MAJOR: I have the honor to report that on the 23d of September I was
ordered by the commanding general of the department to proceed to
Washington, Tenn., with my command, numbering about 2,000 effective men,
for the purpose of guarding the fords along the Tennessee River for a
distance of some 50 miles. The roads leading to the different fords and
ferries were in many cases 5 miles apart. Between these points there were
practicable fords almost every half mile. It was impossible to patrol
along the bank of the river between these roads, and to go from one to
the other required us in many instances to make a détour of 10 and even
It was at one of these intermediate points that the enemy, dismounting
his men, crossed and established himself on the north bank of the river,
with a force far superior to mine, commanded by Major-General Wheeler. I
immediately informed General Rosecrans of the fact, who ordered me to
gather all the cavalry and mounted men and pursue the enemy, who had
crossed the river for the purpose of making a raid in the rear of our lines.
Learning the enemy was crossing Walden's Ridge opposite Smith's
Cross-Roads, I collected together the First and Second Brigades of my
division, commanded respectively by Colonels Minty and Long, and Captain
Stokes' Board of Trade battery, and ascended the mountain some 5 miles
south of Smith's Cross-Roads, directing Colonel Miller, commanding
brigade of mounted infantry, to join me on top of the mountain that
night; but he did not join me until next morning, when I resumed the
march, entering the Sequatchie Valley at Pitt's Cross-Roads.
Learned here that the enemy had divided his force, one portion under
General Wharton ascending the Cumberland Mountains at Pikeville, while
the remainder, under General Wheeler, had passed down the valley, and
would ascend the mountain at Dunlap, concentrating at some point beyond
the Cumberland Mountains and then move on McMinnville. I also found here
that the enemy had some fourteen hours the start of me. I took the
intermediate road, Robinson's Trace, and, although the mountain was very
bad to ascend at this place, I succeeded in getting up my entire command
that night. Next morning, after marching some 10 miles, I struck
Wharton's trail where he came into the Robinson Trace. I did not meet any
of his force, except some stragglers, until I arrived at the descent of
the mountain, where he had left some sharpshooters to oppose my advance.
I dismounted part of the Fourth Michigan, it being in the advance, and
drove them before me, they leaving 5 of their dead and 1 wounded on the
After descending the mountain I found the country rocky and brushy, no
place for cavalry to operate. As soon as I could get my infantry down the
mountain I dismounted them, sending them so as to completely surround
their force, holding my cavalry as a support. In this way I had Colonel
Crews' Texas brigade completely surrounded in a space not over 10 acres,
my men under cover and his exposed. My men poured several volleys into
them, but by this time it had become so dark we could not tell friend
from foe. Under cover of darkness they broke through my lines, my men not
firing for fear of shooting each other. The fight lasted for a couple of
hours after night, the remainder of Martin's division coming to Crews'
My loss was 46 killed and wounded. The enemy's loss is not definitely
known. We found some 10 of their dead close by the road, and a good many
of their wounded scattered along the road in houses. I pushed on after
them early next morning, and could not ascertain their loss. I left
instructions with the citizens to collect them and give them all proper
attention. I saw nothing of the enemy until within a couple of miles of
McMinnville, where some of his scouts fired into us.
On arriving at McMinnville I found that the garrison had surrendered
without making any resistance. The enemy sacked the place, destroying a
great deal of public and private property, and left in the direction of
Murfreesborough. I was also informed by an intelligent Union man that he
counted 4,000 of the enemy, and saw enough more that he was unable to
count to make up fully 6,000.
After leaving McMinnville I became satisfied, from the time occupied by
his force in passing a given point, he had between 5,000 and 6,000 men,
my own force at this time numbering about 3,500 effective men. I had not
marched more than 2 miles on the Mur-freesborough road until I came upon
his rear guard, posted in the edge of a woods, who commenced skirmishing
with my advance. Being satisfied that the guard intended to detain us so
that the main body could march unmolested, I ordered Colonel Long to send
a regiment ahead to make a saber charge. The Second Kentucky, Colonel
Nicholas commanding, with Colonel Long at their head, made a most gallant
charge of some 5 miles, breaking through his lines, killing and wounding
several of his men, capturing 11 prisoners, and driving the remainder
into the main column, compelling him to turn round and give me fight.
When I arrived with the main column I found the enemy drawn up in line of
battle in the edge of a woods, a large field between us, with high fences
intervening. I dismounted my infantry, and with my artillery drove them
out of the woods, he forming in another thick jungle a short distance in
the rear. The fight lasted for two hours, until after dark, when I camped
in the field. Here, again, I was unable to ascertain the number of his
killed and wounded, but left instructions for the citizens to collect
them. I learned that it was the intention of the enemy to take
Murfreesborough and then go to La Vergne, destroying the railroad between
these two points, and that he had sent squads of men who were familiar
with the country to destroy telegraphic communication between
Murfrees-borough and Nashville, which they succeeded in doing. I tried to
get a dispatch through to the commanding officer at Murfreesborough to
hold out until I could get there, but the courier could not get through.
At Readyville I crossed over on to the Liberty pike, so as to get between
them and La Vergne, and also to prevent them from ambushing me on the
road. By this move I drove them off in the direction of Shelbyville. I
found every person at Murfreesborough in great consternation, and
overjoyed to see us. They were momentarily expecting an attack from the
enemy, and felt that their force was too weak to repel him. I found here
an officer of the Engineer Department who was very kind and energetic,
giving me all the assistance in his power. Through the want of proper
attention to duty on the part of the assistant quartermaster and
commissary of subsistence, I was unable to procure anything for my men
and horses until nearly morning (although I had marched 41 miles that day
and my men had had no rations for five days), greatly retarding my march.
The next night I camped 2 miles beyond Guy's Gap.
From this point I sent my scouts in different directions, who brought
prisoners from the enemy's camp. General Mitchell, with the First Cavalry
Division, came up with us here.
Next morning I was ordered by him to march on the road to Farmington,
south of Duck River. About 3 miles from Shelbyville I found Davidson's
division encamped on Duck River, some 2 miles north of the road. The
brigade of mounted infantry being in the advance, and seeing the enemy's
ranks in confusion, I ordered them to charge on horseback. They drove the
enemy a short distance into a cedar thicket, and I then dismounted them.
At the same time I ordered Colonel Long's brigade to the front, and,
headed by Colonel Long, it made a most gallant saber charge, driving the
enemy 3 miles, killing and capturing a great many rebels. The enemy made
another stand in a cedar thicket, where it was impossible for the cavalry
to operate in. I sent the mounted infantry to the front as soon as
possible, when they dislodged the enemy, who again made a stand on the
main road, and were driven from this point, falling back toward
Farmington, skirmishing as they retreated.
About three-fourths of a mile from Farmington I found him posted in force
in a dense cedar thicket. I at once dismounted my infantry, deploying
them on each side of the road. When I attacked Davidson's division in the
morning, breaking through it, part of his column went to the right.
Fearing that it would turn my flank I sent back instructions to Colonel
Minty, whose position was in the rear of the column, to move to the right
and anticipate them.
I supposed that Colonel Minty had carried out my instructions, but when I
arrived at Farmington I learned from one of my staff officers, much to my
chagrin and surprise, that Colonel Minty was not with me. The absence of
Colonel Minty and some 500 men left at Mur-freesborough, having been
dismounted during the march, left me but about 1,500 effective men.
Finding the enemy vastly superior to me, I left one regiment of cavalry
to protect my rear, holding the other two regiments as a support to the
infantry, the country being impracticable for the cavalry to operate in.
The enemy's battery was posted in the cedar thicket some 400 yards
distant from me, pouring into me a heavy fire of grape, canister, and
shell, and made one or two charges on my men, at the same time attempting
to turn both of my flanks. At this critical moment I ordered Captain
Stokes forward with his battery to operate upon the enemy. He could only
find position for one piece, which was in full view of their battery, and
not over 350 yards distant. They turned their fire from the infantry on
to Captain Stokes' battery, mowing down his horses and men. The captain
sighted his own piece, and in three shots he disabled one of their
pieces, blowing up a caisson, and throwing their ranks into confusion.
At this moment, my infantry making a charge, broke through the enemy's
line, scattering them to the right and left, capturing four guns, some
wagons, and several prisoners. The enemy then being in an open country, I
ordered Colonel Long to the front to make a saber charge, but they had
the roads barricaded so as to render it impossible. It now getting dark,
I went into camp near Farmington.
Had Colonel Minty, with his brigade, been there at the time the enemy
broke, I should have thrown him on the left flank, and as things turned
out since, I would have captured a large portion of his command, together
with all his artillery and transportation. I learned here that I fought
General Wheeler with his entire command.
That night after the fighting had ceased, Colonel Minty with his brigade
came up, stating that he had no orders to march with me. From this,
together with a disposition manifested during the whole expedition to
frustrate my designs in a covert manner, I deprived him of his command
and sent him to the rear.(*) I sent my scouts out in different directions
that night, and learned that a large portion of the enemy had gone toward
Pulaski. Being satisfied that they were making for the Tennessee River,
and that the portion cut off would join them by other roads, I the next
morning pursued them on the Pulaski road, reaching that point that night.
I found to-day that their retreat instead of a march was a rout. Their
rear guard left Pulaski as I came in sight of the town.
On this days march I found that the night before a portion of those cut
off came into the road ahead of us at Lewisburg. On the march the next
day, another portion came into the road 6 miles south of Pulaski. I found
that their men were deserting and scattering over the country, and
learned of a great many wounded being left along the road and through the
The enemy left some two or three regiments at Sugar Creek, a strong
position, to oppose my advance; but instead of fighting them at long
range as they expected, I ordered a saber charge. The Fifth Iowa,
Lieutenant-Colonel Patrick commanding, being in the advance,
made a most gallant charge, breaking through their lines, killing 10,
wounding 9, capturing some 70 prisoners, and scattering the remainder to
From this on I met with only a few stragglers on the road. When within 8
miles of the river, although my horses were very tired, I galloped most
of the way to the river, and there found that the enemy had crossed at a
ford but little known of, and just above Elk River, where 12 could cross
abreast. I went into camp at Rogersville, General Mitchell, with the
First Division, coming up that night; and from that point I was ordered
with the remainder of the cavalry to Stevenson, via Huntsville.
On arriving at Huntsville, General Mitchell, learning that the rebel
general Roddey was passing in the direction of Winchester, went in
pursuit of him, but he escaped toward Athens. I was then ordered to
Winchester, and thence to this place. I have since learned that General
Lee, with 5,000 men, reached Courtland the same day that Wheeler crossed
the river. Roddey, with about 1,800 men, had crossed to the north bank of
the river at Guntersville, both he and Lee being ordered to join Wheeler,
but the latter was driven out of the State and across the river before a
junction could be effected. I have since learned that at Farmington the
enemy left on the field 86 of their dead and 137 wounded, while many of
their wounded were taken up by citizens through the country, of which I
have no account.
The loss of the enemy from the time they crossed the river near
Washington until they recrossed near Elk River, judging from the
difference in the length of time their column [consumed]in coming in and
going out, and other satisfactory evidence, I am fully satisfied is not
less than 2,000 men. One entire regiment, the Fourth Alabama, deserted
and scattered through the mountains.
My loss during the entire trip was 14 killed and 97 wounded. I regret to
report the death of the gallant Colonel Monroe, of the One hundred and
twenty-third Illinois, who fell while bravely leading on his regiment at
the battle of Farmington.
It is hard to distinguish individual cases of bravery and gallantry, when
all, both officers and men, did so nobly. Notwithstanding the fatigue and
severe hardships under which the men suffered--having but three days'
rations in twenty days, many of them nearly naked, and several times
exposed to a cold, drenching rain--yet they never complained, but were
always cheerful and ever ready to perform all duties required of them.
I am, sir, your obedient servant,