1862 Letters

January 27, 1862 letter to Mark Lee from Edward Wolcott

January 27, 1862

To: Mark F. Lee

From: Edward G. Wolcott, Lebanon, KY

Tells of the battle in which General Zollicoffer was killed and the statistics of the dead and wounded on both sides. Sent some camp poetry and asked Mark to keep it for him until he returns.

UNION.
Camp Stegole
lst Reg. Mich Engineers & Mechanics
Company G

January 27th, 1862

M. F. Lee, Esq.[1]

Dear Sir,

I seate my self to write a few lines to you to let you know I am a live & well hoping this will find you the same. Wal Mark here I am a way down in old Kentuck setting on my ass. We are encamped on the Nort bank of the Cumberland River in the County of Pulaski. Wal Mark we have some good times & some hard times but I think take it all and all I could enjoy my self as well to home as I can in the Army but here I am & I am going to make the best of it but if I was at home knowing just whot I know now I would enlist agane. Wal Mark I have seen the Elephant. I happened to be at the battle Between Zollicoffer and Thomas[2]. I was there my self and we give the rebels a most Beautiful Drubing. I suppose it was all owing to my being there. Wal Mark without joking it was a sorriful sight to see the dead & wonded laying as thick on the ground as sheafs of grain and then to see the sufferings of the wonded. It was a heard sight to see but we had to grin & bare it. Wal after we had got the Rebellious Devels to running as fast as they could all but 5 Regt went to taking care of the wounded & dark we had them all picked up & cared for and the next day our company was detailed to Bury the Dead Secesh. I hep put 127 under the ground. There has been 270 buried of the Rebels in all that we know of. There is various estimations of the enemies loss but in Kild & wounded as near as we know of is 500. Our kild and wounded is 160. 33 kild & 127 wounded.[3] All told we onley had a bout 3000 men aganst 8000 of the rebels. General Zollicoffer was kild. Colonel Fry of the 4th Kentucky shot him. Wal Mark I will send you some Camp Poetry[4] & I want you to keep it till I come back if I ever do. Mark I have not got any postage stamps nor cant get any short of 70 miles so you will have to pay your own postage. Give my love to Cate[5] and Lucy[6] [7]. Tell them to write and you must write as soon as you get this. Give my love to all inquiring friends and a portion to your self. Wal Mark I must close for this time.

Yours truly
E. G. Wolcott

to M. F. Lee

Direct to lst Regt Mich Engeneers & Mechaincs Co G
Lebanon, Ky.

——-

[1] Marquis deLafayette Lee. Marquis’ father, Ezekiel Lee, was a brother to George Clinton Lee, who was married to Edward’s first cousin, Catherine (Keith) Bradley Lee

[2] See page following the camp poetry for a description of the Battle of Mills Creek and death of General Zollicoffer

[3] These numbers do not agree with the official tally reported (see Battle of Mills Creek)

[4] See following page

[5] Catherine (Keith) Bradley Lee

[6] Lucy Lee, Catherine and George Clinton Lee’s daughter

[7] The 1850 census for Comstock, Michigan, shows Rhoda (Keith) Lee and her grandson, Marquis, living next door to Catherine and George Clinton Lee. By 1860, “Macus” Lee was living with Catherine and Lucy Lee, Rhoda Lee having died June 3, 1854 and George Clinton Lee having died December 18, 1854

[8] Son of Warren and Electa Damon Willcutt (many Willcutts changed the spelling of their last name to Wolcott)

——-

Just Before the Battle Mother

Just before the battle, Mother,
I am thinking most of you,
While upon the field we’re watching,
With the enemy in view;

Comrades brave are round me lying,
Fill’d with thoughts of home and God,
For well they know that on the morrow,
Some will sleep beneath the sod.

(Chorus): Farewell, Mother you may never
Press me to your heart again
But oh, you’ll not forget me Mother
If I’m numbered with the slain.

Oh I long to see you Mother,
And the loving ones at home,
But I’ll never leave our banner,
Till in honor I can come.

Tell the traitors, all around you,
That their cruel words we know
In every battle kill our soldiers
By the help they give the foe.

(Chorus)

Hark! I hear bugles sounding
Tis the signal for the fight,
Now may God protect us, Mother,
As he ever does the right,
Hear the “Battle Cry of Freedom,”
How it swells upon the air,
Oh, yes we’ll rally round the standard
Or we’ll perish nobly there.

(Chorus)

——-

The Battle of Mill Springs

The Battle of Mill Springs, also known as the Battle of Fishing Creek in Confederate terminology, and the Battle of Logan’s Cross Roads in Union terminology, was fought in Wayne and Pulaski counties, near current Nancy, Kentucky, on January 19, 1862, as part of the American Civil War. The Union victory concluded an early Confederate offensive campaign in eastern Kentucky.

The Confederate march through the night was hampered by rain and mud and the troops arrived at Logan’s Crossroads cold and miserable. Many of the men carried antique, Napoleon-style flintlock muskets, which became almost useless in the wet weather. The slowness of the march had cost them the element of surprise. Nevertheless, they launched a spirited attack, led from the front by Gen. Felix Zollicoffer, and achieved some initial success. The 15th Mississippi Infantry and the 20th Tennessee pushed back the (Union) 4th Kentucky Infantry, under Col. Speed S. Fry, as well as the 2nd Minnesota and 10th Indiana and some Union cavalry.

In the poor visibility of the dark woods, clouded with gunsmoke, confusion reigned. Zollicoffer, who was conspicuous in front of his men with a white raincoat, mistakenly approached the Union 4th Kentucky infantry, believing they were Confederates firing on their own men. Zollicoffer was shot and killed, allegedly by Col. Fry himself. The sudden death of their commander and heavy fire from Fry’s regiment caused the center of the Confederate line to fall back momentarily in confusion. Gen. George B. Crittenden (Zollicoffer’s superior) rallied his men and ordered a general advance by Zollicoffer’s brigade and the brigade of Brig. Gen. William H. Carroll.

At this point, Thomas arrived on the field and ordered the 9th Ohio to advance while the 2nd Minnesota maintained heavy fire from the front line. Col. Robert L. McCook, commanding Thomas’s 3rd Brigade, wrote that the lines were so close that the “enemy and the Second Minnesota were poking their guns through the same fence.” When the 9th Ohio turned the Confederate left flank, the battle was decided. The Confederate troops broke and ran back toward Mill Springs in a disorderly rout, and Crittenden, who was rumored to be drunk during the battle, was powerless to stop them. They frantically crossed to the south side of the Cumberland, abandoning twelve valuable artillery pieces, 150 wagons, more than 1,000 horses and mules, and all of their dead and wounded. The retreat continued all the way to Chestnut Mound, Tennessee (near Carthage), about 50 miles due east of Nashville.

Casualties were relatively light: Union losses were 39 killed and 207 wounded, Confederate 125 killed and 404 wounded or missing. Crittenden’s military career was also a casualty. Accused of drunkenness and treason, his army was disbanded and he was reassigned to be a corps commander at Bowling Green. Within two months he was relieved of his command and arrested for a subsequent episode of drunkenness. In October 1862, after a court of inquiry ordered by Gen. Braxton Bragg, Crittenden resigned as a general and served without rank on the staff of Brig. Gen. John S. Williams and other officers in western Virginia for the remainder of the war.

Battlefield today: The Mill Springs battlefield is located in Pulaski County, not far from Nancy, Kentucky. The historic town of Mill Springs, after which the battle was named, is actually some distance away across Lake Cumberland. Portions of the battlefield are preserved as a county park (named Zollicoffer Park in honor of the slain general). Zollicoffer Park contains the Confederate Cemetery, which consists of a mass grave. There is a corresponding Mill Springs National Cemetery in Nancy, where the Union dead were interred. The battlefield, which covers about 105 acres, is one of the top twenty-five priority battlefields and is considered a historic landmark. The Zollie Tree was the tree attributed as the place Felix Zollicoffer fell; it no longer exists, the victim of a lightning strike, but the stump is marked.

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