Story of gallant Confederates in Kentucky
The following incident is sent us by Captain J. H. Carter, of Lexington, Kentucky, who got it at the time from the participants and other eye- witnesses, and vouches for its accuracy. We should be glad to receive and publish many well authenticated incidents of the prowess of our gallant "boys in gray."
During the retreat of the Confederate army from Kentucky (Bragg’s invasion), in the fall of 1862, Colonel Basil W. Duke’s regiment of Morgan’s cavalry was left, by order of General Kirby Smith, at Falmouth to guard the roads and watch the approach of the Federals, then advancing in large numbers from Cincinnati, Ohio, into the State – the Covington and Georgetown turnpike being their centre line of march.
When they had reached a point about one mile from Walton, Boone county, and camped for the night, Duke left Falmouth about midnight, and by a hard ride reached the turnpike, about equi-distant from Walton and the Federal encampment just as day broke. The advance vidette here reported a Federal picket post of ten men in sight. These were captured by a small force under Lieutenant Messic, going round and in their rear.
Duke then ordered Sergeant Will Hays, of Covington, Kentucky, to select six men from the famous "Advance guard" and proceed down the pike, find the enemy, and ascertain his position and strength. Hays chose Ash Welsh, of Cynthiana, Kentucky; Joseph M. Jones, of Paris, Kentucky; Thomas Franks, of Holly Springs, Mississippi; Frank Riggs, Hughes Conradt and Chapin Bartlett, of Covington, Kentucky, and at once commenced the dangerous mission.
Each man felt the responsibility resting upon him and nerved himself for the worst. The Turnpike here was remarkably crooked, and on one side was sheltered by a thick growth of small tress, vines and weeds. Reaching a point about a quarter of a mile from the starting place, and in rounding an abrupt turn in the road, our little squad found themselves plump into a picket-stand of sixty-nine infantrymen. In a moment every man of both parties had his gun cocked and leveled. The seven Confederates were all young and hot-blooded, and had, under the lead of Morgan and Duke, faced many forms of danger, but never before were the odds so great against them as now, and their mettle was to be put to the highest test. With the eye of a soldier, each one realized the perilous position he and his comrades occupied. Hays at once, in a ringing tone, demanded an immediate surrender, saying that a regiment of John Morgan’s cavalry was near at hand (it was one-quarter of a mile distant), and that if a shot was fired not a Federal should escape alive. The officer – a lieutenant – seemed bewildered to think that seven men should ride boldly into sixty-nine of his men and make such a demand, and especially when not more than five hundred yards away the entire Federal army was drawn up as if ready to march, their guns and arms glistening in the bright October sun, then just rising over the eastern hills. But the manner in which the demand was made, the bearing of each of the Confederates – each ready to "kill his man" at the word fire – together with the magical name of Morgan, combined to and did save them. The officer at once surrendered his sword to Jones – who happened to be immediately in his front with his gun drawn on him -and Hays at once placed the prisoners in position and ordered a double-quick back to the regiment. As the march began a Federal infantry regiment was rapidly advancing to the rescue of their picket comrades, but a turn in the road hid them from view, and they did not follow farther. The sight was a novel one, even for war times -seven Confederates driving sixty-nine armed Federals before them as prisoners. Duke, with a company was soon met, coming to ascertain the situation of his little squad. He was profuse in his compliments to his men for their achievement. The Federals were Michiganders, and the lieutenant’s name was Clarke. In his history of "Morgan and his Men," Duke briefly refers to the affair, but does not give the names of the participants. He uses this language: "This exploit was, perhaps, never paralleled during the war." The facts were reported to General Morgan, and each of the seven men – privates at that time – were some afterwards commissioned as officers for "Gallantry." These gallant troopers deserve to have their names enrolled in the future history of the mighty struggle.
J. H. CARTER,
Late Captain in Morgan’s Commanding.
Web Source: http://www.csa-dixie.com/csa/gazette/sixtyninefederalscaptured.htm
Source: Taken from the Southern Historical Society Papers
Volume VIII, Richmond,Va, March, 1880 pages 122-124