COL. JOSEPH A. COOPER, CAMPBELL COUNTY NATIVE, BEAT CONFEDERATE CAVALRY IN PINE MOUNTAIN FIGHT
By Dallas Bogan
Reprinted with Permission from Dallas Bogan. This article was published in the LaFollette Press.
The writer has penned a few accounts of the Civil War in the area of Campbell County in the past. This week we shall proceed on this important subject.
Colonel Joseph Alexander Cooper, a native of Campbell County, was commander of the Sixth Regiment, East Tennessee Volunteers. In an official report he writes on September 11, 1862, from Fort Nathaniel Lyon, near the Cumberland Gap area, that, according to orders, he and his regiment began marching from Cumberland Gap on the 6th of September. Accompanying the East Tennessee Sixth Regiment were a total of 400 men; 50 men from Col. Houks Third Regiment; 100 men from Colonel Johnson's Fourth Regiment; 100 men from Col. Shelley's Fifth Regiment, and 150 men from the Sixth Regiment.
On Saturday night of the September 6th, the soldiers rested on the head of Clear Fork Creek some 13 miles from camp. The next morning at 7: a.m., the line of march was resumed. On the morning of the 8th of September, at 6 a.m., reliable information was received that a force of Confederate cavalry was marching through Big Creek Gap toward the Kentucky side.
Col. Cooper at once dispatched Lieutenant Smith, of Company B, Sixth Regiment, along with 25 men of his company, to a point known as Stinking Creek. This area was located on the road leading through Big Creek Gap and across at Camp Pine Knot. The objective of the Union troops was to check and halt the enemy.
Lieutenant Dunn, of Company A, Sixth Regiment, with a guide and 25 men, was dispatched to a point at the foot of Pine Mountain on the south side. Lieutenant Robert Crudgington, of Company H, Fifth Regiment, with 25 men, was assigned to Camp Pine Knot, a point at the foot of Pine Mountain on the north side, near present Jellico, with the remainder of the forces. Col. Cooper, along with his forces, marched along the top of Pine Mountain to where the Big Creek Gap road crosses the same. With a combination of all these moves, Col. Cooper's command was thus distributed and took positions to receive the enemy.
About 10:30 a.m. on September 8th, Lieutenant Smith and Corporal Reynolds, along with Lieutenant Smith's command, which were about 120 in number, engaged the Confederate troops. The Union troops, well mounted with armed cavalry, forced back the former for about 15 minutes, killing one of the enemy and one horse. The Confederate force again formed and, with a defiant yell, made a second charge. At this time Smith and Reynolds and their command subsequently drove them back.
The Confederates were driven back to the command of Lieut. Dunn where they were met and fired into by the Lieutenant's men. At this point a connection was formed between Lieutenants Smith and Dunn from where the Confederates were forced and pursued to the top of Pine Mountain. Here they were received by a volley of gunfire under the command of Col. Cooper's forces.
The Confederates were then forced down Pine Mountain toward Camp Pine Knot. The loss sustained by them during this battle was 5 killed and 8 wounded, along with 7 horses killed and several other wounded. Lieutenant Crudgington and his command captured all those who made their escape down the mountain. The Lieutenant and his men bravely met the enemy with extreme coolness. The enemy captured included 3 mortally wounded and two quite severely. Total number of Confederate losses during the entire battle were 7 killed in action; 13 severely or mortally wounded; total number of prisoners, taken 95; horses taken, 83; shotguns, 17; citizen saddles, 24; wagons, 1; riding bridles, 19; blind bridles, 14; halters, 47; reins and bridle-bits, 62; miles, 4; revolvers, 2. Several horses and mules were severely wounded and left at the site. Also captured was a large mail mule.
The primary part of the fighting was done by the forces of the Third and Fifth Regiments, respectively, under the command of Captains Ledgerwood and Hedgecock. The main body of the of the enemy captured (seventy or seventy-five) was concluded by Lieut. Crudgington and his command. The other Union forces were extremely anxious to get into the fight, but their positions disallowed this advantage.
Two Confederate surgeons were captured and paroled, with the stipulation that they care for the wounded and direct the interment of the dead. Col. Cooper paroled all the wounded. Neither a man nor officer was killed or wounded in Col. Cooper's forces. Loss by desertion was four men, two in the Third and two in the Fifth Regiment.
After the skirmish on Pine Mountain, Col. Cooper learned that two Confederate regiments were crossing the mountain above them and were attempting to gain his rear position. After having blockaded Pine Mountain, the Colonel began the long march back to the camp, stopping again at Hickory Creek, a distance of about 12 miles. Here they rested and again took up the march to the head of Clear Fork, where they spent the night of Tuesday, September 9, 1862. The next morning they arrived at Camp Nathaniel Lyon near Cumberland Gap, along with Confederate prisoners, horses, mules, and all other articles they had captured in the Pine Mountain area. Under the immediate command of Brigadier-General Spears, Col. Cooper surrendered all the captives and contraband to the proper Government officers.
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