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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Transcriptions of Documents Related To Nickajack Gap

Letter From Tunnel Hill
Camp 1st Regt, Kentucky Cavalry
Tunnel Hill, April 23, 1864

". . . Last night a detail of fifty men were sent from our regiment, under charge of Lt. Joe Vincent of company B, to relieve some Yankee pickets that were doing duty at Nickajack Gap. Lieut. Vincent moved by a circuitous route to their rear, halted his command at the end of a lane, dismounted, built a high fence across the lane, and placed his men in ambush behind the fence. Col. Ross charged the pickets in front, and here they came, pell-mell, helter-skelter, right down on the ambush. Lieut. Vincent killed ten of them dead in the lane and captured forty-three others. Nearly all of them were wounded in some way, and none went back to tell the story. Take this all in all, it is rather a brilliant affair."


From Confederate Military History (Kentucky, 1899) :

Lieutenant Vincent was in command of fifty picked men from his regiment who were ordered across the mountain from Tunnel Hill, Ga., April 22, 1864, to attack the Federal picket at 
Nickajack Trace. A number of the Federals were killed and thirteen taken prisoners.

[Note the passive voice. Vincent takes no personal responsibility for either the killings or even taking any prisoners.]

Lt. T.B. Mackall
Hdqrs Army, Tenn

Head Quarters Cavalry Corps
Army of Tennessee
Tunnel Hill, April 27th, 1864


      "I have investigated the matter as to the Killing of those Yankees a few mornings since and find that nothing improper was done in that matter by my staff officers. I have not yet recd the report you spoke of making to Col. Harvie, Inspr Genl, as I anticipated. If you do not make this report, I desire that you will make a full report of the matter to me as it was reported to you, giving the names of the parties concerned, as there are exaggerated & false reports concerning this matter being circulated, which should be corrected without delay."

Very Respectfully,
Your obt Servant
Jos Wheeler
Major General

From Lt. T.B. Mackall's diary:

Dalton Ga, Friday, May 6, 1864

Gen Allen gives acct of a scout who learned from citizens that enemy were moving troops back to Chattanooga for Va. Maj Lee states enemy falling back. Inquiry of Wheeler if it's true?
Answer no word!  Not a thing has been ascertained by Wheeler's Cav--inaction---[possibly inactive]

Saturday, May 7, 1864

Enemy advanced in force from on Ringgold road this side T. Hill, near Nickajack Gap at night.

[These entries are later than and do not cover the incident of April 23, but they do show that Lt. Mackall was well aware of actions happening at Nickajack Gap. They also exhibit a certain level of frustration with Wheeler.]

From General Joseph Wheeler and the Army of Tennessee (1912) by John W. DuBose:

From time to time indications abounded of the ap- 
proaching activity of General Sherman. A letter from the 
front under date "Tunnel Hill, Ga., April 23, 1864," de- 
scribes some of the scenes at the Confederate cavalry out- 
posts : 

"This morning part of our brigade attacked the enemy's 
picket lines, captured between 30 and 40, killed and 
wounded some 13 to 15, and lost one man killed and two 
wounded a good little work to do before breakfast We 
have thus taken double pay for the raids they have been 
making on our pickets. With a few more dashes, I think 
we will have the Yankee cavalry appreciating our prowess. 

[This quote from DuBose is typical of the Confederate understanding of what happened. Only Gentillus seems to imply any deliberate killing of wounded prisoners.]

Lt. Scovill's written statement (click to enlarge)

[Note how brief Scovill's statement is, how unclear the sequence of events, and that it has not been sworn.]

From the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, Series 1-Volume 32 (part III), pp 810-811:

Dalton, April 22, 1864.
Major-General Wheeler:


Information of the enemy's position near Ringgold and Graysville would be valuable; I mean as to whether they have fortified there, and, if so, where and in what manner. If you can get such information, please do so; if not be so good as to inform me.

Very respectfully, &c.,
J.E. Johnston

Dalton, April 22, 1864.
Major-General Wheeler:

General Johnston has examined your letter giving your picket-line as proposed.

He says cavalry posted as close to us as Varnell's Station could not give any timely notice of the advance of an enemy. He thinks your pickets should keep well up to the enemy's line, and cover our front. The bending of the line around our right flank does not, in his opinion, give as good security as its extension to the east in a direct line, and makes your line as long, if not longer.

A scouting party was this morning captured by a regiment of the enemy's cavalry at Spring Place. This we hear from citizens. He calls your attention to this.

Respectfully, your obedient servant,

W.W. Mackall
Chief of Staff

[Note that Johnston is having to write Wheeler in order to learn what the enemy are doing near Ringgold, a mere seven or eight miles from Wheeler's HQ at Tunnel Hill. The letter from Mackall contains not only a critique of Wheeler's proposed picket line, too timidly placed to do any good, but also the terse reminder that one of Wheeler's scouting parties had been captured at Spring Place. Mackall says he and Johnston had to learn this from citizens. He seems to be implying that Wheeler should have been aware of this since they were from his own command, and that he should have been the one to inform the general of this incident. The newspapers were certainly aware of it, reporting that thirty men had been captured and their lieutenant killed. Wheeler sent Col. Reuben Ross on his Nickajack Raid the very next day. Already, on the night of the 22nd, the day these dispatches were sent, Lt. Vincent and his men were creeping into position at the foot of Taylor's Ridge. These dispatches also make it plain that Johnston expected Wheeler to bring in some good intelligence information, and that meant taking prisoners or sending scouts into enemy lines. Dead prisoners are of no value whatever in such a mission.]

Here is a link to the chronology of the Atlanta Campaign. Atlanta Campaign Chronology
A chronology of the events during Union General William Tecumseh Sherman's Atlanta Campaign


Anonymous said...

I found this account in a book on Google. though I would share.

General Joseph Wheeler and the Army of Tennessee
By John Witherspoon Du Bose

Barry Colbaugh

Ten Irish said...

I'm thinking it's the same quote I have from the same book. I don't think DuBose mentioned anything other than the very brief letter he quoted from. See above.

Anne Emerson said...
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