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Newspaper Accounts - The Battle of Dutton's Hill


Location of Dutton's Hill - War of the Rebellion Atlas. Volume I. Plate IX

In the grand pantheon that is the War of the Rebellion, the battle that took place on March 30th, 1863 north of Somerset, Kentucky is mostly lost to memory and time. It was not a large affair (about 2,800 total combatants), yet seemed to generate a disproportionate amount of press as well as controversy.

John Pegram

Brigadier General John Pegram was in command of a Confederate raid into south central Kentucky. The Confederates crossed the Cumberland River at Stigall's Ferry (south of Somerset) on March 22nd and headed north in an effort to secure cattle to help feed General Braxton Bragg's Army of Tennessee. Pegram's force 1,550-strong force consisted of the following units:


First Florida Cavalry (three companies)

First Georgia Cavalry

First Louisiana Cavalry

First Tennessee Cavalry

Second Tennessee Cavalry

Sixteenth Tennessee Cavalry Battalion (less two companies)

Huwald's Tennessee Battery (three mule-drawn mountain howitzers)


The orderly procession and demeanor of Pegram's column led Somerset citizens to believe that his command was the advance of a much larger force. Pegram would split his command after passing through Somerset, with a portion moving along what was known as the Waynesburg Road, and the other heading out of town using the road towards Crab Orchard.


Also operating in Kentucky at this time were two other Confederate mounted forces - one under command of Colonel Roy. S. Cluke and consisting of 750 men, and the other under Humphrey Marshall, who was leading 1,500 men. Cluke was operating in the Mount Sterling area, capturing three hundred men from the Federal Fourteenth Kentucky Cavalry on March 21st, while Marshall was in eastern Kentucky threatening Louisa along the Big Sandy River. It was thought by the Union command that all three of these Confederate columns might combine, using their strength to continue to collect war material while disrupting Union forces in the Bluegrass State. In response to this possibility, Federal forces gathered to react and end all three raids. Brigadier General Quincy A. Gillmore would command the force that would face off against Pegram's column.

Hickman's Bridge, circa 1864

By the time Pegram's force bumped into Federal units near Hickman's Bridge on March 28th (two miles south of Camp Nelson National Monument), the Confederates had gathered several hundred head of cattle. Now the chase was on as the Forty-Fourth and Forty-Fifth Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiments (both mounted) closely pressed Pegram. Joined by the First Kentucky and Seventh Ohio Cavalry Regiments, Gillmore would overtake Pegram's Confederates a few mile north of Somerset.


It is at this point that we will allow contemporary newspaper accounts tell the rest of the story.


The Daily Evansville Journal, April 3rd, 1863, Evansville, IN

THE FIGHT AT SOMERSET.

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THE REBELS BADLY WHIPPED.

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They Lose 50 Killed and 400 Prisoners.

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400 head of cattle captured,

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Cluke's band of Robbers Dispersed.

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Cincinnati, April 2. - A special from Lexington to the Times says Gen. Gilmore arrived from the battle field of Somerset this morning.

The enemy numbering 2,600 were overhauled four miles north of Somerset. Skirmishing commenced, the rebels falling back to a position on a hill one and a half miles from Somerset, where they made a stand. The battle then began in earnest, and after five hours' fighting the rebels fled, pursued by our cavalry to the river.

Night coming on, and their arrangements having been previously made, they effected a crossing, leaving 400 head of cattle. They had no train.

Their loss was 5o killed and nearly 400 prisoners, including 20 commissioned officers. Our force numbered 1,200. Loss, 10 killed and 25 wounded.

Cluke's rebels have been completely dispersed by the 10th Kentucky Cavalry.


The Daily Evansville Journal, April 3rd, 1863, Evansville, IN

From the Louisville Journal of yesterday.

A FIGHT AT SOMERSET.

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Pegram Driven over the Cumberland

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A dispatch from Brig. Gen. Q. A. Gilmore, dated at Somerset, 9 p.m., March 31st, to the Headquarters of the Department of the Ohio, conveys the gratifying information that the rebels were attacked on Monday, in strong positions of their own choosing, near that town. The fight continued for five hours, and the enemy were driven back from one position to another, until at length General Gilmore stormed their position, whipped them handsomely, and drove them in confusion towards Cumberland River, with the loss of over 300 in killed, wounded and prisoners. The rebels outnumbered our forces nearly two to one, and were commanded by Gen. Pegram in person. Night put a stop to the pursuit, but it was to be resumed this morning. We captured two stands of colors, and our loss in killed, wounded and missing does not exceed thirty. Scott's famous regiment was cut off from the main body of the rebels and scattered.

A second dispatch says the enemy's force was underestimated in the first report. They had over twenty-six hundred men, outnumbering more than two to one. During Monday night their troops crossed the Cumberland River in three places. We have retaken between three and four hundred head of cattle. The whole of our infantry was not up this morning. Pegram's loss will not fall short of five hundred men.


Quincy A. Gillmore

Daily Ohio Statesman, April 4th, 1863, Columbus, OH

The Battle Near Somerset, Ky.

[Special Dispatch to the Cincinnati Gazette.]

LEXINGTON, KY., April 2.

General Gilmore and staff returned from the front last night, leaving Colonels Runkle and Woolford to pick up prisoners and bring up the rear.

Gen. Pegram's long-planned and boasted invasion or Kentucky has ended in a destructive and disgraceful defeat, to the bitter disappointment of resident rebels, and the consternation of the bragging Confederates, who, at a vast expense of time, men and money, have at Iast made but a water haul.

Gen. Gilmore assumed the command in person, and left here with the determination to re-capture the earnings of the rebel expedition, and punish the audacity of the brigands.

Perceiving that they had converted a retreat into a precipitate flight, he left the infantry and pushed on with his mounted force, consisting of the First Kentucky cavalry, Col. Woolford's; Forty-fifth O. V. I., mounted, Col. Runkle; a detachment of the Forty-fourth Ohio, mounted, under Mai. Mitchell; and the Seventh O. V. cavalry, Col. Garrard - in all 1200 men.

Such was the dashing energy of the pursuit, that, notwithstanding the rebels had thirty-six hours the start, they were overtaken four miles north of Somerset.

Gen. Carter, in command of eight hundred mounted men, had reached Buck creek, twelve miles from Somerset, when General Gil[l]more reached him with his body guard and the 7th Ohio cavalry, increasing the number to twelve hundred, with which they double quicked until within reach of the enemy's rear guard. The skirmishing then commenced, Generals Gilmore and Carter with Woolford and the body guard in the advance. As often as the rebels made a stand they were dislodged with shell. Within twelve miles of Somerset, at Dutton's Hill, in a very strong position, the rebels drew up in force and planted their batteries; and here, about 12 o'clock, commenced the real battle. Our line of battle was drawn up, with the batteries in the center, supported by the 7th cavalry - Runkle, with a detachment of the 44th and 45th on the left, and Woolford's on the right. The preliminary artillery fight lasted one and a half hours, and resulted in the dismounting of three of their guns.

The wings were ordered to advance. Woolford did so, wounded. Runkle dismounted and found it too hot, but when the enemy found him out and commenced shelling, he threw aside all hesitation, and at the head of his men, gallantly charged up the hill. The rebels moved out to meet him. For an instant his line wavered, with batteries playing directly upon them, shot and shell booming over them, and leaden rain playing with deadly music around them. They paused, however, only to take breath, and with one intent and a single shout, they hurled their column upon the advancing foe. Col. Runkle and his command behaved like heroes and veterans.

At the same time, Woolford on the right and Col. Garrard in the center charged, and the enemy broke in disorder to their horses under cover of the wooded hill, and fled pell mell through the town. Capt. Stowe, with a detachment of the Forty-fourth, was ordered forward to reconnoiter. A body of Scott's and Ashby's rebel cavalry were here detected in a flank movement on Woolford. Colonel Sanders hastened to reinforce, and after a short, sharp and decisive conflict, captured sixty prisoners and put them to rout. A detachment of Scott's men were soon flying Into the road to cut off Capt. Stowe, when General Gilmore, at the head of his body guard, charged down upon them like a whirlwind, and they turned off another road. General Gilmore and guard entered the town and held it until the Forty-fourth and Forty-fifth came up.

The enemy made another stand three miles below Somerset, and were again routed.

Night now came on, and our boys were exhausted. In the morning it was found the rebels had crossed the river during the night in great confusion. More than a hundred, it is said, were drowned. They planted a battery on the river, which was quickly demolished. We recovered four hundred cattle at the river. Their loss In killed and captured is nearly five hundred, of whom fifty were killed.

The loss on our side is but thirty-five killed, wounded and missing,

The shot mostly passed over the heads of our men. The whole affair was brilliant and dashing - twelve hundred to twenty-five hundred, led by the Generals In person. A Surgeon, under a flag of truce, was searching for Gen. Pegram after the battle.

1935 Topo Map - Dutton's Hill is the high ground above Caney Fork School

Benjamin Runkle

Lamoille Newsdealer, April 9th, 1863, Hyde Park, VT

A CLEAN VICTORY.

The battle at Somerset, Ky. on Tuesday, was one of the best fought engagements of the war. The rebels were overtaken four miles north of Somerset. Gen. Carter, in command of 800 mounted men, had reached Buck creek, when Gen. Gilmore, with his body guard and the 7th Ohio cavalry, reached him, increasing our force to 1200. Skirmishing then commenced at Dutton's Hill. 12 miles from Somerset. The rebels took up a strong position and planted batteries. It was about noon. An artillery fight began and lasted about an hour and a half, we dismounting three of the rebel guns. The wings were then ordered to advance, Wolford, on the right, did so, and was wounded. Runkle, with the 44th and 45th Ohio regiments, on the left, charged up the hill under a galling fire and hurled his column upon the enemy. At the same time Wolford and Col. Garrard, on the right and center, charged. The rebels broke in disorder, fled to their horses, and under cover of the woods pushed on through Somerset in great disorder. A body of Scott's and Ashby's cavalry was then discovered flanking our position, but after a sharp skirmish they were routed with a loss of 60 prisoners. The rebels made another stand three miles south of Somerset, and were again routed, Night coming on put a stop to the conflict. More than 100 of them were drowned. We recovered 400 cattle at the river, killed 50 rebels and captured over 400. Our loss was 35 killed, wounded and missing. A rebel surgeon, after the fight, under a flag of truce, was searching for Pegram.


Western Sentinel, May 1st, 1863, Winston-Salem, NC

THE BATTLE OF SOMERSET.

From newspaper notices which have from time to time appeared, the impression has been induced that Gen. Pegram's recent raid into Kentucky resulted in a disaster. That such is far from being the fact will appear (says the Richmond Examiner) from the following brief but authentic account of the whole expedition:

Brigadier General Pegram was ordered by Gen. Johnston to proceed with his brigade, numbering something under fifteen hundred men, into the centre of the State of Kentucky to collect beef cattle for the support of the army at Tullahoma. Gen. Pegram left the neighborhood of Knoxville, crossed the Cumberland river and proceeded to very center of the State. In Danville were seven regiments of Yankees with twelve pieces of artillery. These were at once attacked, and after little resistance, driven out of the town and pursued across the Kentucky river to within fourteen miles of Lexington. Having collected seven hundred cattle, Gen. Pegram started on his return, driving the cattle ahead, and having divided his troops into three bodies, who were to proceed by parallel roads to prevent surprise. On reaching Somerset he received information that the enemy, with overwhelming numbers, was in pursuit, and that the Cumberland was so swollen by a freshet as to much delay the crossing of the cattle. In this conjuncture he determined to go back and meet the enemy, and by retarding his advance to give as much time as possible for the transportation of the cattle across the Cumberland with six hundred men. He met the enemy three thousand strong, a few miles out of Somerset. After a severe engagement of several hours duration, he was forced to give way, but retreated in good order and effected his escape across the river. Of the seven hundred cattle with which he had started from Danville, he brought five hundred and thirty seven safely across the river. His loss in killed, wounded and prisoners was one hundred and fifty.


Along with a flag, these cards were also "captured"

The Potter Journal, May 27th, 1863, Coudersport, PA

At the battle of Somerset the 7th Ohio cavalry captured a flag from Scott's rebel cavalry, made from a silk dress of one of Humphrey Marshall's daughters, and presented by her to the rebels only about three weeks previous to its capture.

Orientation - north is to the bottom


The National Tribune, November 21st, 1895

DUTTON'S HILL..

Game of Hide-and-Seek with Rebel Gen.

Pegram.

Editor National. Tribune: Having expressed doubts of the justice of according much credit to Gen. Gillmore for his management of the short but active campaign which terminated with the battle of Dutton's Hill, March 30, 1863, it may not be amiss to relate what came under my own observation. The reader can judge whether Gillmore added anything to the brilliancy of his military record.

At that time I was helping to man a section of mountain howitzers. Men were detailed for this duty from the 45th Ohio and the 10th Ky. Cav.; Lieut. Erastus F. Smith, of the 45th, in command. Now, subsequent events proved that when it was learned that Pegram had crossed the Cumberland River, there was force enough at or near Somerset to have whipped him out of his boots before he had gathered a bushel of corn or a pound of bacon. But instead of this the crawfish act was put in motion, other troops fell in on the way, so that when we passed through Danville there was a respectable force of infantry and plenty of artillery.

The enemy's advance was right at our heels as we passed out of the town. They passed into a field on the west side of the pike and rapidly formed line, with the evident intention of coming for us on a charge. Col. Wolford with the 1st Ky. Cav. was rearguard; one or two guns with them. We thought it time to rebuke them for their rudeness while in the company of gentlemen. We quickly whacked down our little dogs a feed of canister. By experience we had learned that such victuals soured on their stomachs; when they let drive, one dose was sufficient.

Sometime in the night we arrived at the high bridge that spans the Kentucky River on the Lexington pike. Preparation was at once made to receive our cheeky adversaries in a becoming manner on the morrow, should they desire to partake of our hospitalities. Artillery in plenty was posted in among the high hills, in an ingenious manner, and cunningly hid from view with brush. When daylight appeared, looking in the direction of the enemy, a thin line of skirmishers only we saw a mile or two out! Now, for two days we did regular baby work. A regiment or two of mounted troops, with our two howitzers, would go out and we'd sing to them the song the spider sang to the fly, but our song didn't charm them worth a cent; they evidently had other business.

Casting our eyes in their direction on the third morning they were gone. Now, in the next move in the game the infantry were not in it, and most of the artillery was left silent on the hills. Only the mounted troops, together with one section of Parrotts, Capt. Laws's six-gun battery, and one howitzer, made up the force that took after them in hot haste, down to Stanford, thence out to Crab Orchard, where we ran so close as to give them a few shots. From there they went south on the Somerset road, and we after them. This brought them up standing on Dutton's Hill.

The hill in question was a high ridge running east and west, was clear of timber, the north face somewhat steep, with a long slope on the Somerset side. A mill-pond effectually protected the enemy's right flank. There was rough, uneven ground, covered with a tangle of brush and briars, on their left. When our advance had located them the artillery pulled out of the column into the open fields on the right, and we lashed our horses into a run. We ran up on to a low ridge, clear of timber, should judge not more than 300 or 400 yards from the enemy, and got to business at once.

Lieut. Smith directed me to take my place at one of the limbers to cut fuse. This gave me a fine opportunity to see the battle from start to finish. It was truly inspiring to see the tall and manly figure of Capt. Law, as graceful as a dancing master in his every move. Serg't Ben Derstine, of the 7th Ohio, temporarily with us as instructor, conducted himself in such manner as to be a credit to the brave regiment to which he belonged.

I noticed near me at one time Gens. Gillmore and Carter; they sat astride their horses, smoking briar pipes, and watching the progress of the battle with evident satisfaction. The troops dismounted, moved in on low ground in front of us, formed line, and moved forward. As they commenced to ascend the hill we ceased firing and at once limbered up; and, by the time we were ready to move, the enemy were on the fly toward Somerset. We at once went up on the hill.

Now Col. Wolford was directed to take his regiment and go to the rear to hunt up a small force under Scott, and pound the dust out of their jackets, which was promptly done in the usual 1st Ky. style.

Meanwhile our main force remained inactive on the hill, while Pegram with his main force was making his run for the river, some eight or 10 miles below Somerset, unmolested!

As soon as Wolford returned pursuit was resumed, but when we reached the river, Pegram's last hoof and wheel were safely over. No attempt was made to cross and continue the pursuit. If the question arises, How did I, one of the common soldiers in the ranks, come to know that the enemy were only after plunder, the citizens told us so as we passed them while in pursuit. I remember one sturdy old farmer standing at the road in front of his house, giving vent to his indignation in chunks of profanity. He boldly stigmatized us as "a set of cowards, to be held back by a small skirmish-line, while they have skinned the country." - S. D. Pond, Co. C, 45th Ohio, Gorham, Kan.


Dutton's Hill Today


Lying close to Somerset, the battlefield unfortunately has been partially developed. There is a Kentucky state historical marker at the entrance to the Dutton Hill subdivision along Kentucky Highway 39. The marker was placed by the Kentucky Historical Society in 1964.

photo from hmdb.org, taken by Don Morfe

There is a little-known monument on the battlefield as well, erected in memory of the Confederate soldiers that were killed during the fighting. The monument is on private property within the same subdivision, behind the house furthest to the north in the subdivision.

photo from hmdb.org, taken by Bradley Owen

While there is another subdivision to the west of the hill, there are a few woodlots that are in the core portion of the fighting and hence are in an undeveloped state. Perhaps one day a group will organize and work to save those acres for future preservation and interpretation! Based on the number of articles and letters written about the battle the soldiers and the press must have thought the fight was important.

 

William Zachariah “Billy” Carwile - Served in Company H, First Tennessee Cavalry Regiment (CSA). He was captured on March 30th at Dutton's Hill within five miles of his Kentucky home. William's father Peter Carwile (on the roster as Carmile) had joined Company G, Nineteenth Kentucky Volunteer Infantry Regiment (USA) on January 2nd, 1862 and died in Somerset, on April 16th of that same year of chronic diarrhea. Brother John served in a Confederate cavalry unit (Fourth Tennessee Cavalry) and was discharged when his horse fell on him, causing injury. William Carwile spent sixty-two days as a prisoner of war and twelve days in Hospital #15 in Louisville with measles. He was exchanged on May 29th, 1863 in bad shape allegedly from from bad treatment and a lack of food. William would spend twenty-four days in a Confederate hospital in Petersburg, Virginia suffering from debilities.

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