Battle of Limestone Station

American Civil War Homepage

Battle of Limestone Station
Tennessee and the American Civil War

Battle of Limestone Station
Other Names: Telford's Depot

Location: Washington County

Campaign: East Tennessee Campaign (1863)

Date(s): September 8, 1863

Principal Commanders: Lt. Col. Edwin L. Hayes [US]; Brig. Gen. Alfred E. Jackson [CS]

Forces Engaged: 100th Ohio Regiment [US]; Jackson's Brigade [CS]

Estimated Casualties: 330 total (US 300; CS 30)

Result(s): Confederate victory

Introduction: On September 8, 1863, the 100th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment engaged the brigade of Brig. Gen. Alfred E. Jackson near a bridge in Telford, Tennessee. Out of ammunition and surrounded, the 100th was forced to surrender. Union casualties were 50 killed or wounded and more than 250 captured. Of this number, 85 died in Confederate prisons. Estimated Confederate losses were 30 killed or wounded. The Southern contingent also captured 400 Enfield rifles, which were immediately pressed into service.
Summary: The same day that Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside occupied Knoxville, Col. William H. Thomas, commanding Thomas' Legion, "with two Indian Companies and many whites, which totaled several hundred men," withdrew from Strawberry Plains and passed through Sevierville, Tennessee, to the North Carolina line. Thomas was pursued by the Federals and had "quite a skirmish near Sevierville on September 7 or 8, 1863." Thomas, however, crossed the Smoky Mountains and at once securely blockaded all the roads leading in that direction from Paint Rock to Ducktown. Lt. Col. Love and Maj. Stringfield, with 600 to 700 men of the legion, were ordered to fortify and hold Carter's Depot at the railroad bridge across the Watauga, about twenty miles west of Bristol. Brig. Gen. Alfred Jackson advanced with reserves, the balance of the Sixty-ninth North Carolina (Walker's Battalion, Official Records I, 30, II, pp. 643-644), the Fourth Kentucky Cavalry, Sixteenth Georgia Cavalry, and Burrough's Battery; and learning that the enemy (100th Ohio Infantry Regiment) was fortifying in and around the old limestone blockhouse and a stone mansion near by, the Sixty-ninth was ordered to advance at 3:00 a.m. On the 8th, the Sixty-ninth forced the enemy from Telford's depot to Limestone, where they made a determined stand and were "evidently being handled by some veteran officers." Closing in upon them on all sides, the Sixty-ninth forced their surrender, with an "enemy loss of 20 killed, 30 wounded, and 290 prisoners, and they captured 400 splendid small arms (Enfield Rifles)." The Sixty-ninth's loss was 6 killed and 15 wounded, but it was immediately armed with the desperately needed Enfields. During the surrender, Maj. Stringfield noted that he had received the sword from Lt. Col. Edwin L. Hayes. In 1901, Stringfield recorded that they had "captured 314, wounded 30, and killed 20. Our loss 6 Killed and 15 wounded." Regarding the enemy's losses, the preliminary or initial account appears to be more accurate. The Federals reported that they had suffered 1 killed, 2 wounded, and 200 captured (O.R., I, 30, II, 578), and Dyer's Compendium recorded that the Confederates captured 240 men from the 100th Ohio Infantry. Whereas the Enfields were appreciated, it was a much needed morale boost for the Southerners, since the Cumberland Gap would capitulate to Union forces on Sept. 9, 1863.
History: While this fight was initially reported in the Richmond Enquirer, September 10, 1863, it was edited and republished in the New York Times on Sept. 19.


Battle of Limestone Station
Battle of Limestone Station.jpg
Battle of Limestone Station, aka Telford's Depot

Before giving an account of the fight of the 9th, I will give some light as to the state of affairs in upper East Tennessee. It is well known to you that about the 27th of August Gen. Buckner, with his entire force, withdrew from Knoxville, leaving the country east along the line of the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad to Bristol to be guarded and defended by Gen. A.E. Jackson's brigade. Notwithstanding the evacuation of Knoxville and the abandonment of the country, except by the small force above alluded to, the Directory of the road, (the President, Col. John Branner, then being at Knoxville.) continued to run their trains into Knoxville for several days, although a large force of the enemy was known to be within fifteen or twenty miles of the city, and, marvelous to say, it is the common report of the country that the President and Directors resolved to run the road, declaring they were only common carriers, evidently indifferent whether the rolling stock fell into the hands of the enemy. This they must have known would have been the case. So, sure enough, on Tuesday, the --, they dashed into Knoxville, and captured their best passenger train and three locomotives. On the same day our little force at the [Strawberry] Plains was withdrawn by railroad to Bristol. On the morning of the 4th the enemy pushed up to Mossy Creek, captured a train and then run into |Jonesboro, one hundred miles distant from Knoxville, with four hundred men, and there took another.

A small company of cavalry, under Capt. Jones, at this latter place, after firing a volley into the enemy, made their escape.

The enemy then pushed on to Carter's Bridge, where was stationed a small force of infantry and one section of artillery, under the accomplished Capt. McClung, and demanded its surrender, when, upon refusal, they retreated toward Knoxville.

Having learned the above facts, Gen. Jackson, who was at Bristol with the principal part of his forces, with a regiment of Kentucky cavalry and some other forces that had recently joined him, made a forced march for Jonesboro, at which place he arrived on the morning of the 7th. Here he learned that the enemy was returning in full force by railway, so he promptly threw forward a battalion of cavalry (Col. Giltner's regiment.) a section of artillery and a detachment of infantry.

A few miles below Jonesboro they found five or six hundred of the enemy and a train of cars, unable to proceed on account of the destruction of a small bridge, effected by our scouts the day before. An attack was at once made upon them, Col. Giltner commanding the cavalry, and Lieut. J.E. Graham the artillery. They were driven back near a half mile, but the enemy gaining a shelter, our forces were compelled to fall back to their first position, having, at the risk of losing our cannon, incautiously advanced too far.

Seizing this moment of temporary advantage, the enemy pained the railroad and got away with their train. Having previously sent a squad of cavalry to destroy the railroad in their rear, our forces, now joined by Lieut. J.W. Blackwell, with an 8-inch rifle gun, pursued with vigor, expecting momentarily to capture the train and forces, but our scouts had so ineffectually done their work that the enemy passed down the Limestone Bridge, seizing the heights and woods around the block-house at the bridge, and sending their train toward Knoxville for reinforcements. Having now possession of the block-house and the thick woods around it, the enemy resolved to make a bold stand.

Gen. Jackson at once ordered Col. Giltner's cavalry to cross Limestone Cseek to cut off the retreat of the enemy, while our artillery -- one rifle gun and one small one-pound mountain gun -- opened fire upon the depot, block-house and other buildings occupied by the enemy, while Major McCauley's detachment of Thomas' Legion was posted in rear of the battery.

Just at this time Lieut.-Col. M.A. Haynes, of the artillery, and Lieut.-Col. Walker, with a detachment of Thomas' Legion, were ordered from Jonesboro to reinforce Gen. Jackson. After this fire had been opened some forty minutes, Col. Haynes brought gallantly forward, at a gallop, Lieut. Graham's section of artillery, (Burrough's Battery.) which also opened briskly. The enemy's sharpshooters in the woods, meanwhile, kept up an incessant fire on the batteries.

By this time Col. Giltner had taken possession of the south side of the bridge, dismounted and deployed his men as skirmishers, and after a spirited engagement, drove the enemy across the creek, and held the railroad and south end of the bridge. In this latter engagement, and up to the time of the capture of the enemy, Col. Giltner had the valuable services of Lieut.-Col. Bottles, of the Twenty-sixth Tennessee Regiment, who, being absent from his command at Chattanooga, volunteered his services for the occasion.

Just as this feat was accomplished by Col. Giltner, Lieut-Col. Walker's battalion, of Thomas' Legion, was thrown out to the left, through a skirt of timbers on the left of the enemy's sharpshooters, and the artillery, led by Col. Haynes in person, advanced to within two hundred yards of the roads occupied by the enemy, and opened a rapid fire of shell and canister upon the sharpshooters. At the same time the infantry upon the left of the artillery drove in the enemy at a double-quick, where they took refuge in the block-house and other buildings, from which they kept up a rapid fire.

Advancing at a trot, Col. Haynes threw the guns into battery, in the midst of a shower of balls, upon a height, not more than 200 yards, and promptly fired several rounds of shell into the block-house.

At this moment the enemy raised a white flag, and Col. Haynes galloped forward and received the flag and sword of their commander, Lieut.-Col. Hays, One Hundred Ohio Volunteers, and the surrender of near 300 of the enemy, rank and file. Capt. B.W. Jenkins, formerly of Gen. Marshall's Staff, volunteered for the occasion, and Lieut.-Col. J.L. Bottles was in at the death.

The enemy's loss was 12 killed and 20 wounded; our loss is 6 killed and 10 wounded.

See also


Return to American Civil War Homepage

Return to top