John C. Rockwell of the 112th Illinois Infantry, Company I. letter

Lincoln County / Milledgeville Ky / April 6th /63

Monday Morn,

letter reads in part:

The 112th is taken from the 3rd Brig & is stationed here alone. We shall probably stay here a number of days. The Brig has been on the move night & day ever since we left Lexington. Many are sick. The Cavalry caught up with the Rebels near Somerset & have a grand fight – Whiped them good – took 300 prisoners. Killed & wounded about 100 – our loss was very small – The 112 was about 8 hours behind the fight. I have to come back to the Regt when we left the Brigade. All the detailed men have got to come back.

Note: Somerset, March 30, 1863, when Confederate Gen. Pegram, with about two thousand five hundred, was attacked by the Union troops under Gen. Gilmore. After an engagement of several hours, Pegram was driven from the country and over Cumberland river, with considerable loss. 

I returned to the Regt on the 30th of March. I was sorry to come back. The 112 I suppose will stay here until they get their Horses & Equipments. They are going to be Mounted. It will be nearly the same as Cavalry. It will be much harder than Infantry for we shall be kept here in Ky in the Mountains & in the Edge of Tenn.

The Regt is getting quite small – about 50 are Paroled Prisoners & a large number sick. It is the coldest weather I ever saw at this time of the year – freezes hard here every night

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John C. Rockwell was from  Genesco, ILL when he enlisted on 8/12/62 as a private. He mustered into Company I, 112th Illinois Infantry.

The Union victory at Somerset that Rockwell mentions is the Battle of Dutton’s Hill (March 30-31, 1863), a cavalry-on-cavalry skirmish so-named because it was fought on farmland belonging to David Dutton. Rockwell mustered into Company I on 20 September 1862, transferred to the Veteran Reserve Corps on 1 April 1865 and mustered out on 8 July 1865. The 112th Illinois Infantry saw action at Kennesaw, Jonesboro and Nashville.

Source: Nate Sanders Auction

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From the adjutant general’s report:

On the 21st of March 1863, the Regiment moved for Danville, Ky., arriving there on the evening of the 22d, and at midnight on the 23d, it was ordered back to Dick’s River bridge, on the Lexington pike, with orders to guard the bridge, and hold the opposite bank of the river, at all hazards.  It remained at the bridge until the evening of the 24th, when it fell back to the Kentucky River, at the mouth of Hickman, with the rest of the army, retreating before was supposed to be a superior force of the enemy.

From the Kentucky River, it marched back to Nicholasville, and from thence moved by way of Camp Dick Robinson, Lancaster and Crab Orchard in the direction of Somerset, Ky., in pursuit of the enemy, by forced marches.  But the cavalry and mounted infantry having overtaken and defeated the enemy at Dutton’s Hill, near Somerset, and driven him across the Cumberland River, the Regiment having only heard the sound of artillery at a respectful distance, counter-marched and moved back to Stanford.

At Stanford, the Regiment was again detached from the Brigade, and ordered to Milledgeville, Ky., where it was mounted, and remained in camp until the 26th of April.

The action at Dutton’s Hill is recorded in:  Pegrams Kentucky Expedition, OR-Series I, Vol. 23, chapter 25, page 167.

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