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Doc. 204.-expedition to Clarksville, Tenn.

Cincinnati Commercial account.

since the surrender of Clarksville to Woodward and his guerrilla band, and his repulse at this post, the recapture of that proud, aristocratical, secesh town, has been an object most earnestly desired by the officers and men of what remains of the Seventy-first regiment O. V.I. Colonel W. W. Lowe, commanding the posts of Forts Henry and Hindman, entered fully into this feeling. He, therefore, after a good deal of labor and some unavoidable delay, concentrated a force at this post which was regarded sufficiently strong to march into and recapture Clarksville. The force consisted. of parts of the Eleventh Illinois, Col. Ransom; Thirteenth Wisconsin, Lieut.-Col. Chapman; Seventy-first Ohio, Major Hart, and part of the Fifth Iowa cavalry, one section of Flood's battery, and one section of Starbuck's battery, numbering in all about one thousand and thirty men. With this force, under command of Colonel Lowe, we started in the forenoon of the fifth instant for Clarksville. The line of march lay along the left bank of the Cumberland River, which stream we forded at our starting point, most of the infantry wading it. For about eight miles the route led us over rough and rugged hills, and along the winding of deep ravines. At one o'clock P. M. we halted five miles out, at “Bellwood Chapel,” an old antiquated log house, hardly fit to stable mules in, named in honor of the dishonored John Bell, of Tenn., and is, in its present forsaken condition, a suitable representation [610] of his dilapidated, musty, and worm-eaten patriotism.

Finding here a good supply of excellent water, we “rested and refreshed” ourselves till eight o'clock in the evening, when our march was resumed. The night was calm and beautiful. The moon, at her full, rose high in the heavens, and her soft light, filtered through the thick foliage of the forest, lay in patches on the hill-sides and in the ravines. The whole scene was wild and romantic, and was fully appreciated by many in our gallant little army, although we knew we were moving in the face of the foe. We would have felt rebuked by the sweet quiet of the scenery, had we not felt and known in our very hearts the justice of our cause.

At half-past 2 o'clock in the morning of the sixth we halted at Blue Springs, and bivouacked for the residue of the night. Here we ascertained that parties of guerrillas were hovering round, some fifty or more having approached within a half-mile of our pickets. During Saturday we moved slowly forward to a good position called Free Stone Springs, within ten miles of the town, where a beautiful supply of excellent water was found. Here we remained during the residue of the day and the following night. Information was received from time to time, giving positive assurance that the enemy, one thousand one hundred or one thousand two hundred strong, were in a good position about four miles this side of the town, awaiting our approach, having determined to give us battle. During the afternoon a small reconnoitring party, under Lieutenant Moreing, of the Fifth Iowa cavalry, came upon their pickets, who fled precipitately, and were closely pursued by our men. The chased continued more than a mile when the cavalry were fired upon by fifty or more of the rebels lying in ambush. Not a man was injured by the volley; and but one horse killed and three wounded, though the concealed force was not more than fifteen yards from the road with guns at a rest. Lieutenant-Colonel Patrick, of the Fifth Iowa cavalry, was immediately ordered forward, with four companies of cavalry, three of infantry, and one piece of artillery, for the purpose of driving in their pickets and creating the impression that our main force was advancing upon them. During Saturday night a negro man fell into the hands of our cavalry picket under command of Captain Croft. From him a pretty correct knowledge of the position of the rebels was obtained. But the Captain not being fully satisfied, resolved that he would feel of them. He called for ten volunteers from his company, who would be willing not only to drive in their pickets, but ride into their lines and draw their fire, that he might know their exact position. The requisite number was promptly offered, and at dawn of Sabbath morning he made a dash at their pickets, chased them in, riding to within two hundred and fifty yards of their barricades, drawing their fire and retiring without sustaining any injury.

Early on Sabbath morning (seventh) our forces moved in the direction of the town, driving the enemy's pickets before them for more than two hours. About eleven o'clock our advance came in full view of their position. For a defence against cavalry and infantry they had made a good choice, as there would have been no chance of taking it but by storm or by flanking, either of which would have no doubt cost us many lives. But as a defence against artillery, they could have selected few worse ones. They occupied a ridge of land dipping towards the west into a valley entirely cleared and divided into fields. Their entire line of battle was covered by fences against which they had leaned rails closely together, and at an angle of about forty-five degrees, and on the side in the direction of our approach. Their centre and right were further protected by a large farm house, barn and other out-buildings. Their left was further shielded by a tobacco-house and orchard; while their skirmishers guarding both flanks were protected by heavy woods. In their rear, and nearly the whole length of their line, there were thick forest and dense undergrowth, into which they could easily fall back, if necessary, and which would give an excellent cover to bushwhackers.

Our line of battle was formed in open fields, and along a ridge of about equal elevation to the one held by the rebels, and separated from it by the valley, to which I have referred, about one half-mile in width. The two sections of the batteries, before mentioned, held the centre; the right was composed of the Seventy-first Ohio and Eleventh Illinois--under command of Colonel Ransom and Major Hart--the Seventy-first occupying the extreme right; the left was held by the Thirteenth Wisconsin, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Chapman. The cavalry--Fifth Iowa--under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Patrick, supported the entire line.

At five minutes past eleven o'clock, by my time, the cannonading commenced, and continued from thirty-five to forty minutes. The guns were admirably served and did excellent execution, Colonel Lowe at times sighting them himself. The firing was rapid, and between the explosions of shells and the reports of the guns, there was quite a roar of battle. True, there was comparatively little of the sharp cracking of the rifled muskets, as none of the infantry were in good range, except company D, of the Eleventh Illinois, skirmishing on our extreme left, who exchanged about four rounds with the rebs, and company A, of the Seventy-first skirmishing on our right.

When the enemy gave way and commenced retreating, the line of battle was ordered to move forward rapidly, and nearly in the same order in which it was drawn up. This command was obeyed in the most prompt and gallant style. The whole line moved rapidly and steadily forward, crossing fields, mounting fences, and finally scaling the enemy's barricades, hoping to find them in the dense woods just beyond. But no; they had fled and were in full retreat towards Clarksville. It was impossible to overtake [611] them with infantry, hence some cavalry companies, under Lieutenant-Colonel Patrick, were pushed forward to prevent their tearing up the Read River bridge, the only direct and available approach to the town. The cavalry came upon them in the very act, charged them, drove them from it, and held the position, till the main force came up. Two pieces of artillery were planted on a bluff completely commanding the place. The guerrillas fled precipitately through the town, not taking civil leave even of their dear friends, and scattered in every direction. Col. Lowe sent in a flag of truce, demanding the “immediate and unconditional surrender” of the place, or giving ten minutes for the removal of the women and children, as the town would be shelled unless surrendered. It humbled itself before the “mud-sills” of the North, and they occupied it. It was a proud day for the remnant of the Seventy-first; and, riding in advance with Major Hart, I turned in my saddle, and looked with a thrill of pleasure upon the “boys” as they covered with dust, marched with a steady, firm tramp into the public square, bearing aloft their regimental flag.

The expedition was admirably conducted. Colonel W. W. Lowe, who planned and executed it, is a fine officer — a West-Point graduate — prudent, cautious and brave. The loss of the enemy was seventeen killed, and from forty to fifty wounded. Our loss, none. We captured about fifty horses, and a considerable quantity of arms and accoutrements. We also took a number of prisoners, burned about one thousand bales of hay, destroyed two hundred and fifty boxes of commissary stores, captured three Government wagons, and, by pressing teams, we brought away about two hundred boxes of Government property.

Having received peremptory orders from the War Department to return to this post, we left Clarksville alone in her shame, and arrived here on Wednesday, (tenth,) A. M., having made a march of over seventy miles, met and whipped the enemy, superior to us in numbers, recaptured Clarksville, all in about five days.

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