O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XVII/1
DECEMBER 15, 1862-JANUARY 3, 1863.
Forrest's Expedition into West Tennessee.
No. 12.--Report of Col. Edward F. Noyes,
Thirty-ninth Ohio Infantry, of operations
December 18, 1862-January 9, 1863,
including engagement at Parker's Cross-Roads.
HEADQUARTERS THIRTY-NINTH OHIO REGIMENT,
Camp at Corinth, Miss., January 19, 1863.
CAPTAIN: In compliance with orders I have the honor to report the part taken
by the regiment under my command in the recent campaign in West Tennessee:
At 10.30 o'clock on the evening of December 18 an order was received from
brigade headquarters for the regiment to be ready to move by rail to Jackson,
Tenn. (that place being threatened by the enemy), with three days' rations and
100 rounds of ammunition. At 11 o'clock I reported ray regiment ready to move,
and was ordered to take the train then in waiting at the railroad depot. Arriving
in Jackson December 19, reported to Brigadier-General Sullivan, and was
temporarily placed under command of Brigadier-General Haynie. Colonel Fuller,
commanding the Ohio brigade, not having arrived. Was sent about 1 mile northeast
of the town to relieve another regiment, and bivouacked there for the night.
December 20 marched in pursuit of Forrest's cavalry 19 miles, toward
Lexington; but finding that Forrest, with the greater part of his force, had
moved by another road and crossed toward the river in our rear, we were
ordered to countermarch, and arrived in Jackson on December 21.
Moved by rail to Trenton December 27, and the next day marched in the
direction of Huntingdon, which place we reached on the 29th.
Left Huntingdon December 31 and marched in the direction of the Tennessee
River; soon heard cannonading in our front, and when about 10 miles out the
sound of musketry reached us. At Parker's Cross-Roads, 16 miles from
Huntingdon, found Dunham's brigade, which had been engaged since morning,
surrounded on three sides by the enemy under General Forrest. Firing had
ceased, flags of truce were passing, and, as we afterward learned, General
Forrest had demanded an unconditional surrender. A part, if not all, of
Dunham's artillery, together with several hundred prisoners, had fallen into
the hands of the enemy. The moment was a critical one and the day seemed
inevitably lost. Colonel Fuller, however, notwithstanding his command was
wearied by a very rapid march, disposed his three regiments in line of battle
and ordered them to advance at once. We deployed upon the double quick and
advanced as ordered. The enemy, taken utterly by surprise by this sudden
attack in the rear, was thrown into confusion and compelled to make a
precipitate and irregular retreat. My regiment was formed with its center
resting on the road leading from Parker's Cross-Roads to the front.
A large number of prisoners, probably 200 or more, came down this road, their
retreat being cut off, and were sent by me to the rear. I also detailed two
companies of my command to guard these and other prisoners.
Company B, of the Thirty-ninth Ohio, drew off one piece of artillery belonging
to the enemy, and were about to draw off two other pieces, said to have been
captured from Dunham's brigade by Forrest's command, when the regiment was
ordered by General Sullivan to fall back to Parker's Cross-Roads. The enemy
did not again make his appearance, but his defeat and rout were complete.
The Ohio brigade recaptured most of the prisoners which General Forrest had
taken, together with the artillery and small-arms, and captured about 300
prisoners, 300 horses, and 6 pieces of the enemy's artillery. It is difficult
to report precisely what part any one regiment took in the engagement of
that day; but the three regiments composing the Ohio brigade came upon the
enemy together, just in time to prevent disaster and to secure a brilliant victory.
On January 1 pressed on in pursuit of the enemy in company with the Twenty
seventh and Sixty-third Ohio Regiments. Near Lexington formed a junction with
Colonel Lawler's brigade, and on the evening of January 2 reached a point 9
miles from Clifton on the river.
On the 3d the three Ohio regiments made a reconnaissance to the river, it
having been reported, however, that the enemy had already crossed his entire
force. That day and the following evening for a large portion of the time the
rain fell in torrents. The road was covered with jagged rocks, whose crevices
were filled with mud. The men in stepping from rock to rock frequently slipped
and fell, bruising themselves severely. Returning at night in the darkness the
men could not keep their footing, but fell every few rods. Although my
regiment had but recently been supplied with new shoes and clothing
throughout, at the end of that day's march 66 were without any shoes at all
and a large portion of their clothing was in rags. Twenty of my men were also
reported missing and have not since been heard from. It was the most terrible
march I have ever experienced and a costly one in the numbers and health of my
command. If the march was a necessary one it is out of all
propriety to complain of it; if unnecessary, as I think, I feel it to be due
to the men under my command to enter my solemn protest against its repetition
in the future under similar circumstances.
From January 5 to the 9th inclusive marched to Corinth. Arrived there on the
9th, having in two weeks made a forced march of about 200 miles without
transportation, without Government rations, and with no supplies but such as
could be seized in a poor country along the way (generally only pork and corn-
meal, without cooking utensils and without medical supplies), subject to all
the demoralization consequent upon their being obliged to provide themselves
with food or suffer from hunger. The command reached Corinth ragged, shoeless,
dispirited, and worn-out.
I am, captain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
EDW. F. NOYES,
Capt. C. W. DUSTAN,