Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

Hancock’s Diary: or, A History of The Second Tennessee Cavalry.–Richard R. Hancock.

Post image for “Our Colonel then cried out, “Charge! charge!” (with an oath).”–Richard R. Hancock, Second Tennessee Cavalry.

Sunday, 20th.—Zollicoffer put his brigade in motion about noon, with McNairy’s Battalion again in the rear. Late in the afternoon, within about three miles of Wildcat, Zollicoffer’s advance guard killed one1 of the enemy’s picket and wounded and captured another.

McNairy having been ordered to the front, reported to General Zollicoffer, at the head of the infantry column, just as the General had learned that the battalion of cavalry in front had come in contact with and been repulsed by the Federals. Notwithstanding it was now about dark, he ordered McNairy to take his battalion and dislodge the Federals from their position in a dense woods, just beyond a large field.

Just as the front of our battalion had passed out of the field into the road beyond, with woods on both sides, the enemy fired a few shots from the woods on our right. Our Colonel then cried out, “Charge! charge!” (with an oath). Dashing forward a short distance, seeing no enemy in front, and fearing an ambuscade, he halted, moved his men back into the field, dismounted a part of them, and scoured the woods on foot, finding that the enemy had fallen back. It would seem that there was only a small squad of Federals in the woods, and that they fled as soon as they fired the first round. We then fell back to the opposite side of the field, deployed in line of battle, and lay on our arms all night. We were now within about two miles of Wildcat; could hear the enemy’s drums. As soon as the enemy fired on the First Battalion, the Twentieth Tennessee Infantry plunged into Rockcastle River about waist deep, and went to our support.


1 Dr. Wyatt and the writer dismounted and lifted his remains from the road. He proved to be Captain Merriman, from East Tennessee.

Post image for “McNairy was ordered to send out scouting parties on both sides of the London-Wildcat road.”–Richard R. Hancock, Second Tennessee Cavalry.

Saturday, 19th.—The head of the column advanced to a point some six or seven miles beyond London, on the road leading to Wildcat, but, for want of water, subsistence and forage, had to return to the wagon train, about four miles beyond London.

Zollicoffer’s advance had another skirmish with the enemy’s picket, resulting in the killing of one man on each side.

After marching in the rear of the wagon train to within eight miles of London, Colonel McNairy was ordered to move his battalion to the front. On reaching our General’s headquarters, about nightfall, encamped, as above named, some four miles from town, McNairy was ordered to send out scouting parties on both sides of the London-Wildcat road. Accordingly, a part of our battalion went southwest in the direction, of Somerset, while Allison’s Company went back to London, and thence about nine miles north-east in the direction of Booneville, capturing two men, two muskets and three horses on the way. Finding no organized force in that direction, Allison returned, by the way of London, to camp, some three miles from town, about daybreak next morning. Here the road forked—the left, leading by the way of Wildcat, Mount Vernon and Crab Orchard, to Camp Dick Robinson, and the right, to Richmond. We were now within ten miles of Wildcat.

Post image for Union Colonel: “I have no idea of having my men butchered up here.” –Richard R. Hancock, Second Tennessee Cavalry.

Friday, 18th.—After a march of about eight miles, our battalion bivouacked, still in rear of everything.

The cavalry in advance, some of Branner’s or Brazelton’s men, had a skirmish with the enemy’s picket about four miles beyond London on the road leading to Camp Wildcat, in which one of the enemy was killed and one captured.

The Federal commander at Wildcat sent the following dispatch to Thomas:

Camp Wildcat, October 18, 1861, 1 P. M.

General George H. Thomas:

I have information now beyond doubt that Zollicoffer is coming on with a large force and six pieces artillery. …..

I am now making arrangements to move my sick and commissary’s stores across the river, and intend, if I do not receive more troops, to abandon this place and retreat toward Camp (Dick) Robinson.

I have no idea of having my men butchered up here, where they have a force of six or seven to one, with artillery. I would like to hear from you immediately. Very respectfully,

T. T. Garrard,
Colonel Third Regiment, Kentucky Volunteers

The above dispatch shows very clearly what would have been the result if our General could have attacked the next day, the 19th, for Brigadier-General Alvin Schoepf did not reach Wildcat with reinforcements from Camp Dick Robinson until late in the afternoon of the 20th, and in fact some of the reinforcements did not arrive until the 21st.

Thursday, 17th.—Setting out from Raid Hill early in the. morning, our battalion soon caught up with the rear of the wagon train.

The road, which was already bad enough, was made still worse by its raining that day. Therefore the train moved very slowly, and “bringing up the rear” was quite an unpleasant job as well as a slow one. We camped for the night about where the head of the columns had bivouacked the night previous, only six miles from Bald Hill.

Post image for “On the march toward a camp of the enemy on Rockcastle River and Hills.”–Richard R. Hancock, Second Tennessee Cavalry.

Wednesday, 16th.—According to orders of yesterday, about 5,400 of Zollicoffer’s Brigade, including six pieces of artillery, were put in motion along the London road.

The First Battalion struck tents and prepared to move, but as McNairy was ordered to bring up the rear, and as the infantry, artillery, and wagons (about two hundred of the latter) were nearly all day passing his camp, he camped for another night on Bald Hill. The head of the column bivouacked some six miles from Bald Hill and ten from Camp Buckner.

The following communication will explain Zollicoffer’s then contemplated movement:

Brigade Headquarters, Camp Ten Mile, Ky., October 16, 1861.

Colonel Murray, Camp Myers: 1

Sir: I am ten miles on the march toward a camp of the enemy on Rockcastle River and Hills, having left Cumberland Ford this evening with the greater part of my command. I learned that the enemy at Albany, Ky., has retired. My plan has been to fall in their rear and cut them off. Now that Colonel Stanton and our cavalry have left the neighborhood of Jamestown, Tenn., the enemy may return in force near the line. I have ordered stores of subsistence for my troops to be placed at Jamestown by the 25th instant, and have ordered the same cavalry companies to return to that neighborhood almost the same time, to prevent the enemy from seizing and appropriating the stores. Perhaps the cavalry from above would not be sufficient to prevent an incursion.

I expect to pass down by Sommerset and Monticello, Ky., or by Columbia and Burksville, Ky., in the hope of capturing any forces they may be threatening your position with.

As secrecy is the element of success, I must beg of you not to mention to any solitary person this enterprise.

My object in writing to you is to ask you about the 25th to move in such a way as to insure, by the aid of the cavalry, the safety of the stores until I can reach the neighborhood. Inform General Caswell at Knoxville what you can do and he will communicate with me. Very respectfully,


Brigadier- General.

Colonel Murray replied thus:

Camp Red Sulphur, October 22, 1861.

General F. K. Zollicoffer:

Dear Sir: I am in receipt of yours of 16th instant. I am much pleased to learn that you are moving in direction of the interior of Kentucky. We are to-day within thirty-two miles of Burksville, will reach and capture the Federal forces there by the 25th of this instant. We will then move to Albany by the 26th of this instant.

Will you inform me of your position at Albany, as I will wait at that point for orders from you? I have no fears of our success at Burksvilre. In the meantime our forces will prevent the Federal forces from capturing our supplies at Jamestown. Yours shall be strictly confidential. I am your obedient servant,

John P. Murray,
Colonel Twenty-eighth Regiment, Tennessee Volunteers


1 In Overton County, Tennessee.

Tuesday, 15th.—Having now received the necessary supply of provisions, General Zollicoffer issued orders for a forward movement of his brigade on the morrow.

Monday, 14th.—B. A. Hancock, who had been sent to Cumberland Gap the day before after provisions for McNairy’s Battalion, returned. As rations had been very scarce for the last few days, we were glad to see a supply brought into camp.

Wednesday, 9th.—Our battalion drew some blankets and clothing, for which we were very thankful, as winter was now coming on.

Tuesday, 8th. — McNairy’s Battalion moved from Camp Buckner about four miles down the Cumberland River to Bald Hill. We were well pleased with the change. This camp was on elevated ground in an old field, and hence, not so muddy.

Monday, 7th.—Our tents, which had been left behind for some cause unknown to me, arrived. We were very glad to see them, for it had been raining almost constantly for the last two days, and as our battalion was camping in a low, flat place, we had mud and water in abundance.

B. A. Hancock. (Company E) was appointed assistant commissary in McNairy’s Battalion.