Colonel Lyon’s Letters.
The Fight with Lyon at Scottsboro—Bravery of the Colored Troops.
(Letter from Colonel Lyon to the Nashville Union.)
Huntsville, Ala., Jan. 14, 1865. “A fight took place at Scottsboro, twenty miles west of Stevenson, on the evening of the 8th inst., between the forces of the rebel General Lyon and the garrison at that place, consisting of detachments from Company E, 101st U. S. C. T., and from Company E, 110th U. S. C. T., the former commanded by Lieutenant John H. Hull, and the latter by Lieutenant David Smart, the whole under command of Lieutenant Hull. This affair deserves more publicity than it will get through the ordinary medium of an official report, as it helps settle the oft repeated question, ‘Will the negro fight?’
Lieutenant Hull’s command numbered fifty-three muskets in all, but eleven of his men were on outpost duty at the water tanks over one mile west of the depot, in which the balance of the command, forty-two strong, was stationed. Here the little garrison was attacked by the whole force of the rebel General, reinforced by several guerrilla companies that infest that region, and numbering from 800 to 1,000 men, with two twelve-pounder howitzers.
After skirmishing with the enemy and holding him in check for some time, the garrison was driven into the depot, upon which three determined charges were made, each one of which was repulsed with severe loss to the enemy. The rebels then withdrew beyond musket range and opened upon the depot with their artillery; but the garrison remained in it until it had been struck with four shells, three of which exploded in the building. Lieutenant Hull then withdrew his command to a mountain four hundred and fifty yards distant, cutting his way through the ranks of the rebels, who attempted to intercept his progress, in a hand-to-hand fight. One rebel seized the Lieutenant by the collar, but was instantly killed by him. The pursuit was short. The rebels had been too severely handled to approach within reach of the muskets of these dusky warriors; and, after firing a few random shots with their artillery into the mountain, they left for the Tennessee river. Their loss was one Colonel and seventeen men killed, and forty or fifty wounded. Ours was six wounded.
The men on duty at the water tank were captured, but before reaching the river they stampeded, at great personal peril, and all of them escaped and are now with their commands.
There were some interesting incidents that took place during the engagement, worthy to be mentioned.
After the men had been driven into the depot, Lieutenant Hull went out upon the platform to reconnoitre. The enemy’s bullets were flying thickly around him when he discovered his orderly sergeant, a colored man, approaching him. The Lieutenant ordered him back into the building. ‘I wish to speak to you,’ said the sergeant. ‘Very well,’ replied the Lieutenant, ‘speak quickly’. ‘The men don’t want to surrender,’ continued the sergeant. The response from the Lieutenant was, ‘Go back and tell them that while a man of us lives there will be no surrender’.
The sergeant delivered this message, and a wild shout of joy went up from the beleaguered garrison—a shout that assured their gallant commander that there would be no faltering on the part of his men in the deadly conflict which was rapidly thickening around them.
Another incident. A colored sergeant named Anderson had his leg torn off by the explosion of one of the shells—and afterwards loaded and fired his musket three times! This brave soldier has since died of his wounds.
It is worthy of mention that these soldiers were mostly new recruits, and had never before been in action, and a majority of them had not even been mustered.
The whole affair lasted some three hours, and to give an idea of the desperate character of the fighting I will mention that in one at least of the assaults the rebels came so close to the building that they seized the guns of our men as they were projected through the loopholes in the brick walls of the depot and attempted to wrench them from the grasp of those inside.
Lieutenant Hull, a resident of Ripley County, Indiana, was formerly an enlisted man of the 83d Indiana, and is a brother, I am informed, of the gallant Colonel Hull, of the 37th Indiana, whose name is so familiar in the Army of the Cumberland.
I am not acquainted with the history of Lieutenant Smart, but it is just to add that Lieutenant Hull speaks in terms of the highest praise of his courage and efficiency in the contest.
Wm. P. Lyon,
“Col. 13th Wis. V. I., Comd’g.”