July 17, 2017

Articles and Letters before/after The Battle of Mill Springs, Pulaski, 1862


Click here for a list of my other Pulaski/Rockcastle/Laurel County KY articles


Updated 7/19/2017 with one additional source (#11).


[December 24-26, 1861] -

Army Correspondence.

From the 17th Regiment.

The following extracts from letters of Captain Stinchcomb to his wife, we publish for the benefit of those who have friends or relatives in the 17th Regiment.

December 24, 1861. }

The Health of the Fairfield Boys.

Henry Laymen, Aston P. Berry and John W. Champman are so bad that Colonel Conneli directed us this morning to give them liberty to go home, while H. C. Hart, Daniel Johnson, Joseph Lockart, Abraham Ressley, John Dogan, John L. Elder, Elisha Hall, Wm. Barr, are all in the hospital. In addition, Thomas and Charles Shrieves are both taking medicine. Jams Hindman, Edward Thompson, William C. Holiday, Sargent Sears, George W. Spittler, Eli Tipple, John E. Sane, Joseph Delong and Enoch Berry, are sick at quarters. Many of the above, though sick, are able to perform duty. I will write to you each day in regard to the condition of the sick, and you will endeavor to inform the relations, by sending them word directly, or by publishing the above in the Gazette.

(The friends and relatives of the above named can learn all about their health, by calling upon Mrs. Stinchcomb as she will get letters every day from Captain Stinchcomb. -- Eds.)

Dec. 26, 1861. -- CHRISTMAS IN CAMP.

Christmas is over and we had quite a fine "Turkey and Chicken" dinner. We had 29 Turkeys and 28 Chicken. We invited all the Field Officers and Captains, and nearly all the Lieutenants, and any number of the boys. There were about 300 at our dinner, and we had plenty although at 10 o'clock we were informed that we had neither bread nor meal to bake bread of, but as soon as we learned this fact, Lieutenant Ashbrook, Sargent Ruffner, Corporal McNaughten and myself, and several others started out on a foraging expedition to the country to buy bread and meal. We soon found two and a half bushels of corn meal, and by half past 12 o'clock we had so much good corn bread as 500 men could eat. Enoch Shumaker baked three pones on the stove. I got a flat or "Dutch" oven and baked five Virginia Corn cakes -- which were pronounced by good judges, excellent. The balance we hired the negroes in Somerset to bake for us.

After dinner Lieutenant Colonel More, Captain Philips of the First Tennessee, Lieutenant Graten of the 38th, Captain Jackson and Captain Frye of the 31st Ohio, and Captain Fullerton, each made short appropriate speeches, filling the boys with enthusiasm. We then sung songs and adjourned with three cheers.

I never saw a Christmas pass over with so little drunkenness as there was in the 17th Regiment. I saw none drunk, although I learned there were three who got "How come you so." The boys were allowed to have as much liquor as they wanted, under a promise from all that none would get drunk, and I am proud to say that so far as the 17th is concerned, with the exception above, their promise was strictly and faithfully kept.

We now begin to feel the effects of the hard march from London and the exposure of the boys, in the shape of death, the 17th has lost seven by death and will lose a number more, probably 50 to 75 are dangerously sick.

It is enough to sicken the stoutest heart to hear the boys cough when awakened in the night and called into line. There will be, probably, one-half of the Regiment coughing at the same time, yet each trying to restrain his cough. We hope to be able to rest here, or at some point, a sufficient length of time, that the men of the Regiment may recruit their health.

The men have improved in health rapidly since we have been here. As to myself I have never had better health than at present. About the time of our exposure I caught a severe cold, and at one time I thought I would be sick, but by keeping close to quarters and using stews and hoarhound tea, I soon got rid of my cold, and in a short time found myself in good health.


I don't look for a fight now, unless, we attack the enemy, which will not be done, unless, we get force enough to make our victory sure. In which event you will hear of a victory, such as General Pope is said to have achieved in Missouri. I am not at liberty to give the details or places, but I think you may prepare yourself to hear of a battle and a victory before long, not a thousand miles from Gen. Schoephff's column.


Noah Sites is apparently better this morning, though he is so low that it is difficult to ascertain his true condition. He is the only one of my boys that is dangerous, who are at present in our camp.

Frank Shoemaker of Company A, accidently shot off his right fore finger this morning. Company C, buried another of the boys this morning. He took colic and the Surgeon sent him a vial of laudanum to take in doses, and his comrade gave him too much, and from the effect of it he died yesterday morning. I find that nearly every death that has occurred has been the result of carelessness to some extent, either in eating too much or exposure unnecessarily.



[December 27, 1861] -


My Danville informant states that Zollicoffer was four days in crossing Cumberland river, and that he is now in an exceedingly strong position on this side, with 6,000 men. On the other side he has about 2,000, in a well selected camp, intrenched. What would be thought of our army, if it should cross a river under such circumstances? We can scarcely cross a creek without a bridge of the most improved style. And then, we have the most approved slow bridge builders, warranted not to build one in less than a month, for love or money. Some antiquarians are searching the early history of the world, to find out how men crossed rivers and even arms of the sea, in olden time, when there were no railroad bridges. [2]


[December 28, 1861] -


A letter from Somerset, Ky., of recent date, says:

On the night of the 28th the 35th Ohio, Col. Vandevier, made a silent, cautious march to the Salt Works on Fishing Creek, with a full expectation of capturing a regiment of rebel cavalry, who were guarding the works while some of their men were manufacturing salt. But when they arrived there the workmen and cavalry had gone to their camp. So they made a charge on the Salt Works, breaking the kettles, disabling the pumps, and spreading havoc among the utensils generally; after which they marched back to camp. [3]


[January 1, 1862] -

Letters received at Louisville, Ky., on the 9th, from Somerset and Stanford, stated that the Federal forces under General Shoeff had been compelled to retreat this side of Somerset, and that the Secessionists, ten thousand strong, had crossed Cumberland river, and were marching on Somerset, and men, women and children were leaving that place in every possible conveyance. 

The Stanford people thought Gen. Shoeff should be reinforced, and the Democrat editorially was of the opinion that Gen. Shoeff's purpose in falling back on Somerset was to catch Zollicoffer in a trap. [4]


[January 3, 1862] -

Gen. Carter, commanding the East Tennessee brigade, reports all quiet. At Somerset there are said to be from 1,500 to 2,000 contrabands of Kentucky rebels in the different camps of the Union army in private employment. [5]


[January 4, 1862] -

Army Correspondence.

January 4, 1862. }


As this place has gained considerable notoriety, on account of the Union and Rebel armies encamped near it in a menacing attitude for the last three or four weeks, a general description of the nature of the country, may prove interesting to many of your readers.

Somerset is situate in a kind of basin, the hills rising gradually from it in every direction, except the east, which is level. 

We are encamped on a hill seventy-five feet above the town; on the north and west of us, and part of the east, is a deep ravine or hollow, making the hill very difficult to ascend from either of those directions. If Zollicoffer should attack us from either of those points, long before he could get to us, he will wish he had not tried it, as one regiment, situate as ours is upon this hill, could whip four thousand men advancing in either of the directions above stated. From Somerset which is on the southerly side of our camp the road ascends gradually about a half mile, and should Zollicoffer advance from that direction, we will warn him good, as he must pass the 13th Ky., 38th and 35th Ohio, before he could get to us. If he should advance from an easterly direction he would have to pass our pickets two miles out, march at least eight miles further and then the two Tennessee Regiments meet him, and one battery can play on him for 1 1/2 miles in all directions except east, in fact it can play on him for three miles in some directions, and then there is Capt. Hewit's battery a half mile south of us. I only wish he would come here and make an attack. He will get away feeling worse and be worse whipped than he was at "Wild Cat," if he got away at all. I predict he will not fight us here at all, but if we get force enough in his rear to attack him, he will try to make his escape through this way somewhere, but he will not dare stop to fight us in that case, and then if we don't make him get up and howl I don't know anything about the temper and wish of Schoeff's command.

We are pretty well fortified here, as is also the 38th Ohio and Col. Hoskins, and since our other two smooth bore cannon have come up, we do not fear "Old Zolly" if we can get a half chance at him. He is evidently afraid of us as a negro came into our camp, from his, yesterday, who says the day we went to make a reconnaissance in force, they rushed into the ferry boat so fast, expecting us on him every minute, that they drowned a number of his men -- the nigger thinks three hundred -- but I don't believe his story, yet I have no doubt that they drowned some, as other niggers tell the same story, and we were moving on toward him with three Regiments and five cannon on each road, besides two companies of cavalry. -- I have always thought if we had made a bold dask at him before he fortified on this side of the river, he would have fell back or re-crossed the river, but as his position then would have been much stronger than ours, we would have gained nothing, unless we could have had a force on the other side to drive him there. 

This appears to be Gen. Thomas' idea, or otherwise we would have attacked him. -- Some of our officers do not like General Thomas, but I have still implicit confidence in him, as also Gen. Schoeff and his staff, and do not attach to either of them blame for not making the attack until we have force enough to whip Zollicoffer and capture his whole command. Fast or quick fighting sometimes wins, and I, with many others frequently get restless at the "stand still" way of doing things, but when I remember that our own forces and the enemy are about equal -- while the latter has the advantage of position, I think it the better policy to pursue, not to advance until we have force enough to secure success. I always feel like yielding my own opinions in deference to those of men who have made military matters a study for life, which Generals Thomas and Schoeff have done; and I now predict that if Gen. Thomas gets an opportunity during this war to display his military talent, that he will prove himself a General. 

"But to return to my subject." The hill, or narrow ridges which hills on their tops, at intervals, shaped like large mounts, rise from two to four hundred feet above the valleys.


Is a very crooked stream, meandering through a narrow valley between high rocky hills or bluffs on either side perpendicular for some ten to fifty feet, when they break off abruptly and rise up for some distance, resembling in appearance the west side of Mt. Pleasant; more especially in this so in reference to the hills on the east side of the creek. The stream of water is about as large as Rushcreek at Sugar Grove. [6]


[January 8, 1862] -

SOCIAL ESTRANGEMENT. -- Mr. Jos. Wright, a brother-in-law of John P. Bruce, of the St. Joseph Journal, writing from Somerset, Ky., to that paper, gives the following, which is but a single instance of the blasting effects of this war. Social ties are sundered, families broken up, father wars against son, and son against father. It is a wonder that they cry for peace. Mr. Wright says:

"My son Charles is under General Rousseau, (Union,) near Bowling Green; my son Joseph is at Manassas, with Beauregard.

"There is no business here [Somerset] -- you would not know the upper part of town -- there is nothing but destruction -- the fences are all burnt up. Your place and the house I lived in are used for hospitals." [7]


[January 10, 1862] -

Complaints of the Federal Soldiers.

We clip the following from a letter written by a soldier in the Federal force at Somerset, Ky.: 

This place being so far from either railroad or canal, is in all probability a sufficient excuse for the scarcity of subsistence at this time. Our rations are short; sometimes we have half rations, at other times we have plenty; but the distance from the railroads is no excuse for us not having our winter clothing [?] this. Perchance we might censure the manufacturers, or the Governor of Ohio -- or any other man that will not furnish us heavier clothing. I can, however, without considering it complimentary to any provider of the army, say that we have been seriously neglected as to our clothing. Winter has come -- the cold, stinging frost of many nights have already marred the earth, since we have come to Kentucky to defend the rights of our noble country; and were we on any other mission, we would surely complain, for our clothing is a thin blouse and unlined pants, which is about the amount of our entire clothing, and they have become rather thin, in fact, ragged, owing to the length of time they have been in use. Such thin clothing gives but little satisfaction to a soldier who has to breast the bleak winds, and cold, dashing rains of December. True, our overcoats do cover the rags, and protect us from the rain to a limited extent, but we earnestly hope that thicker clothing will be given us before the snows of January visit us very often. [8]


[January 7, 1862] -


From the Somerset Camp Journal, Jan. 7. 

Mr. Winter, who has been in the custody of the rebels for some two weeks past, arrived in Somerset Saturday evening last, and took up lodgings at the Ingram House. He is a native of Georgia, but has been a resident of South Carolina some years. Traveling from home when the secession of his State took place, and not agreeing with the suicidal act, he chose not again to take up his residence in the pestiferous and petulant little Commonwealth. Hence, he had for some time made his stopping place in Meigs County, Tenn. A reign of terror having made that section too warm for a Unionist to remain comfortable, he left Tennessee with the intention of making his way into the lines of the Federal army.

On his way, he and his companion, Joe Nealy, were captured by an independent thieving company, that has some sort of understanding with Zollicoffer, and taken to his camps. After staying under arrest several days, a propitious moment offered, and during a storm at night he escaped from the guard-tent, where a number of soldiers were watching over him. Storms are noble institutions at times. The senior editor of the [Somerset Camp] Journal left Gen. Zollicoffer at Knoxville some four months ago, under similar circumstances. Mr. Winter informs us that the rebel soldiers are poorly clothed.

We asked him how their clothing compared with the Federals. He replied it was not near so good. The men under Zollicoffer are about eight or nine thousand, and great dissatisfaction prevails. They are expecting a fight, and send out a large picket force at night. There has been no considerable reinforcements sent forward to Zollicoffer. He has received in the last ten days four pieces of artillery, and about five hundred men. This news we regard as perfectly reliable. How long till we give them an opportunity to fight? [9]


[January 8, 1862] -

The Skirmish near Somerset, Ky.

The editor of the Madison Courier, Capt. Garber, gives the following account of the recent skirmish near Somerset, Ky.: 

SOMERSET, KY., Jan. 8.

About noon to-day the pickets in front of the enemy on Cumberland river attacked the rebel pickets of Zollicoffer. The firing continued for an hour and a half. The rebel pickets were driven in with the loss of two killed, wounded and captured two. One of the wounded men lives on fishing creek, about eight miles from Somerset -- a reported Secesh, named Cowan. A short time ago he was captured and took the oath of allegiance, and immediately joined Zollicoffer's army.

I offered to serve Gen. Carter as a volunteer aid, none of his aids having reported at this place. I was accepted. The General then borrowed my horse and left me; so I missed the chance of seeing the "scrimmage." It has rained so hard since noon I have not been to headquarters to see how the horse behaved, and to hear the result of the General's observations. 

From a man from Crab Orchard to-day, I learned that the 22d Indiana had left for Indiana to recruit their numbers and the health of the men disease has left. Col. Coburn was sick at Lexington. When I came through that place on Saturday, I learned from a fellow passenger, a citizen of Lexington that he was recovering.

McQuiston went to-day four miles down the Fishing Creek Road, with an escort of Tennesseans, on a foraging expedition. He was nearer the picket fight than I was, in the city. Mac did not run away; he came in, however, after the wagons, loaded with corn, came. When he came, he rode a small three year old filly, which is now in the Quartermaster's wagon yard -- and not receipted for. 

SOMERSET, January 9th.

I have but little to add to the account of the skirmish yesterday between the pickets. The facts are mainly as I stated in my letter last night. Our side didn't lose a man. Two of the rebels are known to have been killed, two wounded and two prisoners. The Lieut. Colonel of the 2d Tennessee regiment visited the prisoners today, and found in the person of one of them an old acquaintance, a connection by marriage. The interview, I am told, was quiet affecting.

The Tennesseans are very bitter, and never lose an opportunity when they get a chance to fight. This was illustrated yesterday. A guard was detailed yesterday from the 2d Tennessee regiment to go with the teams on a foraging expedition. While the wagons were loading with corn, about twenty of the guards stepped off, went down to the Cumberland river, (the timber on this side extends to the river bank) each man "treed," and poured out a volley. Secesh, in an open corn field on the other side, replied with spirit, by platoons and companies. The heavy firing spoken of in last night's letter, was the rebels firing at the Tennesseans. During the intervals of the firing, the patriot and rebel Tennesseans talked to each other, but what they said would hardly do to print in the Courier. Our men told the rebels that two thousand Tennesseans had crossed the river above, that General Thomas was beyond Columbus in their rear, and that they would be bagged before night. It is said secesh actually began to strike their tents to run off. 

When the boys returned they reported that the rebels were "celebrating the 8th of January." This morning the facts leaked out, and the reply of the Lieutenant in command of the guard was very similar to that of a the Roman Gladiator to his Chief: "Why did you send us in that direction? -- you know we could not help shooting at the rascals." The Tennesseans say they saw several killed or wounded men carried off the field.

These Tennesseans are not only unconditional Union men, but the Union before everything. If slavery is in the way of preserving the Union, away with slavery. If Kentuckians had been, if they were now, imbued with the same spirit, it would be much better for the Union cause. Indeed, if God in his providence had placed East Tennessee on the border where Kentucky is, the rebellion would never have extended outside the cotton states.

The army and the people are becoming impatient to know where Gen. Thomas is. By the way Gen. Thomas is a very handsome officer. I am called Gen. Thomas very often. [10]


[January 14, 1862] -

The National Intelligencer is permitted to take the following extract from a private letter addressed to Mr. Senator Johnson, of Tennessee, by a gentleman at Crab Orchard, Kentucky. -- The writer is an East Tennesseean and an assistant surgeon in the army. It is impossible to read this pathetic narrative of the suffering of his people, and not repeat the emphatic inquiry with which this extract concludes: 

"I have visited our friends of the two East Tennessee regiments at Somerset, and saw a number of my acquaintances from Hamilton, Rhea, Bledsoe, and Marion counties. According to their reports (and they are reliable) no people were ever so cruelly treated as our Union friends in those counties. Squads of rebel soldiers are literally scouring the country. The Union men have had to flee from their homes and hide amid the fastnesses and caves of the mountains, and the rebels pursue and hunt them day and night like wild beasts. Hundreds are trying to make their way to Kentucky, while hundreds despair of reaching here, and still lie concealed in the mountains, freezing and starving. All that the rebels can capture they hurry off to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, or to the Penitentiary at Nashville, or, which is worse still, murder and leave them to rot in the mountains. They also destroyed all kinds of property -- horses, cattle, hogs, corn, bedding, furniture, clothing, cloth, etc., and they report it is getting worse every day. Good Heavens! cannot, will not the Government send help to them?" [11]


[January 14, 1862] -

It is rumored that a rebel steamer that had been dispatched up the Cumberland River from Nashville with supplies for General Zollicoffer's army, has been captured below Somerset, Ky., by a detachment of five hundred men, under Colonel Haggard, of the Fifth Kentucky Cavalry. [12]


The Battle of Mill Springs took place on Sunday, January 19, 1862. 


[January 20, 1862] -

Interesting Items from the late Battle Field

The Cincinnati Commercial copies the following interesting letter from  reliable source: 

SOMERSET, Jan. 20., 1862.

DEAR BROTHER: -- Citizens and soldiers are straggling in, loaded with trophies of the battle. The battle was decisive, Zollicoffer was beautifully entrenched -- had excellent winter quarters. The fight lasted until this morning, when the rebels ran in utter confusion, never thinking to get behind the entrenchments. It is said Gen. Crittenden is taken too. Zollicoffer is surely dead. Our bullets were sent with unerring aim -- many rebels shot in the forehead, breast and stomach. Our forces took but few prisoners -- killed from 200 to 300, captured all their cannon, tents, horses, mules, wagons, and everything. I have a small piece of Zollicoffer's undershirt, and a daguerrotype of a secession lady, taken with a lot of other plunder, which had belonged to Capt. Wilt and Lieut. Connelly, of a Tennessee regiment. I saw their commissions from the State of Tennessee. Secessionists will tremble in their boots. The dead were being buried by our men -- 20 to 25 in a pit. Our loss was very small. Our artillery told every time. I learn one of their steamboats, which was carrying them across the river, was shot into and fired by our artillery, destroying all in it in tot[al]. The Union people here flocked to the battlefield in droves, and are jubilant at the result. I regret very much my inability to go down to-day, not having any saddle, and could not get one. I shall try and go down to-morrow. Henry brought in a rifle, mule, saddle and bridle, and a large bowie knife. After crossing the river the rebels did not stop, but ran like devils.

The fighting was all done by about four regiments and the artillery. The rebels tried their old dodge of marching up, guns at the shoulder, left hand raised, crying friends, but this did not go; they could not fool our boys.

The 35th did not participate in the fight. They left camp yesterday at 1 o'clock, and marched till 3 o'clock this morning; they are now straggling in, in small squads, being nearly tired out. The fortifications there are said to be of immense strength. The rebel soldiers were not generally clothed in uniform, but in citizens' clothes. Their weapons were mixed -- squirrel rifles, &c. The rifle Henry got is a Mississippi rifle of the best kind, and I have seen all kinds of weapons.

It rained terribly this morning, a very common occurrence here.

No mistake, I think, about Crittenden being taken; he tried to pass himself off as a Surgeon.

Excuse my writing. I write under great disadvantage. The telegraph is finished to this place at last. We hear that are fighting at every place, and hope it is so. 

G. [13]


[January 21, 1862] -




Special Correspondence of the Cincinnati Gazette.

CAMP NEAR SOMERSET, Jan. 21. -- I wasn't there! Don't ask me to give you a description of the fight. I have heard accounts of it as multiform and different as were the authorities from whom I derived them. I have passed over the battle ground, asked innumerable questions, compared and contrasted answers, until I am weary, but I still feel that I am inadequate to give anything like a vivid and precise account of the engagement. Of course each regiment engaged claims the glory of the fight, and to each man his own regiment appeared always in the advance and performing the most heroic deeds. That tendency to exaggeration which I have heretofore complained of as rendering almost all the Kentuckians whom we have met untrustworthy sources of information, seems to have affected everybody. I can only tell you what I myself saw, and give you as accurate a description of what I did not see as I am able to do. 


Last Thursday evening we learned that General Thomas was certainly advancing toward us on the Columbia road. Communication was once more opened up between his forces and those of Gen. Schoepff, by that, the direct route. He was said to be within fifteen miles of us with three regiments and others following. General Schoepff at once prepared to co-operate with our friends. On Friday morning the First and Second East Tennessee Regiments marched out on the Columbia road, and were followed by the Twelfth Kentucky. The Seventeenth and Thirty-first Ohio went to Hudson's Ford, near the mouth of Fishing Creek, to cut off the enemy should he attempt to retreat on this side of the river, or by that road to throw a force between us and Gen. Thomas. Two pieces of Capt. Hewitt's battery accompanied us. Capt. Standart's battery went with the Tennessee troops. The Thirty-eighth and Thirty-fifth Ohio remained in camp as a reserve.

After a tiresome march of nine muddy miles, we reached our destination at the lower ford. We found the creek impassable except by bridging it. The back water of the Cumberland extended nearly two miles further up the creek, which was itself raised by heavy rains. No signs of the enemy were visible. The two regiments, however, took their positions so as to command the stream completely, and bivouacked for the night. Before morning the boys enjoyed the luxury of seeing and feeling a smart shower when there wasn't a cloud in sight. The stars were shining bright as ever through the rain. Our boys think that their next experience of atmospheric varieties in this moist Kentucky will be of rain growing straight up from the ground.

Saturday afternoon the order came to fall back on Somerset. On the way back, considerable excitement was created by the sound of sharp musketry across the creek, in the direction of the Columbia Cross Roads. It was the precursor, as we have since learned, of the next day's bloodier work. Late at night our regiment came in, tired and hungry. We found that the Thirty-fifth and Thirty-eighth had gone out upon the Columbia road in the morning, had enjoyed the satisfaction of wading the creek, and had then been ordered back to camp. 


Sunday morning came, dark and rainy -- a fit day for a Sabbath battle. At six minutes before eight o'clock we heard the first boom of cannon. We had frequently heard what we imagined to be artillery firing before, but always found out that it was distant thunder, or something similar in sound; but there was no doubt as to this. The imagination may mistake other sounds for cannon, but there is little danger of ever mistaking the heavy boom of artillery for anything else. The battle was evidently raging somewhere near General Thomas' camp. Yet is was so unexpected to us that we could scarcely believe the evidence of our own ears. That the enemy should leave his entrenchments to attack us in the open field seemed almost incredible. Major Coffee, of "Wolford's Cavalry," was the only one who could offer any solution of the mystery. He knows Major-General Crittenden personally, and remarked, "George is drunk, as usual, and come out for a fight."

The cannonading continued, with but brief pauses, for two hours, and then ceased. We waited in suspense for two hours more, but no news. The wildest rumors began to circulate. The Rebels had completely surrounded Thomas, and taken his whole force prisoners; they were about to cross Fishing Creek, to complete the day's work by demolishing us. The general impression seemed to be that something had gone wrong. 


About noon Lieutenant-Colonel Moore and I went over to head-quarters to see if we couldn't get some information. We found Lieutenant Munoz, one of the General's Aids, busily engaged in examining the bottom of a well. He was the only officer visible, and we approached him. "No news," was his answer to our question, and still he peered with anxious eyes down the well. It is still a wonder to me what our good friend the Lieutenant was looking down there for, though in the dismal condition of external nature, and the general uncertainly which prevailed, it was about as good a thing as a man could do. Probably he was trying to see whether he couldn't get out some of that truth which they say lies hidden in a well, and which is so rare an article in Southern Kentucky.

Just then we saw coming over a hill opposite, at full speed, Major Lawrence, Captain Hewit, and a third person with the inevitable Wolford's cavalry blunderbus slung over his shoulder. He and his horse looked like an incarnation of the demon who may be presumed to preside over mud. If there was one square inch on their several bodies visible through the surrounding crust of earth and water, my eyes failed to perceive it. But his first words were decidedly those of a man of like passions to those of other mortals. "Hurrah, Zolly's dead!" He sought the General while the Major stopped to tell us that the Rebels were routed and our men were in full pursuit of them toward the river. In a moment out rushed Gen. Schoepff, bare-headed and jubilant. "Munog, go and tell the Seventeenth, Thirty-fifth, Thirty-eighth and Thirty-first to prepare [to] march instantly." "Instantly," he repeated, [in] his quick, decisive way.

We hurried back to camp. The boys had not eaten their dinners yet. They were tired with Saturday's march. They had no meat for breakfast. There were no crackers, only corn meal to make bread of, and no time to prepare it. But it made no difference. The only anxiety was lest Thomas should drive the enemy over the river before we could get down. Boys sick in the hospitals hurried out to get their muskets. Our regiment, which could not have brought out three hundred men for dress parade, marched five hundred strong to battle, and one company gone to repair the road to Stanford. It was the same with all the rest of the brigade. Colonels Bradley and Vandevier left their sick rooms, where they had been lying dangerously ill for weeks, to head their regiments. I did not see the latter, but Colonel B. looked as the Cid Campeador must have done when the Spaniards placed his corpse at the head to lead them once more to victory.


We reached Fishing Creek in an hour and a half. It was running breast high and the current very swift. There was no time to bridge it. A rope was stretched across. The men strapped their cartridge-boxes upon their shoulders, and, with one hand holding their gun locks out of the water, and with the other clinging to the rope to keep themselves from being swept down stream, they pressed across. All the horses and mules that could be found were put in requisition for ferriage. But it was night before the last man was over. Four miles march brought us to General Thomas' camp. All along the road we had heard the report of General Zollicoffer's death. The country people who have suffered from his lawless soldiery, or feared their ravages, were wild with delight. One old woman on the road exclaimed, "I've got two children in the fight, but I don't trouble myself about them. I'm so glad that Zollicoffer is dead." We had disbelieved the reports, knowing how such rumors spread after a battle, but on arriving at the camp we made inquiry and found that there was no doubt of the fact.


Col. Connell, who had known Gen. Z. in Washington, asked to be permitted to see the corpse, and I went with him. He lay in a tent wrapped in an army blanket, his chest and left arm and side exposed. A tall, rather slender man, with thin, brown hair, high forehead, somewhat bald, Roman nose, firm, wide mouth, and clean-shaven face. A pistol ball had struck him in the breast, a little above the heart, killing him instantly. His face bore no expression such as is usually found on those who fall in battle -- no malice, no reckless hate, not even a shadow of physical pain. It was calm, placid, noble. But I have never looked on a countenance so marked with sadness. A deep dejection had settled on it. "The low cares of the mouth" were distinct in the droop at its corners, and the thin cheeks showed the wasting which comes through disappointment and trouble. 


After leaving the camps, we pushed on our road toward the enemy. We passed through the battle-field in the night. Two corpses lay by the roadside, and our men stumbled over them in the darkness. We could see nothing more at that time.

The road, which had been bad enough before, now became frightful. The boys, worn out with fatigue and hunger, one by one dropped down by the wayside to sleep. Some, stumbling in the mud, were too much exhausted to raise themselves again, and had to be pulled up by their comrades.

About 9 o'clock we halted, built fires and lay down to rest until the moon should get far enough up to give us light to travel by. Two hours of rest somewhat refreshed us, and we again pressed on. We had heard heavy cannonading at Mill Spring before dark, and we knew that the morning would either see a bloody fight or a complete retreat of the enemy. It was 2 o'clock when we reached the camp. More than half of the three regiments which went through that night were dropped on the way. One by one they came straggling in, till by the time we were ready to move in the morning there were but few behind. 

Our boys built a few camp fires and lay down on the damp ground to sleep. I crawled off to a stable, tied my horse, and at first thought of sleeping under him, the only place I could see which seemed available; but Captain Rippey's sharper eyes discovered a box which had once been filled with rye (in its natural state), untenanted. Fortunately, we were short men, and the box just fitted us. There was enough of the grain left to make a comfortable bed, and we enjoyed it. 

The morning came, gloomy and threatening, as usual for the last two weeks. Our wagons had not come up with provisions, and we had but scanty breakfast. The enemy had not been heard from during the night. 


About seven o'clock Capt. Standart opened with his guns upon a steamboat lying in the river. He soon set it on fire with his shells and burnt it. We then congratulated ourselves that we had caught the Rebels and cut off their escape.


In a little while a long column of troops began to file away from a point a half mile below us, toward the Rebel camp. Another formed nearer us, and marched over a hill through the woods in the same direction. Then came an order to move, and off we went. We marched a half mile and halted, forming a line of battle. Just then the artillery, which had accompanied the first column, opened again. For a little while we were in doubt whether it was replied to or not, but word soon came that the entrenchments on this side were abandoned, and that we were throwing shell into fortifications on the other side without waking any one up there. Then we were ordered forward again. In a few moments we were on a hill top, and the enemy's camp lay before us. A space of more than a hundred acres, surrounded and divided by low hills, all of which were capped by long lines of earthworks. The woods were cut away, and the fallen timber lay in every direction, to hinder the approach of an attacking enemy.

As we marched over the hill into the camp, a storm was raging. There was a sullen fall of rain. The lightning leaped from the sky upon the hills on the other side of the river, as though it was pursuing the remains of the Rebel army with the wrath of Heaven. The thunder echoed our artillery.

Long columns of our men filed along the circular crests of hills. But there was hardly a cheer. We had hoped to capture every man, and though we had taken everything which made them an army, we felt disappointed. This was peculiarly the case with General Schoepff's brigade, and most particularly so with the Seventeenth and the Thirty-eighth. We had done more hard work, made more marches under the most trying circumstances, thrown up more entrenchments, and, in short had done more of every kind of soldiers' duty, than any other regiment in the State. We wanted to have the soldiers' luxury, a fight. We had waited for it here nearly two months, and at last, having run the fox to his hole, to have him taken from us by others was too bad. 


Yet the victory was complete. Thirteen cannon, more than a thousand stand of arms, a thousand horses, ammunition, baggage trains, commissary stores of every kind, tents, clothing, and, in short, everything which the poor fellows had, were left to us. A copy of the order of retreat was found, directing that the army should move at 4 o'clock, silently, and leave everything. They did not even spike their guns.


No army was ever smitten with such a panic, even in the open field. That they should leave fortifications of the extent and strength of those around their camp seemed almost incredible. Those fortifications were evidently constructed under the supervision of a skillful engineer. It would be difficult to construct more formidable earthworks. They were defended by thirteen pieces, many of them rifled. The force of the enemy, even after their heavy losses in the morning, was fully equal in numbers to our own. Yet all was abandoned.

To our men, accustomed to live in cold tents, the Rebel camp seemed almost a paradise. The most of regiments were furnished with log huts, warm, comfortable and home-like. In the commissary department they were much better supplied than we have been. No crackers, but good corn bread and biscuit most inviting. Coffee, sugar, beef, fat hogs, everything of the best, and plenty of it. The South may be starving, but the Southern army is far from it. In clothing and arms alone our troops have the advantage over them. Their guns were, many of them, flint-lock muskets, shot-guns and squirrel rifles. But few rifled muskets were found.


No signs of the enemy being visible on the other side of the river, and our own stock of provision running short, General Schoepff's Brigade was ordered back to Somerset. After traveling about eight miles on our return, we came to the field of battle.

The ground is rolling, the hills not high nor steep, but irregular, and covered, in great part, with dense woods. Along the road there are some cleared fields.

[... I did not transcribe several paragraphs here describing the battle itself. If you'd like to read them, you can click here and here....]


I rode over to the battlefield in the evening. Our men were burying the dead, but many still lay ghastly where they fell. The wounded had been all taken up. The same kind treatment was extended to the enemy's wounded which was given to our own. The universal remark which they made to me as I passed through the hospital was: -- "We never expected to be treated so. We have been misled. We expected to be served like dogs should we fall into your hands. You are kinder to us than we would have been to you." The only difference was in the burial of the dead. Those of the enemy were laid to-gether in common pits. Our own were buried in separate graves, and on many of them I saw young cedars already planted by their comrades. Beside one of the graves prepared for the enemy's killed, I noticed several lying read to be interred. One poor boy lay in the exact position, as I was told, in which he was found. He rested on his side, his head lying on his right arm, while his left hand was loosely closed on his right elbow. His eyes were closed, and he looked as though he had just fallen asleep.


One mystery still remains unraveled. Where is Major-General George B. Crittenden? Nothing was seen of him after the battle turned against him. It appears that he did not get back to his camp, for the order of retreat was signed by "Colonel Cummings, Acting Brigadier-General, in command of the troops." Did he put on a "hat, a kerchief and a muffler, and so escape?" I think that any woman's gown might fit him since this battle of Cliff Creek, without hunting for that of "my aunt, the fat woman of Brentford."

There is a strange rumor floating through the country and in our camps that he was cut off from the main body of his army, and with two regiments is still hiding somewhere in the woods this side of the river. Nobody can tell the exact spot, but the forests are wide and wild, abounding in squirrels and woodchucks, and there are still some chickens left on the scattered farms. I don't believe any one will ever be able to find the mythical Rebels, but I have no doubt that the children in the western part of Pulaski county will, for a long time, be afraid to go out alone at night, or into the woods in daytime, and that they will grow up with the fixed idea, which they in turn will transmit to their descendants, that somewhere upon the hills, on the Cumberland, or among the wild cliffs of Fishing Creek, wanders a lost Major-General with a sword ten feet long and eyes like balls of fire, and with him two thousand gigantic Tennesseans who live on babies and apple-jack, drink Jeff. Davis' health from gourds full of blood, and sing "Dixie" in the tree-tops all night long in the full moon. [14]


[January 22, 1862] -

Interesting Letter from the 17th.

We are kindly permitted to make the following extracts from the letter of a soldier to a friend in this city. It will be found interesting in many particulars, and especially so to the friends of the 17th:

SOMERSET, KY., Jan. 22, '62.

Dear Sir:

I hasten to inform you of our great victory, although I am very tired and sore, having marched about 45 miles since Sunday 2 o'clock, and over such roads as no man ever saw before. 


We went down to the river and saw all the property that fell into our hands. The rebels had killed some of their horses to prevent them falling into our hands and the destruction of property was awful. They left their trunks and baggage of every kind right in the road.


It was a perfect Bull's Run, and the loss of killed, drowned, wounded and missing cannot be less than 1,200 men. -- It is said that Zollicoffer opposed the movement, but Gen. Crittenden was his superior officer and forced the attack. It is said by his men that he (Crittenden) was drunk all the time. They had in the fight not less than eight or nine thousand men. They had most splendid fortifications, laid out by topographical engineers. It is said the officers begged them for God's sake to stop in their works but they would not. 

We have collected about 1,000 stand of arms, but few of them good, being old flint locks and shot guns. They had fine houses built of logs and chunked and daubed with clay.

I must close for I am very tired and weary. The Band did not go down to the fight and they are all asking me questions. [15]

[...You can see this whole letter here ... I only transcribed some excerpts because most of it is the same as the Jan 21 letter transcribed above this one ... ]


[January 25, 1862] -

A PATRIOTIC NEGRO. -- About the time that troops began to pass through Covington a few months ago, en route for the interior of Kentucky, a contraband belonging to Mr. Levi Dougherty, of this city [Covington?], turned up missing one morning, and all efforts to learn any thing of his whereabouts or the mode of his escape proved unavailling. A few days ago, however, the owner heard  that his "chattel" was with one of the Ohio regiments, at Somerset, Kentucky, acting in the capacity of servant to the Colonel, and strutting around in military toggery with all the pomp of a Major-General. Marshal Clint. Butts was dispatched after the fugitive yesterday, and Sambo's dreams of military renown are doubtless ere this nipped in the bud. [16]


[January 26, 1862] -

Sommerset Jan. 26th '62

Dear Rach 

I sit down today to write you a few lines. This is a beautiful Sabbath day. you may believe me or not there is little or no Sabbath day in the army. Between Cleaning guns & clothes & being inspected we spend the sabbath. But dear wife I have worked it today so as to find time to write to you. I am well in every respect at present. I rec'd two letters one from Alexandres(?) and the other from Samuel Giffin. They are all kind brothers to me but I have something that seems nearer and dearer to me that is you and the three dear little ones. I hope though that the time will speedily come when I will be permit-ted to enclose my little family once more in my arms. I never knew what it was to be absent from my family so long at once & it is pleasing to me to hear that you are getting along so well & enjoying good health. We are all moving along in camp. Our rations are three crackers a day & a tin ful of coffee as often. I am getting slim but I thank God that I enjoy good health. I have been looking with open eyes for a letter from you & hope that I will receive one soon. Our next march will be from here to Knoxville Tenn by way of Cumberland Gap a distance of some 120 miles. It ppears that we have to do our fighting traveling through mud & water. They are a very poor set of folks here & are making a great deal of money by selling pone to the soldiers. The talk was when I wrote the last letter to you that we were going to leave here immediately but when you wrote direct your letter to Sommerset Ky & tell ma all about every thing you can think of. They have the small pox within four miles of us. Giffin sent me $5,00 and six postage stamps & when I am out of crackers I pitch into the pone but it does a person no good to buy any thing to eat at before the inmates of the tent when they have not the means to get the same. But tell Lucy & Allie and one I call Rach to lay up a lot of food so that if I ever live to get home I will have a chance of getting filled up again. Lucy tell Aunt Jane that I am fighting for her as well as you & that when I get home I will fix a hearty dinner [off?] her. I think we will whale the scoundrels out against harvest if we live. Yesterday there were six hundred of Zollicoffers horses taken past here. They looked as though they had been badly shot with stake oats but I can not write much at present. I hope that God will bless you & that he will grant you a mind strong enough to endure your trouble. I would like to see you and those dear little children but it is impossible at present. I hope that you will not forget to write to me often because we are moving from place to place & have to write whenever we we can get a chance. I received Wash's letter. Newton Gorsuch is with us now and looks as mischievous as he used to when he would walk up the lane with Lucy. But you Rachel do not fret about me. I am getting along full as well and better than I expected I would when I left home. I never dreampt about you till the other night. I dreampt that I had stepped up on the doorsill of the house with the little ones gathered round me and a general kissing ensued. But I want you to write how you get your flour and whether your potatoes froze & whether you sleep sound or not & all the particulars. It is a strange thing to me that I have traveled in the wet and slept in the wet & never had the toothache since I left home. But I must stop Rachel at present hoping that in some future day we may meet no more to part until we are called upon to pass through the dark valley and shadow of death.

I am your Husband Truly

J. McClelland

John [17]

[... please visit this website for images of this letter and envelope and for additional information ...]


[January 28, 1862] -

Letter from Colonel S. S. Fry.

Mrs. Fry, wife of the gallant Colonel S. S. Fry, of the Fourth Kentucky Regiment, received a letter at Danville, on Friday last, from Colonel Fry, written after the battle near Somerset. He details in the letter the manner in which he killed General Zollicoffer, which varies somewhat from the many statements we have seen. Colonel Fry was in the act of leading his regiment into a charge upon the Mississippians, when Gen. Zollicoffer, accompanied by his aid, rode up to him and said: "You are not going to fight your friends, are you? These men (pointing to the Mississippians) are all your friends." In the mean time Zollicoffer's aid fired upon Colonel Fry, wounding his horse, from which wound the animal died. Colonel Fry then turned and fired upon Zollicoffer with fatal effect. General Z. evidently labored under the impression that Colonel Fry was a rebel officer. The stories about the old intimacy of the two officers are all untrue. They had never met before, nor did Colonel Fry know the rank of the officer upon whom he fired, as the evidence of his rank was covered by a cloak which General Zollicoffer wore in battle. -- Louisville Journal, 28th. [18]


[January 30, 1862] -

Dr. Wm. W. Strew, Brigade Surgeon of Gen. Schoepff's brigade, furnishes the Somerset (Ky.) Camp Journal, a newspaper published by printers in the army, the following statement of the killed and wounded on the Federal side, at the battle of Somerset:

Regiment Name / Wounded / Killed

10 Indiana Regiment / 57 / 11
4th Kentucky Regiment / 32 / 11
2d Minnesota Regiment / 22 / 10
9th Ohio Regiment / 23 / 6

Total: 134 / 38

In reference to the rebel dead and wounded, Dr. Stew says:

'Of the Confederates, those who were brought into quarters, and whose wounds I assisted in dressing and making as comfortable as circumstances would admit, were 74; killed and buried on the field, 190, with the exception of the bodies of Zollicoffer and Lieut. Baillie Peyton, with five rebel surgeons, who were assigned to my care by Gen. Thomas.' [19]


[February 5, 1862] -


LEXINGTON, KY., Feb. 5. -- A gentleman arrived here to-day direct from Mill Springs, from whom I have obtained some items of information which I have not seen in print. The place is called Mill Springs from the fact that a large number of springs pour out a volume of water sufficient to carry a mill. It is in the limestone section of the State, where streams not unfrequently run under ground for miles, and emerge in the shape of springs. The battle was not fought at the springs, but several miles north, at a place called Logan's Fields, where a farmer named Logan formerly resided. The fortifications of the Rebels were at Mill Springs, on both sides of the Cumberland river. The first reports of the battle were, as is generally the case, very erroneous. Even at the risk of repeating an old story, I will present the true features of the affair, since I have them from one who, having formerly been a civil engineer, has visited the ground, made topographical observations, and thoroughly understands the matter.

Looking upon the map, if it is a good one, you will see a small town on the Cumberland river, in Russell county, named Greensboro. This is not to be confounded with Greensburg, the county seat of Green, on the Green river, above Munsfordsville. General Boyle had long been in possession of Columbia, which is fifteen miles north of Greensboro, but suddenly he pushed his brigade forward, took possession of the river near Greensboro, and thus cut off Zollicoffer's connection with Nasvhille, from whence he received his supplies. He had no alternative but to advance from his den and attack Thomas, or to retreat. The country around Mill Springs, and, in fact, all Eastern Kentucky and Eastern Tennessee, is very poor. Berkshire county in Massachusetts, or Coos in New Hampshire, or the northern counties of Maine, would subsist an army much longer than any county of Eastern Kentucky or Tennessee. 

What little produce had been raised was already consumed, and Zollicoffer could not subsist his army from Knoxville, seventy-five miles distant, the nearest station on the railroad. He received intelligence that Thomas had thrown forward two regiments. The prisoners state that it was not supposed that there were more than two thousand of our troops in the vicinity. He conceived the idea of surprising them, and then, in the confusion and terror, advance upon Thomas' main force, which he supposed was at Somerset, drive him back, and then in turn engage Schoepff, who was east of Thomas, near London, about fifteen miles distant.

Exaggerated statements have been made relative to Zollicoffer's force. I think from all information received that he had about seven thousand men in the fight. The forces of Gen. Thomas engaged were the Tenth Indiana, which sustained the fight nearly an hour before reinforced, Fourth Minnesota, Ninth Ohio, and Walford's Cavalry. Other regiments came up just as the Rebels fled, but these regiments achieved the victory. [20]


[February 10, 1862] -


The Richmond Examiner has a long account of the battle of Somerset or Mill Spring, in Kentucky, from a Mississippi soldier who took part in the fight and ran away when the tide turned. This man gives a detailed description of Zollicoffer's movements previous to the battle, and then proceeds with his narrative: 

"The enemy from Columbia commanded the Cumberland river, and only one boat was enabled to come up with supplies from Nashville. With the channel of communication closed, the position became untenable without attack. Only corn could be obtained for the horses and mules, and this in such small quantities that often cavalry companies were sent out on unshod horses which had eaten nothing for two days. The roads in every direction were extremely bad, and from the landing up either bank to the camp difficult to employ wagons; and, in addition to this, the crossing of the river was bad in the small ferry-boats used for that purpose. Description would fail in portraying the difficulties of this position to one who has not seen and suffered.

"By extraordinary exertions for several days provisions enough had been gathered to ration the army with bread, meat, coffee and sugar for two days -- the 10th and 20th.

* * "On the afternoon of the 19th General Zollicoffer remarked to the writer that the enemy ought to be attacked, and on that evening General Crittenden called a council at his quarters, with Generals Zollicoffer and Carroll, and the colonels of regiments and the captains of artillery, and lieutenant colonels of cavalry battalions, and it was there unanimously agreed to make the attack.

* * * "Up the first hill and down it on both sides of the road the enemy was driven back before the impetuous charge of the brigade of General Zollicoffer; and already he was ascending the last hill to the crest, when the heaviest firing told where the battle raged. He sent for reinforcements, and the brigade of General Carroll was ordered up. When in another moment it was announced that he was killed, a sudden gloom pervaded the field and depressed the army. He had fallen on the crest of the hill, the stronghold of the enemy, which he had almost driven them from, and which, once gained, the day was ours. It is said that the enemy in front of him in the woods, after a few moments cessation of firing, and some movement, was taken by him to be a regiment of his own command, and that he rode up to give them command, when he was cooly shot down, pierced by several balls.

"Immediately on the announcement of his death, Gen. Crittenden in person rode up to the front of the fight and directed the movements of the day with perfect coolness, in the very midst of the fire of the enemy, and where several were killed around him. His friends remonstrated against this recklessness, and entreated him to occupy a less exposed position, but he would not leave the front, and sat on his horse unmoved, except when a regiment would fall back under the heavier fire of superior numbers, when he would in person, under fire, speak to and rally the men."

The evacuation of the rebel entrenchments is explained thus:

"Then arose the question whether to defend or evacuate the place. Suppose we could have held it against the superior force attacking? In a few days we would have been starved out, and if, with their battery, which commanded the landing, they had injured the boat, escape would have been impossible, and surrender inevitable. Again, by taking Mill Springs in our rear, which could have been done with a small force, retreat at any time would have been out off, and it would have been vain to think of cutting a way out in front, because, without rations, the army would have been precipitated into a barren country, unable to afford any subsistence whatever. To prevent these straits an immediate crossing of the river during the night was necessary, and as time permitted only to cross the men, baggage, camp equipage, wagons, horses and artillery had to be left -- a great sacrifice, but not to be estimated in the balance with saving the army. This bold and masterly movement was accomplished on this night, and the next morning, saw our army on the south of the Cumberland, and the enemy in Camp Beech Grove.

"The crossing was affected during the night by the aid of the steamboat Noble Ellis, which had before ascended the river with supplies, and which was efficiently commanded on this occasion by Captain Speller, of the cavalry.

"The river crossed, it was necessary to move somewhere in search of provisions and forage. If no enemy had appeared, the quitting of this portion of Kentucky had been gravely considered and almost determined upon, and in a few days would have been compelled. It was impossible to move further into Kentucky from the barrenness of the mountains between that point and the Blue Grass; and all the counties on the left and right and the northern counties of East Tennessee were too poor to support the army one day. With a vastly superior force attacking, the movement to the Cumberland river at Gainsboro, a point of supply, was precipitated -- and to this Gen. Crittenden is moving with short days' marches."

Major Henry M. R. Fogg, aide-de-camp to Zollicoffer, was wounded in the battle -- it was supposed slightly -- but has since died. Lieut. C. B. Shields, another member of the General's staff, is said to have been killed by his side. In addition to these are the names of Capt. Dodson, of the Hermitage Guards, Lieut. Peyton of the Hickory Guards, Sergeant Gray, of the Suwanee Rifles, and Lieut. Col. Carter. Among the wounded we notice the names of several colonels. [21]


[February 10, 1862] -


The Nashville (Tenn.) papers announce that General George B. Crittenden, of the Confederate army, who commanded in conjunction with General Zollicoffer, at the battle of Somerset, Ky., has been arrested on very serious charges. Gen. C. is a son of the Hon. John J. Crittenden, of Kentucky, and his friends allege that the charges against him are unfounded. The Nashville papers, however, comment severely upon his conduct, as will be seen by the subjoined extracts:

The Nashville Gazette has a slashing article on the "Sin of Drunkenness," pointedly applying its comments directly to Gen. Crittenden. It says of that officer:

"But for the deplorable fact that Gen. Crittenden, of Kentucky, who is, we regret to say, generally regarded as a common drunkard, had been made the superior in command of the lamented Zollicoffer, the devoted hearts of the Southern patriots might not to-day be lacerated and overwhelmed with grief almost insupportable. We firmly believe that the investigations to be made of the causes leading to this great disaster to our arms will disclose the fact that Gen. Crittenden was, at the time of the action, in an almost beastly state of intoxication, and has been so, almost incessantly, since the commencement of his connection with the Confederate army. We shall feel some little astonishment if this investigation does not also connect with Crittenden's crime of drunkenness the greater sins of treason, treachery and cowardice."

A correspondent of the Memphis Avalanche, writing from Nashville, Jan. 25, says:

"Indeed, you can scarcely pass along the excited crowds upon the streets -- for Nasvhille has a goodly attendance on her streets at present -- without hearing the commanding officer characterized as a drunkard, 'notorious sot,' 'sold our brave soldiers for $47,000,' 'death too good for him,' and more of a worse tenor. There are others, however, who believe that the commander at Mill Spring is a brave and true patriot, and prefer to wait for further developments before expressing their condemnation. In this latter class I may be found; but while I would do justice to Gen. Crittenden -- while I would not have him or his official conduct prejudiced -- I must be permitted to say that, if the half of what is here reported be true, there is no punishment that is too severe for him."

The following statement, indicating Crittenden's understanding and intercourse with the Federal officers is published in the Memphis Avalanche. We quote from the statement where Crittenden ordered a retreat from the camp at Mill Creek to the south side of the Cumberland.

"Colonel Battle's regiment was thrown out as a picket guard in front of the fortifications while the retreat of the other regiments was made. They were ordered by Crittenden to halt within four miles of Monticello, and form a line of battle, to draw on the enemy for another fight. The regiments halted at Mrs. Roberts', at the point designated, and a consultation was held by the officers.

"When the officers gathered for consultation, Colonel Battle revealed the contents of the papers which had been extracted from the body of a negro man who was shot while attempting to cross the river to the enemy on Saturday night, at about 10 1/2 o'clock. Mr. Smith, our informant was one of the persons who captured the negro. The story runs thus:

"A Captain West, a Union man, lives near the encampment. A number of the members of Duncan's company had been having their washing done at West's. On Saturday, prior to the battle, Gen. Crittenden dined with West. He gave West some papers, which were to be transmitted across the river, by a negro, to the Northern army. A negro, Elizabeth, in the afternoon, told the negro girl attached to Duncan's company that a certain negro (calling him by name) of her master's was to go beyond the river that night with papers to the Northern army.

"The intelligence was conveyed to the members of Duncan's company, who at first disregarded the report, attaching no importance to it. But the report was emphasized by the two negroes (the girl of Captain West and the negro of the company) visiting the camp together and reporting it; whereupon eight men (among them W. B. Smith) were sent toward the river, the latter going himself, in search of the negro. These men had proceeded about four and a half miles, when they met a man driving cattle, who informed them of the direction in which he had seen the negro traveling. The men hastened to within half a mile below Stagal's Ferry, reaching there about seven o'clock P.M.  They saw the negro in a canoe about half way across the river. They called to him to stop, but he went on, when four of the men fired upon him, killing him in the canoe. They then rolled a large log into the river, somewhat above, which was straddled by tares[?], which with their hands they paddled into the middle of the river to the canoe. They extracted from the person of the negro papers which, upon returning to camp, they delivered to Col. Battle. It was between 10 and 11 o'clock when the papers were delivered to Col. Battle, who had his command moving under the order to march against the enemy. He was unable, consequently, to examine the papers until after the whole battle had occurred. The papers were examined early on Monday morning, and were exposed before the officers in their consultation at Mrs. Roberts', in four miles from Monticello, where they had been ordered by Crittenden to halt.

"When the consultation of the officers was being held, Crittenden rode hastily to Monticello. Col. Battle told the brigade that they had been sold. The regiments then proceeded to Monticello, and, upon their arrival, Gen. Crittenden was found at the Houston Hotel, in his bed, deeply intoxicated. He was immediately arrested, and is now a prisoner of war, held by Cols. Stanton, Battle, Stratham, and Newman. The papers discovered are said to reveal the character of our fortifications at Mill Spring, the number of our troops, and the amount of provisions on hand, etc."

(From the Nashville Banner)

Gen. Crittenden will doubtless appear before a court-martial, which will determine the right and wrong of the matter. If he is found guilty of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, he will receive the amplest justice of a code never too lenient. If he is not guilty, surely no one wishes to condemn him unjustly. And more than all, we are not willing to add fuel to the flame of indignation which already completely overwhelms him from highway and byway, before we are throughly apprised of the official facts in the case. [22]


To read more letters and the official military correspondence regarding this battle, please visit www.millsprings.net.



[1] "Army Correspondence." Lancaster Gazette, Lancaster, OH. January 2, 1862. Page 3. Newspapers.com.

[2] Excerpt from Column 4 (Correspondence from Louisville dated December 27, 1861). Janesville Daily Gazette, Janesville, WI. January 2, 1862. Page 2. Newspapers.com.

[3] "Yankee Attack of the Salt Works in Kentucky." Richmond Dispatch, Richmond, VA. January 16, 1862. Page 2. Newspapers.com.

[4] Excerpt from "War News Items." Deseret News, Salt Lake City, UT. January 1, 1862. Newspapers.com.

[5] Excerpt from "The War News -- The War in Kentucky." The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore, MD. January 3, 1862. Page 1. Newspapers.com.

[6] "Army Correspondence." Lancaster Gazette, Lancaster, OH. January 16, 1862. Page 1. Newspapers.com.

[7] "Social Estrangement." Cincinnati Daily Press, Cincinnati, OH. January 8, 1862. Page 2. Newspapers.com.

[8] "Complaints of the Federal Soldiers." Memphis Daily Appeal, Memphis, TN. January 10, 1862. Page 4. Newspapers.com.

[9] "From Zollicoffer's Camp." The New York Times, New York, NY. January 15, 1862. Page 2. Newspapers.com.

[10] "The Skirmish near Somerset, Ky." The Indianapolis Star, Indianapolis, IN. January 15, 1862. Page 2. Newspapers.com.

[11] Excerpt from "Horrors of East Tennessee." The Buffalo Commercial, Buffalo, NY. January 14, 1862. Page 2. Newspapers.com.

[12] Excerpt from Column 5. Cincinnati Daily Press, Cincinnati, OH. January 14, 1862. Page 2. Newspapers.com.

[13] "Interesting Items from the late Battle Field." Cleveland Daily Leader, Cleveland, OH. January 25, 1862. Page 1. Newspapers.com.

[14] Excerpts from "The War in Kentucky." The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia, PA. January 27, 1862.  Page 2. Newspapers.com.

[15] Excerpts from "Interesting Letter from the 17th." Lancaster Gazette, Lancaster, OH. January 30, 1862. Page 3. Newspapers.com.

[16] Excerpt from "Covington News." Cincinnati Enquirer, Cincinnati, OH. January 25, 1862. Page 3. Newspapers.com.

[17] Private John F. McClelland, Co. B, 16th OVI, 
to his wife, Rachel Lockhart McClelland in Millersburg, Ohio. http://www.mkwe.com/ohio/pages/mcclellandj-letter6.htm (accessed July 17, 2017).

[18] "Letter from Colonel S. S. Fry." Cincinnati Daily Press, Cincinnati, OH. January 29, 1862. Page 2. Newspapers.com.

[19] Excerpt from “The Battle of Somerset.” The Plymouth Democrat, Plymouth, IN. January 30, 1862. Page 2. Newspapers.com.

[20] "Something about Mill Springs." The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia, PA. February 12, 1862. Page 3. Newspapers.com.

[21] Excerpt from “Latest News from the South.” The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore, MD. February 10, 1862. Page 1. Newspapers.com.

[22] Excerpt from “Latest News from the South.” The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore, MD. February 10, 1862. Page 1. Newspapers.com.


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