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The 10th Kentucky in the Mill Springs Campaign

Updated: Mar 19, 2020

Report of Col. John M. Harlan, Tenth Kentucky Infantry.

Hdqrs. Tenth Regiment Kentucky Volunteers, Near Mill Springs, Wayne County, Ky.,

Jan. 27, 1862.

Sir: I submit the following report of the action of my regiment in connection with the capture of the fortifications erected by the rebel Army at and near Mill Springs:

Colonel John Marshall Harlan

At this point, however, I deem it proper to state that on the night of the 17th instant an order came from the division commander, addressed to Colonel Steedman, of the Fourteenth Ohio, and myself (then encamped about 8 miles from Logan’s, where the battle of the 19th occurred), directing us to march at once to the farm of one Tarter, on the Jamestown road, and about 6 miles off the main road from Columbia to Somerset, and engage two rebel regiments, supposed to be there encamped. This duty was performed, but the enemy was not to be found at the place designated. After remaining at Tarter’s until noon of the 18th instant, we returned to our camp in the afternoon of Saturday, too late to make any further forward movement on that day. You will thus perceive that it was physically impossible for my regiment, consistent with other duties imposed upon us, to be present at Logan’s on the morning of the 19th, when the enemy, under Crittenden and Zollicoffer, made an attack upon the United States troops.

It is deeply regretted by all the officers and soldiers tinder my command that it was not their privilege to participate in the brilliant achievement of the 19th instant. We could wish no higher honor for this regiment than to have contributed something to win that most important victory. All honor to the brave men of Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, and Ohio, who on that memorable occasion drove back in dismay three times their number of the vandal horde of secession and treason.

Late war image of the 10th Kentucky color guard.

Information came to me Sunday morning of the battle at Logan’s. Although the men of my regiment were entirely destitute of provisions, and on that morning had not received half enough for breakfast, my summons to them to fall into line and march to the aid of our brethren was obeyed with commendable alacrity. Starting for the scene of danger, we marched as rapidly as it was possible for men to do. Upon reaching Logan’s I found that the enemy had fled and that our troops had followed in pursuit. Without halting at Logan’s we came up with this and the other brigade under General Thomas a short while before dark on Sunday. After our arrival, in obedience to orders received from you and approved by the division commander, I took possession of the woods immediately in front of the rebel fortifications, with directions to hold it against any attack of the enemy. There my men lay on the ground during the whole of Sunday night without fire, tents, overcoats, or blankets, and with nothing to eat except about one-fourth of a cracker to each man. A picket guard was stationed in advance, under charge of Capt. G. W. Riley, of Company D.

At daylight Monday morning I formed my regiment into line, and with the approval of both yourself and the division commander started towards the rebel fortifications, sending forward in advance of the main body of the regiment a squad of men under Captain Hill, Company F, who first entered the rebel works. I also sent forward in advance Company A, Captain Davidson, as skirmishers. When we reached the enemy’s works it was ascertained that they had, under cover of the previous night, crossed the Cumberland, and abandoned, as it is believed, all of their wagons, mules, horses, am munition, and artillery. The rear of the fugitive army could not have crossed long before daylight, since when my advance, Company A, reached the crossing at the river some of the rebels were observed on the opposite side on a high hill, from which they fired upon our troops. The fire was returned, and it is believed that a member of Company A killed one of the rebels across the river. Further pursuit was impossible, since the rebels in their retreat had utterly destroyed or removed all means of crossing the river.

The Confederate works at Beech Grove on the Cumberland River. These are the works the 10th Kentucky entered, only to find them abandoned.

Various documents and papers were found by officers and soldiers within the rebel fortifications. Some of them may be of importance to the Government or throw some light upon the plans of the rebels, and they are therefore transmitted with this report. Among other documents, I transmit a letter written from this place on the 19th instant by the son of Brigadier-General Carroll, of the rebel Army, in which he states that the entire force which the enemy there had on both sides of the Cumberland River was 13,000. Also a general order, issued on January 3, showing that Maj. Gen. George B. Crittenden assumed command here on that day. Also a general order from General Zollicoffer, of January 12, which shows the amount of the rebel force then on this side of the Cumberland under his immediate command. Also the general-order book of Zollicoffer’s brigade. The remaining books and papers will not be here described.

In conclusion, allow me to say that I do not claim that any special honor is due to my regiment because in advance of all other troops a portion of it first entered the rebel fortifications, or because my advance company first reached the river in their pursuit and there found the artillery and other property of the enemy. Simple justice demands the admission that the capture of the enemy’s works and the property abandoned by them was the result of the battle at Logan’s on the fifth instant. But I do claim for the officers and soldiers of this regiment that, under circumstances the most discouraging, they made a march (18 miles in about six hours) which indicated their willingness, even eagerness, to endure any fatigue or make any sacrifice in order to meet on the field of battle those wicked and unnatural men who are seeking without cause to destroy the Union of our fathers.

Respectfully, JNO. M. HARLAN, Colonel, Commanding.


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