Columbus Westbote (Ohio)
September 26, 1861
Translated by Joseph R. Reinhart, Louisville, Ky.
The following excerpt about the recent battle in West Virginia [Carnifex Ferry] we took from correspondence from Mr. Tafel [1st Sgt. Gustav Tafel, 9th Ohio Infantry] to the [Cin.cinnati] Volksblatt.
A night bayonet attack on the entrenchments was ordered by the high command. General Rosecrans appeared at the head of our ranks and pointing his saber called: “Gallant Ninth. Follow me!” He rode a short stretch to the fence enclosing the cornfield, and naturally we followed expecting nothing less than that the General wanted us to open death’s door in person. However he stopped and showed Lt. Col Sondershoff the place to be taken by us in the in the main bastion opposite. As soon as we took the latter,
we were to follow up with fixed bayonets. At this moment there was no talk of assistance from another regiment. Later it was said that we would find the 10th [Ohio] Regiment deployed farter down at the fence, which was supposed to attack with us. However, because we had shortly before found troops of the 10th Regiment scattered in quite different parts of the woods we first of all wanted to assure ourselves about the certainty of this promised support. Whereupon it was revealed that only two weak companies were there. We heard next that another regiment was located in the neighborhood and is supposed to take part in the attack. Suspecting nothing good, we however decided to do the most possible in spite of ever increasing fatigue.
We stood expecting the command to advance when we suddenly heard off to the side behind our backs, volley after volley crash. We thought about an attempted flanking movement by the enemy, also about the terrible possibility that our troops had fired on their own men in the darkness. Sadly, the latter was the case and I now come to a woeful catastrophe of this blundering action in which so many Germans were sacrificed. The Thirteenth [Ohio] and part of the 28th itself fired full volleys on a battalion of the 28th that was supposed to have been brought by an officer of the general staff into its position for the purpose of participating in the next attack. With the urge of the greatest possible quiet they were led into a ravine that descended toward the Gauley River. The river, because it is really raging, completely covered the right flank and part of the rear of the enemy position. In order to take position the battalion was supposed to climb a fair
distance before the end of the gorge, where it is quite deep and leads almost vertically over stone blocks and wild undergrowth up to one of the enemy's fortifications on the high ground opposite their right flank.
In daylight, when one can calculate taking each step, the ascension of this slope is a piece of work that demands sprightly legs and a quick eye. During the night it is just impossible. The leader himself lost his way and when one of the men accidentally discharged his rifle while climbing, the troops of the 13th [Ohio] further up believed that the enemy was advancing and fired a full volley on the battalion. The other battalion of the 28th took this volley as an enemy attack and also fired putting their comrades in a crossfire. The ensuing scene of confusion had to be horrible. The list below [not presented] shows the tragic results. Colonel Moor was injured by a fall and Adjutant Böhlander got a bullet through his hat that just creased his scalp.
The confusion on the narrow forest paths with all regiments hastening toward the way out of the forest was to (such) an extent that a determined enemy truly would have had an easy time letting the entire army experience a second Bull's Run. It is, of course, not to be denied that the conditions brought much that was not to be changed, and which had to cause confusion. The men were so exhausted that they would have preferred to lay down on the path in the woods.
—Your correspondent considered himself lucky, because he finally found a bed on three fence rails after an hour of alternately standing and moving on slowly. Our regiment did not have the comfort of a cover or supper, or even the comfort of a campfire. All had determined: In the morning the lottery must be made to come to an end. It must by hook or crook. Who describes our surprise, when we were awakened the next morning by cheers. The dragoons brought a nice silk secessionist flag. The fortifications had been vacated during the night. The enemy was back across the river where we could not follow him. The fox had escaped and we could look at his construction [fortifications] with pleasure.
Letter translated by Albert Reutlinger, Lieutenant of 5th Kentucky Volunteer Infantry Regiment ,U.S.
Furnished by Dr. Barton Reutlinger, a descendent of Albert.
(Re: Battle of Mill Springs)
Camp on Logen's [Logan's] Farm, Kentucky
January 21, 1862
Dear Friend Greiner,
Keeping my promise, I am writing you to let you know that I luckily escaped any harm In the battle on the l9th of this month, which took place near Somerset,, Ky.
Sunday morning, on the 19th of January, about 8 o'clock in the morning General Zollokofer [Zollicoffer] approached our Camp with the Intention of surprising us with eight regiments of infantry and 1,800 Dragoons. Our vanguard was driven back. The 10th Indiana Regiment, which had hurried to our assistance also had to give way to the stronger force. Bugle call for the general march was sounded and, as we were drinking our coffee in our tents, our officers called, "Brothers, to your guns as hell has broken loose in every corner." Each one buckled on his bullet pouch and grabbed his gun and in six minutes rushed out on the field of battle. Despite the heavy rain we were without our overcoats. We opened up a heavy fire and almost every shot took its effect. But we soon saw that we were unable to drive the enemy from their high position. Now we charged with bare bayonets. Our Colonel McCook was wounded in the right lower leg and his horse was shot from under him. Our Major received a serious flesh wound in the thigh. Nevertheless, we arrived at the summit. For a time it was just a question of life or death. Nevertheless, the enemy lost their General Zolickofer [Zollicoffer] and seven other officers and the stronger force had to give way to our determined attack.
Our right wing attacked their left flank and when the enemy saw that only death and destruction awaiting, them, they went into full flight, retreating, to their trenches. Our Company captured their field hospital with three doctors and a number of wounded, as well as a cannon. We pursued them and about 5 o'clock in the evening we got to their trenches and they retreated across the Cumberland River. Here we managed to ground a ferry boat with a large number of soldiers. Another force tried to cross the river on ropes, but on account of the great numbers, the ropes broke and. many were drowned. It was a sorry eight. Night fell now and hid the fleeing
enemy from out death bringing weapons.
Early In the morning in a pouring rain we entered their deserted trenches and found a great load of supplies of such a variety that it would take too much time to list them all. Each of us took what he pleased, and then we went into their block houses in order to satisfy our hunger and get some rest. At the river shore we found their wagon baggage, together with 16 Cannons and a number of horses and mules. Our Commander then told us that we had completely routed the enemy, and General Thomas rode In front of our Regiment and thanked us for the stand we made, and he gave orders to return tomorrow morning early to our camping place.
We do not know exactly as yet just how many of our Regiment, were killed or wounded. The 4th Kentucky, 9th Ohio, 10th Indiana, 2nd Minnesota, and Wolfhart's [Wolford's] Cavalry and Ohio Artillery were in the battle.
I want to close my letter now and I hope that you and your family enjoy the same good health that you had when I left you. I want to extend my best wishes to you and to your wife and to Miss Louisa. (Please write soon and tell me how you are.)
Address. Joh. Schwarz,
9th Ohio Regiment,