gentleman are above suspicion, but after careful examination I am satisfied that, according to custom and general understanding, all the wagons were equally under his protection.
Neither did the size of the train make any unusual escort necessary. There were at that time five regiments in the Fifteenth and Twentieth Brigades of this division, and their forage trains usually numbered from 70 to 90 wagons. The Twenty-first Brigade had then but four regiments, and on that day had only about 60 wagons in the forage train, including those of the Fifteenth Brigade.
During the advance of the train no distinction was made by Lieutenant-Colonel Barnes between the wagons properly belonging to the Twenty-first Brigade and others. His regiment marched in a body in front of the entire train. Six wagons from division headquarters led the train; several ammunition wagons (not considered as belonging to any brigade) were in the train. The wagons of the Fifteenth Brigade were in the rear simply because it was the most convenient place for them to file in with the train as it started. After passing the camp of General Sill's division, two pieces of artillery followed the train, showing that the wagons of the Fifteenth Brigade were considered part of the train and under the escort. Up to this time, December 6, it was not known that any train had been attacked, nor had the enemy indicated his presence. As Lieutenant-Colonel Barnes came to General Sill's, just starting. This was done, General Sill's train taking the advance.
Upon arriving where forage could be obtained, according to custom, the forage-master estimated how many wagons could be filled, and detached them from the rear. These 15 wagons filed to the right and left into corn-fields; that on the left adjoining the road, that on the right only separated from the road by Mill Creek, easily forded. Four wagons were loaded, started back, and arrived in camp safely. The other wagons, while loading, no one of them more than 300 yards from the road, were attacked and captured. The other 7 wagons, belonging to the Fifteenth Brigade, had passed on with the rest of the train. The train had advanced but a short distance when firing was heard at the front, perhaps 1 1/2 miles from where these wagons were loading. Lieutenant-Colonel Barnes ordered three companies to halt, wait for the train to pass, and cover the rear, while he moved to the front with the other seven companies, in obedience to Colonel Buckley's order. Not more than 100 rods in advance of where these wagons were loading, the road turns to the right and ascends a hill among cedars. At the foot of this hill were the three companies, while the wagons were parked on the top of the hill or scattered to the right and left for forage. The two pieces of artillery also moved to the front, leaving the rear unprotected, except by three companies. While a brisk skirmish was going on in front, a body of rebel cavalry, perhaps 300 in number, came along Mill Creek, on our right, under cover of the hill, around the point of hill that here separates the road from the creek, crossed the road, captured the wagons, and took them behind a hill, on our left, and still farther to our rear. Upon this last hill the rebels had planted artillery, which commanded the corn-fields where the wagons had been loading and the road itself, completely cutting off retreat. Shortly after this our troops came back from the front, engaged their artillery,and drove them back, thus securing a safe passage homeward for the train.
From the best information I can obtain, these wagons were not an unusual distance from the road nor from the rest of the train. The