Those who were in that battle will remember these successive contests, followed by short periods of apparent inaction, going on all the day. To use the illustration of one well acquainted with its plan and incidents: "It went on like the regular stroke of some tremendous machine." There would be a rapid charge and fierce fight—the wild yell would announce a Confederate success—then would ensue a comparative lull, broken again in a few minutes, and the charge, struggle and horrible din would recommence.
About half past ten Polk's corps prepared to take part in the fight. He had previously, by order personally given by General Johnson (who was all the time in the front), sent one brigade to reinforce General Bragg's right, where the second line had been most hotly engaged. He had also sent, by order of General Beauregard, one brigade to the left. The fight at this time was joined all along the line, and urged with greater fury, than at any period of the day. Almost immediately after parting with these two brigades, General Polk became engaged with the remainder of his corps. The enemy had, now, disposed his entire force for resistance—the men fought as if determined not to accept defeat—and their stern, tenacious leader was not the man to relinquish hope, although his lines had been repeatedly broken and the ground was piled with his slain. The corps of Hardee, Bragg and Polk, were now striving abreast, or mingled with each other.
In reading the reports of the Confederate Generals, frequent allusion will be found to regiments and brigades fighting without "head or orders." One commander would sometimes direct the movements of troops belonging to another. At this phase of the struggle, the narrative should dwell more upon "the biographies of the regiments than the history of the battle." But the wise arrangement of the lines and the instructions given subordinate commanders, ensured harmonious action and the desired result.
Each brigade commander was ordered (when he became disengaged), to seek and attack the nearest enemy, to press the flank of every stubborn hostile force which his neighbors could not move, and at all hazards to press forward. General Johnson seemed to have adopted the spirit of the motto, "When fighting in the dark, strike out straight." He more than once assumed command of brigades which knew not what to do, and led them to where they could fight with effect. Our successes were not won without costly sacrifices, and the carnage was lavish upon both sides.
While all this was going on in front, Morgan's squadron moved along with Breckinridge's division, and we listened to the hideous noise, and thought how much larger the affair was than the skirmishes on Green river and around Nashville. We soon learned to distinguish when the fight was sharp and hotly contested, and when our lines were triumphantly advancing, and we wondered if those before us would finish the business before we got in.
We had not marched far, before we saw bloody indications of the fierce work that had been done upon the ground over which we were passing. The dead and the wounded were thick in the first camp, and, thence, onward. Some of the corpses (of men killed by artillery), showed ghastly mutilation. In getting up our glowing anticipation of the day's programme, we had left these items out of the account, and we mournfully recognized the fact, that many who seek military distinction, will obtain it posthumously, if they get it at all. The actual sight of a corpse immensely chills an abstract love of glory. The impression soon wears off, however, and the dead are very little noticed. Toward ten or eleven o'clock we wandered away from the infantry to which we had been attached, and getting no orders or instructions, devoted ourselves to an examination of the many interesting scenes of the field, which we viewed with keen relish.
The camps whence the enemy had been driven, attracted especial and admiring attention. There was a profusion of all the necessaries, and many of the luxuries of military life. How we wondered that an army could have ever permitted itself to be driven away from them.
While we were curiously inspecting the second or third encampment, and had gotten closer, than at any time previously, to the scene of the fighting, a slight incident interrupted, for a moment, the pleasure of the investigation. Some of the enemy's shells were bursting over our heads, and as we were practically ignorant of artillery, we were at first puzzled to know what they were. In the general thunder of the fight, no special reports could be heard, to lead to a solution of the particular phenomena. Suddenly a short yell of mingled indignation and amazement, announced that one of the party had some practical information on the subject. He had been struck by a fragment on the shoulder, inflicting a severe gash and bruise. Not knowing how the missile had reached him, he seemed to think himself a very ill-treated man.
Just as Breckinridge's division was going into action, about 12 P.M., we came upon the left of it, where the Kentucky troops were formed. The bullets were beginning to fly thick about us. Simultaneously, the squadron and the regiment nearest to us, struck up the favorite song of the Kentuckians, "Cheer Boys, Cheer"—the effect was animating beyond all description.
About this time our advance was receiving its first serious check. While the right and the left were advancing, the left-center was repulsed before a strong position which the enemy held in force. They were posted upon an eminence, in front of which were thickets and underbrush. Plenty of artillery strongly supported, crowned this eminence, and Hardee's utmost efforts to carry it had been foiled. So furiously played the batteries of the enemy, that nothing could be seen of the position, but sheets of flame and clouds of smoke. When an advance was attempted against it, a shower of minnie balls would be felt. It was finally taken, after the impetus given the line by the arrival of the reserve under Breckinridge, had sent our forces forward on both sides so far, that it was completely flanked. While the advance, at this point, was thus suspended, the squadron happened to approach, and General Hardee sent an aide to know "what cavalry that was?" Upon learning that it was Morgan's, he expressed himself much pleased, and said that he would use it to "take that battery." When informed of this truly gratifying compliment, the men bore themselves with becoming sobriety, and as they formed for the charge, which we were told would be immediately ordered, they indulged in no unseemly or extravagant expressions of joy. Indeed, it is an historical fact, that while we were ready enough to go, we were not so sanguine of the result as General Hardee seemed to be. The General sat on his horse near Schoup's gallant battery which was replying, but ineffectually, to the vicious rain of grape and shell which poured from the hill. He seemed indifferent to the terrible volleys, and only anxious to capture the guns.
The order, we were expecting, was never given us. At the first slackening of the fire from the hill, some of the infantry regiments, which were lying down, dashed forward, but the enemy left the position because he was in danger of being surrounded. Many of the guns were abandoned.
The right was now checked, meeting the fiercest resistance. The left and center bore rapidly forward.
From a passage in General Bragg's report, it would seem that it had been part of the plan to press more strongly upon our right and drive the enemy down the river, "leaving the left open for him to escape." But it was already apparent that he was being hemmed in and forced from all sides, toward Pittsburg Landing.
General Hardee, at this time, ordered Colonel Morgan to take his command to the extreme left, and "charge the first enemy he saw." Colonel Morgan immediately proceeded in the direction indicated as rapidly as his column could gallop. The left of our line was moving so swiftly to the front that, leaving to go some distance by a bridle path in the rear, before turning to overtake it, we did not reach it until nearly one o'clock in the afternoon. Just as we approached, we saw, on the extreme left, a body of men dressed in blue uniforms, going through with some strange evolutions. Their dress was much like that of the enemy, but there were troops, evidently Confederate, not far from them that were paying them no attention. Colonel Morgan ordered a platoon of Company A, to dismount and approach them cautiously, to fire into them if satisfied that they were the enemy, and it was his intention to then charge them. We drew very near to them unnoticed. A little man flourishing a portentous saber, was directing their movements with off-hand eloquence. We forbore to fire, because, although we did not understand what he said, we thought from the emphasis of the speaker, his volubility, and the imprecatory sound of the language, that it was French, and that his party were Louisianians. This surmise was correct. They were members of Colonel Mouton's fine regiment, the Eighteenth Louisiana. Their uniform cost them dearly before the fight was over. They were frequently fired into by Confederate regiments, and received, in that way, smart loss. At length they retaliated whenever they received a volley. This caused some complaint, but it is related that the Louisianians gave sound military reasons for their conduct, saying: "We fire at any body, what fire at us—G-d d-m." Shortly after we made this discovery, we saw this regiment and a portion of the Kentucky brigade, charge across a wide field on the extreme left of our line. Here a ravine which had protected our left flank suddenly terminated, and when the line had dashed across this field and had entered the woods beyond, it was entirely uncovered. A strong force of the enemy was formed in the middle of this field (where one of the camps was situated), and the Confederates rushed so closely upon them, that it seemed as if the bayonets must cross, before they gave way. The volume of musketry in this charge was tremendous, and drowned the crash of the artillery. When the Federals turned to retreat they still preserved their array, and went off in perfect order.
They frequently faced about to fire on their pursuers, who poured continuous volleys into them, and thus fighting they disappeared in the woods. Our squadron and the Texian rangers—Eighth Texas—were following behind the infantry, and had been unable to get past them, or (on account of the ravine) to the left of them. Now, however, an opportunity of actively participating in the battle occurred, which we had not expected. As we were pressing across the field, some Federal skirmishers appeared in the edge of the woods upon the left of the field, not more than eighty yards from us. They directed their attention principally to Byrne's battery, which was also crossing the field, and prevented the cannoneers from unlimbering the guns. Colonel Morgan at once ordered the charge, and the squadron dashed at full gallop into the woods. The skirmishers ran back, but as we forced our way in a crowded mass (all line lost) through the thickets, we came suddenly upon the infantry regiment to which these skirmishers belonged. Fortunately for us, this regiment, in scrambling through the brush, had lost the compactness of its formation. We came close upon them before the Federals fired—they delivered one stunning volley, the blaze almost reaching our faces, and the roar rang in our ears like thunder. The next moment we rode right through them—some of the men trying to cut them down with the saber, and making ridiculous failures, others doing real execution with gun and pistol. We lost only three men killed, but they were noble, gallant soldiers—Lieutenant James West and privates Samuel Buckner and James Ghiselin. We lost several others wounded. Twelve of the enemy were killed and a few made prisoners. The affair was over directly, and the Federals retreated. The Texians, as we prepared to charge, asked what we were going to do. "To go in," was the answer, "Then we will go in, too," they shouted, and galloping down the rear of our line, until they reached the right of it, they turned short to the left and charged into the woods. They struck the rest of the brigade to which the regiment we had met belonged, and drove it back for some distance. They were never checked until they reached a high fence, which they could not pass. Their loss was then severe, and many of their riderless horses came galloping over the ground where our wounded lay.
Our infantry had pressed on beyond this point, and there was no Confederate force near except this cavalry. It was impossible to conjecture how strong the enemy was just here, but Colonel Morgan, fearing that he might come in force sufficient to endanger this flank, disposed his command on foot, to make all possible resistance in such an event. Our skirmishers, thrown forward, could not find him, and the receding din of the battle seemed to promise perfect safety against all such dangers. About half-past one or two o'clock, occurred the great calamity which rendered unavailing all of the sacrifices and successes of the day. General Johnson was killed. He had exposed himself with almost culpable recklessness. From the commencement of the fight he had been in the van—cheering the struggling men—adding fresh spirit to the charge—stimulating to new energy the battalions that were checked. His clothing had been torn by balls which were unheeded.
Once he had ridden along the rear of a brave Arkansas Regiment, which had just recoiled from a terrible fire. "Where now," he said, striking some of the men encouragingly upon the shoulder, "are the Arkansas boys, who boasted that they would fight with their bowie knives? You have a nobler weapon in your grasp—will you dare to use it?" He spoke to men who could not hear such words in vain—they rushed forward and won the position.
Statham's magnificent brigade had at length faltered. General Johnson, bare-headed and with his hand elevated, rode out in front of the brigade, and called on it to follow. His dress, majestic presence, imposing gesture and large gray horse, made him a conspicuous mark. A ball pierced his leg, severing the artery. He paid no notice to the wound, but continued to follow the troops, who, incited by his example, had charged successfully. Suddenly he grew faint and reeled in his saddle. His staff came to his assistance, but too late. They bore him into a ravine for shelter, and in a few moments he died. I cannot venture to speak of General Johnson in the ordinary terms of eulogy—such applied to him would seem frivolous and profane. He was too great for it in life—and it would little accord with the veneration, silent, but profound, with which we, his people, cherish his memory. If he had lived but a few days more! Shortly after this great disaster the lines were pressed forward rapidly again at all points. Our troops were still instinct with the spirit of the lost leader. His genius had prepared effects, accomplished after he was gone. The left had swept far around—the center, where the latest check had been felt, was a little behind—the right driving everything before it, when, by hard fighting the resistance opposed to it at noon had been overcome, was approaching the river.
Now the word was passed through the army, "Let every order be forward." In the last determined stand which the enemy made, Major General Prentice and two thousand of his division were captured. His troops stood, until the advancing Confederates closed in on two sides, and escape had become impossible.
Our army was now near the river, and a victory absolutely complete and decisive, was just within its grasp. The fighting had been hard and our success blood-bought but brilliant. For many miles (through his encampments, piled up with rich spoils) we had driven the enemy. His brave resistance had at length been completely broken, and after immense losses, he seemed ready to yield. It is an indisputable fact, that for an hour, at least, before the Confederate advance was checked by order of the Commanding General, it was meeting with no sort of check from the enemy. The Northern writers, who shortly after the battle described it, one and all depicted a scene of utter confusion and consternation as prevailing in the Federal army, crowded upon the bank of the river. Scarcely a semblance of resistance (according to these writers), was maintained—while thousands (all discipline and confidence gone), were prepared to surrender. Hundreds, unable to force their way upon the boats, plunged into the river and were drowned.
The head of Buell's column commenced to arrive late in the afternoon, and the troops were crossed as rapidly as they came up. Nelson's division crossed first. The leading brigade was compelled to force its way through the mass of fugitives. On that afternoon, the second chance which the Confederacy had, to win the war, was thrown away.
All night long, the huge pieces upon the gunboats thundered at intervals, with a roar which seemed like that of a bursting firmament. They had been opened during the afternoon, but, on account of the great elevation necessary to enable them to shoot over the bluffs, the shells had gone high in the air. These huge missiles came screaming louder than a steam whistle, striking off the tops of trees, and filling the air with dense clouds of smoke when they burst, but doing no damage.
During the night little was done to reorganize the Confederate soldiery. Only Bragg's corps maintained its discipline. Thousands of stragglers (from the other corps) roamed over the field to plunder and riot. The Federal Generals strained every nerve to repair their disaster. The fugitives were collected and placed again in the ranks. The boats plied steadily, bringing over Buell's fresh and undiscouraged forces, and at six o'clock next morning the victors were in their turn assailed by an army larger than the one they had confronted on the day before, and half of which was fresh and unwearied. General Beauregard disposed his tired troops to receive this storm—and although his line was thin—weakened (from the superb array of the day before) by the dead and wounded and those who had straggled from their colors—it could not be driven.
General Beauregard in his report of the battle, says:
"On his right and center the enemy was repulsed in every effort he made with his heavy columns in that quarter of the field. On the left, our line was weakest, and here the enemy drove on line after line of fresh troops with unremitting fury." Our troops stood firm, but General Beauregard feared that they must eventually break, and at 12 M. (all of his scanty reserves having been put in) he ordered a withdrawal of the line.
After a repulse of a desperate attack the troops began to retire, and accomplished the movement without trouble. General Beauregard says: "The lines of troops established to cover this movement had been disposed on a favorable ridge—commanding the ground of Shiloh Church, from this position our artillery played upon the woods beyond, but upon no visible enemy, and without a reply. Soon satisfied that no serious pursuit was, or would be attempted, this last line was withdrawn, and never did troops leave a battlefield in better order."
General Breckinridge (whose heroic conduct on both days had almost repaid the Kentuckians—in their pride in it—for the loss of the battle) was left as rear guard, just in front of the intersection of the Pittsburg and Hamburg roads—upon the ground occupied by the army upon Saturday night. On the next day he was withdrawn three miles to Mickey's, and remained there undisturbed for five or six days. Our cavalry occupied the ground several miles further to the north. Morgan's squadron, and other cavalry commands, were posted for more than a week upon a portion of the field won from the enemy on the first day, during which time only two or three trifling skirmishes occurred.
The army marched to Corinth on the 7th and 8th.
It is a point conceded, now, on all sides, that had the Confederate army pursued its success on the evening of the first day, the army under General Grant would have been annihilated, and Buell never could have crossed the river. Had General Johnson survived, the battle would have been pressed vigorously to that consummation. Then, what would have been the situation? The army, remaining upon the banks of the Tennessee for a few days, would have been reorganized and recovered from the exhausting effects of the battle. The slightly wounded returning to the ranks would have made the muster-roll full thirty thousand effectives.
Price and Van Dorn coming with about fifteen thousand and the levies from all quarters, which were hastening to Corinth, would have given General Johnson nearly sixty thousand infantry. Buell, unable to cross the river or to use it for obtaining supplies, his communications with Nashville in constant danger, and hourly interrupted by the five or six thousand cavalry which General Johnson could have thrown upon them, would have been suspended without the ability to obtain foothold or prop anywhere. If nothing else could have made him retreat, a menace to Nashville, from the troops in East Tennessee, would have served the purpose. Then General Johnson could have crossed the river, and the cavalry have been pushed on to operate between Nashville and Louisville. General Buell would not have halted to fight. With the odds against him, to do that (in the heart of a hostile population and far from support) would have been too hazardous. But retreat would have been almost as disastrous as defeat, and, closely pressed, would have resulted in the partial disintegration of his army. Military men, who understand the situation, and the topography of the country, will concur in the opinion that General Buell could not have halted with safety at Nashville, nor, indeed, until he had reached Munfordsville.
Gentlemen who were upon General Johnson's staff, and in his confidence, state that it was his intention to have attempted no march into Kentucky, but that if Buell retreated beyond the Cumberland river, he designed (while keeping his cavalry on the railroad between Nashville and Louisville) to have marched his army, rapidly, along the South bank of the Cumberland to the Ohio river, and, crossing that stream, to have pushed into Illinois, and (destroying the great trunk lines of railroads) have marched to Kentucky by way of Ohio. He could have made the march in less time than troops could have been organized to oppose him. The plan appeared daring to rashness, but where were the forces to endanger such a march? The militia could not have stopped it a moment. General Johnson believed that, his army would have increased as it advanced, and that vacillation and disaffection removed from Kentucky and Missouri, would be transferred to the Northwestern States, and that negotiations for peace would be entertained by those States separately.
But the battle of Shiloh was, after all, a Confederate success. The army of invasion was crippled and reduced to a cautious offensive, little better than inactivity. The Federal arms were stayed and blunted, and the Southern people, reanimated, prepared for fresh and vigorous resistance.
When relieved from duty on the field of Shiloh, Colonel Morgan sought and obtained permission to dash into Tennessee, with a force adequate to important results. While the army lay in the entrenchments around Corinth, which the Federal forces under Halleck were tediously approaching, he wished to pounce upon the rich prizes in their rear. He assembled the troops, with which he was about to make the contemplated expedition at Byrnesville, on or about the twenty-third of April.
His own command, Companies A, B and C, respectively commanded by Lieutenants Sellers, Chadburn and Churchill, had been augmented by a fourth company, or rather nucleus of a company, some twenty-five strong, commanded by Captain Brown—a gallant officer. Detachments from Colonel Wirt Adams' regiment and McNairy's battalion had, also, been assigned him. These were commanded by his friend, Lieutenant Colonel Wood, and Captain Harris. The entire force at his disposal numbered three hundred and twenty-five effectives. Colonel Morgan was detained at Byrnesville for several days, having his horses shod, arms put in order, rations cooked, and other necessary arrangements for the expedition perfected. When all was ready, the command commenced its march on the 26th. Extra ammunition and rations were carried on pack mules—one being allowed to each section, or four to a company.
These mules were led by men, detailed from the section to which they were attached, and the "train" was placed under charge of private Frank Leathers—called by courteous reminiscence of his former rank in the Kentucky militia, and as ex-legislator—Colonel. This gallant gentleman will pardon me for complimenting the energy and diligence he displayed, by recording the grumbling acknowledgment of one of those he "put in motion," who declared that "he made a bigger row in driving his mules than was necessary to align a division of cavalry for action."
Passing through Iuka, that day, the command encamped six miles from the Tennessee river, and reaching it early next morning, immediately commenced to cross. The river was high, and there was nothing with which to effect the crossing, but one boat—a small horse-ferry, capable of holding ten or twelve. Efforts were made (unsuccessfully), to cross a portion of the command at other points. Two days and nights of hard work were occupied in getting every thing across. One of the men who was actively engaged in the work, describes an apprehension which rendered it more disagreeable. "We had," he says, "the gunboat fever very badly, at that time, and expected every minute to see one come in sight, for they were patroling the river for some miles above this point."
Leaving the river on the morning of the 30th, Colonel Morgan reached Lawrenceburg, in Lawrence county, Tennessee, on that afternoon, and encamped for the night. It was a fertile country, settled by hospitable people. Rations and forage in abundance were procured, and a good deal more whisky than was good for the men. Early on the next morning the march, was resumed, and about 10 A.M. (not far from Pulaski), Colonel Morgan learned that four hundred Federal troops had just passed through on the road to Columbia. They were principally convalescents, employed in putting up a line of telegraph from Columbia to Huntsville, Alabama, and other "light work." Colonel Morgan determined to relieve them. The command was pressed on to the town in a gallop. Captain Mitchell (son of the Federal General of that name), was captured here, and paroled, that he might effect his exchange for Colonel Morgan's brother—Captain Charlton Morgan—who had been wounded at Shiloh, and captured at Huntsville—whither he had gone to convalesce in the smiles of the fair ladies of that beautiful place. Moving on rapidly, Colonel Morgan overtook the enemy a short distance beyond the town, and at once attacked. Learning his approach, the Federals had hastily thrown up some slight breastworks in a field on the side of the road (in which a part of them were posted)—others occupied a wood on the left of the road. Colonel Morgan formed his command, and—the ground permitting—charged on horseback, carrying the entire line. Many prisoners were captured, the remnant of the Federal force rallied after retreating about a mile, leaving wagons. They were flanked by Co. A, and surrendered.
At this juncture, a body of cavalry appeared, approaching from the direction of Columbia. Not knowing their strength, Colonel Morgan engaged them with skirmishers. Finding them not strong, he ordered Captain Brown to charge them, who routed and drove them six or seven miles. They were about fifty strong. Colonel Morgan's loss in this affair was slight. A few, only, of the enemy were killed. The prisoners (nearly four hundred), were taken back to Pulaski. The citizens were enthusiastic in their reception of Colonel Morgan and his soldiers—the men were wild with excitement, and the women were in tears. Colonel Morgan's celebrated mare, "Black Bess"—came in for her share of admiration and attention. The ladies crowded around to caress and feed her with dainties (for which she had a weakness), and her glossy tresses were in great request. It is recorded that upon this occasion, for the first and only time in his life—Colonel Morgan opposed the wishes of his lady friends. Fearing that Bess would be completely shorn, he "tore her away," and sent her to the stable. Guards and pickets were posted, and the command encamped. Twenty wagons—six loaded with cotton—were captured, here, and burned. On the next morning—the 2nd—the officer commanding pickets on the Huntsville road, reported that a train of wagons was approaching. The command was drawn up to receive them, but learning that they were escorted by a strong regiment, Colonel Morgan decided not to attack. Moving on in the direction of Murfreesboro', the command encamped that night in a loyal neighborhood, and mindful always of a decorous respect for the opinions of other people, Colonel Morgan made all of his men "play Union." They were consequently treated with distinguished consideration, and some were furnished with fresh horses, for which they gave their kind friends orders (on the disbursing officers at Nashville), for their back pay.
On the 3rd the column reached Harrington—fifteen miles from Shelbyville. Some lots of cotton were burned on that day. General Beauregard (in accordance with the instructions of the War Department) had issued orders that all cotton (likely to fall into the enemy's hands) should be burned. The command remained at Harrington during the night. Over one store the stars and stripes were floating resplendent. The men were so much pleased with this evidence of patriotism that they would patronize no other store in the place. Reaching the vicinity of Murfreesboro', on the night of the 4th, Colonel Morgan drove in all the pickets (next morning) and made a circuit about the town, striking the Nashville and Murfreesboro' pike, about five miles from Stone river. The advance guard captured a few of the enemy's videttes on this road.
Some cotton was burned, and the telegraph wires were cut, after a dispatch had been sent to Nashville to the effect that Morgan had captured Shelbyville, and Murfreesboro' wanted reinforcements. Colonel Morgan (anticipating brilliant feats in that line in the future) carried a telegraph operator (provided with a pocket instrument) upon this expedition. That night (at dark) the column reached Lebanon, in Wilson county. The entire command was quartered in the town. Companies A, B and C (of the Squadron) were placed at the college. The horses were tied in the large yard and the men occupied the building. The detachments under Colonel Wood, Captain Harris and Captain Brown were quartered at the livery stables. Colonel Morgan's headquarters were at the hotel. Colonel Wood, who had been left in the vicinity of Murfreesboro', with a small party, to observe if the enemy followed, came in, some hours after nightfall, and reported that all was quiet.
It was Colonel Morgan's intention to have moved at an early hour next morning, and to have crossed the Cumberland river at Canoe-branch ferry, about ten miles from Lebanon. Orders were issued that the men should saddle their horses at four o'clock, and that the command should form immediately afterward. These orders were not communicated to the company commanders. The night was rainy and bleak. The enemy, advancing upon the Murfreesboro' road, came to the picket stands a little before daybreak.
The pickets were all at a house. This criminal neglect of duty was disastrous. Before the videttes discovered the consequences of their bad conduct, at least one whole regiment had passed. Then one of them, named Pleasant Whitlow, a brave and (always before) excellent soldier, declared that he would retrieve his fault, or die. He was mounted upon a fleet mare, and dashed at full speed along the road, passing the Federal column, unstopped. He reached the hotel where Colonel Morgan was quartered, just as the foremost Federal approached it. As Whitlow called loudly to alarm the Colonel, the enemy fired and killed him. The men at the college had just commenced to saddle, when the enemy approached. They hurriedly formed—Company C, which was quartered in the part of the grounds nearest where the enemy entered the town, were attacked and driven pell-mell through the others, before it was fairly aligned. The three companies became mingled together, and fell back into the town and upon the road, across which Company A (extricating itself from the others) formed, under charge of its cool and gallant Orderly Sergeant, Zelah Bowyer.
Colonel Morgan soon came up, and his presence reinspirited the men. He desired to join with the other detachments, but the enemy occupied the intervening space. A strong column was approaching Company A. Colonel Morgan ordered the men to dismount, reserve their fire, and drive it back when they did open. When the enemy was close, the order to fire was given. A good many men and horses fell and the column recoiled. Several Federal officers in the confusion of this fight rode into the ranks of Colonel Morgan's command. Colonel Woolford was made a prisoner in this way. General Dumont, commanding the entire force, was very nearly made prisoner.
A Chaplain, who made this mistake, asked, upon becoming undeceived, that he might be permitted to rejoin his command—"to pray for his men." "The h—ll you say," responded a member of Co. A; "Don't you think Morgan's men need praying for as well as Woolford's?" The detachments in the center of the town were completely surrounded. Colonel Morgan made his way, with about one hundred men, to the Rome and Carthage road, upon which he commenced his retreat at a steady gait. Suddenly his rear was attacked. The enemy dashed upon it, sabering the men. In the excitement, Colonel Morgan's mare broke the curb of her bridle, and he was unable to restrain her, or reform his men. Two or three taking hold of the reins strove to hold her in, but uselessly. She went like a tornado. No effort was made, then, at concerted resistance—a few men turned and fought, and then resumed their flight. A horse falling near the center of the column, caused many others to fall, and added—if any thing could add—to the wild confused rattling hurricane of flight. Colonel Morgan instructed the men (by courier, for Black Bess would not let him go in person) to take to the woods when their horses gave out. Many escaped in this way. The enemy (Kentucky regiments) were mounted on fine horses, comparatively fresh, which enabled them to press the pursuit so vigorously. One man gives a graphic account of his part in the race. "I was riding," he says, "a horse captured from General Dumont, and kept up with the Colonel until my horse threw his shoes, which put me in the rear. The men had all passed me with the exception of Ben Drake. When Ben went by, he said, 'Tom, Dumont will get his horse.' I said, 'Yes, catch me a horse, Ben.' About a mile from that point, I found Bole Roberts' horse, with the saddle under his belly, and the stirrups broken off. As I did not have time to change saddles, I fixed Bole's saddle, led the horse to the fence, jumped on, used the spurs, and soon passed Ben again, whose horse was now played out. I overtook Colonel Morgan, passed him, and found another horse with a saddle on. I stopped and changed saddles. When we got to Rome, thirteen miles from Lebanon, I traded horses again, and stayed in the rear with Colonel Morgan, who had gotten Black Bess pulled up. A short distance from Rome, the Yanks came within about one hundred yards of us, and told us to stop. I told them 'to go to ——.' The Colonel then told me to ride forward and make the men push on, as fast as possible. I was the first to reach the ferry, twenty-one miles from Lebanon. The boat was luckily on our side of the river. We got into it, as quickly as possible, and left our horses on the shore. We wanted the Colonel to take Black Bess, but he said no, if time was allowed he would send for all." This magnificent animal has never been mentioned, as I am aware, in any official report, and she was too completely identified with Morgan's early career, to be dismissed without a description. She was the most perfect beauty I have ever beheld—even in Kentucky. Not fifteen hands high, the immense power of her short back, broad tilted loins, and thighs—all muscle—enabled her to carry Colonel Morgan's one hundred and eighty-five pounds as if he were a feather-weight. Her head was as beautiful as a "poet's dream"—is popularly supposed to be. Wide between the eyes, it tapered down, until her muzzle was small enough to have picked a lady's pocket.
The way it was set on her matchless throttle, might well "haunt the imagination for years." Her straight superbly proportioned neck, her shoulder and girth, might have fascinated the eye for ever!—but for her beautiful hind quarters and the speed and power they indicated! The arch of her back rib, her flank, her clean legs, with firm, dry muscle, and tendons like steel wires, her hoofs, almost as small as a clenched fist, but open and hard as flint, all these utterly baffle description. Her hide was glossy black, without a hair of white. From her Canadian sire she had inherited the staunchest constitution, and her thoroughbred dam dowered her with speed, game, intelligence and grace. An anchorite might have coveted such an animal. When Colonel Morgan lost her, on this day, he naturally hoped that she would be subjected to no ignoble use. The civilized world will scarcely credit that a Yankee subsequently traveled her about the country, showing her at twenty-five cents a sight. Poor Bess—her spirit must have been broken, or she would have kicked the brute's brains out.
Some fifteen men crossed in the ferry-boat. Sergeant Tom Quirk sprang into a canoe and paddled back to bring the mare over. When about half way across, the enemy arrived on the shore to which he was returning, and fired upon him, riddling the canoe with balls. But he escaped uninjured.
Efforts were made to obtain Colonel Morgan a horse. A fine one was selected, but an old woman (the owner) stood in the door-way with an axe, and prevented all attempts "to trade." In vain was it represented to her that she should certainly be paid—she declared that "unless she were first shot, the horse should not be taken," and the "assessors" were compelled to beat a retreat. When Colonel Morgan halted that night, he had scarcely twenty men with him, and shed tears, as he speculated upon the probable fate of the rest. Only six men were killed. A number of others were wounded, and some one hundred and twenty were captured. The men of the detachments (which were surrounded in Lebanon) were nearly all made prisoners. Colonel Wood held out for hours, until the enemy threatened to burn the town, if he did not surrender. Among the killed was Captain Brown. The enemy lost more in killed and wounded than did Colonel Morgan.
On the 6th, Colonel Morgan reached Sparta, Tennessee, and remained there until the 9th. In those three days a good many of his men came in. This inspirited and decided him to assume the offensive. Shoeing the horses and equipping the men as he best could (under the circumstances) he left Sparta on the 9th with nearly one hundred and fifty men—for the most part badly armed. He directed his march toward the territory of his former service, the country about Bowlinggreen. He hoped to find points of importance, slenderly guarded, and the garrisons careless, under the impression that his severe defeat—four days previously—had finished him. His forces were miscellaneous. He had not quite fifty of his own men, but Captains Bledsoe and Hamilton (commanding companies which operated exclusively in that district) joined him, and Champ Ferguson reported as guide with four or five men. The men of Hamilton's and Bledsoe's companies were, either new recruits or had never been subjected to any sort of discipline. Hamilton's ferry, sixty miles from Sparta, was reached that night, and the command crossing the river, encamped on the northern bank.
Colonel Morgan had no difficulty in traveling expeditiously, for every inch of the ground, for many miles beyond the river, was well known to his Tennessee guides, and when their knowledge failed, he had reached a country familiar to many of his own men. Marching by roads unfrequently traversed, and bridle paths, he would have kept his motions perfectly secret but for a system of communicating intelligence adopted about this time, by the Home-guards of Southern Kentucky. Conch shells and horns were blown, all along his route, by these fellows, the sound of which, transmitted a long distance, traveled faster than his column.
On the next day, reaching the vicinity of Glasgow, the command was halted, and John Hines, a clever, daring scout and native of the place, was sent to Bowlinggreen, to ascertain the strength of the garrison and condition of affairs there.
Colonel Morgan desired to capture the town and burn the stores.
Hines returned in a few hours with the information that five hundred fine troops were in the town, and it was determined not to attack. Colonel Morgan immediately determined then, to strike the Louisville and Nashville railroad between Bowlinggreen and the river, and attack and capture, at all hazards, the first train which passed. He was not likely to encounter one with many troops upon it, and the Bowlinggreen garrison would not come out to fight him. Traveling all night, he passed through Glasgow, and early next day reached Cave City, twelve miles distant—the point elected at which to make his venture. Going in advance, himself, with five men, he had the good luck to discover a long train approaching, and immediately took measures to stop it. It seemed to be loaded with troops, who turned out, upon capture, to be employees on the road. His entire command soon arrived. Forty freight cars and a fine engine were captured in this train, and destroyed.
Colonel Morgan was especially hopeful that he would be able to catch the train conveying his men—captured at Lebanon—to prison, but they had been sent off by the river.
In a short time the passenger train from Louisville was heard coming. A cow-gap was filled with upright beams to stop the train, and a party was detailed to lie in ambush, some distance up the road, and throw obstructions on the road as soon as the train had passed, to prevent its return. Some women notified the conductor of his danger, but instead of backing, he pressed on more rapidly. Suddenly becoming aware of the blockade in front, he checked his train and tried to return, but there was already a barrier behind him. Some Federal officers were on the train, among them Majors Coffee and Helveti, of Woolford's regiment.
"Major Coffee," said an eye witness, "came out upon the platform and opened upon us with a battery of Colt's pistols. Ben Bigstaff dismounted and took a shot at him with his minnie rifle; the bullet struck within an inch of the Major's head and silenced his battery." A great many women were upon the train, who were naturally much frightened. Colonel Morgan exerted himself to reassure them. The greatest surprise was manifested by the passengers when they learned that it was Morgan who had captured them. It was generally believed that he had been killed, and his command utterly destroyed.
One officer captured, was accompanied by his wife. The lady approached Colonel Morgan, weeping, and implored him to spare her husband. "My dear Madam," he replied, bowing debonairly, and with the arch smile which none who knew him can forget, "I did not know that you had a husband." "Yes, sir," she said, "I have. Here he is. Don't kill him." "He is no longer my prisoner," said the Colonel, "he is yours," and he released the officer unconditionally, bidding him console his wife. About eight thousand dollars in greenbacks—Government funds—were captured. The train was not burned, but Colonel Morgan begged the ladies to "accept it as a small token," etc.
After all was over, the men sat down to a fine dinner prepared at the Cave City Hotel, for the passengers.
Colonel Morgan now directed his march toward the Cumberland again. He had retaliated, in some degree, for the injury he had received, and could meet his comrades in the South, fresh from a success instead of a disaster. The column marched steadily and encamped at twelve o'clock at night, fifteen miles from Glasgow. An incident happened at this place well illustrative of Colonel Morgan's kindness, and of the manner in which he could do things which would have been undignified in other officers and destructive of their authority. It was customary for each officer of rank, to have his horses attended to by his negro, and the men were rarely required to perform such duties. Colonel Morgan's groom, however, had been captured. "When we dismounted," said the man who related to me the story, "Colonel Morgan gave his horse to Ben Drake, requesting him to unsaddle and feed him. As Ben had ridden twelve hours longer than the rest of us, he thought this very unkind, to say the least, in the Colonel. He, however, paid no attention to Ben's sour looks, as the latter took the horse and obeyed the order. When Ben returned to the house, Colonel Morgan had reserved a place by the fire for him to sleep in. The next morning Ben was awakened by the Colonel, who told him to get up and eat his breakfast, as the command was ready to move. "Why did you not have me roused sooner, Colonel?" asked Ben, "my horse has not been fed." "I wished you to sleep longer," answered the Colonel, "and fed, curried and saddled your horse, myself." Would any other Colonel in the army have done the same for a "poor private"?
Major Coffee was paroled, on condition that he would exert himself to procure his own exchange for Lieutenant-Colonel Wood, and that he would report again as prisoner if he failed.
Passing through Burkesville on county-court day, capturing a few Federals, and making many horse trades, the command passed on to a ford of the Cumberland, twelve miles from the little town, and crossed. Sparta was reached on the next day, where the Tennessee companies were left—and Colonel Morgan marched on toward Chattanooga, which place he reached by easy marches. Some twenty or thirty more refugees and survivors of the "Lebanon races" soon joined him here. Leaving these men at Chattanooga—to recruit and refit as well as was possible there, he immediately set out for Corinth to see what could be effected in the way of obtaining guns and the necessary equipment for his men, and to obtain permission to make another expedition into Kentucky—that he might recruit his regiment. About the middle of May two fine companies of Texas cavalry, commanded by Captains R.M. Gano and Jno. Huffman, both native Kentuckians, arrived at Corinth, and requested to be assigned to Morgan, that they might see service in Kentucky. Their application was granted, and they at once marched for Chattanooga.
I had been severely wounded at Shiloh, and left behind when the command started upon the expedition just described. Upon my return to Corinth, I collected some thirty men of the squadron (who for various reasons had not accompanied Colonel Morgan into Tennessee), and marched with Captain Gano to Chattanooga. We marched through a country, where the people were friendly and hospitable, and had no difficulty in supplying the men and horses. We had a few skirmishes with Federal troops posted along the Tennessee river, in one of which Captain Gano took some prisoners, and burned a good deal of cotton, collected by the Federals for transportation to Huntsville. The last two days of our march showed us the grandest and most beautiful scenery. We traversed the ridgy summit of the mountain range, which runs just along the southern bank of the Tennessee and connects with the group of bold mountains around Chattanooga. At one point the view is exceedingly striking. From the immense hight we occupied, we could see a vast and varied expanse of country. In our front and to the right, the mountains rose like blue domes, piled closely together—a tremendous gulf—the bottom of which eyesight could not fathom—spread between the range (where we were), and their hazy, azure sides. Directly before us "Lookout"—giant chief of all—loomed high toward heaven.
Sheer down, hundreds of feet beneath us, flowed the Tennessee—I could almost believe that my horse could leap from the top of the precipice to the opposite bank of the river. On the other side the land was low and nearly level. The green fields ran back from the river's brink, in a gentle imperceptible ascent, until miles away, the eye lost them in the horizon. The noisy cavalrymen were hushed by the scene, and the grand silence was not disturbed.
At Chattanooga we found and were welcomed by Colonel Morgan and our gallant comrades, and never did brothers meet after separation and danger, with more hearty joy. For the first time, then, we learned who had been lost, and as we talked it over, the pleasure and congratulation, so natural at our reunion, gave way to sadness as we named the dead and counted up the captives. Although much reduced in numbers, the squadron was unbroken in spirit and courage; the men who had safely gone through the dangers of the late expedition, were more eager than ever for another, and burned to wipe out any stain that might dim their reputation and to avenge their comrades. They had completely recovered from the fatigue of the raid, and their first thought (when they welcomed the accession to the command that we brought), was of instant march to Kentucky.
Gano and his Texians were greeted with enthusiasm, and were delighted with the choice they had made of a leader and brothers-in-arms. The work of reorganization was immediately commenced. The three companies of the squadron, much depleted, were filled nearly to the maximum by recruits who came in rapidly—and became (of course), the three first companies of the regiment which was now formed.
Some three hundred men of the First Kentucky infantry (which had been just disbanded in Virginia, their term of service having expired), came to Chattanooga to join Morgan. A good many of them went into the old companies, and the remainder formed companies under officers known to them in their original regimental organization. Captain Jacob Cassell was appointed by Colonel Morgan (who now began to exercise in good earnest the appointing power), to the command of Company A. Captain Thomas Allen resigned (on account of extreme ill health), the Captaincy of Company B. and his brother, John Allen (once Colonel in Nicaragua under Walker), was appointed to command it. Captain Bowles remained in command of Company C. John B. Castleman, who had just come out of Kentucky (fighting as he came) with a number of recruits, was made Captain of company D. John Hutchinson, formerly Lieutenant in the First Kentucky infantry, was made Captain of Company E. Captain Thomas B. Webber, who had served at Pensacola, under General Bragg, during the past year, brought with him from Mississippi, a company of most gallant soldiers, many of them his former comrades. This company was admitted into the regiment as Company F., and glad was Colonel Morgan to welcome it. Captain McFarland, of Alabama, brought with him a few men, and was promised that so soon as his company was recruited to the proper standard, it should take its place in the regiment as Company G.
Thus it will be seen that Morgan's old regiment was composed of the men of his old squadron, of veterans from Virginia, and men (from nearly all the Southern States) who had, with few exceptions, seen service. These six companies, and the fragment of the seventh, numbered in all not quite four hundred men. The field and staff, were immediately organized. I became Lieutenant Colonel; G.W. Morgan, formerly of the Third Tennessee infantry, better known as Major Wash, was appointed Major. Gordon E. Niles once editor of a New York paper, and a private of Company A., was appointed Adjutant. He was a gallant soldier, and died, not long afterward, a soldier's death. Captain Thomas Allen, formerly of Company B., was appointed Surgeon—Doctor Edelin, the Assistant Surgeon, performed for many months the duties of both offices, on account of the illness of the former. D.H. Llewellyn and Hiram Reese, both members of the old squadron, were appointed respectively, Quartermaster and Commissary.
While we were at Chattanooga, General Mitchell came to the other side of the river and shelled and sharpshot at the town. The commandant of the place General Leadbetter, had two or three guns in battery, and replied—when the gunners, who were the most independent fellows I ever saw, chose to work the guns. The defense of the place was left entirely to the individual efforts of those who chose to defend it; nothing prevented its capture but the fact that the enemy could not cross the river. Very little loss was sustained, and the damage done the town by the shells was immaterial. We tried to keep our men in camp, but some joined in the fight; one only was hurt. He volunteered to assist in working one of the guns and had part of his tongue shot off by a rifleman upon the opposite bank. About five, P.M., the enemy seemed to be withdrawing. The artillery was still playing on both sides, and the enemy occupied the hights where their battery was planted, but the infantry and sharpshooters had disappeared from the low land, just opposite to the city. Colonel Morgan (desirous to ascertain certainly if they had gone) crossed the river in a canoe. I was unwilling to see him go alone, and, after trying in vain to dissuade him, very regretfully accompanied him. Several shells flew over the canoe and one burst just above it, some of the fragments falling in it. We landed just opposite the wharf, and stole cautiously through a straggling thicket to the position which the enemy had occupied. We stood upon the very ground which they had held only a short time before, and as nothing could be seen of them, we concluded that they had drawn off entirely. I was very much relieved by this reflection. Such a situation—without a horse—and with no means of escape but a canoe, if indeed we could have gotten back to the river at all—was not to my taste, and I devoutly thanked Providence that the enemy had left.
As we returned, we met Jack Wilson (the trustiest soldier that ever shouldered a rifle) who had paddled us over, on his way to look for us; unable to endure the suspense, he had left the canoe, over which he had been posted as guard.
After a week or ten days sojourn at Chattanooga, we set out for Knoxville. The better-part of the men were mounted, and those, who were not, had great hopes. When we reached Knoxville, the Second Kentucky (as our regiment was designated in the rolls of the War Department) and the Texas squadron were encamped in close vicinity, and for two or three weeks both were drilled strictly, twice a day, and mightily distressed by guard-mounting and dress-parades. These dress-parades presented a graceful and pleasing spectacle on account of the variegated appearance of the ranks.
The men were all comfortably clad, but their clothing was uniform, only, in its variety. Strange as it may seem to the unexperienced, dress has a good deal to do with the spirit of soldiers. The morale of troops depends, in a great measure, upon pride, and personal appearance has something to do with pride. How awful, for instance, must it be to a sensitive young fellow, accustomed at home to wear good clothes and appear confidently before the ladies, when he is marching through a town and the girls come out to wave their handkerchiefs, to feel that the rear of his pantaloons has given way in complete disorder. The cavalryman, in such cases, finds protection in his saddle, but the soldier on foot is defenseless: and thus the very recognition, which, if he has a stout pair of breeches, would be his dearest recompense for all his toils, becomes his most terrible affliction. Many a time, have I seen a gallant infantryman, who would have faced a battery double-shotted with grape and canister with comparative indifference, groan and turn pale in this fearful ordeal. It was a touching sight to see them seek to dispose their knapsacks in such a manner that they should serve as fortifications.
The ideas which the experience of the past eight months had suggested, regarding the peculiar tactics best adapted to the service and the kind of fighting we had to do, were now put into practical shape. A specific drill, different in almost every respect from every other employed for cavalry, was adopted. It was based upon a drill taught in the old army for Indian fighting, called "Maury's skirmish tactics for cavalry," I believe; but as that drill contemplated the employment of but a very few men, and ours had to provide for the evolutions of regiments, and eventually brigades, the latter was necessarily much more comprehensive. The formation of the company, the method of counting off in sets, and of dismounting and deploying to the front, flanks, or rear, for battle, was the same as in Maury's tactics; but a great many movements necessary to the change of front, as the kind of ground or other circumstances required it to be made in various ways, to the formations from column into line, and from line into column, the methods of taking ground to the front, or rear, in establishing or changing line, the various methods of providing, as circumstances might require, for the employment of all, or only part of a regiment or brigade, or for the employment of supports and reserves, all these evolutions had to be added. It would be uninteresting to all but the practical military reader, and unnecessary, as well, to enter into a minute explanation of these matters.
If the reader will only imagine a regiment drawn up in single rank, the flank companies skirmishing, sometimes on horseback, and then thrown out as skirmishers on foot, and so deployed as to cover the whole front of the regiment, the rest of the men dismounted (one out of each set of four and the corporals, remaining to hold horses) and deployed as circumstances required, and the command indicated, to the front of, on either flank, or to the rear of the line of horses—the files two yards apart—and then imagine this line moved forward at a double-quick, or oftener a half run, he will have an idea of Morgan's style of fighting.
Exactly the same evolutions were applicable for horseback, or foot fighting, but the latter method was much oftener practiced—we were, in fact, not cavalry, but mounted riflemen. A small body of mounted men was usually kept in reserve to act on the flanks, cover a retreat, or press a victory, but otherwise our men fought very little on horseback, except on scouting expeditions. Our men were all admirable riders, trained from childhood to manage the wildest horses with perfect ease; but the nature of the ground on which we generally fought, covered with dense woods, or crossed by high fences, and the impossibility of devoting sufficient time to the training of the horses, rendered the employment of large bodies of mounted men to any good purpose, very difficult. It was very easy to charge down a road in column of fours, but very hard to charge across the country in extended line, and keep any sort of formation. Then we never used sabers, and long guns were not exactly the weapons for cavalry evolutions. We found the method of fighting on foot more effective—we could maneuver with more certainty, and sustain less and inflict more loss. "The long flexible line curving forward at each extremity," as an excellent writer described it, was very hard to break; if forced back at one point, a withering fire from every other would be poured in on the assailant. It admitted, too, of such facility of maneuvering, it could be thrown about like a rope, and by simply facing to the right or left, and double-quicking in the same direction, every man could be quickly concentrated at any point where it was desirable to mass them.
It must be remembered that Morgan very rarely fought with the army; he had to make his command a self-sustaining one. If repulsed, he could not fall back and reform behind the infantry. He had to fight infantry, cavalry, artillery; take towns when every house was a garrison, and attack fortifications with nothing to depend on but his own immediate command. He was obliged, therefore, to adopt a method which enabled him to do a great deal in a short time, and to keep his men always in hand, whether successful or repulsed. With his support from forty to five hundred miles distant, an officer had better learn to rely on himself.
If General Morgan had ever been enabled to develope his plan of organization as he wished, he would have made his division of mounted riflemen a miniature army. With his regiments armed as he wished them—a battalion of two or three hundred men, appropriately armed, and attached to each brigade, to be used only as cavalry, and with his battery of three-inch Parrots, and train of mountain howitzers, he could have met any contingency. The ease and rapidity with which this simple drill was learned, and the expedition with which it enabled all movements to be accomplished, chiefly recommended it to Morgan, I have seen his division, when numbering over three thousand men, and stretched out in column, put into line of battle in thirty minutes. Regular cavalry can no doubt form with much more dispatch, but this was quicker than it is often done in this country.
The weapon which was always preferred by the officers and men of the command, was the rifle known as the "medium Enfield." The short Enfield was very convenient to carry, but was deficient both in length of range and accuracy. The long Enfield, without any exception the best of all rifles, was unwieldy either to carry or to use, as sometimes became necessary, on horseback. The Springfield rifle, nearly equal to the long Enfield, was liable to the same objections, although in a less degree. Now that the military world has finally decided in favor of breech-loading guns, it may seem presumptuous to condemn them; but, so far as my own experience goes, they are decidedly inferior. When I say inferior, I mean not so much that they will not carry far, nor accurately, although a fair trial of every sort I could lay my hands upon with the Enfield and Springfield, convinced me of the superiority, in these respects, of the two latter; but that for other reasons they are not so effective as the muzzle-loading guns. Of the two best patterns, the Sharp and the Spencer—for the Maynard is a pop-gun, and the others are so contrived that, generally, after one shot, the shell of the cartridge sticks in the chamber—of these two, I have seen the Sharp do the most execution. It has been the verdict of every officer of the Western Confederate cavalry with whom I have talked upon the subject, and it certainly has been my experience, that those Federal cavalry regiments which were armed with breech-loading guns did least execution. The difference in the rapidity with which men dropped when exposed to the fire of an infantry regiment, and the loss from that of a cavalry regiment of equal strength, even when the latter fought well, ought of itself to go far to settle the question, for the federal infantry were all armed with muzzle-loading guns.
A close study of the subject will convince any man that the very fact of having to load his gun will make a soldier comparatively cool and steady. If he will stay to load at all, and will fix his mind upon what he is doing, he will become cool enough to take aim. While if he has only to stick in a cartridge and shoot, or turn a crank and pull trigger, he will fire fast, but he will fire wildly. I have seen some of the steadiest soldiers I ever knew, men who were dead shots with an Enfield, shoot as if they were aiming at the sun with a Spencer. The Spencer rifle would doubtless be an excellent weapon for a weak line to hold works with, where the men were accustomed to note the ground accurately, and would, therefore, be apt to aim low, and it is desirable to pour in a rapid, continuous fire to stagger an attacking line.
It is perhaps a first-rate gun for small skirmishes on horseback, although for those, our cavalry decidedly preferred the revolver. But in battle, when lines and numbers are engaged, accurate and not rapid firing is desirable. If one fiftieth of the shots from either side were to take effect in battle, the other would be annihilated. If rapid firing is so desirable, why do the same critics who advocate it also recommend that troops shall hold their fire until they can pour in deadly volleys? Why do they deprecate so much firing, and recommend the use of the bayonet?
It is folly to talk to men who have seen battles, about the moral effect of rapid firing, and of "bullets raining around men's heads like hail stones." That is like the straggler's excuse to General Lee that he was "stung by a bomb." Any man who has ever heard lines of battle engaged, knows that, let the men fire fast or slow, the nicest ear can detect no interval between the shots; the musketry sounds like the incessant, unintermitted crash of a gong—even cannonading, when one or two hundred guns are working, sounds like the long roll of a drum—and the hiss of bullets is perfectly ceaseless. Good troops will fight well with almost any sort of guns. Mean troops will not win, no matter how they are armed. If the matter were investigated, it would probably be found that the regiments which won most distinction, in the late war on this continent, on both sides, fired the fewest number of rounds.
At one time—when Morgan's command was somewhat demoralized—the men were loud in describing the terrific effect of the Spencer rifle, when it was notorious that, at that time, it was an unusual occurrence to lose a man—they subsequently became ashamed of their panic, and met the troops carrying Spencer rifles, with more confidence than those armed in any other way. It would be very convenient to attribute every whipping we ever got to the use of breech-loading rifles by our antagonists, but it would be very wide of the truth. It was impossible, however, to obtain, when we were organizing at Knoxville, the exact description of guns we wished. One company, was armed with the long Enfield, another had the medium, and Company A got the short Enfield. Company C was furnished with Mississippi rifles and Company B retained the shot-guns which they had used for nearly a year. Company E was provided with a gun, called from the stamp upon the barrel, the "Tower gun;" it was of English make, and was a sort of Enfield carbine. Its barrel was rather short and bore immense; it carried a ball larger than the Belgian. Its range and accuracy were first rate. The roar of this gun was almost as loud as that of a field piece and the tremendous bullet it carried would almost shatter an ordinary wall.
It was some months before each company of the regiment was armed with the same or similar guns. Nearly every man had a pistol, and some two. Shortly afterward, when they were captured in sufficient numbers, each man was provided with a pair. The pistol preferred and usually worn by the men, was the army Colt furnished to the Federal cavalry regiments—this patent is far the best and most effective of any I have ever seen. At this time two mountain howitzers were sent from Richmond for Morgan's use. It is unnecessary to describe a piece so well known, but it may be as well to say, that no gun is so well adapted in all respects to the wants of cavalry, as these little guns. With a large command, it is always well enough to have two or four pieces of longer range and yet of light draught, such as the three-inch Parrot—but if I were required to dispense with one or the other, I would choose to retain the former. They can be drawn (with a good supply of ammunition in the limbers), by two horses over any kind of road. They can go over ravines, up hills, through thickets, almost any where, in short, that a horseman can go; they can be taken, without attracting attention, in as close proximity to the enemy as two horsemen can go—they throw shell with accuracy eight hundred yards, quite as far as there is any necessity for, generally in cavalry fighting—they throw canister and grape, two and three hundred yards, as effectively as a twelve pounder—they can be carried by hand right along with the line, and as close to the enemy as the line goes—and they make a great deal more noise than one would suppose from their size and appearance. If the carriages are well made, they can stand very hard service, and they are easily repaired, if injured. These little guns were attached to the Second Kentucky, and the men of that regiment became much attached to them. They called them familiarly and affectionately, the "bull pups," and cheered them whenever they were taken into a fight. They remained with us, doing excellent service, until just before the Ohio raid; and, then, when General Bragg's ordnance officer arbitrarily took them away from us, it came near raising a mutiny in the regiment. I would, myself, have gladly seen him tied to the muzzle of one of them and shot off. They were captured by the enemy in two weeks after they were taken from us.
Just before Morgan left Knoxville to go on the expedition known as "the First Kentucky raid," he was joined by a gentleman "from abroad," whose history had been a curious and extraordinary series of exciting adventures, and who now came to see something of our war. This was Lieutenant Colonel St. Leger Greenfell, of the English service, and of all the very remarkable characters who have figured (outside of popular novels) in this age, he will receive the suffrages of our Western cavalrymen, for pre-eminence in devil-may-care eccentricity. He had commenced life (I believe) by running away from his father, because the latter would not permit him to enter the army, and in doing so, he showed the good sense that he really possessed, for the army was the proper place for him—provided they went to war often enough. He served five years in some French regiment in Algeria, and then quitting the service, lived for a number of years in Tangiers, where he did a little business with the Moorish batteries, when the French bombarded the place. He served four years with Abd-El-Kader, of whom he always spoke in the highest terms, as having been every thing that he ought to have been, except a member of the Church of England. Having exhausted life in Africa, he looked elsewhere for excitement, and passed many years of his subsequent life in great happiness and contentment, amid the pleasant scenes of the Crimean war, the Sepoy rebellion, and Garibaldi's South American service.
When the war broke out over here he came of course—and taking a fancy to Morgan, from what he had heard of him, came to join him. He was very fond of discussing military matters, but did not like to talk about himself, and although I talked with him daily, it was months before he told any thing of his history. He was a thorough and very accomplished soldier—and may have encountered something in early life that he feared, but if so, it had ceased to exist.
He became Morgan's Adjutant General and was of great assistance to him, but sometimes gave trouble by his impracticable temper—he persisted, among other things, in making out all papers in the style he had learned in the English service, the regulations and orders of the War Department "to the contrary notwithstanding."
He was always in a good temper when matters were active—I never saw him hilarious but once—and that was the day after the battle of Hartsville; he had just thrashed his landlord, and doubled up a brother Englishman, in a "set-to" about a mule, and was contemplating an expedition on the morrow, with General Morgan to Nashville. He was the only gentleman, I ever knew, who liked to fight with his fists, and he was always cheerful and contented when he could shoot and be shot at.
After he left Morgan he was made Chief Inspector of Cavalry, and became the terror of the entire "front." He would have been invaluable as commander of a brigade of cavalry, composed of men who (unlike our volunteers) appreciated the "military necessity" of occasionally having an officer to knock them in the head. If permitted to form, discipline, and drill such a brigade of regular cavalry after his own fashion, he would have made gaps in many lines of battle, or have gotten his "blackguards well peppered" in trying.
Sometime in the latter part of June, Colonel Hunt of Georgia arrived at Knoxville with a "Partisan Ranger" regiment between three and four hundred strong, to accompany Morgan upon his contemplated raid.
When the entire force of able bodied and mounted men was estimated, it was found eight hundred and seventy-six strong. Hunt's regiment numbering about three hundred and fifty; mine, the Second Kentucky, about three hundred and seventy, and Gano's squadron making up the balance.
Fifty or sixty men, from all the commands, were left at Knoxville for lack of horses. Perhaps two hundred men of this force, with which Morgan commenced the expedition, were unarmed, and a much larger number were badly mounted and provided with the most indifferent saddles and equipments.
The command set out from Knoxville on the morning of the 4th of July, 1862, and took the road to Sparta (a little place on the confines of the rugged mountainous country which separates Middle Tennessee from the rich valley of East Tennessee) in which Knoxville is situated. Sparta is one hundred and four miles from Knoxville. We reached it, after tolerably hard marching, for the road was terribly rough, on the evening of the third day, and encamped five miles beyond it on the road to Livingston.
While traversing the region between Knoxville and Sparta, we were repeatedly fired upon by bushwhackers, but had only one man killed by them—a Texian of Gano's squadron. We made many unsuccessful attempts to capture them, but they always chose the most inaccessible points to fire from and we could never get to them. Frequently they would shoot at us from a ledge of rocks not forty feet above our heads, and yet to get to it we would have had to go hundreds of yards—they consequently always escaped.
At Sparta, Champ Ferguson reported himself as a guide, and I, for the first time, saw him, although I had often heard of him before. He had the reputation of never giving quarter, and, no doubt, deserved it (when upon his own private expeditions), although when with Morgan he attempted no interference with prisoners. This redoubted personage was a native of Clinton county, Kentucky, and was a fair specimen of the kind of characters which the wild mountain country produces. He was a man of strong sense, although totally uneducated, and of the intense will and energy, which, in men of his stamp and mode of life, have such a tendency to develope into ferocity, when they are in the least injured or opposed. He was grateful for kindness, and instinctively attached to friends, and vindictive to his enemies. He was known as a desperate man before the war, and ill-treatment of his wife and daughter, by some soldiers and Home-guards enlisted in his own neighborhood, made him relentless in his hatred of all Union men; he killed all the parties concerned in the outrage upon his family, and, becoming then an outlaw, kept up that style of warfare. It is probable that, at the close of the war, he did not himself know how many men he had killed. He had a brother, of the same character as himself, in the Union army, and they sought each other persistently, mutually bent on fratricide. Champ became more widely known than any of them, but the mountains of Kentucky and Tennessee were filled with such men, who murdered every prisoner that they took, and they took part, as their politics inclined them, with either side. For a long time Ferguson hunted, or was hunted by, a man of his own order and nearly as notorious on the other side, namely, "Tinker Dave Beattie." On the evening of the 7th, we encamped in the vicinity of Livingston. Leaving early next morning, by midday we reached the Cumberland river at the ford near the small village of Selina. Here Colonel Morgan received positive information of the strength and position of the enemy at Tompkinsville, eighteen miles from Selina. He had learned at Knoxville that a Federal garrison was at this place, and had determined to attack it. One battalion of the 9th Pennsylvania, under command of Major Jordan, about three hundred and fifty strong, constituted the entire force. It was Morgan's object to surprise and capture the whole of it. He accordingly sent forward scouts to watch and report every thing going on at their camp, while he halted the bulk of the command until nightfall. The men employed the interval of rest in attention to their horses, and in bathing in the river. At eleven o'clock the March was resumed; the road was rough and incumbered at some points with fallen timber, so that the column made slow progress. When within four or five miles of Tompkinsville, Gano's squadron and Hamilton's company of Tennessee Partisan Rangers, which had joined us the evening before, were sent by a road which led to the right to get in the rear of the enemy and upon his line of retreat toward Glasgow. The rest of the command reached Tompkinsville at five o'clock. It was consequently broad daylight, and the enemy had information of our approach in time to form to receive us. Colonel Hunt was formed upon the left, and my regiment upon the right, with the howitzers in the center. It was altogether unnecessary to form any reserve, and as our numbers were so superior, our only care was to "lap around" far enough on the flanks to encircle the game.
The enemy were posted on a thickly wooded hill, to reach which we had to cross open fields. They fired, therefore, three or four volleys while we were closing on them. The Second Kentucky did not fire until within about sixty yards of them, and one volley was then enough. The fight did not last ten minutes. The enemy lost about twenty killed and twenty or thirty wounded. Thirty prisoners, only, were taken on the ground, but Gano and Hamilton intercepted and captured a good many more, including the commander, Major Jordan. Our force was too much superior in strength for them to have made much resistance, as we outnumbered them more than two to one.
Our loss was only in wounded, we had none killed. But a severe loss was sustained in Colonel Hunt, whose leg was shattered and it was necessary to leave him; he died in a few days of the wound. Three of the Texians also were wounded in their chase after the fugitives. The tents, stores, and camp equipage were destroyed. A wagon train of twenty wagons and fifty mules were captured and a number of cavalry horses. Abundant supplies of coffee, sugar, etc., etc., were found in the camp. The guns captured were useless breech-loading carbines, which were thrown away.
Leaving Tompkinsville at three o'clock in the afternoon, after paroling the prisoners, we reached Glasgow about one o'clock that night. This town was unoccupied by any garrison, and its people were very friendly to us. Company C, of the old squadron had been principally recruited here. The command rested at Glasgow until 9 A.M. next day; during the time, the ladies busied themselves in preparing breakfast for us, and before we left, every man had taken in a three days' supply. A straggler captured at Glasgow gave us some "grape vine" intelligence which annoyed us no little. He stated that McClellan had taken Richmond. When we left Knoxville, the battle of the seven days was going on, and we had, of course, heard nothing after we started. Our prisoner, however, was gravely assured, just before he was paroled, that a courier had just reached us with the information that McClellan was in Richmond, but as a prisoner, and with half his army in the same condition. This fellow, who represented himself to be an officer, turned out to be one of the buglers of the Ninth Pennsylvania, and all the information he gave was as reliable as the McClellan story. A halt of two or three hours was made at Bear Wallow, to enable Mr. Ellsworth (popularly known as "Lightning"), the telegraphic operator on Colonel Morgan's staff, to tap the line between Louisville and Nashville, and obtain the necessary information regarding the position of the Federal forces in Kentucky. Connecting his own instrument and wire with the line, Ellsworth began to take off the dispatches. Finding the news come slow he entered into a conversation with Louisville and obtained much of what was wanted. He in return communicated such information as Colonel Morgan desired to have the enemy act upon. One statement, made at hap hazard, and with no other knowledge to support it, except that Forrest was in Middle Tennessee, was singularly verified. Morgan caused Ellsworth to telegraph that Forrest had taken Murfreesboro' and had captured the entire garrison. Forrest did exactly what was attributed to him on that or the next day. A heavy storm coming on caused them, after several fruitless efforts to continue, to desist telegraphing.
The column was put in motion again immediately upon Colonel Morgan's return, and marching all night got within about fifteen miles of Lebanon by 11 A.M. next morning. Here Company B was detached, to push rapidly to the railroad between Lebanon and Lebanon junction, and ordered to destroy it, so that troops might not be thrown into Lebanon in time to oppose us. The march was not resumed until three or four in the afternoon, so that when we reached Rolling Fork river, six miles from Lebanon, it was dark. Colonel Morgan, who was riding with his staff in front of the advance guard, was fired upon as he entered the small covered bridge across the stream, by a party of the enemy stationed at the other end of it. His hat was shot from his head, but neither he nor any of his staff were touched. One of the howitzers was immediately run up and a shell was thrown into the bridge. A platoon of the leading company was dismounted and carried at a double-quick to clear it. When they reached it, the enemy, alarmed by the shell, which had killed one man, had retreated, the bottom of the bridge was found to have been torn up, and a short time was spent in repairing it. This was a strong position and one which the enemy ought, by all means, to have occupied with his entire force.
There was no ford for six or eight miles above or below; the bridge was the only means of crossing without a wide detour; and not twenty yards from the mouth of the bridge (on the side held by the enemy), and perfectly commanding it, was a steep bluff (not too high) covered with timber, and affording an admirable natural fortification. As soon as the bridge was repaired, the column crossed and pressed on to Lebanon. Within a mile of the town, skirmishing commenced with the force which held it. Two companies (E and C of the Second Kentucky) were thrown out on foot, and advanced at a brisk pace, driving the enemy before them. Two or three of the enemy were killed; our loss was nothing. The town was surrendered by its commandant about ten o'clock; some two hundred prisoners were taken.
Pickets were immediately posted on every road, and the whole command encamped in such a manner that it could be immediately established in line. It was necessary to remain at Lebanon until the large quantity of stores of all kinds, which were there, were disposed of, and, as we were now in the midst of enemies, no precaution could be omitted. Captain Allen, who, as has been mentioned, was detached with Company B of the Second Kentucky to prevent the train from bringing reinforcements to Lebanon, struck the railroad at New Hope Church and had just commenced to destroy it, when a train came with a large number of troops on board for Lebanon. He attacked it, and a skirmish of a few minutes resulted in the train going back. The night was very dark, and little loss, if any, was inflicted on either side.
On the next day, an examination of the stores showed an abundance of every description. A sufficient number of excellent guns were gotten to arm every man efficiently, and some thousands were destroyed. A large building was found to be filled with cartridges and fixed ammunition. An abundant supply of ammunition for small arms was thus obtained, and a fresh supply of ammunition was also gotten for the howitzers. After taking what was needed, all this was destroyed. There was also a stone magazine not far from the depot, which was full of powder. The powder was all taken out of it, and thrown into the stream near by.
Very large supplies of provisions were found—meat, flour, sugar, coffee, etc.—which were turned over to the citizens, and when they had helped themselves, the remainder was burned. A great deal of clothing had also been collected here, and the men were enabled to provide themselves with every thing which they needed in the way of under-clothing. While at Lebanon, copies of a flaming proclamation, written and published at Glasgow, were circulated.
After the destruction of the stores had been completed, and Ellsworth had closed his business at the telegraph office, the command was again put in motion. It left the town about two P.M., on the Springfield road. Before leaving Knoxville, Colonel Morgan, appreciating the necessity of having an advance-guard which could be thoroughly relied on, and disinclined to trust to details, changed every day, for that duty, had organized a body of twenty-five men, selected with great care from the entire force under his command, to constitute an advance-guard for the expedition. So well did this body perform the service assigned it, that the men composing it, with some additions to make up the tale as others were taken out, were permanently detailed for that duty, and it became an honor eagerly sought, and a reward for gallantry and good conduct second only to promotion, to be enrolled in "the advance." The non-commissioned officers were chosen with the same care, and First Lieutenant Charles W. Rogers of Company E, formerly of the First Kentucky Infantry, was appointed to command it. This officer possessed in an eminent degree the cool judgment, perfect fearlessness, command of men, and shrewdness of perception requisite for such an office.
This guard habitually marched at a distance of four hundred yards in front of the column; three videttes were posted at intervals of one hundred yards between it and the column. Their duties were to transmit information and orders between the column and the guard, and to regulate the gait of the former, so that it would not press too close on the latter, and, also, to prevent any straggling between the two. Six videttes were thrown out in front of the guard—four at intervals of fifty yards, and with another interval of the same distance from the fourth of these, two rode together in the extreme front. These two were consequently at a distance of two hundred and fifty yards in front of the body of the guard. At first these videttes were regularly relieved, but it was afterward judged best to keep the same men always on the same duty. The advance videttes were required to examine carefully on all sides, and report to the officer of the guard the slightest indication which seemed suspicious. When they came to by-roads or cross-roads one or both, as the case might require, immediately galloped some two or three hundred yards down them, and remained until relieved by men sent for that purpose from the head of the column, when they returned to their posts.
As soon as they notified the officer of the guard (by calling to the videttes next behind them), that they were about to leave their posts, he took measures to supply their places. The two videttes next to them in the chain galloped to the front, the other two, also moved up, respectively, fifty yards, and two men were sent from the guard to fill the places of the last.
When the videttes, regularly in advance returned, the original disposition was resumed. If an enemy was encountered, men were dispatched from the guard to the assistance of the videttes, or the latter fell back on the guard, as circumstances dictated. If the enemy was too strong to be driven by the advance, the latter endeavored to hold him in check (and was reinforced if necessary), until the command could be formed for attack or defense. Scouting parties were of course thrown out on the front and flanks, as well as to the rear, but as these parties were often miles away in search of information, a vigilant advance guard was always necessary. During an engagement, the advance was generally kept mounted and held in reserve.
Passing through Springfield without a halt, the column marched in the direction of Harrodsburg. Late in the evening, some of the scouts had an engagement at a little place called Macksville, with a Home-guard organization, in which two or three were wounded and two captured. During the night, finding that it would be impossible to ferret out the captors, we negotiated an exchange of prisoners. On the next morning, about nine o'clock we entered Harrodsburg, another stronghold of our friends, and were warmly welcomed.
It was Sunday, and a large concourse of people were in town. We found that the ladies, in anticipation of our coming, had prepared the most inviting rations, and the men after attending to their horses and supplying them with forage, a "superabundance of which," to use the old forage-master's expression, was stacked close by, fell to themselves, and most of them were eating, with short intervals employed in sleeping, until the hour of departure. Harrodsburg is twenty-eight miles from Lexington, the headquarters then of the Federal forces of the region. Gano, with his squadron, was detached at Harrodsburg to go around Lexington and burn the bridges on the Kentucky Central Railroad, in order to prevent troops from being thrown into Lexington from Cincinnati. Captain Allen was sent to destroy the bridges over Benson and other small streams on the Louisville and Lexington road, to prevent the transmission of troops by that road, and also to induce the impression that the command was making for Louisville. About dark the column moved from Harrodsburg on the Frankfort pike. It was Morgan's wish to induce the belief that he intended to attack Frankfort, but to suddenly turn to the right and make for Lexington, capture that place if he could, and if he could not, at least enjoy the fine country in its vicinity.
At one P.M. that night we encamped at Lawrenceburg, the county seat of Anderson county, twenty miles from Harrodsburg and about fifteen from Frankfort. A scouting party was sent immediately on in the direction of Frankfort, with instructions to drive in the pickets after daybreak, and to rejoin us at Versailles. The command had now marched three hundred and odd miles in eight days, but the men, despite the fatigue usually resulting from night marching, were comparatively fresh, and in the most exultant spirits. So far, every thing had gone well; although encompassed by superior forces, celerity of movement, and skillful selection of route, had enabled us to elude them; a good many little affairs had occurred with the Home-guards, which I have not mentioned, but they had been expected, and the damage from them was trifling. Leaving Lawrenceburg next morning at daybreak, the column took the road to Versailles, but was compelled to halt at Shryock's ferry, seven miles from Versailles. On account of the ferry-boat having been sunk, it was necessary to raise and repair it, so that the howitzers might be crossed. This delay prevented us from reaching Versailles before night fell. It was now deemed good policy to march more slowly, obtain perfectly accurate information, and increase the confusion already prevailing by threatening all points of importance. This policy was not a hazardous one, under the circumstances, for although the forces surrounding the point where we now were, were each a superior to our own, yet by getting between them and preventing their concentration, and industriously creating the impression to which the people were, at any rate disposed, that our force was four or five thousand strong, Morgan had demoralized them, and they were afraid to come out and meet him. The ease with which he had, hitherto, pressed right on, without a momentary check, confirmed the belief that he was very strong.