Colonel Robert Latimer McCook to Brigadier-General George Henry Thomas, Report on Battle of Mill Springs, Kentucky, January 27, 1862

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    Headquarters Third Brigade,
    First Division, Department of the Ohio,
    Somerset, January 27,1862.
    Brigadier-General G. H. Thomas, Commanding First Division:
    I have the honor respectfully to submit the following report of the part which my brigade took in the battle of the Cumberland on the 19th instant. Shortly before seven a.m. Colonel Mason informed me that the enemy had driven in his pickets and were approaching in force. That portion of my brigade with me, the Ninth Ohio and the Second Minnesota regiments, were formed and marched to a point near the junction of the Mill Spring and Columbia roads, and immediately in rear of Whitman's battery, the Ninth Ohio on the right, the Second Minnesota on the left of the Mill Spring road. From this point I ordered a company of the Ninth Ohio to skirmish the woods on the right to prevent any flank movement of the enemy.
    Shortly after this Colonel Manson, commanding the Second brigade in person, informed me that the enemy were in force and in position on the top of the next hill beyond the woods, and that they forced him to retire. I ordered my brigade forward through the woods in line of battle, skirting the Mill Spring road. The march of the Second Minnesota regiment was soon obstructed by the Tenth Indiana, which was scattered through the woods waiting for ammunition. In front of them I saw the Fourth Kentucky engaging the enemy, but evidently retiring. At this moment the enemy, with shouts, advanced on them about one hundred yards, and took position within the field on the hill-top, near the second fence from the woods. At this time I received your order to advance as rapidly as possible to the hill-top. I ordered the Second Minnesota regiment to move by the flank until it had passed the Tenth Indiana and Fourth Kentucky, and then deploy to the left of the road. I ordered the Ninth Ohio to move through the first corn-field on the right of the road, and take a position at the further fence, selecting the best cover possible.
    The position of the Second Minnesota covered the ground formerly occupied by the Fourth Kentucky and Tenth Indiana, which brought their right flank within about ten feet of the enemy, where he had advanced upon the Fourth Kentucky. The position of the Ninth Ohio checked an attempt on the part of the enemy to flank the position taken by the Second Minnesota, and consequently brought the left wing almost against the enemy, where he was stationed immediately in front of the Ninth Ohio, well covered by a fence and some woods, a small field not more than eighty yards wide intervening between the positions. The enemy also had possession of a small log-house, stable and corn-crib, about fifty yards in front of the Ninth Ohio. Along the lines of each of the regiments and from the enemy's front a hot and deadly fire was opened. On the right wing of the Minnesota regiment the contest at first was almost hand to hand, the enemy and the Second Minnesota were poking their guns through the same fence at each other.
    However, before the fight continued long in this way, that portion of the enemy contending with the Second Minnesota retired in good order to some rail piles hastily thrown together, the point from which they had advanced upon the Fourth Kentucky. This portion of the enemy obstinately maintaining its position, and the balance remaining as before described, a desperate fire was continued for about thirty minutes, with seemingly doubtful result. The importance of possessing the log house, stable, and corn-crib becoming apparent, companies A, B, C, and D of the Ninth Ohio were ordered to flank the enemy upon the extreme left and obtain possession of the house. This done, still the enemy stood firm to his position and cover. During this time the artillery of the enemy constantly overshot my brigade.
    Seeing the superior number of the enemy and their bravery, I concluded the best mode of settling the contest was to order the Ninth Ohio to charge the enemy's position with the bayonet and turn his left flank. The order was given the regiment to empty their guns and fix bayonets. This done, it was ordered to charge. Every man sprang to it with alacrity and vociferous cheering. The enemy seemingly prepared to resist it, but before the regiment reached him the lines commenced to give way — but few of them stood, perhaps ten or twelve. This broke the enemy's flank, and the whole line gave way in great confusion, and the whole turned into a perfect rout. As soon as I could form the regiments of my brigade, I pursued the enemy to the hospital, when we joined the advance. I then moved my command forward, under orders, in line of battle, to the foot of Moulden's Hill, passing on the way one abandoned cannon.
    The next morning we marched into the breastworks of the enemy, and on the following day marched to our camp. At the time of the first advance of the Ninth Ohio my horse was shot, and at the same time I received a ball through my overcoat. After this, I was compelled to go on foot until I got to the hospital of the enemy. About the same time I was shot in the leg; my aid-de-camp, Andrew S. Burt, was wounded in the side. Too much praise cannot be awarded to the company officers, non-commissioned officers, and the soldiers of the two regiments. Notwithstanding they had been called out before breakfast, and had not tasted food all day, they conducted themselves throughout like veterans, obeying each command and executing every movement as though they were upon parade.
    Although all the officers of the command evinced the greatest courage, and deported themselves under fire in a proper soldierly manner, were I to fail to specify some of them it would be great injustice. Lieutenant Andrew S. Burt, (aid-decamp,) of the Eighteenth United States Infantry; Haxter Brooke, private in the Second Minnesota regiment and volunteer aid-de-camp; Major Gustavus Kaemmerling, commanding the Ninth Ohio; Capt Charles Joseph, Company A, Capt Frederick Schroeder, Company D, George H. Harris, Adjutant, of the Ninth Ohio regiment; Col. H. P. Van Cleve, James George, Lieut.-Col., Alexander Wilkins, Major, of the Second Minnesota, each displayed great valor and judgment in the discharge of their respective duties — so much so, in my judgment, as to place their country and every honest friend thereof under obligations to them.
    In conclusion, permit me, sir, to congratulate you on the victory achieved, and allow me to express the hope that your future efforts will be crowned with the same success. Attached you will find the number of the force of my brigade engaged, and also a list of the killed and wounded. 
    I am, respectfully, yours,
    R. L. McCook,
    Commanding Third Brigade, First Division.
    How to Cite This Page: "Colonel Robert Latimer McCook to Brigadier-General George Henry Thomas, Report on Battle of Mill Springs, Kentucky, January 27, 1862," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College,