Saturday, March 21, 2015

Michigan Seventeenth Infantry in East Tennessee

Photo Credit xray10  Some rights reserved

August: From Kentucky arriving at Crab Orchard August 24th, 1863. Marching from Crab Orchard, it engaged in the movements made by the army of the Ohio into East Tennessee in September and October. With its division it moved from Knoxville to Blue Springs, but did not participate in the engagement at that place. Returning to Knoxville on the 14th of October, it marched from thence on the 20th, and proceeded via Loudon to Lenoir. Like the 2nd, 8th and 20th Infantry, which were in the same corps, the 17th had traveled over 2,100 miles during the year. The regiment in command of Lieutenant Colonel Comstock, and then attached to the 3d brigade, of the 1st division. 9th army corps, remained at Lenoir Station, East Tennessee, until the morning of the 14th of November 1863, when it marched to the Tennessee river, below Loudon, to oppose the advance of the rebels under Longstreet, then moving on Knoxville. It lay under arms during the night and on the following morning commenced falling back, closely followed by the rebel forces. It continued to retreat on the 16th, with its corps, its brigade, moving in the rear of the army, and the regiment acting as the rear guard. While crossing Turkey Creek, near Campbell's Station, the enemy attacked in force, and a severe engagement ensued. In this action the loss of the regiment was 7 killed, 19 wounded, and 10 missing. From a report of Captain FW Swift: On the 16th, we marched for Knoxville. Our regiment being detached as rear guard was attacked by the enemy's advance guard about 9 30 AM, near Campbell's Station, and after severe fighting through the day, we retired during the night to Knoxville. Lieutenant Alonzo P Stevens was mortally wounded. During the night of the 16th, the 17th moved with the army to Knoxville, assisting actively in the defense of that town, while besieged by the enemy. On the night of the 20th, the regiment, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Comstock, was ordered to burn a house occupied by the enemy's sharpshooters. This was done successfully, but while returning to camp a shell from one of the enemy's guns killed instantly Lieutenant Josiah Billingsley. A correspondent of the New York Tribune, under date of November 20th, 1863, writes Brilliant Sortie of the 17th Michigan:

At 8.30 PM rapid cannonading was heard on our west frontier Fort Saunders which aroused the town from its temporary repose. Now it was supposed the expected night attack had begun. The advance it seems was by our side and not from that of the enemy. The rebel pickets, during the day, had got into James Armstrong's house, just under the hill, and had very much annoyed our men. General Ferrero, accordingly, ordered the 17th Michigan to make a sortie and drive them out. The work was handsomely accomplished and the house was set on fire. They then fell back but as the light of the burning buildings burst forth, it revealed the position of our men as they were deploying into the road, and the enemy swept their ranks by discharges of shell and solid shot. One lieutenant was killed and three men wounded. Our batteries replied as fast as possible, covering our men as they retreated. The object was accomplished though after sacrifice of valuable men and the Michigan boys deserve much praise for the handsome manner in which they executed their task.

On the 25th a musket ball, from the enemy's skirmish line, struck Lieutenant Colonel Comstock, wounding him so severely that he died the same evening. Following the death of Lieutenant Colonel Comstock, Captain Swift assumed command of the 17th. On the night of the 28th of November, the skirmish line of the regiment was driven in, and 16 men were captured by the rebels. On the 29th it was engaged in the defense of Fort Saunders. During the retreat to Knoxville, and during the siege, the men suffered greatly, especially while besieged from the want of proper and sufficient rations. On the 7th of December, the 17th, in command of Lieutenant Colonel Swift, who bad been commissioned to rank from November 26th moved from Knoxville, in pursuit of the enemy, who had abandoned the siege and were retreating up the valley toward Morristown. Advancing to Rutledge, the regiment remained there until the 15th, and thence fell back to Blain's Cross Roads. It encamped here until the 16th of January 1864, suffering much from want of supplies. Early in March the regiment moved up the valley as far as Morristown. On the 17th, the 9th corps, having received orders to report at Annapolis Maryland, the regiment proceeded to Knoxville where it arrived on the 20th and on the 22nd, it commenced its march over the Cumberland mountains to Nicholasville Kentucky.

Troop Action Summery
Blue Spring Tenn October 10, 1863
Loudon Tenn November 14, 1863
Lenoire Station Tenn November 15, 1863
Campbell's Station Tenn November 16, 1863
siege of Knoxville Tenn November 17 to December 5 1863
Thurley's Ford Tenn December 15, 1863
Fort Saunders Tenn November 29, 1863
Strawberry Plains Tenn January 22, 1864

(Source: Michigan in the War, Michigan. Adjutant-General's Department, State Printers, 1882)

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