Report of Brigadier General Charles Cruft, U. S. Army, commanding Second Brigade.

 

HDQRS. SECOND BRIGADE GENERAL NELSON'S COMMAND,
In the Field, near Louisville, KY, September 5, 1862

Capt. J. EDWARD STACY
A. A. G., Army of Kentucky

Union Brigadier General Charles Cruft
    CAPTAIN: The following report of the operations of the Second Brigade of General Nelson's command in the battles near Richmond, Ky., on the 29th and 30th ultimo, is herewith submitted:
The brigade consisted of four regiments and a battalion of volunteer infantry and a volunteer battery, as follows, to wit: The Eighteenth Kentucky Volunteers, Col. W. A. Warner; Ninety-fifth Ohio Volunteers, Colonel McMillen; Twelfth Indiana Volunteers, Colonel Link; Sixty-sixth Indiana Volunteers, Major Morrison; battalion of Third Tennessee Volunteers, Lieutenant-Colonel Chiles; Andrews' Michigan battery, Lieutenant Hale. The effective strength of the brigade on the morning of the 30th ultimo was 3,085.
On the afternoon of Tuesday, the 26th ultimo, I was assigned to the command of the brigade. It was bivouacked a short distance from the town of Richmond, in a line of battle, which extended from the Irving turnpike, across the State road leading to Cumberland Gap, to the edge of the woods west of the cemetery. The men were all fresh recruits, except the Eighteenth Kentucky, which had seen no field service, very little drill, and was now, for the first time since its formation, collected as a regiment. The men knew nothing of the duties or habits of soldiers. Most of them had been less than a fortnight away from their homes. They could but indifferently execute some of the simplest movements in the manual of arms, but knew nothing whatever of company or battalion drill. Both officers and men were earnest and brave, but wholly inexperienced and untrained. There were no regular camps; neither had the men any of the ordinary camp equipage or conveniences. They were lying exposed to the hot sun by day and heavy dews by night, without the means of instruction or improvement in any way. One regiment had no field officers yet appointed, and, save the exception above noticed, all were but a mere collection of citizens, hastily assembled, armed, and thrown together without the least knowledge of military rules or discipline. The battery, though some time recruited, had never received its guns, horses, or appointments until within the week preceding the battle. It was a sad spectacle to a soldier to look at these raw levies and contemplate their fate in a trial at arms with experienced troops.
Such was the material of the command at the time the brigade was constituted. The same is true of the First Brigade, commanded by Brigadier-General Manson. All that experience could suggest, everything that incessant labor could accomplish, was done by me during the three days preceding the battle to put the regiments and battery into working shape. Not a moment was unnecessarily lost from drills and instruction. Manifest improvement was becoming daily visible. Yet, owing to the almost entire ignorance of the officers, this was necessarily slow. There was but a single staff officer of any experience with me. No subalterns were found in the whole command of sufficient military knowledge to assist upon the general staff.
Upon assuming command the town and bivouacks were at once thoroughly picketed. Cavalry patrols and scouting parties were kept constantly on the roads leading south and southeasterly for a distance of 12 miles out. Every exertion was used to guard against surprise and to procure intelligence from the front. Colonel Metcalfe had met with a repulse at Big Hill a few days previously. It was known that the enemy held this position some 15 miles to the front, but it seemed to be impossible to ascertain his force. Numerous plans were resorted to in order to ascertain this, but all were unavailing.
On Friday, the 29th, it was reported that the enemy had descended from the hill, but nothing could be learned accurately in regard to his approach toward our lines or whether such was his purpose. Duties elsewhere had called Major-General Nelson from Richmond, and the command fell to Brigadier-General Manson.
General Manson's line was 2 miles to the front and parallel to that of the Second Brigade. He had a half battery of artillery belonging to my command on one of his flanks and another half battery upon the opposite one, and was earnestly and laboriously endeavoring to instruct his officers and men and watching matters to the front.
About 4 o'clock on Friday afternoon the discharge of cannon was heard to the front in the direction of General Manson's lines. This continued for some minutes; no intelligence reached me, however, as to the cause. A messenger was sent forward forthwith. The brigade was put under arms, in readiness to march on command. A Rodman gun, from the artillery under command of Lieutenant Andrews, was sent forward on the Irving road, with five companies of the Eighteenth Kentucky Regiment, under Major Bracht, to support it, and every disposition made to move forward rapidly when ordered. The piece upon the Irving road was heard to fire four times, when everything became quiet. The messenger returned from the front with the intelligence that General Manson had advanced some 3 miles to a ridge near the village of Rogersville, had encountered the enemy, driven him off, captured one piece of artillery, and was able to hold his position. The officers in charge of my detachment on the Irving road reported having seen a small force of rebel cavalry attempting to flank General Man-son's left, which he had dispersed by his fire. Nothing further was heard from General Manson, but the command was kept under arms till 10 p.m. The men then retired and were aroused again and placed in line of battle at 3 o'clock on Saturday morning. Still nothing was heard from General Manson directly. My command breakfasted half regiment at a time and were placed in line again.
About 7.15 a.m. on Saturday a heavy cannonade was heard to the front. It continued for some minutes, and was evidently being actively replied to. Occasional musketry was also heard. After waiting a sufficient time for a dispatch to reach me I sent forward for orders. The cannonading now increased, and it became evident that a general engagement was imminent. I waited no longer, but wheeled the artillery and infantry into the road and took up march for the front. After proceeding 4 miles I encountered my messenger, who informed me that he had been unable to communicate with General Manson, though the fight was progressing rapidly on both sides with artillery and would doubtless soon become general. The column, already wearied with heat and thirst, was pressed rapidly up. Near Rogersville, a mile to the rear of the scene of the first action, a messenger from General Manson reached me, urging immediate re-enforcements. The artillery was sent forward on a trot and the infantry hurried up.
The locality of the first battle was a piece of broken woodland on the left of the State road, near a small church, about 1 mile beyond Rogersville and 5 miles from my encampment. As our re-enforcements approached the place we met the artillery wagons driving back to Richmond for ammunition, the supply in the boxes having been already exhausted. My artillery was immediately placed and the fire renewed. The re-enforcing regiments were soon in position, the Ninety-fifth Ohio on the right, Eighteenth Kentucky on the left, while the Sixty-sixth and Twelfth Indiana were held in the rear in reserve. In a few moments after these dispositions were made the enemy's cannonading ceased, and an advance of his infantry was made, showing not only a superior front to ours but very large numbers at each flank. His approach was manfully resisted. Our raw troops went to work in earnest, and for some forty minutes the rattle of musketry was terrible. It was apparent, however, to any experienced eye, that the conflict was too unequal to be of long duration. The enemy's skirmishers were at first driven off and the advance of his main body for a time checked. It was, however, impossible, with the troops composing our lines, to stand against the impetuosity of his charge. The center gave way, then the right flank. The left made still a show of resistance, and the Eighteenth Kentucky, Colonel Warner, was brought up to its aid. This regiment made here a gallant fight, and by its brave stand broke the force of the enemy's attack and prevented the retreat at this time from becoming a rout. The men and officers of most of the regiments, however, fled in confusion to the rear through the fields. A few companies were brought off in tolerable order, but the panic was well-nigh universal. This was 10.30 a.m. At this juncture the whole thing was fast becoming shameful. No appeals availed at first to stop officers or men. The men, however, began to rally. I had the Twelfth and Sixty-sixth Indiana formed on the left of the road across the fields about 1 mile in the rear of the battle-field and in front of the retreating mass, and placed a line of cavalry still to their front. Here the greater portion of the retreating regiments were eventually rallied. A line of battle was established extending across the State road, and all the regiments marched in tolerable order back for a distance of 2 miles through the fields.
Upon conferring with General Manson it was determined to make another fight. It had now reached I p.m. My brigade was ordered to take position on the right of the road and occupy a ridge there. It was soon formed in line, the Ninety fifth Ohio on the left next the road, the Sixty-sixth Indiana to their right, and the Eighteenth Kentucky in cover of the wood, with the Twelfth Indiana on the extreme right. The artillery was placed upon the high ground near the road. Skirmishers were thrown out well to the front. I endeavored in vain to urge some of the cavalry standing to my rear to explore the woodland to my right. The reply, however, returned by my aide-de-camp from their commanding officer was that they were a pack of cowards and would not go.
The First Brigade was formed to my rear several hundred yards, inside a corn field on the left of the road, with its artillery in front. The enemy approached first through a corn field in front of my left wing and opened a severe fire. My line was advanced up the fence and a sharp conflict ensued, in which the Ninety-fifth Ohio and Sixty-sixth Indiana took part. The behavior of these regiments here was excellent, and they succeeded in driving the enemy out of the field and holding their position. The attack now commenced on the right in the woodland. The Eighteenth Kentucky and Twelfth Indiana held their ground for some time in a sturdy manner, but, yielding to overpowering numbers, broke and fell back in confusion. At this time I attempted to change the front of my left wing to oppose the enemy that was crossing the meadow-land on the left of the road. The attempt to maneuver, however, was a failure, and the men broke and fled down the road. The entire First Brigade had gone previously, without having opened fire during the engagement. The flying masses drifted up the road and through the fields in the direction of Richmond. General Manson and myself rode forward, endeavoring to stay the flight and panic in every possible way. Our respective staff officers and some of the field officers of the various commands nobly assisted in the hopeless task.
The general ordered a third rally to be made at the ground formerly occupied by his camp. Here we were striving to collect the scattered soldiers when Major-General Nelson reached the field. He ordered another halt and reformation of line, and chose for the place that formerly occupied by the Second Brigade. Here such of the men as could be rallied were collected and formed in line of battle, the left resting on the State road near the toll-gate, occupying the cemetery and stretching off through the woods on the right. The entire number of men in the last fight in both brigades did not exceed 2,500. My brigade was formed on the left, occupying the cemetery and adjoining corn field and skirt of the woods. The enemy came upon us as soon as the line was formed. His skirmishers were held back for a short while by ours. The attack soon became general and was stoutly resisted for a few moments, when the whole line broke in wild confusion and a general stampede ensued. Both officers and men became reckless of all restraint or command, and rushed pell-mell to the rear, amidst a mingled mass of horses, wagons, artillery, &c., in an utter rout. Every effort possible was made to rally the men behind the artillery, trusting, with the few shots left in the ammunition-chests of the howitzers, to make our way to the rear. Officers, or men wearing shoulder-straps, deliberately refused to render any assistance or respond to any order.
Before the last battle the enemy had flanked our line and passed large bodies of cavalry to our rear. These fell upon the helpless and demoralized mass of fugitives, and either slew or captured them, without much show of resistance. It now became a matter of individual safety, and the mass scattered, each one taking such course as he was able. At times during the battles of the day every regiment in my command exhibited great courage and endurance. Heavy and continued volleys were given, and the enemy was often severely handled. His loss seemed to have exceeded ours, but the perfect discipline of his troops enabled him to break our front, while his superior numbers made it easy to flank our lines in masses that were irresistible. His force at all times engaged must have exceeded ours three times in numbers. He seemed to have in each attack a superior number to our front, with as many on each flank. The account of the whole battle may be summed up in a few words. It was an attack by at least 15,000 well disciplined troops, under experienced officers, upon 6,250 citizens, ignorant of war, without officers of experience. The wonder really is that the latter fought so well for a whole day, could be twice rallied after being panic-stricken, and that any escaped slaughter or capture.
Before closing the report of this disastrous fight it is just to say that there were many instances of great personal valor exhibited by individual officers and men which came under my observation. Colonel Warner, Lieutenant-Colonel Landram, and Major Bracht, of the Eighteenth Kentucky, exhibited proper courage and daring. The former, I regret to say, is reported mortally wounded, and the latter two had their horses shot under them. Colonel Link, of the Twelfth Indiana, was badly wounded in the fearless discharge of his duties. Colonel McMillen, of the Ninety-fifth Ohio, was cool and brave during the whole day, and was wounded in the last fight. Major Morrison and Capt. John F. Baird managed the Sixty-sixth Indiana in a creditable manner and exhibited soldierly qualities upon the field. They were both captured during the retreat. Lieutenants Hale and Andrews, of the Michigan battery, acted gallantly throughout the day, using their pieces effectively, and, with their gunners, standing by them in every extremity. They brought them safely away from all the engagements, but lost them in the retreat. Lieutenant-Colonel Chiles, of the Third Tennessee, was left in rear of the town during the engagements, and his command took no part in them. It was, however, engaged with the enemy's cavalry during the retreat and is reported to have behaved well. Lieutenant-Colonel Chiles was captured by the enemy. Copies of the reports of the regimental commanders and commanding officer of Andrews' battery are herewith appended, marked respectively A, B, C, D, E, and F. In these reports many instances of individual bravery are noted and commended to the consideration of the major-general commanding.
The detailed report of Surg. Joseph Fithian, acting brigade surgeon, is herewith submitted. The report exhibits the following summary of the casualties of the brigade, to wit:
 

Command Officers Killed Men Killed Total Officers Wounded Men Wounded Total Aggregate
12th Indiana Volunteers 0 7 7 3 31 34 41
92nd Ohio Volunteers 0 10 10 5 33 38 48
66th Indiana Volunteers 3 21 24 5 63 68 92
18th Kentucky Volunteers 4 28 32 6 101 107 139
Andrew's Battery 0 2 2 0 9 9 11
Total 7 68 75 19 237 256 331


    It is due to Surgeon Fithian to say that he was unremitting in the discharge of his duties on the field during the engagements, and that he shrank from no personal danger or exposure in ministering to the wounded and dying. He further reports good conduct on the part of all the regimental surgeons of the brigade.
It is impossible to state the number of prisoners captured by the enemy with accuracy. It is presumed, however, from concurrent reports that have been received at my headquarters that nearly half the command were taken prisoners and subsequently paroled. The remaining troops of both brigades were reorganized by me, under orders from Major-General Wright, at Lexington, and marched to this encampment.
In concluding this report it affords me pleasure to make honorable mention of the officers who acted upon my brigade staff, and to express my obligations to the gentlemen from civil life who volunteered their services and exposed their lives in the thickest of the battles. Capt. Wickliffe Cooper, of General Nelson's staff, my acting assistant adjutant-general, bore himself gallantly throughout the engagements and rendered efficient service at all parts of the field. Lieutenant Reeder, of the Eighteenth Kentucky Volunteers, detailed as aide de-camp, evinced a high degree of courage and coolness. Acting brigade quartermaster, Lieut. J. T. Clark, of the Eighteenth Kentucky, obeyed orders--staid with his teams and stores, got his trains safely away, and thereby saved a large amount of Government property from the enemy. Messrs. Green Clay, of Madison County; Hartwell Boswell, L. :P. Shaw, and Wharton M. Moore, of Lexington, and William Holloway and John Miller, of Richmond, volunteered their services as aides-de-camp, and acted throughout the day in that capacity upon my staff. Their bearing on the field was gallant in the extreme and coolness under fire admirable. They were constantly exposed to the enemy's bullets, but escaped unhurt, except Mr. Miller, who was mortally wounded in the second engagement and has since died---a martyr to his high-toned patriotism. Captains Kendrick, Stacy, Baldwin, and Horton, of Major-General Nelson's staff, joined my staff before the second engagement and conducted themselves handsomely on the field, rendering marked service in rallying and assuring the men.
With assurances of regard to Major-General Nelson, and the hope that he will soon recover from his wounds and be again able to take the field, I am, captain, yours, respectfully, &c.,
 


CHARLES CRUFT,
Brigadier-General, Commanding Second Brigade

 

 

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