Tenth Kentucky Volunteer Infantry

Capture of Companies A & H

COURTLAND, AL

On May 26, 1862, the 10th Kentucky Infantry had the misfortune of having 2 companies captured by a larger Confederate cavalry force commanded by Brig. Gen. Frank Armstrong.  Company A (commanded by Capt. Henry Davidson) and Company H (commanded by Capt. B. R. Pendleton) had been sent to protect a railroad bridge in Courtland, AL.  A small force of the 1st Ohio cavalry was also stationed to protect the bridge.  There were 97 men present in the infantry companies and the 1st Ohio cavalry had 35-40 men total present.   In Gen Armstrong’s report, he indicated that the CSA units involved totaled approximately 700 men. 

Col. Harlan’s account of the incident is found below:

HEADQUARTERS TENTH KENTUCKY REGIMENT,
Winchester, Tenn., August 8, 1862.

The first reliable information received by me in regard to the affair at Courtland was when en route from Florence, Ala., to Pulaski, Tenn., when most of the men from Companies A and H joined the regiment. Being separated from my brigade and division commanders, I deemed it my duty to telegraph to Major-General Buell the substance of that information. At that time I also received a brief communication from Captain Davidson, which was written from Moulton, Ala., while a prisoner in the hands of the rebels. It was written, as I learn from my men, hurriedly, a few moments before they separated from him.
He writes that on the morning of July 25, about 8 o'clock, he was attacked by a large force of Confederate cavalry, under Brigadier-General Armstrong, believed to number 800. Seeing the enemy coming, he formed Companies A and H in line behind the railroad embankment and near the bridge, intending to give the enemy battle, and determined to guard that which he was sent there to do as long as he could possibly do so.

The position which he selected was so advantageous for defense against a force coming from an opposite direction that the presence of his men behind the embankment was not observed by the enemy until they came quite close to him. He fired two volleys into their ranks as they charged, which killed and wounded a number of the rebels, and also killed the horse of the rebel general. Seeing the enemy, with their greatly superior force, was flanking him and getting into his rear, Captain Davidson passed with his command by the left flank across the creek, running under the bridge, and took position in some gullies. About this time he observed a considerable force of cavalry coming from the direction of Courtland, and what appeared to be infantry (but which proved to be cavalry dismounted) in a corn field supporting the cavalry. Captain Davidson ordered bayonets to be fixed, intending to charge through them, get into the corn field, and from there into the woods near by, but finding himself surrounded, with no possible chance of escape, he surrendered his command.

He writes that his men behaved splendidly, obeying every command with promptitude and alacrity and fighting gallantly until the last moment. He says further that Captain Pendleton, Company H, Lieutenant Reynolds, Company A, and Lieutenants Barry and Shively, Company H, are worthy of all praise for the brave and gallant manner in which they managed their troops.
The loss on our side was as follows: William Farmer, Company H, killed; James Rogers, Company A, wounded severely in thigh; Mattis Cortes,  <ar22_824> Company A, wounded slightly in arm and cheek, and James Cable, Company A, in left arm.

I herewith inclose a complete list of the enlisted men who were taken prisoners and paroled (with the exception of James Rogers, who was too badly wounded to travel and was left with the rebels at Moulton). The paroled men were forwarded to Nashville, Tenn., with orders to report to Maj. W. H. Sidell, assistant adjutant-general, and from that place, I learn, were forwarded to Camp Chase, Ohio.
Justice to Captain Davidson requires that I should say that the unvarying testimony of all the men of Companies A and H is that he acted as became a brave and dauntless soldier under the trying circumstances surrounding him. The admirable manner in which he disciplined his company and his high character afford every assurance that he performed his whole duty. I feel sure that he did all that he could do with the small force at his command. The infantry numbered about 97 effective men. The cavalry force stationed there did not exceed, as I learn, 35 or 40 men, composing parts of two companies, under command distinct from Captain Davidson. They performed the picket duty for the station. Their operations upon the occasion alluded to will doubtless be detailed by others.

JNO. M. HARLAN,
 Colonel Tenth Kentucky Regiment.


The account of the capture from Gen. Armstrong’s point-of-view is listed below:

G. D. HUNT, Jr.,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General.

HDQRS. CAVALRY BRIGADE, ARMY OF THE WEST,
Moulton, Ala., July 26, 1862

MAJOR: I have the honor to report that I reached here on the evening of the 24th instant. After conferring with Captain Roddey, from whom I gained all the valuable information I could desire, I determined to move early on the morning of the 25th to Courtland, 16 miles north of this, on the line of the Memphis and Charleston Railroad, and take the place, it being the center of guards and patrols for the portion of the road between Tuscumbia and Decatur. Sending Lieut. Col. D.C. Kelley with 140 of Forrest's cavalry to a point 7 miles west and two Partisan companies that are in the neighborhood 12 miles east of Courtland, to destroy and ambush the road from both directions, I moved from here with about 550 men, including the independent companies under Captain Roddey, at I a.m. on the morning of the 25th instant. Having arrived near Courtland, avoiding all roads as much as possible, I sent two companies under Captain Roddey and a detachment of 60 men, with long-range guns, selected from the several battalions, under Captain Champion, to advance upon the flank. I succeeded, through corn fields and by-paths, in getting within 500 yards of the enemy's camp, when I charged them with the main body of cavalry, the two commands of Captains Roddey and Champion moving promptly to the positions previously assigned them. The enemy's infantry fell back under cover of the railroad and fired a volley, but I soon crossed the railroad and charged down it on the north side, which drove them from the trestle work and forced them to take shelter under the bank of a creek, where it was impossible to get at them on horseback. I immediately pushed around some dismounted men to charge them on foot. Seeing this they ceased firing, threw down their arms, and surrendered. In getting to this infantry command I had to charge through the cavalry encampment, dispersed their cavalry, taking the commander and many others prisoners, captured 2 wagons and teams, 500 bushels sacked corn, many horses and equipments, a large number of arms, all the camp and garrison equipage of four companies, and six days' supplies; destroyed <ar22_828> the telegraph line, three pieces of trestle work and a bridge, burned a depot, and took 133 prisoners (8 commissioned officers).

FRANK C. ARMSTRONG,
Brigadier-General

By all indications the enlisted men were paroled, moved to Nashville and then on to Camp Chase, Ohio.  The officers were retained by the Confederates and taken to Tupelo, MS.  It appears an exchange occurred within a couple of months and the soldiers were returned to their units.

PULASKI, July 31, 1862.
Col. J. B. FRY:

Arrived here late this evening from Eastport. My men's feet are very sore from hard marching to join my brigade. Can I be allowed to remain here to-morrow and rest them and procure clothing? Since leaving Florence report of capture of two companies, A and H, in all about 90 men, of this regiment, on the 25th instant, at Courtland, is confirmed. Rebel force was believed to be 800 cavalry, under General Armstrong. My men fought until completely surrounded and overwhelmed. Loss 1 killed and 4 wounded. Rebel loss believed to be 11 killed and more than 20 wounded. Particulars by mail. I am satisfied that my officers and men did all that was possible to do. Privates have been paroled. Some of them have joined regiments. What shall I do with them? Please answer immediately.

JNO. M. HARLAN,
Colonel.

 

HEADQUARTERS, Huntsville, July 31, 1862.
Colonel HARLAN,  Pulaski:

Continue your march to-morrow to Decherd.

JAMES B. FRY,
Chief of Staff.