Discussion Storming Bulls Gap With The Sullivan County Reserves

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Dec 31, 2010
Kingsport, Tennessee

Also referred to as the "Bulls Gap Stampede" by the East Tennessee Veterans of both sides in the years following the war. An article on the battle was written by a veteran of the Sullivan County Reserves for Volume #25 of Confederate Veteran Magazine. It was written by William L. Rhea, at that time a citizen of Knoxville, Tennesee. https://books.google.com/books?id=zLU_AQAAMAAJ&pg=PA302&lpg=PA302&dq=storming+bulls+gap&source=bl&ots=hs_f-DmvAo&sig=ACfU3U06eA879GO44HJ-tZOgVXyiEbk-pg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiY6NrDs93iAhXTqZ4KHVWAB68Q6AEwC3oECAkQAQ#v=onepage&q=storming bulls gap&f=false

Research on this local Confederate unit was one of my first attempts years ago at Civil War & Genealogy, after discovering that I had several direct and collateral ancestors who were part of the intended "Battalion", made up mostly of men too old and boys too young to be conscripted in June 1863 and November 1864..


While none of the men mentioned in the article were related to me (that I'm aware of), I thought it would be interesting to find background on the men the author mentioned. By looking at their Confederate Pension applications I was able to find a brief record of their service and even a photo of one.

..enlisted as a Private in Captain James Witcher's company of home-guard at Zollicoffer, Tennessee (present-day Bluff City)on July 18, 1863. May have served in Company G 60th Tennessee until paroled home from Vicksburg.

WILLAIM E. Godsey...enrolled June 20, 1863, as a Private in Witcher's Company the "Zollicoffer Mounted Rifles" at Zollicoffer, Tennessee. Described as 17 years old, 5'6" fair complexion, dark eyes, light hair, a farmer from Sullivan County, Tennessee.

robert fickle.jpg

ROBERT P. FICKLE...enlisted June 13, 1863, as a Private in Captain Owen White's Company, (The Jackson Home Guards). Described as a 40-year-old farmer, 5'10" fair complexion, blue eyes, dark, hair, born in Washington County, Virginia and residing in Sullivan County, Tennessee. By September 5, 1864, Robert had been promoted to 1st Lieutenant in Captain A.A. Millard's Company of Railroad Guards.

ABRAHAM L. GAMMON...Original recruiter & Captain of Company G (Sullivan County) 19th Tennessee Infantry. He had resigned his commission due to poor health in October 1862.

JACOB SLAUGHTER...enlisted April 2, 1862, into Company F 59th Tennessee Infantry. He experienced health problems that kept him "sick at home" from September 1862 until March 1863. Jacob was paroled at Vicksburg but apparently didn't report to Parole Camp back in East Tennessee. He's listed as "AWOL" until the roll for Jan-Feb 1865 shows him at Emory Hospital in Washington County, Virginia, being treated for a wound to the foot.

JOHN A. RHEA...Enlisted in Captain Witcher's Company the "Zollicoffer Rifles" on June 13, 1863. Described as a 15-year-old farmer, 5'6" fair complexion, blue eyes, dark hair.

Cas Malone...(William Charles Malone) born in Sullivan County, Nov.10, 1846... Filed for a Tennessee Confederate Pension, January 2, 1911, and was approved, though no service record for him was ever found. In his pension application, he states he was enlisted into Captain Owen White's Company of "State Reserves", September 1863. That he was enrolled by Colonel George R. McClellan Colonel of the 5th Tennessee Cavalry Battalion. William claimed to have fought in the battles of Morristown, Bulls Gap, Strawberry Plains, Carter's Station, Saltville, Virginia, Marion Virginia, and others. He had several that vouched for his faithful service, hence, his pension was granted.
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Dec 31, 2010
Kingsport, Tennessee
General R. E. LEE.


Wytheville, Va., November 29, 1864.

COLONEL: When Brigadier-General Vaughn met a reverse near Morristown, Tenn., toward the last of October, he fell back to the east bank of the Watauga and the enemy made a corresponding advance. Thinking the enemy too close to Bristol, I collected a miscellaneous force, composed of Vaughn's and Duke's cavalry, some dismounted men of Cosby, Duke, and Giltner, and a few niter and mining men and East Tennessee reserves, amounting to about 1,800 men, with four 12-pounder and two 6-pounder howitzers, and moved forward to meet him. Colonel Palmer, from Asheville, N. C., afterward joined me with a mixed force of some 600 men. The force of the enemy was about 2,500 strong, with six pieces of artillery and a large wagon train. He retired before us to Lick Creek, and on the evening of the 11th of November, after a short engagement, his rear guard was driven by Duke's command into Bull's Gap.

An attack from the next morning was arranged as follows: The artillery under Major Page, with some dismounted cavalry as a support (the whole under command of Colonel George B. Crittenden), was to make a demonstration in front; General Vaughn, with his command, was to attack in rear, while, with Duke's cavalry (dismounted) and a body of dismounted men belonging to Vaughn, Duke, Cosby, and Giltner, under Lieutenant-Colonel Alston, I was to ascend the mountain and moved on the enemy's left. The plan was carried out with perfect exactitude, and the enemy actually attacked at the same time in front, flank, and rear. The force on the mountain succeeded in carrying a line of works, but the assault as a whole did not succeed, most of the troops being unaccustomed to that mode of fighting.

The next day (13th) Colonel Palmer arrived, and the same night I moved with Vaughn and Duke to turn the enemy's right, Colonel Crittenden following with Colonel Palmer's force, the artillery, and the dismounted men of the other commands. The enemy having foolishly withdrawn his pickets, we passed without opposition or notice through Taylor's Gap, about two miles and a half below Bull's Gap, and the enemy having evacuated the gap the same night, at one o'clock on the morning of the 14th, with Vaughn and Duke, I attacked his column near Russellville. The results of this night attack were a good many of the enemy killed and wounded, about 300 prisoners, and all his artillery, wagon trains, &c. This force was routed with much confusion, and few of them stopped this side of Knoxville.

Following to Strawberry Plains, I found strong works on the opposite side of the river, manned and furnished with artillery. The flanks of this position were well protected and it was quite unassailable in front by the troops at my command. The enemy received re-enforcements from the garrisons beyond Knoxville and probably a regiment or two from Chattanooga.

We had artillery firing and active skirmishing for several days, and General Vaughn, crossing the Holston above, made a demonstration on their rear and burned the railroad bridge over Flat Creek, but I made no serious attack on the position.

The weather now became very inclement, the streams much swollen, and the roads almost impassable. I have left General Vaughn with his command and a battery of four guns to hold the country, if possible, as far as the Plains, and have withdrawn the rest of the troops.

The enemy has been driven back nearly 100 miles, and I do not think he will attempt a campaign this winter in upper East Tennessee.

The troops bore with cheerfulness rather unusual exposure and privations, and I have to express my gratification at their general good conduct.

Brigadier-General Vaughn, Brigadier-General Duke, Colonel Crittenden, Colonel Palmer, and Lieutenant-Colonel Alston, commanding dismounted men, together with their officers generally, deserve mention for zeal and good conduct.

Major Page, chief of artillery, proved an efficient officer, and I am indebted for valuable services to Major Poor, Captain Sandford, and Lieutenant Clay of my staff.

Dr. B. C. Duke, acting chief medical officer, was active in attention to the wounded.

I am, colonel, respectfully, your obedient servant,



Colonel Walter H. TAYLOR,

Assistant Adjutant-General.



NASHVILLE, TENN., November 16, 1864--10 p.m.
(Received 11 p.m.)
I forward the following telegraphic report of General Gillem to Governor Johnson, received today:
KNOXVILLE, TENN., November 15, 1864.
Regret to inform you my command has met a terrible reverse. On the night of the 9th moved from Greenville to Bull's Gap; 11th, the enemy attacked me and was repulsed; 12th, at daylight assault, was renewed, Breckinridge leading storming party, their attack was most handsomely repulsed by the Eighth and Thirteenth Tennessee Cavalry. They left 5 officers and 24 men dead in and near our works. At the same time, our rear was attacked by General Vaughn, who was also repulsed by the Ninth Tennessee Cavalry and driven off. On the 13th the enemy renewed the attack, but not with such vigor. From our position we could see their infantry arriving, and, as my command had been living four days without bread, horses starving, and ammunition exhausted, I determined to evacuate the gap on the night of the 13th, and was not interfered with until the greater part of my command, artillery, and trains had passed Russellville, when the rear was attacked and men became panic-stricken. All efforts of myself and their officers to rally them was fruitless. They ran over everything. The enemy, who had not attacked vigorously at first, then charged and broke through our lines, capturing artillery and trains. Do not think we had 20 killed. I passed over the grounds in the enemy's rear. Did not see a dead Federal soldier; but, in horses, arms, and equipment, have lost heavily. Two hundred men will cover our loss. This command has heretofore fought gallantly. Had it not become panic-stricken could have easily repulsed the enemy and kept them back. I remained in our rear. Did not reach here until last night. Will reorganize command and await your orders; and, if you are willing to trust me, try them again. Had assistance been extended when asked for from the commander at Knoxville this disaster would not have occurred. But my men were allowed to starve while storehouses were full and a railroad running to Russellville.
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