Diary of Edward O. Guerrant, October 10, 1863

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A Confederate staff officer's account of the Battle of Blue Springs

When several miles beyond Greenville on the road to Jonesboro, Genl Jackson's advance (Genl. Jackson Brigade of 500) constituted our advance Guard, was fired upon just at daylight. It was within two miles of Hendersons mill--where we were going to Camp, and I was going to the front by order of Genl. Williams to halt the column there. The beautiful morning star, harbinger of coming day, was shining like a diadem on the brow of night--& we were peacefully, tho' regretfully pursuing our way--when all at once a volley of musketry into the head of the column woke up to the feast of death.
One of Genl. Jackson's Staff was captured & perhaps a few of his men killed. It was too dark to see more than 100 yards in the heavy timber in which the Enemy were concealed.I had just reached Genl. Jackson who was again advancing his column of infantry to drive them from the woods--supposing they were East Tennessee Bushwhackers--when a furious volley was against poured into us from behind the trees not 75 yards in front. To prevent being shot from my horse, as Yankees generally shoot too high, I dismounted in an instant, but soon found myself left alone in the road under a heavy fire all the others having sought the generous protection of the neighboring trees. My horse was wild with excitement--so that I could not mount him until Rufus Todd held him for me--As soon as our men got shelter they opened briskly upon the Enemy, & soon our artillery came up & shelled the woods. It was not yet good light. Genl. Williams immediately coming up ordered Jackson forward with Thomas Legion (Infantry) and Carter to charge with his brigade of Cavalry.

The boys went in with a shout charging gallantly, driving the Yankees from one position to another. The General was in the front cheering the men onward--as he appreciated the critical position in which we were placed. The Enemy confidently expecting us to remain at Blue Springs, had thrown a heavy cavalry force under Col Carter (4 reg'ts of 2500 men--the same who went to Bristol and burnt Blountville) in our rear to hold us in check until the forces on the other side could come up; therefore we must fight out or be captured: "horse, foot & dragoon," artillery & transportation, & all.
Our men I say went in gallantly--drove the Enemy back, & only once gave up any ground & then a batt'n of Mounted men were driven from the woods, but were soon rallied--(the Genl. assisting) & returned to the fight. The Enemy used their artillery at first, but when we once got them started they never got time to unlimber again. The fight lasted until about 71/2 A. M. -& ended by the flight of the Enemy before the impetuous charges of our boys, who never stopped but kept on, never giving the Yankees time to rally & form. We drove them some three miles when they left the main road at double quick--taking a road to the left towards Kingsport, leaving our way open to pursue our falling back.
So we were delivered from a Yankee trap. Thank God for the gallantry of our troops! The losses we sustained I cannot determine. . . Our boys were very much elated with their success, & the way the Yankees "skedaddled." Thus ended the battle of Henderson's Mill--fought between Greenville & Rheatown, Tenn., on the morning of Sunday the 11th. Diary of Edward O. Guerrant, October 10*, 1863.

*It appears Edward Guerrant made his initial diary entry on October 10, 1863, and continued recording the battle as it continued through October 11, 1863. This clarifies the initial October 10th entry.

Manuscripts Department
Library of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Diary and other papers of Edward Owings Guerrant: The diary, 1856-1916, with gaps, reflects Guerrant's experiences as a student at Centre College, Danville, Ky., 1856-1860; as a staff officer to several Confederate generals in campaigns in eastern Kentucky and southwest Virginia and in the Army of Tennessee, 1861-1865; as a medical student; as a practicing physician at Mt. Sterling, Ky., 1867-1873; as a seminarian at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, 1873-1876; as a Presbyterian Minster at several places, including Louisville, Ky., 1876-1885; and thereafter founder and president of the American Inland Mission or "Soul Winners Society" and editor of "The Soul Winner," at Wilmore and Troy, Ky. Among other items are scattered correspondence, 1862-1917, and Guerrant's manuscript history of Kentucky soldiers in the Confederacy.

Special thanks to Tennessee Civil War Sourcebook (online)

Recommended Reading: Bluegrass Confederate: The Headquarters Diary Of Edward O. Guerrant (716 pages) (Hardcover) (Louisiana State University Press). Description: Diaries by Kentucky Rebels are a rarity; the soldiers, cut off from their homes and families in the Union Bluegrass, were themselves atypical. In this massive and eloquent journal, Captain Edward O. Guerrant evocatively portrays his unusual wartime experiences attached to the headquarters of Confederate generals Humphrey Marshall, William Preston, George Cosby, and, most notably, John Hunt Morgan. Continued below...
Able to see the inner workings of campaigns in the little-known Appalachian region of eastern Kentucky, southwestern Virginia, and east Tennessee, where some of the most vicious small-scale fighting occurred, Guerrant made scrupulous daily entries remarking upon virtually everything around him.

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Recommended Reading: East Tennessee and the Civil War (Hardcover) (588 pages). Description: A solid social, political, and military history, this work gives light to the rise of the pro-Union and pro-Confederacy factions. It explores the political developments and recounts in fine detail the military maneuvering and conflicts that occurred. Beginning with a history of the state's first settlers, the author lays a strong foundation for understanding the values and beliefs of East Tennesseans. Continued below...
He examines the rise of abolition and secession, and then advances into the Civil War. Early in the conflict, Union sympathizers burned a number of railroad bridges, resulting in occupation by Confederate troops and abuses upon the Unionists and their families. The author also documents in detail the ‘siege and relief’ of Knoxville. Although authored by a Unionist, the work is objective in nature and fair in its treatment of the South and the Confederate cause, and, complete with a comprehensive index, this work should be in every Civil War library.
Recommended Viewing: The Civil War - A Film by Ken Burns. Review: The Civil War - A Film by Ken Burns is the most successful public-television miniseries in American history. The 11-hour Civil War didn't just captivate a nation, reteaching to us our history in narrative terms; it actually also invented a new film language taken from its creator. When people describe documentaries using the "Ken Burns approach," its style is understood: voice-over narrators reading letters and documents dramatically and stating the writer's name at their conclusion, fresh live footage of places juxtaposed with still images (photographs, paintings, maps, prints), anecdotal interviews, and romantic musical scores taken from the era he depicts. Continued below...
The Civil War uses all of these devices to evoke atmosphere and resurrect an event that many knew only from stale history books. While Burns is a historian, a researcher, and a documentarian, he's above all a gifted storyteller, and it's his narrative powers that give this chronicle its beauty, overwhelming emotion, and devastating horror. Using the words of old letters, eloquently read by a variety of celebrities, the stories of historians like Shelby Foote and rare, stained photos, Burns allows us not only to relearn and finally understand our history, but also to feel and experience it. "Hailed as a film masterpiece and landmark in historical storytelling." "[S]hould be a requirement for every student."

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