William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas


[TOC] [part 9] [part 7] [Cutler's History]


The Eighth Infantry was originally recruited and intended for home and frontier service. Hostile Indians on the west and armed rebels on the east, rendering Kansas at any moment liable to invasion, a double duty devolved on the young State, and at that period of the war, while furnishing liberally of her 'bone and sinew' to repel the enemy abroad, her own homes and families had also to be considered and protected.

As organized in November, 1861, the regiment consisted of six infantry and two cavalry companies, with the following regimental officers: Colonel, Henry W. Wessels, U. S. A.; Lieutenant Colonel, John A. Martin; Major, Edward F. Schneider; Adjutant, S. C. Russell; Quartermaster, E. P. Bancroft.

During the three months following this organization, various changes were made in the regiment. Some companies were added, some were transferred to other regiments, and some were consolidated. February 7, 1862, Col. Wessels was ordered to Washington to assume command of his regiment in the regular army, and Lieut. Col. Martin succeeded to his place. Later in the month, the Eighth was consolidated with a battalion raised for New Mexican service, the cavalry companies, D and H, were transferred to the Ninth Kansas, and the Eighth, now an entire infantry regiment, was placed under command of Col. R. H. Graham.

The organization of the regiment after these changes was as follows:

Field and Staff. - Colonel, Robert H. Graham, Leavenworth; Lieutenant Colonel, John A. Martin, Atchison; Major, Edward F. Schneider, Leavenworth; Adjutant, Sheldon C. Russell, Lawrence; Quartermaster, E. P. Bancroft, Emporia; Surgeon, J. B. Woodward, Riley County; Chaplain, John Paulson, Topeka.

Line Officers. - Company A, Captain. James L. Abernathy, First Lieutenant, Samuel Laighton, Second Lieutenant, John Conover, all of Leavenworth. Company B, Captain, David Block, Leavenworth; First Lieutenant, Charles Alten, Kansas City, Mo.; Second Lieutenant, Martin Mauerhan, Leavenworth. Company C, Captain, James H. Graham, First Lieutenant, John G. Bechtold, and Second Lieutenant, Richard R. Bridgland, all of Atchison. Company D, Captain, Arthur W. Williams, Sabetha; First Lieutenant, Stephen B. Todd, Marshall County; Second Lieutenant, John L. Graham, Albany. Company E, Captain, John Greelish, Wilmington; First Lieutenant, Milton Rose, Indianola; Second Lieutenant, Daniel D. Rooks, Burlingame. Company F, Captain, A. W. J. Brown, Allen County; First Lieutenant, William S. Newbery, Iola; Second Lieutenant, J. Milton Hadley, Olathe. Company G. Captain, Nicholas Harrington, Palermo; First Lieutenant, Robert Flickenger, Geary City; Second Lieutenant, Joseph Randolph, Palermo. Company H, Captain, Edgar P. Trego, Pre-emption, Ill.; First Lieutenant, Frank Curtis, Genesco, Ill.; Second Lieutenant, Harvey C. Blackman, Nebraska City, Neb. Company I, Captain, Henry C. Austin, St. Louis, Mo.; First Lieutenant, Marion Brooks, Spring Hill, Ill.; Second Lieutenant, Lewis B. Graham. Company K. Captain. William S. Hurd, First Lieutenant, James E. Love, and Second Lieutenant, Fred R. Neat, all of St. Louis, Mo.

On the 28th of May, five companies of the regiment. B, E, H, I and K. after being reviewed at Fort Leavenworth, embarked on a Missouri steamer, under orders from Gen. Blunt, then Commander of Western Department, to report at Corinth, Miss. At St. Louis, Col. Graham was obliged to resign his command, in consequence of sickness, and it again devolved upon Lieut. Col. Martin. On reaching Cairo, the Eighth, with the other troops forming Gen. Mitchell's brigade, were ordered to rendezvous at Columbus, Ky., and thence move southward to Corinth. On the 8th of June, they heft Columbus, and at Union City, Tenn., the battalion of the Eighth, with the Second Kansas Battery, under command of Lieut. Col. Martin, was detailed to Trenton, Tenn., to support a small force of cavalry, which constituted the only garrison of that post. Starting at daylight, the detachment reached Trenton at 3 o'clock in the afternoon, marching twenty-four miles, and crossing two tributaries of the Ohio on their way. Leaving Trenton on the 26th, the regiment moved to Humboldt, Tenn., and reaching Corinth by rail from that point, July 2, reported to Gen. Halleck, and was assigned to Gen. Jeff. C. Davis' Division, Army of the Mississippi, with orders to report to Maj. Gen. Rosecrans for further instructions. By Gen. Rosecrans it was attached to Col. Fuller's brigade, until the arrival of Gen. Mitchell's troops. when, with the remainder of the brigade, it went into camp, and for a few weeks had the advantage and profit of a thorough and systematic drilling in company with troops which, from their longer service, had more perfectly acquired the minutiae of military tactics. On the 22d of July, with Gen. Mitchell's brigade, the Eighth was attached to the Ninth Division. Army of the Mississippi, Gen. Davis commanding. The first service required of the regiment, after its assignment to its place, was to go up the Tennessee River to the relief of a single cavalry company, which constituted the garrison of the town of Eastport, an important base of supplies, at the time containing valuable stores. On arriving, Col. Martin posted four companies of the battalion on a hill commanding the town and surrounding country, one being stationed in the village near the river, under command of Capt. Black. Guerrillas had been hovering around the place for some time, and had succeeded in capturing stores from the Commissary Department, and applying them to uses very distasteful to the Federal troops.

During the fourteen days that the Eighth remained in Eastport, it did its utmost to restore all stolen property to the rightful owners, and always sought to capture the plunderers with the plunder where it was possible.

On the 18th of August, Col. Martin received orders to be in readiness to march, and the Ninth Division, Col. Mitchell commanding, arriving at Eastport in the evening, the Eighth crossed the Tennessee the following day. On arriving at Florence, Ala., the division first learned that it was one of the two selected from the 'Army of the Mississippi' to re-enforce the 'Army of the Ohio,' which, under command of Gen. Buell, had been leisurely re-organized and disciplined in the neighborhood of Huntsville, while the confederate leaders were burning bridges, capturing towns and gaining recruits all over Tennessee and Kentucky. The Union General waked at last, to find that Bragg from Chattanooga, and Kirby Smith from Knoxville, were both pressing hurriedly northward to Louisville, draining the country of supplies as they went, exultingly proclaiming that they had 'come to stay,' and animating the courage of their needy soldiers by promises of rich reward when they reached the piled-up stores at Louisville, and maybe at Cincinnati. At Florence, the long-disheartening march to Louisville commenced. Through sultry days of August, drinking the stagnant water of the wayside pools, half fed, sleeping on the ground, warding off guerrillas, marching by night, until the men staggered from weariness and loss of sleep, the exhausted column reached Nashville the beginning of the end - on the 3d of September, and went into camp for a week. From Nashville the long march of one hundred and seventy miles to Louisville was commenced. In forty-three hours, their regiment marched forty-seven miles, and encamped near Bowling Green, Ky. Time army of Gen. Buell was concentrated at this place, and in anticipation of soon meeting Gen. Bragg's forces, who were reported just ahead, the troops went forward, leaving all supplies and clothing, except enough for immediate use, behind at Bowling Green. The Ninth Division, to which the Eighth was attached, moved out on the Louisville pike, and turning to the right toward the town of Glasgow, marched eighteen miles in a drenching rain, only to find that the rebel force reported at that place had retreated. Scattering a little straw on the soaked ground, with the rain still pouring, the men wrapped themselves in the few blankets they had, and laid down, cold and hungry, to start at 4 o'clock in the morning, colder, wetter and hungrier still, on the return march. After rejoining their corps, getting a regulation meal and resting for a night, the battalion moved toward the north, and when within seventeen miles of Munfordsville, met a part of Col. Wilder's paroled troops, which had been surrendered to Bragg two days previous. Bragg, after taking Munfordsville, had continued his advance unresisted, toward Bardstown, a portion of his army and the greater part of his artillery and train being, however, still south of Green River, and within easy and sure reach of our army, had Gen. Buell been ready to attack. Delay after delay occurred, and the division was finally 'formed in line of battle,' only to see the rear of Bragg's force safely disappearing across the river. When it was too late to harm him, the division was ordered to advance to Munfordsville. The Ohio River was reached three days after leaving Munfordsville, at West Point, about twenty-five miles southwest from Louisville, and the latter place two days later, on the 26th of September; the battalion having marched four hundred and fourteen miles since the 23d day of August, under conditions peculiarly hard and wearisome, as well as vexatious and humiliating Gen. Buell remained at Louisville several days for re-enforcement supplies and re-organization, moving thence on the 1st of October. The army had been divided into three Corps - right, centre and left - commanded respectively by Maj. Gens. McCook, Gilbert and Crittenden. The Eighth formed a part of the Thirty-second Brigade, Ninth Division, Center Corps. Moving from Louisville, Gen. Gilbert's corps passed through Bardstown and thence to Springfield, a distance of sixty-two miles, the enemy retreating slowly, burning his bridges behind him, and skirmishing with the advance of our army just sufficiently to harass and delay its forward movement and allow Bragg to fall back with his immense trains to a strong position at Perryville. At 9 o'clock on the morning of the 7th, the Ninth Division, having the advance, moved forward, and in the afternoon encountered a rebel force which had been sent out to repel the brigade of Col. Dan McCook in its attempt to cover a small supply of water in the bed of Doctor's Creek. During the night of the 7th, Gen. A. D. McCook was ordered to advance with the right corps on the left, and in the morning his batteries were engaged with the enemy, followed, in the afternoon, by the defeat of his left division under Gen. J. S. Jackson, and Rousseau's gallant defense of the right.

A part of Gen. Phil Sheridan's division of the Center Corps was engaged in the morning, and after a sharp contest drove the enemy back, and, repelling successive attacks, held its position until Gen. Mitchell pushed forward Col. Carlin's brigade of the Ninth Division, which, charging impetuously, drove the enemy into and through Perryville. As on the march to Louisville, so in the battle of Perryville, the troops were held back by the commanding General, while eager to be led to the front. Gen. Gilbert's corps advanced on the 9th to assail the enemy, but found no enemy to assail. Bragg had retreated during the night, marching southward, forming a junction with Kirby Smith, and then still south to Danville.

In the pursuit which followed the battle of Perryville, the Eighth, with its division in the advance, met a force of rebels near Lancaster. Rapidly forming the batteries opened fire, the line advanced to within half a mile of the town, when, as the enemy seemed, and afterward proved to be, just within his grasp, Gen. Mitchell received an order to retire, and 'not to bring on a general engagement.' During the succeeding night, the rebels had ample time to secure their train, batteries and prisoners, although guarded by an insignificant force.

In passing through the town the following morning, the troops had a slight skirmish with the rebel rear guard, and on the road to Crab Orchard several prisoners were captured. The Eighth remained four days in camp at Crab Orchard. Gen. Mitchell while there received leave of absence, and Gen. Woodruff assumed command of the brigade. On the 1st of November, on its arrival at Bowling Green, Lieut. Col. Martin received a commission as Colonel of the Eighth, and Capt. J. L. Abernathy, of Company A, was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.

October 30, Gen. Rosecrans was appointed to the command of the Army of the Ohio, in place of Gen. Buell. The command of the center corps had been assigned to Gen. A D. McCook, and the several subordinate officers, amid all the soldiers of the corps took courage and drew a long breath of relief.

In December Col. Martin was assigned to the command of the brigade, and Maj. Schneider to that of the regiment.

Gen. Mitchell having command of the post of Nashville, the Eighth was ordered on the 19th to report to him in that city. On its arrival, it was assigned to provost duty, with quarters near the State House, Col. Martin being appointed Provost Marshal of the city. The regiment remained in Nashville six months, faithfully and conscientiously performing the difficult duties that daily devolved upon it, and doing its full part in restoring to the semi-rebellious city the wholesome restraints of law and order. In February, 1863, Companies A, C, D, F, and, in March, Company G, rejoined the regiment. These companies had been stationed at different posts in Kansas, chiefly employed in repelling the incursions of rebel bands from Missouri, and guarding the frontier of their own State.

June 8, orders were received at Nashville requiring the Eighth to rejoin the division at Murfreesboro. Notwithstanding the protest of its commanding officer and the Mayor of the city, the order was not remanded, and on the next morning the regiment left for 'the front;' the demonstrations of respect and approval that greeted its march through the streets on its departure, attesting the good and loyal work it had performed during its stay

On its arrival at Murfreesboro, the regiment was attached to the Third Brigade, Col. Hans C Heg, commanding First Division, Twentieth Corps.

On the 24th of June, Gen. Rosecrans' army moved from Murfreesboro. Bragg was strongly intrenched at three different points to the southeast. Gen. Polk was at Shelbyville with 18,000 men, his position strengthened by five miles of earthworks. Eighteen miles distant, in his rear, was a strongly intrenched camp at Tullahoma, which was only accessible by narrow roads through the gorges of the mountains. This was Bragg's headquarters, with a force of 15,000. Wartrace on the right of Shelbyville, and covering the railroad, was held by Hardee's corps, 12,000 strong.

Rosecrans' plan was to concentrate enough force at Manchester to flank the enemy on the right, and, by threatening his communications below Tullahoma, force an engagement on more equal terms. A movement on Shelbyville, on Bragg's left, was to be the first step in the programme, in order to bring about a concentration of his forces at that point, thereby uncovering the difficult mountain passes on his right, the only path by which our army could advance. The Twentieth Corps, of which the Eighth formed a part, moved directly on Shelbyville, and the Fourteenth Corps, under Gen. Thomas, toward Manchester. The road to Shelbyville led over a range of high hills or mountains, the town being approached through a narrow pass called Liberty Gap.

The Eighth, with the First Division, moved out with their corps on the Shelbyville road about six miles, thence turning to the left marched across the country to the Wartrace road. The advance division of the corps (Johnson's) carried Liberty Gap by a vigorous attack, holding and securing the position. Wilder's cavalry in the advance of Gen. Thomas corps, surprised the enemy at Hoover's Gap, holding the place and securing the road to Manchester.

The Eighth Kansas and Thirty-fifth Illinois, having been detailed as guard for the train, were obliged to wait forty-eight hours until it could be fairly started. The rain which commenced about the time the army moved the preceding day, and continued to fall at intervals for seventeen consecutive days, had even now softened the clayey soil, so that it was a difficult task to move artillery or heavy wagons, and long before the march was finished the mountain streams were swollen to torrents, and the narrow roads gullied until they were almost impassable. After getting the train fairly on the road, the regiments that had been left as guard rejoined the brigade in camp, and after resting long enough to get a meal, marched again through mud and rain toward Manchester, going into camp near that place at 2 o'clock on the night of the 28th. That march was terrible. One who shared it says:

The route for several miles ran up a narrow, muddy ravine, then into a dense forest, where the road led through holes knee deep, with slushy, dirty water, and crossed every mile or so a running stream, which generally had to be forded. The light of the moon was obscured by clouds and the overhanging trees, and in the dense darkness we blindly groped our way stumbling over fallen trees, rocks and stumps, wading through creeks and crossing tumble-down bridges, until we reached camp. Regiments and companies were jumbled together in perplexing confusion; officers sought in vain for their men, and, at last, gathering together what they could find, were shown a camping place, dense with an undergrowth of brush, in the bend of a creek; and, tired, hungry, soaked with rain, and chilled to the very bones, all sank on the wet ground and slept the sleep that follows perfect exhaustion.

The rations had given out at noon, and the welcome hard bread and salt pork did not gladden the hearts and stomachs of the hungry soldiers until the next afternoon. The regiment remained in this so-called 'camp ' until the afternoon of the 1st of July, when it marched to Tullahoma. In the meantime, Stanley's cavalry, forming Gen. Granger's advance, had routed the rebels at Guy's Gap, the approach to Shelbyville on the extreme right, chased them to and through the town, and captured a large number of prisoners, three guns, and valuable supplies. Gen. Bragg decamped from Tullahoma, on the approach of Rosecrans, and, transporting his heavy guns and supplies by railroad, retreated over the Cumberland Mountains, crossing the Tennessee at Bridgeport, destroying the railroad bridge behind him.

Leaving Tullahoma on the 2d, the troops pressed on to Elk River in pursuit. Sheridan's division in the advance had a skirmish with the rebel rear-guard, but the river was so swollen that before his troops could cross, the enemy was beyond pursuit. The Eighth, with its division, crossed the next morning, the water being waist deep, and after a march of four miles, went into camp at Winchester, five miles from the Cumberland Mountains. While at this place, the regiment was sent on a scouting expedition, in search of a guerrilla band, that, from its retreat in the ravines of the mountains, ravaged the neighboring country. Reaching the top of the mountain and marching two miles to the opposite descent, the camp of the guerrillas was discovered part way down the precipitous declivity, almost hidden by an overhanging ledge. The contents of the camp, with the horses and mules, were secured, but the men escaped.

The regiment remained in camp at Winchester until the 17th of August, when the railroads were sufficiently repaired to allow the army to move forward again. During the rest at Winchester, the Eighth was not idle, and, before the time of its departure, completely regained its former fine soldierly appearance and discipline, necessarily somewhat deteriorated during the march through the rain and mud of the last two weeks. The Inspector of the Division reported of the regiment as follows: 'The drill, military appearance and dress of the Eighth Kansas Infantry is the best observed in the division.' The division broke camp at Winchester on the 17th of August, and in three days was on the south side of the mountains at Stevenson, whence the Tennessee must be crossed before the army could concentrate in the valley of Lookout Creek.

McCook's corps was the first to cross, at Caperton's Ferry, and the Eighth Kansas and Fifteenth Wisconsin were selected to cross in advance. No one could know what force might be hidden on the opposite shore, or in what way the passage might be contested, but the boats were launched, and after a few moments of suspense safely touched the other bank. The enemy had fled; the remnants of their last meal strewing the ground around the still blazing fire. The two regiments pushed forward two miles, until the foot of Sand Mountain was reached, where the Wisconsin regiment halted. The Eighth did not stop until the top of the mountain was reached, and the old flag was waving in the Southern breeze. The regiment was visited and congratulated in the afternoon by Gens. Rosecrans, Garfield and McCook.

The passage of the Tennessee River, commenced by McCook's Corps, at Caperton's Ferry, was completed within ten days at other points - Sheridan crossing at Bridgeport, ten miles above, and Reynolds at Shell Mound, still higher up.

[TOC] [part 9] [part 7] [Cutler's History]