HEADQUARTERS UNITED STATES FORCES
Cunningham's Ford, December 11, 1862.
Major-General GEORGE H. THOMAS, Gallatin, Tenn.:
GENERAL: Last night, in pursuance to your instructions, I sent out 8 men from my command for the purpose of ascertaining the situation of the enemy in and around Lebanon and picking up whatever information they could. Two of the party have just returned- Sergeant Day, of the Thirty-fifth Ohio Volunteers, and Private Primrose, of the Eighteenth U. S. Infantry. They state that after crossing the Cumberland at this ford they traveled southwest until they struck the main road or pike leading from Cairo to Lebanon; that they followed this until within about 2 miles of the latter place, where they stopped at a house occupied by an intelligent woman, whom they aroused and asked for information as to where they might find the Southern Army. They represented to her that they were deserters from the Northern Army, and were seeking some officers who had authority to take them as prisoners and then parole them. This story the woman believed, and,after speaking of their desertion in complimentary terms, and her desire to assist them, [told them] that there were no officers or forces in the neighborhood of Lebanon, but they would have to go to Black Shop, which she told them was 18 miles from Lebanon; that there had been some troops at Baird's Mills, 7 miles south, but they had now all gone to the former place. She further said that the troops at Black Shop were commanded by Kirby Smith and Morgan, and numbered about 22,000 men; that it was a part of this force that had so nicely trapped the Yankees at Hartsville. After receiving instructions to proceed to Lebanon, where she said they would find no Union men, but plenty of friends, to them, they left. Passing on a short distance farther, they concluded to return to camp, and had come 5 or 6 miles on the way, when, about 4 a.m., they stopped at a house and asked for information. Here Sergeant Day reports that 3 of his me, belonging to the Eighteenth Infantry, refused to come farther, and would not move on until they could get some breakfast, and was thus compelled to wait at that place. After stopping there about fifteen minutes, they found the house surrounded by 15 or 20 men, and they were compelled to surrender, they, however, insisting that they had deserted, and were only hunting some one to parole them. They were about to be started on the road toward Lebanon, and were informed by the officer or leader of the party that he would have to take them 18 miles south of Lebanon to get to an officer who could parole them; that this place was Black Shop; that Morgan was in command, some other general being there with him. The name of this general Sergeant Day has forgotten, but knows it was not Kirby Smith. They were treated kindly, and, taking advantage of it, Day and Primrose, first making an excuse to step aside, took to the bushes and made their escape. They further learned that the enemy were in the habit of sending scouting parties along the south bank of the Cumberland every few days. This, I believe, is the amount of information obtained. The men who started on the expedition were 4 from the Eighteenth Infantry, 2 from the Second Minnesota,and 2 from the Thirty-fifth Ohio, Sergeant Day and Private Primrose alone escaping. They were all armed with revolvers, having left their muskets in camp. Day and Primrose both lost their pistols.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
FERDINAND VAN DERVEER,
Colonel, Commanding Detachment, Third Brigade.