September 30, 1864: Hood moving north

John Bell Hood
John Bell Hood


Sherman finds that Forrest is threatening Nashville, while at least part of Hood’s infantry is north of the Chattahoochee. While there is some cause for concern, leading Thomas to forbid furloughs for his troops till the supply line north is secure, Sherman also recognizes that if Hood goes north of him, all of Georgia is essentially undefended.

Official Records:

NASHVILLE, September 30, 1864.
Major-General SHERMAN,

Only one Kentucky regiment has arrived here of three ordered. We can hold this city against any number yet reported. Numbers of rebels reported on south side of Tennessee River, trying to cross. There must be somewhere a large force over what Forrest has now with him. The infantry can defend road, but cavalry is needed to catch the raiders.



NASHVILLE, TENN., September 30, 1864-11 p. m.
Major T. T. ECKERT:

General Thomas arrived at Tullahoma and assumed charge of operations to-day. Forrest is still near Fayetteville. Several small parties are breaking wires and doing other light damage on line of Chattanooga road, but no serious attempt has been made to destroy it. All our lines working to Atlanta, Knoxville, Decatur, and Pulaski, with frequent stops, which delay, but do not prevent, communication.



September 30, 1864.
Major-General SHERMAN:

I find this place crowded with officers and soldiers on leave and furlough. No more should be allowed to leave Atlanta until the road is reported clear to Nashville. From what I can learn about Forrest I think I will have to send General Morgan’s DIVISION to Tullahoma. I will know more in a few hours and before the DIVISION can start from here.



In the Field, Atlanta, Ga., September 30, 1864-11 a. m.
Major General G. H. THOMAS,

Your dispatch is received. I have notified all army commanders to stop furloughs. Give orders to keep the telegraph line, via Knoxville and Cumberland Gap, in good order. There is no doubt some of Hood’s infantry is across the Chattahoochee, but I don’t think his whole army is across. If he moves his whole force to Blue Mountain, you watch him from the direction of Stevenson, and I will do the same from Rome, and as soon as all things are ready I will take advantage of his opening to me all of Georgia.

Major-General, Commanding.


September 30, 1864-12. 30 p. m.
Major-General SHERMAN,

My latest news up to 10 a. m. is that Forrest was at Lynchburg, and Milroy’s scout reported that he heard some of Forrest’s officers say that they would attack the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad to-day and destroy it north, as they did the other.

I am getting Morgan’s troops arranged, and hope he will reach there to-night. If Forrest does not break the road to-day, I hope it will be secured by to-night. Granger’s information confirms Milroy’s as to Forrest’s position last night. I have heard from Rousseau at Wartrace, his cavalry to his front and right, observing Forrest’s movement. He also reports Forrest at Lynchburg.

Major-General, U. S. Volunteers, Commanding.

Posted in Atlanta, George Thomas, Georgia, John Bell Hood, Nathan Bedford Forrest, Sherman's March, William Tecumseh Sherman | Leave a comment

September 29, 1864: Sherman exchanges prisoners

Andersonville Prison

Sherman has completed an exchange of 2000 prisoners, and is happy to have them out of Andersonville. Hood is still south of Atlanta. Sherman has sent Thomas to clear rebels out of Tennessee, and he plans to head for Milledgeville, then capital of Georgia.

ATLANTA, GA., September 29, 1864-8. 30 p. m.

(Received 7 p. m. 30th.)

Major-General HALLECK,

Chief of Staff:

I have now effected the actual exchange of 2,000 prisoners of my own army. General Stoneman will be here to-morrow, and Colonel Harrison is already in. Our prisoners have been moved from Andersonville to Savannah, Millen, and Charleston. Any change will be for the better. I have agreed with Hood to send to Griffin, to be forwarded to our prisoners, a supply of clothing, soap, combs, &c. The latter will be furnished by the Sanitary Commission, and the former by the quartermaster. I take it for granted that Forrest will cut our road, but I think we can prevent his making a serious lodgment. His cavalry will travel a hundred miles in less time than ours will ten. I have sent two DIVISIONS up to Chattanooga, and one to Rome, and Thomas started to-day to clear out Tennessee; but our road should be watched from the rear, and I am glad General Grant has ordered reserves for me to Nashville. I prefer for the future to make the movement on Milledgeville, Millen, and Savannah River. Hood now rests twenty-four miles south, his left on the Chattahoochee, and his right on the WEST Point road. He is removing the iron of the Macon road. I can whip his infantry, but his cavalry is to be feared.



Posted in Andersonville, Georgia, John Bell Hood, Nathan Bedford Forrest, William Tecumseh Sherman | Leave a comment

September 28, 1864: Ewing successfully evacuates Fort Davidson

Brig. Gen. Thomas Ewing

The New York Times reports on the battle of Fort Davidson. Ewing’s “defeat” is both a tactical victory in terms of the relative casualty numbers, and a strategic victory, in that Price’s assault on St. Louis will never develop.

St. LOUIS, MO., THURSDAY, OCT. 6th, 1864.

The safe arrival at Rolla of Brig. Gen. EWING, with his command, is simply told, but when the circumstances of the campaign are detailed, and the mind dwells upon them for a space, a feeling of admiration for the skill and bravery of that Commander must find place in every breast, and cause a glow of patriotism to thrill the heart that truly feels for the brave men who are sacrificing so much to restore peace to the nation.

My communication of the 2nd inst., gave you a general idea of the battle of Arcadia Valley, which events have proven to be the struggle for the possession of the Iron Mountain Railroad, and hence the temporary possession of St. Louis by the rebels. A few more details of that affair are necessary to complete the account, and these I am enabled to give from the highest and most reliable sources.

Gen. EWING left the brigade of Major General A.J. SMITH’s command at Mineral Point, on the Iron Mountain railroad, and with one hundred and thirty men reached Pilot Knob on Sunday morning, the 25th of September. He found the rebels in superior force, and the outposts of the Knob all driven in. He gathered these together and found that he had about one thousand men, viz: a battery of ten-pound Rodman guns, ten companies of infantry and three of cavalry. The greater part of this command were raw troops, but the best was made of the material, as events will show. Gen. EWING removed all the stores from Pilot Knob first, and sent them to St. Louis, and then commenced to fall back slowly, but still presenting a bold front to the enemy. The latter soon discovered the actual state of affairs, and growing more bold as EWING fell back, soon compelled him to take one horn of a dilemma — he must either leave the valley open to the rebel advance, and allow it to reach the Iron Mountain Railroad, or make a stand and take the chances of capture or destruction. Fort Davidson favored what the General already decided upon, a stand and a fight, as good as he could make it under the circumstances. Some account of the fight in the fort was given you, and it is only necessary to add that the mountains around it are nearly five hundred feet high, and their base not more than one thousand yards from the fort, to understand fully the advantage EWING had, as long as the enemy did not climb to the top with artillery. The valley lies like a great letter S, between Cedar, Rock, Sheppard and Iron Mountains and Pilot Knob, and the curve runs due North and South. The fort is in the upper curve of the S, and the rebels came into the valley through Fredericktown, and entered the lower curve. The rest is known already; they were literally mowed down before the sustained fire from the fort, and after several attempts during Tuesday, fell back and commenced clambering up the sides of the mountains. FAGIN took possession of Iron Mountain and Marmaduke Sheppard Mountain. Gen. PRICE was at Pilot Knob, and directed the movements. As soon as the mountain sides were gained, EWING saw that there was no more safety in the fort, and he resolved to evacuate rather than be captured, destroyed, or to surrender. The rebels may have suspected this, for no sooner was he ready to depart than a tremendous fire burst out in the furnaces of Pilot Knob. All the coal accumulated there for iron smelting for months was in a blaze at once, and the entire valley and mountain sides were lit up bright as day. EWING went on with his preparations, but more stealthily. In the meantime


came from PRICE, by the hands of a refugee, for EWING had persistently resisted every attempt of the rebels to gain on him by a flag of truce, a favorite dodge of theirs. The proposition was that if EWING would surrender his command, he would be permitted to march out of the fort, officers carrying their side arms, and private property of all held sacred from pillage. It is needless to say that this was disregarded, and the preparations for evacuation and retreat went on. At midnight these were completed and the garrison was withdrawn through a covered way, and the artillery removed by muffling the wheels and moving stealthily until the shadows of the mountain concealed all from view. The evacuation was a complete success, and the command moved rapidly out northward on the Caledonia road, as Gen. EWING hoped to reach Mineral Point, where he expected to find A.J. SMITH’s brigade, but instead of this, he encountered in the streets of Caledonia the advance of SHELBY and drove it back. This circumstance was proof positive that the upper part of the road was in the hands of the rebels. He had little time to determine on his course, for SHELBY was now coming in force from Potosi, so EWING decided to strike for Rolla by way of Webster and Osage.
PRICE’s proposition was accompanied by a threat that if it was not agreed to, he would take the fort by assault and kill every man found in it. SHELBY was ordered from Potosi for the purpose of making the assault, and it became his apparent duty now to follow EWING and either capture or demolish his command.

Wednesday night was very dark and stormy, succeeding a day of constant skirmishing with the enemy who seemed to spring from the ground on every side. The retreat was conducted under the most embarrassing circumstances, for a host of refugees, white and black, old men, women and children flocked to the Union banner and sought protection under its bright and friendly folds. At every attack and fire of the enemy they stampeded and imparted alarm to the raw soldiery, now no longer protected by earthworks, but exposed in the open field to an experienced and overwhelmingly superior foe. Nothing could have saved the entire force from utter demolition but the unflagging energy, coolness and courage of Gen. EWING and the battery of Rodman’s guns.

Posted in Missouri, Sterling Price, Thomas Ewing | Leave a comment

September 27, 1864: Battle of Fort Davidson

Brig. Gen. Thomas Ewing

General Price led a rebel attack on Pilot Knob, on his way to attack St. Louis. The Union garrison under the command of Brigadier General Thomas Ewing, though outnumbered 10 to 1 and mostly inexperienced, held off poorly conceived attacks by Marmaduke until they were able to slip out under cover of darkness. They inflicted such disproportionate casualties on the Confederates that Price was obliged to turn back, ending the threat on the Union rear in Missouri.

On a personal note, my friend Bill Eddleman will be participating in a re-enactment of the battle this weekend.

Ewing’s report on the battle of Fort Davidson:

Official Records:

Saint Louis, October 20, 1864.

SIR: I have the honor to report that on the night of the 24th of September the major-general commanding, having learned that Price’s army had entered the department by way of Poplar Bluffs and Bloomfield, ordered me to take a brigade of the Second Division, Sixteenth Army Corps, which was then at Jefferson Barracks, and patrol and garrison the Iron Mountain Railroad, reporting to Major General A. J. Smith, who was to follow next day with the other brigades of the division. At De Soto, leaving the rest of the brigade to await further orders from General Smith, I went on with the Fourteenth Iowa Infantry, strengthening the garrisons at all the bridges and making temporary headquarters at Mineral Point.

From each station where there was cavalry I sent scouting parties east and south, which returned by Monday morning, reporting no enemy north of Fredericktown. They brought, however, apparently credible rumors that Price was at Fredericktown with all his army,. At 10 Monday morning I took Companies B, C, D, E, and H, Fourteenth Iowa Infantry, under Captain Campbell, and went to Pilot Knob. Major James Wilson, Third Missouri State Militia Cavalry, then commanded the Third Sub-District of this district, with headquarters at that post. He had under orders withdrawn his outposts from Patterson, Centreville, Fredericktown and Farmington, and collected at Pilot Knob, all the available force of his sub-district, except bridge guards. The force there present consisted of Companies A, F, E, G, H, and I, Forty-seventh Missouri Infantry, and Captain Lindsay’s company, Fiftieth Missouri Infantry, which were raw troops, with an aggregate of 489 officers and men for duty, and Companies A, C, D, H, I, and K, Third Missouri State Militia Cavalry; Company L, Second Missouri State Militia Cavalry; Company G, First Missouri State Militia Infantry and Captain Montgomery’s battery, which, with the detachment of the Fourteenth Iowa, made an aggregate of old troops for duty of 562.

My instructions from Major-General Rosecrans were to have Major Wilson endeavor to hold Pilot Knob against any mere detachment of the enemy, but to evacuate if Price’s main army should move against it. The village of Pilot Knob, which is the terminus of the railroad and the depot for supply of the lower outposts, is eighty-six miles south of Saint Louis. It lies in a plain of about 1,000 acres, encircled by Cedar and Rock Mountains on the north, Pilot Knob on the east, and Shepherd’s Mountain, stretching around the valley, on the south and west. Each hill is from 500 to 600 feet in height, and rises abruptly from the valley, with the sides toward it covered with rocks, gnarled oaks, and undergrowth. The southern and western slopes of Shepherd’s Mountain are accessible and several roads lead over them to “the coalings” on its summit. Stout’s Creek flows along the base of Shepherd’s Mountain and through a gap between it and Pilot Knob into a larger valley of several thousands of acres, encircled by a chain of hills, in the northern end of which and about a mile from the town of Pilot Knob is the flourishing village of Ironton. Through this gap runs the road from Pilot Knob to Fredericktown, passing out of the larger valley by the “Shut-in,” a gap four miles southeast of Pilot Knob. The two valleys are called Arcadia.

Fort Davidson is a hexagonal work, mounting four 32-pounder siege guns and three 24-pounder howitzers en barbette. It lies about 300 yards from the base of the knob and 1,000 from the gap. From the fort to the remotest summit of these hills visible from it is not over 1,200 yards, while all parts of the hill-sides toward the fort, except the west end of Shepherd’s Mountain, are in musket-range. The fort was always conceded to be indefensible against any large army having serviceable artillery.

Early last summer I sent competent engineers to select another site, but such are the difficulties of the position no practicable place could be found any more defensible. I therefore had the roads leading up the hills obstructed, cleared the nearest hill-sides of timber, and put the fort in a thorough state of defense by deepening the ditches, strengthening the parapet, and adding two rifle-pits leading north and south, commanding the best approaches.

On reaching Pilot Knob at noon of Monday, September 26, I found scouting parties had been sent the night before on all the main roads, but that the party sent toward Fredericktown had returned after going but six or eight miles. I forthwith sent two companies to make a thorough reconnaissance toward Fredericktown, and a small scouting party under Captain Powers to cross the roads leading from the south to that place, and learn of the loyal people on them as much as possible as to the force of the enemy.

Both commands met Price’s advance in Arcadia Valley, near Shut-in Gap, and were forced back into the town of Ironton, where, with Captain Dinger’s company, Forty-seventh Missouri, then on duty there, they made a stand. I re-enforced them with the detachment of the Fourteenth Iowa, Captain Campbell commanding and a section of Montgomery’s battery, Lieutenant Simonton commanding, and all my available cavalry, placing the whole under command of Major Wilson, with orders to drive the enemy, if possible, through Shut-in Gap. He drove them to the gap, but was unable to hold them there, and was being forced back gradually when night and a rain-storm suspended the engagement.

By midnight it was evident that the enemy were in strong force, as their column could be heard coming into the valley in steady procession, and their encampment grew extensive. We still did not know positively that Price’s main army was there, though all our information was decidedly to that effect. But the advantages of delaying the enemy two or three days in his march northward and of making a stubborn fight before retreating were so great, even though the defense should be unsuccessful and much of the garrison be lost, that I resolved to stand fast and take the chances.

I immediately forwarded up the railroad all the quartermaster and commissary stores not needed in the fort, and all the rolling-stock, and started the quartermaster’s wagons empty. Details were set at work constructing in the fort six platformed barbettes for the field artillery, four pieces of which were taken into it. Lieutenant David Murphy, Forty-seventh Missouri Volunteers, a most gallant officer and experienced artillerist, was assigned to duty on my staff as aide-de-camp and given general control of the artillery. Major-General Smith, whose immediate command was at De Soto and Mineral Point was kept fully advised by telegraph of my information, movements and purpose, until 11 o’clock Tuesday forenoon, when the line went down.

At daylight Tuesday the enemy forced Wilson back through Arcadia Valley to the gap between Shepherd’s Mountain and Pilot Knob. While they were trying to force the gap I ordered the detachment of the Fourteenth Iowa to take position on the east end of Shepherd’s Mountain and ordered Wilson to fall back with his cavalry along the side of Pilot Knob, thus commanding the gap from both sides and opening a clear range from the fort.

Wilson soon sent me word that the enemy were displaying a flag of truce. I knew it was a trick to effect a safe passage of the gap while parleying about a surrender, and therefore ordered him to renew the fight at once. A long and obstinate struggle followed in which the enemy lost considerably in an unsuccessful effort to pass the defile. During an hour of comparative quiet which followed they threw a force around Shepherd’s Mountain and approached from the west, but that approach was too greatly exposed and they were driven from it by our artillery, aided by two companies of skirmishers. An hour more and my troops were summarily ejected from the points commanding the gap the enemy following them along the hill-sides in strong force.

When they had well advanced we opened on them with all our guns and drove them back in disorder and with heavy loss. We retook the gap, were again forced from it, and again with artillery drove them from the hill-sides. They got two pieces in position on the east end of Shepherd’s Mountain commanding a part of the side of Pilot Knob, which being equally commanded from the fort became neutral ground.

We still held with skirmishers the sides of Shepherd’s Mountain except the gap, and the side of Pilot Knob not raked by their artillery. After an hour of lull, lines of the enemy were seen at exposed points on the summits of the two hills moving down; and almost before we could open fire on them another white flag was raised on a rock near the summit of Shepherd’s Mountain where a group of officers had been taking observations under shelter. With the opening of a brisk cannonade on the group the flag was hauled down. The design was plainly to suspend the firing so that their forces might approach to the assault in safety.

I now ordered into the fort the section of artillery operating outside, but the horses stampeded and could not be got in . The section remained under cover of our fire, however, and was brought in before dark. Here the enemy opened on us with two guns from the summit of Shepherd’s Mountain at about 800 yards, and two from the side at a less distance. The guns were well covered and we could not silence them, the two nearest getting and keeping our range exactly.

The division on Shepherd’s Mountain was Marmaduke’s, which, on the withdrawal of the white flag and the opening of their artillery, moved rapidly down to the assault his line greatly broken by the rugged and steep descent, and by our fire, which told with marked effect upon them. On reaching the plain the most of the assaulting force took cover in the deep bed of the creek, from which they opened and kept up an incessant fire. About 100 ventured on to the assault but fell or were driven back before they reached the ditch.

Almost simultaneously with the movement of Marmaduke’s division, that of General Fagan moved over Pilot Knob in stronger force, and less disturbed by our fire sweeping back in disorder or cutting off our companies which held the town and part of the mountain sides. His lines were greatly broken by the houses and fences of the skirt of the town, but were hastily reformed by him and by General Cabell, who led the assault, and swept upon the plain in handsome style, yelling and on the double-quick. We opened on them when at 600 yards from the fort with musketry from the ramparts and from the long lien of the north rifle-pits, and with canister from seven pieces of artillery. They rushed on most gallantly, but were broken, confused, and swept down by our rapid and well-directed fire until the advance reached the ditch, when the attacking forces fled in dismay, leaving apparently almost half their comrades dead or wounded on the plain.

Pending the assaults the enemy threw a large cavalry force around the west end of Shepherd’s Mountain to occupy the road north of us to Mineral Point. As they moved along the base of Cedar Mountain just after the last assault was repulsed a sortie was made from the north ditch by which they were routed and lost considerably. A half hour of ineffective musketry and artillery firing ended the engagement with the approach of night.

An examination of prisoners that evening, convinced me that Price was there with about 12,000 men and ten pieces of artillery, Shelby’s division with eight pieces having gone from Fredericktown to Farmington. I had found myself unable with my force intact to hold the mountain sides so as to prevent his planting artillery there. My command was now reduced one-fourth in effective strength, as I had lost 75 killed and wounded and in our possession, and double that number missing. I knew that the next morning the enemy having possession of the mountain tops and sides would place all his artillery in position to command the fort, which would make it certainly untenable.

That morning, at the time when telegraphic communication ended, two infantry regiments of Major-General Smith’s command were at Mineral Point, twenty-three miles north of us, and four miles east of Potosi. I thought they were probably there still and that by getting a good start we could effect a junction with them and fall back or stand as the movement and force of the enemy might permit. I therefore determined to evacuate that night. The chief danger was that the preparations for the retreat might be observed and the garrison cut to pieces or captured in the confusion incident to the exit. The works of the iron company at the north base of Pilot Knob had been fired by the enemy and the immense pile of charcoal adjacent to the works glowed and flamed all night, making the valley as light as noonday. Moreover, I learned Colonel Slayback’s command held the Mineral Point road just north of the town, leaving the Potosi road the only exit not certainly in the possession of the enemy. But, with all its dangers, the policy of retreat was clearly best, and preparations for it began at midnight.

I had Colonel Fletcher arrange for having the magazine (which was large and filled with every variety of ammunition) blown up in two hours after we left, or as soon as our exit should be discovered by the enemy. We took possession of the town and valley and drove from them all straggling rebels. The garrison was then aroused, knapsacks packed, haversacks, and cartridge-boxes well supplied and everything destructible, which we could not take away and the enemy might use, placed near or on the magazine. At 3 o’clock Colonel Fletcher silently led the infantry out of the sally port around the ditch, and through the north rifle-pit, forming them under cover of a deep shadow at the end of the pit. The drawbridge was then covered with tents to muffle the sound, and the cavalry and battery marching out formed column with the infantry and took a by-way to the Potosi road. We left Slayback’s camp on our right and another rebel camp near the road on our left, both unapprised of our movement. The body of the rebel army was at Ironton and thinking us sufficiently hemmed in were busy making fascines and scaling ladders for an assault in the morning. They even failed to take the hint when the magazine an hour before daylight, shook the hills with its explosion.

At sunrise I started Captain Hills, Tenth Kansas, acting aide-de-camp, with ten men to Mineral point to acquaint the command there of my approach and request it to march and join me. On starting, they, with our advance, fell upon about twenty-five rebels in the town of Caledonia and routed them, killing one. We then learned that our forces had fallen back from Mineral Point and that Shelby had taken Potosi the evening before, and I therefore at once left the Potosi road and took that through Webster toward Rolla.

I afterward learned that after his repulse Tuesday Price ordered Shelby’s division down from Potosi to Pilot Knob, to take part in a second attack, and that the squad we routed at Caledonia was Shelby’s advance. He waited several hours with his division to give us battle two miles north of Caledonia thus giving us a good start on the Webster road before pursuing. Marmaduke’s division left Pilot Knob at 8 that morning to overtake us and joined Shelby in the pursuit at Caledonia.

At sundown we reached Webster, thirty-one miles from Pilot Knob, and rested until midnight. From information received there I determined to go to Harrison, Leasburg, on the southwest branch of the Pacific Railroad, because part of Colonel Warmoth’s militia regiment was there, but especially because the road to Rolla was one on which we could be easily surrounded by a superior cavalry force, while that to Harrison led nearly all the way along a sharp spur of the Ozark range, separating the waters of the Huzza and the Courtois, and through the gorge of the Huzza, walled in with untraversable cliffs, to Rolla was fifty-five miles, to Harrison thirty-five. I here sent Captain Hills, with ten men in advance, to Franklin with instructions to telegraph thence to the major-general commanding at Saint Louis and to General McNeil at Rolla of our movements and to arrange means for securing our safe and speedy withdrawal from Harrison to Rolla or Saint Louis.

The night was intensely dark and stormy and we groped our way with great effort and little progress. We had just reached the ridge at 8 Thursday morning, when the enemy charged on our rear guard and drove it upon the column. I placed the detachment of the Fourteenth Iowa Infantry, Company H, Forty-seventh Missouri, Companies C, D, and K, Third Missouri State Militia Cavalry, and Lieutenant Smiley’s section of artillery in the rear all under the command of Major Williams, Tenth Kansas, acting aide-de-camp, and, with occasional halts to rake the woods with grape and canister, we made a good and successful march, the enemy almost constantly engaged with our rear guard, but unable to break through or flank it until we came within four miles of Harrison. There the road debouches on a high sweep of gently rolling woodland and from that out we fought hard for every step we gained. The refugees, men, women, and children, white and black, who clung to the command, nearly sacrificed it by their panics.

I had to throw out the available fighting force, infantry and cavalry as advance and rear guard and flankers, leaving in the body of the column the affrighted non-combatants, and two sections of artillery not often brought into action on the retreat. Repeated and stubborn efforts were made to bring us to a stand, and could they have forced a halt of an hour they would have enveloped and taken us, but our halts, though frequent, were brief, and were only to unlimber the artillery, stagger the pursuers with a few rounds, and move on.

We reached Harrison just after dark, having made the march of sixty-six miles in thirty-nine hours. We found Warmoth’s militia gone. This station is thirty-five miles from Rolla, forty-five from Franklin and eighty-two from Saint Louis. The position is naturally strong, being on the crest of a ridge, with no timber to obstruct the range for 200 yards on either side. A cut for the railroad track gave shelter for the horses. A large number of ties were there of which the militia had made breast-works, and the adjacent buildings were well situated for purposes of defense.

My command had just time to form and the artillery to unlimber, when an assault was made, but aided by darkness and our rude defenses we repulsed it. Just then the eastern train arrived with military stores for Rolla, and cars enough to move my command. We got the command aboard and were about to start for Saint Louis, with the cavalry and artillery horses moving on a parallel road, when the nearest stations north and south of us were seen in flames. The command was at once taken off the cars and the night spent in fortifying.

At daybreak Friday the enemy appeared in force and prepared apparently for an assault. They kept up a demonstration through the day, accompanied with a heavy fire of skirmishers, which was well replied to from our defenses. Having less than thirty rounds to the gun we used our artillery but little, reserving it for the moment of assault, or the emergencies of a farther retreat.

The day passed in instant expectation of an attack in force and in unremitting labor on the defenses, which were extended and strengthened so they grew formidable. Friday night another assault was repulsed and the night passed in snatches of rest, amid hourly and most harassing alarms. Hearing nothing of re-enforcements I at midnight dispatched a citizen messenger to Rolla to ask help from there, and Lieutenant-Colonel Maupin to Franklin, to advise the general commanding of my condition and to endeavor to bring some mounted militia from Franklin County to my aid if nothing better could be done, my now total want of serviceable cavalry and cavalry and the exhausted condition of my infantry having made a farther retreat an extremely hazardous undertaking.

The citizen got to Rolla, but Lieutenant-Colonel Maupin and Captain Schenck, and Lieutenant Fletcher, who accompanied him, could not accomplish their errand and barely escaped capture. Saturday morning the enemy appeared in increased force, thoroughly reconnoitered our position, and made every disposition for assault, but the forenoon passed in an incessant fire with their skirmishers and constant expectation of an attack in force. I think our thorough readiness and plain purpose to fight it out made him feel we would cost more than our worth.

He drew off at 2 p. m. and at 4 Lieutenant-Colonel Beveridge, Seventeenth Illinois Cavalry, with 500 men of his command, came to our rescue from General McNeil at Rolla. Strong cavalry pickets were at once posted on four roads occupied by the enemy north of our encampment, and were pushed out more than a mile. At midnight, leaving a hundred men to occupy Harrison and re-enforce the pickets if necessary, and to destroy the few stores left in the train unissued, I withdrew my command and marched for Rolla. On arriving at Saint James, twelve miles from Rolla, at noon Sunday, the infantry and cavalry, worn out with toil and watching, to General McNeil, to garrison Rolla, whereupon he marched with his cavalry and that of General Sanborn and my battery to the defense of Jefferson City. Tuesday I got an escort of forty men and passing in the rear of the enemy reached Saint Louis with the members of my staff Wednesday night.

Our loss at Pilot Knob was about 200 killed, wounded, and missing, and in the several engagements on the retreat to Rolla about 150. Of the missing the most were cut off in detachments and escaped capture, so that our actual loss was about 150 killed and wounded, and 50 captured and paroled. Among our severely wounded were Lieutenant Smith Thompson, Fourteenth Iowa; Lieutenant John Fessler, First Infantry Missouri State Militia, and Lieutenant John Braden, Fourteenth Iowa Infantry, since dead; Major James Wilson, Third Cavalry, Missouri State Militia, after being wounded was captured on Pilot Knob, and subsequently with six of his gallant men was brutally murdered by order of a rebel field officer of the day.

The rebel loss at Pilot Knob, killed and wounded, exceeded 1,500, as is shown by the inclosed letter of T. W. Johnson, surgeon in charge of our hospital there, and also by corroborative testimony gathered since our reoccupation of the post. In the rebel hospital at Ironton, on the 12th instant, we found Colonel Thomas, chief of General Fagan’s staff, 3 majors, 7 captains, 12 lieutenants, and 204 enlisted men, representing seventeen regiments and four batteries, all dangerously and nearly all mortally wounded. The rest of the rebel wounded who were not able to follow the army were sent south by General Price, under escort of Colonel Rains’ regiment. As to the loss of the enemy in the pursuit and at Harrison I have no knowledge.

To the officers commanding the several detachments, to wit, Colonel Thomas C. Fletcher, Forty-seventh Missouri Infantry; Captain William J. Campbell, Fourteenth Iowa Infantry; Captain William C. F. Montgomery, Second Missouri Artillery; Lieutenant John Fessler, First Infantry Missouri State Militia; Captain Robert L. Lindsay, Fiftieth Missouri Infantry; Captain A. P. Wright, Second Cavalry Missouri State Militia, and also to Major H. H. Williams, Tenth Kansas; Captain Charles S. Hills, Tenth Kansas; Captain H. B. Milks, Third Cavalry Missouri State Militia; Lieutenant David Murphy, Forty-seventh Missouri Infantry, and Surg. S. D. Carpenter, of my staff, I am indebted for and intelligent and thorough discharge of duty which contributed largely to our success.

Nearly an hundred citizens of Pilot Knob and Ironton (among whom were General McCormick, Colonel Lindsay, Captain Leeper, Major Emerson, and other well known gentlemen), organized and commanded by Captain P. F. Lonergan, First Infantry Missouri State Militia, fought and worked well. A colored man named Charles Thurston, organized and commanded a company of negroes, who eagerly bore their share of labor and danger. I owe it to the cherished memory of Major Wilson, to add in conclusion an honorable mention of his name, not only because of the nerve and skill with which for two days preceding the assault he embarrassed and delayed the overwhelming forces of the enemy, but also because of his long and useful service in this district unblemished by a fault.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
THOMAS EWING, JR., Brigadier-General.


Posted in Missouri, Sterling Price, Thomas Ewing | Leave a comment

September 26, 1864: Grant wants Sherman to take Forrest out

Ulysses S. Grant

Sherman and Grant discuss Sherman’s next move. Grant would like Sherman to go after Forrest first to get him out of Tennessee. Sherman’s willing, but spread thin protecting his supply line.

CITY POINT, VA., September 26, 1864-10 a. m.
Major-General SHERMAN:

It will be better to drive Forrest from Middle Tennessee as a first step, and do anything else that you may feel your force sufficient for. When a movement is made on any part of the sea-coast I will advise you. If Hood goes to the Alabama line, will it not be impossible for him to subsist his army?



In the Field, Atlanta, Ga., September 26, 1864-10 p. m.
(Received 3. 15 a. m. 27th.)
Lieutenant General U. S. GRANT, City Point:

GENERAL: I have your dispatch of to-day. I have already sent one DIVISION (General Newton’s) to Chattanooga, and another (Corse’s) to Rome. Our armies are much reduced, and if I send back much more I will not be able to threaten Georgia much. There are men enough to the rear to whip Forrest, but they are necessarily scattered to defend the road. Can’t you expedite the sending to Nashville of the recruits that are in Indiana and Ohio? They could occupy the forts. Hood is now on the WEST Point road, twenty-four miles south of this, and draws his supplies by that road. Jeff. Davis is there to- day, and superhuman efforts will be made to break my road. Forrest is now lieutenant-general and commands all the enemy’s cavalry.


Posted in John Bell Hood, Nathan Bedford Forrest, Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman | Leave a comment

September 25, 1864: I’d take Augusta, but…

William Tecumseh Sherman

Sherman would like to take Augusta next, but with his supply line back to Chattanooga threatened, and no guarantee of resupplying if he pushes through to Savannah, he isn’t ready to move.

Official Records:

ATLANTA, GA., September 25, 1864-6. 30 p. m.
(Received 1 a. m. 26th.)
Major General H. W. HALLECK, Chief of Staff:

Hood seems to be moving, as it were, to the Alabama line, leaving open to me the road to Macon, as also to Augusta; but his cavalry is busy on our roads. A force (number estimated as high as 8,000) is reported to have captured Athens, Ala., as also a regiment of 350 sent to their relief. I have sent Newton’s DIVISION up to Chattanooga in cars, and will send another DIVISION to Rome. If I were sure that Savannah would soon be in our possession I would be tempted to make for Milledgeville and Augusta; but I must secure what I have. Jeff. Davis is at Macon.


Posted in Georgia, Henry Halleck, William Tecumseh Sherman | Leave a comment

September 24, 1864: Jefferson Davis’ speech at Macon

Jefferson Davis

Jefferson Davis was in Macon, GA on September 23, and delivered this profoundly depressing address to the crowds. It was published in the Macon Telegraph on the 24th.

Speech at Macon, Georgia

September 23, 1864

Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends and Fellow-Citizens: –

It would have gladdened my heart to have met you in prosperity instead of adversity – But friends are drawn together in adversity. The son of a Georgian, who fought through the first Revolution, I would be untrue to myself if I should forget the State in her day of peril.

What, though misfortune has befallen our arms from Decatur to Jonesboro’, our cause is not lost. Sherman cannot keep up his long line of communication, and retreat sooner or later, he must. And when that day comes, the fate that befel the army of the French Empire and its retreat from Moscow will be reacted. Our cavalry and our people will harass and destroy his army as did the Cossacks that of Napoleon, and the Yankee General, like him will escape with only a body guard.

How can this be the most speedily effected? By the absentees of Hood’s army returning to their posts And will they not? Can they see the banished exiles, can they hear the wail of their suffering country-women and children, and not come. By what influences they are made to stay away, it is not necessary to speak. If there is one who will stay away at this hour, he is unworthy of the name of a Georgian. To the women no appeal is necessary. They are like the Spartan mothers of old. I know of one who had lost all her sons, except one of eight years. She wrote me that she wanted me to reserve a place for him in the ranks. The venerable Gen. Polk, to whom I read the letter, knew that woman well, and said that it was characteristic of her. But I will not weary you by turning aside to relate the various incidents of giving up the last son to the cause of our country known to me. Wherever we go we find the heart and hands of our noble women enlisted. They are seen wherever the eye may fall, or step turn. They have one duty to perform – to buoy up the hearts of our people.

I know the deep disgrace felt by Georgia at our army falling back from Dalton to the interior of the State, but I was not of those who considered Atlanta lost when our army crossed the Chattahoochee. I resolved that it should not, and I then put a man in command who I knew would strike an honest and manly blow for the city, and many a Yankee’s blood was made to nourish the soil before the prize was won.

It does not become us to revert to disaster. “Let the dead bury the dead.” Let us with one arm and one effort endeavor to crush Sherman. I am going to the army to confer with our Generals. The end must be the defeat of our enemy. It has been said that I abandoned Georgia to her fate. Shame upon such a falsehood. Where could the author have been when Walker, when Polk, and when Gen. Stephen D. Lee was sent to her assistance. Miserable man. The man who uttered this was a scoundrel. He was not a man to save our country.

If I knew that a General did not possess the right qualities to command, would I not be wrong if he was not removed? Why, when our army was falling back from Northern Georgia, I even heard that I had sent Bragg with pontoons to cross into Cuba. But we must be charitable.

The man who can speculate ought to be made to take up his musket When the war is over and our independence won, (and we will establish our independence,) who will be our aristocracy? I hope the limping soldier. To the young ladies I would say when choosing between an empty sleeve and the man who had remained at home and grown rich, always take the empty sleeve. Let the old men remain at home and make bread. But should they know of any young men keeping away from the service who cannot be made to go any other way, let them write to the Executive. I read all letters sent me from the people, but have not the time to reply to them.

You have not many men between 18 and 45 left. The boys – God bless the boys – are as rapidly as they become old enough going to the field. The city of Macon is filled with stores, sick and wounded. It must not be abandoned, when threatened, but when the enemy come, instead of calling upon Hood’s army for defence, the old men must fight, and when the enemy is driven beyond Chattanooga, they too can join in the general rejoicing.

Your prisoners are kept as a sort of Yankee capital. I have heard that one of their Generals said that their exchange would defeat Sherman. I have tried every means, conceded everything to effect an exchange to no purpose. Butler the Beast, with whom no Commissioner of Exchange, would hold intercourse, had published in the newspapers that: that if we would consent to the exchange of negroes, all difficulties might be removed. This is reported as an effort of his to get himself whitewashed by holding intercourse with gentlemen. If an exchange could be effected, I dont know but that I might be induced to recognise Butler. But in the future every effort will be given as far as possible to effect the end. We want our soldiers in the field, and we want the sick and wounded to return home.

It is not proper for me to speak of the number of men in the field. But this I will say, that two-thirds of our men are absent – some sick, some wounded, but most of them absent without leave. The man who repents and goes back to his commander voluntarily, at once appeals strongly to executive clemency. But suppose he stays away until the war is over and his comrades return home, when every man’s history will be told, where will he shield himself? It is upon these reflections that I rely to make men return to their duty, but after conferring with our Generals at headquarters, if there be any other remedy it shall be applied.

I love my friends and I forgive my enemies. I have been asked to send reinforcements from Virginia to Georgia. In Virginia the disparity in numbers is just as great as it is in Georgia. Then I have been asked why the army sent to the Shenandoah Valley was not sent here? It was because an army of the enemy had penetrated that Valley to the very gates of Lynchburg, and Gen. Early was sent to drive them back. This he not only successfully did, but, crossing the Potomac, came well-nigh capturing Washington itself, and forced Grant to send two corps of his army to protect it. This the enemy denominated a raid. If so, Sherman’s march into Georgia is a raid. What would prevent them now, if Early was withdrawn, penetrating down the valley and putting a complete cordon of men around Richmond? I counselled with that great and grave soldier, Gen. Lee, upon all these points. My mind roamed over the whole field.

With this we can succeed. If one-half the men now absent without leave will return to duty, we can defeat the enemy. With that hope I am going to the front. I may not realize this hope, but I know there are men there who have looked death in the face too often to despond now. Let no one despond. Let no one distrust, and remember that if genius is the beau ideal, hope is the reality.

The President then alluded to the objects for which the meeting had assembled, and expressed the hope that the refugees and exiles would be well provided for.

From The Papers of Jefferson Davis, Volume 11, pp. 61-63. Transcribed from the Macon Telegraph, Sept. 24, 1864.

Posted in Jefferson Davis | 2 Comments

September 24, 1864: Forrest heads for Tennessee

Nathan Bedford Forrest

Forrest is attacking at Athens, AL — about 100 miles due south of Nashville. There is some dispute about the strength of his force, and even whether it is really his. Regardless, it appears he intends to threaten Tennessee, probably in an attempt to draw Sherman back from Atlanta.

DECATUR, ALA., September 24, 1864.
Major-General THOMAS:

Colonel Prosser, Second Tennessee Cavalry, states as his positive conviction that the force at Athens is that of Forrest, and that it numbered, already up and more coming, 3,000 or 4,000. I can’t think this is so. Colonel Minnis, THIRD Tennessee, was sent out by me to Rogersville and Lexington day before yesterday, and Colonel Spalding the day before left Pulaski for Shoal Creek. Neither of these forces have been heard from. One or the other would have heard of a force so large as this reported by Colonel Prosser, and would have sent word back or returned somewhere to the line of railroad. I had also, fearing a return, sent 100 mounted men from Pulaski to Florence some days previously to kook after the enemy. They sent back word of Roddey having crossed, as also other forces, but not a word of Forrest. I think it probable the enemy assume to belong to Forrest, to give credit to their statements of a very large force. This, of course, is all conjecture. I leave for Athens as soon as I can get a train. I will keep you informed as I get information. Colonel Prosser, with 250 cavalry-all I have here- returning immediately to Athens, will be joined five miles out by One hundred and second Ohio, about 350 strong; also 500 infantry will follow as soon as they can be gotten off. This is my whole disposable force, without leaving this post and Huntsville with too weak garrisons.



DECATUR, September 24, 1864.
Major-General ROUSSEAU:

From the best information that I can obtain, the force in and about Athens belongs to Forrest’s command. Colonel Prosser, who returned this morning, reports them constantly increasing. He made 8 prisoners, some of them belonging to the Second (rebel) Tennessee. they crossed at Florence, and represent that they are commanded by Forrest in person. One of the block-houses was summoned to surrender by General Forrest. The force is unquestionably a large one. The prisoners state that Forrest told them at Okolona that they would have force enough to destroy both railroads and stay in Tennessee as long as he pleased. Colonel Prosser is satisfied that General Forrest is with them in person. I have heard nothing from the THIRD Tennessee, which I ordered down to Elk River, or from Colonel Spalding, who left for Shoal Creek day before yesterday. I shall move at once with all the forces at my command, in anticipation of return of the enemy. I retained One hundred and second Ohio and Seventy-THIRD Indiana.



DECATUR, September 24, 1864.
Major-General ROUSSEAU:

Colonel Campbell, Athens, was said to have surrendered the post at that place, the strongest position in the district. Forrest was there at 2 o’clock this afternoon; firing was heard there then. Forrest’s force said to be very large. No one seems to be able to approximate his numbers. I don’t believe, however, it is even 4,000. The detachment sent from here to re-enforce Athens last night, about 350, is said to have been captured within one mile and a half of Athens, after a very obstinate engagement. Starkweather promised to be at Athens yesterday afternoon, but nothing has been heard of him since.


Posted in Atlanta, George Thomas, Georgia, Nathan Bedford Forrest, William Tecumseh Sherman | Leave a comment

September 23, 1864: Hood up to something

Hugh Judson Kilpatrick
Brig. Gen Hugh Judson Kilpatrick


Kilpatrick reports to Sherman that Hood has cavalry across the Chattahoochee to his southwest, and is threatening the railroad line back to Chattanooga. Sherman’s position in Atlanta is precarious; he has to supply his large army with a single rail line, vulnerable to attack all along its length.

Official Records:

Camp Crooks, Ga., September 23, 1864-11 p. m.
Captain J. E. JACOBS,
Assistant Adjutant-General to Chief of Cavalry:

CAPTAIN: I have just received word from the scouting party, Second DIVISION. Captain Greeno, commanding detachment, reports that he found the enemy’s pickets about two miles this side of Davis’ Ferry, six miles south of Campbellton; he drove them in, capturing 2 belonging to Ferguson’s brigade. The prisoners report a pontoon bridge across the river at a ferry this side of Moore’s Bridge, about sixteen miles south of Davis’ Ferry. They also report a corps of infantry there (General Stewart’s command), and say that Armstrong, with his brigade, crossed the river day before yesterday for the purpose of cutting our railroad; had crowbars and picks along. General Ross’ brigade is also with Ferguson, with six pieces of artillery. General Hood’s headquarters are reported to be at some point on WEST Point railroad. This confirm the reports from my scouts forwarded to you last evening. Jackson’s DIVISION of cavalry has certainly crossed the Chattahoochee, and all the report go to show that the object is to strike our railroad.

All quiet along my line up to this hour.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Brigadier-General, Commanding DIVISION.

Posted in Atlanta, Georgia, Hugh Judson Kilpatrick, William Tecumseh Sherman | Leave a comment

September 22, 1864: Farragut’s unwell

Admiral David Farragut

Looks like Farragut isn’t going to be able to do much to further Sherman’s grand plan, but he will wait on the east coast to support Sherman if he heads for the sea.

NEW ORLEANS, LA., September 22, 1864.

Major-General HALLECK, Chief of Staff:

Farragut has been ordered to Port Royal. His health is so much impaired that the contemplated asking to be relieved; but, on being advised of contemplated operations, and that Sherman might possibly come in at some point on the Gulf, at once relinquished the idea and determined to remain. He feels himself that he is not at present physically equal to the task of organizing any new operations of magnitude, and that while he can be of service here he would break down in the new assignment. This is my own belief, although I have a strong personal wish that he should remain, I believe that I am not selfish in asking that the case may be considered under this view of it. Will you please submit it to the proper authorities?



Posted in David Farragut, Henry Halleck, William Tecumseh Sherman | Leave a comment