HDQRS. SECOND BRIGADE, FIRST CAVALRY DIV., D. C.,
Near Sevierville, Tenn., January 20, 1864.
CAPTAIN: I respectfully report that at 4.30 p.m., on the 17th, a brigade of rebel cavalry under Colonel Harrison attacked one of the pickets of this brigade, which was posted on an eminence to the right of the Morristown road, 2 miles from Dandridge.
As soon as the firing commenced the First Wisconsin was ordered out at a trot, and dismounted at the foot of the wooded hill on which our picket was posted, for the purpose of occupying it before the enemy and holding it against him. He, however, drove back our pickets so rapidly that he was enabled to open a flank fire before the regiment could be brought into action. At this time the remainder of the brigade was ordered out at a trot, but owing to a misunderstanding, for which no blame can attach to any person, did not move at the first order. The First Wisconsin was driving the enemy rapidly through the woods when the Eighth and Eleventh Texas charged past its left flank upon the led horses. Major Torrey promptly returned with a portion of his command, and some desperate hand-to-hand fighting took place for the possession of the horses. The Second and Fourth Indiana arrived at this time, and four companies of the former and two of the latter charged the enemy's cavalry and drove it three-quarters of a mile, while the remainder of those regiments dismounted and formed on the left of the First Wisconsin, in which order our line again advanced and drove the enemy through the woods, while the Seventh Kentucky made a gallant but unsuccessful attempt to regain the original post of the picket on our right. At this time three bodies of the enemy's infantry advanced on our line across an open field in column of sections, and, disregarding our fire, which fell steadily upon them, moved within 30 yards of our front, passing heedlessly over the bodies of their fallen comrades, planted their battle-flag, and began to deploy. Without waiting so hopeless a contest as must have taken place between dismounted cavalrymen and a superior force of trained infantry, our line was withdrawn in good order to its original position, where breast-works of rails were hastily erected, while the mounted men were properly posted for supports with the expectation that the enemy would advance and renew the contest. The First Brigade now arrived and promptly took position on our left. We remained in line within short range of the enemy until 11 p.m., when an order was received to move to Strawberry Plains. The Second Brigade was the last to leave the ground. Owing to my desire to possess the hill, which was considered of the highest importance as commanding the position occupied by the camp of the Federal troops, our men were more freely exposed than they would otherwise have been.
Our loss was 48 killed, wounded, and missing (vide report).* We captured 19 of the enemy, and owing to his manner of moving infantry across an open field exposed to our fire, his loss in killed and wounded must greatly have exceeded ours. Deserters last night reported 150. His cavalry was driven out of sight in 15 minutes after the beginning of the action.
This skirmish has increased my confidence in the fighting qualities of the Second Brigade and diminished my own conceit. I pay
*Nominal list omitted.