as to have a good start on a big drunk as soon as the news of our defeat should arrive. [347]

Thus on Sunday and Monday, did Col. Buford cleanse one of the sinks of treason in a style that will effectually prevent the necessity of a repetition of the treatment. The National troops did not lose a single man. The rebels suffered to the extent of two. One man had both his legs torn off by a cannon-shot, and the other was struck in the breast; both were killed almost instantly.

Soon after our arrival, the Louisville ran upstream and fired a cheery salute, which found an echo among the vivacious huzzas of the land forces, and the sullen curses of the discontented secessionists.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)
hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Francis Buford (5)
J. Hickman (3)
J. G. Foster (3)
Hogg (2)
Tilman (1)
Spastmon (1)
Pickett (1)
Logwood (1)
Stonewall Jackson (1)
A. H. Foote (1)
Falstaff (1)
B. M. Dove (1)
Doc (1)
Catlett (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
March 31st, 1862 AD (1)
August (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: