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6. Confederate raids in the West: Morgan's Christmas raid, 1862-63

John Allan Wyeth, M. D., Ll.D., Late of Quirk's Scouts, Confederate States Army

The prize of the Confederate raider: a Federal commissary Camp on the Tennessee


Camp in the Tennessee mountains, 1863: a pleasant interlude for the western cavalryman. The soldiers leaning on their sabers by the mountain path would have smiled in grim amusement at the suggestion that a life like theirs in “the merry greenwood” must be as care-free, picturesque, and delightful as the career of Robin Hood, according to old English ballads. These raiders of 1863 could have drawn sharp contrasts between the beauty of the scene in this photograph — the bright sunshine dappling the trees, the mountain wind murmuring through the leaves, the horse with his box of fodder, the troopers at ease in the shade — and the hardships that became every-day matters with the cavalry commands whose paths led them up and down the arduous western frontier. On such a pleasant summer day the Civil War photographer was able to make an exposure. But the cavalryman's duty called at all hours and at all seasons; and the photographer could not portray the dreary night rides over rocks made slippery with rain, through forests hanging like a damp pall over the troopers rocking with sleep in their saddles, every moment likely to be awakened by the bark of the enemy's carbines. It is undoubtedly true that there is something more dashing about the lot of a cavalryman, but on account of his greater mobility he was ordered over more territory and ran more frequent if not greater risks than the infantryman. But this was the sort of day the cavalryman laughed and sang. Though the storm-clouds and war-clouds, the cloud of death itself, lay waiting, the trooper's popular song ran: “If you want to have a good time, jine the cavalry.”

[143] [144]

There were approximately twelve thousand mounted troops with Bragg's army at Murfreesboro in December, 1862. General Joseph Wheeler, Chief of Cavalry, with one division, operated directly with Bragg during the battle. On December 17th Forrest, with three thousand men, was sent into western Tennessee to destroy the railroads in the rear of Grant's army in western Tennessee and northern Mississippi. Morgan with two brigades, Duke's and Breckinridge's, thirty-nine hundred in all, with two light batteries of seven pieces, left Alexandria, Tennessee, December 22, 1862, his object being to destroy the Louisville and Nashville Railroad and interrupt Rosecrans' communications with the North.

Four hundred unarmed men did duty as horse-holders until arms were captured. There were no sabers. The veterans of a year or more had provided themselves with one or two Colt's army pistols; a few had cavalry carbines, while a larger number were armed with double-barreled shotguns. The greater portion carried long-barreled rifles of the Enfield, Austrian, or Belgian make.

Morgan's troopers were mostly young men from eighteen to thirty-five years old, well mounted, at home on horseback, and there were no better fighters in the world.

They started with three days cooked rations. Every man carried his own ammunition, two extra horseshoes, twelve nails, one blanket in addition to the saddle-blanket, and an oil-cloth or overcoat. With the exception of the artillery which was double-teamed, there was nothing on wheels. [145]

Confederate cavalry in the West.

Old cavalrymen find this photograph absorbing; it brings to life again the varied equipment of the Confederate cavalrymen in the West. The only uniformity is found with respect to carbines, which are carried by all except the officers. Three of the men in the center have pistols thrust in their belts, ready for a fight at close quarters. Some have belts crossed over their chests, some a single belt, still others none at all. One of the single belts acts as a carbine sling, the other as a canteen strap. Horse holders have fallen out with the chargers visible behind the line of men. The Western photographers, Armstead & Carter, were the artists enterprising enough to secure this photograph. The territory their travels covered in Mississippi and Tennessee changed hands so frequently that fortunately for posterity an opportunity at last did come to photograph a troop of the swift-traveling and little interviewed warriors that composed the Confederate cavalry. They did important service in the West. Under Forrest and Wheeler they helped Bragg to defeat Rosecrans at Chickamauga, and their swift raids were a constant menace to the Union supplies. This photograph was probably taken late in the war, as up to the third year the Confederate troopers could not boast equipments even so complete as shown in this photograph. In 1861 the Confederate cavalry had no Colt revolvers, no Chicopee sabers, and no carbines that were worth carrying. Their arms were of the homeliest type and of infinite variety. At the battle of Brandy Station, in 1863, every man was armed with at least one, and sometimes several, Army and Navy revolvers and excellent sabers. The civilian saddles had given place to McClellans, and that man was conspicuous who could not boast a complete outfit of saddle, bridle, blankets — woolen and rubber — and arms, all taken from the generous foe. The Confederate cavalry in the West failed to secure equally complete outfits, although they looked to the same source of supply.

A group of Confederate cavalry in the West

An officer


In three short winter days, over little-used highways through a rough and hilly country, they rode a distance of ninety miles to Glasgow, Kentucky, arriving at dark, December 24th. The order was to start at daylight, stop from eleven to twelve to feed, unsaddle, curry, and rest, then on until night. As the advance guard reached one corner of the public square, several companies of the Second Michigan Cavalry with no idea that Morgan's men were near, rode into sight a few yards away. In the melee which ensued, one Federal was killed and two wounded, and a Confederate captain and one soldier were mortally and one lieutenant slightly wounded. Twenty prisoners were captured, among them the adjutant of the regiment, whose equipment the writer appropriated. A number of Christmas turkeys which these excellent foragers had strapped to their saddles were also taken by us.

Ten miles north of Glasgow, on December 25th, with our company of fifty men a mile in advance of the main column, the vedette reported the Federals in line of battle in our front. We were ordered to load and cap our guns, and then rode briskly forward. When about two hundred yards from the Federal lines, Captain Quirk halted us, called off horse-holders, and we advanced on foot. Reaching the top of a rise in the lane with a high worm-fence on either side, the Federals gave us a lively volley, which we returned from the fence corners. The fight had scarcely opened, when a second detachment of Federals (Company C, Fifth Indiana), which had been in ambush to our right, charged to within a few yards of the road abreast of and in the rear of our position, and fired into us at practically muzzle range. Several of our men were wounded, our captain being twice hit. The fusillade stampeded the horses and horse-holders who fled in panic to the rear, leaving us on foot in the presence of a superior force. Five members of our company were captured. The rest of us scrambled over the opposite fence and ran for a scrub-oak thicket, one or two hundred yards across a field. [147]

Federal cavalry guarding the Chattanooga station General Rosecrans looked narrowly to his line of communications when he set out from Nashville to attack General Braxton Bragg in the latter part of December, 1862. The Confederate cavalry leader, General Wheeler, was abroad. At daylight on December 30th he swooped down at Jefferson on Starkweather's brigade of Rousseau's division, in an attempt to destroy his wagon-train. From Jefferson, Wheeler proceeded to La Vergne, where he succeeded in capturing the immense supply trains of McCook's Corps. Seven hundred prisoners and nearly a million dollars' worth of property was the Union Government's penalty for not heeding the requests of the commanding general for more cavalry. A train at Rock Spring and another at Nolensville shared the same fate at Wheeler's hands, and at two o'clock on the morning of the 31st Wheeler completed the entire circuit of Rosecrans' army, having ridden in forty-eight hours.


By this time the leading regiment of the main column came in sight, caught our horses, and rescued us. We remounted at once, and joined in the charge which drove the Federals from the field. In the pursuit Captain Quirk, despite two scalp wounds, killed one of the Northerners with his pistol. Two others surrendered.

On the further march to Green River and Hammondsville that day, we captured a sutler's huge outfit, the contents of which were appropriated. That night we camped in the woods between Hammondsville and Upton Station on the Louisville and Nashville Railroad. We had had a merry Christmas.

Early December 26th, we struck the road at Upton, capturing a number of Union soldiers guarding the track. Here General Morgan overtook the scouts. Attached to his staff was a telegraph operator, a quick-witted young man named Ellsworth, better known by the nickname of “Lightning.” After the wire was tapped, I sat within a few feet of General Morgan and heard him dictate messages to General Boyle, in Louisville, and other Federal commanders, making inquiries as to the disposition of the Federal forces, and telling some tall stories in regard to the large size of his own command and its movements. While thus engaged, a train with artillery and other material came in sight from the north, but the wary engineer saw us in time to reverse his engine and escape. Heavy cannonading was now heard at Bacon Creek Bridge stockade, which after a stout resistance surrendered, and the bridge was destroyed. That same afternoon before dark, the stockade at Nolin was taken by Duke and another bridge burned.

We camped that night, December 26th, a few miles from Elizabethtown, which place, guarded by eight companies of an Illinois regiment, six hundred and fifty-two men and officers, we captured on the 27th. A number of brick warehouses near the railroad station had been loopholed and otherwise strengthened for defense. The town was surrounded, the artillery [149]

Lieutenant-General Joseph Wheeler, C. S. A. After his exploits in Tennessee, and the days of Chickamauga, Chattanooga, and Knoxville, where his cavalry were a constant menace to the Union lines of communication, so much so that the railroads were guarded by blockhouses at vulnerable points, Wheeler joined Johnston with the remnant of his men. Their swift movements went far to make it possible for Johnston to pursue his Fabian policy of constantly striking and retreating before Sherman's superior force, harassing it to the point of desperation. Wheeler operated on Sherman's flank later in the Carolinas, but the power of the Confederate cavalry was on the wane, and the end was soon to come.

One of the blockhouses on the Nashville and Chattanooga railroad in 1864

[150] brought up, and after the raiders fired a number of shells and solid shot, which knocked great holes in the houses, the garrison surrendered.

On the 28th, the two great trestles on the Louisville and Nashville Railroad at Muldraugh's Hill were destroyed. They were each from sixty to seventy-five feet high, and nine hundred feet long, constructed entirely of wood. They were guarded by two strong stockade forts, garrisoned by an Indiana regiment of infantry. Both strongholds were assailed at the same time, the artillery doing effective work, and in less than two hours, the two garrisons of seven hundred men were prisoners. They were armed with new Enfield rifles, one of the most effective weapons of that day.

After burning the trestles, the command moved to Rolling Fork River. The greater portion crossed that night and proceeded toward Bardstown. Five hundred men under Colonel Cluke, with one piece of artillery, attacked the stockade at the bridge over Rolling Fork River, but before it could be battered down, a column three thousand strong under Colonel Harlan (later a Justice of the Supreme Court), compelled his withdrawal. A sharp engagement between our rear guard and Harlan's command took place at Rolling Fork. Colonel Basil W. Duke recrossed to take command and led Cluke's five hundred men and Quirk's scouts in such a vigorous attack that the Federal commander hesitated to press his advantage.

At this moment, Duke was wounded by a fragment of a well-aimed shrapnel which struck him on the head and stunned him. The same shell killed several horses. Captain Quirk and two of the scouts placed Duke astride the pommel of the saddle on which our captain was seated, who, with one arm around the limp body, guided his faithful horse into the swollen stream. Quirk and Duke were both small in stature, and the powerful big bay carried his double load safely across. A carriage was impressed, filled with soft bedding, and in this our wounded colonel was placed, and carried safely along with the command. [151]

Blockhouses garrisoned against Wheeler's cavalry In 1863 an attempt to supplement his lack of cavalry for the guarding of his line of communications was made by Rosecrans, through the building of blockhouses along the railroad, garrisoned by small forces of infantry. The attempt was not uniformly successful. The Confederate horsemen under Wheeler sometimes advanced on foot and succeeded in carrying the blockhouses and enforcing the surrender of its garrison. The cavalry were the real trouble-makers for the generals in the field who were attempting to victual their armies. The problem became less complex in the last two years of the war, when the Federal cavalry was trained to higher efficiency and the power of the Confederates had dwindled following the exhaustion of their supply of horses.


Colonel Harlan reported his loss as three killed and one wounded. We did not lose a man, and with the exception of Duke, our wounded rode out on their horses.

We reached Bardstown at dusk on the 29th. Between daylight and sunrise, December 30th, I witnessed one of the frequent incidents in all warfare — the pillaging of the largest general store in this town. The men who had crowded in through the doors they had battered down, found difficulty in getting out with their plunder through the surging crowd, which was pressing to get in before everything was gone. One trooper induced the others to let him out by holding an ax in front of him, cutting edge forward. His arm clasped a bundle of a dozen pairs of shoes and other plunder, while on his head was a pyramid of eight or ten soft hats, telescoped one into the other just as they had come out of the packing-box.

About midday a chilling rain set in, which soon turned into sleet. Reaching Springfield in the gloom of December 30th, we were ordered on to Lebanon, nine miles further, to drive in the pickets there and build fires in order to give the foe the impression that we were up in force and were only awaiting daylight to attack. We piled rails and made fires until late at night, while Morgan was making a detour along a narrow and little-used country road around Lebanon. Later we overtook the command, and acted as rear guard throughout that awful night. Between the bitter, penetrating cold, the fatigue, the overwhelming desire to sleep, so difficult to overcome and under the conditions we were experiencing so fatal if yielded to, the numerous halts to get the artillery out of bad places, the impenetrable darkness, and the inevitable confusion which attends the moving of troops and artillery along a narrow country road, we endured a night of misery never to be forgotten.

As morning neared, it became our chief duty to keep each other awake. All through the night the sleet pelted us unmercifully, and covered our coats and oilcloths with a sheet of ice. Time and time again we dismounted, and holding on to the [153]

Brigadier-General James R. Chalmers General Chalmers was the righthand man of General Forrest. His first service was at Shiloh. During Bragg's invasion of Kentucky he attacked Munfordville, September 14, 1862, but was repulsed. He took part in a Confederate charge at Murfreesboro, December 31st of the same year, and was so severely wounded as to disqualify him for further duty on that field. He commanded two brigades on Forrest's expedition of April 12, 1864, when the latter captured Fort Pillow and was unable to restrain the massacre. He served with Forrest at Nashville and led Hood's cavalry at the battle of Franklin, delaying the Federal cavalry long enough to enable the Confederate army to make good its escape. He was with Forrest when the latter was defeated by Wilson on the famous Wilson raid through Alabama and Georgia in the spring of 1865, and remained with the cavalry until it crumbled with the Confederacy to nothing. The lower photograph of the rails laid across the piles of ties shows how the Confederate cavalry, east and west, destroyed millions of dollars' worth of property. While Generals Lee and Bragg and Hood were wrestling with the Union armies, the Confederate cavalry were dealing blow after blow to the material resources of the North. But in vain; the magnificently equipped Union pioneer corps was able to lay rails nearly as fast as they were destroyed by the Confederates, and when the Army of Northern Virginia shot its weight in men from the ranks of Grant's army in the fearful campaign of 1864, the ranks were as constantly replenished.

In the wake of the raiders

[154] stirrup leather, trudged on through the slush and ice to keep from freezing.

Daylight found us several miles south of Lebanon and the strong Federal command concentrated there to catch us, but we kept on without halting, for another heavy column was reported moving out from Mumfordville and Glasgow to intercept us at Columbia or Burkesville, before we could recross the Cumberland River.

About ten o'clock on the morning of December 31st, as the rear guard was crossing Rolling Fork some five or six miles south of Lebanon, there occurred an incident of more than ordinary interest. Captain Alexander Tribble, Lieutenant George B. Eastin, and a private soldier were sent on a detour to New Market, four or five miles from the line of march, to secure a supply of shoes which were reported stored at that point. As they were returning to overtake the command, they were pursued by a squad of Federal cavalry. Being well mounted, the three kept a safe distance ahead of their pursuers. Glancing backward over a long, straight stretch of road, they observed, as the chase proceeded, that all but three of their pursuers had checked up, and they determined at the first favorable place to ride to one side and await the approach of their pursuers and attack them. The place selected was the ford at the river. At this point Eastin checked his horse and turned sharply to the right, concealing himself under the bank. Tribble continued into the middle of the stream, which here was about fifty yards wide, and stopped his horse where the water was about two feet deep. For reasons satisfactory to himself, the private soldier kept on, leaving the two officers to confront the three Federals, who now were in sight, coming at full speed toward the river and from fifty to one hundred yards apart. The leading Federal was Colonel Dennis J. Halisy of the Sixth Kentucky Cavalry. As he came near Eastin, the latter fired at him with his six-shooter, which fire Halisy returned. Both missed, and as Eastin now had the drop on his adversary, [155]

The railroad bridge across the Cumberland, 1864: gates ready to be shut against the Confederates “By all means,” telegraphed Grant to Thomas, “avoid a foot-race to see which, you or Hood, can beat to the Ohio.” This was the voicing of the Union general's fear in December, 1864, that Hood would cross the Cumberland River in the vicinity of Nashville and repeat Bragg's march to the Ohio. A cavalry corps was stationed near the Louisville and Nashville Railroad fortified bridge, and a regiment of pickets kept guard along the banks of the stream, while on the water, gunboats, ironclads, and “tin-clads” kept up a constant patrol. The year before the Confederate raider, John H. Morgan, had evaded the Union guards of the Cumberland and reached the border of Pennsylvania, before he was forced to surrender. On December 8th a widespread report had the Confederates across the Cumberland, but it proved that only a small detachment had been sent out to reconnoiter — sufficient, however, to occasion Grant's telegram. Note the huge gates at the end of the bridge ready to be rushed shut in a moment.

The valley of the Cumberland, from the top of the Nashville military academy


Halisy threw up his hands in token of surrender. As Eastin approached him, having lowered his weapon, Halisy fired, again missing, whereupon Eastin shot Halisy through the head, killing him instantly, his body falling into the river.

While this combat was taking place, the next in order of the Federals had closed with Captain Tribble. These two opened fire without effect when Tribble spurred his horse toward his adversary, threw his arm around him, and dragged him with himself from the saddle into the river. Tribble fell on top, and strangled his foe into surrendering. At this moment, the third Union trooper came on the scene, only to throw up his hands and deliver himself to the two Confederates.

Midday, December 31st, we rested an hour, and then on to Campbellsville where we arrived at dark, having been thirty-six hours in the saddle. That night we slept eight hours, and New Year's Day, 1863, left for Columbia, and thence on throughout the whole bitter cold night without stopping, passing through Burkesville on the morning of January 2d, where we recrossed the Cumberland.

This was Morgan's most successful expedition. The Louisville and Nashville Railroad was a wreck from Bacon Creek to Shepherdsville, a distance of sixty miles. We had captured about nineteen hundred prisoners, destroyed a vast amount of Government property, with a loss of only two men killed, twenty-four wounded, and sixty-four missing. The command returned well armed and better mounted than when it set out. The country had been stripped of horses. Every man in my company led out an extra mount.

During our absence the battle of Murfreesboro had been fought. The Confederates had captured twenty-eight pieces of artillery, and lost four--and although Bragg retreated, he had hammered his opponent so hard, that it was nearly six months before he was ready to advance. Morgan's destruction of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad was an important factor in this enforced delay. [157]

Ruins of saltpetre works in Tennessee 1863 Saltpetre being one of the necessary ingredients of powder, it was inevitable that when cotton-mills, iron-works, and every useful industry were suffering destruction by the Union cavalry in Tennessee, the salt-petre factory should share the same fate. The works were foredoomed, whether by the Union cavalry or by the Confederate cavalry, in order to prevent them from falling into Union hands. The enterprising photographer seized a moment when the cavalry was at hand. A dejected charger is hanging his head by the side of the ruined mill. Two men are standing at the left of the house, of which nothing remains but the framework and chimney. The importance of destroying these works could hardly have been over-estimated. It was the case half a century later, as stated by Hudson Maxim and other military authorities, that collision between America and a foreign country with a powerful navy would bring, as that country's first move, the cutting off of our saltpetre supply from South America and thus the crippling of our ability to manufacture powder.


7. the destruction of Rosecrans' great wagon train

John Allan Wyeth, M. D., Ll.D., (late of Quirk's Scouts, Confederate States Army)
The Confederate cavalry was an important factor in Bragg's defeat of Rosecrans' army at Chickamauga. Forrest was in full command on the right, while Wheeler, six miles away, covered the Confederate left wing.

Bragg had placed them thus wide apart for the reason that Forrest had flatly refused to serve under his chief of cavalry. After Wheeler's disastrous assault on Fort Donelson, February 3, 1863, where Forrest had two horses shot under him, and his command lost heavily, he bluntly told his superior in rank he would never serve under him again, and he never did.

The records of these two days of slaughter at Chickamauga — for twenty-six per cent. of all engaged were either killed or wounded — show how these great soldiers acquitted themselves. Forrest's guns fired the first and last shots on this bloody field. It was Wheeler's vigilance and courage which checked every move and defeated every advance on the Federal right, and finally in his last great charge on Sunday, pursued the scattered legions of McCook and Crittenden through the cedar brakes and blackjack thickets in their wild flight toward Chattanooga. And it was this alert soldier who on Monday, September 21st, in the Chattanooga valley, five miles from the field of battle, made an additional capture of a train of ninety wagons and some four hundred prisoners. The success of his operations at Chickamauga may be judged from his official report: [159]

The precarious military rail-road in 1864 A close look down the line will convince the beholder that this is no modern rail-road with rock-ballasted road-bed and heavy rails, but a precarious construction of the Civil War, with light, easily bent iron which hundreds of lives were sacrificed to keep approximately straight. In order to supply an army it is absolutely necessary to keep open the lines of communication. An extract from General Rosecrans' letter to General Halleck, written October 16, 1863, brings out this necessity most vividly: “Evidence increases that the enemy intend a desperate effort to destroy this army. They are bringing up troops to our front. They have prepared pontoons, and will probably operate on our left flank, either to cross the river and force us to quit this place and fight them, or lose our communication. They will thus separate us from Burnside. We cannot feed Hooker's troops on our left, nor can we spare them from our right depots and communications, nor has he transportation. . . . Had we the railroad from here to Bridgeport, the whole of Sherman's and Hooker's troops brought up, we should not probably outnumber the enemy. This army, with its back to the barren mountains, roads narrow and difficult, while the enemy has the railroad and the corn in his rear, is at much disadvantage.” The railway repairs of Sherman's army in the Atlanta campaign were under the management of Colonel Wright, a civil engineer, with a corps of two thousand men. They often had to work under a galling fire until the Confederates had been driven away, but their efficiency and skill was beyond praise. The ordinary wooden railway bridges were reconstructed with a standard pattern of truss, of which the parts were interchangeable, safely in the rear.

During the battle, with the available force (which never exceeded 2000 men) not on other duty (such as guarding the flanks), we fought the enemy vigorously and successfully, capturing 2000 prisoners, 100 wagons and teams, a large amount of other property, and 18 stands of colors, all of which were turned over to the proper authorities.

After Rosecrans' army had sheltered itself behind the fortifications of Chattanooga, Forrest was ordered in the direction of Loudon and Knoxville to watch Burnside, whose corps occupied the latter place, while Wheeler remained in command of the cavalry with Bragg in front of Chattanooga.

When Bragg consulted Wheeler in regard to an expedition north of the Tennessee to break Rosecrans' lines of communications, Wheeler informed him that few of the horses were able to stand the strain of such an expedition. He was, however, ordered to do the best he could, and a few days after the battle all the best mounts were assembled for the raid.

We reached the Tennessee River on September 30th, at or near Cottonport, about forty miles east of Chattanooga, and although our crossing was opposed by some squadrons of the Fourth Ohio Cavalry, posted in the timber which lined the north bank, under cover of two 6-pounder Parrott guns, we succeeded in fording the river, which here was not more than two or three feet deep at this dry season of the year. From this point, without meeting with any material opposition, we made our way rapidly across Walden's Ridge and descending into the Sequatchie valley at Anderson's Cross Roads, early on the morning of October 2d, encountered the advance guard of an infantry escort to an enormous wagon train loaded with supplies for the army in Chattanooga. Parts of two regiments under Colonel John T. Morgan were ordered to charge the escort of the train, which they did, but were repulsed, and came back in disorder. I was standing near Colonel A. A. Russell who commanded the Fourth Alabama Cavalry, when General Wheeler rode up and ordered him to lead his regiment in. As soon as our line could be formed, we rode forward at [161]

The inadequate redoubt at Johnsonville When, most unexpectedly, the Confederate General Nathan B. Forrest appeared on the bank opposite Johnsonville, Tennessee, November 4, 1864, and began firing across the Tennessee River, a distance of about four hundred yards, the fortifications of the post were quite inadequate. They consisted only of a redoubt for six guns on the spur of the hill overlooking the town and depot (seen clearly in the distance above), and two advanced batteries and rifle-pits. Three gunboats were in the river. Their commander, afraid of falling into the hands of the enemy, ordered his gunboats set afire and abandoned. The ranking officer of the troops ashore followed his example and ordered all transports and barges destroyed in the same way. A terrible conflagration which consumed between one and two million dollars' worth of Federal property ensued. On the 30th of November the few remaining stores not burned or captured by Forrest having been removed by railroad to Nashville, the post was evacuated.

[162] full speed, and receiving a volley at close quarters, were successful in riding over and capturing the entire escort within a few minutes. We found ourselves in possession of an enormous wagon train, and such a scene of panic and confusion I had never witnessed. Our appearance directly in the rear of Rosecrans' army, which was not more than twenty miles away, was wholly unexpected. As a matter of precaution, the Federal general had directed Colonel E. M. McCook with a division of cavalry, then near Bridgeport, to move up the Sequatchie valley, and be within supporting distance of this train, but he failed to be in position at the critical moment.

When the fighting with the escort began, the teamsters had turned about in the hope of escape in the direction of Bridgeport. As we came nearer, they became panic-stricken and took to their heels for safety, leaving their uncontrolled teams to run wild. Some of the wagons were overturned, blocking the road in places with anywhere from ten to fifty teams, some of the mules still standing, some fallen and tangled in the harness, and all in inextricable confusion. For six or eight miles we followed this line of wagons, with every half-mile or so a repetition of this scene. As we proceeded, men were detailed to set fire to the wagons and to kill the mules, since it was impossible to escape with the livestock. After a run of six or seven miles, I ventured to stop for a few minutes to help myself to a tempting piece of cheese and some crackers which I saw in one of the wagons. Filling my haversack, I was on the point of remounting, when General Wheeler rode up and ordered me to “get out of that wagon and go on after the enemy,” which order I obeyed, and had the honor of riding side by side with my commander for some distance further among the captured wagons. As he turned back, he ordered the small squadron that was in advance, to go on until the last wagon had been destroyed, which order was fully executed.

By this time the smoke of the burning train was visible for many miles, and soon the explosions of fixed ammunition, with [163]


When General Forrest swooped down on Johnsonville the landings and banks, several acres in extent, were piled high with freight for Sherman's army. There were several boats and barges yet unloaded for want of room. Forrest captured U. S. Gunboat 55 and three transports and barges. Owing to a misunderstanding of Forrest's orders to a prize-crew, two Union gunboats recaptured the transport Venus, loaded with stores which Forrest had transferred from the steamer Mazeppa, captured at Fort Heiman, and also some of Forrest's 20-pounder Parrott guns, which his exhausted horses could no longer draw. Colonel R. D. Mussey U. S. A., reports that the Thirteenth U. S. Colored Infantry and a section of Meig's battery stood their ground well. This was one of Forrest's swift raids which imperiled the stores of the Union armies.

The evacuation of Johnsonville after Forrest's successful raid

The evacuation of Johnsonville after Forrest's successful raid

[164] which a number of wagons were loaded, sounded along the valley road, not unlike the firing of artillery in action. General Rosecrans expressed the opinion that the Confederates were bombarding his depot of supplies at Bridgeport.

General Rosecrans, in his official report, admitted the loss of five hundred wagons, so that there must have been from one to two thousand mules destroyed. While the wagons were still burning, and before those of us who had gone to the extreme limit of the train could return to the main column, Colonel McCook, in command of the Federal cavalry, arrived on the scene and formed his line of battle between us and our main column.

The capture and destruction of this immense train was one of the greatest achievements of General Wheeler's cavalry, and I was proud of the fact that the Fourth Alabama, unaided, did the fighting which took it. Its loss was keenly felt by the Federals, for it added to the precarious situation of the army in Chattanooga, and reduced rations to a cracker a day per man for several days in succession. General Wheeler reported:

The number of wagons was variously estimated from eight hundred to fifteen hundred. . . . The quartermaster in charge of the train stated that there were eight hundred six-mule wagons, besides a great number of sutler's wagons. The train was guarded by a brigade of cavalry in front and a brigade of cavalry in rear, and on the flank, where we attacked, were stationed two regiments of infantry.

General Rosecrans in a despatch to General Burnside dated October 5, 1863, said, “Your failure to close your troops down to our left has cost five hundred wagons loaded with essentials, the post of McMinnville, and heaven only knows where the mischief will end.” From my own observation, I believe that five hundred would not be very far from correct. We missed about thirty wagons which had turned off in a narrow and little-used road-way, and were already partly toward Walden's Ridge.

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Springfield, Mo. (Missouri, United States) (1)
South America (1)
Shiloh, Tenn. (Tennessee, United States) (1)
Shepherdsville (Kentucky, United States) (1)
Rock Spring (Kentucky, United States) (1)
Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania, United States) (1)
Nolin, Ky. (Kentucky, United States) (1)
Nolensville (Tennessee, United States) (1)
New Market (Kentucky, United States) (1)
Munfordville (Kentucky, United States) (1)
Muldraugh's Hill (Kentucky, United States) (1)
Mississippi (Mississippi, United States) (1)
McMinnville (Tennessee, United States) (1)
Louisville (Kentucky, United States) (1)
Loudon, Tenn. (Tennessee, United States) (1)
Lavergne (Tennessee, United States) (1)
Kentucky (Kentucky, United States) (1)
Jefferson City (Missouri, United States) (1)
Green (Kentucky, United States) (1)
Georgia (Georgia, United States) (1)
Fort Pillow (Tennessee, United States) (1)
Fort Heiman (Kentucky, United States) (1)
Fort Donelson (Tennessee, United States) (1)
Elizabethtown, Ky. (Kentucky, United States) (1)
Easton (Kansas, United States) (1)
Cottonport (Tennessee, United States) (1)
Christmas (New Mexico, United States) (1)
Chicopee (Massachusetts, United States) (1)
Campbellsville (Tennessee, United States) (1)
Bacon Creek, Ky. (Kentucky, United States) (1)
Austria (Austria) (1)
America City (Kansas, United States) (1)
Alexandria (Tennessee, United States) (1)
Alabama (Alabama, United States) (1)

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