The Official Records pertaining to the Battle of Mill Springs, KY, January 19, 1862
Including: Letters, Photographs and other significant documents
Compiled by COL Jerry McFarland, William Neikirk, David Gilbert and The Mill Springs Battlefield Association
No. 1.-Brig. Gen. Don Carlos Buell, U. S. Army, commanding Department of the Ohio, with instructions to Cross-Roads, Brigadier-General Thomas, and congratulatory orders.
No. 2.-Brig. Gen. George H. Thomas, U. S. Army, commanding division, with congratulatory orders.
No. 3.-Col. Mahlon D. Manson, Tenth Indiana Infantry, commanding Second Brigade.
No. 4.-Col. Speed S. Fry, Fourth Kentucky Infantry. <ar7_76>
No. 5-Col. John M. Harlan, Tenth Kentucky Infantry.
No. 6.-Lieut. Col. William C. Kise, Tenth Indiana Infantry.
No. 7.-Col. Robert L. McCook, Ninth Ohio Infantry, commanding Third Brigade.
No. 8.-Col. Horatio P. Van Cleve, Second Minnesota Infantry.
No. 9.-Lieut. George H. Harries, Adjutant Ninth Ohio Infantry.
No. 10.-Col. Samuel P. Carter, commanding Twelfth Brigade.
No. 11.-Col. William A. Hoskins, Twelfth Kentucky Infantry.
No. 12.-Col. Frank Wolford, First Kentucky Cavalry.
No. 13.-Capt. Wiliram E. Standart, Battery B, First Ohio Light Artillery.
No. 14.-Capt. Dennis Kenny, Jr., Battery C, First Ohio Light Artillery.
No. 15.-Congratulatory order from the President.
No. 16.-Gen. A. Sidney Johnston, C. S. Army, commanding the Western Department.
No. 17.-Maj. Gen. George B. Crittenden, C. S. Army, commanding division.
No. 18.-Brig. Gen. William H. Carroll, C. S. Army, commanding Second Brigade.
No. 19.-Maj. Horace Rice, Twenty-ninth Tennessee Infantry (Confederate).
HDQRS. SECOND BRIGADE DIVISION, C.S. ARMY
Gainesborough, Tenn., February 1, 1862
Major-General CRITTENDEN, Commanding Division
.....GENERAL: I embrace the first leisure moment, after receiving reports from the different commanding officers of this brigade, to lay before you an account of the operations of my command in the engagement with the enemy near Fishing Creek, Kentucky, on the morning of January 19.
.....In accordance with your orders of January 17, which reached me at midnight of that date, I moved the Seventeenth Tennessee Regiment, then under command of Lieut. Col. J. P. Murray, (*) from their encampment at Mill Springs to the north side of Cumberland River, and halted them at Camp Beech Grove, taking quarters with the Twentieth and Twenty-fifth Tennessee Regiments, commanded by Colonels Battle and Stanton, which were then encamped at that place, at 8 p.m.
.....On the evening of the 18th instant I received orders from you to move my command at 12 o'clock that night by the Fishing Creek road in the direction of Webb's [Logan's] Cross-Roads, a point some 10 miles distant in a northern direction from the position we then occupied. At the hour designated I put my command in motion and took up the line of march for the point above mentioned. The brigade, commanded by Brig. Gen. F. K. Zollicoffer, preceded me about thirty minutes, taking the same direction and marching about 1 mile in advance of my front. My command, consisting of the Seventeenth, Twenty-eighth, and Twenty-ninth Tennessee and Sixteenth Alabama Regiments of Infantry, Lieutenant-Colonel Branner's battalion of cavalry, and two pieces of McClung's battery, moved in the following order: The Seventeenth Tennessee, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Miller, marched in front; the Twenty-eighth Tennessee, commanded by Col. J. P. Murray followed at the distance of about 30 paces in rear of the Seventeenth; the Twenty-ninth Tennessee, Col. S. Powell, marched about the same distance in rear of Colonel Murray; the artillery and one company of Branner's cavalry brought up the rear, and the remaining cavalry companies marched on either flank, with orders to scout the adjoining woods upon the right and left of the Fishing Creek road, along which we were then marching. The Sixteenth Alabama Regiment, under the command of Colonel Wood, marched about 500 paces in rear of the remainder of my command, with orders to hold his command as a reserve corps and be governed in his after movements as emergencies might require.
.....The night was dark and gloomy; a cold rain was constantly descending, rendering the march extremely difficult and unpleasant. This, together with the almost impassable condition of the roads, rendered so by recent heavy rains, so much retarded our progress, that at daylight we had not advanced more than 10 miles from Camp Beech Grove, thus consuming nearly six hours in marching this short distance.
.....Just at dawn on the morning of the 19th, and while the troops were toiling slowly along through mud and water, sometimes more than a foot in depth, I heard the report of several guns, fired in quick succession, apparently about half a mile in advance of me. This firing I supposed [to be] from the enemy's pickets, who had discovered the approach of General Zollicoffer's brigade. In a few minutes I heard a heavy <ar7_112> volley of musketry proceeding from the direction of the former reports and extending some distance to my right and left in a line running parallel with the front of my command. The rapid and continuous fire in front convinced me that General Zollicoffer had encountered the enemy in strong force and a determined and sanguinary conflict had commenced.
.....I immediately moved my command forward at double-quick about half a mile to the brow of a hill and deployed my columns in line of battle, making the summit of the hill a partial protection for the men. While forming and preparing for the engagement the regiment of Colonel Murray constituted the right of my line of battle and was extended the full length of its line on the east side of Fishing Creek road, while the Seventeenth Tennessee Regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel Miller, composed my left, and extended in a similar manner on the west side of the road. Colonel Powell's regiment (Twenty-ninth Tennessee) was drawn up in the rear of the Twenty-eighth, designed to act as a supporting or reserve corps, as circumstances might require. Colonel Wood's Sixteenth Alabama was posted about 100 paces in rear of the Twenty-ninth, and on the east side of the road. Branner's cavalry was directed to take post in rear and supporting distance of my left flank while McClung's artillery was stationed in rear of my center.
.....This disposition of my forces was partly induced by surrounding circumstances. The morning was exceedingly cloudy, and rendered still darker by the dense volumes of smoke arising from the firing in front, so that the eye could distinguish objects clearly only at a short distance. I could, therefore, only judge of the probable force and position of the enemy by the flash and report of their guns. Judging as correctly as I could by these indications, I was induced to think that the most vigorous attack was being made in front and east of my right wing.
.....In order to determine the proper manner and most available point of bringing my force into action, I left my command stationary, and with my staff rode forward until I came in view of the enemy, on the declivity of the opposite hill, engaged in a fierce conflict with a portion of General Zollicoffer's brigade. I then approached you, reported for orders, and returned to my command. Soon afterwards your aide, Captain Thornton, rode up and ordered me to advance a regiment to sustain the gallant Fifteenth Mississippi in a charge which he was then on the way to order.
.....I accordingly ordered Colonel Murray's regiment to move forward to the foot of the hill and take shelter behind a rail fence and some surrounding timber. In a few minutes the chivalrous Mississippians gallantly charged and were driving the enemy rapidly before them. While thus engaged a regiment of cavalry commenced a flank movement against their left. I then ordered Colonel Murray to advance his regiment against this flanking force. This order was received with a shout by the entire regiment, who, led by their colonel, dashed into the thickest of the fight. About this time a strong re-enforcement of the enemy appeared on our left, evidently intending to attack and turn our left flank. In order to thwart this design, I ordered Colonel Cummings' regiment, of General Zollicoffer's brigade which was near at hand and for the moment disengaged, to move by the left flank in the direction of the approaching enemy, thus extending our lines nearly to the full extent of their right. Misunderstanding the order, the regiment fell into some confusion, which was, however, quickly overcome by the promptness and activity of the commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Walker. It then moved in good order to the place assigned it and did <ar7_113> good service as long as it remained under my observation. I then ordered up the Seventeenth Tennessee, Lieutenant-Colonel Miller, and formed it behind a fence, within 80 or 100 yards of the enemy. This position they held for nearly one hour against an overwhelming force, meanwhile pouring a most destructive fire against the advancing column, spreading terror through the ranks of the enemy.
.....I cannot speak too highly of the striking influence over this regiment, of the thorough and rigid discipline to which it had been reduced by its efficient commander, Col. T. W. Newman, who I regret was prevented from being present at the engagement by some indisposition.
.....Perceiving that the enemy was being re-enforced in this quarter by several fresh regiments, and that they were pushing on with a most determined courage, I directed my aide, W. I Carroll, to return and order up the regiments of Colonels Wood and Powell, that had up to this time been held in reserve. Colonel Wood brought his men forward with the steadiness of veterans, and formed them in battle array with the coolness and precision of a holiday parade. Advancing very near the enemy, we kept up a constant and most destructive fire until we were forced to quit the field and fall back before superior numbers. Returning a short distance we rallied and renewed the contest, but were again assailed by an unequal force and again driven slowly back, stubbornly contesting every inch of ground over which the enemy were advancing. The action had now become general all along my entire line---the Federals fighting with unusual vigor and courage. Re-enforcements of the enemy continuing to pour in upon us in every direction, the ground was soon covered with the dead and wounded, and the discharge of small-arms and the roar of cannon were incessant. Whenever we could succeed in driving back one regiment another would supply its place and meet us with a more determined resistance. Their artillery, having been brought into play, swept the entire field, throwing shell, grape, and canister shot into our very midst.
.....In the meantime the Twenty-eighth Tennessee, Col. J. P. Murray, being assailed by more than twice its numbers, after making a brief resistance, broke and fled in confusion from the field. The Twenty-ninth Tennessee, Colonel Powell, was also attacked in a similar manner, and, the colonel himself being seriously wounded, his men fell back in considerable disorder and could not be induced to face the enemy again though every effort was made to rally them back by their own officers and members of my staff. Two regiments of General Zollicoffer's command had already been forced to retire from the field. Their retreat through my ranks contributed very much to throw my columns into disorder. The regiments of Colonel Wood and Lieutenant-Colonel Miller continued to hold the enemy at bay, slowly retiring from the field now lost to us.
.....Perceiving the fortunes of the day were against us, and that we could not longer maintain the unequal contest, I reluctantly permitted my entire command to retreat in the direction of our works at Mill Springs. I was not able to bring either my cavalry, or artillery into action, in consequence of the rugged and uneven nature of the ground over which the battle was fought. While retiring from the field the enemy evidenced little disposition to pursue us, having evidently suffered, in all probability, a great loss than our own.
.....Late in the afternoon my command reached our encampment at Beech Grove and took possession of the fortifications formerly erected at that place. I succeeded in bringing from the field as many of my wounded as my limited means of transportation would permit. <ar7_114>
.....At about 5 o'clock in the evening the enemy, having approached within about a mile of our works, planted their batteries of heavy guns on commanding eminences and commenced a vigorous cannonade, which would soon have driven us out of our fortifications had not the setting in of night prevented a further prosecution of the attack.
.....Our position being wholly untenable, it was determined in a council of officers, called by yourself, to abandon it and return to the opposite bank of the Cumberland. Having but one small boat to transport the entire force across, it was found impossible to carry with us any of our camp equipage. It was destroyed, therefore, in order that it might not fall into the hands of the enemy. I was also compelled to abandon two pieces of McClung's battery and nearly all of my cavalry horses. Some of the latter succeeded in swimming the river and many were drowned in the attempt. By daylight in the morning my entire command had reached the south side of the Cumberland.
.....Being entirely without commissary supplies, and there being none, or but little, in the surrounding country, my men became more apprehensive of destruction by famine than at the hands of the enemy. Under the influence of this panic, created by a fear of starvation, many deserted the army and fled through the mountains into East Tennessee. Among these, I regret to say, were some officers, but mostly, however, of an inferior grade. Most of my officers exerted every effort to preserve their commands intact and maintain the strictest order of discipline in the retreat.
.....The casualties in my command during the engagement were as follows:
.....It will thus be seen that my entire loss in killed, wounded, and missing amounts in the aggregate to 103. The repulse of the regiments of my command that gave way in confusion during the battle is attributed (besides the superior numbers with which they were contending), in a great measure, to the inefficient and worthless character of their arms, being old flint-lock muskets and country rifles nearly half of which would not fire at all. During the engagement I saw numbers of the men walking deliberately away from the field of action for no other reason than [that] their guns were wholly useless. Another reason why some of the troops under my command did not exhibit a more soldierly bearing is found in the fact that they had only a day or two before been assigned me and were deficient in drill and discipline, having previous to that time had little opportunity of becoming proficient in these particulars. I cannot close this report without expressing the high appreciation, both by myself and my officers, for the personal courage and skill evinced both by yourself and staff during the entire engagement; and however much I may regret the unfortunate disaster which befell us, I feel conscious that it resulted from no want of gallantry and military tact on the part of the commanding general.
.....For more minute details I respectfully refer you to the accompanying reports of the commanding officers of my brigade.
I am, general, very respectfully,
W. H. CARROLL, Brigadier-General