At about 5 o'clock in the evening the enemy, having approached within about a mile of our works, planted their batteries of heavy guns on commanding eminences and commenced a vigorous cannonade, which would soon have driven us out of our fortifications had not the setting in of night prevented a further prosecution of the attack.
Our position being wholly untenable, it was determined in a council of officers, called by yourself, to abandon it and return to the opposite bank of the Cumberland. Having but one small boat to transport the entire force across, it was found impossible to carry with us any of our camp equipage. It was destroyed, therefore, in order that it might not fall into the hands of the enemy. I was also compelled to abandon two pieces of McClung's battery and nearly all of my cavalry horses. Some of the latter succeeded in swimming the river and many were drowned in the attempt. By daylight in the morning my entire command had reached the south side of the Cumberland.
Being entirely without commissary supplies, and there being none, or but little, in the surrounding country, my men became more apprehensive of destruction by famine than at the hands of the enemy. Under the influence of this panic, created by a fear of starvation, many deserted the army and fled through the mountains into East Tennessee. Among these, I regret to say, were some officers, but mostly, however, of an interior grade. Most of my officers exerted every effort to preserve their commands intact and maintain the strictest order of discipline in the retreat.
The casualties in my command during the engagement were as follows
It will thus be seen that my entire loss in killed, wounded, and missing amounts in the aggregate to 103.
The repulse of the regiments of my command that gave way in confusion during the battle is attributed [besides the superior numbers with which they were contending], in a great measure, to the inefficient and worthless character of their arms, being old flint-lock muskets and country rifles, nearly half of which would not fire at all.
During the engagement I saw numbers of the men walking deliberately away from the field of action for no other reason than [that] their guns were wholly useless. Another reason why some of the troops under my command did not exhibit a more soldierly bearing is found in the fact that they had only a day or two before been assigned me and were deficient in drill and discipline, having previous to that time had little opportunity of becoming proficient in these particulars.
I cannot close this report without expressing the high appreciation, both by myself and my officers, for the personal courage and skill evinced both by yourself and staff during the entire engagement; and however much I may regret the unfortunate disaster which befell us, I feel conscious that it resulted from no want of gallantry and military tact on the part of the commanding general.
For more minute details I respectfully refer you to the accompanying reports of the commanding officers of my brigade.
I am, general, very respectfully,
W. H. CARROLL,