Friday, September 28, 2012

Wendell D. Wiltsie 20th., Michigan, Infantry.

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 Captain W. D. Wiltsie.

While Captain W. D. Wiltsie, of Company H, was watching the progress cf this fight through a field-glass, standing near regimental headquarters, he was picked off by a rebel sharpshooter from the woods on our left front. The bullet entered near the spine and produced paralysis of the lower part of the body and legs. He was carried to the Court House hospital, where he died on the night of the 27th meeting his fate with heroic fortitude. Captain Wiltsie was one of the most valuable officers of the regiment, and his death was a great loss to the command and to the service. Captain McCollum, who succeeded him in command, says in his diary: ''The captain felt from the first that he had received a mortal wound. He regretted that it was not his privilege to die on the field instead of being cut down in such a murderous way. He exhibited remarkable coolness and self-possession. He entrusted me with his effects and instructed me in regard to the settlement of his accounts. He wished his son to have his sword, and with it fight for his country, were it ever assailed by traitors."  There was no more heroic or manly death in the history of the regiment than that of Captain Wendell D. Wiltsie.

Numbers 8. Report of Captain Wendell D. Wiltsie, Twentieth Michigan Infantry.
CAMP AT GREEN"S FERRY,Cumberland River, Ky., May 11, 1863.

SIR: I have the honor to report that, on the 8th instant, I received orders from Colonel Jacob, commanding at this post, to proceed, with a force of 100 men, to where a band of guerrillas, under the notorious [Champ.] Ferguson, was supposed to be lurking in the mountains between here and Monticello, and, if possible, to discover and break it up. I accordingly took 25 men of my own company (H), under Lieutenant McCollum; 30 from Companies B, F, G, I, and K, all picked men, under Captain Allen; a company of 28 men, under Captain Searcy, of the Ninth Kentucky Cavalry, and a company of Henry Rifles (27), under Captain Wilson, Twelfth Kentucky Cavalry, all dismounted, and moved from the river at 9 p. m.

At the Narrows, where Captain barnes was stationed with his company as a reserve force, I left the Monticello road on our right, and proceeded by mountain paths to Harmon's Creek; thence back to the road at Alcorn's, which is 9 miles from the ferry and 7 from Monticello. From here we proceeded south to Beaver Creek, and returned to Alcorn's at 2 p. m. of Saturday, the 9th instant, not having met any armed force, but capturing in all 12 prisoners and 5 horses, supposed to belong to the band we were in search of, and burning Alcorn's distillery, which was a lurking place for bushwhackers. Here we rested for dinner, the men being very much exhausted, having been almost continually on the march from the time we started over steep mountains - difficult both in ascent and descent - through creeks and raviness, with wet feet and without food or sleep.

My first instructions were to return to camp by 12 m. Saturday; but finding that I had been greatly deceived in the distance I was to make, and that it was impossible to do any important part of the work allotted me, I early in the morning dispatched a messenger to colonel Jacob, to inform him of what I had already done, and to ask an extension of time until 4 p. m., when, if not prevented by an enemy, I would arrive in camp. Colonel Jacob granted my request, and I proceeded to complete my task. When my messenger returned, I should not fail to state that he informed me that rebel cavalry had been seen on the road between me and the reserve at the Narrows. I immediately took the precaution to send Captain Carpenter, with 24 men, back 2 miles on the main road to a cross-road, to be within striking distance should Captain Allen, who had gone a short distance back in the mountains with 9 men to examine a ravine and rock house, be attacked, and at the same time to keep a stick watch over the roads.

We had not rested at Alcorn's more than half an hour when my pickets toward Monticello were furiously attacked by rebel cavalry, whom we at first supposed to be guerrillas, but who were Morgan's advance guard of 300 men. They dismounted instantly upon receiving the first fire, and attempted to surround us under cover of the woods. Upon hearing the alarms shots, I immediately threw Company H into the road with fixed bayonets, and the cavalry under Captain Wilson forward to the support of the pickets, while Lieutenant Knight, with 6 men, was left to guard the prisoners, all of whom were probably taken prisoner before getting away from Alcorn's house. I very soon discovered that, while I could keep the enemy from advancing in front, my force was too small, having only about 40 men present, to keep him back on the flanks, and that I would certainly be surrounded if I did not hastily retire. I accordingly fell back through their lines, and brought them, by so doing, immediately in our front again. We were pressed so hotly from the onset by such superior numbers that it was impossible to take our prisoners to the rear, so they all escaped except one, who was taken along by Captain Carpenter, and we only brought in 2 of the horses. When we gained the cover of the woods on the north side of the road we made a stand, and, through the "Butternuts" out-numbered us eight to on, and came down shouting, "Give the Yankee sons of b - s no quarter," they could not drive us from our position except as they were about to flank us. We repeatedly drove them, and at one charge, the last we made, swept them clean from the woods.

At this period they retired to remount, leaving only a few skirmishers to harass us. Finding my men suffering from excessive thirst and great exhaustion, I ordered them to fall back, which they did in good order, to a strong and safe position, where we rested until midnight. Having lost my guide, and not being familiar with the country, I found great difficulty in getting out to the road. About daylight, however, we struck a mountain road, which, from its course, I judged would lead us out of the wilderness, and which we followed until we discovered in the path before us about 50 men, whom we knew, from their peculiar dress, were rebel soldiers. Being too weak to engage them, we returned and retreat to the river, where we found a raft; embarked, cut it loose, and floated down to the ferry, reaching camp at 4 p. m., having been out forty-three hours.

Upon hearing guns Captain Carpenter immediately started to my assistance, but was met on the way by rebel cavalry, which he gallantly repulsed. Deeming it impossible to re-enforce me, however, he fell back on the road until met by Captain Barnes and Allen. Upon consultation it was prudent for Captain Barnes to fall rapidly back and hold the Narrows, while Captain Allen, with his whole detachment, would fall back leisurely. Before Captain Allen reached the reserve post, the rebel cavalry dashed down upon him in great force, but were unable to rout him. He was compelled, however, to fall back, which he did in good order until he reached the reserve, the rebels not caring to press very hard after him.

In the last engagement Captain Allen lost 1 man killed, 1 officer (Lieutenant [C. A.] Lounsberry) wounded and prisoner, and 1 missing. In the first encounter Lieutenant McCollum lost 1 killed, and Lieutenant Knight and 1 man taken prisoner, and 1 missing. The companies of kentucky Cavalry lost 2 killed, 1 wounded, and 6 missing.

I cannot speak too highly of the conduct of both officers and men engaged in this terribly unequal strife. That 40 men held 300 at bay for over two hours and finally drove them back, or that 30 should repulse 250, shows with what determined bravery they stood, and with what desperate energy they fought. While I must speak of the conduct of all in terms of highest praise, I am forced by conviction of what appears to me to be largely his due, to mention the name of Sergt. A. A. Day, Company H, who stood foremost in the fight, where the bullets rained through the whole of the engagement. Allow me, sir, to recommend him to your favorable notice.

During the whole engagement at Alcorn's, I was nobly supported by Captain Wilson, of the Henry Rifles (Twelfth Kentucky Cavalry), and Captain Searcy, of the Ninth Kentucky Cavalry, both of whom were heroes in the fight. The enemy reports a large number killed and wounded in the engagement of Saturday, and among the killed a number of valuable officers.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient and humble servant,W. D. WILTSIE,Captain, Commanding Scouting Party.

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