O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XVII/1 [S# 24]
DECEMBER 15, 1862-JANUARY 3, 1863.
Forrest's Expedition into West Tennessee.
No. 4.--Report of Col. Robert O. Ingersoll, Eleventh Illinois Cavalry,
of skirmish at Lexington.
JACKSON, TENN., December 27, 1862.
I have the honor to report that in accordance with orders received from you I
proceeded toward the Tennessee River on the evening of the 16th instant with
one section of Captain Kidd's Fourteenth Indiana Battery, under Lieutenant
McGuire, and 200 of the Eleventh Illinois Cavalry, under Lieutenant-Colonel
Meek. We arrived at Lexington, 28 miles east of this place, on the morning
of the 17th, where I was joined by Colonel Hawkins, of the Second West
Tennessee, with 272 men. At noon we marched to Beech Creek, about
5 miles east of Lexington. Three days before, Captain O'Hara had been
sent to Tennessee River with 68 men. Halting at Beech Creek I sent
Captain Burbridge forward with one company to gather information, and, if
possible, find Captain O'Hara. After proceeding about 5 miles Captain
Burbridge joined Captain O'Hara, who reported the enemy at least 1,000
strong a few miles in front. In a short time the enemy's pickets came in sight.
On receiving this information I ordered Captain Burbridge to fall slowly back,
using every endeavor to find out the strength of the enemy. The enemy
appearing in large force, Captain Burbridge fell back and crossed Beech Creek.
It was now dark. Ordering Lieutenant Fox, of the Second West Tennessee, to
destroy the bridge and picket the road from the bridge, I fell back to within
half a mile of Lexington. Here I was joined by 200 of the Fifth Ohio, under
command of Adjutant Harrison. They were raw recruits, never having been
under fire and never drilled. At this place are two roads, the right-hand road
called the old Stage road and the left the Lower road. Upon the old Stage
road the bridge had been destroyed. Lieutenant Fox, as I afterward learned,
failed to destroy the lower bridge.
About daylight of the 18th Major Funke, of the Eleventh Illinois, with the
first battalion, advanced on the old Stage road, as I expected the enemy on
this road. Colonel Hawkins, with two companies of his regiment, was sent on
the Lower road to defend that crossing. Major Funke had advanced about 4 miles
when he came on the advanced pickets of the enemy and immediately commenced
skirmishing. He drove in their pickets, when he came upon a full regiment. He
then fell slowly back, fighting all the way, his men in fine order, and
holding at bay a much superior force for several hours.
In the mean time my two guns were placed in position commanding the crossing
of the creek. Major Funke retreated across the creek, closely pursued by the
enemy. As soon as the enemy's advance appeared Lieutenant McGuire opened with
his guns, when they retreated hastily and in confusion. They attempted to
place a gun in position, but it had no sooner made its appearance than it was
dismounted by a well-directed shot from our guns. Learning that the enemy were
in great force on the Lower road, although there had been little firing in
that direction, I ordered the guns to fall back with all possible dispatch,
leaving Major Kerr and Captain Woods, of the Eleventh, and Lieutenant
Overturf, of the Fifth Ohio, to protect the crossing.
When I gained my new position on the Lower road I found that the enemy were
pouring in on all directions. I then ordered the force at the crossing to join
me at the guns, first, however, sending Captain Hays, of the Second West
Tennessee, to hold the point. I understand he did not fire a single gun. The
force on the Lower road (the Second West Tennessee) came back in confusion
and on the full run, pursued by the enemy. It was impossible to stop them.
Captain Burbridge, of the Eleventh Illinois Cavalry, who was in the rear of
the guns was ordered to advance, and, as soon as our men were out of the way,
charge the enemy. This order was obeyed in splendid style, Captain Burbridge
driving the enemy back; they made another attack on the guns, which was again
handsomely repulsed. Before I ordered the guns to be brought back I was
informed that one regiment had been sent to my right and another to my left
with intent to get between me and Jackson. I endeavored to bring a company of
the Second West Tennessee to the right of the guns, but found it impossible.
They were not very well equipped and had never before been under fire. They
were rallied three times, but did not succeed in making a stand. Had they held
the right for only a minute or two the guns could have been brought off.
All connected with the artillery fought splendidly; men could not
better. Lieutenant McGuire proved himself a brave and gallant officer.
Twice the enemy were repulsed, but coming in overpowering numbers the
third attempt proved successful; the guns were taken, with every man but one,
and he did not leave his post until the gun was taken. From all information I
have received I believe the enemy were at least 5,000 strong, with eight
pieces of artillery (12-pounders), under command of Brigadier-General Forrest,
A moment after the guns were taken I was taken prisoner, and the command
devolved upon Colonel Meek, Eleventh Illinois Cavalry, Colonel Hawkins being
missing. The enemy took 124 prisoners. As far as I can learn, the Eleventh
Illinois lost in killed First Lieutenant Slater, Second Lieutenant Wagner, and
7 men; in wounded, 9, and in prisoners, 51. Some of the prisoners were taken
in the retreat. The Fifth Ohio lost in prisoners, Adjutant Harrison and 51
men, and the Second West Tennessee about 15 taken prisoners.
The Fourteenth Indiana Battery had 2 men killed and 2 wounded and 29
prisoners, with Lieutenant McGuire. Major Kerr, Captain Sheppard, and
Lieutenant Cornell, of the Eleventh, were among the prisoners.
I have the honor to remain, your obedient servant,
ROBERT G. INGERSOLL,
Colonel Eleventh Illinois Cavalry
Brig. Gen. JER. C. SULLIVAN,
Commanding District of Jackson