While Grant was keeping the confederates in western Kentucky occupied with his feint, Buell ordered Gen. George Thomas to attack Gen. Crittenden’s camp at Logan’s Crossroads, near Somerset, Kentucky. The battle that ensued (variously known as the battle of Logan’s Crossroads, Mill Springs, Somerset, and Fishing Creek) was the first major Union victory of the war, and resulted in the death of Brig. Gen. Felix Zollicoffer. Reportedly (see the account from the Richmond Daily Dispatch below), Zollicoffer became confused in the battle and approached a group of Union officers, thinking they were confederates. When one of Zollicoffer’s staff realized the error and shot at the Union troops, Col. Speed S. Fry drew his pistol and shot Zollicoffer fatally.
This was the first major action for most of the troops involved, and the two east Tennessee Unionist regiments acquitted themselves well. Troops from Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, and Minnesota bore the brunt of the battle. A 2nd Minnesota soldier sent a first-hand account of the battle to the New York Times, which is worth reading also.
Gen. Thomas’ full report, from the Official Record:
HDQRS. FIRST DIVISION, DEPARTMENT OF THE OHIO,
Somerset, Ky., January 31, 1862.
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report that in carrying out the instructions of the general commanding the department, contained in his communication of the 29th of December, I reached Logan’s Cross-Roads, about 10 miles north of the intrenched camp of the enemy on the Cumberland River, on the 17th instant, with a portion of the Second and Third Brigades, Kenny’s battery of artillery, and a battalion of Wolford’s cavalry. The Fourth and Tenth Kentucky, Fourteenth Ohio, and the Eighteenth U. S. Infantry being still in rear, detained by the almost impassable condition of the roads, I determined to halt at this point, to await their arrival and to communicate with General Schoepf.
The Tenth Indiana, Wolford’s cavalry, and Kenny’s battery took position on the road leading to the enemy’s camp. The Ninth Ohio and Second Minnesota (part of Colonel McCook’s brigade) encamped three-fourths of a mile to the right, on the Roberts post-road. Strong pickets were thrown out in the direction of the enemy beyond where the Somerset and Mill Springs road comes into the main road from my camp to Mill Springs, and a picket of cavalry some distance in advance of the infantry.
General Schoepf visited me on the day of my arrival, and, after consultation, I directed him to send to my camp Standart’s battery, the Twelfth Kentucky, and the First and Second Tennessee Regiments, to remain until the arrival of the regiments in rear.
Having received information on the evening of the 17th that a large train of wagons with its escort were encamped on the Roberts post and Danville road, about 6 miles from Colonel Steedman’s camp, I sent an order to him to send his wagons forward under a strong guard, and to march with his regiment (the Fourteenth Ohio) and the Tenth Kentucky (Colonel Harlan), with one day’s rations in their haversacks, to the point where the enemy were said to be encamped, and either capture or disperse them.
Nothing of importance occurred from the time of our arrival until the morning of the 19th, except a picket skirmish on the night of the 17th. The Fourth Kentucky, the battalion of Michigan Engineers, and Wetmore’s battery joined on the 18th.
About 6.30 o’clock on the morning of the 19th the pickets from Wolford’s cavalry encountered the enemy advancing on our camp, retired slowly, and reported their advance to Colonel M. D. Manson, commanding the Second Brigade. He immediately formed his regiment (the Tenth Indiana) and took a position on the road to await the attack, ordering the Fourth Kentucky (Colonel S. S. Fry) to support him, and then informed me in person that the enemy were advancing in force and what disposition he had made to resist them. I directed him to join his brigade immediately and hold the enemy in check until I could order up the other troops, which were ordered to form immediately and were marching to the field in ten minutes afterwards. The battalion of Michigan Engineers and Company A, Thirty-eighth Ohio (Captain Greenwood), were ordered to remain as guard to the camp.
Upon my arrival on the field soon afterwards I found the Tenth Indiana formed in front of their encampment, apparently awaiting orders, and ordered them forward to the support of the Fourth Kentucky, which was the only entire regiment then engaged. I then rode forward myself to see the enemy’s position, so that I could determine what disposition to make of my troops as they arrived. On reaching the position held by the Fourth Kentucky, Tenth Indiana, and Wolford’s cavalry, at a point where the roads fork leading to to Somerset, I found the enemy advancing through a corn field and evidently endeavoring to gain the left of the Fourth Kentucky Regiment, which was maintaining its position in a most determined manner. I directed one of my aides to ride back and order up a section of artillery and the Tennessee brigade to advance on the enemy’s right, and sent orders for Colonel McCook to advance with his two regiments (the Ninth Ohio and Second Minnesota) to the support of the Fourth Kentucky and Tenth Indiana.
A section of Captain Kenny’s battery took a position on the edge of the field to the left of the Fourth Kentucky and opened an efficient fire on a regiment of Alabamians, which were advancing on the Fourth Kentucky. Soon afterwards the Second Minnesota (Colonel H. P. Van Cleve) arrived, the colonel reporting to me for instructions. I directed him to take the position of the fourth Kentucky and Tenth Indiana, which regiments were nearly out of ammunition. The Ninth Ohio, under the immediate command of Major Kammerling, came into position on the right of the road at the same time.
Immediately after these regiments had gained their position the enemy opened a most determined and galling fire, which was returned by our troops in the same spirit, and for nearly half an hour the contest was maintained on both sides in the most obstinate manner. At this time the Twelfth Kentucky (Colonel W. A. Hoskins) and the Tennessee brigade reached the field to the left of the Minnesota regiment, and opened fire on the right flank of the enemy, who then began to fall back. The Second Minnesota kept up a most galling fire in front, and the Ninth Ohio charged the enemy on the right with bayonets fixed, turned their flank, and drove them from the field, the whole line giving way and retreating in the utmost disorder and confusion.
As soon as the regiments could be formed and refill their cartridge-boxes I ordered the whole force to advance. A few miles in rear of the battle-field a small force of cavalry was drawn up near the road, but a few shots from our artillery (a section of Standart’s battery) dispersed them, and none of the enemy were seen again until we arrived in front of their entrenchments. As we approached their entrenchments the division was deployed in line of battle and steadily advanced to the summit of the hill at Moulden’s. From this point I directed their entrenchments to be cannonaded, which was done until dark by Standart’s and Wetmore’s batteries. Kenny’s battery was placed in position on the extreme left at Russell’s house, from which point he was directed to fire on their ferry, to deter them from attempting to cross. On the following morning Captain Wetmore’s battery was ordered to Russell’s house, and assisted with his Parrott guns in firing upon the ferry. Colonel Manson’s brigade took position on the left near Kenny’s battery, and every preparation was made to assault their entrenchments on the following morning.
The Fourteenth Ohio (Colonel Steedman) and the Tenth Kentucky (Colonel Harlan) having joined from detached service soon after the repulse of the enemy, continued with their brigade in the pursuit, although they could not get up in time to join in the fight. These two regiments were placed in front in my advance on the entrenchments the next morning and entered first. General Schoepf also joined me the evening of the 19th with the Seventeenth, Thirty-first, and Thirty-eighth Ohio. His entire brigade entered with the other troops.
On reaching the entrenchments we found the enemy had abandoned everything and retired during the night. Twelve pieces of artillery with their caissons packed with ammunition; one battery wagon and two forges; a large amount of ammunition; a large number of small-arms, mostly the old flint-lock muskets; 150 or 160 wagons, and upwards of 1,000 horses and mules; a large amount of commissary stores, entrenching tools, and camp and garrison equipage, fell into our hands. A correct list of all the captured property will be forwarded as soon as it can be made up and the property secured.
The steam and ferry boats having been burned by the enemy in their retreat, it was found impossible to cross the river and pursue them; besides, their command was completely demoralized, and retreated with great haste and in all directions, making their capture in any numbers quite doubtful if pursued. There is no doubt but what the moral effect produced by their complete dispersion will have a more decided effect in re-establishing Union sentiments than though they had been captured.
It affords me much pleasure to be able to testify to the uniform steadiness and good conduct of both officers and men during the battle, and I respectfully refer to the accompanying reports of the different commanders for the names of those officers and men whose good conduct was particularly noticed by them.
I regret to have to report that Colonel R. L. McCook, commanding the Third Brigade, and his aide, Lieutenant A. S. Burt, Eighteenth U. S. Infantry, were both severely wounded in the first advance of the Ninth Ohio Regiment, but continued on duty until the return of the brigade to camp at Logan’s Cross-Roads.
Colonel S. S. Fry, Fourth Kentucky, was slightly wounded whilst his regiment was gallantly resisting the advance of the enemy, during which time General Zollicoffer fell from a shot from his (Colonel Fry’s) pistol, which no doubt contributed materially to the discomfiture of the enemy.
Captain G. E. Flynt, assistant adjutant-general; Captain Alvan C. Gillem, division quartermaster; Lieutenant Joseph C. Breckinridge, aide-de-camp; Lieutenant S. E. Jones, acting assistant quartermaster; Mr. J. W. Scully quartermaster’s clerk; Privates Samuel Letcher, Twenty-first Regiment Kentucky Volunteers; Stitch, Fourth Regiment Kentucky Volunteers, rendered me valuable assistance in carrying orders and conducting the troops to their different positions.
Captain George S. Roper deserves great credit for his perseverance and energy in forwarding commissary stores as far as the hill where our forces bivouacked.
In addition to the duties of guarding the camp, Lieutenant Colonel K. A. Hunton, commanding the Michigan Engineers, and Captain Greenwood, Company A, Thirty-eighth Regiment Ohio Volunteers, with their commands, performed very efficient service in collecting and burying the dead on both sides and in moving the wounded to the hospitals near the battle-field.
A number of flags were taken on the field of battle and in the entrenchments. They will be forwarded to headquarters as soon as collected together.
The enemy’s loss, as far as known, is as follows: Brigadier-General Zollicoffer, Lieutenant Bailie Peyton, and 190 officers, non-commissioned officers, and privates, killed; Lieutenant Colonel M. B. Carter, Twentieth Tennessee; Lieutenant J. W. Allen, Fifteenth Mississippi; Lieutenant Allen Morse,
Sixteenth Alabama, and 5 officers of the medical staff and 81 non-commissioned officers and privates, taken prisoners; Lieutenant J. E. Patterson, Twentieth Tennessee, and A. J. Knapp, Fifteenth Mississippi, and 66 non-commissioned officers and privates, wounded; making 192 killed, 89 prisoners not wounded and 68 wounded; a total of killed, wounded, and prisoners of 349.
Our loss was as follows
Troops. Officers. Men. Officers Men.
10th Indiana – 10 3 72
1st Kentucky (Cavalry) 1 2 – 19
4th Kentucky – 8 4 48
2nd Minnesota – 12 2 31
9th Ohio – 6 4 24
Total 1 38 13 194
A complete list of the names of our killed and wounded and of the prisoners is herewith attached.*
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
GEO. H. THOMAS,
Brigadier-General, U. S. Volunteers, Commanding.
Cincinnati, Jan. 24, 1862.
–This morning’s papers contain full accounts of the battle of mill Spring. It was a fair open battle. The rebels fought well, and was overcome only by superior fighting on our side. According to their own account, the rebel force consisted of ten infantry regiments, three batteries and some cavalry, altogether about ten thousand men. They fought in bush whacking style, from ravines and behind trees, bushes and rocks.
The brunt of the battle devolved on the Fourth Kentucky, Second Minnesota, Ninth Ohio, and Tenth Indiana.
For nearly three hours the roar of musketry was kept up. Shortly after eleven o’clock Colonel Haskin succeeded in flanking the enemy on the extreme right, when the Ninth Ohio and Second Minnesota charged with the bayonet, with triumphant yells, which broke the rebel ranks, and the rout began. They fled pell-mell to the camp, strewing the road with muskets, blankets, overcoats, and knapsacks, and abandoned two guns and caissons.
General Zollicoffer was shot through the heart at the head of his staff, by Colonel Fry, of the Fourth Kentucky. It appears that General Zollicoffer lost his way in the bushes, and suddenly emerged before Colonel Fry, who was accompanied by some staff officers. The two parties mistook each other for friends, and approached within a few yards of each other, when, finding their mutual mistake, both halted and prepared for a hand to hand conflict. One of General Zollicoffer’s aids shot at Colonel Fry, but only brought his horse down. The Union Colonel immediately drew his six-shooter and brought General Zollicoffer from his saddle at the first fire. The rebel staff deserted their chief’s body, which was taken to Somerset the day after the battle.
An East Tennessean writer to the Commercial says:
–All the credit and honor of this battle are due to the Tenth Indiana, the Ninth Ohio, the Fourth Kentucky, and the Second Minnesota regiments; for they did all the fighting single-handed, with the exception of what support they received from the artillery. They all fought nobly, and never wavered from their fixed determination to gain the victory. The combatants were so near each other that the powder from the discharged pieces burned their faces.
See also an account of the death of one Confederate lieutenant at the Army Of Tennessee blog.