Report of Brigadier General Mahlon D. Manson, U. S. Army, commanding First Brigade.
September 10, 1862
Maj. Gen. WILLIAM NELSON,
Commanding Army of Kentucky
SIR: I have the honor to transmit the following report of the part taken by the troops under my command in the battles fought near Richmond, Ky., on the 29th and 30th days of August, 1862.
On Friday, the 29th of August, a courier arrived at my headquarters, some 2 miles south of Richmond, at 11 o'clock a.m., bearing a communication from Lieutenant-Colonel Munday, commanding a small detachment of cavalry in the neighborhood of Kingston, 5 or 6 miles south of me. Colonel Munday informed me in this communication that he believed the enemy were advancing in considerable force. I caused two copies of Colonel Munday's letter to me to be made out, one of which I sent to Lancaster and the other to Lexington directed to you, not having been informed at which place you might be found. I also sent a written message to Colonel Munday, directing him to hold the enemy in check and ascertain if possible his strength and position ; also to learn if the enemy had left the main road and taken either to the right or left from the turnpike road near the foot of Big Hill with any of his forces. I ordered the men to stand to arms in the First Brigade and be ready to move at a moment's warning. I also sent forward four additional companies to strengthen the picket which I already had in that direction, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Wolfe, of the Sixteenth Indiana.
At 2 o'clock p.m. of the same day a messenger arrived and informed me that the cavalry, under command of Colonel Metcalfe and Lieutenant-Colonel Munday, and the infantry picket, under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Wolfe, were retreating as fast as possible to the camp, and that the enemy, to the number of 4,000 or 5,000, was pressing hard upon them. The only question for me now to determine was whether I should allow the enemy to attack me in my camp or whether I should advance and meet him. It did not take me a moment to decide which course to pursue, as all the hills 1½ miles south of me completely commanded my camp., and I did not think it my duty to allow the enemy to obtain possession of them without a struggle. I therefore ordered forward the First Brigade, consisting of the Sixteenth, Fifty-fifth, Sixty-ninth, and Seventy-first Indiana Regiments, and the artillery under command of Lieutenant Lanphere. When I had advanced three-quarters of a mile I discovered a heavy column of the enemy's cavalry half a mile east of the road. I immediately ordered Lieutenant Lanphere to get a section of his artillery in position and open upon the enemy, which he did with admirable effect, scattering them in every direction.
I then moved forward a mile and took possession of a high ridge, formed line of battle upon the right and left of the road, with artillery protecting each flank and commanding the open country and turnpike road as far south as Rogersville. The enemy in a few minutes made his appearance in considerable numbers, of cavalry, infantry, and artillery. I opened fire upon him with my artillery, and after a sharp skirmish of an hour's duration succeeded in driving him in some confusion from the field, capturing some prisoners, horses, and one cannon.
I advanced again to Rogersville, distant about 1 mile, where I had the men bivouac, with orders to sleep on their arms, and sent forward Colonel Metcalfe with his cavalry to pursue the enemy and ascertain if possible what his strength was. Colonel Metcalfe returned about 11 o'clock p.m. and stated that he had passed down the road in the direction of Big Hill 6 miles, and had there encountered some of the enemy's cavalry pickets, who, after a slight skirmish retired and fell back some distance. Colonel Metcalfe here had 2 men killed and 2 wounded. At the same time I sent out the cavalry to scout the road I also sent an order to General Cruft to place a strong picket on the Lancaster pike and on the road that comes into Richmond on the east side, and to hold his brigade in readiness to move at a moment's notice.
On the morning of the 30th, at 4 o'clock, I caused the men to stand to arms, directing that there be details from each company to make coffee and fill the canteens with fresh water. At 6 o'clock I ascertained that the enemy was advancing upon me, and sent an order to General Cruft to join me with all the forces under his command as quickly as possible; whereupon I gave orders for a forward movement, taking the advance myself with the Fifty-fifth Indiana. I met the enemy's advance half a mile beyond Rogersville and drove them back, took possession of some woods and high ground upon the left et the road, and formed line of battle, the Fifty-fifth on the left of the road behind a fence, the Sixty-ninth Indiana on the right of the road, artillery on the left of the Fifty-fifth on high ground, the Seventy-first Indiana 300 yards in rear as a support for the battery and as a reserve. I ordered skirmishers to be thrown in front, which was done, those of the Fifty-fifth Indiana opening the battle in the most gallant style. In a few minutes, the Sixteenth Indiana coming up, I ordered it to take position upon the left of the Fifty-fifth in the woods, which they did, gallantly maintaining their ground against a very heavy force of the enemy for more than an hour, when an attempt was made to turn their flank. I ordered the Seventy-first Regiment to go forward to their support, which in moving to the point indicated was exposed to a heavy fire from the enemy. I regret to state that Major Conklin, of the Seventy-first Indiana, was killed while thus moving to the support of the Sixteenth and bravely cheering on his men, and that very shortly afterward Lieutenant-Colonel Topping fell from his horse, mortally wounded, while encouraging the men of his command. The rebels seemed determined to turn my left flank, and I was compelled to transfer seven companies of the Sixty-ninth Regiment from the right to the left, where, together with the Seventy-first, they faced the enemy and fought bravely.
In the mean time General Cruft arrived on the field with two sections of artillery and the Ninety-fifth Ohio Regiment in advance. I directed him to place this regiment on the ground that had been occupied by the Sixty-ninth to support the three companies of skirmishers now warmly engaged, and to charge upon a battery that the enemy was then endeavoring to plant upon an eminence only a short distance to the front and right. In attempting to take this position they were exposed to a severe and raking fire, which threw them into some confusion, and the enemy pressed forward with a heavy force and drove all the troops upon the right before them. At the same time we were entirely outflanked upon the left, and the enemy, having gained the cover of a large corn field and the woods, made a descent upon the left wing, which gave way and retreated in great disorder. Up to this time I had maintained my first position for three hours and forty minutes, during all of which time the artillery, under command of Lieutenant Lanphere, had kept up a constant fire, except for a very short time, when the ammunition had become exhausted and before they had received a supply. The Fifty-fifth Indiana, Colonel Mahan, the Sixteenth Indiana, Colonel Lucas, the Sixty-ninth Indiana, Lieutenant-Colonel Korff, and the Seventy-first Indiana, Lieutenant-Colonel Topping, occupied prominent and exposed positions from the commencement of the engagement, and contended against the enemy with a determination and bravery worthy of older soldiers. The three remaining regiments of General Cruft's brigade arrived just at the time when our troops were on full retreat and the rout had become general, the Eighteenth Kentucky being in advance, under command of Colonel Warner. This regiment was immediately deployed into line and made a desperate effort to check the advancing enemy, and contended with him single-handed and alone for twenty minutes, when, after a severe loss, they were compelled to give way before overwhelming numbers. The Twelfth and Sixty-sixth Indiana Regiments not having arrived in time to take part in the first battle retired in good order, and were formed in line of battle on a high position near Rogersville, about a mile in the rear of the first battle-field. Taking these two regiments as nucleus I rallied the remainder of the division, but saw at once that it would not do to fight upon that ground. I deployed the cavalry of Colonels Metcalfe and Munday upon the high ground in front of the infantry, placed one piece of artillery in the road, directing the fire toward the enemy, who were forming line of battle near Rogers' house. I then gave orders to the infantry to face by the rear rank and move to the rear in line of battle. They moved in this manner about three-quarters of a mile, halted, and about-faced. I had now arrived on the ground which I had occupied in the skirmish with the enemy the evening before, and I here ordered General Cruft to move off with his brigade to the right and take position on elevated ground, putting two regiments in the woods on the extreme right and two behind the fence fronting a field of corn and to throw skirmishers forward into the corn field and woods. The first brigade I formed behind fences on the left of the road. The artillery was placed on the right and left, on the same ground occupied the previous afternoon.
I now signaled the cavalry and artillery, which had been left on the ridge in front and which until now had held the enemy in check, and they retired rapidly and took their proper positions in the new line. The enemy now began advancing in great force through the open fields in line of battle, and while they were thus advancing a courier rode upon the field and delivered to me your written order, dated at Lexington, August 30, directing me to retire by the Lancaster road if the enemy should advance in force. It was then 12.30 o'clock p.m., and in less than five minutes from the time I received your order the battle raged with great fierceness along my whole line. The enemy's right soon gave way under the fire from the artillery upon our left, and his whole attention was then turned to our right, upon which a vigorous assault was made by infantry advancing through the woods and open fields. They were met in the most gallant manner by General Cruft's brigade. The Twelfth Indiana and Eighteenth Kentucky Regiments, being placed in the woods, contended against fearful odds and repulsed the rebels several different times. At this point the gallant Colonel Warner, of the Eighteenth Kentucky, was dangerously wounded. The Sixty-sixth Indiana and Ninety-fifth Ohio Regiments held their positions and drove the enemy back a short distance. The enemy soon rallied and again attacked our right wing, which, after a terrific engagement, which lasted from its commencement over one hour, was compelled to fall back and retreated in confusion. I was then forced to order the left wing to fall back, which they did in tolerably good order, the enemy crowding close upon them.
On arriving at my camp I made another effort to rally and reform the troops, and had only partially succeeded when I heard that you were upon the field. I at once reported to you for orders. You informed me that we would make a stand near the town and cemetery. I directed the troops already formed in my camp to move to the place specified. On arriving upon the ground, under your direction the men were formed in line of battle about 2,500 strong, and after contending with an unequal and overpowering force of the enemy for about thirty minutes our whole line was broken and repulsed and the men retreated in the greatest confusion. I regret to say that in this battle Colonel Link, of the Twelfth Indiana, was dangerously wounded, and Colonel McMillen, of the Ninety-fifth Ohio, was shot in the hand.
After passing through Richmond, by your permission I organized a rear guard of the scattered men of most all regiments that had been in the several battles, and took command myself, for the purpose of covering our rear on the retreat. The rear guard behaved well, keeping back the enemy's advance until we had retreated 2 miles on the turnpike road to Lexington, when the scattered troops in advance came to a halt. I left the rear guard in charge of Major Morrison, of the Sixty-sixth Indiana, and pressed forward myself to ascertain the cause of the halt. On arriving in front I found a small squad of the rebel cavalry formed in the road. I attempted to form an advance guard, but owing to the fact that the troops had been defeated in three engagements they were so perfectly demoralized that I found it impossible to rally more than 100 men. This small guard cleared the road in a few moments and continued steadily to advance, driving the rebels from three different stand-points. After passing a little over 4 miles from Richmond we discovered the enemy in heavy force concealed in a corn field on the left side of the road. In attempting to drive them my little band was completely cut to pieces, having 17 killed and 25 wounded. Lieutenant-Colonel Wolfe fell at this point while cheering forward the men. Lieutenant Osborn, my aide-de-camp, was severely wounded. Lieutenant Kercheval, quartermaster Seventy-first Indiana Volunteers, received a severe wound in the left arm, which rendered amputation necessary. The enemy killed and crippled a large number of horses here, which entirely blocked up the road.
It being now about 7 o'clock in the evening, and having no men to make any further resistance with, I attempted to make my escape, accompanied by Colonel Lucas, Captain Baird, and several other officers. We rode through the enemy's lines and proceeded in a westerly direction for half a mile, when we came upon a squadron of the enemy's cavalry, who commanded us to halt, and at the same time fired upon us. My horse was killed and fell upon me, injuring me severely in the breast, and a short time afterward I was arrested by the enemy's cavalry and made a prisoner.
I cannot say with certainty the extent of our loss in killed, wounded, and prisoners, not having received any reports from the officers who commanded on the field, except Colonel Mahan, of the Fifty-fifth Indiana. I do not think, after an examination of the field, that our loss will exceed 200 in killed, 700 wounded, and 2,000 prisoners.(*) I understand the enemy took quite a number of the men of my command prisoners after they had escaped as far as Lexington. The enemy informed me that they had only captured 24 of our wagons and teams, nine pieces of artillery, and a small amount of camp equipage.
I deem it proper here to state that the troops which I found at Richmond when I arrived there three days before the battle had only been in the service from ten to twenty-five days. Some of the regiments never had had a battalion drill and knew not what a line of battle was.
They were undisciplined, inexperienced, and had never been taught in the manual of arms. The artillery which I had was composed of men of different regiments, some of infantry, and a few artillerymen who had been separated from their commands at the Cumberland Gap. They had been sent from Lexington without caissons or a proper supply of ammunition, being quite deficient in fuses and friction primers. The ammunition of some of the pieces was entirely spent in the first engagement of the morning and the ammunition of all had been quite exhausted at the close of the 1ast battle in the evening.
Taking into consideration the rawness of our troops, there has been no battle during the war where more bravery was displayed by officers and men, with a few exceptions, than there was in the four battles near Richmond. I have neglected to state in the proper place that I was joined in the second engagement by a portion of the Third Kentucky Infantry, who had passed from General Morgan's command at the Cumberland Gap with some Government horses. These men dismounted, hitched their horses, and did excellent service. I do not know the names of any of the accomplished officers who commanded this detachment, or I should gladly give them a place in this report.
I cannot close my report without referring specially to the gallant acts of some of the officers which came directly under my own observation. Capt. R. C. Kise, my assistant adjutant-general; Captain Biddle, U.S. Army; Lieutenant Osborne, Fifty-fifth Indiana; Colonel Metcalfe; Mr. William Goodloe, of Lexington, Ky.; Mr. Bennett, of Madison County, and one or two other citizens, whose names I do not remember, who composed my staff on the day of the battles, are entitled to great credit for the services which they rendered me, and for the prompt manner in which they discharged their duty, regardless of personal danger. I am under particular obligations to Captain Biddle for valuable suggestions in relation to the posting and ranging of the artillery.
I am greatly indebted to the gallant Lieut. Wickliffe Cooper, Dr. Irwin, Captains Baldwin, Stacy, and Kendrick, of your staff--some of whom had traveled 25 miles after hearing the cannonading in the morning--for valuable aid given me during the second and third engagements.
Colonels Lucas, Link, Mahan, Korff, Landram, Munday, Oden, McMillen; Majors Kempton, Orr, and Morris; Captain Baird; Lieutenant Lanphere, and Sergeant Brown, of the battery, greatly distinguished themselves during the action, together with other officers whose names I have not got.
The enemy say they had about 12,000 infantry, 4,000 cavalry, and fifteen pieces of artillery, who were all veteran troops, most of them having been in the army since the commencement of the war. Their loss in killed was about 250 and in wounded probably not over 500. The Union troops did not exceed 6,500, and of these there was not engaged at any one time over 3,500. It is to be regretted that we had not some drilled and disciplined soldiers to meet the enemy in the battles near Richmond. I am satisfied the result might and would have been different.
In conclusion allow me to express a wish that the wound which you received in the last action near Richmond may speedily heal and that you may soon be able to take the field again.
I herewith transmit the report of Colonel Mahan, of the Fifty-fifth Indiana, and as soon as reports are received from the other regiments of my command I will forward them to you.
I am, sir, very respectfully, yours,
Mahlon D. Manson,
Brigadier-General, Commanding at Richmond
Text Source - The Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies
Image Source - The Library of Congress
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