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Doc. 130.-battle at Thompson's Station, Tenn.

Lieutenant Bachman's report.

headquarters First brigade, Third division, Franklin, Tenn., March 8, 1863.
Lazarus Noble, Adjutant General State of Indiana:
I have the honor to submit the following brief report of an expedition which left this place on the morning of the fourth inst., under the command of Colonel John Coburn, composed of the Thirty-third Indiana, Twenty-second Wisconsin, Nineteenth Michigan, Eighty-fifth Indiana, and One Hundred and Twenty-fourth Ohio infantry, detachments of the Second Michigan, Ninth Pennsylvania, and Fourth Kentucky cavalry, numbering six hundred, under the command of Colonel Jordan of the Ninth Pennsylvania, and the Eighteenth Ohio battery. The column marched out of Franklin, Tenn., about ten o'clock A. M., upon the Columbia pike, and when about three miles out the advance-guard came upon the pickets of the enemy; a slight artillery engagement followed, and the enemy retired with a loss of ten killed, left on the ground. One man of the Nineteenth Michigan was slightly wounded, no other casualty attended the command, except the accidental disabling of the carriage of one of the guns, which was sent to camp for repairs. At this time little or nothing could be learned of the location or strength of the enemy, or of the number and calibre of the artillery.

Colonel Coburn reported to Gen. Gilbert at two P. M. what had occurred, and suggested the impropriety of encumbering the expedition with so large a train, (in all about one hundred wagons.) Gen. Gilbert replied that if the train intended for a forage train was likely to prove an embarrassment, to send it back. Then the train, except the baggage-wagons, was started back, and the column moved forward some two miles, and again came in contact with the enemy. The information that had been received from various sources up to five o'clock warranted Col. Coburn in supposing that there was a force not far in advance, and on account of the lateness of the hour deemed [440] it imprudent to bring on an engagement then, consequently went into camp. Nothing occurred during the night. Col. Coburn in the evening made a full report to Gen. Gilbert of the occurrences and observations of the day, and during the night received despatches, but from what source or of what nature I have no knowledge.

In the morning (March fifth) on the inquiry being made of Col. Coburn as to what he was about to do, he replied: “I am going ahead, I have no option in the matter.” Colonel Coburn then examined the map of the country ahead, and finding that there were two roads on either side of our route, ordered Col. Jordan to send a detachment of cavalry on both roads to protect his flanks. He received information by two negroes in the morning that the enemy were reinforced by Major-General Van Dorn, numbering some ten thousand men. He ordered Col. Jordan to send the two negroes immediately to General Gilbert under a sufficient guard.

I might here also state that Col. Coburn sent a long letter to Gen. Gilbert the previous evening, stating the number of the enemy, and by calculating the ground told my wagon-master, the bearer of the message, that it could not be possible that the force was as large as Colonel Coburn estimated it. At eight o'clock A. M. the command resumed the march, advanced about three miles, when it became necessary to throw out skirmishers. The column advanced at least one mile further, when a battery, or part of a battery, opened fire immediately in front. Colonel Coburn at once drew up the forces in line of battle, and brought the battery to bear at two points (elevations) on either side of the pike and railroad--three pieces on the right and two on the left. The enemy then opened another battery on our right and front. No force of the enemy could be seen up to this time. Col. Coburn ordered the Eighty-fifth and Thirty-third Indiana, then supporting the section of artillery on the right, to charge upon the battery furthest to the right and take it. The two regiments immediately advanced down the hill in the direction of the depot, and when near the deot and a stone wall, received a volley from infantry stationed behind the wall and around the depot. An overwhelming number revealed themselves. The two regiments were then ordered to retire, which they (lid in good order, keeping up a well-directed fire, regaining and holding the ground from which they started, and checking the advance of the enemy. At or about the time the two regiments were ordered to retire, still another battery opened on our left flank. At the time the order was given for the regiments to retire from the charge, I heard Col. Coburn order Col. Jordan to bring up two companies of cavalry, and send them to the right to support the retiring regiments. Col. Jordan started off on foot, but did not return, nor was the order obeyed. Soon after the battery opened on our left flank the commanding officer of the Eighteenth Ohio battery came up very much excited, and said he was out of ammunition, and that he could not stand the fire of the batteries. That portion of the battery on the left of the pike had already, by the Captain's direction, moved down on to the pike without orders from Col. Coburn or any other person. Colonel Coburn directed me to ascertain from the officers in charge of each ammunition-box of the entire battery how much ammunition there was remaining. I did so, and reported to Col. Coburn that there were two hundred and thirty rounds of shell, and seventy rounds of canister. I also gave orders to officers not to move the battery, or any portion, without orders. I then went to the left to ascertain about a flank movement that had been reported, and on reaching the brow of the hill occupied by the Twenty-second Wisconsin, I saw the enemy advancing in line of battle. I at once reported the same to Col. Coburn, but received no orders. Col. Coburn was at this time at the head of the Thirty-third and Eighty-fifth Indiana on the right, both regiments being hotly engaged. The section of artillery on the right up to this time had kept up a constant fire. After reporting the flank movement of the enemy on the left, I went to the top of the hill occupied by the Twenty-second Wisconsin and Nineteenth Michigan, and as I reached the left of the Twenty-second Wisconsin, that regiment opened fire upon the enemy, and held their position some minutes, and until the Nineteenth Michigan went to their support.

The two regiments held that point nearly twenty minutes. At the time of the fire upon the Twenty-second Wisconsin, that portion of the battery on the pike, and which had retired from the left of the road, started off in quick-time up the pike. I instantly went and stopped them, and made every effort to induce the Captain to bring his guns to bear upon the enemy, then charging through a ravine and up the hill toward the Nineteenth and Twenty-second. At this point one gun could command the fields and the ravine farther to the left. All my efforts were unavailing, however, and the battery started off in full retreat, the section on the right coming down at that moment, and, as I suppose, without orders.

I very soon met Colonel Jordan, commanding the cavalry, and asked him if something could not be done to assist the infantry. He replied, “We are doing about all that can be done,” while at that very instant every thing was moving off. At the time the Twenty-second Wisconsin received the first charge, Lieut.-Col. Bloodgood of that regiment, with about one hundred and fifty men, from the left of the regiment, retired from the field, and moved off (by the left flank) with the retreating party. I cannot believe that Lieut.-Col. Bloodgood had orders from Col. Coburn, or any other person, to move; at least, if he did, no member of his (Colonel Coburn's) staff had any knowledge of it, and they were at that time on the field. If there were any orders from any one for Lieut.-Col. Bloodgood to move, they were not to retire, and there was nothing to prevent him from going to any part of the field for fifteen minutes after he left, as the remainder of the regiment, [441] under Colonel Utley, with the Nineteenth Michigan, held the top of the hill that length of time.

The cavalry, at the time the Twenty-second Wisconsin was attacked, all retired from the left, at least half a mile from the scene of action. It became evident that a stand would not be made by the retreating force, and I attempted to return to the battle-ground, but found it impossible — some thirty minutes had elapsed since the first charge upon the Twenty-second Wisconsin. The Nineteenth Michigan and Twenty-second Wisconsin, by this time were being driven up the sidehill toward the right, and on to the ground occupied by the Thirty-third and Eighty-fifth Indiana, and the enemy had formed a line of battle between the hill and myself. I turned and met an ammunition-wagon, but ordered it back, as it would only have fallen into the hands of the enemy--one musket-ball had already passed through the top.

The last view I had of the ground, the four regiments occupied the top of the hill on the right of the road, and so far as 1 could discover, were surrounded by the enemy, and all fighting to their utmost. The batteries were directing a heavy fire upon them. They had no ammunition besides what they had in their cartridge-boxes, and, doubtless, Col. Coburn did not surrender until all the ammunition was consumed, and found it useless longer to defend himself.

Not more than half an hour elapsed from the time I last saw the field until the firing ceased.

The last order Col. Coburn gave in relation to the One Hundred and Twenty-fourth Ohio, was that it should remain as a guard for the train.

The surgeons were all constantly engaged in removing the wounded, until communication was cut off. Some of the ambulances which came away last, were fired upon. The train returned to Franklin in good order, preceded by the One Hundred and Twenty-fourth Ohio, and followed by the artillery and cavalry.

Colonel Coburn gave his orders with coolness, and throughout the whole time displayed bravery and energy. Lieut.-Colonel Henderson and Major Miller of the Thirty-third Indiana, Colonel Utley, Twenty-second Wisconsin, Colonel Gilbert and Major Shafter of the Nineteenth Michigan, and Colonel Baird, and Lieut.-Colonel Crane of the Eighty-fifth Indiana, all were most ready and willing to do their duty, and evinced courage and ability. Colonel Gilbert and Major Miller both had their horses shot from under them in the early part of the fight. The battery used nothing but shell, and apparently had very little effect upon the enemy. I should judge that the engagement commenced about ten A. M. and closed at half-past 2 P. M. Information which was received the fifth, of the force that had been engaged the fourth, tended to the belief that it was about two thousand cavalry, with four pieces of artillery, under General Forrest.

On the fifth, two negroes who claimed to have deserted from Van Dorn's command, came into camp as we were starting out, and stated that there was a force at Spring Hill of at least twenty thousand. I know of no other information being communicated to Colonel Coburn of the strength and position of the enemy.

On the morning of the fifth, Colonel Coburn hesitated about starting, and appearing to be awaiting orders, but finally said, “Well, Lieutenant,” addressing myself, “if we must go ahead, let us start,” upon which I directed the regiments to move out. I did not see any reports that Col. Coburn sent to General Gilbert, and but one from General Gilbert to Colonel Coburn, and that was in reply to one of the despatches sent him during the fourth, in which he remarked something as follows: “I suppose you understand the object of the movement. If the forage train is likely to embarrass you, send it back, and go ahead.” This report I have compiled from Colonel Coburn's Adjutant's report, as I have made one out and sent on to Major-General Rosecrans; I, however, fully indorse this report, and know it is correct.

Edwin J. Bachman, Second Lieutenant Thirty-third Regiment Indiana Volunteers, and Acting-Quartermaster First Brigade.

A National account.

The following letter received by Governor Morton of Indiana, from Colonel John McCrea, of Bloomington, gives some details of the fight made by Colonel Coburn.

Franklin, tens., March 18, 1863.
Governor Morton:
I think it but justice to Colonel Coburn and the brave men of his command in the late unfortunate affair at Thompson's Station, eight miles south of Franklin, Tennessee, to publish the following statement of facts, obtained on the spot. Wednesday, the fourth of March, the brigade under the command of Col. Coburn had several skirmishes with the rebels under the command of Van Dorn. Thursday morning, Col. Coburn being satisfied that the enemy had been largely reinforced through the night, sent an orderly to General Gilbert asking for reenforcements. To this request General Gilbert said, “Colonel Coburn must be scared,” and wrote the following order: “Your force is sufficient; move forward.” Colonel Coburn, rather than disobey the order of his superior officer, advanced to meet an enemy said to be ten times greater than the force which he had under his command, which consisted of the Thirty-third and Eighty-fifth Indiana, Nineteenth Michigan, and Twenty-second Wisconsin infantry regiments, and the One Hundred and Twenty-fourth Ohio infantry in reserve. Also the Eighteenth Ohio battery, Ninth Pennsylvania, Second Michigan, and a part of the Fourth Tennessee cavalry regiments.

This force moved up the Columbia road. The Eighty-fifth and Thirty-third, with one section of the battery, occupied a hill on the right of the road, near Thompson's Station, on the Franklin Railroad, while the Nineteenth Michigan and Twenty-second Wisconsin, with the other section of the battery, occupied the hill on the left. [442]

The rebels at first opened a brisk fire from two batteries in front of the position occupied by our troops. After an hour's cannonading, Colonel Coburn brought up the Thirty-third and Eighty-fifth, and ordered a charge upon the station, where the rebels were concealed, in and around the houses. They succeeded in driving them from the station. He then ordered them to take the battery in front. The men moved on in good order. To the right of this battery was a stone wall fence, where the rebels were posted in large numbers; from behind this fence, they poured in a galling and destructive fire, causing our men to fall back, but they re-formed at the crest of the hill, and resisted successfully the charge of two brigades. Colonel Coburn then brought over the Nineteenth Michigan, and twice again did these three regiments drive back the enemy in greatly superior force. Another force of the enemy now came around the left flank, and drove the Twenty-second Wisconsin from the hill; the battery having been withdrawn for want of ammunition. Colonel Coburn then attempted to withdraw his forces, but the enemy closing in upon the right, as well as left, and ammunition having given out with his infantry, he was forced to surrender.

The artillery without any loss, Lieut.-Colonel Bloodgood and two hundred and fifty men, the entire cavalry force, and some stragglers, all made good their escape. The Surgeon of the Thirty-third and Dr. Hobbs of the Eighty-fifth Indiana, succeeded through much danger in getting off sixty of the wounded.

On the sixth a corps of surgeons, escort, and flag of truce were sent out to look after the dead and wounded. The flag was received at the out-post at noon, kept waiting until dark, and then ordered by Van Dorn to retire, with the information that the dead were buried, the wounded cared for, and they needed no medical aid.

Colonel Coburn and the other field-officers are unhurt, and but few of the line-officers were wounded.

Our loss was one hundred killed, three hundred wounded, and about one thousand two hundred prisoners.

The rebels admit a loss of one hundred and fifty killed and four hundred and fifty wounded.

The rebels acknowledge their force to have been thirty thousand, comprising sixteen brigades. From this we may infer that our men fought gallantly.

Yours, etc.,

Lieutenant-Colonel Bloodgood's letter.

camp at Franklin, Tenn., March 5.
my dear brother: Long before you receive this, you will probably hear of our disastrous battle. So far as learned this evening, the Major and myself, of this regiment, are the only field-officers escaped from the field of battle, neither of us receiving even a scratch. We left the day before yesterday on a reconnoissance. There were five regiments of infantry, six pieces of artillery, and a regiment of cavalry. After proceeding but a few miles the first day, we met a small body of the rebels and drove them. They had but one piece of artillery. During the day we gained information that there were larger forces back to support them. Colonel Coburn, commanding the brigade, notified General Gilbert of the fact, he having command of the forces at Franklin. The answer in reply was to move on. It seems that General Rosecrans was to send a force from Murfreesboro, to meet us at a certain point some twelve miles from Franklin. We had not gone further than about four miles from this place, when we first met the enemy, making our camp a little beyond where we had the skirmish.

During several conversations with our officers that evening, and also with Colonel Coburn the day before, I remarked that it looked as if the rebels were leading us on into a trap, for small bodies would stop and give us a little skirmish, and then retreat. This morning we struck tents early, and moved on to the front, the enemy gradually retreating. Our cavalry were deployed to the right and left as skirmishers, dismounted; their horses were led in the rear; an advance-guard of cavalry on the pike, with two pieces of artillery; then our regiment; three pieces of artillery in the rear of us; and then followed the rest of the infantry. About noon I was riding some distance in advance of our regiment, just in the rear of the cavalry, when a shot from the enemy's battery struck in the pike, among the cavalry, causing quite a scattering, but I believe doing no damage. I immediately returned to my regiment. Three pieces of artillery were immediately planted upon a hill to the left of the pike, and opened upon the enemy. Our regiment and the Nineteenth Michigan moved up in line of battle on the slope to support them. Two pieces were placed upon the right, the Eighty-first and Thirty-third Indiana to support them.

Our batteries then opened upon the enemy. We were answered by treble our number; the hills on three sides of us seemed to be alive with them. We were protected in front from their batteries, but they had good range on us from the flank. The shell and round shot came thick around us; our two regiments had to keep moving to get out of range, and how we escaped being cut to pieces at that time is wonderful. Several balls passed just over my head, and others struck the ground only a short distance from me. Not expecting to meet so large a force of the enemy, our battery had not sufficient ammunition, and soon gave out, as the day before we had used six hundred rounds to a cannon. Then the enemy advanced upon us, hemming us in a half-circle. They had five regiments to our one. Our men fought well; no men could fight better. Our whole brigade was driven down in a hollow, the enemy closing in around us. It is most wonderful that I escaped so, for the balls pelted about me like hail. My horse plunged and reared, and fairly groaned with fear. In the confusion we could get no orders; each regiment had to look out for themselves. I was at the right of our regiment; the Colonel was in the centre. I was notified by several mounted officers that a [443] large body of the enemy was moving around the hill to cut us off completely. I sent word down the line to the Colonel to move the regiment in that direction by the flank, and as he left me with the management of the right of the regiment, I gave the order, as there was no time to hesitate. About one hundred and fifty on the right moved according to my direction. I supposed the whole regiment was moving, but when I crossed the pike, I found they had not done so. The next moment the rebels came over the hill by thousands and drove them back, completely surrounding them. Our cavalry and artillery were just ahead of me. The enemy followed us six miles, trying to cut us off.

Out of the whole brigade, we saved but one hundred and seventy-five men. The artillery and cavalry came in, but they did not belong to our brigade. I brought in about one hundred and fifty men, and the other twenty-five men were all that were saved out of three regiments; only nine officers returned. Colonel Coburn, commanding the brigade, is reported killed; also, Colonel Gilbert, of the Nineteenth Michigan; Colonel Baird, of the Eighty-fifth Indiana; and Lieutenant-Colonel Crain. Conflicting reports about Colonel Utley; some say he was killed, and others say they saw him taken prisoner. The last account I had of tile Adjutant of our regiment was, that he had his little finger shot off, and a rifle-ball lodged in a package of letters just over his heart. It knocked him off of his horse, but he soon recovered from the shock.

Yours, in haste,

E. Bloodgood, Lieutenant-Colonel Twenty-second Wisconsin Regt.

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