Colonel Lyon’s Letters.
Huntsville, Ala., Oct. 2, 1864.—I keep on writing to you, although I do not suppose that one of my letters has reached Nashville for over a week. Of course, I receive none from you. The railroad over which our mails pass is not used, and the other road is used exclusively to transport troops.
When Forrest left the railroad, near Pulaski, he went east towards the Nashville & Chattanooga R. R., but, as far as I can learn, has not injured it. On Thursday I sent a scouting party nearly to Fayetteville, 28 miles north of this place, who learned that his army passed through there the night before, going east. The next day I sent another scout in a northeast direction and about 12 miles out. They ran into a large force of the enemy and had a little fight. On their return General Granger, who in the meantime had arrived here from Decatur, sent out another scout on the same road, and soon after we heard them skirmishing some two miles out of town. This was just at night. The scout came in and reported 150 rebels there. They lost one man, killed. We made every preparation for defense. In the evening a flag of truce came in with a communication from the rebel General Buford, saying that he commanded the advance of Forrest’s army, and demanding a surrender of the town, fort, troops, etc., at this post. The substance of General Granger’s answer was, ‘Go to h—l.’
Some further correspondence occurred during the night, the dispatches purporting to be signed by Forrest himself. He offered to let the citizens have two hours after daylight to get out of the town. We allowed all to leave who chose to go, and most of them went. There was a terrible panic amongst them. They are nearly all rebels, and General Granger, Colonel Johnson and myself had all told them repeatedly that if we were attacked we would play smash with their old town. It was interesting to see them, on foot, on horses and mules and in all sorts of vehicles, run from their doomed town, as they supposed. They went in all directions, but mainly to the mountains near by.
Well, about eight o’clock on Saturday morning several parties of the enemy appeared in sight and moved up to within one or two miles of the town. Whenever we could get a fair view of them we let the shells fly at them. They kept pretty well under the cover of the woods, and after an hour or so, there being no apparent increase of their force, we sent out scouts, who at noon reported that the enemy had left and were moving west, saying that they could take Huntsville, but that it would cost them more men than they could afford to lose. So the citizens returned and everything quieted down again. I was up all Friday night, and stayed at the fort last night, but slept most of the time. Tonight I am at headquarters and hope to have a good, quiet, ten-hours’ sleep.
The 13th had its usual luck, or would have had it had there been a fight. About twenty minutes before we learned that the rebels were in our neighborhood, General Granger started all of them who were here, some 200, on the cars toward Stevenson to remove the wreck of a train that was fired into and ran off the track at Bellfonte the same morning. So they would not have been here at all, except Company E, which we brought up from Whitesburg during Friday night. The regiment returned last evening and this afternoon was sent to its old stations on the railroad.
Last evening several thousand troops arrived here to reinforce us. They are commanded by General Morgan, with whom I formed a very pleasant acquaintance at Stevenson a year ago. This force went down towards Decatur this evening on a reconnoisance. While it is in our vicinity we are in no danger of attack.
We have no knowledge of the size of the force that made this demonstration on us. General Granger thinks it was Forrest’s whole force. I do not. I think it was large enough, however, to satisfy them that it could take Huntsville. I was much relieved to have the General here to take the responsibility of the command. I was also much relieved to know that you were in Wisconsin, safe and snug.
Jerry packed up my traps and carried them to the fort, and then took a musket and went into a colored company we have here and was ready to fight. The officers and men of the 13th are nearly all sick. I have reported the regiment as unfit for field duty, and mean that it shall lie still for a few weeks to recuperate.