53. the Saltville expedition.
A National account.
A Southern account.
For the truth of history, it is proper that we should give the country the facts connected with the late battle fought at Saltville
, on Sunday the second instant.
We have the facts, given us by an intelligent and reliable friend, who was present and witnessed almost the entire engagement.
It was the purpose of the enemy, under Burbridge
, to take the salt-works and then form a junction with Gillem
, and destroy the lead and iron-works, and then by rapid movements, form a junction with Sheridan
, at or near Lynchburg
The success of these plans would have told heavily on our cause and on our country; but, thanks to the skill and valor of our officers and men, these schemes, so cunningly devised, and so extensively planned, have failed; the enemy with a large force, has been whipped, and his disorganized and scattered ranks driven from our lines.
Colonel H. L. Giltner
, of the Fourth Kentucky cavalry, met the enemy, and for three days and nights contested, with great energy, his advance; but his superior strength finally pressed the gallant Giltner
and his men back on the salt-works.
We had, by this time, collected a little less than seven hundred reserves, and a number of pieces of artillery.
, of the Fifty-fourth Virginia, had volunteered his services, and was actively engaged in disposing of the forces, when Brigadier-General A. E. Jackson
The enemy were now in our front in full force, with eleven regiments and eight pieces of artillery.
The contest seemed almost hopeless, yet surrender would have been disgraceful.
All the ammunition belonging to the six-pound guns, and much of that belonging to the small arms had been sent back the evening before, nine miles distant, to Glade Springs.
It seemed almost madness to yield, and yet destruction to contend.
This was early in the morning, before ten o'clock. Just then, Brigadier-General John S. Williams
, with his magnificent division, composed of three brigades, arrived.
A new feeling and spirit at once came over the face of affairs.
He promptly assumed command of all the troops present, and made his dispositions.
The First Kentucky, Colonel Griffith
; Tenth Kentucky, Colonel Trimble
; Fourth Kentucky, Colonel Giltner
; two battalions of reserves, Brigadier-General Robertson
's brigade, Colonel Debrill
's brigade, and Colonel Breckinridge
's Ninth Kentucky cavalry, constituted our line of battle, extending from left to right in the order in which they are mentioned.
We had also a number of artillery, well posted in the redoubts, so as to command the enemy as he advanced.
These were well served-all of them.
The fight was severe along our whole line, but the severest and most destructive was on our right.
's brigade mowed down the advancing hosts of the enemy with terrible slaughter.
All our troops behaved most admirably.
The reserves acted well their part, and deserve all praise; but the heaviest and severest portion of the fighting was done by General Williams
' division, and by Giltner
It is to Colonel Giltner
, who held the enemy in check, and kept him back from the salt-works for a period so long, and to General Williams
, who placed the troops and did the fighting on the day of the battle at Saltville
, on the second instant, that the credit is due for saving the salt-works, and, incidentally, the country.
It is to him, and the valor of the troops under him--Brigadier-General John S. Williams
--that the credit of this glorious and important victory is due.
There was not a General present ranking him, or one who assumed the responsibility of that important engagement, until the last gun was fired.
And yet, strange to say, from the published accounts, made by telegraph and others
wise, no one would suppose that this gallant and distinguished officer was even present.
The loss of the enemy was. very heavy — it could not have been less than seven hundred or eight hundred in killed wounded and missing.
They left dead on the field one hundred and four white and one hundred and fifty-five negro soldiers, who were buried the next day after the battle.
The number of wounded and captured was much larger still.
The loss on our side is comparatively small, less than one hundred in number, killed and wounded.
Among those who fell gloriously discharging their duty was Colonel Trimble
, Tenth Kentucky cavalry, and Lieutenant Crutchfield
of the same regiment.
Their deeds of valor will long be remembered by their countrymen.