Captain Bowles approached under flag of truce and entered into a parley with the enemy. They were quite willing to surrender in less than twenty minutes, provided that one strange stipulation should be conceded, viz: that the bridge would not be burned. While Bowles was endeavoring to prove to them the folly of such a proposition, the twenty minutes expired. Hutchinson, who was very literal in observing all that he said, immediately caused his artillery to open without waiting for the return of his envoy, and two shells were bursted just above the stockade, wounding one of the inmates. This might have caused the death of the bearer of the flag, as the garrison had, then, a perfect right to shoot him. The effect of it on Bowles, however, who was one of the very few men I have known, who, I believe, never felt fear, was to render him indignant that his embassy should be interrupted, just as he thought that it was about to be successful, and he came galloping back at full speed, waving his flag at his own friends, and shouting at the top of his voice, "don't shoot any more, they'll be all right directly."
The inmates of the stockade at the same time poured out, without regard to rank, waiving pocket handkerchiefs, portions of their nether garments hastily torn off, and whatever else, they could lay hold of, that would serve the purpose. As soon, however, as the howitzers opened, the skirmishers advanced, in accordance with Hutchinson's previous instructions, firing also, and their fire drove the enemy back into the stockade.
Soon, however, all mistakes were rectified and an amicable adjustment of the difficulty arrived at. The prisoners were immediately paroled, the bridge thoroughly destroyed, and the detachment returned. It was absent only a few days. The bridge destroyed was four hundred and fifty feet long, and forty-six feet high.
Almost immediately after Colonel Hutchinson returned to Lexington, he was sent with Companies B, C, D, E, L and M to report to General Heath, who had advanced to within five miles of Covington, and withdrawing, needed cavalry. The utmost consternation prevailed in Cincinnati during the time that Heath was in the vicinity of Covington; the city was placed under martial law, and every citizen was required to report himself for military duty. So persistent were the detectives in their search for treason, that all the business houses in the town had to be shut up, and it became so frequent a matter to construe thoughtless words into expressions of disloyal sentiment, that it was unsafe to speak any other language than Dutch. Thousands of respectable citizens, nightly left their comfortable homes, to cross the river, and shiver and ache with apprehension and fatigue, in the ditches around Covington. Many a tradesman torn from his shop, got the manual mixed up with his accounts, and lost the run of both; and as he sat in a rifle-pit, with only one pontoon bridge (and that narrow) connecting him with Cincinnati, he had to console him—the reflection that he was performing a patriotic, duty, and letting his business go to the devil.
The most telling maneuver against such an army, would have been to send emissaries to stir up the street boys in Cincinnati to an attack on the ungarrisoned shops; in such an event a precipitate retreat would most probably have occurred from the Kentucky side of the river.
For several days after Heath was close enough to have made a dash at Covington, at any hour, there were no other defenders in the works around the place than these extempore soldiers. A very few only of their guns mounted were in a condition to be worked, and the ammunition first provided was not of the proper caliber. On the first, Gen. Heath came within sight of the works, that he had prepared to attack, and just before he moved upon them, received dispatches from Gen. Smith, instructing him not to do so, but to be prepared to return at short notice. General Smith expected to be soon called, to reinforce General Bragg, with his whole force to fight Buell's army before it reached Louisville; he therefore wished every thing kept well in hand, and esteemed the maintenance of the mobility of the troops under Heath as of more importance than the capture of Cincinnati. In the course of a few days, however, regular troops began to arrive at Cincinnati, and they came in rapidly. When Heath fell back, there was a formidable veteran force, there, of perhaps twelve or fifteen thousand men. Hutchinson reported to him at Walton twenty-five miles from Covington, and was at once ordered to duty on the front. For some days he was very actively engaged immediately upon the ground which Heath had just left. He was engaged in scouting for some distance above and below Covington, to ascertain if there was any movement by the river, as well as having to carefully watch all roads leading out of the place. His various detachments had several skirmishes, the most successful of which was made by a party under command of Lieutenant Allensworth, who routed a much larger body of the enemy and captured a number of prisoners.
Just before General Heath came down into that country, fifteen young men of Boone county who had long wished to join Morgan, hearing that Confederate troops might shortly be expected in their neighborhood, banded together and attacked a train of twenty-seven wagons guarded by fifty-one Federal soldiers, dispersed the guard and burned the wagons. This party with some twenty-five of their friends then equipped themselves and set out to join us.
They were placed in the new Company I. In the service done at this time, Hutchinson's loss was slight, and he inflicted a good deal upon the enemy. He took a number of prisoners. The railroad was destroyed—track torn up and bridges burned—for a good many miles. General Heath continued to fall back toward Georgetown. After Hutchinson had been in command upon the Covington front six or seven days, I sent him Company A, and the next day followed myself with Company I. Colonel Morgan was ordered to go to Eastern Kentucky and intercept the Federal General Geo. W. Morgan on his march from Cumberland Gap to the Ohio river. General Morgan had evacuated the gap and gained two days march on the force watching it on the other side. It was General Smith's desire that Colonel Morgan should blockade the roads in his front, and use every exertion to retard his progress. By uniting with General Marshall's forces, it was hoped that Colonel Morgan, in the rugged, almost impassable country, through which the Federal column had to march, might stop it altogether, until another body of troops could be thrown upon its rear, and thus literally starve it into surrender. As it was, Marshall remained inactive, and Morgan after felling trees across the road, climbing up and down mountains, and sticking close to the front of the column for six days, was compelled to suffer the mortification of seeing it get away triumphantly.
While Colonel Morgan was employed in the mountains, General Smith directed me to annoy the enemy as much as possible in the direction of Covington. On the evening that I arrived at Walton, where Hutchinson had been encamped, I found him in retreat, pressed by a superior force of the enemy. We soon found that we could not efficiently check the enemy's advance, and accordingly fell back to Crittenden, a little place seven miles from Walton. The enemy encamped five miles from the place. On the next morning we were driven out of Crittenden, and as the enemy continued to advance, I dispatched General Heath that I believed it was an advance upon Lexington. The enemy's force consisted, as we afterward ascertained, of about seven thousand infantry, one thousand cavalry, or, perhaps a little more, and eight pieces of artillery. Skirmishers were thrown out, in strong lines, for a mile or more on each side of the road. The country was open and easily traversed by troops, enabling them to strengthen any part of the line that might need it. We could therefore hope to effect little; and after carefully reconnoitering, without finding a convenient opening, we recontented to move slowly in their front, forcing them to keep up their troublesome precautions.
About 1 or 2 P.M., leaving scouts to observe them, I marched rapidly to Williamstown. This place is just upon the northern edge of the rugged Eagle hills. Thence I moved eastwardly to Falmouth, a small town on the Central Kentucky Railroad, about forty miles from Covington, and twenty miles from Williamstown—indeed nearly equi-distant from the Dry-ridge road, or Cincinnati and Lexington pike (upon which the enemy were moving), and the Maysville and Lexington pike, which also needed some watching. I was then in a position to observe every movement upon the entire front, and was, so to speak, in the center of the web commanding all the avenues which should be guarded. If the enemy continued upon the road upon which he was then advancing, he would have to force his way through General Heath's forces, advantageously posted amid the hills of the Eagle creek. If he turned to the left to seek a road not so well defended, he would have to come by Falmouth, and therefore Falmouth was the point where the cavalry watching him should be.
On the road, however, and before I reached Falmouth, scouts brought the information that the enemy had fallen back to Walton, and also informed me of what his strength apparently was. It was plain that no force of that size would attempt to march on Lexington. Shortly afterward, other scouts, which had been sent to watch the Ohio river, came from Warsaw, a little town on its banks, and reported that a number of boats laden with troops had gone down the river toward Louisville. This information explained every thing. Finding that Heath had withdrawn, and Cincinnati was no longer threatened, this force, which had driven us away from Walton, had been sent to clear the country of troublesome detachments, and also to attract attention in that direction, and conceal the concentration of troops at Louisville. Walton is twenty-five miles from Falmouth. On the day after reaching the latter, I sent a flag of truce to Walton, with dispatches, which General Smith had instructed me to forward to Cincinnati. The flag was borne by Captain S.D. Morgan, who betted with the Aide of the commanding General, that he (Morgan), would drive in his pickets within forty-eight hours—he won the wager. The entire strength of the six companies, which Colonel Hutchinson had taken to this country, was not quite five hundred men—the two additional companies A and I, did not swell the total effective to six hundred men. All of those were large ones, but many men (from four or five of them) were on furlough. When the flag of truce returned, Captain Morgan gave me such an account of the enemy that a desire, previously conceived, to visit him was greatly increased. Morgan could, of course, see but little; he was, however, vigilant and shrewd, and drew accurate inferences from what he saw. He was satisfied that, while careful and systematic guard was kept, the troops were all green and could be easily surprised. He said that so far as he could learn, there was no attempt made at scouting, and that a total ignorance prevailed among them of what was going on, a few hundred yards even, beyond the outposts. This latter information was confirmed by the reports of all my scouts, and was in accordance with the habits of raw men and officers. He thought, moreover, from something he had heard, that cavalry were encamped a mile or two from the infantry, and the country people, some of whom from that neighborhood visited us, stated that the cavalry were encamped a mile and a half from the main body, and nearer Walton. We had tried in vain to get hold of the cavalry on the day we were driven away from Walton; it kept carefully behind the infantry.
Moving from Falmouth late in the afternoon, with nearly the entire command, I marched until about twelve o'clock at night, and halted at a point on the Independence road, about ten miles from the enemy's encampment. Scouts were immediately sent out to ascertain as nearly as possible the exact location of the pickets, and the condition of every thing about the encampments. They were instructed not to fire upon, or in anywise alarm the pickets, or do anything which might make them suspect our vicinity.
The scouts observed their instructions closely, and did not see the pickets at all, but inquired of the people who lived near the encampment, and were told that no change had occurred in the last day or two, in any respect, in the posts on the different roads. After this information I was satisfied that I would be able to get upon the Georgetown and Covington pike, upon which the enemy was encamped, by a country road which runs into it from the Independence pike, without alarming the main body. I could then move rapidly to the point where the cavalry was encamped, and defeat it before the infantry came to the rescue. The infantry encampment was about two miles north of Walton, and this by-road comes into the pike about one thousand yards from the site of the encampment, and between it and Walton.
The column was accordingly put in motion again at daybreak, and marched rapidly. Just at sunrise we reached the Georgetown and Covington pike, and saw standing, in sight of the point where we would enter, ten cavalry pickets. The column was at once halted, and arrangements made to capture them. They had not yet seen us. A brief reconnoisance showed an infantry regiment on post, some three hundred yards further down the road. There was now no hope of passing this point without discovery by the main body, and it only remained to make the most out of the situation.
Lieutenant Messick, of Company A, was sent with ten men to take in the cavalry videttes, and Lieutenant Roberts, commanding the advance-guard, was sent with a portion of it to try the same game with the infantry. He went right into the midst of it. The column was moved forward at a gallop, as soon as the pickets were disturbed, and turned in the direction of Walton; the rear company, however, being carried at full speed to the assistance of Lieutenant Roberts. One of the howitzers which had been brought along, was planted at the point where we entered the pike, to cover our retreat, if it were pressed. When I reached the little squad of Lieutenant Roberts with the company which I took to assist it, I found it, or rather a fragment of it, in a situation which perhaps was never paralleled daring the war.
Lieutenant Roberts was still further down the road, and toward the encampment, with a portion of the detachment, picking up stragglers. Sergeant Will Hays stood with six men in the midst of a company of sixty-nine Federal infantry. The infantry seemed sullen and bewildered, and stood with their rifles cocked and at a ready. Hays had his rifle at the head of the Lieutenant commanding, demanding that he should order his men to surrender, and threatening to blow his brains out if he encouraged them to resist. Hays' six men were grouped around him, ready to shoot down any man who should raise a gun against him. I thought it the finest sight I had ever seen. The arrival of the company decided the infantry to surrender, and the caps and bayonets having been taken off of their guns, they were sent off, guarded by the men which had been brought up to complete their capture. Lieutenant Roberts had gone, with his mere corporal's guard, into the infantry regiment, had captured one company, and run the balance back into camp.
The men of this regiment were very raw and green. Hays had persuaded them for some time, that he was an officer of their own cavalry, and it was only when he peremptorily ordered them to follow him to Walton, that they suspected him. After sending off the prisoners, four or five of us rode on down the road to join Lieutenant Roberts, and soon found him, bringing back more prisoners. We were now farther in toward the encampment, than the regiment on picket had stood, and had a fair view of it. We saw the whole force form, and it was a very pretty sight. The regiments first formed on their respective campgrounds, and then took their positions in line of battle, at a double-quick. They were finely drilled, although very raw. The artillery was run into position, and behind every thing, peeping over the shoulders of the infantry, were our friends the cavalry, that we had taken so much pains to see.
While we were looking on, a staff officer came galloping toward us, evidently not knowing who we were, and taking us for some of his pickets not yet driven in. He came right up to us; thinking his capture certain, Captain Morgan, who thought that he recognized in him, the officer with whom he had made the bet two days previously, rode forward, saluted him, and told him he was a prisoner. He, however, did not seem to be of that opinion for he wheeled his horse, coming so close to us in doing so as to almost brush the foremost man, and dashed back at full speed, despite the shots that were fired at him.
The skirmishers, who were not more than two hundred yards off, soon induced us to leave, and we galloped after the column. Eighty or ninety prisoners were taken, and were sent on to Lexington, as soon as we got back to Falmouth. The enemy did not know for some hours, that we were entirely gone, and indeed rather expected during that time to be attacked in force. I perhaps ought to have attacked, but the disparity of forces, and the knowledge that the enemy could detect it as I advanced, deterred me.
On the next day I sent Captain Castleman with Company D, to Foster's landing on the Ohio river. He fired upon a Government transport loaded with troops, but could not bring her to with his rifles. He captured the regular packet, and was shelled by one of the river gun boats, suffering no loss.
At this period the Home-guard organizations were disbanding, or being incorporated into the Federal army. At Augusta, a town in Bracken county, about twenty-five miles from Falmouth, and situated on the river, forty odd miles above Cincinnati, there was a regiment being formed out of some Home-guard companies. This organization had already begun to give trouble, and one or two of its scouting parties had even ventured within a short distance of Falmouth. I was also informed that all sorts of men, whether willing or not, were being placed in its ranks. I determined therefore to break it up, before it became formidable. There was a ford, moreover, just below Augusta, by which the river could be crossed at that season without difficulty. I wished to take the town, if possible, with little loss, and cross into Ohio, and marching toward Cincinnati, so threaten the city that the troops at Walton would be hurried back to protect it.
Leaving Falmouth in the morning of one day, I could (if allowed to cross the river without opposition) have been in the vicinity of Cincinnati at daylight of the next day. Two days, therefore, after the expedition to Walton, I started from Falmouth with about four hundred and fifty men—leaving Company D and some details behind to observe the enemy at Walton and for other purposes.
On the way to Augusta, I came upon a large scouting party from that place but it dispersed before I could attack—it was cut off, however, from Augusta and prevented from taking part in the fight there. We marched through Brookville and about 7 A.M. reached the high ground in the rear of Augusta and which perfectly commanded the town. Two small stern wheel boats lay at the wharf, to assist in the defense of the place. A twelve pounder was mounted on each of them; their sides were protected by hay bales and they were manned by sharpshooters in addition to the gunners. These boats commanded the turnpike which led into the town from Brookville (by which road we were advancing) but about a mile from the town I turned the column from the road and approached the hill (upon which I took position) through the fields. The crest of this hill is perhaps two hundred feet above the level of the river (at low water) and about six hundred yards from its bank. The town runs back to the foot of the hill. From our position on the summit of this hill we could distinctly see the Home-guards going into the houses and preparing for fight, but a portion of them were already ensconced in the houses near the head of the street by which we entered the town a little while afterward. These latter kept themselves concealed while we remained on the hill and our ignorance of their location cost us dearly. Seeing that the boats commanded the street by which I wished to enter the town, I determined to drive them away before moving the bulk of the command from the hill.
Accordingly, having dismounted and formed Companies B, C, E, I and M, and planted the howitzers on the highest point I could find, where they could probably chuck every shell into the boats, I ordered Company A, and the advance-guard to cross the Germantown pike and take position near the bank of the river in the eastern end of the town. Here they would be enabled to annoy the troops on the boats very greatly with their rifles and would also be in position to assist in reducing the garrisoned houses, when the fight in town commenced. In that part of the town there were no houses occupied by the enemy. Captain Cassell of Company A, was instructed to dispose of his own company and the advance-guard in accordance with these views and to take command of both. I especially charged him to let no man approach that part of the town where I expected to have to fight on horseback, but to bring the men on foot when he heard firing.
As soon as Cassell had gotten into position, the howitzers were opened upon the boats. Several shells burst near them and one penetrated the hull of the "Flag Ship," as I suppose I may term the boat upon which the Captain commanding both of them had his quarters. Cassell's riflemen, also made themselves very disagreeable, and after firing only three shots, the "fleet" withdrew. As long as the boats were in range the "Bull pups" kept after them and they steamed up the river and out of sight. Having driven off these gun boats, upon which I knew the officer commanding in the town chiefly relied for the defense of the place, I believed that I would have no more trouble and that the garrison would surrender without more fighting. I immediately entered by the principal street with Companies B and C. After these two companies had gotten well into the town and in front of the houses into which the defenders of the place had gone unseen by us, a sharp fire was suddenly opened upon them, killing and wounding several. I at once ordered the men to gather on the right hand side of the street, although the fire came from both sides, and to take shelter as they best could.
A fierce fight at once began. I sent for Companies E, I, and portions of L and M, leaving three sections of each to guard the road in our rear. I made the men force their way into the houses, whence they were fired upon. Captain Cassell came to join me as soon as he heard the firing, but unfortunately Lieutenant Roberts forgot, in his ardor, the order that no men should enter the town mounted, and he dashed up to the scene of the fight with his men on horseback, greatly increasing the confusion. The Sergeant, who had charge of the howitzers, opened upon the town, when he heard the firing, and his shots did us as much harm as they did the enemy. Lieutenant Roberts was killed almost instantly, two or three men and several horses of his guard were also shot, and the crowding of horses into the street added to the disorder. In a few minutes, however, some method was restored. Details of men were posted in the middle of the street in front of every house, to fire at the inmates when they showed themselves, and prevent them from maintaining an accurate and effective fire. Other details were made to break in the doors of the houses and enter them. The artillery was brought into the town and turned upon the houses in which the most stubborn resistance was kept up. Planted about ten paces from a house, aimed to strike about a yard below the sills of the windows, beneath which the defenders were crouched (except when taking aim), and double-shotted with grape and canister, the howitzers tore great gaps in the walls. Two or three houses from which sharp volleys were kept up were set on fire. Flags of truce, about this time, were hung out from several windows, and believing that a general surrender was meant, I ordered the fires to be extinguished. But only those who shook the white flags meant to give up, and the others continued to fight. One or two men putting out the fires were shot. I immediately ordered that every house from which shots came should be burned. A good many were soon in flames, and even then the fighting continued in some of them. My men were infuriated by what they esteemed bad faith, in a continuance of the fight after the flags of truce were displayed, and by the loss of their comrades and of some favorite officers. I never saw them fight with such ferocity. Few lives were spared in the houses into which they forced their way. Several savage hand-to-hand fights occurred. As private James March, of Company A, was about to enter a house after battering down the door with the butt of his rifle, a Home-guard, armed with musket and bayonet, sprang out and lunged at him. March avoided his thrust, knocked him down with his clubbed gun, and then seizing the other's musket, pinned him to the ground with the bayonet. A somewhat similar affair happened to a private of Company B. whose name I have forgotten. As he, also, was forcing his way into a house, a strong, active fellow bounded out and cut at him with a large heavy knife, made from a blacksmith's file, such as were formerly often seen in Kentucky. He closed quickly with his assailant, whose blow consequently missed him, and in a moment they were locked in each other's arms. The Home-guard could not use his knife, for his right arm was stretched over the other's shoulder in the position in which it had fallen with the blow. The other wore one of the largest sized, heaviest, army pistols. He had dropped his gun, and as he drew his pistol, his enemy clasped the lock with his left hand, and he could not cock it. Both were powerful men, and fighting for life, because quarter was not thought of by either. At length the Confederate raised the pistol to a level with the other's head, and although he could strike only by the inflection of the wrist, inflicted blows with the heavy barrel upon his enemy's temple, which stunned him. Then dashing him to the ground, the Confederate beat in his skull with the butt of his pistol. The fighting lasted about fifteen or twenty minutes, when Colonel Bradford, the commander of the organization, surrendered. It was with great difficulty that his life, or the lives of his men, could be saved. Fighting in narrow streets, close to their opponents, the loss in my command was, of course, severe, and a great many wounds proved mortal, on account of the balls coming from above, ranging downward.
My loss was twenty-one killed, and eighteen wounded. I had about three hundred and fifty men engaged. Among the killed were some matchless officers. Captain Samuel D. Morgan (a cousin of Colonel Morgan) killed several men with his own hand before he fell. He had been a good soldier, and gave promise of unusual merit as an officer. His gallantry and devotion were superb, and he was always urgent to be placed on perilous service. He was a mere boy. Lieutenant Greenberry Roberts had been made First Lieutenant of Company A after Lieutenant Smith's death. He much resembled his predecessor. He had been placed in command of the advance-guard when Lieutenant Rogers was compelled to return to his company (E) upon the promotion of Captain Hutchinson. He was nineteen years old when killed; gay, handsome, and a universal favorite. His courage was untempered by any discretion or calculation, and unless bound by positive instructions, he would go at any thing. Lieutenant Rogers was a model officer and gentleman. He was killed while exerting himself to save the inmates of a house from which the shot which killed him came.
Lieutenant King, a gallant boy, brevet Second Lieutenant of Company E, fell dead the moment afterward across Rogers' body, and, a rather singular circumstance, an old man of that company, devotedly attached to both these officers, private Puckett (one of the few old men in the regiment) rushed to raise them and was instantaneously killed, falling upon them. Captain Kennett, of Company B, just made Captain in the place of Captain Allen, who was elected Lieutenant-Colonel of Butler's regiment, and Lieutenant George White, of the same company, were mortally wounded, and died very soon. Both were veterans of the old squadron, and very brave men.
Most of the casualties occurred in the first few minutes of the street fight, before proper dispositions were made to reduce the garrisons of the houses, and while the latter were taking deadly aim.
Captain Cassell's bold attack on the gunboats saved us much greater loss. Some of the women came (while the fight was raging) from the part of the town where they had retired for safety, to the most dangerous positions, and waited upon the wounded, while the balls were striking around them. The majority of the people of this town, or a large proportion at least, were Southern sympathizers. The regular members of the Home-guard regiment were collected from the country for miles around. A number of the Southern men were also pressed into the service.
The last house set on fire was that of James Armstrong. After the garrison in it were disposed of, efforts were made to save it. The owner bade me "let it burn," but urged me to collect and destroy all the arms of the Home-guards, that they might not give trouble again. During the fight a boat, coming from Cincinnati, hove in sight of the town, but did not come on. It was reported, but incorrectly, that she carried troops.
This fight prevented the excursion into Ohio. All of the ammunition for the howitzers was shot away. I was anxious to remove my wounded and dead, and had two hundred prisoners whom I wanted to carry off. About four P.M., employing all the carriages and light wagons that I could find about the town and neighborhood to carry the wounded, who could stand transportation, and the dead bodies, which were not too much mutilated, I went back toward Falmouth. That night we reached Brookville after dark, and passed the night there, the gloomiest and saddest that any man among us had ever known.
Brookville is a little hamlet, nine miles from Augusta, and eighteen from Maysville. This latter place had been taken by Gano, a week or two before, without a shot. He left next day, and the Union men there became belligerent, sent for regular troops, collected Home-guards, "resolved" that they would fight, bleed, and die, if they got another chance, and distinguished themselves very much in that way. News reached Maysville of the fight at Augusta on the same evening that it occurred, and about four o'clock next morning troops left there to march to the relief of Augusta. At seven A.M. of that morning, I sent off the train of dead and wounded, and all of the prisoners, except about eighty, whom I intended, to parole. As soon as they were fairly started, I ordered Colonel Hutchinson to follow with the command. I retained Sergeant Hays and ten men of the advance-guard with me. Most of the prisoners left were Southern men, who had been forced to fight, and a few others were men paroled at Armstrong's request.
About 9 or 10 A.M., while engaged in writing out paroles, I was informed by my orderly that a force of Federals was coming into town on the Maysville pike. I had placed no pickets after the regular detail had been withdrawn upon the march of the column, and nearly all of the ten men left with me were in the court-house at the time by my side. We immediately passed out and mounted our horses. Sargeant Hays formed seven men and we dashed through the enemy. There were perhaps fifty or sixty cavalry in the town—they were scattered about, and had no chance to stop us. Several shots were fired upon both sides. None of my party were hurt. One of the enemy was killed and three seized by the bridle reins, as we went through them, and carried off prisoners. A few men were still unparoled when the alarm was given. Private Conrade remained and paroled them all, then followed us through the enemy. He was subsequently promoted for other instances of the coolest daring. A recruiting officer had been captured that morning and placed in charge of Privates Franks and McVae. They were eating breakfast when the enemy entered the town and were nearly captured. They placed their prisoner on a bare-backed horse and carried him off across the country, taking fences and every thing else at a gallop.
We lost one man taken prisoner, he could not get to his horse. The enemy's force was composed of the cavalry which first entered and about four hundred infantry, with two pieces of artillery. After we had gotten out of the town, we turned and galloped back to it again, to create, if possible, a diversion in favor of the three men I supposed to be still there. The infantry, however, immediately drove us off. As we then moved rapidly after the command, we met the rear-guard, which always marched a good distance in the rear of the column, coming back at a gallop to reinforce us. The officer in charge of it, one of the very best in the regiment—Lieutenant Ash Welsh, had returned as soon as he heard the firing. His men and himself were dressed in dark clothing, and I thought when they first came in sight, that they were a part of the enemy which had cut us off. They also mistook us for the enemy, and we charged each other at full speed. When within about fifty yards of each other and just about to fire, a mutual recognition fortunately prevented it.
Soon afterward, I met Hutchinson coming with the command, but I turned him again. The enemy shelled the road after we were all gone. Learning that Captain Castleman had fallen back from Falmouth (in anticipation of an advance from Walton), to Cynthiana, I went to that place also. It turned out that the rumor of the intended attack upon Falmouth was altogether unfounded. I placed the command in camp at Cynthiana, and sent the prisoners and all of the wounded who were not too much exhausted to travel, to Lexington.
On the next day the funeral of Lieutenant Rogers was celebrated. He was a native of Cynthiana, and the citizens of that place had loved him and were proud of his record. They came, the true, warm-hearted yeomanry, to witness his soldier-burial, and sympathize in the sorrow of his aged and heart-broken father. The men remained in camp at Cynthiana from the 30th of September until the night of the 4th of October. During that time I made several promotions which were confirmed by an exercise of General Morgan's appointing power.
Thomas Franks, private in the Mississippi company and "member in high standing" of the advance guard, was made Captain of Company I. He was a worthy successor of Captain Morgan. By a series of gallant acts and uniform good conduct and assiduous and thorough discharge of his duty, he had well won his preferment. Brevet Second Lieutenant William Messick (of whom a great deal remains to be said), was made First Lieutenant of Company A. Privates Parks and Ashbrook were made respectively First and Second Lieutenants of Company E. They were gallant, and had fought in the front of every fight since the organization of the regiment. Sergeant Wm. Hays was offered his choice of Captaincy of Company B, or the First Lieutenancy of the same company, with the privilege of commanding the advance-guard. He choose the latter—like the gallant man that he was, loving danger honestly encountered and honor fairly won.
General Morgan unhesitatingly approved all of these appointments—complimenting the appointees and declared that he had contemplated their promotion earlier. In pure, unflinching courage, soldierly desire for personal distinction, devotion to the interests of the service, pride in the reputation of their own corps, respect for and zealous obedience to their own commanders, energy and intelligence—these officers had no superiors.
I have already said that Colonel Morgan had been sent to Eastern Kentucky, to intercept the Federal General Morgan on his march to the Ohio river—I can not do better than copy verbatim a description, given of his operations by an excellent writer. "Succeeded in collecting about a thousand cavalrymen, all recruits except Gano's Texians, Company F, of Duke's regiment, and such of our battalion (Breckinridge's) as had seen service—many insufficiently armed and not well organized. We reached Richmond on the morning of the 20th, and received information that the Federals were moving from Manchester, via Booneville to Mt. Sterling, so as to strike the Ohio at Maysville. Morgan concentrated at Irvine on the 21st and moved toward Proctor, turned to the right, and, the head of his column was at Campton, Wolfe county. It became necessary to make a detour, and by rapid marches head them near Hazel Green. Colonel Ashby and General Stephenson were to press them in rear; General Humphrey Marshall was to move to Mt. Sterling, and either stop their march or strike them in flank. Our part was merely to delay them until Stephenson or Marshall could strike. The enemy beat us to Hazel Green; another detour and night march and we headed them near West Liberty.
"On the afternoon of the 26th, Morgan sent two companies under Captain Will Jones to strike the flank of the marching column. He knew that the column must be stretched out, for some miles; that a vigorous attack would cause the halt of the leading command, so that the column might close; this delay would help us. Jones attacked on foot, striking the rear-guard of the second advance brigade, and utterly surprising them; killed several, captured some dozen prisoners, scattered a drove of cattle through the woods, and gave warning of our presence. Morgan and his staff and Major Breckinridge had ridden along to see Jones' fight, though Jones had complete command, and is entitled to the credit.
"After this little brush was over, Morgan rode with some others, to the main road to get some information. Doctor Tom Allen had the wounded (all Federals) moved to a church near by, to dress their wounds. Morgan, Breckinridge, Alston, and others rode a few hundred yards forward to where a beautiful creek crossed the road, and beyond the creek was a short, steep, wooded hill. With culpable carelessness the whole party stopped to water the horses, and one or two dismounted, and kneeling upon rocks were drinking, when suddenly a regiment in line of battle, made its appearance upon the crest of the hill, not a hundred yards distant, and fired a full volley at us. Fortunately the hill was so steep they overshot us. Behind was a long lane with high fences and cleared fields on each side. Death or capture seemed inevitable. But with perfect coolness Morgan shouted. 'Tell Colonel Breckinridge to advance; Major Jones, open your guns.' The regiment fell back over the hill, and we in greater hurry evacuated those premises. The country being Union, it was very difficult to get reliable information, which General Morgan said must be had.
"While we were talking we saw some mountaineers with guns approaching: Morgan said instantly, 'I'll pass for Colonel De Courcey' (a Federal Colonel about Morgan's size). When the men came up they asked who we were; Alston said 'That's Colonel De Courcey.' 'Why, the boys told us De Courcey's brigade was behind, and we were mighty glad to see you.' It had been raining, and we had on gum cloths, which assisted the plan. Morgan asked, 'Wouldn't you like to join us?' 'Oh no,' answered one of the scoundrels, 'We can do you more good at home, killing the d——d secesh.' With a sweet approving smile, Morgan said, 'Oh, have you killed many secesh?' 'I reckon we have. You'd have laughed if you had seen us make Bill (I have forgotten the last name) kill his brother.' 'What did you do it for?' 'Why you see Bill went South, and we burned his house, and he deserted; we arrested him, and said we were going to hang him as a spy: he said he'd do any thing if we let him off, that his family would starve if we hung him. Last Wednesday we took him, and made him kill his brother Jack. He didn't want to do it, but we told him we'd kill them both if he didn't, and we made him do it.'
"Morgan kept his face unchanged, and drew from these murderers full accounts of other crimes; and from one of them, who had watched our column, a pretty fair account of our own strength. They gave us all they knew of the Federal strength, of the politics of the citizens on the road, and of the roads and country. After getting from them all he wanted, he said, 'I am John Morgan, and I'm going to have you hung.' Unfortunately, however, General Morgan's leniency, which always got the better of him when he paused to think, induced him to spare them."
The writer goes on—"Upon the 27th, another skirmish, and captured a few prisoners; the enemy evidently waiting for the column to close up. On the 28th, through the treachery of a guide, we were led into an ambush, out of which we extricated ourselves with small loss. Upon the 29th, Company A, Breckinridge's battalion, and Company F, Duke's regiment, under Major Breckinridge, ambushed the enemy from the side of a semicircular bluff, around which the road runs. The column came to within twenty yards of the line of ambush, and its head was nearly beyond the extreme flank of the two companies; in advance were seventeen cavalrymen, some sitting with, their legs thrown over the pommels of the saddle, some eating pawpaws; the insignia of rank upon their shoulders could be easily distinguished. Suddenly over a hundred rifles belched forth death and fire—again their volley echoed through the mountains; when the smoke cleared away, the head of the column had disappeared like a wave broken upon a rock, and before a line could be formed or a gun unlimbered, we were gone, and laughed as we marched to the music of their guns shelling the innocent woods over the mountain from us.
"After this they changed their tactics, and marched with a heavy line of skirmishers in front and upon both flanks. After shelling the woods for hours, we fought vigorously with the axe and torch, felling trees, barricading the road, destroying bridges, and making every barricade cost a skirmish and time, for with us time was every thing. The country was not fit for cavalry operations. The 30th passed away; the 1st of October was half gone. From the morning of the 26th to noon of the 1st, over five days, the Federals had marched not over thirty miles, less than six miles a day. We had done our work, but where was Marshall or Stephenson? Since the morning of the 29th, we had been anxiously looking for news from them. Couriers had been constantly sent to both, and to General Smith. We knew that the enemy were living on meat alone, for we, in their front, went without bread for over three days, living on fresh beef, without salt, half-ripe corn, and the luscious pawpaws. If Marshall or Stephenson had attacked, the army of the gap would have been prisoners. Whoever was to blame, let him be censured. Morgan, with raw recruits, badly armed, accomplished his part of the task. About noon, October 1st, Morgan received an order from General Smith to withdraw from George Morgan's front, not to attempt further to impede his progress, but rather assist him to leave the State, and rejoin the main army at Lexington, or wherever it might be."
This writer tells well the story of the campaign in the mountains, and the reader can derive from it a vivid idea of what it was like. Toward the latter part of the expedition, the bushwhackers became very troublesome, and wounded several men. Little Billy Peyton, the Colonel's orderly, once rode down on one of them and tried to scare him into surrender with an empty pistol. The fellow had two guns—he had just fired one at Peyton, and the other was loaded. He answered Peyton's demand to surrender with a shot from the latter. Throwing himself along his horse's side, Billy escaped being killed, but was slightly wounded. His chief regret, however, was that his assailant escaped.
On the afternoon of the 4th, Colonel Morgan reached Lexington. Before he got in, he became satisfied that an immediate evacuation was imminent, and he was induced to believe that the enemy were nearer than was actually the case. Anxious to get his command together again, and learning where I was, he, with characteristic promptitude, dispatched me a courier, bidding me keep a careful lookout, and if "cut off, come by way of Richmond and Lancaster." He knew that I would be mightily exercised by such a dispatch. I had heard nothing of the meditated evacuation of Lexington, and without waiting for orders from General Smith, I at once moved with my command, and marched all night. When I reached Lexington, I found that preparations were being made for its evacuation. I hoped, as did thousands of others, that it would be only a temporary one, and that we could return after a decisive victory, which should give us fast possession of Kentucky. I mentioned this hope to Colonel Morgan, and I shall never forget his laugh, and the bitter sarcasm with which he spoke of the retreat, which he seemed to certainly expect. As he rapidly mentioned the indications which convinced him that we were going to give up the stakes without an effort to win them, my faith, too, gave way, and my heart sank. He generously defended General Bragg, however, saying, that his course was perfectly consistent, inasmuch as he had come into Kentucky to escape a fight, and was now about to go out for the same reason, and that, moreover, a commander-in-chief always did well to avoid battle, no matter what was the spirit of his troops, when he felt demoralized himself.
On the 6th of October, Colonel Morgan left Lexington on the track of General Smith's infantry forces, with Cluke, Gano and the Second Kentucky. It was thought probable that the enemy would advance from the direction of Frankfort, and an engagement in the vicinity of Versailles, where a portion of General Smith's infantry were stationed, was anticipated. Morgan, whose entire force amounted to some fifteen hundred effective men, was ordered to take position between Versailles and Frankfort, and attack the enemy if he made his appearance. The bulk of General Smith's command was eight or ten miles farther to the southwest, in the vicinity of Lawrenceburg.
Breckinridge's battalion had been detached on the 4th, and was ordered to report first to Buford, then to Wharton, and finally to Ashby. It was engaged in the skirmishing which the two latter officers successfully conducted with the enemy, on the road between Lawrenceburg and Harrodsburg, and Harrodsburg and Perryville. The movements of Buell had completely mystified General Bragg, and the latter was not only reduced to the defensive, but to a state of mind pitiable in the extreme. He acted like a man whose nerves by some accident or disorder, had been crazed; he was the victim of every rumor; he was alternately exhilarated and dejected. If the enemy dallied, or the distance between them happened to be increased, he became bold and confident; when a collision was imminent, he could contemplate nothing but defeat and disaster. Of that kind of fear which induces provision against dangers which are far in the future, he knew nothing, and he was equally as ignorant of the courage which kindles highest when the hour of final issue has arrived. General Bragg, had, as a subordinate, no superior in bravery—he had, as a commander, no bravery at all. While I shall make no sort of comment upon General Bragg's character or his conduct, which I do not thoroughly believe to be correct, and just and warranted by the record and by the circumstances of that time and of this—I yet deem it my duty to candidly warn my readers to receive with due allowance every line written about Bragg by a Kentuckian.
The wrongs he did Kentucky and Kentuckians, the malignity with which he bore down on his Kentucky troops, his hatred and bitter active antagonism to all prominent Kentucky officers, have made an abhorrence of him part of a Kentuckian's creed. There is no reason why any expression of natural feeling toward him should be now suppressed—he is not dead, nor a prisoner, nor an exile.
General Bragg came to the western army with a most enviable reputation. He had already displayed those qualities as an organizer, a disciplinarian, and a military administrator, in which he was unrivaled. His dashing conduct at Shiloh, and the courage and ability (there exhibited in perfection), in which (as a corps commander), no man excelled him, had made him a great and universal favorite. The admirable method which (when second in command at Corinth, and really at the head of affairs), he introduced into all departments; the marvelous skill in discipline, with which he made of the "mob" at Corinth a splendidly ordered, formidable army, and his masterly evacuation of the place (totally deceiving Halleck in doing so), caused him to be regarded, almost universally, as the fit successor of Albert Sydney Johnson, and the coming man of the West.
The plan of retiring altogether from Mississippi, and of suddenly moving the army, by the Southern railroads, away around into Tennessee again—losing the slow, dull-scented Halleck—if conceived by a subordinate, was, at least, attributed to him. It was brilliant in itself, and was successfully executed. Men waited, in breathless interest, the consummation of such a career. But right there he began to fail, and soon he gave way entirely. It is almost impossible now to realize that the Bragg of the spring and the Bragg of the autumn of 1862, are identical. When he reached Chattanooga, he showed for the first time vacillation and a disposition to delay. He crossed the river on the 28th of August with twenty-five thousand infantry, beside artillery and cavalry. He moved over Waldron's ridge, up the Sequatchy valley, through Sparta, into Kentucky, seeking to beat Buell to Munfordsville. The disposition of Buell's forces has already been given in a former chapter. His army, about forty or forty-five thousand strong, was scattered over a wide extent of territory, in small detachments (with the exception of the forces at Battle creek and at McMinnville—each about twelve or fourteen thousand strong).
This disposition was rendered necessary by the difficulty of obtaining supplies—it was also requisite to a thorough garrisoning of the country. Had General Bragg, as soon as he crossed the river, marched straight on Nashville, General Buell could not possibly have met him with more than twenty thousand men. General Buell did not issue orders for the concentration of his troops until the 30th of August, although preparations had been made for it before. This concentration was effected at Murfreesboro'. It then became apparent to him that General Bragg was pushing for central Kentucky, and it became necessary that Buell, to save his communication, should march into Kentucky also. General Bragg had the start and the short route, and reached Glasgow on the 13th of September; then taking position on the main roads at Cave City, while Buell, with all the expedition he could use, had gotten only so far as Bowlinggreen, he cut the latter off from Louisville and the reinforcements awaiting him there.
General Buell's army had been decreased by the detachment of a garrison for Nashville. After an unsuccessful attack (with the loss of two or three hundred men), by a small Confederate force upon Munfordsville—the garrison of that place, over four thousand strong, subsequently surrendered on the 17th. What now was to hinder General Bragg, holding the strong position of Munfordsville, from stopping Buell, calling Kirby Smith, with his whole force, to his assistance, and out-numbering, crush his adversary? This question has been asked very often. How long would the raw troops at Louisville have withstood the attack of Bragg's veterans when their turn came? General Bragg discovered that the country was barren of supplies—that one of the richest, most fertile regions of Kentucky, could not support his army for a week, and he withdrew to Bardstown. Buell finding the road clear, marched on to Louisville. His immense wagon train, more than twenty miles long and the flank of his army were exposed, and with impunity by this movement.
It was certainly not expecting too much of General Bragg, as commander-in-chief of the Confederate forces in Kentucky, to expect that he would (after this was done) make up his mind whether he was going to fight or not, without farther delay. If he did not intend to fight, would it not have been wiser to have marched back on Nashville, while Buell was marching on Louisville, to have taken that place and to have established himself on the banks of the Cumberland with less of loss, fatigue, and discontent among his troops, than existed when after his long, harassing, wearying marches through the mountains, he halted at Murfreesboro' much later? Kirby Smith could have remained in Kentucky long enough to collect and secure all the supplies—he had demonstrated that he could take care of himself, and if he had been hard-pressed, he could have retreated more rapidly than any pursuer could follow. If General Bragg did intend to fight, why did he not concentrate his army and fight hard?
After Buell marched to Louisville (which he reached on the 29th of September), Bragg took position at and about Bardstown. Our line, including General Smith's forces, may be described as running from Bardstown, on the extreme left, through Frankfort and Lexington, to Mount Sterling on the right flank. It was an admirable one. However threatened on front or flanks, the troops could be marched to the threatened points, by excellent roads. The base at Bryantsville was perfectly secure—roads ran from it in every direction—and it was a place of immense natural strength. The force available, for the defense of this line, was quite forty-nine thousand infantry, General Bragg's Staff officers represent the force of infantry (which entered the State with General Bragg) to have been twenty-five thousand. General Smith's infantry forces (including Marshall) numbered twenty-four thousand [so estimated by General Smith himself]. There were perhaps one hundred and thirty pieces of artillery in all. The cavalry, all told, was about six thousand Strong (including Morgan and Buford), making a grand total of about fifty-six thousand men.
Buell moved out from Louisville on the 1st of October. His advance was made just as might have been anticipated, and as many had predicted. Not caring to involve his whole army in the rough Chaplin and Benson hills, he sent detachments toward Frankfort and Lawrenceburg, to guard against any movement on Louisville, and to distract Bragg's attention from his (Buell's) main design, and make him divide his army. In this latter intention he perfectly succeeded. The bulk of his army marched through Bardstown and Springfield to Perryville, to get in Bragg's rear and upon his line of retreat. The force sent to Frankfort, five or six thousand strong, under Dumont, broke up the inaugural ceremonies of the Provisional Government, which General Bragg, as if in mockery of the promises he had so lavishly and so confidently made to his own Government, and to the people of Kentucky, and of the hopes he had excited, had instituted. He made one of the first and best men of the State, a man of venerable years and character, held in universal respect for a long life of unblemished integrity, beloved for his kind, open, manly nature, and especially honored by the Southern people of Kentucky for his devotion to the cause—General Bragg made this old man, who had been unanimously indicated as the proper man for Provisional Governor of Kentucky, tell the people, who crowded to listen to his inaugural address, that the State would be held by the Confederate army, cost what it might. At the very time that General Bragg so deceived Governor Hawes, and made him unwillingly deceive his people, the Confederate army had already commenced to retreat.
This force, which came to Frankfort, was the same which General Smith was prepared to fight at Versailles, its real strength not being at first known. A day or two afterward it came out upon the Versailles road, and was ambushed by Colonel John Scott, and driven back with smart loss. General Smith, hearing that the enemy were advancing in force to Lawrenceburg, and that they had occupied that place with an advance guard, ordered Buford to drive them out with his cavalry, and followed with his whole force. The establishment of the enemy at Lawrenceburg, and upon the road thence to Harrodsburg, would have completely cut off General Smith from General Bragg. The force advancing toward Lawrenceburg, was Sill's division, perhaps six or seven thousand strong in effectives. This division had diverged from the main army at the same time with Dumont's.
General Smith's forces were arranged at Lawrenceburg (which was not occupied by the enemy) and on the road thence to Harrodsburg on the 6th. Sill's division fell back across Salt river and into the rugged Chaplin hills, pressed by a portion of General Smith's infantry, Colonel Thomas Taylor's brigade in advance. Several hundred prisoners were taken. The position of General Smith's forces was not materially changed during that day and the next, although they continued to draw nearer to Harrodsburg. The main body of the enemy had in the mean time concentrated its marching columns and moved to the vicinity of Perryville, 58,000 strong, on the evening of the 7th.
The detachments which advanced to Frankfort and toward Lawrenceburg, were not more than 12,000 strong in all. So rugged and difficult of passage is the country through which these detachments had to pass, that a comparatively small force could have prevented their junction at Lawrenceburg and held both at bay, leaving the bulk of the Confederate army free to concentrate at Perryville. Even had their junction been permitted, three thousand such cavalry as Bragg had at his disposal could have retarded their march to Harrodsburg for several days. They could not have forced their way along the road in less than two or three days, and as many would have been required to make a detour and join Buell. In that time the battle of Perryville could have been decided. But so completely was General Bragg in the dark about Buell's movements that, when he first heard of the advance from Louisville, he supposed it was a movement of the whole Federal army upon Frankfort, and he ordered General Polk "to move from Bardstown, by way of Bloomfield, toward Frankfort, to strike the enemy in flank and rear," while General Smith should take him in front. This order was evidently issued under an unaccountable and entire misapprehension of the true state of affairs, but showed a nerve and purpose which promised well. General Bragg must certainly, when he issued it, have supposed that General Buell's whole army was coming from that direction. How strange is it that a commander who could thus resolve to fight his foes, when he believed them to be united, should fear to encounter them separately. Whatever may be the verdict upon General Polk's disobedience of orders, whether it was one of those cases in which a subordinate can rightfully exercise this discretion or not, the fact of General Bragg's incompetency looms up in unmistakable proportions.
The most remarkable feature of General Bragg's conduct was this strange, unexampled vacillation. There was perhaps never afforded such an instance of perfect infirmity and fickleness of purpose. He had, there can be little doubt, resolved to retreat without delivering battle before the 1st of October. He nevertheless sought to fight at Frankfort (as has been seen) a few days afterward. Again, immediately afterward, he did his best to avoid battle when it could have been delivered (as all but himself thought) under far more favorable circumstances. No one now doubts, I presume, that General Bragg fought at Perryville with a fragment of his army, not to win a victory, but to check the enemy and cover his retreat.
After General Polk moved to Perryville, General Bragg, of course, learned of the advance of the enemy in that direction, and must have known that it was in strong column, or he would not have permitted sixteen thousand troops to collect there to oppose it. He was still in error regarding the other movements, and left the larger part of his army to confront the forces maneuvering about Lawrenceburg and Frankfort. One glance at the map will show the reader that, if the enemy was really advancing in heavy columns by these different routes, it was clearly General Bragg's best policy to have struck and crushed (if he could) that body threatening him from the south. If he crushed that his line of retreat would be safe, and he could have fought the other at his leisure, or not at all, as he chose. He could have fought (if it had continued to advance) at Bryantsville, or gone after and attacked it. If, on the contrary, he had concentrated to fight at Frankfort or Lawrenceburg, defeat, with this other force on his line of retreat, would have been ruinous. Even complete and decisive victory would have left him still in danger, having still another army to defeat or drive away. He would have been, in either case, between his foes, preventing their junction, and in a situation to strike them in succession; but in the one case his rear was safe, and in the other it was threatened.
With the true trimming instinct, he elected to take a middle course; he divided his army, and sought to meet both dangers at the same time. Is it saying too much that he was saved from utter destruction by the heroic courage, against vast odds, of that fragment of his army which fought at Perryville? It is the popular idea that a commander is out-generaled when he is deceived. Military phraseology can mystify the popular mind, but it can not eradicate from it this idea. Buell certainly deceived Bragg, and by sending detachments, numbering in all not more than twelve thousand, through a country from which a mere handful of men could have prevented them from debouching, he kept thirty thousand men, the bulk of General Bragg's army, idle, and rendered them useless until the game was decided.
After the battle of Perryville (where he certainly got the better of the forces opposed to him)—an earnest of what might have been done if the whole army had been concentrated—and after an accurate knowledge had been obtained, of how Sill's and Dumont's detachments had deceived him into the belief that they were the whole Federal army—General Bragg had his entire army concentrated at Harrodsburg. The two armies then fairly confronted each other, neither had any strategic experiments to fear, on flank or rear, for Sill's division was making a wide and prudent circuit to get to Buell, and Dumont was stationary at Frankfort. It would have been a fair, square, stand up fight. It is, now, well known that there was not the disparity in numbers which General Bragg and his friends claimed to have existed. There was less numerical inequality, between the armies, than there has been on many battlefields—where the Confederate arms have been indisputably victorious. Buell's strength was less than at any other period of the eight or ten days that a battle was imminent. Sill had not gotten up—the Federal army was fifty-eight thousand strong—minus the four thousand killed and wounded at Perryville, and the stragglers. Buell had in his army, regiments and brigades, of raw troops, thirty-three thousand in all. Bragg had not more than five thousand; most of them distributed among veteran regiments. There were no full regiments, nor even full companies of recruits in Bragg's army, except in the Kentucky cavalry commands. The two armies faced each other, not more than three miles apart. The belief was almost universal, in each army, that next morning we would fight. The troops thought so, and, despite the pouring rain, and their uncomfortable bivouacs, were in high and exultant spirits. I know, for I saw them late in the night, that some officers of high rank confidently looked for battle, and were cheerful, and sanguine of victory.
What General Bragg really intended to do that night—perhaps he himself only knows—and it is quite as probable that even he does not know. He retreated on the next morning to Bryantsville. There was no undignified haste about this movement—the troops moved off deliberately, and in such order, that they could have been thrown quickly, if it had become necessary, into line of battle. General Bragg manifested no great anxiety to get away from the vicinity of his enemy, and Buell certainly manifested no strong desire to detain him.
On the next day (the 12th), the army remained at Bryantsville, and took up its march for Lancaster about ten o'clock of that night. It reached Lancaster on the morning of the 13th, and divided. General Smith going to Richmond, and over the Big hill, to Cumberland Gap, General Bragg with the troops which had come into Kentucky under his immediate command, passing through Crab Orchard.
It was hoped, and thought probable, that Buell would overtake and force Bragg to fight at Crab Orchard. He did, indeed, come very near doing so. Sending one division to Lancaster, he moved with the bulk of his army toward Crab Orchard. He failed, however, to intercept Bragg, and the latter moved on out of Kentucky.
Thus ended a campaign from which so much was expected, and which, had it been successful, would have incalculably benefited the Confederate cause. Able writers have exerted all their skill in apologies for this campaign, but time has developed into a certainty, that opinion then instinctively held by so many, that with the failure to hold Kentucky, our best and last chance to win the war was thrown away.
Let the historian recall the situation, and reflect upon the influences which in the, then, condition of affairs were likely to control the destinies at stake, and he will declare, that with this retreat the pall fell upon the fortunes of the Confederacy.
All the subsequent tremendous struggle, was but the dying agony of a great cause, and a gallant people. At that period the veteran Federal army of the West was numerically much inferior to what it ever was again; and even after the accession of the recruits hastily collected at Louisville, it was much less formidable than it subsequently became.
The Confederate army was composed of the veterans of Shiloh, and the soldiers formed in the ordeal of Corinth. It was as nearly equal to the Federal army, in numerical strength, as there was any chance of it ever being, and the character of its material more than made up for any inequality in this respect. No man, who saw it in Kentucky, will doubt that it would have fought up to its full capacity. Never was there a more fiery ardor, a more intense resolution pervading an army, than that one felt, when expecting a battle which should decide whether they were to hold Kentucky, or march back again, carrying the war once more with them to their homes and firesides. Not even on the first day of Shiloh, when it seemed that they could have charged the rooted hills from their bases, were those troops in a temper to make so desperate a fight. But a doting AEolus held the keys which confined the storm. It will be difficult for any one who will carefully study the history of this period, to avoid the conclusion that it was the crisis of the war. First let the military situation be considered. While at almost every point of subordinate importance the Confederates were holding their own, they were at those points, where the war assumed its grand proportions, and the issue was vital, carrying every thing before them.
The Confederate Government had at length adopted the policy of massing its troops, and the effect was instantly seen. In Virginia, General Lee's onset was irresistible. His army burst from the entrenchments around Richmond, like the lava from the volcano, and the host of McClellan, shrank withered, from its path. Driving McClellan to his new base, and leaving him to make explanations to his soldiery, "Uncle Robert" fell headlong upon Pope, and Pope boasted no more. Forcing the immense Federal masses disintegrated and demoralized back to Washington, General Lee crossed the Potomac and pushed into Maryland. Jackson took Harper's Ferry, while General Lee fought the battle of Antietam with forty thousand men, and again crippled McClellan.
Although the Confederate army recrossed the Potomac on the 18th of September, McClellan did not follow, but remained inactive and by no means certain (as his dispatches show) that his great adversary would not return to attack him. It was not until late in October, that the Federal army again advanced, and its march was then slow and irresolute. It will be seen then, that on the 17th, the day on which Bragg took Munfordsville, General Lee was fighting in Maryland. Ought not General Bragg to have risked a battle (with his superior force) in Kentucky, which (if successful), would have ruined the army opposed to him and have laid the whole Northwest open to him, unless McClellan had furnished the troops to oppose him, and have placed himself at the mercy of Lee?
General Bragg did not (of course) know, on the 17th of September, 1862, that the battle of Antietam was being fought, but he knew that General Lee had achieved great successes, and that he was marching into Maryland. Again, what effect are we at liberty to suppose that a decisive victory won by General Bragg, at Perryville, on the 6th of October, would have had upon the general result. General Buell, pressed by Bragg's entire army, would have had some trouble to cross the Ohio river, after reaching Louisville; and the defense of the Western States would have been then intrusted with many misgivings to his shattered army. And yet the West would have been left with no other defense, unless the army of the Potomac had (in the event of such a necessity) been weakened and endangered, that reinforcements might go to Buell. It may be said that all this is hypothetical. Of course it is. But what General ever yet inaugurated and conducted a campaign, or planned and fought a battle, and banished such hypotheses altogether from his calculations? Why then should they be forbidden in the criticism of campaigns and battles? It is not infallibly certain that General Bragg could have defeated Buell. Nothing is positively certain in a military sense, not even the impregnability of a work built by a West Pointer, and pronounced so by a committee of his classmates. War is a game of various and varying chances. What I mean to urge, is, that General Bragg should, under all the circumstances, have, by all the rules of the game, risked the chances of a battle. But if there were strong military reasons why an effort should have been made to accomplish decisive results in this campaign, there were other and even stronger reasons for it, to be found in the political condition, North and South. The Confederacy, alarmed by the reverses of the winter and spring, had just put forth tremendous and almost incredible efforts. The South had done all that she could be made to do by the stimulus of fear. Increased, aye, even sustained exertion could have been elicited from her people, only by the intoxication of unwonted and dazzling success. No additional inducement could have been offered to the soldiers, whom pride and patriotism had sent into the field, to remain with their colors, but the attraction of brilliant victories and popular campaigns. No incentive could have lured into the ranks the young men who had evaded the conscription and held out against the sentiment of their people, but the prospect of a speedy and successful termination of the war. But there are few among those who were acquainted with the people of Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi, and their temper at that time, who will not agree with me, that a great victory in Kentucky, and the prospect of holding the State, perhaps of crossing the Ohio, would have brought to Bragg's army more Tennesseeans, Alabamians and Mississippians, than were ever gotten into the Confederate service, during the remaining two years and a half of the war. Such a victory would have undoubtedly added more than twenty thousand Kentuckians to the army, for accurate computation has been made of that many who were ready to enlist, as soon as Bragg had won his fight. Five thousand did enlist while it was still uncertain whether the Confederate army would remain in the State. It is not perfectly certain that more than five thousand volunteers were ever obtained, in the same length of time, in any seceded State. All of these men, too, followed the army away from Kentucky. Some of General Bragg's friends have assigned, as one reason, why he left Kentucky without an effort to hold her, that he was disappointed in not receiving more recruits from the State. It is highly probable that such was the case. If an able General had marched into his enemy's territory, depending upon fighting an early and hardly contested battle against a veteran army, with the assistance of recruits just obtained, and whom he could not have yet armed, his friends would have concealed (if possible) his design, or if unable to do so, would have confessed it a weakness unworthy of their chief, for which they blushed. But it is not difficult to believe that General Bragg entertained just such a plan. The Kentuckians had not the confidence in the ultimate success of the Confederate cause, to induce them to enlist in the Confederate service, risking every thing, immediately sacrificing much, as they did so, when they saw a magnificent Confederate army decline battle with a Federal force, certainly not its superior. General Bragg was not only a very shrewd judge of human nature, but even he might have known that the irresolution and timidity he showed from the first day he put foot in Kentucky, was not the way to inspire confidence in any people—it certainly was the worst method he could have adopted to win the people of Kentucky.
And now, to consider the effect which such a Confederate success would have in the North: I do not allude to the effect it would have had upon the wishes and plans of President and Cabinet, upon the views of the Congress, nor upon the arrangements of politicians and the patch work of their conventions, but to the direction it might have given the popular mind and the popular feeling. Men who were then serving in the Confederate army, know little, of course, of the temper of the Northern people, at that time, but many were impressed with the idea, then, strengthened by conversation with Northern men since, that, if ever the Northern people doubted of subjugating the South, it was at that period.
Immense efforts had been made, immense sums had been expended, immense armies had been sent against them, and still the Southern people were unconquered, defiant, and apparently stronger than ever. Would it have been possible to strengthen this doubt into a conviction that the attempt to subdue the Southern people was hopeless, and the war had better be stopped? Volunteering was no longer filling the Federal armies. Now, if the Confederate arms had been incontestably triumphant, from the Potomac to the Ohio, if Northern territory had been in turn threatened with general invasion, and if the option of continuing a war, thus going against them, or making peace, had been submitted at the critical moment to the Northern people, how would they have decided? Would they have encouraged their Government to draft them—or would they have forced the Government to make peace? The matter was, at any rate, sufficiently doubtful to make it worth while to try the experiment. When that scare passed off, it is the firm conviction of more than one man who "saw the war out" that the last chance of Confederate independence passed away.
The Northern people then learned, for the first time, their real strength; they found that bounties, and the draft, and the freedmen, and importations from the recruiting markets of the whole world, would keep their armies full, and nothing could have made them despond again. The war then became merely a comparison of national resources. Something was undoubtedly gained by the march into Kentucky, but how little in comparison with the golden opportunity which was thrown away. Had the combatants been equally matched, the result of this campaign might have been a matter for congratulation; but when the Confederacy was compelled, in order to cope with its formidable antagonist, to deal mortal blows in every encounter, or come out of each one the loser, the prisoners, artillery, and small arms taken, the recovery of Cumberland Gap and a portion of Tennessee, and the supplies secured for the army, scarcely repaid for the loss of prestige to Confederate generalship, and the renewal of confidence in the war party of the North.
When Bragg moved out of Kentucky, he left behind him, uncrippled, a Federal army which soon (having become more formidable than ever before) bore down upon him in Tennessee. The inquest of history will cause a verdict to be rendered, that the Confederacy "came to its death" from too much technical science. It is singular, too, that the maxims which were always on the lips of the military savants, were often neglected by themselves and applied by the unlettered "irregulars." The academic magnates declared in sonorous phrase that struck admiration into the very popular marrow, the propriety of a General "marching by interior lines, and striking the fragments of his enemy's forces with the masses of his own;" while Forrest, perhaps, after doing that very thing, would make it appear a very ordinary performance, by describing it as "taking the short cut, and getting there first with the most men."
It was a great misfortune to the Confederacy, too, that Fabius ever lived, or, at least, that his strategy ever became famous. Every Confederate General who retreated, when he might have fought successfully, and who failed to improve an opportunity to punish the enemy, had only to compare his policy to that of Fabius, and criticism was silenced. Perhaps, if history had preserved the reports of Hannibal, the "Fabian policy" would not have become so reputable. At any rate, it is safe to assume that, had Rome been situated on the same side of the Mediterranean as Carthage, and had she been a seceded state, inferior in wealth, numbers, and resources, which the latter was trying to "coerce," Fabius would have been a most injudicious selection as commander-in-chief. Historians are agreed, I believe, that if the advice of this classic "Micawber," to the consuls Livius and Nero, had been followed by them, the battle of "The Metaurus" would not have been fought, the two sons of the "Thunder-bolt" would have effected their junction, and would, in all probability, have forced the legions to another and final "change of base."
This campaign demonstrated conclusively the immense importance to the Confederacy of the possession of East Tennessee, and the strategic advantage (especially for offenso-defensive operations) which that vast natural fortress afforded us. While that region was firmly in the Confederate grasp, one half of the South was safe, and the conquests of the Federal armies of the rest were insecure. It is apparent at a glance that so long as we held it, communication between the armies of Northern Virginia and of Tennessee would be rapid and direct; co-operation, therefore, between them would be secure whenever necessary. While these two armies could thus practically be handled almost as if they were one and the same, communication between the Federal army of the Potomac and that of the Ohio was circuitous, dilatory, and public. No advance of the enemy through Tennessee into Georgia or Alabama could permanently endanger the integrity of the Confederate territory, while the flank and rear of his army was constantly exposed to sudden attack by formidable forces poured upon it from this citadel of the Confederacy.
Not only would the safety of invading armies be compromised, and their communications (even if confined to the Tennessee rivers), be liable at any time to be destroyed, but a sudden irruption from East Tennessee might (unless an army was always ready to meet it), place the most fertile portions of Kentucky, perhaps, even a portion of the territory of Ohio, in the hands of the Confederates. The success clearly attending the Confederate strategy in the first part of this campaign, would seem, too, to establish the fact, that, until the concentration for decisive battle becomes necessary, an army may (under certain circumstances), be moved in two or more columns, upon lines entirely independent of each other, and even widely apart, but which lead to a common goal—and its operations will be more efficient—than if it be marched en masse, by one route.
The advantages to be derived from such a disposition (as regards freedom, and rapidity of movement, and facility of obtaining supplies), are at once apparent, but certain strategic advantages besides, may, in some cases, be thus secured. To attempt it, in moving against a strong enemy, already posted at the objective point, would be to give him the opportunity of attacking and crushing the columns separately. But when, as was the case in this campaign of General Bragg, two armies make a race for the occupation of a certain territory which is to be fought for, the army which is divided, while on the march, if the columns are all kept on the same flank of the enemy, can be worked most actively and as safely. More can be accomplished by such a disposition of forces, in the partial engagements and lighter work of the campaign, and the morale of the troops will be all the better when the detachments are again combined. Such campaigns might be made more frequently than they are, and with success.
When the army was concentrated at Harrodsburg, on the night of the 10th of October, Colonel Morgan was ordered to take position about six miles from the town, on the Danville pike, and picket the extreme left flank. Desirous of ascertaining what was before him—as he could see the camp-fires of the enemy stretching in a great semi-circle, in front of Harrodsburg—Colonel Morgan during the night, sent Captain Cassell to reconnoiter the ground in his front. The night was rainy and very dark. The position of both armies, of the main body of each, at least, was distinctly marked by the long lines of fires which glared through the gloom, but we had not lighted fires, and Morgan thought that any body of the enemy which might be confronting him, and detailed upon similar duty, would exercise the same prudence. Cassell returned about daylight, and reported that he had discovered, exactly in front of our position, and about a mile and a quarter from it, a small body of cavalry on picket, and a few hundred yards to their rear, a force of infantry, perhaps of one regiment. He stated positively, also, that one piece of artillery had passed along a narrow lane, which connected the point where the cavalry was stationed with the position of the infantry. The intense darkness prevented his seeing the tracks made by the wheels, but he had satisfied himself, by feeling, that, from the width of the tire, and the depth to which the wheels had sunk into the soft earth, they could only have been made by artillery. This report was verified on the next day, in every particular.
Colonel Morgan, at an early hour, attacked the cavalry, with a portion of his command, drove them back to the point indicated by Captain Cassell, as that one where he had seen the infantry, and sure enough, as he rode down upon it, he received a volley from a regiment of infantry posted behind a stone fence, and was opened upon by a single piece of artillery. The perfect accuracy with which Captain Cassell, under circumstances peculiarly unfavorable, noted every detail of the enemy's strength, position, etc., elicited the admiration of all of his comrades, and among them, were perhaps, as shrewd, practiced, and daring scouts as ever lived.
About 1 or 2 P.M., learning that General Bragg was falling back to Bryantsville, Colonel Morgan sent pickets to Harrodsburg; these soon sent word that the enemy had entered that place. About the same time our scouts brought us information that the enemy were in Danville also—about four miles from our position. Having an enemy, now, upon three sides of him, and finding that General Bragg's rear was unmolested, Colonel Morgan concluded, in the absence of instructions to fall back also. He accordingly struck across the country to Shakertown, reaching that place, about 4 P.M. Colonel Morgan had always respected the peaceful and hospitable "Shakers," and had afforded them, whenever it became necessary, protection, strictly forbidding all members of his command to trespass upon them in any way. We were consequently great favorites in Shakertown, and on this occasion derived great benefit from the perfect rectitude of conduct which we had always observed—"in that part of the country." The entire community resolved itself into a culinary committee, and cooked the most magnificent meal for the command. It was with deep regret that we tore ourselves away on the next morning.
Colonel Morgan received orders, on the 12th, to proceed to Nicholasville and remain there until the next day. On the 13th we followed the army and reached Lancaster about midday. In the afternoon the enemy, with whom General Wheeler had been skirmishing all day, advanced upon Lancaster, and opened upon the troops, collected about the place, with artillery. A little sharp shooting was also done upon both sides. Two guns belonging to Rain's brigade of infantry, which was General Smith's rear-guard, were brought back and replied to the enemy's fire. One man of this section killed, was the only loss sustained upon our side. The cannonading was kept up until dark. We held the town during the night. Only one division of Buell's army (as has already been stated), was sent to Lancaster.
On the morning of the 14th, we moved slowly away from Lancaster, our command forming (with Colonel Ashby's) the extreme rear-guard of General Smith's corps. We were not at all pressed by the enemy, and on the 15th halted at Gum Springs twenty-five miles from Richmond. Colonel Morgan obtained permission from General Smith to select his own "line of retreat" from Kentucky, with the understanding, however, that he should protect the rear of the infantry until all danger was manifestly over. He represented to General Smith that he could feed his men and horses, and have them in good condition at the end of the retreat, by taking a different route from that pursued by the army, which would consume every thing. He explained, moreover, how in the route he proposed to take, he would cross Buell's rear, taking prisoners, capturing trains, and seriously annoying the enemy, and that establishing himself in the vicinity of Gallatin again, he could, before he was driven away, so tear up the railroad, once more, as to greatly retard the concentration of the Federal army at Nashville. It was perfectly apparent to General Smith, that all this could be done, and that, when Morgan reached the portion of Tennessee which he indicated, he would be in exactly the proper position to guard one flank of the line, which Bragg's army would probably establish. He accorded him, therefore, the desired permission, and on the 17th, when the infantry had gotten beyond Big Hill and were more than thirty miles from an enemy, Colonel Morgan turned over to Colonel Ashby the care of "the rear" and prepared to leave Kentucky in his own way. Colonel Ashby had proven himself competent to the successful discharge of even more important duty.
Colonel Morgan's force consisted at this time, counting troops actually with him, of the Second Kentucky (with the exception of one company), Gano's regiment (the Third Kentucky), and Breckinridge's battalion which had rejoined us at Lancaster—in all about eighteen hundred men. Cluke's and Chenault's regiments had gone with General Smith. The time and situation were both propitious to such an expedition as he contemplated. No such dash was looked for by the enemy who believed that every Confederate was anxious to get away as rapidly as possible by the shortest route. The interior of Kentucky and the route Morgan proposed to take were clear of Federal troops, excepting detachments not strong enough or sufficiently enterprising to give him much cause for apprehension.
On the 17th of October, Colonel Morgan marched from Gum Springs in the direction of Lexington. The command was put in motion about 1 P.M. Gano and Breckinridge were sent to the Richmond pike, by which it was intended that they should approach the town, and full instructions regarding the time and manner of attack, were given them. Information had been received that a body of Federal cavalry had occupied Lexington a day or two previously, and Lieutenant Tom Quirk had been sent to ascertain some thing about them; he returned on the evening of the 17th, bringing accurate information of the strength and position of the enemy. Colonel Morgan accompanied my regiment (the Second Kentucky), which crossed the river below Clay's ferry, and moved by country roads toward Lexington.
The immediate region was not familiar to any man in the regiment, nor to Morgan himself, and, as it was strongly Union, some difficulty was at first anticipated about getting guides or information regarding the routes. This was obviated by Colonel Morgan's address. It was quite dark by the time the column was fairly across the river, and he rode to the nearest house, where, representing himself as Colonel Frank Woolford, of the Federal service, a great favorite in that neighborhood, he expressed his wish to procure a guide to Lexington. The man of the house declared his joy at seeing Colonel Woolford, and expressed his perfect willingness to act as guide himself. His loyal spirit was warmly applauded, and his offer cordially accepted. Under his guidance we threaded the country safely, and reached the Tates-creek pike, at a point about ten miles from Lexington, a little after midnight. About two o'clock we had gotten within three miles of the town, and were not much more than a mile from the enemy's encampment. We halted here, for, in accordance with the plan previously arranged, a simultaneous attack was to be made just at daylight, and Gano and Breckinridge had been instructed to that effect.
The guide, now, for the first time, learned the mistake under which he had been laboring, and his amazement was only equaled by his horror. All during the night he had been saying many hard things (to Woolford as he thought), about Morgan, at which the so-called Woolford had seemed, greatly amused, and had encouraged him to indulge himself in that way. All at once, the merry, good-humored "Woolford" turned out to be Morgan, and Morgan, seemed for a few moments, to be in a temper which made the guide's flesh creep. He expected to be shot, and scalped perhaps, without delay. Soon finding, however, that he was not going to be hurt, he grew bolder, and actually assumed the offensive. "General Morgan," he said, "I hope you wont take my horse under the circumstances, although I did make this here little mistake?" He was turned loose, horse and all, after having been strongly advised to be careful in future how he confided in soldiers.
The force encamped near Lexington, which we were about to attack, was the Fourth Ohio cavalry—our old friends. The main body was at Ashland, about two miles from the town, encamped in the eastern extremity of the woods, in which the Clay mansion stands, on the southern side of the Richmond pike. One or two companies were in town, quartered at the court-house. As daylight approached, I put my regiment in motion again, detaching two companies to enter the town, under command of Captain Cassell, and capture the provost-guard, and to also picket the road toward Paris. Two other companies, under Captain Bowles, were sent to take position on the Richmond pike, at a point between the town and the camp, and about equi-distant from them. This detachment was intended to intercept the enemy if they attempted to retreat from Ashland to the town before we could surround the encampment, also to maintain communication between the detachment sent into town and the bulk of the regiment, in the event of our having to engage other forces than those we had bargained for.