War of the Rebellion: Serial 034 Page 0323 Chapter XXXV. SKIRMISH AT NEGRO HEAD CUT, KY.

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Numbers 3. Report of Colonel Benjamin J. Sweet, Twenty-first Wisconsin Infantry.


Gallatin, Tenn., April 28, 1863.

CAPTAIN: In obedience to orders from your headquarters, yesterday morning, April 27, 1863, I took from my command 150, men, of the One hundred and second Illinois Volunteers, Colonel Smith, and placed them on the 9.30 a. m. up-passenger train, engine No. 4, Frank Bassett engineer, on the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, with instructions from you to rebel any attack which might be made on the train, save its passengers, and prevent damage to the railroad. On the train was also a guard of 25 men from Company H, One hundred and eleventh Ohio Volunteers, under First Lieutenant Dowling, of same company, stationed at Bowling Green, Ky. The train left the depot at Gallatin about 10 a. m. Arriving at Franklin, Ky., information gathered there indicating the belief that an attempt might be made near that place to tear up the track before the evening down-train should arrive, Lieutenant Conger, Company C, One hundred and second Illinois Volunteers, an intelligent officer, was left there with 50 men, with instructions to save the track, and, if attacked, to make his fight in the town, using the houses near the depot as a shelter, if necessary.

Leaving Franklin at about 11.30, when running through Negro Head Cut, between Franklin and Woodburn, distant from Franklin 3 1/2, from Woodburn 2 1/2 miles, where a train was attacked and burned some weeks ago, the cool, watchful engineer, Frank Bassett, saw ahead on the track that one end of a rail on the east side had been turned out some 4 inches, to run the train off, and though running at ordinary speed, and fired at again and again from behind trees not more than 4 rods distant, stood firmly at his post, keeping the train under control, and bringing it to a halt when the fore wheels of the engine were 10 feet from the end of the broken track.

On the right of the railroad, up and down, nearly, perhaps more than a mile, is a thick wood, crowding close on to the road, the trees of which, at a distance of about 4 or 5 rods along the train, made a cover for the enemy, from which, while the train was yet in motion, he fired indiscriminately, upon the ladies' car in the rear as well as upon all the other passenger cars of the train. Though much crowded in the cars, our men at once, while the train was moving, returned the fire through the car windows with coolness and deadly aim. Then, as the train halted, fell out rapidly on the side opposite the enemy, and, from under cover of the railroad grade, loaded and fired over the track and under the cars. This being what the enemy did not bargain for, he broke and field.

Finding that the train guard, under Lieutenant Dowling, Company H, One hundred and eleventh Ohio Volunteers, had most experience and drill as skirmishers, I deployed it, under his command, and, supporting him with Company C, One hundred and second Illinois Volunteers, Lieutenant Shaw, pursued the flying train robbers rapidly through the dense wood, which extends some 100 rods from the railroad, hunting them from cover. They mounted their horses, which had been left well in their rear, under the protection of as rest, and escaped, except those killed or badly wounded. Followed some 2 miles with skirmishers, and scoured the wood and country with ready-made scots mounted upon 6 captured horses. I recalled skirmishers and scouts and their supports,