Nip and Tuck with the 2nd Minnesota at Mill Springs

Allen B. White was born in Ohio in 1835 but by 1861 had moved west and settled in Rich Valley, McLeod County, Minnesota. He mustered in as a Sergeant of Co. K of the 2nd Minnesota Infantry in August 1861, re-enlisted in December 1863 and gained promotion to Second Lieutenant April 1, 1865. He mustered out with the regiment July 11, 1865. White was cited for gallantry at the storming of Missionary Ridge in November 1863.
Private Henry Augustus Moore served in Co. F of the 15th Mississippi and faced the 2nd Minnesota at the Battle of Mill Springs, or Fishing Creek as it was called by the Confederates. Moore died August 14, 1863 from wounds sustained during the Vicksburg campaign.
(Library of Congress)

This letter describing the Battle of Mill Springs was written to his parents in Summit Co., Ohio and was published in the February 13, 1862 issue of the Summit County Beacon.

Zollicoffer's Camp, Mill Springs, Kentucky
January 20, 1862

Dear Parents,
          You have undoubtedly heard the news of the glorious victory achieved by the Union forces in this part of Kentucky. My time to give a description is very short as we are to march this morning, and I do not claim the ability to describe the scene.
Colonel Horatio P. Van Cleve
2nd Minnesota Infantry
          The 10th Indiana was attacked Sabbath morning a little before daybreak by 8,800 men. The long roll beat and the 2nd Minnesota was soon on a double quick to assist the Indianans who were in close quarters. When we arrived, they were out of ammunition and were obliged to fall back, but we relieved them and saved the position. There were two or three other regiments engaged: the 9th Ohio was on our right and did some noble fighting. Company K was in a very hot place, many were within ten feet of the enemy in the hottest of the fire. I was so close that a common rail fence separated us, and the flash  of their guns would almost singe my hair. Our orderly sergeant was shot about 18-20 inches from me. On my right there was a noble man fell, yet I was spared. I came very near being shot twice by our men who fired from the rear. I yelled for them to be careful, and my thankfulness to the Great Ruler of all, cannot be too ardently shown.

          I never heard of two armies coming in such close contact unless upon a charge. They intended to charge on us. We also fixed our bayonets. We were in the timber and they in the open field. They thought when the 10th Indiana fell back for ammunition that we were retreating, which they found to be a great mistake or they never would have come so close. They were on low ground, coming up; the fence was at the brow of the hill. The enemy probably supposed the rise continued for they shot over very generally as is shown by their marks high on the trees. [Judson Bishop of the 2nd Minnesota wrote that “the air was loaded with mist and smoke and the underbrush in our part of the field was so thick that a man was hardly visible a musket's length away.”]
The fence at Mill Springs as photograph by friend of the blog John Banks. "One Union man put his gun through the fence to sight, when discovering a Rebel on the opposite side in the same attitude, he jerked the gun from the hand of his antagonist and shot him," wrote Sergeant White. 
          One Union man put his gun through the fence to sight, when discovering a Rebel on the opposite side in the same attitude, he jerked the gun from the hand of his antagonist and shot him.  It was nip and tuck for a while but we let in such a heavy volley at first and all the time that they could not stand the pressure. When they retreated we followed them with yells they will never forget. We drove them into their entrenchments where we were obliged to stop for it was nearly night. But we had a position where we could shell them out. The batteries played upon them until pretty late.
Marker on the Mills Springs battlefield describing "The Melee at Fence." Photographed by John Banks.
          At daylight the next morning, the batteries again opened upon them; one of them was so stationed as to command the Cumberland, shelled their steamboat, sunk their ferry, and shelled them after they got over. We routed them entirely. Their killed and wounded cannot be less than 500 and their whole 8,800 was disbanded, leaving everything: clothing, ammunition, and guns. Zollicoffer was shot in the commencement of the battle. The amount of property taken that will fall to the government is worth $1 million though it cost more. The labor on the entrenchments cannot be valued, but it has been a great loss to the Confederates. Our loss of killed was about 100, probably the same number or more were wounded.
General Felix Zollicoffer, C.S.A. was killed in action at Mill Springs. Private Joseph Durfree of the 9th Ohio Battery wrote of seeing Zollicoffer's body shortly after the battle already stripped by Union soldiers hungry for souvenirs of the engagement. 
          In the 2nd Minnesota, we lost ten killed and about 30 wounded. None were killed in Co. K although I stated that our orderly was shot. The ball hit the right shoulder and came out at the back; I think he will live.

Yours Truly,
A.B. White

To read more about the 2nd Minnesota at Mill Springs, check out John Banks' blogpost "A Death at Mill Springs: 'Samuel Has Gone to His God.'

Battle of Mills Springs Map from the American Battlefield Trust


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