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Full text of "Sketch of the First Kentucky brigade"

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FIRST KENTUCKY BRIGADE 



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ADJUTANT GENERAL, G. B. HODGE. 



h K A X K FOR I" , K V 

AT THK KKNU. CKY VI 
MAJOR & JOHNSTON. 



SKETCH 



OF THE 



FIRST KENTUCKY BRIGADE 



BY ITS 



ADJUTANT GENERAL, G. B. HODGE. 

II 



FRANKFORT, KY. 

PRINTED AT THE KENTUCKY YEOMAN OFFICE. 
MAJOR & JOHNSTON. 

I8 74 . 



4 



TO 

GENERAL JOHN C. BRECKINRIDGE, 
ITS NOBLE COMMANDER, 

TO THE 
GALLANT SURVIVORS, 

AND TO THE 

MEMORY OF THE IMMORTAL DEAD 
OF THE BRIGADE, 

THIS SKETCH 
IS AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED. 



2 

^ \ 

SKETCH OF THE iST KENTUCKY BRIGADE. 



In the general history which will go down to posterity of such 
immense bodies of men as were gathered under the banners of 
the Confederate States of America, it is not likely that more than 
a brief and cursory reference can or will be made to the services 
of so small a force as composed the First Kentucky Brigade. 
Yet the anomalous position which it occupied, in regard to the 
revolution, in having revolted against both State and Federal 
authority, exiling itself from home, from fortune, from kindred, 
and from friends abandoning everything which makes life desir 
able, save honor gave it an individuality which cannot fail to 

I attract the attention of the calm student, who, in coming years, 

traces the progress of the mighty social convulsion in which it 
acted no ignoble part. The State, too, from which it came, 
whatever may be its destiny or its ultimate fate, will remember, 
with melancholy and mournful interest, not, perhaps, unmingled 
with remorse, the career of that gallant band of men, who, of 
all the thousands in its borders inheriting the proud name and 
lofty fame of Kentuckians, stood forth fearlessly by deeds to 
express the sentiments of an undoubted majority of her people 
disapprobation of wrong and tyranny. Children now in their 
cradles, youths as yet unborn, will inquire, with an earnest eager 
ness which volumes of recital cannot satisfy, how their country- 

I men demeaned themselves in the fierce ordeal which they had 

elected as the test of their patriotism ; how they bore themselves 
on the march and in the bivouac ; how in the trials of the long 
and sad retreat ; how amid the wild carnage of the stricken field. 
Fair daughters of the State will oftentimes, even amid the rigid 
censorship which forbids utterance of words, love to come in 
thought and linger about the lonely graves where the men of 
the Kentucky Brigade sleep, wrapped in no winding-sheets save 
their battle-clothes, beneath no monuments save the trees of the 
forest, torn and mutilated by the iron storm, in which the slum- 
berers met death. It has seemed to me not improper, therefore, 

M214845 



4 First Kentucky Brigade. 

that the story should be told by one possessing peculiar facilities 
for acquiring knowledge of the movements of detached portions 
of the force, and who, in the capacity of a staff officer, under 
the directions of its General, issued every order and partici 
pated in every movement of the brigade, who had not only the 
opportunity but the desire to do justice to all who composed it, 
from him who bore worthily the truncheon of the General, to 
those who not less worthily in their places bore their muskets as 
privates. A deep interest will always be felt in the history of 
the effort which was made, by men strong in their faith in the 
correctness of republican forms of government, notwithstanding 
the tyranny which the great experiment in the United States 
had culminated in, to reconstruct from the shattered fragments 
of free institutions upon which the armies of the Federal power 
were trampling, a social and political fabric, under the shelter of 
which they and their posterity might enjoy the rights of free 
men. When the first seven Southern States seceded, and Presi 
dent Lincoln took the initial steps to coerce them, the Legisla 
ture of Kentucky, by an almost unanimous vote of the House 
of Representatives, declared that any attempt to do so by march 
ing troops over her soil would be resisted to the last extremity. 
The Governor had refused to respond to the call of the Execu 
tive for troops for this purpose. The Legislature approved his 
course. But here unanimity ceased ; effort after effort was made 
in the Legislature to provide for the call of a sovereignty con 
vention. The majority steadily resisted it. As a compromise, 
the neutrality of the State was assumed, acquiesced in by the 
sympathizers with the North because they intended to violate it 
when the occasion was ripe ; acquiesced in by the Southern men 
because, while their impulses all prompted them to make com 
mon cause with their Southern brethren, they believed that the 
neutrality of the State, in presenting an effective barrier of seven 
hundred miles of frontier between the South and invasion, offered 
her more efficient assistance than the most active co-operation 
could have done. The Legislature adjourned; the canvass com 
menced for a new General Assembly; delegates were elected, 
pledged to strict neutrality ; the Northern sympathizers had been 
vigorous, active, and energetic, and unscrupulous. They had in 
every county organized "Home Guards;" arms were, by their 



First Kentucky Brigade. 5 

connivance, introduced by the Federal Government in large 
quantities. On the first Monday in September the Legislature 
met, the mask was thrown off; neutrality was scouted ; troops 
were openly levied for the Northern army, and the outraged 
Southern men revolted. 

Early in the summer of 1861, bodies of the young men of the 
State had repaired to Camp Boone, in Tennessee, near the Ken 
tucky line, where were forming regiments to be mustered into 
the service of the Confederate States. Most of these had been 
previously members of the State Guard of Kentucky, and con 
sequently had enjoyed the advantage of systematic and scientific 
drill. They were rapidly organized into three regiments of infan 
try, known as the 2d, 3d, and 4th Kentucky Regiments of Vol 
unteers, the 2d having as its Colonel, J. M. Hawes, recently an 
officer of the United States Army, but who, with a devotion 
which almost invariably manifested itself among the officers of 
Southern birth, promptly and cheerfully gave up the advantages 
of a certain and fixed position in a regularly organized army, to 
offer his sword and military knowledge to the cause of South 
ern independence. He was soon succeeded by Colonel Roger 
Hanson. The 3d had as its Colonel, Lloyd Tighlman, the 4th 
Robert P. Trabue. Colonel Tighlman, before his regiment was 
actively in service, was made a Brigadier, and its Lieut. Colonel, 
Thompson, succeeded to the Colonelcy. These three regiments 
formed the nucleus of a brigade, to the command of which Brig 
adier General S. B. Buckner, recently Inspector General and 
active Commander of the Kentucky State Guard, was assigned 
by President Davis. To this command were afterwards added 
the 5th Kentucky, commanded by Colonel Thomas Hunt, the 
6th, commanded by Colonel Joseph Lewis, Cobb s battery, and 
Byrnes battery of artillery. 

On the i /th of September, 1861, General Buckner, with some 
Tennessee troops and the Kentucky regiments, moved to Bowl 
ing Green, in Kentucky, and occupied it, fortifying it and fitting 
it for the base of active operations of the Confederate armies in 
Kentucky, which it became for some months. One regiment of 
infantry and a battery of artillery was thrown forward to the 
bridge on Green river, under command of Colonel Hawes the 
bridge, shortly after, was burned by the Confederate troops. 



6 First Kentucky Brigade. 

Capt. John Morgan, a few days subsequently to this, reached 
this command with one hundred men from the interior of Ken 
tucky. These men were mounted, to serve as scouts ; and here 
commenced that career which afterwards gained for their fearless 
leader a continental reputation as a bold, daring, and effective 
partisan officer. Few men, indeed, with means so limited, and 
in the midst of movements so grand and stupendous that the 
career of general officers have been lost sight of, have won such 
a name and reputation. Of a mild and unassuming demeanor, 
gentle and affable in his manners, handsome in person, and pos 
sessed of all that polish of address which is supposed to best 
qualify men for the drawing-room and parlor, no enterprise, 
however dangerous, no reconnoissance, however tiresome and 
wearying, could daunt his spirits or deter him from his purpose. 
For months, with his handful of men, he swept the northern 
bank of Green river, cutting off the supplies of the enemy, 
destroying bridges necessary for their transportation, capturing 
their pickets, and harassing their flanks, moving with a celerity 
and secrecy which defied pursuit or detection. No commander 
of a detached post or guard of the enemy could flatter himself 
that distance from Bowling Green or disagreeableness of weather 
could protect him from a visit from Morgan. He was liable to be 
called upon at any hour, in any weather, or at any point beyond 
the intrenched camps of the Federal army. The earth might 
be soaked with rain, which for days had been falling, the roads 
might be impassable, the Green and Barren rivers with their 
tributaries might be swollen far beyond their banks, but over 
that earth and across those rivers, when least expected, came 
Morgan as with the swoop of an eagle ; and, after destroying 
the munitions of the enemy, or capturing his guards, was away 
a^-ain, leaving behind him a polite note intimating he would 
call again soon, or perhaps telegraphing a dispatch to the near 
est Federal commander, giving him full and precise particulars 
of the movements he had just made, and most provoking details 
of the damage he had just committed. Long after the Confed 
erate army had retired from Kentucky, when the entire State 
was in undisputed possession of the Northern armies, many a 
Southern sympathizer found immunity and protection from mal 
treatment and outrage by the significant threat that Morgan 



First Kentucky Brigade. 7 

would visit that neighborhood soon. And, indeed, during the 
disastrous retreat from Nashville, the tireless partisan, passing 
through Eastern Tennessee and Kentucky, far in the rear of the 
Federal army, fell upon their train at Gallatin, Tennessee, and 
lit up the spirits of the despondent Tennesseans by one of his 
bold and daring strokes. Even when the Southern army had 
passed the Tennessee river, when every available soldier of the 
South was supposed to be at Corinth to meet the overwhelming 
hosts of the invader, Morgan, gathering three or four hundred 
of his men, recrossed the river, fell upon the railroad train at 
Athens, Alabama, captured two hundred and eighty prisoners, 
and destroyed the cars. Ambushed, defeated, cut to pieces, and 
routed by greatly superior forces a few days afterwards, hardly 
had the news reached Louisville of his disaster, when; collecting 
two hundred of his scattered command, he fell like a thunder 
bolt upon the railroad train at Cave City, in the centre of Ken 
tucky, capturing many prisoners, thousands of dollars in money, 
and destroying forty-three baggage cars laden with the enemy s 
stores. 

Early in November, 1861, the Hon. John C. Breckinridge 
arrived at Bowling Green, when he resigned his seat as Senator 
from Kentucky, in the Federal Congress, and was immediately 
commissioned as Brigadier General, and assigned to the com 
mand of the Kentucky Brigade, General Buckner assuming 
command of a division of which the Kentucky Brigade was a 
component part. He assumed command on the i6th of Novem 
ber having as his Chief of Staff and A. A. General, Captain 
George B. Hodge, and Aid-de-Camp, Thomas T. Hawkin. The 
brigade was ordered to Oakland Station, on the Louisville and 
Naslwille Railroad, where, in conection with Hindman s brigade, 
it remained in observation of the movements of the enemy on 
the north bank of the Green river, who was known to be in great 
force at Munfordsville, and in his cantonments extending back 
towards Elizabethtown, and was supposed to be only waiting the 
completion of the Green river bridge, which he was repairing, 
to advance his entire column, estimated at 80,000 men, on Bowl 
ing Green and Nashville. Behind the curtain of the brigades of 
Hindman and Breckinridge, Gen. Johnston was rapidly pushing 
on the fortifications at Bowling Green ; and by the latter part of 
January, 1862, they had become quite formidable. 



8 First Kentucky Brigade. 

It had, however, become doubtful whether the enemy would 
attempt the passage of the Green river. It was certain, if he 
did so, his true attack would be developed in a flank movement, 
by way of Glasgow and Scottsville, on Nashville, while there 
was left him the alternative of massing his troops at Paducah, 
then in his possession, and availing himself of his enormous 
supplies of water transportation, of moving by the Tennessee 
and Cumberland rivers on Forts Henry and Donelson, by a suc 
cessful attack on those works, turning the flank of the Confeder 
ate forces at Bowling Green, opening the way to Nashville, and 
possibly enabling him to interpose between the Southern armies 
and their base of operations. To guard against this latter move 
ment, the divisions of Generals Floyd and Pillow, and a portion 
of the division of General Buckner, were, about the 2Oth of Jan 
uary, moved, by way of Clarksville, to the support of Donelson. 
With this force marched the 2d Kentucky Regiment, which, 
after covering itself with imperishable glory in the terrible com 
bat, of three days, at Fort Donelson, was, on the i6th of Feb 
ruary, surrendered to the enemy ; and passing into captivity, 
ceased to participate in the campaign of the spring and summer 
of 1862. 

By the loth of February, definite information had been ob 
tained by General Johnston of the movements of the enemy. 
He was convinced that an overpowering force had moved upon 
Forts Donelson and Henry; that a heavy column was pursuing 
Crittenden, after defeating and routing him at Fishing Creek, 
threatening Nashville on that flank; and that a force almost as 
large as the Confederate force at Bowling Green was held in 
hand by the enemy, to be poured across Green river and attack 
him in front, while the two bodies on his right and left united 
at Nashville and closed upon his rear. With the promptness and 
decision which characterized his high and serenely courageous 
mind, General Johnston determined to retire from Bowling Green 
and fall back on Nashville, where, uniting with the garrisons and 
troops in defense of Forts Donelson and Henry, should those 
places be found to be untenable, he could hold the divisions of 
the Federal General, Grant, in check, while he went to the assist 
ance of Crittenden, and crushed the Federal column advancing 
by way of Cumberland Gap. The fortifications of Bowling 



First Kentucky Brigade. 9 

Green were with every expedition dismantled ; the government 
stores shipped as rapidly as possible to Nashville, and on the 
pth of February an order was issued by Major General Hardee, 
commanding the central army of Kentucky, directing Generals 
Hindman and Breckinridge to repass the Barren river and be 
in Bowling Green by the night of the loth. The admirable dis 
cipline which General Breckinridge had exercised and maintained 
in and over his command, enabled him to comply promptly with 
the order, without confusion and with no loss of stores, equip 
ments, or supplies. His brigade, marching at 8 o clock A. M., 
on the loth passed Barren river bridge at 3 P. M., and bivouacked 
three miles south of Bowling Green for the night. Hindman, 
being farther in the rear, lost a few of his scouts, and had hardly 
time to blow up the bridges over Barren river when the head 
of the enemy s column came into sight, and immediately com 
menced shelling the railroad depot and that portion of the track 
on which were lying the freight trains. These they succeeded 
in firing finally. 

When the retreat of the army commenced, Breckinridge s bri 
gade was constituted the rear guard General Hardee, however, 
being still in rear with the cavalry and light artillery. Notwith 
standing the fact that cold, freezing, and intensely inclement 
weather set in ; notwithstanding the fact that evidences of the 
demoralization which a retreat in the presence of an enemy 
always produces were too apparent in many divisions of the 
army, yet the soldierly manner in which Breckinridge brought 
off his brigade, losing not a straggler from the ranks, not a 
musket or a tent, speaks more creditably for him and for them 
than the recital perhaps of their deeds of daring in the field 
could do. 

In truth, history records no sadder tale than the retreat of the 
Kentuckians from their native State. For the rest of the army 
there was yet hope. Far to the South lay their homesteads, 
and their families rested still in security. Between those home 
steads and those families and the advancing foe were innumera 
ble places where battle might be successfully offered, or where 
at least the sons of the South might rear a rampart of their 
bodies over which the invader could not pass. Time, political 
complications, mutations of fortune, to which the most success- 



io First Kentucky Brigade. 

ful commanders are liable, might at any time transform the 
triumph of the Northmen into disaster and defeat. Months 
must elapse before the advancing columns of the enemy could 
reach the South, and ere that time arrived pestilence and mala 
rious disease would, amid the fens and swamps of the gulf States, 
be crouching in their lair, ready to issue forth and grapple with 
the rash intruders from a more salubrious clime. But for the 
Kentuckians all was apparently lost. Behind their retiring regi 
ments were the graves of their fathers, and the hearthstones 
about which clustered every happy memory of their childhood; 
there, in the possession of the invader, were the rooftrees be 
neath which were gathered wives who, with a wifely smile gleam 
ing even through their tears, had bidden their husbands go forth 
to do battle for the right, promising to greet them with glad 
hearts when they returned in the hour of triumph ; there were 
the fair faces which for many in that band had made the star 
light of their young lives; there were young and helpless chil 
dren, for whom the future promised but suffering, poverty, desti 
tution, and want ; there, too, were the thousands who had with 
anxious and waiting hearts, groaning beneath the yoke of the 
oppressor, counted the hours until the footsteps of their deliv 
erers should be heard. On the I3th of February the brigade 
crossed the line between Kentucky and Tennessee ; a night in 
which rain and sleet fell incessantly was succeeded by a day of 
intense and bitter cold. Everything which could contribute to 
crush the spirits and weaken the nerves of men, seemed to have 
combined. But for those dauntless hearts, the bitterness of sac 
rifice, the weakness of doubt and uncertainty had passed, when, 
by a common impulse, the General, his staff, and the field offi 
cers dismounted, and, placing themselves on foot at the head of 
the column, with sad and solemn countenances, but with erect 
and soldierly bearing, marched for hours in the advance; and 
then was observed, for the first time in that brigade, through 
every grade and every rank, the look of high resolve and stern 
fortitude, which, amid all the vicissitudes of its fortunes char 
acterized the appearance of its members, and attracted the at 
tention and comment of observers in every State through which 
it passed. Henceforth for them petty physical discomforts, in 
conveniences of position, annoyances of inclement weather, 



First Kentucky Brigade. n 

scantiness of supplies, rudeness of fare, were nothing; they felt 
that they could not pass away until a great day should come 
which they looked forward to with unshaken confidence, and 
with patient watchfulness. They might never again dispense 
in their loved native State the generous hospitality which had 
become renowned throughout the continent; what remained 
to them of life might be passed in penury and in exile. 
Their countrymen might never know how they had lived or 
where they had died; venal historians might even teach the 
rising generation to brand their memories with the stigma of 
treason and shame, but a day was yet to come of the triumph 
of which they felt they could not be deprived; days, weeks, 
months might elapse, they could bide their time. State after 
State might have to be traversed, great rivers might have to be 
passed, mountain ranges surmounted, hunger and thirst endured, 
but the day and the hour would surely come when with serried 
ranks they should meet the foe, and their hearts burning with 
the memory of inexpiable wrongs, should, in the presence of the 
God of battles, demand and exact a terrible reckoning for all 
they had endured and all they had suffered. 

The night of the I4th was passed at Camp Trousdale, where 
summer barracks, which had been erected to accommodate the 
Tennessee volunteers stationed there for instruction, afforded 
but inadequate protection against the bitter cold of the night. 
These were the next night burned by the cavalry which covered 
the retreat, and afforded to the people of Tennessee the first 
evidence that their State was about to be invaded. The spirits 
of the army, however, were cheered by the accounts which Gen 
eral Johnston, with thoughtful care, forwarded, by means of 
couriers, daily, of the successful resistance of Fort Donelson. 
The entire army bivouacked in line of battle on the night of the 
1 5th at the junction of the Gallatin and Nashville, and Bowling 
Green and Nashville roads, about ten miles from Nashville. It 
was confidently believed that by means of boats, a large portion 
of the force would be sent to the relief of Fort Donelson. But 
on the morning of the i6th, it began to be whispered, first, 
among the higher officers, spreading thence, in spite of every 
precaution, to the ranks, that Donelson not only had fallen, but 
that the divisions of Floyd, Pillow, and Buckner had been sur- 



12 Fitst Kentucky Brigade. 

rendered as prisoners of war. Rumors of the wildest nature flew 
from regiment to regiment, the enemy were coming upon trans 
ports to Nashville the bridges were being destroyed the forts 
below the city were already surrendered the retreat of the army 
was cut off and as if to confirm the rumors, during the entire 
morning, the explosion of heavy artillery was heard in front 
and in the direction of Nashville. This proved to be caused by 
the firing of guns at Fort Zollicoffer, which, after having being 
heavily charged, were, with their muzzles in the earth, exploded 
to destroy them. At 4 P. M., on the i6th, the head of the 
brigade came in sight of the bridges at Nashville, across which, 
in dense masses, were streaming infantry, artillery, and transpor 
tation and provision trains, but still with a regularity and order 
which gave promise of renewed activity and efficiency in the 
future. At nightfall General Johnston, who had established his 
head-quarters at Edgefield, on the northern bank of the Cum 
berland, saw the last of his wearied and tired columns defile 
across and safely establish themselves beyond. 

Amid all the disasters and gloom of the retreat, the great 
captain had abundant cause of self-gratulation and confidence. 
He had reached Kentucky in October of the previous year to 
find the plan of occupation of the State to be upon three par 
allel lines of invasion, and yet all dependent upon a single point 
as the base of operations and the depot of supplies. Vicious 
and faulty as these unforeseen events proved it to have been, he 
had made the most of the situation. He found an army of 
hastily levied volunteers, badly equipped, miserably clad, fully 
one half stricken down by disease, destitute of transportation, 
and with barely the shadow of discipline. Never able to wield 
more than eighteen thousand fighting men at and around Bowl 
ing Green, with these men he held at bay a force of the enemy 
of fully one hundred thousand men. The Southern States were 
protected from invasion. Time was obtained to drill and consol 
idate the volunteer force. The army was sustained in the fertile 
and abundant grain-producing regions of Kentucky, transporta 
tion gathered of the most efficient character, immense supplies of 
beef, corn, and pork collected from the surrounding country and 
safely garnered in depots further South for the coming summer 
campaign ; and when, finally, the defeat of Crittenden, and the 



First Kentucky Brigade. 13 

overwhelming attack on Donelson had apparently cut off his 
retreat, leaving him eighty miles in front of his base of opera 
tions and his magazines, he had with promptness, unrivaled 
military sagacity, and yet with mingled caution and celerity, 
dismantled his fortifications at Bowling Green, transmitted his 
heavy artillery and ammunition to Nashville, and extricated his 
entire army from the jaws of almost certain annihilation and 
capture. The enemy came from the capture of Fort Donelson, 
in which he had lost in killed and wounded a force equal to the 
entire garrison of the place, to see, to his astonishment, an army 
in his front undismayed, and held in hand by a General who 
had just displayed to the world military qualities of the highest 
order, and a genius for strategy which seemed to anticipate all 
his plans and as readily to baffle them. In the capture of the 
army defending Donelson the Confederacy lost, as prisoners of 
war, the gallant and idolized Buckner, Hanson and his splendid 
regiment, and many Kentuckians connected with the staff of 
those officers. 

The night of February i6th found the army encamped safely 
upon the Murfreesboro and Nashville road ; but it found the city 
of Nashville in a condition of wild and frantic anarchy. 

The Capital of Tennessee, Nashville, contained, ordinarily, a 
population of about 30,000 souls. The revolution had made it 
the rendezvous of thousands fleeing from Kentucky, Missouri, 
and Western Virginia. So great was the throng of strangers, 
that lodging could be with difficulty procured at any price. 
Every house was filled and overflowing, boarding was held at 
fabulous prices, and private citizens whose wealth would, under 
most circumstances, have secured their domesticity from intru 
sion, were, perforce, compelled to accommodate and shelter 
strangers whom the misfortunes of exile and persecution had 
thrown upon the world. Many business houses and warehouses 
had been transformed into hospitals for the sick soldiery of the 
forces in Kentucky. So great was the influx of invalids that in 
many private families as many as three and four of the sick were 
to be found. Here, too, were brought hundreds of artificers 
and artisans, the government having established manufactories 
of various kinds to supply the wants of the army. In no single 
city of the Confederacy was to be found so large and so varied 



14 First Kentucky Brigade. 

a supply of all those articles which are essential to the mainte 
nance of a large and well-appointed army. During the fall and 
winter, under government patronage and assistance, many thou 
sands of hogs and bullocks had been slaughtered and packed. 
These were stored in the city. Immense magazines of ammu 
nitions, of arms, large and small, of ordnance stores, of clothing, 
of camp equipage, were located here. Capacious warehouses 
were filled with rice, flour, sugar, molasses, and coffee, to the 
value of many millions of dollars. The Chief Quarter-Master 
and Commissary were accustomed to fill at once the requisitions 
of the armies of Kentucky and of Missouri, of Texas and the 
Gulf. It may be safely estimated that, at the fall of Donelson, 
Nashville had crowded within its limits not less than sixty thou 
sand residents. It never seems to have occurred to the citizens, 
or, indeed, the government, that Nashville was really in danger. 
A few unimportant and valueless earth-works had been thrown 
up, looking to its defense, but no systematic plan of fortification 
had been fixed upon or followed up ; nothing but the situation 
of Fort Donelson, on the State line, prevented the enemy s gun 
boats, or even his unarmed transports, from coming up to the 
city and mooring at its wharves. 

On Sunday morning, as the citizens were summoned by the 
church bells to the various houses of worship in the city, con 
gratulations were joyously exchanged upon the successful de 
fense of Fort Donelson. Ere the hours of morning devotion 
had expired, the news of its fall came like a clap of thunder in 
a summer sky. The most excited and improbable stories were 
circulated, yet no exaggeration, no improbability, seemed too 
monstrous to command credence. Donelson was more than an 
hundred miles down the river, yet it was insisted that the ene 
my s boats were within a few miles of the city. The passage of 
the army across the Cumberland and through the town added 
to the general panic and confusion. Consternation, terror, and 
shameful cowardice seemed to have seized alike upon the un 
thinking multitude and the officers who were expected to evince 
fortitude and manliness ; and now commenced a wild and frantic 
struggle for escape. Thousands who had never borne arms, 
who were, by all the laws of civilized warfare, exempt from the 
penalties of hostilities, were impressed with the conviction that 



First Kentucky Brigade. 15 

the safety of their lives depended upon escaping from the 
doomed Capital. On all the railroads from the city trains were 
hourly run, bearing fugitives a few miles into the interior. The 
country roads were thronged with vehicles of every character 
and description; the hire of hacks rose to ten, twenty, fifty, 
even an hundred dollars for two or three hours use. Night 
brought no cessation of the tumult. It rained in torrents, but 
all through the night might be seen carriages, wagons, drays, 
and tumbrils crowded with affrighted men and their families. 
Tender and delicate women, feeble and carefully nurtured chil 
dren, were to be found, exposed to the inclemencies of the 
weather, in open carts and wagons, abandoning luxurious and 
costly houses for the precarious sustenance of doubtful and un 
certain charity in their flights. Nor was the disgraceful panic 
confined to non-combatants or timid citizens. Men who had 
gained high reputation for courage and presence of mind seemed 
to have ignored every sentiment of manliness in their indecent 
haste to secure safety; nay, some who were high in military 
position, whose province and whose duty it was, peculiarly and 
particularly, to guard public property and protect government 
stores, used their official position to obtain trains of cars upon 
which were packed their household furniture, their carriages, 
their horses, and their private effects ; and having effected this, 
they made haste to be gone. 

Troops were left in the city by order of Gen. Johnston, but 
the mob spirit rose triumphant. For many days the store 
houses of the government stood open and abandoned by their 
proper custodians. Every one was at liberty to help himself 
to what he desired ; and it may well be supposed that the thou 
sands who crowded the streets were not slow to avail them 
selves of the privilege. Not only were hundreds of thousands 
of dollars worth of provisions carried away and sequestered, but 
the very streets and highways were strewn with bales and pack 
ages of raiment and clothing hastily taken away and as reck 
lessly abandoned. It was currently estimated that public prop 
erty to the value of at least five millions of dollars was dissipated 
and destroyed in a few hours. There were not wanting, how 
ever, noble and brilliant examples of firmness, courage, and fore 
thought. On Tuesday following the surrender, the wagonmas- 



1 6 First Kentucky Brigade. 

ter of the 2d Kentucky; Regiment reached the head-quarters of 
the Kentucky Brigade with fourteen empty wagons with which 
he had escaped from Fort Donelson. These the gallant Breck- 
inridge loaded with supplies of subsistence and clothing, which 
were the means of comfort to his command months after the 
abandonment of Nashville. Even when the enemy was hourly 
> expected in the city he might have been seen on the northern 
bank of the Cumberland superintending the transit of herds of 
well kept cattle brought from Kentucky, that his command 
might be furnished with fresh rations during their further re 
treat. 

Slowly and steadily the army fell back from Nashville until, 
on the 22d of February, it reached Murfreesboro. Effecting 
then a junction with the army of General Crittenden, which had 
retreated from Fishing Creek, and for the first time since the 
departure from Bowling Green, General Johnston found himself 
in condition to offer and accept battle from the enemy. 

It was evident to the great man who commanded the depart 
ment of the West that he could not linger in Tennessee. He was 
doubtless able to successfully resist the force under Gen. Buell 
which had now occupied Nashville, but it was well known that 
none of the force occupied in the reduction of Donelson had as 
cended the river. With unlimited supplies of water transporta 
tion, nothing was easier than for them to pass round the peninsula, 
and, ascending the Tennessee river, land a force in his rear and 
place him in the same dilemma from which he had just so skill 
fully extracted his army. A retreat behind the Tennessee was 
inevitable, and the strategical position he occupied at Murfrees 
boro opened to him three routes. He might pass over to the 
turnpike road from Nashville, through Columbia and Pulaski, 
parallel with the railroad, and cross at Florence, or, throwing 
himself into the mountain passes of Eastern Tennessee, in their 
wild gorges and rugged ravines, he might defy pursuit and re 
treat upon Chattanooga. This, however, would have been a 
virtual abandonment of the Mississippi and its valley. Still a 
third route was open. Due south from Murfreesboro ran a 
road through a comparatively unfrequented country, passing 
directly through Huntsville to Decatur, on the southern bank 
of the Tennessee river. While this route offered the advantage 



First Kentucky Brigade. 17 

of a middle course between the two great lines of macadamized 
roads east and west of him, enabling him, in case of necessity, 
to pass over to either; it was not without objections. Lying, 
for the most part, through cultivated and deep bottoms, on the 
edge of Northern Alabama, it rises abruptly to cross the great 
plateau thrown out from the Cumberland Mountains, here nearly 
a thousand feet above the surrounding country, and full forty 
miles in width, covered with dense forests of timber, yet barren 
and sterile in soil, and wholly destitute of supplies for either 
man or beast. Two weeks of unintermitting rain had softened 
the earth until the surface resembled avast swamp; but along 
this route the Commander-in-Chief determined to pass; and, 
after occupying a week in reorganizing his army, a cloud of 
cavalry, consisting of Morgan s Squadron, the 1st Kentucky 
Cavalry, the Texas Rangers, Wirt Adams , Scott s, and Forrest s 
regim ents were thrown out in the direction of the enemy, with 
orders, as they fell back, to burn the cotton and destroy the 
bridges ; and the further retreat thus commenced. 

History records no example of a retreat conducted with such 
success under such adverse circumstances. Rain continued to 
fall almost without intermission ; it was spring, the season most 
unpropitious for transits over country roads, and the passage of 
such numbers of horses and wagons, rendered the route literally 
a river of liquid mud. For miles at times the wagons would be 
submerged in ooze and mire up to the hubs of their wheels, 
while the saturated condition of the earth rendered comfortable 
encampments impossible. The ascent of the plateau, although 
only about two miles of distance, consumed a day for each bri 
gade, and time was everything to men in their condition; yet 
steadily, earnestly, hopefully, they toiled on until, on the loth 
of March, the head of the army had reached a point within 
three miles of Decatur, but with the Tennessee swollen far be 
yond its banks, flooding the country for miles in every direction, 
and sweeping with resistless force over the roads and fords. 
Happily, at this point, the Memphis and Charleston Railroad 
crossed the Tennessee ; and, as a precaution against its freshets, 
the railroad company had constructed an embankment fifty feet 
in height and two miles in length on which were laid their rails; 
2 



1 8 First Kentucky Brigade. 

this embankment was still ten or twelve feet above the surround 
ing waters, and reached to the terminus of the bridge. Its nar 
row width of seven feet precluded the possibility of anything 
like orderly movement ; but over it were passed the infantry and 
cavalry without cessation either day or night. The artillery and 
baggage -wagons were placed on platform cars, and at a given 
signal the track was cleared while they were run to and over 
the bridge. Patience, perseverance, and indomitable will finally 
accomplished the work, and on the i6th the Kentucky Brigade, 
bringing up the rear of the army, marched through Decatur. 
A month had elapsed since the fall of Donelson, but the army 
was at last behind the Tennessee, and all was not yet lost. Still 
the danger was not yet over. The enemy commanded the river 
and might, by vigorous movements, prevent the junction of the 
army of Central Kentucky with that of General Beauregard, 
which had fallen back from Columbus, in Kentucky, and was 
now endeavoring to unite with that under General Johnston. In 
truth, it seemed that, if the enemy was prompt and vigorous in 
his movements, this would be impossible. The Memphis and 
Charleston Railroad runs nearly due east and west, pursuing for 
ninety miles an almost parallel course with the Tennessee river 
never diverging from it more than twenty miles, and in many 
places approaching to within eight or ten. Numerous streams 
which drain the country and empty into the main river were 
crossed by it, and on the margins of these streams are almost 
invariably found swamps requiring heavy trestle-work to support 
the rail. A little celerity on the part of the enemy might at 
any hour enable him to destroy a section of this trestle-work, 
and thus cut off the communication. To transport the army by 
the country roads was impossible, the torrent-like rains which 
had impeded the progress of the army through Tennessee had 
continued to fall after the passage of the river. In many places 
the country was covered with sheets of water too deep to be 
forded, while the roads, not thus submerged, were impassable 
for horsemen. It was difficult for the various corps to pass far 
enough from Decatur to find encampments. Within a mile of 
the town might be counted scores of wagons, on the various 
roads, sunk to their beds in mire, and which the quagmire of 
oozing earth around them prevented the possibility of unload- 



First Kentucky Brigade. 19 

ing. Hindman s brigade of Arkansas troops was thrown for 
ward by rail to Courtland immediately. Crittenden was pushed 
beyond him to luka, and on the 2ist the Kentucky Brigade, 
under General Breckinridge, was dispatched, with its field pieces, 
ammunition, and baggage, to Burnsville, within fifteen miles of 
Corinth, by cars, while the horses and wagons were sent to 
struggle through as best they could on the dirt roads. 

The remainder of the army was gradually pushed on to Cor 
inth, meeting there the army of Beauregard, and confidence and 
hope were once more restored. The danger of an immediate 
surprise was over; but the greatest vigilance was necessary to 
meet and prevent the enemy from landing in force, and, by 
strength of numbers, accomplishing that which he had failed 
to do by celerity of movement. For several days his gunboats 
swept up and down the Tennessee river, shelling the banks, and 
apparently seeking a favorable point to disembark from his 
transports. The little village of Eastport, situated some eight 
miles from luka, it was supposed, offered him peculiar advan 
tages, and preparations were made to resist him by throwing up 
earth-works, and placing in position two thirty-two pounders. 
He continued, however, to make feints, landing a few regiments 
at various points, but almost immediately withdrawing them, 
until information was received, which convinced the Command- 
er-in-Chief that the attack of the enemy would be on Corinth, 
where is located the junction of the Mobile and Ohio Railroad 
with the Charleston and Memphis Railroad. Meantime, the 
greater portion of the division of General Crittenden, composed 
of Statham s brigade and Bowen s brigade, was sent forward to 
Burnsville, and ordered to report to General Breckinridge. Hind 
man s force had passed on to Corinth, and was now incorporated 
with, and formed part of, the corps d armee of General Hardee. 
Scouts were kept constantly reconnoitering the roads leading to 
the Tennessee river, and vigorous efforts made to bring the army 
to a high state of efficiency in discipline and equipment. The 
enemy, it was now known, had landed seven divisions of his 
army, amounting to about forty-two thousand men, at a point 
on the Tennessee river, near Pittsburg Landing, and was now 
encamped in position, his right resting on a small stream called 
Owl Creek, and his left on Lick Creek, the streams running 



23 First Kentucky Brigade. 

nearly parallel to each other, four miles apart. To meet and 
crush this force, or cripple it before General Buell, with his 
army, which was advancing through Tennessee, could reinforce 
it, was the object of the Commander-in-Chief, preparatory to 
which, his army was re-organized and cast into four divisions or 
corps. 

The first, under General Bragg, consisted of 9,422 men. 

The second, under General Polk, numbered 4,855 men. 

The third corps was commanded by General Hardee, 15,524 
men. 

And the reserve, consisting of the Kentucky Brigade, Stat- 
ham s brigade, and Bowen s brigade, amounted, according to the 
returns in the Adjutant General s office, on the night of April 
the 5th, to 6,894 men, commanded by Brigadier General John C. 
Breckinridge. The cavalry amounted to three thousand. 

Two roads, the one from Corinth, the other from Burnsville, 
lead to Pittsburg Landing ; they unite on a ridge four miles from 
the river, and thence the road, gradually descending a long slope, 
leads to the Tennessee, along a spur of the hilly range, with 
lateral slopes, to Lick Creek on the one side and Owl Creek on 
the other. The whole tongue of land between these streams 
is densely wooded with unbroken forests ; and as it approaches 
within a mile of the river, is covered, in addition, with a thick 
mass of undergrowth sweeping to its banks. On this unfavor 
able ground the battle was to be fought. On the morning of 
April the 4th, at 3 o clock, A. M., the reserve corps marched 
from Burnsville, by way of Farmington and Monterey, expect 
ing to reach the point of junction of the two roads that night. 
A heavy rain storm, however, obstructed its progress, as well as 
that of the other divisions of the army, and it was not until the 
night of the 5th of April that it reached the junction. Rations 
had been provided for three days, but no tents and no baggage 
were taken the want of which added greatly to the discomfort 
of the commands, and rendered many unfit for duty. The delay 
and the tired condition of the troops on the night of the 5th 
caused a difference of opinion to prevail at the council of war 
as to the propriety of attacking; but General Johnston deter 
mined to proceed The other divisions had, on the night of the 
5th, reached the positions assigned them, and were posted thus: 



First Kentucky Brigade. 21 

the third corps formed the first line of battle, its right resting on 
Lick Creek and its left on Owl Creek, and bivouacked in order 
of battle within half a mile of the enemy, who seems to have 
been unconscious of the blow about to be struck. In rear of 
that the first corps, under General Bragg, bivouacked in order of 
battle a quarter of a mile distant. The second corps, under 
General Polk, was massed in column of brigades on the road 
from Corinth, immediately in rear of the junction with the 
Monterey road, and had orders to move up and form in line of 
battle as soon as the troops in advance had moved on sufficient 
ly, while the reserve corps, under General Breckinridge, was 
massed in column of brigades on the Monterey road, with 
orders to move when General Folk s corps had passed, and hold 
itself subject to the contingencies of the day. At 5 o clock, A. 
M., on the morning of April 6th, General Hardee drove in the 
pickets of the enemy, and the terrible battle of Shiloh com 
menced. Steadily and irresistibly he swept on, driving the 
enemy before him, until the camps were reached, where the 
resistance became most desperate. The second line of battle, 
under General Bragg, had by this time been brought up and 
intermingled with the first line, and the central advanced camp 
of the enemy was abandoned by him only, however, that he 
might make the more stubborn resistance behind it and in front 
of the others. Observing an attempt of the enemy to flank on 
the extreme left, General Beauregard sent orders to detach the 
Kentucky Brigade, and send it to that point. This was done 
the command now devolving upon Colonel Robt. P. Trabue, 
Colonel of the 4th Kentucky and senior Colonel of the brigade. 
During the whole of that bloody day, from 9 o clock, when it 
became engaged, it maintained the reputation of its native State, 
and slowly but surely pushed back the force opposed to it. It 
never gave way or was broken, though terribly cut to pieces ; 
it never charged that it did not break the ranks of the army ; 
and it was found, when the action closed in the evening, after 
ten hours of continuous fighting, in the front rank of the army. 
It will be necessary to refer more particularly to its movements 
as we progress. Owing to the dense mass of the undergrowth 
the troops were brought in close proximity to each other, and 
the firing was consequently destructive, murderous, and deadly. 



22 First Kentucky Brigade. 

Two o clock had arrived ; the whole army was and had been 
engaged for hours, with the exception of Bowen s and Statham s 
brigades of the reserve corps. The enemy had been driven 
through, and from half of his camps, but refused to give back 
further. Giving way on his right and left wings, he had massed 
his force heavily in the centre, and poured an almost unintermit- 
ting hail of fire, murderous beyond description, from his covert 
of trees and bushes, when General Breckinridge was ordered up 
to break his line. Having been most of the day in observation 
on the Hamburg road, marching in column of regiments, the 
reserve was now moved by the left flank, until opposite the 
point of attack, rapidly deployed in line of battle, Statham s bri 
gade forming the right and Bowen s the left. The long slope 
of the ridge was here abruptly broken by a succession of small 
hills or undulations of about fifty feet in height, dividing the 
rolling country from the river bottom, and behind the crest of 
the last of these the enemy was concealed ; opposite them, at 
the distance of seventy-five yards, was another long swell or 
hillock, the summit of which it was necessary to attain in order 
to open fire ; and to this elevation the reserve moved, in order 
of battle, at a double-quick. In an instant the opposing height 
was one sheet of flame. Battle s Tennessee regiment, on the 
extreme right, gallantly maintained itself, pushing forward under 
a withering fire and establishing itself well in advance. Little s 
Tennessee regiment, next to it, delivered its fire at random and 
inefficiently, became disordered, and retired in confusion down 
the slope. Three times it was rallied by its Lieutenant Colonel, 
assisted by Colonel T. T. Hawkins, Aid-de-Camp to General 
Breckinridge, and by the Adjutant General, and carried up the 
slope, only to be as often repulsed and driven back the regiment 
of the enemy opposed to it, in the intervals, directing an oblique 
fire upon Battle s regiment, now contending against overwhelm 
ing odds. The crisis of the contest had come ; there were no 
more reserves, and General Breckinridge determined to charge. 
Calling his staff around him, he communicated to them his in 
tentions, and remarked that he, with them, would lead it. They 
were all Kentuckians, and although it was not their privilege to 
fight that day with the Kentucky Brigade, they were men who 
knew how to die bravely among strangers, and some, at least, 



First Kentucky Brigade. 23 

would live to do justice to the rest. The Commander-in-Chief, 
General Albert Sidney Johnston, rode up at this juncture, and 
learning the contemplated movement, determined to accompany 
it. Placing himself on the left of Little s regiment, his com 
manding figure in full uniform, conspicuous to every eye, he 
waited the signal. General Breckinridge, disposing his staff 
along the line, rode to the right of the same regiment, and with 
a wild shout, which rose high above the din of battle, on swept 
the line, through a storm of fire, over the hill, across the inter 
vening ravine, and up the slope occupied by the enemy. Noth 
ing could withstand it. The enemy broke and fled for half a 
mile, hotly pursued, until he reached the shelter of his batteries. 
Well did the Kentuckians sustain that day their honor and their 
fame. Of the little band of officers who started on that forlorn 
hope, but one was unscathed, the gallant Breckinridge himself. 
Colonel Hawkins was wounded in the face; Captain Allen s leg 
was torn to pieces by a shell ; the horses of the fearless boy, 
Cabell Breckinridge, and of the Adjutant General, were killed 
under them, and General Johnston was lifted dying from his sad 
dle. It may well be doubted whether the success, brilliant as it 
was, decisive as it was, compensated for the loss of the great 
Captain. 

Few men have moved upon the stage of public life who have 
been the peers of Albert Sidney Johnston. Tall and command 
ing in person, of gentle and winning address, he was the most 
unassuming of men ; yet his mind was cast in nature s largest 
mould ; possessed of that high and serene courage which no 
reverses or trials could overcome, patient in difficulties, earnest 
in effort, firm in purpose, he had been invested by the President 
with the powers of a Pro-Consul. His sway extended from the 
Alleghenies to the western confines of Texas. Supervising the 
movements of five separate armies, in countries hundreds of 
miles apart, his capacious mind embraced the details of all, 
while exercising almost unlimited authority over four millions 
of people. No stain of personal or selfish ambition rests upon 
his noble character. The nation and the army felt that there 
was always hope while Sidney Johnston lived, and yet his death 
was not without a grand and crowning triumph. Well he knew 
the battle must be won ; fully as well he knew, to win the bat- 



24 First Kentucky Brigade. 

tie, that charge must be successful. The last vision which fell 
upon his glazing sight was the flying ranks of the enemy ; the 
last sound which struck upon his ears, now sealing in death, was 
the exultant shouts of his army, telling him that the field was 
won, which he believed secured the triumph of the cause for 
which he offered up his life. 

Pure and lofty had been the great soldier s life; 
Grand and worthy even of himself was his death. 

The general repulse of the enemy had now thrown the re 
serve on the extreme right of the Confederate line. Far on the 
left might be heard the musketry of the Kentucky Brigade and 
the roar of its artillery as it pushed its columns forward. It was 
fighting its way to its gallant General, and the hour was drawing 
near when they were to meet in the pride of glorious success. 
General Bragg, observing that behind the right flank of the en 
emy dense masses of troops were massed, from which reserves 
were drawn to sustain his line, concentrated the fire of his bat 
teries, loaded with spherical case and shell, upon them. The 
effect was magical. The right of the enemy broke and fled, the 
centre followed, then the left wing; and charging along the 
whole line, the Confederate army swept through the camps of 
the enemy, capturing three thousand prisoners and driving the 
Federal force cowering beneath the shelter of the iron-clad gun 
boats ; and then and there, in the full fruition of success, the 
Kentucky Brigade and its General met for the first time during 
that bloody day since their separation in the morning, both cov 
ered with glory ; both proud of and gratified with each other. 
The terrible day of reckoning so long and so patiently waited for 
had come at last ; and as they strode over the field of blood their 
pathway to vengence had been lit by the gleam of bayonets and 
the lurid glare of the cannon s flash. The greatest conflict which 
as yet had taken place between the sections had been won by the 
scorned and despised " Southern mob." For fifteen hours they 
steadily drove before them the finest army of the Federal Gov 
ernment. Superior in numbers, in discipline, in arms, and 
equipments, the army of Grant had lost its camps, its baggage, 
provisions and supplies, and the panic-stricken remnant of it 
huddled cowering under the banks of the Tennessee, only pro 
tected from total annihilation by the gunboats lying in the 



First Kentucky Brigade. 25 

stream, a disorganized and terror-stricken mob, while its dead 
and wounded lay in thousands for miles behind the Confederate 
army. By some fatal misapprehension of those in authority, 
which it is useless now to discuss, the full fruits of the victory were 
not gathered. The Confederate army paused when it had only 
to stretch forth its hands and grasp as prisoners of war the whole 
hostile force. Night fell quickly over the scene of carnage, and 
the tired heroes, worn out with the long and harassing march of 
the preceding days, and the fifteen hours of mortal combat, sank, 
by regiments and brigades, upon the blood-soaked earth, amid 
the dead and dying, to sleep a sleep so deep and profound that 
not even the groans of the wounded, or the deep boom of the 
heavy guns of the enemy, which were fired during the whole 
night, could break or disturb it. No record exists of a contest 
between such numbers of men in a country so densely wooded 
and in a space so confined. Brilliant generalship General John 
ston undoubtedly displayed in surprising the enemy, and in the 
skill with which he handled raw troops, hurling mass after mass 
upon the enemy and beating him in detail ; but there was neither 
room nor opportunity for strategy or maneuvre it was a death 
grapple of man to man stern and deadly combat j^which the 
men of the South maintained their long and proud pre-emi 
nence. 

During the night, General Buell with a fresh army of twenty- 
five thousand men, nearly as large as the Confederate army 
originally was, came up, hastily crossed the river, and threw 
himself in front of the army defeated on the 6th. The Confed 
erate army, in the meantime, after despoiling the Federal camps, 
had been withdrawn beyond them and formed anew in order of 
battle. Skirmishing commenced at 6 o clock, A. M., but the 
engagement did not become general until 9 o clock, A. M., from 
which time, until 2 P. M., the Northern armies were again, as 
on the day before, steadily driven back through its camps and 
forced towards the river. A heavy and continuous rain had 
commenced falling at midnight after the battle of the 6th, and 
continued until near daylight. The effect of this upon men 
wearied and exhausted, as was the Southern army, was terrible. 
The wounded who had fallen late in the evening, and near the 
enemy s lines, could not be recovered ; they were consequently 



26 First Kentucky Brigade. 

exposed during the entire night, and endured sufferings of the 
most agonizing character. It was impossible, too, in the dark 
ness and confusion, to reform the lines for a night bivouac with 
that accuracy desirable in such critical circumstances, and the 
proximity of the abandoned camps of the enemy afforded a 
temptation to straggling which, in too many cases, proved irre 
sistible, and, as was seen during the battle of the next day, demor 
alized many corps, and impaired the efficiency, to a great extent, 
of the army, and it may, with truth, be said, led to the loss of the 
second day s battle. So great, indeed, had been the diminution 
of the ranks by death, wounds, and straggling, that at no time 
during the contest of the /th was General Beauregard enabled to 
bring more than fifteen thousand effective men to hand in battle. 
The army of the enemy under General Grant had been totally 
defeated, and had only escaped complete rout and annihilation 
by its inability to cross the Tennessee river, and the protection 
of the gunboats ; thousands had been slain, thousands wounded, 
thousands captured, and thousands demoralized, but in a force so 
large as it originally was (estimated by its own officers at forty- 
two thousand men) there were, of course, large masses capable 
of effecti-^^ervice on Monday; to these was to be added the 
force of Biiell of twenty-five thousand fresh troops, and it may 
be safely estimated that, notwithstanding the reverse of Sunday, 
and the immense loss of the enemy on that day, he took the 
field on Monday with quite forty thousand combatants, or nearly 
three times the Southern force. The leaders of the Confederate 
army were fully advised of the reinforcement, and of the peril 
which threatened the Confederate army in a second conflict in 
its exhausted condition, but they deemed it necessary to cripple 
this force before withdrawing from the field. 

The Kentucky Brigade which had preserved, to a great ex 
tent, its organization and discipline, was again stationed upon 
the extreme left. Its battery of artillery, commanded by Capt. 
Byrne (Cobb s battery having on Sunday been destroyed in bat 
tle), was engaged for three hours with two batteries of the ene 
my firing during the duel more than one thousand cartridges, 
and finally silenced both. The infantry, drawn up in order of 
battle as a support to the battery, stood enthusiastic spectators 
of the tremendous cannonade ; and, although frequently suffer- 



First Kentucky Brigade. 27 

ing severely from the grape of the enemy, more than once broke 
spontaneously into a shout of encouragoment and admiration at 
the gallant manner in which Byrne handled his guns. The ene 
my hurled charge after charge of infantry against it, but unsuc 
cessfully. The fifth regiment of infantry, commanded by Col. 
Thos. H. Hunt, charged in turn, routing the opposing force, but 
with some loss to its force, losing many valuable officers. Col 
onel Robert Trabue, of the 4th Kentucky Regiment, as senior 
Colonel of the brigade, commanded it on this, as on the preced 
ing day, with conspicuous gallantry and marked soldiery ability. 
But there is a limit to human endurance. The battle of the 
;th was fought by General Beauregard with but fifteen thousand 
men. Exhausted by the struggle of the preceding day, he had 
received no reinforcements, and he determined, at 2 o clock, P. 
M., to withdraw. In good order, and with the precision of a 
parade, division after division was withdrawn. General Breckin- 
ridge, with his own brigade and Statham s brigade, bringing up 
the rear, and bivouacking at the summit of the ridge, during the 
night, within sight of the enemy s lines. A soaking rain fell all 
night upon the wearied troops of the rear guard, while the rest 
of the army slowly made its way to Corinth. 

Many of the noblest of the sons of Kentucky ha^Jllen ; but 
conspicuous in position and character were two men who, in 
the same discharge, in the same regiment, and within a few feet 
of each other, fell mortally wounded. 

George W. Johnson, of Scott county, Kentucky, had passed 
more than forty years of his life in the peaceful pursuits of agri 
culture. Singularly modest and retiring in demeanor, he had 
seemed to scorn the turmoil of public life and the undignified 
contest for public place. The soul of honor and high integrity, 
he was respected by all who came in contact with him. Earn 
est and sincere in purpose, his course in all things was open, to 
a proverb ; cultivated in mind, he was a profound thinker, if 
not an active participator, in national politics. Early in the his 
tory of secession he had arrived at the conclusion that the sep 
aration was final ; and with all the earnestness of his straight 
forward nature he had urged that Kentucky should share the 
fate and cast her fortunes with the South. When it was evi 
dent that the Legislature of Kentucky had sold and bartered 



28 First Kentucky Brigade, 

her honor to the Federal Government, he promptly abandoned 
home and its tranquil enjoyments to cast his lot with those of 
his countrymen, who were gathering at Bowling Green to resist 
the attempt at coercion ; and yet in an act of revolution, the 
strong reverence of the man for law, order, and regular govern 
ment, manifested itself. Mainly and almost wholly to his efforts 
is due the formation of the Provisional Government of Ken 
tucky, of which he was elected the head ; and when the army 
retreated from Kentucky, gathering his Council around him, he 
accompanied it in all its vicissitudes and movements. On Sun 
day, during the battle of Shiloh, he served as a volunteer Aid- 
de-Camp to the commanding officer of the Kentucky Brigade, 
until his horse was killed under him, when, seizing a musket, he 
took his place in the ranks of the 4th regiment and fought on 
foot during the remainder of the day. Monday morning found 
him in the same humble position, assuming all the duties and 
sharing art the dangers of a simple private in the ranks. At 
eleven o clock he fell, shot through the body, remaining alone 
and unaided on the field while the army fell back, and during 
the long and inclement night which succeeded. He was found 
on the morning of Tuesday by the enemy, and died in his camp. 
None wholcnew him can doubt that through the long hours of 
that day olagony, and the silent stillness of that night of suffer 
ing and pain, his great heart was consoled by the conviction of 
the swift coming independence of his country. 

Thos. B. Monroe had early entered public life. His firmness 
of character, depth of information, and brilliancy of talent, indi 
cated him as a leader of men in the first hours of his manhood. 
Called before he was thirty years of age to the Secretaryship of 
State, he had zealously and determinedly advocated the seces 
sion of the State. Disappointed, as were thousands of others, 
at her lukewarmness, he had resigned the Secretaryship, and, 
making his way through the lines of the Federal army to Bowl 
ing Green, had been appointed Major of the 4th Kentucky Reg 
iment. The promise of his military career equaled that of his 
civil life. A few weeks only was necessary to place him high in 
the estimation of the senior officers of the army, and to win for 
him the unbounded confidence of his men. He fell, mortally 
wounded, within a few feet of Governor Johnson, and died on 



First Kentucky Brigade. 29 

the field of battle, bequeathing his sword to his infant son, and 
with the last breath, requesting he might be told " his father had 
died in defense of his honor and the rights of his country." 

The morning of the 8th of April was consumed in falling back 
to the junction of the Corinth and Burnsville roads, where Gen 
eral Breckinridge stubbornly took his stand, with his force biv 
ouacking in the open air, sinking often to their boot-tops in mud, 
drenched nightly with the rain, he and they obstinately refused 
to move an inch until the wounded in the hospitals were re 
moved. Again and again the enemy sent out strong columns 
to dislodge him. Sometimes these were charged by the cavalry 
under Forrest and Adams, and driven back in disorder, losing 
many prisoners ; sometimes, overawed by his firm and dauntless 
front, they retired without attacking. For five days he thus 
held his position, his whole force subsisting on rations of dam 
aged bread and raw pork. When he did move every wounded 
man had been sent forward ; the army was safe in its lines at 
Corinth. On the I3th of April he marched, at the head of his 
band of heroes, wasted now to spectres, haggard with hunger 
and suffering, into Corinth. He had won for himself through 
out that entire army, the reputation of a skillful Gen^^^a brave 
and courageous captain, and had now the ardent lol^Hd devo 
tion of strangers as well as friends, and was the idol oT the Re 
serve. At Corinth he received the just reward of his high and 
soldierly conduct, the commission of a Major-General, and passed 
to the command, permanently, of a division. Here appropriate 
ly ends the history of these troops as a brigade. They served 
throughout the war in other brigades and divisions, but no 
longer continued to act as one organization. 

The cause of Southern independence has gone down in blood. 
These men and their compeers had elected to tiy their cause in 
the tribunal of last resort, the forum of battle. The verdict has 
been rendered against them ; there is no expectation, or, perhaps, 
wish, for further appeal. Hanson fell mortally wounded at Mur- 
fresboro, Helm died at Chickamauga, Thompson was slain on 
the very spot of his birth and his infancy in Kentucky, to which 
he had returned after three stormy years of absence. Buckner 
surrendered his sword, last of all of the commanders of the 
South, in the extreme western confines of the Confederacy, and 



3O First Kentucky Brigade. 

only when the advancing wave of Federal conquest, -after sweep 
ing across the face of the continent, had borne to his very feet 
the wreck of the nation whose soldier he deemed himself. 
Breckinridge, in exile with saddened eyes, strives through the 
mists of the great lakes of the north, to catch some glimpse of 
the land he loved so fervently and served so faithfully. Of their 
less distinguished comrades, hundreds are lying all along the 
route of the sad retreat from Bowling Green, consigned to un- 
consecrated earth, their requium the sighs of their sorrowing 
comrades. Many are resting by the lonely banks of the Ten 
nessee and beneath the deep shadows of the tropical foliage of 
Baton Rouge. They will sleep none the less tranquilly in their 
quiet and unmarked graves because the dear land for whose 
deliverance they fought so long and so well, is ground by the 
heel of centralized power. Some survive, their mutilated forms 
monuments of a heroism which would have illustrated the days 
of Bayard or of Coeur de Lion. The memory of neither the 
living nor the dead "will be rendered infamous" until the peo 
ples of the earth have ceased to honor manliness of spirit, free 
dom of thought, and heroism of deeds. Imbued with the loftiest 
sentimej^^vhich ever animated the bosoms of men, they went 
forth to poverty, to exile, to suffering, to battle, and to death, 
for whaflroey believed to be the maintenance of constitutional 
liberty and free government. 

Selfish ambitions and personal aspirations had no abiding 
place in their world. Men bore the firelock and served as sub 
alterns, who could, with brilliant genius, have wielded the baton 
of Generals. Among them but one ambition existed, who 
should most faithfully serve, who should most steadfastly die. 
Kentucky has no cause to blush for them. The principles they 
upheld had been taught them on her soil ; they are embalmed 
in the archives of her Legislatures, enunciated in manifestoes of 
her conventions. Wayward though she may deem these chil 
dren in the assertion of her rights, they are still her sons. Not 
now, perhaps, but in the fulness of coming time, the proud old 
mother will, with an eager zeal, gather these her offspring to 
rest in the only fitting place, her honored bosom. Not now, 
perhaps, but in the coming time, on that monument which she 
has erected at her Capital to those who have in the past, and 



First Kentucky Brigade. 31 

will in the future, serve her, she will inscribe their names and 
write beneath them, " these, too, were my children, and died in 
what they believed was the defense of my honor." We who 
saw the gallant dead shrouded in their gory cerements, await 
with calm confidence the coming of that time. 




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