O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XVII/1

DECEMBER 15, 1862-JANUARY 3, 1863
Forrest's Expedition into West Tennessee.

No. 8.
Reports of Col. George P. Ihrie, U. S. Army,
of capture of Trenton and skirmish at Railroad Crossing,
Forked Deer River. SAINT LOUIS, Mo., December 31, 1862.

COLONEL: I herewith submit an official report of the saving of two
Government trains, with heavy mails and very large amount of private
money on board, and the recapture of the town of Humboldt, Tenn.,
 by United States troops, over whom I had assumed command, together
with subsequent official proceedings directly connected.

About 1 p.m. of the 20th instant I learned the progress of the regular
passenger train from Jackson, Tenn., to Columbus, Ky., with a guard of
infantry, on which I was a passenger (under orders from the general commanding
the department) was impeded by from 400 to 600 Confederate cavalry strongly
posted, with a section of artillery, on the north side of the main branch of
Forked Deer River and commanding every approach to the river from the south
side, and that brisk firing was then going on between this three and the
bridge guard of Companies H and I, Captains Harts and Shockey, One hundred
and sixth Illinois Infantry, inside a block-house under the railroad bridge.
The train being immediately backed, with the view of returning to Jackson, I
sent word to the officer commanding its guard, suggesting he "should dismount
his command from the cars and go to the support of the bridge guard," which he
did not do. After running back about 5 miles, a negro on horseback came
galloping up the track and informed the conductor that a large force of
cavalry was in our rear burning and tearing up the track. A quarter of a mile
farther we saw the track on fire and several men in butternut clothes
otherwise destroying it, and on a hill close by some cavalry, partly concealed
by trees and underbrush. It was now evident to every one we were caught in a
well-laid trap, and the train and passengers in imminent danger of being captured.
During this time several officers and citizens (passengers) remarked to me
 "the want of a head" and suggested I should "take command," which I
declined to do on the ground of being a staff officer.

The train was now run forward to a stockade guarding some trestle work, and
garrisoned by Company K, One hundred and sixth Illinois Infantry, where we
found a construction train, with guard of infantry, commanded by Col. John
Rogers, Seventh Tennessee Infantry, which had preceded us from Jackson and
which had just returned from the bridge, having been fired at six times by the
Confederate artillery. As the firing was still going on at the bridge I was
surprised to find that this train guard had not gone to their relief after
having been in sight of them. At the stockade all was confusion and "the want
of a head" apparent. The senior line officer present (Colonel Rogers) was
utterly at loss what to do, and admitted his inexperience and incompetency to
some of the passengers, who now again came to me and asked me to "take
command," which I again refused, but said I would advise with the senior line
officer present, and going to him so informed him. At this juncture several
came to me and whispered he (Colonel Rogers) and his regiment were
Tennesseeans without experience--had just run away from the bridge, and
were not reliable. I noticed the enemy were following us up pretty close to our
rear, and at once decided to assume command. I so informed him, in which he
cheerfully acquiesced, obeying all my orders to the best of his ability until
we were out of danger. I now ordered some officers on leave of absence to
duty; dismounted the train guard; ordered the one company at the stockade
to remain with the trains, which were to follow us, as a guard; threw out one
 company in advance as skirmishers, and proceeded with the balance up
the track to relieve the garrison in the block-house by dislodging the enemy.

About 1 miles from the railroad bridge I found a wagon road crossing the
track, and on inquiry learned it crossed the river about 2 miles east
 of the railroad bridge where the enemy were posted. I here ordered two
companies to support the skirmishers, all to proceed cautiously up the track,
taking advantage of the ditches and timber, and to engage the enemy. With the
rest I struck off to the east on the wagon road to turn their left flank, and
reached the river just in time to save the wagon-road bridge, which had been
fired; crossed over; pressed a citizen residing there into service as guide;
threw out another company as skirmishers, and made all haste down the right
(north) bank of the river, to find the enemy had fled, dropping some clothing
and cartridge-boxes filled with cartridges in their hasty retreat, and the
garrison relieved with both trains up to the bridge.
On being informed they had taken the road to Humboldt, Tenn, 3 miles distant,
and up the track, I re-enforced the two block-house companies with the one
stockade company, and, ordering the trains to keep well closed up and near us
as possible, started up the track in pursuit, finding two short trestle
bridges slightly burned and cut. It was now getting dark, and on nearing the
town we saw several houses on fire, and could easily distinguish the hostile
cavalry riding about by the light of the flames. Cautioning the men to extreme
silence and stealthfulness I divided my command in three columns, holding one
company in reserve on the track, two columns to strike off to the right
 of the track to encircle the town and to open fire on reaching the vicinity of
 the houses, one column to the left, to open fire if the enemy attempted
 to escape in that direction. In quarter of an hour the right column opened
 in a lively manner, causing the enemy to scamper in the direction of
 Trenton, Tenn., and to forget some of their plunder.

The town of Humboldt was recaptured, and three stentorian cheers from the
reunited command rung out upon the night air and pealed upon the unwilling
ears of the disappointed and baffled Confederates.
The railroad north and south was immediately picketed, and one of my staff
ordered to obtain information from the citizens about the wagon roads and the
country, with a view to making a map. Colonel Rogers was ordered to take his
regiment and occupy the fort which commands the whole place and vicinity, and
instructions generally given that "in case of an attack, all to rally in the
fort." The two trains soon came up, the damage to the trestle bridges having
been easily and speedily repaired, and all were saved and safe.
These good results were the more gratifying as they were accomplished with but
I wounded on our side. The Confederate loss was 2 killed and 4 wounded. About
an hour later I was astonished to learn that Colonel Rogers had not only
willfully disobeyed my order by abandoning the fort and camping his regiment
in the safest part of the town, but had failed to inform me of the same,
thereby endangering our lives and risking the capture of my command. In
consequence of this insubordination (bordering closely upon cowardice), and
apprehensive of his influence upon his regiment, reported to me at the
stockade as unreliable; cut off as we were from all communications, without
supplies, without artillery, and hemmed in by a cunning, bold, and watchful
enemy, with six or eight pieces of light artillery, who, if he attacked us at
all would attack us next morning at daylight, I deemed it prudent to take no
notice of his unprecedented conduct at the time, but directed Lieut. Col. E.
M. Beardsley, One hundred and twenty-sixth Illinois Infantry, with his
battalion of five companies, to occupy and hold the fort, and ordered up the
three companies left at the bridge to re-enforce him. The next day and night
 (December 21) I endeavored to get couriers through to Jackson for a
section of artillery and one company of cavalry as scouts, but all failed.

On the morning of the 22d, learning the Confederate cavalry were still in
Trenton, and my command having been re-enforced by a battalion of infantry, I
ordered what supplies we had obtained by foraging to be cooked, intending to
make a circuitous night march upon Trenton and to attack it at daybreak the
next morning.  About 5 p.m. I placed Colonel Rogers in arrest by order of
 Major-General Grant; directed him to report in person to the commanding
officer at Jackson for trial by court-martial, sending the commanding
 officer at Jackson a copy of the charges, &c., to be forwarded to your
headquarters. I informed you by telegraph of what I had done, and why I
did it, the same evening. About 6.45 p.m. Brig. Gen. I. N. Haynie, U.S.
Volunteers, arrived and relieved me at 9 p.m. from command.
Half hour after the arrival of General Haynie I received from
 Brig. Gen. J. C. Sullivan, U.S. Volunteers, commanding the District of
Jackson, Department of the Tennessee, the following telegram:

JACKSON, [December] 22, [186'2].
Colonel Ihrie:
General Haynie has at least 1,000 men. I have ordered up artillery.
 I can spare no more men, as Bolivar may have to be re-enforced.
I think the rebels are leaving.
JER. C. SULLIVAN,
Brigadier-General.

To which I made the following reply:
HUMBOLDT, December 22, 1862--7.15 p.m.
General SULLIVAN, Jackson:
Don't want more men. Never asked for more men except some cavalry.
Nothing but starvation would have got me out this strong fort.
Haynie arrived half hour ago.
GEORGE P. IHRIE,
Colonel, Commanding.

At 7.30 p.m. of the 23d December was surprised to receive a telegram from you
informing me General Sullivan had preferred charges against me for assumption
of authority. At 8 p.m. I was astonished and confounded by being arrested by
General Haynie, in accordance with the following telegram:

JACKSON, [December] 23, [1862].
Brigadier-General HAYNIE:
By order of General Grant you will immediately place
Col. George P. Ihrie under arrest and order him to report at Holly Springs.
JER. C. SULLIVAN,
Brigadier-General.

I immediately telegraphed you twice to know whether or not General Grant had
authorized General Sullivan to have me arrested, to which I have received no
categorical answer. I am yet at loss to understand this strange proceeding.
Colonel Rogers reported himself the morning of the 23d December to Brigadier-
General Sullivan, the officer commanding at Jackson, as directed, and was by
him released from arrest and returned to duty with his regiment. Considering
the man's inexperience and incompetency and utter unfitness for the command of
anything military, to say nothing of his insubordination, and, I'm afraid,
cowardice, I could not see that the exigency of the service required his
release; and believing such offenses (aggravated in this case by the
circumstances of our position) to be destructive of all order and discipline, and
if allowed to go unpunished certain to render inefficient and uncontrollable any
 army in the world, I deemed it my duty to prefer charges against Brigadier-
General Sullivan, a copy of which was duly forwarded to you. The few  official
papers rendered necessary by my assumption of command on the 20th
December I inclosed to General Sullivan to be forwarded to your headquarters.

I herewith inclose you my order,(*) issued on being relieved from command by
Brigadier-General Haynie, U. S. Volunteers.
I am, sir, respectfully, your obedient servant,
GEORGE P. IHRIE,
Colonel and Aide-de-Camp, U. S. Army.
P. S.--I add my telegram to the general commanding the department
announcing the result:

HUMBOLDT, December 22, [1862].
Maj. Gen. U. S. GRANT, Oxford, Miss.:
The troops under my command, after some brisk skirmishing, recaptured this
place day before yesterday little after dark, driving out the Confederate
cavalry and causing them to drop some of their plunder. We also saved two of
our trains. The road is cut up to Union City in numerous places and
telegraphic communications with Columbus is destroyed. If I had had a single
piece of artillery I should have fought my way to Union City.
GEORGE P. IHRIE,
Colonel, Commanding.
Lieut. Col. JOHN A. RAWLINS,
A. A. G., Hdqrs. Dept. of the Tenn., Holly Springs, Miss.
-----
SAINT LOUIS, MO., December 31, 1862.
SIR: I herewith report to you that the officer commanding United States troops
at Trenton, Tenn., at the time it was attacked by Forrest's Confederate
cavalry, selected the worst possible place for defense, the railroad depot,
entirely and easily commanded from two different points, only about 200 yards
distant, and situated on the western edge of the town and on low, flat ground.
It seems to have been his studious care to save the town at the expense of the
surrender of his command. Trenton is built like most of the Southern towns you
have visited----a brick court-house in the center of a square surrounded by
houses. Had he taken up his position in this court-house and barricaded the
streets leading to it, through the faces of the square, with cotton bales the
Confederate artillery never could have reached him, except through the houses
of their friends. Here he could have held out one, two, or three days, when he
would have been relieved by the arrival of our troops, as I had made
arrangements to make a night march upon Trenton the day I was relieved by
General Haynie. I will only add when his position for defense was made known
to me I could hardly believe it, and felt mortified in the extreme.
I come now to even a more painful subject. On reaching Columbus, Ky., on the
night of the 29th instant, via Hickman, Ky., I found the commanding officer
there even worse stampeded than was the commanding officer at Jackson. It
would be ridiculous but for the serious results; as it is, it is akin to being
disgraceful. In the conscientious discharge of my duty I recommend
he be removed from his command, as unfit for the important position, in
consequence of being too easily scared.

I am, sir, respectfully, your obedient servant,
GEORGE P. IHRIE,
Colonel and Aide-de-Camp, Acting Inspector-General, D. T.

Lieut. Col. JOHN A. RAWLINS,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Dept. of the Tennessee

 

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