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Union Correspondence Part 2 of 4

The Official Records pertaining to the Battle of Mill Springs, KY, January 19, 1862

Including: Letters, Photographs and other significant documents

Compiled by COL Jerry McFarland, William Neikirk, David Gilbert and The Mill Springs Battlefield Association


Lebanon, Ky.,

December 3, 1861---11 p.m.

General D. C. BUELL, Headquarters, Louisville:


.....I have just received a dispatch from General Schoepf.  The enemy are opposite Somerset and have commenced cannonading Hoskins' camp.  He says the strength of the enemy is estimated, from the best accounts he can get, of the following numbers:  At Mill Springs, 2,000 infantry and 1,000 cavalry at Captain Wiatt's farm.  2 miles from Mill Springs, 1,000 infantry at Steubenville.  2 miles farther west, is 2,000 infantry and at Monticello, 5 miles from Steubenville, 3,000 infantry.  I have sent to Colonels Walker and Van Derveer to march to his relief as rapidly as they can.  When these two regiments reach him he will have five regiments of infantry and one battery of artillery.


GEO. H. THOMAS, Brigadier-General, U. S. Volunteers



December 4. 1861

(Received December 5, 1861---3 a.m.)

Brig. Gen. GEORGE H. THOMAS, Commanding Eastern Division


.....GENERAL:  According to your instructions to keep you informed of the movements of the enemy, I do so now.

.....From information just received (1 p.m.) from a captain of the Thirty-eighth Ohio, who was on picket west of me, I learned that the enemy, two regiments of infantry and one battery strong, beat the reveille at 3 o'clock this morning; he heard the train moving in a southwesterly direction, and also heard commands given distinctly.

.....I have no doubt they are moving towards Mill Springs.  A negro man who came from the other side this morning informs me that they had constructed a large number of boats on Meadow Creek, opposite Mill Springs, with the intention to cross at that place.  Being certain that they are not going to cross here, I ordered the whole battery to Mill Springs.  I will order the Thirty-eighth Ohio tomorrow morning to Somerset, to be in readiness to move either to this place or to Mill Springs, where it should be most needed, the distance to either place being only 6 miles.  I will proceed to Mill Springs tomorrow.  I am only waiting to get more reliable information with regard to their movements here.


Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

A. SCHOEPF, Brigadier-General



December 5, 1861

(Received December 6, 1861)

General SCHOEPF, Commanding Camp Goggin


.....GENERAL:  On yesterday I moved forward with the artillery to take position at Mill Springs, according to your order, having sent the cavalry the evening before; they however did not proceed more than 2 miles.

.....I advanced to within 20 miles of the Ford at Mill Springs with my whole force, and went forward with Captain Ricketts and Lieutenant Fife of Artillery, to the Ford to make a personal reconnaissance.  Found their pickets within 100 yards of the Ford, on this side; endeavored to avoid them, and took the woods on the left hand and spent about ten minutes examining their position, and found it too strong and the enemy too numerous to face with our small force.

.....You have been misinformed as to the possibility of securing a good position that any small force can hold at that point.  The rebel camp completely overlooks the bluffs on this side, and it is impossible to take position upon them without being exposed to their full view and in range of all their arms.  Upon attempting by myself to pass to the right bluff near the creek I was fired upon by a body of their cavalry, who were just coming up the hill at the Ford within 100 yards of me.  They followed, firing deliberately as I spurred my horse back.  In turning a sharp angle my saddle turned, girth broke, and I was thrown within 100 yards of them, and but for the noble conduct and cool bravery of Captain Ricketts I would have been killed or captured.  He got off his horse and waited until I ran up to him and gave me his horse, while he escaped into the woods.

.....I found no tenable position at all between Mill Springs and Fishing Creek and certainly none at or near Mill Springs or mouth of Meadow Creek.

.....The rebels have already several boats and cross the Ford with ease.  Their cavalry can cross in a few minutes.

.....Captain Fullerton made diligent inquiry as to their force, and reports to me that there was no doubt that there are twelve regiments at Mill Springs.  They have very extensive encampments.

.....We have not a very strong position here, but it is better than any can get between here and Mill Springs, and if we had a force to throw across the creek I think we could make a very strong resistance.

.....Finding ourselves in an exposed condition, where we could in a few minutes be completely surrounded and the rebels beating to arms, with cavalry across the Ford in our front, and night just upon us, my own judgment, supported by the opinion of all the officers of my command, influenced me to fall back, and finding no place where I could make a stand and save my train except this, I moved back here during the night quietly and in good order; my men and teams terribly fatigued with 25 miles rough marching and countermarching.


Respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. M. CONNELL, Colonel, Seventeenth Ohio Regiment


December 6, 1861

Maj. Gen. GEORGE B. McCLELLAN, Commanding, U. S. Army, Washington, D.C.


.....Efforts are made to secure appointment of certain brigadiers for Kentucky.  I would advise you to receive them with great caution.  We have enough very poor ones already.  Zollicoffer, as I expected, is making demonstrations to stop our blockade of the coal trade on the Cumberland; has opened with his artillery from the other side on the small camp near Somerset.  He will do no great harm.  I am throwing up a small field work there, which will command the river and make a few companies secure.  No other news.  Have you received my two last letters!


D. C. BUELL, Brigadier-General



December 6, 1861

Brigadier-General BUELL, Louisville, Ky.


.....I have just received a dispatch from General Schoepf, he reports the enemy crossing the Cumberland 6 miles below Somerset.  He has with him one battery of artillery, the Seventeenth and Thirty-eighth Ohio, <ar7 478> and Hoskins' regiment; has ordered to his relief the two Tennessee regiments from London and the Thirty-third Indiana, and I have ordered there three days since the Thirty-first and Thirty-eighth Ohio and Hewett's battery of artillery.  Shall I go forward with any of my regiments here?


GEO. H. THOMAS, Brigadier-General, U. S. Volunteers



December 6, 1861

General THOMAS


.....Telegraph General Schoepfs letter.  Does he ask for re-enforcements?   Can the troops at London go directly to Somerset?


D. C. BUELL, Brigadier-General


[December 6, 1861]



.....The troops at London can go directly to Somerset, as I am informed.


GEO. H. THOMAS, Brigadier-General, U. S. Volunteers


HEADQUARTERS, Louisville, Ky.

December 6, 1861

Received, Lebanon, December 6, 1861





December 6, 1861

II.  In compliance with Special Orders No. 19, from department headquarters, Brig. Gen. George H. Thomas assumes command of the First Division, Department of the Ohio, organized as follows:


First Brigade

Brig. Gen. A. SCHOEPF, Commanding

33d Indiana Regiment Volunteers, Col. John Coburn

17th Ohio Regiment Volunteers, Col. J. M. Connell

12th Kentucky Regiment Volunteers, Col. W. A. Hoskins

38th Ohio Regiment Volunteers, Col. E. D. Bradley


Second Brigade

Col. M. D. MANSON, Commanding

4th Kentucky Regiment Volunteers, Col. S. S. Fry

14th Ohio Regiment Volunteers, Col. J. B. Steedman

10th Indiana Regiment Volunteers, Col. M. D. Manson

10th Kentucky Regiment Volunteers, Col. J. M. Harlan


Third Brigade

Col. ROBT. L. McCOOK, Commanding

18th U. S. Infantry, Colonel Carrington

26th Minnesota Regiment Volunteers, Colonel Van Cleve

35th Ohio Regiment Volunteers, Col. F. Van Derveer

9th Ohio Regiment Volunteers, Col. R. L. McCook


Twelfth Brigade

Actg. Brig. Gen. S. P. CARTER, Commanding

1st East Tennessee Regiment Volunteers, Col. R. K. Byrd

3d East Tennessee Regiment Volunteers, Col. J. P. Tarter

6th Kentucky Regiment Volunteers, Col. T. T. Garrard

31st Ohio Regiment Volunteers, Col. M. B. Walker



1st Regiment Kentucky Cavalry, Col. F. Wolford

Squadron Indiana Cavalry, Captain Graham

Battery B, 1st Ohio Artillery, Capt. W. E. Standart

Battery C, 1st Ohio Artillery, Capt. D. Kenny

Battery B, Kentucky Artillery, Capt. J. M. Hewett

Maj. E. Lawrence commanding artillery


VII.  Until further orders the First Brigade will take post at Somerset, Ky; Second and Third Brigades at Lebanon, and Twelfth Brigade at London.


XI.  Captains Standart's and Hewett's batteries of artillery, Major Lawrence commanding, and the First Kentucky Cavalry, Col. F. Wolford commanding, are temporarily assigned to duty with the First Brigade, and will report to Brigadier-General Schoepf for duty at Somerset, Ky.


XII.  The squadron of Indiana cavalry, Captain Graham commanding, and Battery C, First Ohio Artillery will report for duty at division headquarters.


By order of General Thomas:

GEO. E. FLYNT, Assistant Adjutant-General



December 7, 1861

Brigadier-General BUELL:


.....General Schoepf reports that camp having crossed the Cumberland as near as he could learn with four regiments of infantry two regiments of cavalry and eight pieces of artillery, and as there was no position near the river that could be held by his small force, he fell back on the night of the 5th, about 3 miles this side of Somerset to a very fine position, commanding the Crab Orchard and Stanford road, where he would await his re-enforcements and then move forward.  Three roads flanking his position on Fishing Creek rendered it untenable.  The enemy had 3,000 employed about 3 miles west of his position on Fishing Creek, and his scouts reported them still crossing and moving down the river, driving in his pickets and taking possession of the ferries at Hudson's and Patterson's, from to which roads lead to the main road 1 mile in rear of his present position.


GEO. H. THOMAS, Brigadier-General, U. S. Army


December 8, 1861

General THOMAS, Lebanon


.....What troops are probably with Schoepf now?  What others are on the way?  Are the Thirty-first Ohio and the Tennessee [regiments] moving?  Have you further news from Schoepf?


D. C. BUELL, Brigadier-General Commanding



December 8, 1861

Brigadier-General BUELL:

.....The two Tennessee [regiments], armed with muskets; the Seventeenth and Thirty-eighth Ohio Regiments, Thirty-third Indiana, armed with rifle muskets, and the Thirty-fifth Ohio and Hoskins' regiment are with Schoepf by this time or should be.  He has also Standart's Ohio and two sections of Hewett's Kentucky artillery, and someof Wolford's cavalry.  The Thirty-first Ohio has not moved since your order to remain at Dick Robinson.  It is armed with the rifle musket, caliber .58.  This is well supplied with ammunition.

.....Have not heard from Schoepf since last night.  A telegraph to Colonel Walker from you would reach him in three hours from Nicholasville.


GEO. H. THOMAS, Brigadier-General, U. S. Vols.



December 8, 1861

(Received Lebanon, December 8, 1861)

General THOMAS:


.....The affairs at Somerset are annoying, but I do not intend to be diverted more than necessary from more important purposes.  I [suppose] Schoepf will be able to drive the enemy across the river again.  Keep an eye on Columbia, and be prepared to push a brigade or two rapidly to that point.  Organize and equip your brigades as rapidly as possible.  See that they have ammunition.


D. C. BUELL, Brigadier-General



December 8, 1861



.....GENERAL:  I have your letter of the 23d Instant. (*)  The same mail brought other letters, giving me sad accounts of that horrible night march from London.

.....You are still farther from East Tennessee than when I left you nearly six weeks ago.  There is shameful wrong somewhere; I have not yet satisfied myself where.  That movement so far has been disgraceful to the country and to all concerned.  I feel a sense of personal degradation from my own connection with it greater than from any other part of my public actions.  My heart bleeds for these Tennessee troops.  I learn they have not yet been paid, and are left without either cavalry or artillery at London, and not permitted to do what is their daily longing---go to the relief of their friends at home.  With Nelson and the measles and blue-grass and nakedness and hunger and poverty and home-sickness, the poor fellows have had a bitter experience since they left their homes to serve a government which as yet has hardly given them a word of kindly recognition.  The soldiers of all the other states have home government to look after them.  These have not, and but for Carter, who has been like a father to them; they would have suffered still more severely.  That they at times get discouraged and out of heart I do not wonder.  My assurances to them have seemed so open, that I should be ashamed to look them in the face. <ar7 485>

.....I have not seen the newspaper strictures you refer to; but I can easily understand their character.  Before I left the West I sent articles in the Cincinnati papers of a most mischievous character and tendency, and I thought I had arranged to have the writers hunted out and whipped; but I suppose it was not done.  I mentioned the matter to General McClellan one day.  Said he, "Why does he not expel them from his camps?"  A professed newspaper correspondent is a public nuisance and should be abated accordingly.

.....I cannot approve your determination simply to "obey orders".  The country has conferred upon you high rank in her armies, and she has a right to expect that will bring all your abilities to her aid in sustaining her flag.  You do wrong in allowing personal indignities come from what quarter they may to diminish your activity in her service.


With renewed assurance of confidence and sympathy, I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

HORACE MAYNARD, Acting Brigadier-General, Commanding Twelfth Brigade



December 9, 1861

Brig. Gen GEORGE H. THOMAS, Commanding Eastern Division, Kentucky


.....GENERAL:  Yours of the 7th is at hand.  In a hasty note of the 8th I stated to you the state of affairs about Somerset.  I have little to communicate in addition to what I then wrote, viz., that the enemy is on this side of the river and within 7 miles of us.  His force, from the most reliable information consists of nine regiments of infantry, 3,500 cavalry, and ten pieces of artillery.

.....My force, including the Tennesseans, just arrived, will not amount to more than 5,000.  I have no cavalry that can be relied on.  I have ten pieces of artillery.

.....My command is necessarily scattered having several points to defend it being uncertain by which of the several approaches to the village the enemy will make his appearance.
.....From the above you must see the necessity of my being immediately re-enforced.  My communications for the last seven or eight days have, I think, fully shown this necessity.
.....I shall meet the enemy, be the result what it may.
.....I have ordered Captain Dillion to report to your headquarters in arrest.  Charges will be forwarded per next mail.
.....We received about two days supply of provisions from Lebanon today.  We were entirely out.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
A. SCHOEPF, Brigadier-General, Commanding First Brigade
December 9, 1861
Brigadier-General BUELL:
.....Have not heard from General Schoepf since his fallback, except that he had countermanded the order for the movement of the Tennessee regiments.  He has no confidence in his cavalry, and sent his dispatch by mail.
GEO. H. THOMAS, Brigadier-General
December 9, 1861
.....DEAR SIR:  I learn from Judge Green, of Russell, a most reliable citizen and truly loyal, that the rebels under Generals Zollicoffer and Cullom, after crossing the Cumberland, have sent part of their forces on this side the river, in direction of this place.  He believes it is the purpose of the enemy to move on this point.  I hardly think they will venture by the Somerset and Columbia road to this place.  I have thrown out scouts on that road and to two other points on the Cumberland.
.....General Cullom---Bill Cullom---former Clerk of Congress---joined Zollicoffer last Tuesday or Wednesday with 4,000 men.  This is reliable, I have it unmistakably.  Mr. Rufus Ingram brother-in-law of Cullom, informs me of the certainty of it.  He says they have 1,000 men, pretty well armed, with eight or twelve guns.  Zollicoffer has united with his forces those of General Cullom and Colonel Stanton.  You cannot drive him back with less than 1,000 troops.  If you do not prepare to do this, the enemy will be in the center of the State.
December 9, 1861
Col. T. E. BRAMLETTE, Columbia, Ky.
.....DEAR COLONEL:  I have the following facts reliable, viz.: Zollicoffer's forces are all across Cumberland River, except the Mississippi regiment and about 300 men under Colonel McRea; the latter are camped at Hiram Hall's, in Wayne.  The Mississippi regiments are camped at Mill Springs. <7_491>  There are about 5,000 across in camp, on the hill opposite Mill Springs.
.....This comes from a gentleman just in from Wayne, who lives near Hall's.  He says he has been at Mill Springs and saw all that he reports, and knows that it is true.  He was there when the scouting patrol came in that had the brush at Rowena on Sunday; they reported one of their number killed, one horse wounded and several pistols and guns lost, and some other minor injuries received.  They rear and curse and swear vengeance against Rowena.
Yours, etc.,
P. S.  He says nine regiments have gone up to Mill Springs.  Thinks there are about 6,500 to 7,000 in all Zollicoffer's forces.

CAMP WOOD, Bacon Creek

December 11, 1861

Capt. J. B. FRY, Assistant Adjutant-General, Chief of Staff


.....I wish authority to call upon Colonel Turchin's force, if necessary.  Seventy-five rebel cavalry came up to Woodsonville at 5 a.m. this morning, got behind a house, and fired a volley.  Our pickets returned it.  The rebels fled.  Hindman encamped at Bear Wallow last night with 4,000 men.  I will watch him.





December 12, 1861

(Received December 16, 1861)

Brig. Gen. GEORGE H. THOMAS, Commanding division, Lebanon


.....GENERAL:  Having obtained much information relative to the face of the adjacent country, its roads, streams, and crossings, together with the ranges and haunts of the enemy, I would respectfully offer the following suggestion:

.....Let a respectable force move from Columbia along the road leading to Somerset until it reaches the salt works, at the head of Fishing Creek!  By this time its movements will have attracted the attention of the enemy, now on the river near the mouth of this creek.

.....At this moment let me cross the river with the principal part of my force at a point due south of Somerset (which I can do).  The enemy on being crowded by the Columbia force, will attempt to recross the river, when, with that force in his rear and mine in front (south side of the river), his capture must be certain.

.....What do you say to this plan?


Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

A. SCHOEPF, Brigadier-General