At First Light

Historical artist Ken Smith of Pulaski, Virginia, depicts the opening artillery before the dawn attack. Print and more available here.

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About Dick Stanley

Retired Texas daily newspaperman
This entry was posted in Fort Sanders, Knoxville and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to At First Light

  1. Barry Colbaugh says:

    I have some detail on Company D of the 9th Battalion Georgia Artillery. The Gwinett Artillery and Peeples Artillery are one and the Same. Macon Tyler Peeples was the commander of the 9th Battalion Company D also known as the Gwinnett Artillery. Benjamin Franklin Wyly was also in command of the unit. He lost an eye during a charge at Knoxville.

    ATLANTA, GA., January 3, 1880.

    DR. H. JOS. WARMUTH,
    Formerly Surgeon Ninth Georgia Battalion of Artillery:

    Dear Sir,-Your kind favor of 21st ult. received and contents duly noted. I have always had so little thirst for notoriety that I do not now recollect all the particulars of the efforts of my battery to protect the Confederate stores and depots at Knoxville, Tenn., from destruction by the Federal raiders under the command of the Federal Colonels Bird and sanders on the occasion referred to (in the summer of 1863), but will cheerfully state what I do remember.

    About July, 1863, Major Leyden, commanding the Ninth Georgia Battalion of Artillery, then stationed at Knoxville, Tenn., received an order to move his command of five batteries of artillery in the direction of Cumberland Gap as rapidly as possible to intercept or check the advance of the Federal raiders, commanded as heretofore said, who were reported to have passed through Cumberland Gap, and were evidently moving on to the East Tennessee and Virginia railroad for the purpose of burning and destroying the bridges and depots of that road and cutting off our communication with Richmond, Va., and Atlanta, Ga. At 4 o’clock next morning after receiving this order our command was on the march, and after moving as rapidly as possible in the direction stated above (all day travelling some twenty-five or thirty miles) night overtook us without our having encountered the Federal raiders referred to.

    About this time Major Leyden received an order issued by General Buckner, then stationed at Knoxville, Tenn., stating that the raiders referred to had passed below us, and had struck the East Tennessee and Virginia railroad, near Loudon, Tenn., and was then marching along said railroad in the direction of Knoxville, and ordering Major Leyden, if possible, to send back one battery of artillery, so as to reach Knoxville by sun up next morning, to assist him (General Buckner) in defending that city, as he (General Buckner) had but a small squad of

    PAGE480 Southern Historical Society Papers.

    nfantry stationed at that place to protect it. It was then quite dark, the men and horses tired and jaded from the long and hard day’s march. I being the junior Captain of the battalion and the youngest man, volunteered to go, provided that Major Leyden would give me a section of Captain Atkinson’s battery of Columbus, Ga., with his best horses and youngest men, to manage the guns, and one section of my own battery. This was done, with Lieutenant Wollahan, of Columbus, Ga., and of Captain Atkinson’s battery, to assist me in the command; and at 8 o’clock P. M., we started for Knoxville, Tenn., distant about thirty miles, over a mountainous and rough road, with various torch lights distributed along the command from front to rear, to guide us. Notwithstanding we moved rapidly, and at sun-up next morning we were in two miles of Knoxville, Tenn., where we encountered the Federal forces, variously estimated at from one to three thousand strong, drawn up in line of battle, near the road in front of us. Our force consisted of about forty men rank and file, and four twelve-pound guns. I saw in an instant to advance or retreat would result in certain capture, and it occurred to me as the only chance of escape (in which Lieutenant Wollohan readily agreed with me) to wheel and take position in an open field directly to the left of us, and located in front of a dense pine thicket and attack the Federal forces in their position, believing that this action would mislead the Federal forces as to my numbers and strength and purposes, and create the impression with them that my command was a force sent direct to attack them, and further, that they might believe that my command was heavily supported by infantry concealed live that my command was heavily supported by infantry concealed in the pine thicket referred to. The “bluff game” played by us fortunately succeeded admirably, for when I gave the command to unlimber and prepare for action, and ordered up the commanders of sharp shooters, calling them by name and rank, (of which we had none in fact), in a loud tone and commanding voice; the Federal forces seemed perfectly confused and began to fall back from the road we were travelling-to one approaching Knoxville, and running about parallel with ours. Seeing this, I immediately gave the command to limber up and dash into the city of Knoxville, which was done successfully, receiving the fire of the Confederate pickets as we dashed in, they having mistaken us for the enemy. When the Federal forces saw our limited force pass (seemingly with so much chagrin) they pressed their forces as close on the city limits and lines of General Buckner as they could-both artillery and cavalry-and opened fire. Early in these movements my battery I divided into two sections, taking positions on the two prominent hills in front of the city of

    PAGE481 Memoir of First Maryland Regiment.

    Knoxville, returning the fire of the Federal forces (General Buckner having in Knoxville only about one hundred infantry) with good effect, when after an hour or more firing, and after several attempts of the Federals to get to the Knoxville railroad depot, they finally withdrew and left us in possession. For the success of this manoeuvre I was very much indebted to Lieutenant Wollohan, of Columbus, Ga. (Battery C), Lieutenant York, of Atlanta, Ga., and also Lieutenant Blount, of Montgomery, Ala., (Battery E); and also to the young and gallant Sergeants John Martin, now of Chattanooga, Tenn., and M. L. Collier, now of Atlanta, Ga., of Battery E, and as gallant and brave a set of young men of our command as ever drew a sword in defense of their country. I cannot remember distinctly the loss, but to the best of my remembrance three men were killed and seven or eight were wounded. I have detailed to you about all of importance that I can call to memory now of my connection with military affairs in Tennessee. You will excuse me in this connection to refer to the personal courage and bravery of Private John Sanders, the last man left at one of my guns (others being either killed or wounded), who, after having had both ram-rods of the gun shot in two by the rifled pieces of the Federals, split a plank and continued loading the piece and firing it, with the assistance of myself and Major Haynes, of General Buckner’s staff.

    General Buckner, after the engagement, addressed me a very complimentary note thanking me and my command for services on that occasion.

    With best wishes and assurances of esteem I remain, very respectfully,
    Your friend,

    BENJAMIN F. WYLY,
    Formerly Captain Commanding Company E, Ninth Georgia battalion of Artillery.

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