Companies C and d and the balance of Company A, Ninth Pennsylvania Cavalry, had been formed in fours around the hill to charge with sabre should there be resistance. When the firing slacked they were ordered to charge, and did so, on the camp. Finding it almost abandoned, they galloped over the Watauga. Companies C and D filed left into a ploughed field to head off the retreating enemy. Company A kept the road, and at full charge came on them drawn up in two ranks by the roadside. Capt. Jones ordering them to throw down their arms at thirty paces, the rebels were so startled by the rush of horses and glancing of sabres that they all obeyed the order, but a half dozen, who came near to losing their lives by not doing so. There were two lieutenants and sevent-two men who surrendered and saved much blood-shedding. They were making their way to a log house close at hand–a capital fortress–which we would have been compelled to have stormed at once. Companies C and D went down the road and overhauled sixteen more. The short, sharp action cost several lives. One man of Company D, Seventh Ohio, shot dead; one man of Company A, Second Michigan, mortally wounded in the abdomen, and two of the twelve men, Company A, Ninth Pennsylvania, wounded in the leg; one had to be amputated and the man left with the rebel wounded. Of the rebel forces, there were two killed and fifteen wounded. Our surgeon assisted in dressing their wounded, and two of our wounded men were left at the station, Col. Love and Lieut. Hill promising they should have the same care as their own men. The two Lieutenants, Hill and ____, of the Sixty-second North Carolina, fought their commands with great gallantry. What a pity that it should be exerted in so evil a cause as the disruption of their country.
Our prisoners were all paroled on the road, and here, amounting to near four hundred and fifty, inclusive of one Colonel, two Majors, two Captains and five Lieutenants. It was now dark. The telegraph was instantly destroyed, the camp and the bridge fired, the arms broken and put on the locomotive, and after the bridge had fallen, steam was drawn on the engine and she was run over the abutment on to the burning mass below with a great crash. In our haste to expedite these matters we lost a prize of another locomotive and train that came up in sight at the burning bridge, reversed her wheels and scudded down the road toward Knoxville. Jeff Davis himself might have been on the train. It is the only thing we have to reproach ourselves for during the expedition as being left undone, or half done. There were two hundred and fifty cavalry came up after dark to reinforce the infantry. Hearing of the fight they wheeled about and marched over into North Carolina, reporting there were thirty thousand of us at the railway. Our men were ordered to feed their horses on the rebel corn, and rest for a few hours; but there was no rest after the excitement of the day and night, and at one O’clock on the night of December 30th, we commenced our retreat, and by strategy to baffle the enemy that our scouts told us were missing to cut us off and pursue us. We felt confident they must be great adepts if they could outmanoeuver Gen. and Col. Carter and our guides. Our poor horses were sinking under the severe toil of marching, and it became a matter of prime military necessity to replenish the stock or leave straggling men on our retreat. Every man having a worn-out horse was sent out with a sergeant or corporal to trade off his horse at any farm-house right or left,day and night, leaving his own horse in exchange, it taking only one to make a horse-trade Morgan fashion. Some hundreds of horses were thus pressed into the service, but some six unwary men fell behind the column and were captured by the rebel troops that were following us at a safe distance for themselves in our rear. I find that the Richmond papers give us the credit of doing no marauding, nor injury to private property. Our scouts informed us that five hours after we left Watauga river the enemy had sixteen hundred infantry and four pieces of artillery brought up by railway from Jonesboro or Greenville, and put upon our trail. We laughed at the idea of footmen and field-pieces following up the paths we came across the farms and lanes and ravines. Our guides certainly must have been coon-hunting over that country all their lives at dark nights, to have guided us so unerringly. We cog so that we left the horses to follow up in the dark, and although it felt sometimes as if both horse and saddle were going from under one and we going to perdition, we came out all right on the ravine bottom at last. Humphrey Marshall moved troops from Abingdon to Blountville on our right, and troops were moved from Rogersville to Kingsport to intercept us; but be passed between “Scylla” on the one hand and “Charybdis” on the other, and came out ahead of them all.
to be continued—-
Originally posted 2008-01-28 01:14:07.