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Ron

Battle of Mill springs

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Today, January 19, is the 150th annivers of the Battle of Mill Springs, or Logan's Crossroads, or Somerset. This was an important battle for both sides but more so for the confederates. It broke the rebel defensive line in Kentucky and started the union advance and rebel retreat. The campaign in Kentucky and Tennessee in the winter of 1861/1862 is very interesting with serious implications for the confederates. General Felix Zollicofer is the scape goat for the rebels but actually he did a better job than Major General Crittenden and Brigadier General Carroll. I recommend you read about this campaign and Gen Zollicofer. Kenneth Hafendorfer has written four books concerning the Battle of Mill Springs, Battle of Richmond, Battle of Perryville and the Battle of Wild Cat Mountain (Yes, this was a battle). I have all of them and enjoyed them greatly. These battles are not main stream battles and reading about them and their campaigns is the same as getting into the back country. I best day I ever had at Shiloh was when I got of the roads and back into the back country.

Enjoy

Ron

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From the American Civil War web site: http://www.civilwar-online.com/

Januay 19, 1862: The Battle of Mill Springs (Logan's Cross Roads)

From "Holding Kentucky for the Union," by Colonel R.M. Kelly, U.S.V.:

A FEW days before this General George B. Crittenden had arrived at Zollicoffer's camp and assumed command. Hearing of the arrival of Thomas with part of his command, and Fishing Creek, a troublesome stream at any stage of water, was unfordable from recent rains, he called a council of his brigade and regimental commanders to consider the propriety of making an attack on Thomas before he could be reached by Schoepf or his regiments in the rear. There was little delay in coming to a decision. Their camp on the north side of the river was not tenable against a strong attack, and the means of crossing the river were so insufficient that a withdrawal without great loss could not have been effected, in the face of an enterprising enemy. The only chance for a satisfactory issue was to attack Thomas before he could concentrate. Crittenden ordered a movement to begin at midnight on the 18th in the following order: General Zollicoffer's brigade, consisting of two cavalry companies, a Mississippi regiment, three Tennessee regiments, and a battery in front; next, the brigade of General Carroll, composed of three Tennessee regiments and a section of artillery. An Alabama regiment and two cavalry regiments, intended as a reserve, closed the column. After a march of nine miles over muddy roads and through the rain, his cavalry about daylight encountered Wolford's pickets, who after firing fell back on the reserve, consisting of two companies of the 10th Indiana, and with them made a determined stand, in which they were promptly supported by Wolford with the rest of his battalion, and soon after by the rest of the 10th Indiana, ordered up by Manson, who had been advised by courier from Wolford of the attack. Colonel Manson proceeded in person to order forward the 4th Kentucky and the battery of his brigade and to report to General Thomas. On his way he notified Colonel Van Cleve, of the 2d Minnesota. As Manson dashed through the camp of the 4th Kentucky shouting for Colonel Speed S.Fry, and giving warning of the attack, the men, wearied with the muddy march of the day before, were just beginning to crawl out of their tents to roll-call. Forming rapidly, Fry led them at double-quick in the direction of the firing. Having no one to place him, on coming in sight of the enemy, he took position along a fence in the edge of the woods, with his right resting near the Mill Springs road. In front of him was an open field, across which the enemy were advancing from the shelter of woodland on the opposite side. A ravine ran through the open field parallel to Fry's front, heading near the road on his right, with steep sides in his front, but sloping gradually beyond his left. Before Fry's arrival zollicoffer had deployed his brigade, and had forced Wolford and the 10th Indiana to fall back, almost capturing the horses of Wolford's men, who were fighting on foot. A portion of Wolford's command, under his immediate charge, and Vanarsdall's company of the 10th Indiana, rallied on the 4th Kentucky when it appeared, the remainder of the 10th falling back to its encampment, where it re-formed its lines. Fry was at once subjected to a severe attack. The enemy in his front crawled up under shelter of the ravine to within a short distance of his lines before delivering their fire, and Fry, mounting the fence, in stentorian tones denounced them as dastards, and defied them to stand up on their feet and come forward like men.

A little lull in the firing occurring at this juncture, Fry rode a short distance to the right to get a better view of the movement of the enemy in that direction. The morning was a lowering one, and the woods were full of smoke. As Fry turned to regain his position he encountered a mounted officer whose uniform was covered with a water-proof coat. After approaching till their knees touched, the stranger said to Fry: "We must not fire on our own men"; and nodding his head to his left, he said, "Those are our men." I would not do so intentionally:' and he began to move toward his regiment, when turning he saw another mounted man riding from the trees who fired and wounded Fry's horse. Fry at once fired on the man who had accosted him, and several of his men, observing the incident, fired at the same time. The shots were fatal, and the horseman fell dead, pierced by a pistol-shot in his breast and by two musket-balls. It was soon ascertained that it was Zollicoffer himself who had fallen. In the mean time, the enemy were pressing Fry in front and overlapping his right. On his right front only the fence separated the combatants. The left of his regiment not being assailed, he moved two companies not being assailed, he moved two companied from that flank to his right. As he was making this change General Thomas appeared on the field, and at once placed the 10th Indiana in position to cover Fry's exposed flank.

The fall of Zollicoffer and the sharp firing that followed caused woof his regiments to retreat in confusion. Crittenden then brought up Carroll's brigade to the support of the other two, and ordered a general advance. Thomas met this by placing a section of Kenny's battery on the left of the 4th Kentucky, which was overlapped by Caroll's line, ordered the 12th Kentucky to the left of Kenny's two guns, and Carter with the two East Tennessee regiments, and Wetmore's battery still farther to the left, in front of the Somerset road. Standart's battery and Kenny's remaining guns were held in the rear of the center, and McCook's two regiments were ordered up, the 9th Ohio on the right of the 10th Indiana, and the 2d Minnesota in reserve behind the latter regiment and the 4th Kentucky. During these movements Kenny's section was so threatened that it was withdrawn some distance to the rear. There was little opportunity for the effective use of artillery on either side, and that arm played an insignificant part in the engagement, Thomas's superiority in that particular availing him little. Carroll's attack was pressed with great courage, and the ammunition of the 4th Kentucky and 10th Indiana beginning to fail, the 2d Minnesota was ordered to relieve them, which it did under severe fire. Both of McCook's regiments were admirably drilled and disciplined, and moved to the attack with the order and steadiness of veterans. Thomas's disposition of his troops had begun to tell. The advance of the 12th Kentucky on the left, the firing of Wetmore's battery, and the movement of Carter's East Tennesseans checked the enemy's right, and it soon began to give back. The 2d Minnesota was slowly pushing forward over the ground that had been the scene of the most persistent fighting from the first, and the 9th Ohio, on the right, was forcing back the enemy through open ground, when, slightly changing direction, it made a bayonet charge against the enemy's left, which gave way in confusion. Their whole line then broke into a disorderly retreat. After replenishing cartridge-boxes, Thomas pushed forward in pursuit. Within a few miles, a small body of the enemy's cavalry attempted to make a stand, but were scattered by a few shells from Standart. The road which the retreating force followed was strewn with evidences that the retreat had degenerated into a panic. A piece of artillery was found abandoned in a mud hole, hundreds of muskets were strewn along the road and in the fields, and, most convincing proof of all, the flying foe had thrown away their haversacks filled with rations of corn pone and bacon. Those were the days when stories of "rebel atrocities" in the way of poisoning wells and food were current, and the pursuers, who had gone into the fight break fastness, were doubtful about tasting the contents of the first haversacks they observed. Their great number, however, soon became a guarantee of good faith, and the hungry soldiers seized on them with avidity. As Crittenden in his report mentioned the loss of all the cooked rations carried to the field as enhancing the distress of his subsequent retreat, the abundance of the supply obtained by the pursuing force may be inferred. on arriving near the enemy's intrenchments the division was deployed in line of battle, advancing to the summit of the hill at Moulden's, which commanded the enemy's intrenchments. From this point Standart and Wetmore's batteries kept up a cannonade till dark, while Kenny's on the left, at Russell's house, fired upon their ferry to keep them from crossing. The 14th Ohio and the 10th Kentucky had come up during the pursuit, and were placed in advance for the assault ordered for daybreak. General Schoepf arrived about dark with the 17th, 31st, and 38th Ohio.

At daybreak next morning Wetmore's Parrott guns, which had been moved to Russell's, began firing on the steamer which was evidently engaged in crossing troops, and it was soon abandoned and set on fire by the enemy. The assaulting columns moved forward, the 10th Kentucky and the 14th Ohio in advance, and reaching the intrenchments found them abandoned. In the bottom near the ferry-crossing were found 11 pieces of artillery, with their caissons, battery-wagons, and forges, hitched up and ready to move but abandoned by the artillerymen, more than 150 wagons, and over 1000 horses and mules. All the troops had escaped. The steep road on the other bank was strewn with abandoned baggage and other evidences of disorderly flight. The boats used for crossing having been destroyed by the retreating enemy, no immediate pursuit was possible; but during the day means were improvised for getting the 14th Ohio across for a reconnaissance and to secure abandoned property.

Thomas reported his loss in action as 39 killed and 207 wounded, the casualties being confined entirely to the 10th Indiana, 4th Kentucky, 2d Minnesota, 9th Ohio, and Wolford's cavalry. Colonels McCook and Fry were among the wounded. The enemy's loss he reported as 192 killed, 89 prisoners not wounded, and 68 prisoners wounded. Crittenden's report stated his own loss at 125 killed, 209 wounded, and 99 missing,much the heaviest loss being in the 15th Mississippi (Lieutenant-Colonel E. C. Walthall), of Zollicoffer's brigade, which had led the attack on Fry and fought through the whole engagement.

Besides the property mentioned above, a large amount of ammunition, commissary stores, intrenching tools, camp and garrison equipage and muskets, and five stands of colors were fund in the camp. The demoralization was acknowledged by Crittenden in his report, in which he says: "From Mill Springs and on the first steps of my march offices and men, frightened by false rumors of the movements of the enemy, shamefully deserted, and, stealing horses and mules to ride, fled to Knoxville, Nashville, and other places in Tennessee." Of one cavalry battalion, he reported that all had deserted except twenty-five. On his retreat his sick-list increased greatly from lack of food and fatigue, and the effective force of his army was practically destroyed.

After entrance into his intrenchments had demonstrated the panic that existed in the enemy's forces, Fry said to Thomas: "General, who didn't' you send in a demand for surrender last night?" Looking at him a moment as if reflecting, Thomas replied: "Having it, Fry, I never once thought of it." At this time originated a saying often heard in the Western army afterward. A sprightly young prisoner slightly wounded was allowed the freedom of the camp. To some soldiers chaffing him about his army being in such a hurry as even to throw away their haversacks, he replied: "Well, we were doing pretty good fighting till old man Thomas rose up in his stirrups, and we heard him holler out: 'Attention, Creation! By kingdoms right wheel!' and then we knew you had us, and it was no time to carry weight."

Thomas's victory was complete, and the road was opened for the advance into East Tennessee which he had so long endeavored to make and which was contemplated by his instructions, but the scarcity of provisions, the badness of the roads, and the difficulty of crossing the river made progress on that line impracticable, and shortly afterward Carter was ordered with his brigade against Cumberland Gap and Thomas to rejoin Buell's main column, and the East Tennessee expedition, which Nelson had devised and McClellan had strongly urged and Thomas had labored so to put in motion, was definitively abandoned.

Jim

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Somehow George Thomas never got the justice he is due. There is a new book about the general either recently or soon tho be published. I expect it will be better than the biography that came out several years ago.

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Thomas was great in a fight, but he tended to be slow in initiating the action, which did not sit well with Lincoln and Grant. Slow and plodding wasn't getting it done.

Jim

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Actually Sharon, Brigadier General Felix Zollicofer CSA is the person more unknown and misunderstood than the majority of all civil war generals. The reason this is so is he was made the scapegoat for the battle. His true role and importance is little known to the public. Yes, he made mistakes like others but his were held up to be seen by all after the Battle of Mill Springs and the confederate defeat. His record was better than that. He was the confederate military leader who held off the guerillas who threatened the railroad in East Tennessee. He collected the regiments early in the war in this region and established a garrison at Cumberland Gap and also led the rebels into eastern Kentucky, the Battle of Wildcat Mountain and the Battle of Mill Springs. For good or bad, he was the only rebel leader who led operations against the union forces and those loyal to the north in eastern Tennessee and Kentucky because he was aggressive. A true unknown and unappreciated leader. Ron

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I agree with Ron... Mill Springs was an important battle, and for a number of reasons.

 

And I believe that in order to fully appreciate why Mill Springs was important, one must back up a step, and examine what was occurring, just prior. When Kentucky 'neutrality' ended, in September 1861, there was a mad grab for territory:

  • Confederate forces took Columbus (on the Mississippi River);
  • Union forces took Paducah (and Louisville remained outside Confederate control);
  • BGen George Thomas took command of Camp Dick Robinson (near Danville) from former Naval Officer 'Bull' Nelson;
  • Confederate forces consolidated their possession of Cumberland Gap, Fort Henry and Fort Donelson (under construction).

In conjunction with the arrival of General Albert Sidney Johnston from California, and his assuming command of Department No. 2, a 'Defensive Line' was rapidly established, that incorporated the following key bastions:

  • Columbus (left anchor, potentially blocking access to the Mississippi River) under Pillow and Polk;
  • Feliciana (Camp Beauregard, under Colonel John Bowen) just south of Mayfield;
  • Fort Henry (required strengthening: Lieutenant Dixon and Colonel Gilmer sent to assess);
  • Fort Donelson (incomplete, awaiting assessment by Lieutenant Dixon);
  • Hopkinsville (twenty miles northeast of Fort Donelson) under control of Lloyd Tilghman;
  • Bowling Green (strong defensive position, taken by Buckner), capital of Confederate State of Kentucky and General A. S. Johnston's headquarters;
  • Cumberland Gap (right anchor, connected KY/Tenn with Virginia) controlled by Zollicoffer.

During subsequent months, General Johnston did all he could to strengthen his defensive line, and as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, Union forces conducted several 'operations' near the western end: Grant's sortie at Belmont; and 'probes' in the vicinity of Mayfield, which may have been designed to divert attention, or assess Rebel strength. [My guess -- Ozzy]

 

The Union operation to take control of Cumberland Gap was ordered in October 1861. The Battle of Mill Springs, which may have been a follow-on to that operation, was George Thomas' first success; opened the gate (a crack) for Buell's march on Nashville; and resulted in the first break of General Johnston's defensive line.

 

 

Ozzy

 

 

References:  http://archive.org/stream/lifeofgenalberts028942mbp#page/n431/mode/2up/search/Mill+Springs

 

http://www.jacksonpurchasehistory.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/ullrich.pdf

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