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Battle at Henderson Mill


Then when the railroad decided to bypass Rheatown by about a mile, that pretty much was the beginning of the end for the town. In 1858, Joseph (Henderson)sold to The East Tennessee , Virginia and Georgia Railroad Company, land for the right of way for the railroad to run through his property. He agreed to build a depot on his property. It was called Henderson Station and was very close to his grist mill. The creation of the village of Afton (Henderson Station) was pretty much due to the activity and enterprise of Joseph Henderson and for a while before the Civil War, he must have been considered a very successful and rich man, but all of that was to change for our Henderson family and many, many other Greene County residents that supported the Confederate cause during the Civil War..”  Larry G Source

EAST TENNESSEE  Nov 14 1863  Before day had fairly dawned on Sunday October eleventh 1863 our advance guard consisting of two companies suddenly met the entire force of the enemy two thousand seven hundred strong A contest followed in which the Fifth Indiana cavalry alone engaged the foe and bore a part of which their friends may well feel proud It was no long contemplated battle which possible movement of the enemy was anticipated and guarded against but a sudden coming together of two unequal forces at least five to one in favor of the enemy It not the practice of Colonel Graham to bring such an unequal fight where every advantage accrues to the enemy a thorough knowledge of  the ground and every avenue of approach to it a force of five times our number and well matured preparations for the engagement but on the morning of the battle we found ourselves surrounded by such unfavorable circumstances and injustice to our respected commander the public should be made acquainted with some of the facts connected with this movement.

The Second brigade Fourth divsion Twenty third army corps commanded by Colonel Foster left Knoxville on a forced march under orders to bear to the left pass around and intercept a force of rebels on the Blountville road After a fatiguing march of four days we reached the road at Rheatown at two o clock on Sunday morning Here a halt was made for the purpose of gaining some information relative to the whereabouts and strength of the rebels It was ascertained that General Williams was in command from two to four thousand back on the road to Knoxville a few miles coming toward Rheatown sliort consultation held when it decided that as Colonel Graham with his regiment had been on outpost duty here two previous to this time and was better with the country than the others of the brigade he should take the advance and move down meet the enemy with the positive agreement Colonel Foster to follow with the brigade Colonel brigade Relying on the certainty of support from Colonel Foster the Fifth cavalry advanced in direction of the enemy Three hours more and day would dawn perhaps ere daylight appears we meet the stealthy villains in their secret hiding places With such reflections as these our never faltering Colonel with not more than five hundred men cautiously felt his way through open fields and dark woods confident that soon the entire rebel force would be in his possession from the fact that General Shackleford was pressing them in the rear and Colonel Foster had definitely agreed to support us n their front The time had now come when the qualifications of a good general were needed when action immediate and decisive was required The enemy lay between two brigades completely in our trap It now remained to touch the spring and finish the work It is an easy matter to lead a brigade from point to point to command when not in front of danger but when the crisis of a contemplated encounter approaches then is the time when the commander of the forces should feel himself called upon to exert every energy and use vigorously every talent at his command The lives of thousands vho have volunteered in their country's cause are depending upon him the work of weeks perhaps months is about to be terminated as gained or lost he holds the fortunes of the day.

of the day The brigade unknown to Colonel Graham remained at Rheatown and the Fifth Indiana moved on Two miles from town Colonel Graham ordered a halt to reconnoitre We found ourselves at Henderson's Mills It was now four o clock Sunday morning the men took their last meal and the horses their last half hour's rest early Saturday morning but the undoubted prospect of capturing the enemy strengthened and encouraged them for the work Company C and I were ordered one mile in advance where they halted in sight of the camp fires of the enemy It was now ascertained that Colonel Foster instead of coming forward had remained in town A request was immediately sent by Colonel Graham urged on by Colonel Butler that he come on as soon as possible as the fight would shortly commence and we alone were too weak for the heavy force before us The messenger returned bringing the report that Colonel Foster instead of either coming to our assistance or taking a commanding position at town had moved away from the road two miles leaving us four miles in front with orders to engage the enemy and on reading the message from Colonel Graham he coolly replied My men want sleep They cannot go.  My sleep They Oh exemplification of kind humanity My men need sleep listen My men need sleep and cannot go How with the five hundred under Colonel Graham about to engage with fivo times their number must they be sacrificed ft this important crisis because My men want sleep Must my men have their regular meals and sleep and let General Williams pass on to Rheatown with a prospect of escaping Oh n my men were all ready and willing to help strike the final blow but were sworn to obey their commander No help came and the Fifth Indiana was forced to contend alone with this large force nor did it wait long for Colonel Graham to arrange his comparatively small number They came pouring down the road flanking us on the right and left yelling like a set of demons Colonel Butler was ordered to take the rear and contest to the last every foot of ground giving way only as overpowering necessity compelled him to The ambulances were ordered to fall back to the brigade under the protection of company L Lieutenant Elliott Companies F Lieutenant Greer M Lieutenant Clegg B Captain Lcuson A Captain Stretch were ordered to take the right Companies K Captain Lea E Lieutenant Me ncaugh were ordered to the left The was becoming general all along the lines but men stood bravely up to the work and reluctantly did they fall back Colonel Graham clinging to the vague belief that Colonel would be awakened from his sleep by the roar ing of the artillery drink another cup of milk of human kindness and conclude to to our relief ordered a charge Colonel Butler with companies H Captain Souper G Lieutenant Armstrong D Sergeant Bronson forward completely routed the enemy and retook the ground Charge after charge was upon the several companies forming our line battle but each time the rebels were repulsed For four miles Colonel Graham contested every foot of the ground back to the brigade Major Lyle Captain Thompson and Captain Loomis the commanders of the several battalions were all active in the performance every duty devolving upon them The booming of the cannon and the sharp firing the musketry told to all within hearing that fearful contest was being waged hearts were beating in the breasts of the five hundred as they slowly gave way to large force hopes would rise and fall as if tossed about on ocean's waves At times it as though we were completely surrounded as often Colonel Graham would order a movement that cleared the way and our hopes brighten again The infuriated enemy determined to surround and capture our battery all hearts beat low as they saw its critical situation but the guns which had so effectually held them at bay were not to be taken The whole command fought like brave men long and well fighting at times hand to hand with their foes The firing now became broken and finally ceased I looked at my watch we had been fighting two hours and were now within sight of the brigade where we saw Colonel Foster bravely sitting on his horse surprised at our return having heard that we were all captured Colonel Graham had performed nobly his part in this well planned effort to capture General Williams but the grand object was not accomplished The road was left open and the enemy went on to Rheatown.

In the afternoon the Indiana brigade them at this place The Fifth Indiana bore active part The particulars I will give at future time The result of the battle Sunday morning is follows Rebel loss in killed thirty We captured prisoners among whom were the Adjutant and Inspector General of General staff Our loss was none killed eleven wounded eight missing

Wounded William Thomas company D in the head slightly Andy Johnson F in fae and haffd slightly William Kinnick F ic shoulder slightly William Derren G in hip slightly John A Sammons H in left hip flesh wound Samuel G Kingdon H in right side slightly John 0 Spears H left leg broken Thomas C Waterson H in left hand slightly Matterson Sourd I in arm flesh wound Corporal L Ball L in groin Thomas Curren L breast and right arm mortally Missing John Hiatt company B Sergeant A Becht C Jacob Jonas C Samuel E Smith C Henry C Veach C David T Hamilton E David R Badgley F Moses Lour M.

Yours respectfully K

Location Given: From Andrew Johnson Hwy left(from Geeneville) to Afton Rd, on the left, just before Patterson Rd

Henderson's Station Historical Marker: N 36° 11.245 W 082° 44.182

October 11, 1863 Skirmish at Henderson's Mill Report