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As this portion of the State was first occupied by the forces under Gen. S. B. Buckner, and the Confederates were probably the first to .organize, it is only proper that they should have precedence of mention in this chapter.
The Oak Grove Rangers were organized and mustered into service June 25, 1861, near Camp Boone, Montgomery Co., Tenn., for a period of twelve months. They were officered as follows: Thomas G. Wood-ward, Captain; Darwin Bell, First Lieutenant; Frank Campbell, Second Lieutenant, and J. M. Jones, Brevet Second Lieutenant. They numbered at the time about 130 of the very flower of the youth of Christian County, who had been thoroughly armed and equipped at the expense of the citizens about Oak Grove. Among them were Austin Peay, present State Senator from this district; Frank Buckner, William McGuire; William A. Elliott, afterward Captain of Company A., Second Regiment; B. F. and Henry Clardy, Radford, Bob and Nat Owens, John Blankenship, William and Sim Nichols, William Blakemore, Hobert Kelly, W. L. and B. S. Leavell, Thomas Smith, W. F. Gray, Robert Searcy, A. Lyle, George and Alex Bacon, Milton Seward, Tim Morton, Hardin, Creed Hood, Blanks, Frank Rogers, John Richie. Kidd, Hazard Baker, afterward Brevet Second Lieutenant Company B; Bob Baker, Minus Parsley and Harvey Saunders.
Thus organized they moved in September, 1861, into Kentucky, in advance of Gen. Buckner’s command from Camp Boone, Tennessee. At Bowling Green they went into camp with the rest of the army, and were at once assigned to duty as Companies A and B, First Regiment of Kentucky Cavalry, under Col. Ben Hardin Helm. Company B numbered about one hundred men at the time, and was officered as follows: Captain, J. W. Caldwell; First Lieutenant, W. A. Elliott; Second Lieutenant, William Campbell; Brevet Second Lieutenant, Hazard Baker. Shortly afterward Capt. H. C. Leavell arrived with another company of Christian County troops, numbering about one hundred men rank and file, and was assigned to duty as Company H in the same regiment. It was officered as follows: Captain, H. C. Leavell; First Lieutenant, T. M. Barker; Second Lieutenant, W. T. Radford; Brevet Second Lieutenant, W. M. Bronaugh. Among the names of the privates are recalled: H. B. Garner, James Bronaugh, L. D. Watson, Mack and West Brame, John Brame, D. A. and W. T. Tandy, Warfield and Virgil Garnett, Sanford Brooks, William Jesup; R. M. Dillard, now District Judge of Santa Barbara, California; Marcellus Turnley, John H. Massie, W. G. Wheeler, D. A. Bronaugh, L. A. Watson; W. P. Winfree, present County Judge of Christian; W. T. Williams, Marion Lane, Mack Carroll, M. Cavenaugh, Peyton Venable, Garland Quisenberry, R. Barnett, J. Vinson, J. C. Marquess, J. Wiltshire, Dell Rawlins, Dell Tandy, A. McRae, John Barker, B. D. Lacky and A. O. Lackey.
After the evacuation of Kentucky by the Confederates, and while the troops were at Nashville, Capt. Joseph M. Williams joined Col. Helm’s regiment with a company of about one hundred men, that had been recruited by Capt. Chas. E. Merriwether who had been killed in the fight at Sacramento, Ky., between Forrest and Col. Eli H. Murray, and the command had devolved upon Williams. This company had also been in the fight at Fort Donelson, where, under the command of Forrest, it had borne a gallant part in that action, and afterward made its escape pending the capitulation.
The regiment followed the retreat to Alabama, and all the time were actively employed as scouts on the flanks and in the rear of Johnston’s army. After the battle of Shiloh and while at Atlanta, Ga., Companies A and B, their time having expired, were disbanded and most of the men returned home for a season. While here two other companies were recruited for a period of twelve months, and the whole passed under the command of Col. Thomas G. Woodward. Though having but a small force under him, he did not remain idle, but in company with Col. Adam Johnson attacked and captured Clarksville, Tenn., as already stated, garrisoned by Col. Mason. Shortly after, in September, he attacked the garrison at Fort Donelson under Major Hart, but was repulsed, and the next day was attacked in turn by Col. Lowe from Fort Henry with a largely superior force at the rolling-mills on Cumberland River. The mills had been burned to the ground by the Federals some time before, and Woodward, disposing of his small force, with one piece of artillery, under Capt. Garth, behind the debris, succeeded in repulsing him with the loss of twenty-nine killed and others wounded. The casualties on the Confederate side are not remembered, but were comparatively slight.
After this, at Columbia, Tenn., the services of the regiment were tendered the Confederate States Government for twelve months, but were declined. Most of the men either returned home or scattered out into other commands. About one hundred and thirty or more re-enlisted under Wood-ward for three years, or the war, and from this on followed the fortunes of that gallant but ill-fated officer.
We now go back to the time Companies A and B were disbanded at Atlanta, and take up the fortunes of Company H, whose time had not yet expired. They remained under the command of Lieut – Col. H. C. Leavell, their old Captain, till just before Bragg started on the march to Kentucky, when, Col. Leavell dying, they passed under the command of Maj. J. W. Caldwell. On the march into Kentucky they were placed in the advance, and throughout the campaign did efficient service as videttes. They were in frequent collision with the enemy’s infantry and cavalry, both in Kentucky and Tennessee, and at all times and on all occasions preserved their well-earned prestige as good soldiers. At the battle of Perryville, although their term of service expired on that very day, they remained and took part in the action, operating with the rest of the cavalry against the enemy’s flanks. Afterward, when Bragg had reached Tennessee, they disbanded at Clifton, near Knoxville, and the men scattered out, some into other commands and some returning home. It is regretted that the facts thus preserved are so meager and incomplete, but the lapse of time and the pre-occupation of other matters has served to obliterate much of the story from the minds of those who survive.
The Eighth Regiment of Kentucky Cavalry, C. S. A.
This command was organized at the fair grounds, near Hopkinsville, in the spring or summer of 1861. It numbered about 800 or 1,000 men recruited from Christian and the neighboring counties. It was officered as follows: H. C. Burnett, Colonel; H. B. Lyon, Lieutenant-Colonel; and William R. Henry, Major. Col. Burnett was afterward elected to the Confederate States Senate from Kentucky, and resigned his command, after which Lyon was promoted to the vacancy. On being mustered into service, the regiment was ordered to Fort Donelson, reaching there in time to participate in the brilliant but disastrous battle that ensued. They were captured with the other troops under Maj – Gen. Buckner, and sent North to prison. Shortly after reaching the prison at Indianapolis, and in the same month of his capture (February) the gallant Henry died of disease contracted from exposure on the battle-field. The regiment was exchanged at Vicksburg, Miss., in the fall or winter of 1862, and their term of service expiring in the meantime, they disbanded and returned home, or were absorbed into other commands.
Among other officers who went from the county, and who are worthy of mention was Col. L. A. Sypert, now a practicing lawyer at the Hopkinsville bar. Col. Sypert first joined Green’s Cumberland Battery in 1861. Before being fully organized the battery was ordered to Fort Donelson to take part in that fight, and did gallant service up to the surrender. Finding preparations were being made for surrender, both Sy-pert and Green made their escape from the fort, the former returning to his home in Kentucky, and the latter following up the retreating army under Albert Sidney Johnston. As soon as Col. Sypert had re-equipped himself he passed through the Federal lines, and riding rapidly in the direction of the retreating Confederates overtook them at Shelbyville, Tenn. From this place, with other escaped soldiers from Fort Donelson, he was ordered to Huntsville, Ala., and from thence went to Corinth, Miss., where Johnston was concentrating his forces. On reaching Corinth he found the army had already been moved in the direction of Shiloh, and at once followed in pursuit. The next day he overtook the Third Arkansas from Pine Bluff just as they were going into action, fell into line, and when, shortly after, one of them fell severely wounded, begged of him his gun and equipments and followed on into the fight. Some time in the afternoon of that day he received a painful wound in the foot from a piece of shell, which, for the time, quite disabled him. While bathing his wound at a stream near by a riderless horse came dashing by, which, with the assistance of a straggling soldier, he succeeded in capturing. Being assisted into the saddle he again rode to the front, and came up with the line of battle on the edge of an old field. Here he took position behind a tree, and fired several rounds at the opposing enemy. While so engaged his horse was struck in the neck by a bullet, and being maddened by the pain wheeled and ran with him to the rear. After running a short distance he plunged into a low, marshy bog on the banks of a stream, became mired, pitched forward on his head and landed his rider in the surrounding muck and mire. Extricating himself as best he could, and leaving the dying horse to his fate, the Colonel hailed Cobb’s Battery, then passing by, and received the assistance of his old friend, Will Wheatley, to the nearest field hospital. After having had his foot comfortably dressed, and having procured another horse, he again returned to the front. He arrived just in time to witness the surrender of Gen. Prentiss and his command, and being put in charge of some fifty or more prisoners he, in company with Messrs. Pete and Chris Torian, then of Memphis, conducted them back to Corinth. After the fight the army fell back to Tupelo, Miss., and here a pass was secured from Gen. Bragg, and he went to Mobile for a few days. On his return he found Bragg gone in the direction of Chattanooga, having left Gen. Price (” Old Pap “) with a small force to operate against Iuka and Corinth as a blind to his movements. After the capture of the former place by Price, Col. Sypert crossed the river at Eastport, and continued on by himself into Kentucky. Arriving in safety he at once began to recruit a company for Col. Tom Woodward, who was at that time in the neighborhood recruiting his regiment. Before the regiment had completed its organization, how-ever, and before Col. Sypert had recruited a full company, they were again compelled to leave the State and retire to Columbia, Tenn. Here the regiment, which had been mustered into service for twelve months only, was tendered to the Confederate Government, but, on that account, rejected. The companies were disbanded, and some of the men returned home, some of them scattered out into other organizations, and the balance re-enlisted for three years under Woodward.
Of these there were about one hundred and thirty men, and among them Col. Sypert and ten or twelve of his men. A majority of these were from Hopkinsville, and among them Hal Sharp, George Bryan, Wallace Wilkerson, Charles Campbell and others. Re-enlisting as a private under Woodward, Sypert remained in that capacity till the summer of 1663, when, through the kind offices of his friend, Hon. Henry C. Burnett, at Richmond, he was commissioned Colonel and given authority to raise a regiment. On his way back from Richmond the train on which he was returning was intercepted and captured by the enemy. Col. Sypert succeeded in making his escape through North Carolina to the nearest railway, on which he returned by way of Atlanta to Dalton, Ga. Here he found his old command and remained with them till after the battle of Chickamauga. He participated with his regiment in this hard-fought but fruitless victory, and as usual came out unscathed. Shortly after this the regiment was attached to Gen. Wheeler, with whom they made a successful raid into Tennessee, capturing Shelbyville and other points, and doing much damage to the enemy. When near Columbia, Tenn., Col. Sypert left the command, and, pressing on by himself into Kentucky, was soon among his old friends and admirers on his ” native heath.” It was rather late in the season and the Federals were swarming in every direction, and after a few unsuccessful efforts to recruit, he concluded to return South till spring. In the spring of 1864 he returned to Kentucky and this time succeeded in raising a regiment of cavalry, recruited principally from the counties of Union, Henderson and Webster. With this small force, most of whom were ” raw recruits,” he began to operate against the Federals wherever they could be found. The first encounter was with Col. Sam Johnson in Crittenden County, a part of whose forces he surprised at Bell’s Mines, and the next day encountered Col. Johnson himself at Blue Lake, whom he completely routed and drove out of the county, with the loss of eighty men and horses. Shortly after this an incident occurred which is well worthy of preservation. A very estimable citizen of Henderson, Mr. James E. Rankin, had been shot and killed by a party of guerrillas, calling themselves Confederate soldiers, and in retaliation two innocent prisoners from Daviess County were brought down to Henderson to be shot. Col. Sypert learning the fact, determined to rescue them. Appearing before the town with such portions of his command as were at hand, and ordering up the balance under Maj. Walker Taylor as soon as possible, he at once sent in an order for immediate and unconditional surrender. The officer in command, in order to gain time, returned an evasive answer. Apprehending his motive and desiring to make a preliminary reconnoissance, Col. Sypert rode in himself under flag of truce,” and unattended. Meeting the Federal officer in command he again repeated his demand for surrender, but was again met with evasion. The commandant assured him that the order to shoot the two prisoners had been countermanded and would not be en-forced, and on his part demanded to know what forces Col. Sypert had under him. To this Sypert replied: ” I am here, Col. Seery is here, and Maj. Walker Taylor will be up in a few moments, and unless you surrender in five minutes from now I will make the attack.” This failing to have the desired effect, and knowing the danger of delay, Col. Sypert abruptly ended the conference, mounted his horse and rode back to his men. Everything was gotten ready for a charge upon the town, but be-fore the five minutes had expired the enemy’s gun-boats appeared in view and began shelling most furiously. Seeing the hopelessness of an attack against such odds, he drew off his men in the direction of Taylor’s Springs, where he went into camp. The very next day the two unfortunate prisoners were taken down the river bank and shot to death, after which the whole Federal force debarked on the gun-boats and left the city. The Union citizens, fearing retaliation upon themselves, began to flee also, but were promptly re-assured by the following proclamation from Col. Sypert: ” To the Citizens of Henderson:
“On yesterday two Confederate soldiers were shot to death in the streets of your city. They condemned, their entire command condemned, as earnestly as any citizen of Kentucky, the wounding of Mr. James E. Rankin and the plundering of your city. But they are gone, and their murder is another crime added to the damnable catalogue of the despot-ism that rules you. We are Confederate soldiers. We fight for the liberty our sires bequeathed us. We have not made, nor will we make war upon citizens and women. Let not your people be excited by any further apprehension that we will disturb the peace of your community by the arrest of Union men, or any interference with them unless they place themselves in the attitude of combatants. Such conduct would be cowardly, and we scorn it. We are in arms to meet and battle with soldiers -not to tyrannize over citizens and frighten women and children. We move with our lives in our hands. We are fighting not for booty but for liberty; to disenthrall our loved Southern land from the horrible despot-ism under which it has bled and suffered so much. We know our duty, and will do it as soldiers and men. Even if what are denominated as ` Southern sympathizers ‘ be arrested by the tyrants that lord it over you, we would scorn to retaliate by arresting Union men who had no complicity in the matter, but our retaliation will be upon soldiers. Let not the non-combatants of your community be further excited by any fear that we will disturb them; all Union men who may have left home on our account may safely return. In war soldiers should do the fighting.
“L. A. SYPERT, Colonel Commanding C. S. A.
R. B. L. SEERY, Lieut – Colonel C. S. A.
“J. WALKER TAYLOR, Major C. S. A.”
To this brave utterance the Henderson News thus responded: ” Col. Sypert has been known in peace and war as a thoroughly brave man and a gentleman. When he learned the soldiers had gone he issued this proclamation, which speaks for itself. No eulogy could add to the honor it sheds upon the man. Everything here at the time was absolutely at his mercy, but he refused a temptation to plunder, and an opportunity for vengeance upon citizens not in arms. His words then composed our people, who were in a fearful state of excitement. They were grateful to him then, and admire him yet for his manly and soldierly conduct.”
After this incident as related above Col. Sypert removed his command to Sulphur Springs, in Union County, and shortly after, with about 500 men, attached himself to Gen. Adam Johnson, who had come in to recruit a brigade. Col. Chenoweth with about 300 men also attached himself to Johnson, and the two commands became the nucleus thereafter for the proposed brigade. This brigade was never completely organized, but after some uneventful skirmishing with the enemy, and marching and counter-marching from point to point in Southern Kentucky and Tennessee, after the disabling of Gen. Adam Johnson, was transferred to the command of Gen. Lyon. The command then followed the fortunes of this able officer to the close of the scene at Columbus, Miss., where, in 1865, they surrendered to the forces under the Federal Gen. Wilson. After the war Col. Sypert returned home, resumed the practice of his profession at the Hopkinsville bar. He married Martha D., daughter of the late lamented Maj. William R. Henry, of Fort Donelson fame, and who afterward died in prison at Camp Chase.