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Doc. 30.-battle at Charlestown, Tenn.

General Thomas's report.

Chattanooga, December 28, 1863.
To Major-General Halleck:
Colonel long, of the Fourth Ohio cavalry, commanding the Second division of cavalry, reports from Cahoun, Tennessee, December twenty-eighth:

The rebel General Wheeler, with one thousand two hundred or one thousand five hundred cavalry and mounted infantry, attacked Colonel Siebert, and captured a supply-train from Chattanooga, for Knoxville, about ten o'clock this morning, at Charlestown, on the south bank of the Hiawassee.

The train escort had reached the encampment at Charlestown last night, and Colonel Siebert's skirmishers hotly engaged with the enemy this morning before Colonel Long was apprised of their approach.

He immediately moved the small force for duty in his camp at the time--one hundred and fifty men — crossed to Colonel Siebert's support. The rebels shortly after gave way, Colonel Long pursuing them closely, discovering a portion of their force cut off on the right. He charged them with sabres, completely demolishing and scattering them in great confusion and in every direction.

Several of the enemy, number not known, were killed and wounded. One hundred and twenty-one prisoners were captured, including five commissioned officers.

The main rebel column fled, and were pursued five miles on the Dalton road, and, when last seen, were flying precipitately.

Colonel Long's loss was one man slightly wounded. The officer in command of the courier station at Cleveland, also reports that he was attacked early this morning, December twenty-eighth, by a force of one hundred rebels. He drove them off, however.

Geo. H. Thomas, Major-General Commanding.

Colonel Laibold's report.

camp near Calhoun, December 28, 1863.
sir: It affords me great pleasure to report to [293] you that I have given the rebel General Wheeler a sound thrashing this morning. I had succeeded, in spite of the most abominable roads, to reach Charlestown on the night of the twenty-seventh, and this morning, shortly after daylight, I was moving my train across the Hiawassee River bridge, when Wheeler's cavalry — reported one thousand five hundred men strong, with four pieces of artillery, which, however, they had no time to bring into action — appeared on my rear. I placed my infantry in line of battle, then got my train over the bridge safely, and asked Colonel Long to place a regiment of cavalry at my disposal. These arrangements made, I charged with my infantry, on the double-quick, on the astonished rebels, and routed them completely, when I ordered a cavalry charge, to give them the finishing touch. The charge was made in good style, but the number of our cavalry was insufficient for an effective pursuit, and so the enemy got away, and was even able to take his guns along, which, with numerous prisoners, must have fallen into my hands, could I have made a pursuit.

I have now with me, as prisoners, five commissioned officers, among whom is the Inspector-General of General Kelly's division, a surgeon, and one hundred and twenty-six men of different regiments.

Wheeler commanded in person, and it was reported to him, as the prisoners state, that I had six hundred wagons in my train, which he expected to take without much trouble.

The casualties on my side are as follows:

Third division--Two commissioned officers wounded, two men killed, eight wounded, and one missing.

Second division--Four men wounded.

The rebels lost, beside the number stated, several severely wounded, which I am obliged to leave behind, and probably several killed. The number of small arms thrown away by them is rather large, and they will, undoubtedly, be gathered by Colonel Long.

I shall pursue my march at daybreak to-morrow.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Bernard Laibold, Colonel Second Missouri Infantry. Lieutenant-Colonel Fullerton, Adjutant-General Fourth Corps.

A national account.

Chattanooga, Monday, December 28.
An important victory has just been added to the list which has crowned the army of the Cumberland with glory. True, the fight was upon a comparatively small scale; but victories are not always to be valued by the numbers engaged, nor the list of the slain. The importance of an achievement must be estimated by results; and, in this instance, it would be impossible to compute the magnitude of the interests at stake, and the advantages gained by the defeat of our adversary.

Although it has hitherto been contraband, I deem it so no longer, to state that the divisions of Sheridan and Wood were left at or near Knoxville, when Sherman withdrew from that point, and they will probably remain there during the winter; and, of course, it is necessary that their supply-trains, left behind at the first march, should be forwarded to them. Accordingly, a few days since, the quartermasters received orders to move their vehicles to their respective commands, and, in a brief space, the trains were on the way, guarded by the cavalry brigade commanded by Colonel Long, of the Fourth Ohio. They met with no traces of the enemy for several days — only hearing of small guerrilla parties, at different points, which were by no means formidable — and finally arrived at the very natural conclusion that the route was unobstructed, and that the train was not threatened.

Night before last (twenty-seventh) the wagons were all thrown across the Hiawassee, and parked, with but a small guard, under Colonel Siebert, in the front, the main force, one thousand two hundred in number, remaining on the south side of the stream. During the night no alarms occurred, and in the morning the mules were hitched up, as usual, to proceed on the journey, when the small guard was suddenly attacked by Wheeler, at the head of one thousand five hundred men. The charge was sudden and unexpected, and resulted in a hasty retreat on Colonel Siebert's part, leaving the train in the hands of the rebels. He had but about one hundred men with him, and it would have been impossible to have resisted the progress of the enemy; but he had scarcely reached the river-bank, when reenforcements, to the number of one hundred and fifty, crossed to his aid, when a counter-charge was made, resulting in the recapture of the wagons, mules, and horses, which had not been injured, so brief was the rebel possession of the prize.

After retaking the train, Colonel Siebert, with his handful of men, was unable to continue the pursuit, but, keeping his force in line, he so far terrified his adversary that no effort was made to repossess the lost plunder, until Colonel Long, with the whole force, reached the north bank, and wheeled into line, ready for work.

But a moment is required to prepare for an onset; sabres were drawn, and the soldiers stood waiting for the command; it was given, and in a moment, without even making a show of resistance, the rebels broke and ran, pell-mell, down the Dalton road, up every trail, and over hills so steep that hoof had never before trodden them. Many jumped from their animals and sought safety among the rocks; others, in dismay, leaped fences, while yet more surrendered themselves prisoners of war.

The loss to the rebels in this engagement was forty-seven killed and wounded, and one hundred and twenty-three prisoners. But this was not the most important result of the achievement. The wagon route from here to Knoxville has been rendered secure, and the courier lines saved from further annoyance. [294]

The old cavalry corps of this department of the rebel army, once the terror of Kentucky and Tennessee, has dwindled down to almost nothing. It can no longer effect any thing. It has been defeated so often of late, that it and its commanders have fallen into disrepute, and are no longer looked upon as of importance to the army.

Our loss in the engagement is variously estimated at from one to ten wounded, all agreeing that none of our gallant men were killed, though one was taken prisoner. To the Fourth Ohio cavalry and Twentieth Missouri mounted infantry belong the honor of this last important achievement, which resulted in securing a connection of the highest importance to the country.

Colonel Laibold's letter.

Loudon, Tenn., January 1, 1864.
sir: Being well aware of the flattering interest you take in my movements, I take pleasure in informing you that I have had an engagement with the rebel General Wheeler, on the twenty-eighth of December, giving him the soundest thrashing he ever received.

On the twenty-third of December, I was given command of a detachment of the Fourth army corps, consisting principally of convalescents of the two last battles, camp retainers, etc., and a train of about one hundred and fifty wagons, with orders to join the army corps at Knoxville. On. the twenty-fourth, I started from Chattanooga, and proceeded about eight miles, to a place near Chickamauga River,being necessitated to halt on account of the slow progress of the train. In the evening of that day, a flag of truce came into my lines, with despatches to Generals Grant and Thomas, and a mail, and I have no doubt that the bearer of that flag gave information which induced Wheeler to follow my track.

The miserable state of the weather and worse condition of the roads, prevented me from moving fast, and it was the twenty-seventh before I reached Charlestown on the Hiawassee River. On the morning of the twenty-eighth, I commenced moving my train across a temporary bridge on the ties of the railroad structure, but had only a few wagons over when it was found necessary to dig a new road in the railroad dyke. Whilst this was being done, Wheeler, with two divisions of cavalry, (Generals Kelly's and Preston's,) made a rush at the train. I immediately advanced my skirmishers, and silently formed my command in line of battle, covering completely, at the same time, all avenues of approach.

I then saw the whole of my train safely over the river, and ordered a small cavalry force to be stationed at that post under my immediate command, stationing them in a convenient position for a charge. I had, up to that time, strictly forbidden all firing from the lines; but now, being in readiness, I charged with the infantry in doublequick, and completely routed the enemy, under Wheeler's personal command; and when they were in utter confusion, I charged again with the cavalry, who cut down many of the terrified enemy, and made scores of prisoners.

My movements were quick enough to prevent Wheeler from bringing four cannon he had with him into action, and the stampede of the renowned rebel cavalry was such that, with any thing like an adequate number of cavalry, I could have easily captured the whole command. As it was, I captured five commissioned officers and one hundred and twenty-six men, killed (as far as I was able to learn during my brief stay) eleven rebels, wounded over thirty, amongst them General Kelly and Colonel Wade; and the number of small arms thrown away by the valiant warriors must amount to between three and four hundred.

Being obliged to proceed upon my march, I had to leave it to the cavalry to bring in the small arms thrown away, and, I have no doubt, they captured a good many more prisoners, as large numbers of the enemy scattered in different directions to hide in the woods. Wheeler moved post haste into Georgia, with a couple of hundred men of his command, bare-headed, and without arms. I started next day, according to orders, and arrived at this place on the thirty-first December, all safe.

The casualties in my command, in the engagement, were two officers wounded, two men killed, and twelve wounded; amongst them none of the few Missouri troops with me.

Your obedient servant,

Bernard Laibold, Colonel Second Infantry, Missouri Volunteers. John B. Gray, Adjutant-General State of Missouri.

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