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1864 February 13: Small Skirmishes in Smithfield (Va.), Sevierville (Tenn.), and Athens (Ala.)

February 13, 2014

The following War news from the past week is from the February 13, 1864, issue of The Polk County Press.

The News.

The U. S. steamer Union captured the rebel steamer Mayflower, on the coast of Florida, on the 13th.  She is a valuable prize, being loaded with cotton.

Gen. Butler [Benjamin F. Butler] sent an expedition up James River recently, to destroy provisions, rebel stores, &c.  The steamer which conveyed the troops was captured by the rebels and blown up.  A fight took place at Smithfield between our troops numbering ninety men, and 500 rebels.  The rebels were repulsed three times with a loss of 150 killed and wounded.  The entire command, except ten men, who escaped by swimming the river,—then surrendered.  Thus the expedition was an entire failure.¹

We have reported a victory in Western Virginia.  Gen. Averhill’s [sic: William W. Averell] command was sent out by General Kelly [sic]² to drive Early’s [Jubal Early] cavalry from Springfield.  Gen. Averill [sic] charged the town, and a desperate fight ensued.  The rebels were defeated with a loss of 200 killed, wounded, and prisoners, two pieces of cannon and a large amount of property.  Our loss is 15 killed and 32 wounded.

An engagement is reported to have taken place at Newbern, N. C., in which our forces were obliged to fall back to their entrenchments, with a loss of 60 men.  The rebels also captured and destroyed a gunboat in the Neuse river.

Colt’s pistol factory, at Hartford, Ct., was destroyed by fire on the 5th inst.  Loss $500,000. Insured for $750,000.

The inauguration of the officers chosen by the State Convention of Arkansas took place on the 22d ult., in the Senate Chamber at little Rock.  It was a solemn and imposing affair.  After prayer by Rev. James Butler, the Governor addressed the assembly in a touching and impressive manner.  On the conclusion of the address the oath of office was administered to Gov. Murphy, Lieut. Gov. Bliss and the Secretary of State.  The scene was most affecting, and caused tears to flow when the solemn words that bound the new officials to loyalty, to their country and fealty to the Union were uttered.

Gov. Gamble, of Missouri was buried on the 3d inst.  The civic and military display on the occasion was probably the most solemn and imposing ever witnessed in the State.

Advices from Memphis state that the 16th army corps is preparing for a movement to attack the rebels in Mississippi and secure large stores of corn and forage on the way to Mobile.  Twelve thousand cavalry are concentrated at Corinth to participate in this movement.

If any confidence can be put in the telegraphic reports, Mobile is soon to be attacked by land and water.

Gen. Foster [John G. Foster] telegraphs from Knoxville that Gen. Sturgis [Samuel D. Sturgis] achieved a victory near Sevierville, Tenn.  He captured two steel rifled guns, and over one hundred prisoners.  Enemy’s loss in killed and wounded 300 ;  our loss 150.  The enemy 600 strong under Forest [sic: Nathan B. Forrest] attacked the Federal garrison at Athens, Tenn., on the 29th inst., and after a twenty-four hour’s fight, were repulsed with severe loss.³

Recruiting is going on briskly all over the North.  Every State will probably fill their quotas without a visit from Uncle Samuel’s Draft.—New York is the only State where recruiting is tardy.

1.  The Battle of Smithfield was a relatively small skirmish that took place from January 31 to February 1, 1864, in Smithfield, Virginia.
2.  Benjamin Franklin Kelley (1807-1891) was in the merchandise business before the Civil War broke out. He raised and was the colonel of the 1st Virginia Infantry, a Federal volunteer three-months regiment. In their first action, at the Battle of Philippi, he was badly wounded. He was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers in May of 1861 and was victorious in several smaller battles. In 1863 he commanded the West Virginia department and pursued General Robert E. Lee during his retreat from Gettysburg. He was brevetted as a major general of volunteers in August 1864. In 1865 Kelley, along with his immediate superior General George Crook, was captured by  Confederate partisans on February 21, 1865. Kelley was sent to a prison in Richmond, Virginia, but he and Crook were released on March 20 by a special exchange. He resigned from the army on June 1, 1865.
3.  Sevierville, situated at a major crossroads south of Knoxville, suffered consistent harassment, looting, and confiscation of property by both Union and Confederate forces moving through the town in 1863 and 1864. After Confederate General James Longstreet failed to retake Knoxville in the Battle of Fort Sanders, Union and Confederate forces quickly initiated a series of maneuvers to gain control of the strategic fords along the French Broad, culminating in an engagement near Hodsden’s farm at Fair Garden in January 1864. Although the Union forces were victorious, they were later forced to retreat for lack of supplies.
. .  On the morning of January 26, 1864, 600 Confederate cavalrymen under Moses W. Hannon attacked Athens, Alabama, which was being held by a Union force of only 100. Even though the Union defenders had no fortifications and were outnumbered six to one, they were able to repulse the Confederate attack and force them into a retreat after a two-hour battle.

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