Civil War Love Letters: October 16, 1862
Since last writing on October 12, James and the other men in Union general Don Carlos Buell’s force continued to chase and skirmish with the troops of Confederate general Braxton Bragg, forcing them to evacuate Camp Dick Robinson, near Danville, Kentucky. On October 13, Buell learned that Bragg and his men were moving south, and Buell ordered his men to follow. Union general Thomas J. Wood’s division skirmished with the Confederates at Stanford, Kentucky, on the morning of October 14. That same day, the men of Union major general Charles C. Gilbert’s III Corps, including James, marched southeast from Danville. At Lancaster, Kentucky, on October 14, James and his company met the enemy, the forces of Confederate colonel John Hunt Morgan. The two sides exchanged cannon fire, but not a general engagement. The Union troops camped half a mile away, and allowed the enemy to escape over night. The following morning, on October 15, James’s regiment, the 8th Kansas Infantry, skirmished with Bragg’s rear guard as they marched back into Lancaster, and the artillery again exchanged fire. The citizens of Lancaster happily welcomed the Union troops as they marched through the town. The Confederates lost 28 men killed and wounded in the skirmish, and they continued their retreat toward Cumberland Gap in southeast Kentucky to go back to Tennessee. Bragg’s invasion of Kentucky, and his attempt to bring the state into the Confederacy, was over.
Camp near Mount Vernon Kentucky
October 16, 1862
My Dear Molly
I closed most all my late letters in a hurry & I dont know but this may be the same but I hope not as the enemy has finally gone on a full run for Cumberland Gap (it is supposed) & the advanced Divisions are peppering his rear, his advance is at least 2 days or 40 miles ahead of us.
He broke yesterday morning after we attacked him at Lancaster while Crittenden’s Division attacked him at Crab Orchard Hardcastle Co. & after some brilliant skirmishing on our side & good running on his with but small loss of life on either, though a good many wounded, & sick & lazy secesh fell into our hands all protesting that they were tired of the war, & that their comrades would soon all desert if it wasn't soon ended. They are in fact much demoralized -
But to return on the 12th I wrote you & ere I could well close we marched - at the next halt I begun to answer a letter to Alex but that I couldn't finish as I found the messenger with the mail was starting, & our Regt. marched on & left me ere I could hand him the letter. We were then in camp between Harrodsburgh & Danville - that day we marched towards Camp Dick Robinson - where Bragg was said to be entrenched with his main Army, that was Sunday last. We could hear cannon all day, & we afterwards heard that McCook had driven them on that day out of Danville, & was close on them at Camp Dick. We lay at night after a march of 12 miles half way from each place about 5 miles. After a fine warm night we marched next morning to Danville expecting to follow McCook but not so. We countermarched to the South East of the Camp & lay over night, hearing the cannon roar constantly, & next morning news came that Camp Dick Robinson was also evacuated so we countermarched again on the 14th into Danville & made a rapid march through it & out on the Lancaster Pike some 20 miles where we suddenly were attacked by Morgan & the forces under Kirby Smith into the very camp of which we ran without notice on either side, & to the equal astonishment I believe of both - for Bragg had taken the other road & McCook after him. Well we had to rush up hills & over ravines under fire, so as to gain a good Position. This we did within 5 minutes our Regt. leading as skirmishers but not before the 8th Wisconsin battery had lost two guns in their haste turning in the road to escape Morgan’s Cavalry - but immediately Genl Mitchells body guard the 2d Kansas Cavalry rushed upon it, & put new horses to it with drag ropes & brought it away, the secesh having skedaddled without fight. We gave them a good lesson & the night closed on both parties in line. We had driven them into town & took a few prisoners – so we returned to the creek about a mile to camp, posting pickets to watch any movement in our direction. We could hear movements all night but could devise what it meant, as it is so dangerous to enter a town after night, unless it is doomed to fire or total destruction & this being a Union town we wished to save it from even a fight in the streets if possible. Well next morning we ascertained it was some of Bragg’s men coming in off another road whom we could have taken prisoners if we had known, as we had them cut off at the time we fought. We started early through all the roads & fields leading to town & at once found their pickets. Our cavalry charged on them & drove them on a gallop through town while we all charged like Wild Indians after, up one street & down another. On the hills about a mile beyond, we found their cannon posted & we had to stop our race until our cannon could pass us & face them just at the edge of town, which they soon did. We had such a grand reception by the inhabitants, ladies & children flocked around regardless of danger & blessed us with tears in their eyes as their preservers from death & destruction. Old men & young could not do enough for us, fetched us everything out in the field, & fetched out their old rifles to have a pop at the runaways, even the niggers were in extasy as the Rebels had been running many of them down south & numbers of those here had escaped from their clutches in the haste of leaving. So the time passed, a rebel shell dropping occasionally while we lay in line & our batteries took position in front. As soon as they were placed they soon silenced our opponents. We could see them run out of the corn fields & from behind the fences, their battery left also, & our Battalion was again sent out to feel the ground as skirmishers under cover of the artillery & with a cloud of cavalry in our rear. We advanced about a mile crawling in open order & took their positions one after another, & found only deserted camp fires where lately were cannon. Soon our whole charged after them. Cavalry first, cannon after & we after being recalled after them - until they found what road they had taken. Then we had to advance again & skirmish & examine all the fields & houses on both sides of the road for ten miles along & one mile wide. We marched about 12 miles in all beside the ground we skirmished over & camped last night at the creek by Crab Orchard near Mount Vernon. All along the road we found traces of Secesh camps & took many prisoners & stragglers & sick, but ere we got here we found that the rebels had left the road & as we had no orders to follow them east (other troops of ours being in that direction) we camped here.
The fates are unpropitious
The mail closes again
in haste Good bye
With much love
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