Re-enforcements began arriving on the 26th at about 12 m. My forces, under Colonel Spalding, were then fighting, and being driven back slowly; re-enforcements were sent to their support, and reported to Colonel Spalding, commanding, at dark on the 26th instant.
On the 27th the engagement became pretty general, and when the troops were rapidly leaving the field in confusion and disorder, I was, at 12 m., ordered to reassume command, and arrange town and other matters for a stubborn defense. Staff and self immediately set to work, and so continued doing our duty to the best of our ability, and, as I believe, with beneficial results.
Colonel Wallace Campbell, commanding at Athens, had a fine force of able-bodied, well-disciplined colored troops, with a fine fort, almost impregnable, with two pieces of artillery, and without that fighting or showing that valor and courage that I expected at his hands, he surrendered his entire command on the morning of the 24th, much to my disgust and to that of his whole command, and, as facts now show, if he had held out even for a short time longer re- enforcements would have reached him, as they were then moving rapidly to his assistance, some arriving just after the surrender of the fort and in time to be captured by the enemy. There may be some reason for this surrender, but with my imperative orders to hold out and fight to the last, he did not do it, and he now being a prisoner I am unable to give the general commanding any definite information upon the subject, only to say that in my judgment it was a disgraceful surrender, not only on account of it in itself, but because it infused a spirit of disappointment and demoralization into the balance of his command in block-houses not yet under fire. After the surrender of Athens the prisoners and artillery were sent to and crossed over the Tennessee River, and the enemy moved on against low trestle or Block-house No. 6, commanded by Lieutenant John J. Phifer, Company K, One hundred and eleventh U. S. Colored Infantry, which was also basely surrendered without firing a gun.
Colonel Lathrop, before the surrender of Athens, sent his mounted (force) men under Major Lilly, Ninth Indiana Cavalry, toward the town, and finding it surrounded retired his force upon Sulphur Branch trestle, where, as he dispatches me at 4 a. m., morning of 25th, he intended to make a desperate resistance. Major Lilly, Ninth Indiana Cavalry, with 196 officers and men, Colonel Minnis, THIRD Tennessee, with about 300 men mounted, were reluctantly ordered by the brave Colonel Lathrop into the fort to help defend it-deprecating this move, in my judgment, in a military point of view, yet believing that Colonel L[athrop] deemed it the best thing to do under the circumstances, it was done; and here was made a stand worthy of the highest praise. With a fort badly constructed, not fully completed, two guns worked by men not artillerymen, but drilled for the purpose from the infantry command, a greatly superior force attacking with much artillery, was fought a battle worth its niche among the well-contested battles of the war; but all was of no avail. The brave Colonel L. fell, killed by the second shot; Colonel Minnis took command and he too was struck down, but rallying fought on bravely and well; ammunition became short and surrender stared them in the face. Colonel Spalding with his small command were inadequate for the occasion. They could not succor them against the overwhelming forces of the enemy, and as brave men they were compelled finally to surrender to a vastly superior force, after suffering heavy loss, and inflicting a much more severe loss upon the enemy. The bridge was then destroyed and enemy moved on. Prisoners and artillery being sent across the river, Colonel S[palding]