Doc. 80.-affairs at Trenton and Humboldt, Tennessee.
Colonel Jacob Fry's report.
General Forrest, of the rebel army, on the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, and the attack upon Trenton and Humboldt, on the twentieth of December, 1862. Some eight days previous to the attack I received a telegraphic despatch from Major-General Grant, giving information from Major-Gen. Rosecrans, that Forrest was moving with his force toward the Tennessee River, and ordering me to be on the look-out. I immediately despatched a detachment of the Second West-Tennessee cavalry to look after the enemy, and to watch his movements. I also prepared this place for defence, by throwing up earthworks and digging rifle-pits, on an elevation completely commanding the depot and other public property. These were completed on the seventeenth, in a most secure manner, of sufficient capacity to hold one thousand five hundred men, and I was confident that with my force I could hold it against Forrest's entire command. On the fifteenth, news was received that Forrest was crossing the Tennessee River at Clifton, immediately east of Jackson. Col. Ingersoll, Chief of Cavalry on Gen. Sullivan's staff, ordered Colonel Hawkins, of the Second West-Tennessee cavalry, with all his effective men, to join his force — the Eleventh Illinois and three hundred of the Fifth Ohio cavalry--at Lexington. The order was promptly obeyed by Col. Hawkins. On the seventeenth, Colonel Ingersoll met the enemy near Lexington, and, after a very sharp engagement, was repulsed, with a loss of some men and two pieces of artillery. The same day, General Sullivan telegraphed to know what my available force was at Trenton. I replied that I had about five hundred available men, with three pieces of artillery — not more than sufficient to hold the place, if attacked. The next morning I received an order from Gen. Sullivan for the whole of my force to move to Jackson, with two days rations — reserving only the convalescents for guard-duty; and to notify the citizens that they would be held responsible for any damage to the railroad or other public property; which order was promptly obeyed. The last of the troops left Trenton on Friday morning, the nineteenth, at three o'clock--a portion having had to wait for the train from Union City, with troops, also ordered from that place to Jackson. As the troops had been ordered from Trenton, I was compelled to abandon my rifle-pits, and to concentrate what force I had at the depot. On Thursday evening and Friday morning I had the depot platform — some one hundred and fifty by forty feet--barricaded with cotton bales and other stores, and armed all the convalescents that were able for duty. On Friday morning I learned that a wood-train passing Carroll Station was fired into by the enemy and considerably injured. During the day, a train arrived from Columbus, and remained over night, having on board some sixty or seventy soldiers returning from hospitals. These I also armed. On Saturday morning the train was ordered to Jackson, leaving about twenty of these men, representing fifteen different regiments. On Friday evening, the nineteenth, Col. Hawkins returned from the Lexington fight, and reported that he did not see more than eight hundred of the enemy, and that he saw no artillery, except the two pieces taken from our forces. This news gave us renewed hopes. Our stockade was secure against any force of cavalry or infantry, unless accompanied by artillery. Forrest's demonstration toward Jackson, with a portion of his force, was merely a feint — his main object being Trenton and Humboldt, and the Memphis and Ohio Railroad, with a view to cut off General Grant's supplies. Learning from my scouts, on Friday morning, the nineteenth, that the main force of the enemy was moving toward Trenton, I telegraphed Gen. Davis, at Columbus, to send me reenforcements, with one battery of artillery, if possible, as I expected an attack hourly. To this despatch I received no answer. On the arrival of the train at noon, I learned from ex-Governor Wood, of Illinois, that when he left Columbus, that morning, a regiment of infantry was disembarking. I again telegraphed to Gen. Davis for reenforcements, with a battery of artillery — stating that my force had been ordered to Jackson, and that I had nothing left but convalescents. To this he replied that he had no men or artillery to spare. On Saturday morning I learned from scouts that Forrest had encamped at Spring Creek with his entire force. I telegraphed this fact to Gen. Sullivan. General Hayne, then in command at Jackson, answered that Gen. Sullivan was in the field, and asked the distance and direction to Spring Creek. I answered twenty miles, and that the enemy would approach from the east. The wires were cut soon after, and I had no further communication with Jackson. Under these circumstances, I was determined to make the best possible defence, and collected the convalescents, stragglers, fugitives, and other soldiers, until I got together a force of about two hundred and fifty men. This was the condition of things up to noon Saturday, and I felt confident of holding the place against every force except artillery. Twenty-five sharp-shooters, under command of Lieutenant Allender, of the Second West-Tennessee cavalry, were placed on a brick building across the street — the top of which was well protected by a parapet wall, about three feet high. A squad of six men were placed in a building that commanded another street, to fire from the windows. All officers in the breastwork were placed in positions where they could be  most serviceable. Scouts, who were watching the movement and approach of the enemy, reported them within a few miles, and that they would be upon us soon. At about three o'clock they made their appearance, and charged our position in two columns. When within one hundred yards of the sharp-shooters, a deadly fire was opened on them from the advance posts — the men in the stockade following the example. In a very short time both columns were repulsed, with considerable loss in killed and wounded. They then moved rapidly out of range of our guns, to the right and left, completely surrounding our position — we supposed for a charge on all sides at once, a manoeuvre for which we were fully prepared. Instead of this, they planted a battery of six guns on an elevated position southeast of the stockade-two of these guns were inside of our own earthworks, one howitzer on the south-west and one on the north — and commenced shelling our position. Sixteen shells were fired, one passing through the depot near a large quantity of ammunition, but did not explode. At this time they could have levelled the stockade, depot, and all, in thirty minutes, and probably killed and wounded a large portion of our men, while we could have done them no damage, being armed only with old guns, without bayonets, and therefore unable to make a charge. Seeing that we were completely in their power, and had done all the damage to them we could, I called a council of officers. They were unanimous for surrender. Had there been the least chance, or had the cavalry continued the fight, we should have held out, but as we could do nothing, it was deemed prudent to surrender, and save the lives of the men. The question of surrender was one of time only; they would have had the place without the loss of another man in thirty minutes. The terms of the surrender were unconditional; but General Forrest admitted us to our paroles, the next morning, sending the Tennessee troops immediately home, and others to Columbus under a flag of truce. I would bear testimony to the efficiency and bearing of the following officers in preparing and conducting the defence: Col. Hawkins, Second West-Tennessee cavalry; Major Chapman, “although very much out of health,” and Captain Cowan, of the One Hundred and Twenty-second Illinois infantry; Capt. Hawkins, Capt. Belew, Lieut. Allender, Lieut. Hawkins, and Lieut. Robinson, of the Second West-Tennessee cavalry, Lieut. Goodspeed, my Adjutant, and especially Lieut. Hanford, Post Quartermaster of the Fourth Illinois cavalry; as also the bravery of the men; and I can assure them that our humiliation was not produced from a want of vigilance or the necessary precaution on our part, but from causes entirely out of our control. Of the taking of Humboldt, also under my command, I know but little; all the effective men were withdrawn to Jackson. The sick and convalescents blew up and burned the magazine, and then surrendered. I am informed that at the time of surrender the highest officer present was a corporal of the Eighty-first Illinois infantry. The loss of the enemy, from the best information we could obtain from themselves, was seventeen killed and fifty wounded. Our loss was one man killed, a private of the One Hundred and Twenty-second Illinois infantry--none wounded. The enemy burned the depots at Trenton and Humboldt, and all the stores on hand that they could not carry away. Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Jacob Fry, Colonel Commanding.