I could learn nothing of the enemy in the country, with the exception of small squads of scouting parties, who were hunting conscripts.
We moved out the next morning before daylight. I will here remark that my men had been worked very hard in scouring so much of the country, and unaccustomed as they were to riding, made it still worse; consequently, they were illy prepared for the trying ordeal through which they were to pass. I had not proceeded more than 2 miles, at the head of the column, before I was informed that the rear guard had been attacked, and just at that moment I heard the boom of artillery in the rear of the column. I had previously learned that the gap through which we were passing was easily flanked by gaps through the mountains, both above and below; consequently I sent orders to the rear to hold the enemy in check until we could prepare for action. The head of the column was at the time on the top of the mountain. The column was moving through the gap; consequently the enemy was early held in check.
I soon learned that the enemy had moved through the gaps on my right and left, and were endeavoring to form a junction in my advance; consequently I moved ahead rapidly until we passed the intersecting roads on either flank with the one we occupied. The country was open, sand ridges, very thinly wooded, and afforded fine defensive positions. As soon as we passed the point above designated (about 3 miles from the top of the mountains), we dismounted and formed a line of battle on a ridge circling to the rear. Our right rested on a precipitous ravine and the left was protected by a marshy run that was easily held against the enemy. The mules were sent into a ravine to the rear of our right, wherer they were protected from the enemy's bullets. I also deployed a line of skirmishers, resting on our right and left flanks encircling our rear, in order to prevent a surprise from any detached force of the enemy that might approach us from that direction and to prevent any straggling of either stray animals or cowardly men.
In the mean time I had instructed Captain Smith, who had command of our rear guard (now changed to our front), to hold his position until the enemy pressed him closely, when he should retreat rapidly, and, if possible, draw them on to our lines, which were concealed by the men lying down immediately back of the top of the ridge. The lines were left sufficiently open to permit Captain Smith's command to pass through near the center. I had two 12-pounder mountain howitzers, which were stationed near the road (the center). They were also concealed. We had hardly completed our arrangements when the enemy charged Captain Smith in large force, following him closely, and no sooner had he passed our lines than our whole line rose up and delivered a volley at short range. We continued to pour a rapid fire into their ranks, which soon caused them to give way in confusion; but their re-enforcements soon came up, when they dismounted, formed, and made a determined and vigorous attack. Our skirmishers were soon driven in, and about the same time the enemy opened upon us with a battery of artillery.
The enemy soon attempted to carry our lines, but were handsomely repulsed. During their advance they had run their artillery to within 300 yards of our lines, and as soon as they began to waver I prepared for a charge. I ordered Colonel Hathaway, Seventy-third Indiana, and Lieutenant-Colonel Sheets, Fifty-first Indiana, on the left, to make a charge, in order to draw the attention of the battery, and immediately threw the Third Ohio, Colonel Lawson, and the Eightieth Illinois, Lieutenant-Colonel Rodgers, forward rapidly, hoping to capture the battery. The enemy, after a short but stubborn resistance, fled in