|Chapter XVII. EASTERN KENTUCKY.
my left, I presumed that the object of the enemy was to mass large forces in my rear whole he attacked with superior force in my front.
My determination was at once formed to mask my front with my cavalry battalion, so as to prevent communication between the country people and the enemy, and by a lateral movement to the Prestonburg road, leading to Salyersville, to intercept and fight Colonel Cranor before his arrival at the post he was expected to occupy. I found the roads nearly impassable. With great labor my battery was moved 6 miles, but some of my wagons could not move 4 miles. It was the second day before I passed from the State road leading from Salyersville to Prestonburg.
On January 9 I had sent a detachment to the mill, 1 mile below Prestonburg, near to which I was compelled to draw (to make bread for my men), and the enemy drove them away during the night.
On the morning of the 10th I learned from my pickets that the enemy was passing in force from Abbott's Creek to Middle Creek, and were apparently pursuing me, the Fortieth Ohio having effected a junction with the rest by passing down Paint Creek. I was on my way to this place, because it is the nearest point to my camp on January 8 at which I could get meal to make bread. I permitted my transportation train to move along the road I was traveling, and I halted and formed by command for battle.
The enemy came in sight about 10 a. m. and we engaged about 12 m. He was very slow in making his advance and general dispositions. I send inclosed a sketch of the ground upon which the battle took place, * from which you will see that my battery was at first placed in the gorge of the mouth of the Left Fork of Middle Creek. Williams' regiment, Moore's regiment, and part of the mounted battalion, fighting on foot, occupied the spurs and heights upon my right; Trigg's regiment occupied the height covering the battery; Witcher's and Holliday's companies unreserve in rear of the battery; Thomas' and Clay's companies, dismounted and armed with Belgian rifles, thrown forward on the opposite side of Middle Creek to the heights commanding the plain of main Middle Creek, and resisted any advance of skirmishers from the opposite heights.
The enemy, having come through a defile to the left of main Middle Creek, first deployed a large force on the heights to his right, then advanced a regiment to the middle of the plain, covered by cavalry, and rested his left and his reserves at the base of the hills, which were manned by my right. Our lines thus rested at an acute angle to each other. He first advanced his cavalry and center, but three discharges of artillery put the cavalry to flight, and if they did anything more during the day it was done on foot. We plainly heard the command to "Force the cavalry forward," but the cavalry did not make its appearance again. The enemy charged up the pints above the mouth of Spurlock's Branch three times, but were repulsed with great loss.
In the evening I shifted our smooth-bore 6-pounder, so as to bring it to the summit of the dip in the hill occupied by Trigg's regiment, and obtained a fair flank fire at the enemy, while occupying a piney point in front of Moore's regiment. This soon attracted a hot fire upon the gun, but no further damage than the shooting of one of the artillery horses through the head.
After an action which lasted about four hours the enemy withdrew his force, it then being night, and retired down Middle Creek, on the route to Prestonburg, whence, the next day, he retraced his steps to Paintsville.
|Chapter XVII. EASTERN KENTUCKY.