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The siege of Knoxville. report of the operations of Third South Carolina regiment from the 4th November to the 22d December, 1863.

Headquarters Third South Carolina Regiment, near Russellville, Tenn., January 6, 1864.
Captain C. R. Holmes, A. A. G.:
Captain—In obedience to instructions from brigade headquarters, I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of the command from the time it left Chattanooga to its arrival at this camp:

Nothing of special interest occurred to the regiment from the time, 4th November, the date it left Chattanooga, to the 8th November, when we arrived at Sweetwater, or to the 14th November when we arrived at London, nor until the 17th, when we reached Knoxville, although after the 15th instant we were constantly in the presence of the enemy, who were retiring upon that town.

On the evening of the 17th, when within three miles of Knoxville, I was ordered by Brigadier-General Kershaw to cross the railroad on my left and flank the enemy's advanced line of skirmishers, which crossed the railroad perpendicularly about two miles from town and extended at least to the woods on the west side. I immediately sent scouts in advance and followed with the regiment, crossing Second creek and the railroad, and making into the woods beyond, when I turned to the right and marched parallel to the railroad.

After going in this direction about a third of a mile I discovered, [388] from my own observations as well as from the reports of my scouts, that the enemy's skirmishers had withdrawn to the east side of the railroad, but they were plainly visible in a line perpendicular to the railroad and running over the hill which was carried by assault the following evening. I was then on their flank, but too far to deliver an effective fire.

Upon a reconnoissance made by myself and scouts, I found that I could not push further to the north so as to come more in the enemy's rear without disclosing the movement to their videttes, who were still on the west side of the railroad, and in an open field to the north of the woods. I therefore concluded to work my way as quickly as possible to the edge of the woods next to the railroad, and then make a dash upon their flank. Accordingly, after throwing Captain Nance's company on my left, deployed as skirmishers, to report any movement of the enemy, and to guard against any flank attack from that direction, I moved out of the woods unperceived by the enemy, and simultaneously opened fire and charged on their right flank. They immediately broke and retired beyond the hill on which they were posted, but just before we reached the railroad I discovered for the first time a considerable body of troops, who were unmasked by our passing from behind a thicket of small pines, posted on the railroad about five hundred yards to our left, some of whom were mounted and others dismounted. Under these circumstances I halted at the railroad, where I found protection for my men behind the embankment, and engaged the enemy—who changed front and returned my fire from behind the brow of the hill—intending to act as circumstances might dictate. Just beyond the railroad was an open meadow, which it was unadvisable to enter while the enemy's cavalry was on my flank. There was no sign of an advance of our line of skirmishers (whose left rested on the railroad) to connect with my right. Captain Nance reported a large body of cavalry facing around my left and to my rear towards the woods from which I had just emerged; and a fire at the same time being opened on my left from up the railroad, I determined, upon consultation with my field-officers, to retire by the same route by which I approached. I did so, and after some time, having reached the woods, I received an order from General Kershaw through Lieutenant Dwight, A. A. G., to rejoin the brigade on the London road. I did so immediately. Not knowing the exact purpose of my orders, I cannot say how far the design was executed, but if not fully carried out it was as much so as circumstances would allow. [389]

A list of casualties in this affair is herewith submitted. Among the wounded was Lieutenant Wade Allen, who was struck while bearing a message from me to Captain Nance. I regret to state that he fell into the hands of the enemy when we retired from Knoxville. On the morning of the 18th, by order, I took my position in line of battle, and after marching near to Mr. M. M. Armstrong's house I was halted in a ravine to the left of the road, where I remained until late in the afternoon. During the whole day there was heavy skirmishing in front and considerable cannonading from our batteries, the effort being to carry a high hill on the left of the road, and just to the southwest of Mr. M. M. Armstrong's house.

I received an order about 4 P. M. from General Kershaw, through Lieutenant Doby, A. D. C., to carry the enemy's rail defences situated on this hill, but not to advance beyond them. I was told that the line of these works was indicated by two cedar trees on the top of the hill, and I directed my men not to stop short of these trees, but not to go beyond them. We then advanced in excellent condition, under heavy fire, until we reached the cedars. But perceiving that the trees were short of the works, I urged my men forward by every means in my power, but perhaps because of the general direction, ‘not to go beyond the cedars,’ and on account of having once halted and the difficulty of renewing the advance under such a terrible fire, there was some hesitation, which was further increased by the regiments on my right failing to come up in time on account of natural obstacles encountered in their advance. At length the left of the regiment reached the breastworks, when cries of ‘we surrender’ issued from their ranks. I ceased firing and went forward to receive the surrender, but, upon being fired on, I immediately renewed the firing and soon took possession of their works, after killing about seventeen of their men and taking several prisoners, a few of whom were wounded. It is but truth to state that this was the most desperate encounter in which my command was ever engaged, and as it was perhaps one of the most brilliant charges of the war, I cannot speak too highly of the conduct of my comrades. In reference to the alleged bad faith of the enemy in pretending to surrender, it is a charitable construction, and perhaps not an unreasonable one, to suppose that they did not understand each other, rather than that they intended to deceive.

A list of casualties from this assault is herewith submitted. Among the mortally wounded was First Lieutenant D. S. Moffitt. Circumstances had often thrown him in command of his company for long [390] periods, and his competency as an officer was well tried and well established. He was efficient and gallant, and his loss is a severe one to his company and regiment. Among the killed and wounded were many of the best spirits in the command. As we advanced to the charge that memorable evening, we overtook at the foot of the hill the skirmishers, commanded by Major William Wallace, Second South Carolina regiment, who, with his command, joined us, and contributed their share to the brilliant success. Major Wallace was conspicuous for gallantry and coolness, and it is with pleasure I make this honorable mention of him. We entrenched ourselves that night in that position, where we remained for several days. Besides picketing and lying in the trenches, nothing occupied us until the night of the 3d December, when we retired from Knoxville. We marched in the direction of Rogersville, the neighborhood of which we reached on the 9th of December. On the 14th we returned as far as Bean's station, where in the afternoon the brigade, as well as other portions of the corps, became engaged with the enemy's mounted infantry. Although my command was on the field, and in proper position, it did not become very actively engaged. After nightfall I was ordered by General Kershaw to march across the fields on the left of the valley until I came to the road, and there to halt and report. I came into the road just at McGill's house, where I halted and reported as ordered, and soon afterwards was directed to establish pickets in my front, and go into camp with the rest of the brigade. Near the house of McGill I captured several inferior horses, saddles and bridles, enough bacon and crackers to ration my command for about two or three days, besides other articles of inconsiderable value.

On the morning of the 18th, by order, I assumed command of the brigade, but as nothing special occurred after that date, I may complete the report of the operations of the command by saying that it remained at Bean station until the 20th December, when we took up the line of march for this point, which we reached on the 22d December, 1863. Besides lists of casualties, already referred to, you will observe a list of men left behind in front of Knoxville, who have fallen into the hands of the enemy.

I am, very respectfully,

James D. Nance, Colonel Commanding.

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