A Chronicle of the Skirmish at the Scottsboro Depot

The following account is taken from The Rebellion Record: A Diary of American Events, edited by Frank Moore and published by G. P. Putnam in 1868.

The journal entries were written by Union Brigadier-General Charles Cruft.

Saturday, January 7, 1865:

Infantry patrols were sent out to watch the approaches leading through the coves, in the direction of Bellefonte, Scottsboro, and Larkinsville.

The intelligence which reached my headquarters from all these parties and from citizens during the day showed that no enemy was in the vicinity, except the "bushwhacking gangs" of Russel, Hayes, Mende, and Wilson, which constantly [infest] the mountains in the vicinity. [Confederate Brigadier-General Hylan Benton] Lyon could not be heard of.

At two fifty-five pm, a dispatch was received from Colonel Krizzanowski, reciting a dispatch from Major-General Milroy, as follows: "General Lyon crossed the mountain last night, going towards Bellefonte. Has five hundred men--many of them dressed in Federal overcoats. He has one howitzer."

Colonel Harrison's brigade was immediately loaded on the only train at [Larkinsville], and started, before four pm, to Bellefonte, with instructions to patrol the road from there west to Scottsboro and place a battalion at Bellefonte landing--engage Lyon, if possible, and pursue him at all hazards.

He was directed to inform the officer commanding at Scottsboro of the intelligence received--to direct him to make stalwart resistance, and to reinforce him, if he heard firing at Scottsboro.

The garrison at Scottsboro consisted of two lieutenants (whose names have been mislaid), and say fifty-four colored soldiers of the One Hundred and Tenth unorganized United States colored volunteers--supposed to be in a substantial earthwork at the place.

At about five and one-half pm a train arrived from the west--the last one bringing Colonel Malloy's brigade. This was immediately sent forward to Scottsboro by rail, at say eight o'clock pm, as soon as the road was clear--with proper instructions.

Shortly after Colonel Malloy left, a few single discharges of artillery were heard at long intervals, in, what citizens said, was the direction of Bellefonte. It seemed possible that Harrison had fallen in with Lyon, or that the gunboats were shelling his river detachment. However, as Colonel Malloy was rapidly nearing Scottsboro, and the firing soon ceased, it seemed to demand no special attention.

The commanding officer at Scottsboro erred in leaving the earthworks, and betaking himself and command to the brick depot building. He made, however, from the latter place a sturdy resistance to the attack of the skirmishers, and held out well (as the enemy's prisoners admit), and forced Lyon to dismount and form line of battle, bring up his artillery and use it, thus consuming considerable time.

In the meanwhile, the two sections preceding Colonel Malloy dashed past the troops on the trains, firing on the enemy, confusing him and stopping his attack on the garrison. In the confusion and cessation of the fire, the garrrison escaped and came to Colonel Malloy, who was unloading and forming his lines at the water tank in the edge of the town. A reinforcement from Colonel Harrison at Bellefonte arrived at this time, on the east of the place, and the enemy ran away rapidly.

Colonel Malloy sent back one of his sections, with one of the lieutenants of the colored troops, to report--reaching headquarters about midnight. This lieutenant was badly stampeded. His statements were miserably incongruous, childish and improbable; a complete physical terror seemed to possess him, and nothing he stated could be relied on.

Colonel Mitchell's brigade was immediately ordered from Larkinsville in the direction of the river, to try and intercept Lyon at Perry's house--the junction of the Larkins Ferry and Gunter's Landing roads. Colonel Mitchell moved at about two am. Colonel Thompson arriving from west with his brigade, was sent forward to join Colonel Malloy, and press on in pursuit. Colonel Salm's brigade--arriving in the night--was rationed, and soon after day left to follow up Colonel Mitchell, by a line more to the right.

At daylight the troops were disposed as follows: Colonel Malloy and Colonel Thompson in direct pursuit of Lyon and close on him; Colonel Harrison to his left pressing down the river and feeling into Bellefonte, Sublett's, McGuin's and Larkin's Landings, and preventing retreat up the river; Colonels Mitchell and Salm trying to cut him off by shorter lines to the river, at Roman's and Law's Landings, and to strike the Gunter's Landing road below him.

Colonel Mitchell pushed his column rapidly forward. Soon after dawn of day, he came upon a detachment of the enemy attempting to burn the bridge across Santa Creek, while the main portion of his forces had swam the creek, some three miles below, and were passing the junction of the roads at Perry's, say four miles down the Gunter's Landing road. Colonel Mitchell drove off the enemy, extinguished the fire on the bridge, and pushed on after him. He was only about an hour behind him at Perry's Cross Roads.

Colonel Malloy was compelled to delay his pursuit at the creek below for some three hours, to construct a crossing for his men. The streams were all flooded, the mud deep, the rain pouring down, and the men (except Colonels Mitchell's and Sahn's commands) without rations.

I accompanied Colonel Mitchell's columns; Colonel Malloy joined this during the afternoon. Pursuit was made vigorously till near nightfall, when the troops were so exhausted that they were bivouacked as an act of humanity.

I rode back to Larkinsville, and during evening informed Brigadier-General Wood and Major-General Steedman, by telegraph, of the condition of affairs, and tried to get at Colonel Morgan's command, to send it from Woodville, to strike the Tennessee, at mouth of Paint Rock.

It was impossible to reach Colonel Morgan, the telegraphic station having been removed from Brownsboro. He came up during the night with his own regiment, and Colonel Shatter. Colonel Morgan was unloaded at Larkinsville to get rations and rest, and Colonel Shafter sent on to Scottsboro to protect that place from guerillas, who were reported to have been firing at the small guard there during the afternoon.

Efforts were again made to have rations at Gunter's landing by transport, and a message was received from Major-General Steedman, announcing their shipment.

Tuesday, January 10, 1865.

Colonels Mitchell, Malloy, Salm and Thompson were in motion at 4:30 am, continuing the pursuit. I reached the column of Colonel Mitchell soon after dawn of day. Colonel Thompson's command was thrown off to the left to Lawe's Landing. About eight miles from Guntersville, the head of Colonel Mitchell's column struck quite a force of the enemy--probably a hundred were in sight.

Two battalions were thrown into line, and, with the small cavalry force which was taken from Larkinsville, was pushed for them.

They broke to small squads and ran away to the hills and woods on each side, and down the road in great confusion. But few shots were fired. The gunboats on the river were at this time shelling the woods on the north side, near Gunter's Landing, and below.

The enemy could be seen running about in small detachments, in almost every direction and without any order, but being well mounted, kept beyond musket range.

The column was pressed steadily towards Gunter's Landing, with patrol parties in every direction on the flanks, and the enemy chased in towards the river. They all, however, that were on the left of the road, crossed it in advance of the columns, and, with those on the right, left rapidly by the roads running down the river.

Some were driven into the river bank, but, being mounted, could swim the lagoons in the bottom that could not be waded by infantry. Here they encountered the gunboats; a few abandoned their horses, and they were captured by the boats.

General Lyon had reached Clayville, opposite Gunter's Landing, the evening before, with the greater portion of his command and the piece of artillery.

Citizens reported that he had abandoned his command during the night, and had crossed the river by a scow, with the piece of artillery and a portion of his staff. It is probable that about two hundred of his command crossed during the night at Lawe's Landing, and at a point about one and a half miles above Claysville, in canoes and by swimming their horses.

The rest of his command at Claysville was collected at the head of the island, above, on the eleventh, attempting to cross, and was alarmed by the coming down of a gunboat, and dispersed. A portion of the command, under Colonel Chenoweth, left Claysville about twelve in the direction of Deposit.

My advance reached Claysville at two pm. Colonel Salm, leaving his men who were barefooted, was sent on immediately towards Deposit, with instructions to make that point, or the creek, and beyond, if possible, by daylight. He marched his command vigorously, pursuing the enemy retreating as squads, and making the points ordered.

The ambulance, wagon and artillery harness, which General Lyon had with him, were captured, as well as those wounded at Scotteboro, viz.: one captain and three (3) soldiers.

Patrol parties were sent from Colonels Mitchell's, Malloy's and Thompson's commands, to scour the woods along the river, and to watch the various ferrying places in the vicinity. Lieutenant-Colonel O'Brien's battalion of the Fourteenth corps detachment was placed opposite Gunter's Landing. The few cattle and sheep the country afforded were collected by the commissary and distributed to the command. The gunboats on the river had no cooperation with me. I was able to get on board but one of them, the "U.S. Grant," I think.

The commanding officer was informed of the nature of my dispositions, and all the intelligence that had been obtained. By some mistake, one of the gunboats, as Colonel Thompson reported, threw some shells into his camp at Law's Landing, fortunately without hurting anybody. The rebels were much alarmed by the shells of the gunboats, but there were no casualties from them that could be heard of.

Being satisfied that none of the rebel squads had gone up the river, Colonel Harrison was ordered to march to the railway at the nearest point, and load his command for Chattanooga.