Battle of Hartsville

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Battle of Hartsville
Part of the American Civil War
Date December 7, 1862 (1862-12-07)
Location Hartsville, Tennessee
Result Confederate victory
Belligerents
United States United States (Union) Confederate States of America CSA (Confederacy)
Commanders and leaders
Absalom B. Moore (POW) John Hunt Morgan
Units involved
XIV Corps
Strength
2,400[1] 1,300[1]
Casualties and losses
2,096[1] 139[1]

The Battle of Hartsville was fought on December 7, 1862, in northern Tennessee at the opening of the Stones River Campaign the American Civil War.

Background[edit]

The Stones River Campaign started in early November 1862 when Union Maj. Gen. William S. Rosecrans moved his Army of the Cumberland southeast from Nashville, Tennessee, toward Murfreesboro. Confederate General Braxton Bragg, commanding the Army of Tennessee, had retreated there after his defeat at the Battle of Perryville. Bragg ordered Colonel John Hunt Morgan to move north with his cavalry and operate along Rosecrans's lines of communications, to prevent him from foraging for supplies north of Nashville. The action at Hartsville, a crossing point on the Cumberland River about 40 miles upstream from Nashville, north of Murfreesboro, was an incident in Morgan's raid to the north, before Rosecrans had the bulk of his infantry forces on the move.

Battle[edit]

Guarding the river crossing at Hartsville was the 39th Brigade, XIV Corps, Army of the Cumberland, consisting of the 106th Ohio Infantry, 108th Ohio Infantry, 104th Illinois Infantry, and 2nd Indiana Cavalry. The brigade was commanded by Col. Absalom B. Moore. Under the cover of darkness, Morgan crossed the river in the early morning of December 7, 1862, with about 1,300 men, mainly Kentuckians, outnumbered by about 1,000 troops to the Union brigade. Another Union force, three times that size, was encamped nine miles away at Castalian Springs, close enough to hear the guns, but too far away to interfere.

Morgan's attack took the Union camp by surprise. One account from a participant indicates that the Confederates were able to get past the picket line by wearing blue uniforms, another that they wore civilian clothes and posed as refugees. The attack began at 6:45 a.m. with a simultaneous artillery bombardment and an infantry attack, while cavalry struck the flanks and rear. One of Moore's units ran after an hour, which caused confusion and helped to force the Federals to fall back. By 8:30 a.m., the Confederates had surrounded the Federals, convincing Col. Moore to surrender.

Aftermath[edit]

The Union 74th Indiana regiment was camped at Castalian Springs. They marched to Hartsville from a distance of about eight or nine miles away after hearing cannons firing in the distance. Their advance was hesitant because they may have skirmished with the confederate rear guard of Morgan’s cavalry.

They came upon Union and confederate casualties abandoned in the snow after the battle ended, in which Union forces were defeated by the combined light infantry, light artillery and cavalry of John Hunt Morgan. Some of Morgan’s soldiers were barefooted and lacked clothing. They took Union supplies of shoes and a number of wagons filled with supplies. Four or five wagons were hidden with supplies. Reports give the number of dead and wounded at about 200.

Fifteen confederate soldiers “frozen so stiff” were left behind with other wounded according to Basil W. Duke, field commander of the confederate rapid deployment force. Union wounded were also left behind but 2,004 prisoners were marched south to Lebanon.

The soldiers of the 74th were too late in their arrival because of snow on the ground, the freezing weather and the confederate rear guard. The confederates knew of the Union encampment strength and where they were deployed. The confederates had taken precautionary action by deploying Quirk’s scouts and Cluke’s regiment to impede the Union relief force. The confederates had to increase the pace of their retreat and some Union prisoners were forced to wade the Cumberland River or one of its tributary creeks.[2]

Morgan inflicted 58 Union casualties, at the cost of 139 Confederate; however, he also left the battlefield with 1,844 Union prisoners and a wagon train heavily loaded with captured equipment and supplies. General Joseph E. Johnston, who was in overall command of Confederate forces in the Western Theater, called this a "brilliant feat" and recommended that Morgan be appointed brigadier general immediately. Jefferson Davis happened to be in the vicinity at Murfreesboro and promoted Morgan in person when he arrived.

The action at Hartsville foreshadowed the Confederate cavalry raids by Nathan Bedford Forrest into West Tennessee, December 1862 to January 1863, and by Morgan into Kentucky, from December 1862 to January 1863. Rosecrans arrived in Murfreesboro on December 29, setting the stage for the Battle of Stones River.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Kennedy, p. 150.
  2. ^ Duke, Basil W. History of Morgan's Cavalry. Cincinnati, OH: Miami Printing and Publishing Company, 1867, pp. 309–316.

References[edit]

Coordinates: 36°22′40″N 86°10′27″W / 36.3777°N 86.1743°W / 36.3777; -86.1743