The 4th Kentucky at Mill Springs
Updated: Jan 14, 2020
Over the next few days and weeks I am going to try to put out as many Union and Confederate reports on the Battle of Mill Springs/Logan's Crossroads/Fishing Creek/Mill Creek/etc with the 158th anniversary coming up in a few days. Some are directly from the battle, others will be from the campaign as a whole. I will also try to include the reports of regimental commanders and general officers. As I said in my post on the 6th Kentucky at Stones River, I am doing these reports because quite a few people have never perused the Official Records, or know how to do so. This allows me to help others and it provides them a way to access the information in an easier way.
Report of Col. Speed S. Fry, Fourth Kentucky Infantry. Zollicoffer’s Camp, Wayne County, Ky., January 25, 1862.
Sir: In compliance with your orders I herewith transmit my report of the part my regiment took in the engagement with the enemy on the 19th instant.
At about 6.30 o’clock in the morning I was notified by you in person that the enemy was rapidly advancing upon us, and ordered to call out my regiment, which was done as promptly as possible. I was directed by you to proceed at once towards the scene of action, the fight having commenced, and to "go and take a position in the woods.” I had no information as to the strength or position of the enemy, and had to be governed entirely by my own judgment as to what was best to be done.
Upon arriving at a point where I could see their position I immediately determined to take mine on an elevated point in the field on the left of the road, filed my regiment to the left through the fence, and formed my line of battle parallel with and near to it, under a heavy and galling fire from the enemy, who were concealed in a deep ravine at the foot of the hill and posted on the opposite hill, distant about 250 yards. Their line extended around the ridge at the head of the ravine and onto the hill occupied by me, and within 50 yards of my right, covered throughout its entire extent by the fence separating the field and woodland and by the timber and thick undergrowth adjacent thereto. The engagement at once became very warm. Finding that I was greatly outnumbered, and the enemy being under cover, I ordered my men to the opposite side of the fence in our rear, the enemy continuing to fire upon us all the while. After gaining this position the enemy was kept at bay until the arrival of re-enforcements, having made during the time two unsuccessful attempts to charge upon us with bayonets fixed and their large cane-knives unsheathed.
Some time after we crossed the fence I was notified by Lieutenant-Colonel Croxton that an attempt was being made to flank us on our right through the woods, with a view, no doubt, of coming up in our rear. As I did not see you upon the field, I assumed the responsibility of requesting through him that another regiment should be ordered up to engage the enemy on the right, while mine might attend more closely to the force in front. After waiting some time the arrival of the regiment, which Lieutenant-Colonel Croxton reported as approaching, and when it was certainly ascertained that the enemy was endeavoring to flank us on the right, I ordered him to bring up two companies from the left of the regiment, to prevent, if possible, the apprehended danger. It was promptly done, and the movement of the enemy checked.
As the right and center were under a much heavier fire and more directly engaged, I considered the transfer of those two companies more judicious than a change of position of the whole regiment, which could not have been executed without interrupting the continuity of my line of fire, which, as the enemy were near and pressing upon us, I held important to preserve unbroken. My command, thus disposed, held the enemy at bay until General Thomas arrived and, seeing the posture of affairs, immediately ordered up the Second Minnesota and Ninth Ohio Regiments. Very soon the enemy gave way, flying before our forces like chaff before the wind. My men replenished their cartridge-boxes, gathered up our wounded, and joined in the pursuit, which terminated in our unobstructed entrance to this stronghold of the enemy.
I take great pleasure in stating that the conduct of Lieutenant-Colonel Croxton, Major Hunt, Adjutant Goodloe, Quartermaster Hope, and all my company officers, without a single exception, was deserving of the highest praise and commendation, and to their coolness and bravery I attribute much of the determination of the men.
Towards the close of the tight I discovered we were getting short of ammunition, and the company officers as well as the field officers fearing that neither ammunition nor re-enforcements would reach us in time, the command was distinctly given by the company officers to their men to “fix bayonets,” evidently showing a coolness and determination not to be expected from volunteers, and especially those who had never met an enemy in battle.
Capt. Wellington Harlan, who had been for some time under arrest, was conspicuous with his rifle throughout the battle, and for his gallant conduct on the field was there presented with his sword by Lieutenant-Colonel Croxton (who had caused him to be arrested) and ordered to take command of his company. I cannot but speak, without doing violence to my own feelings, in the highest terms of praise of the conduct both of my officers and men. They all acted nobly their part during the whole of the engagement. I led only 400 men and one half of my company officers into the fight, nearly all the rest being absent sick.
All of which is respectfully submitted. SPEED S. FRY, Colonel, Comdg. Fourth Kentucky Regiment of Infantry.
I included this image at the bottom of the post since the death of Confederate General Felix Zollicoffer is not mentioned in Colonel Fry's report. Colonel Fry is generally the one credited with firing the fatal bullet, but there is some controversy as to who actually did. It is well documented that Zollicoffer and Fry spoke before Fry's horse was shot by one of Zollicoffer's aids, causing Fry to return fire from his pistol.