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 Zollicoffer reports result of reconnaissance to A. S. Johnston.–Richard R. Hancock, Second Tennessee Cavalry.

Saturday, 5th.—Setting out on his return between daybreak and sunrise, McNairy arrived at Camp Buckner a little after dark, and reported the result of his reconnaissance to Zollicoffer, who, on the next day, the 6th, sent the following communication to A. S. Johnston:

A reconnoitering detachment has just returned from London, reporting no appearance of an enemy there. They report, upon general information from country people, that there are 3,300 of the enemy encamped on Rockcastle hills (Wildcat), a strong position thirteen miles beyond, where the Mount Vernon road crosses the Rockcastle River.

I would move forward and attack them instantly but for unexpected deficiency in subsistence stores. Ten days ago I ordered the brigade commissary to accumulate a stock of thirty days’ rations for 5,000 men. To-day I have not five days’ rations. I could not properly advance with less than ten. I hope soon to have the supplies.

I sent a large detachment into Harlan county, where I heard there were 500 or 600 men embodied under arms. No organized enemy found.

I have sent a cavalry detachment to Williamsburg, some thirty miles west. Not yet returned. This is nearly my only means of getting information of the country.

Friday, 4th.—Gen. Zollicoffer ordered Colonel McNairy to go with his battalion on a reconnoitering expedition as far as London.

As soon as his men could prepare two days’ rations, McNairy set out from Camp Buckner about 10:30 A. M., and, after a ride of about forty miles, he drew rein a little after midnight, within two miles of London. Our advance guard, going on to that place, returned and reported no enemy there. We then took a nap of some two or three hours.

Thursday, 3d.—Lieutenant Joe Wyatt (Company C) was elected surgeon of McNairy’s Battalion, F. W. Hearn (Company B), Quartermaster, and M. D. A. Nolan (Company A), Commissary Sergeant.

Sergeant Major M. W. McKnight, Lieutenant George Alexander and Private T. D. Summer, all from Company E, started home on furlough.


On the 2d instant, Col. T. T. Garrard wrote to General G. H. Thomas thus:

. . . . . .Colonel Brown has now enrolled and in camp some 250 twelve months’ soldiers. He has muskets, but no cartridge-boxes, caps, pouches, nor bayonet scabbards. . . . . .

Have not heard anything of the Rebels since they reached Barboursville. The last account is that some 100 or upwards were in Barboursville. (Two companies of McNairy’s Battalion). . . . . .

I have got Colonel Brown to move all of his men to the river (Big Rockcastle, some two miles to the rear) except one company, and they are outside our camp in a rock house. We have been much annoyed by them, as well as visitors and others who were driven before the Rebels. Some of them returned this evening part of the way home, but heard of the Rebels below London, and they returned to camp. The report, I am satisfied, is false.

And the next day, the 3d, he wrote thus in reference to Brown’s men.:

You will see before this reaches you that Colonel Brown has moved to the river, some two miles from us. I would be afraid to place them between the enemy and our camp. Some of his men are, I fear, a little timid, and I doubt whether or not they will do their duty on that side of us.

And in reference to Wolford’s Cavalry, on the 10th, he puts it thus:

When Captain Smith, of the cavalry, reached here (Wildcat), there was not one of Walford’s men in camp, nor had there been for several days, and if my informant is correct, some of them that are now here will do no good. They were seen drunk on picket yesterday at, or near, London.

On the date under which I am now writing, the 3d, Zollicoffer sent the .following telegraph dispatch to General A. S. Johnston, Columbus, Kentucky:

I think I have reliable information that Camp (Dick) Robinson was 7,000 strong; 1,0oo of these have gone to Lexington and Frankfort; 1,500 remain in camp, the residue believed to be certainly moving toward Barboursville to meet me. Should it appear to me expedient, I wish permission to meet them half way.

On the same day Johnston replied as follows:

“Dispatch received. Exercise your own discretion in attacking the enemy.”

It was about this time that Captain William Ewing resigned and returned home, and William Parrish became Captain of Company C, First Battalion.


Reports listed here were published later in the Official Records.  Hancock, of course, did not have access to them at the time.

Wednesday, 2d.—Several of Allison’s Company who had been home returned to camp, brother Will (W. C. Hancock) and J. C. McAdoo, who were sick of the measles at Camp Schuyler, last August, and went home from there, were among the number.

Companies B and C (they had been at Barboursville since the 29th ultimo) rejoined the battalion at Camp Buckner.

Tuesday, October 1st.—Rain’s Regiment and Allison’s Company returned to camp at Camp Buckner. Companies B and C of McNairy’s Battalion remained at Barboursville.

Post image for “…we had not gone far with our salt before bang! bang! bang! went several guns.”–Richard R. Hancock, Second Tennessee Cavalry.

Monday, 30th.—Through carelessness, or some other cause, five barrels of salt were left where they were captured, near where the enemy had been camping. Lieutenant M. V. Wilson was ordered to take twenty-five of Allison’s. Company and a wagon and go back after the salt, while the rest of the command moved on toward Barboursville. We regarded this as rather a hazardous trip, though we went back to, and loaded in, four barrels of the salt (thinking five would be too much for our team) without any incident worthy of note; but we had not gone far with our salt before bang! bang! bang! went several guns back about where our rear guard was. This caused considerable excitement in our little squad, though one of the rear guard soon came dashing up, and reported that it was only bush-whackers that had fired on them, and that some of the balls cut very close, but no one was hurt. So we felt better then, and moved on to Barboursville without any more trouble. Here we found two companies of our battalion (B and C), but the other two (A and D) had gone on back to Camp Buckner, on Cumberland river. We found Rains’ Regiment and the balance of our company (E) encamped two miles from Barboursville on the road leading back to Camp Buckner.

Colonel Cummings went with his detachment to the Salt Works, loaded in all the salt there, 200 bushels, and returned without coming in contact with the enemy. He receipted for the salt, as directed by General Zollicoffer. The Salt Works belonged to Union men, yet Zollicoffer expected to have it paid for at the price of salt at the works—forty cents per bushel.

Post image for A foray for army supplies.–Richard R. Hancock, Second Tennessee Cavalry.

Sunday, 29th.—Colonel Rains had learned that Colonel Brown, who was in command of the Home Guards that had fled to Wildcat the evening before, lived some two or three miles beyond London, and, thinking that perhaps Brown might have some supplies for his men stored away at his home, he (Rains) ordered Colonel McNairy to take his battalion, go to Brown’s and search for the supposed supplies. Swinging ourselves into the saddle, before 1 o’clock A. M., we went by the way of London, and searched Brown’s dwelling and premises, but found only a box of shoes.1 As soon as he was satisfied that there was nothing more to be found in the way of army supplies, our Colonel called out, “Mount your horses!” and we were soon on our way back to London. Arriving at that place about daylight, we halted until McNairy treated the whole battalion on brandy, after which we returned to camp and took another breakfast.

Besides the three prisoners and the shoes (twenty-five pairs) already mentioned, Colonel Rains captured 8,000 cartridges, 25,000 caps, three kegs of powder, several guns, six barrels of salt, two wagons and teams, loaded with the last of their camp equipage, and three other horses.

Soon after breakfast, our picket came dashing into camp and reported that they had been fired on just beyond London. Major Malcomb was immediately sent out in the direction of London with two companies of McNairy’s Battalion to meet the enemy and bring on the engagement, while Col. Rains deployed his men into battle line ready to receive the enemy should Malcomb be forced back. The Major returned, however, and reported no enemy found, so we concluded that it was only a scout, or “bush-whackers,” that had fired on our picket.

Having accomplished the object for which he had been sent out, Col. Rains now set out on his return. Going about eight miles back in the direction of Barboursville, his regiment and Allison’s Company bivouacked, while McNairy with the rest of his battalion went on to Barboursville.


1It would seem that the panic struck Colonel Brown’s family just as they were ready to take supper last eve, for we found their supper still on the table when we entered the house this morning before day, but I did not say that it was on the table when we left.

Post image for “How strange! that they should think that we were making war on women and children!”–Richard R. Hancock, Second Tennessee Cavalry.

Saturday, 28th.—According to previous instructions (see under 25th instant), Col. Rains, with his regiment, McNairy’s Battalion and Falcond’s section of artillery, moved out from Barboursville in the direction of Laurel Bridge, while Colonel Cummings, with his detachment and about fifty wagons, moved out for the Salt Works, and Colonel Statham moved so as to support either of the other detachments if necessary.

Colonel McNairy was ordered to take the advance with Harris’s, Payne’s and Allison’s Companies. Our Colonel had not gone far along the London road before he threw out flankers as well as an advance guard, with instructions to keep a sharp lookout for the enemy. Thus, we moved on without any incident worthy of note until we struck the enemy’s picket, within three miles of their camp. Our advance guard captured three of their picket and chased the rest (six or eight) into camp. Colonel McNairy then fell back a short distance, sent a messenger to meet Colonel Rains, and awaited his arrival with the infantry and artillery. As soon as Rains caught up, the command moved on again with McNairy’s three companies still in front. We met a citizen who said that the enemy was lying in wait for us. So we thought that we would sure have our first engagement, then and there. Before reaching the enemy’s camp, Colonel McNairy was ordered to halt, and Colonel Rains took the advance with his regiment, leaving orders for McNairy to hold his battalion well in hand, ready to pursue if he (Rains) should succeed in routing them. On reaching, the Federal camp, and finding it deserted, Rains’ men raised a war-whoop that must have made the Federals believe, if they were in hearing, that 10,000 men1 were after them. Then dashing forward in pursuit, our battalion went as far as London, took down a Union flag, but did not overtake any of the fugitives. The citizens caught the panic—men, women, children and negroes—nearly all, either fled with the Home Guards and Federals to Camp Wildcat, some thirteen miles beyond London, or went to their neighbor’s off the main road. How strange! that they should think that we were making war on women and children!

As it was now about nightfall, our battalion moved back about two miles and rejoined Colonel Rains, encamped where the Home Guards had been camping.


1 Colonel Walford estimated our force at “from 5,000 to 7,000.”—See Rebellion Records (Garrard to Thomas), p. 280.

Post image for Barboursville, Kentucky.–Richard R. Hancock, Second Tennessee Cavalry.

Friday, 27th.—We remained at Barboursville. Colonel Rains ordered his demi-brigade to cook three days’ rations and be ready to move early the next morning.

We were now in twenty miles of the enemy’s camp at Laurel Bridge. Col. Brown, who lived near London, was in command of the Home Guards at that camp. Colonel Wolford, with a part of his regiment, was also in that vicinity.

Post image for Barboursville, Kentucky: “Our men put up in deserted houses.”–Richard R. Hancock, Second Tennessee Cavalry.

Thursday, 26th.—According to Zollicoffer’s orders of yesterday, the several detachments named (except Companies B and C of McNairy’s Battalion that did not move to Barboursville till the next day), marched (sixteen miles) from Camp Buckner to Barboursville, the county seat of Knox County, Kentucky, leaving their tents at the former place.

It was said that only three families remained in town, and this showed the strong “Union sentiments” of that town. Our men put up in deserted houses. 1


1 The larger portion of the household furniture was left in many of the dwellings; therefore, the writer, as well as a good many others, had the pleasure of occupying a good Kentucky feather bed the two nights that we remained in Barboursville.