Item description: Letter, 23 January 1862, from Jeremy Francis Gilmer, a Major of Engineers in the Confederate States of America Army, to his wife Louisa “Loulie” Fredericka Alexander Gilmer. Gilmer wrote of the Battle of Mill Springs, 19 January 1862, in which General Felix Zollicoffer and more than five hundred Confederate soldiers were killed by Union forces led by General George H. Thomas. Gilmer worried that the defeat would open the door to a Union advance into east Tennessee.
Item citation: From folder 41 in the Jeremy Francis Gilmer Papers #276, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Bowling Green, Ky
Jany 23d 1862
My dear Loulie:
Our trains to Nashville have been suspended for some days to carry troops to points in advance and to our left _ thus stopping the mails. I have just learned that our Engine will go to day to Nashville, and I must send you a line by private hand to be mailed at that city. I am very well & very busy. Our defensive works here are now in a good condition, and we feel ready for the enemy, if he will honor us with a visit; but this he seems not inclined to do, but to advance against our forces on the right and left of this position _ threatening East Tennessee on our right, and advancing up Tennessee river on our left. Genl: Zollicoffer attacked the forces under Genl: George Thomas (Husband of the Miss Kellogg-) last Sunday Morning _ 19th inst: _ and after a desperate battle, which lasted from 6 in the morning until about 2 p.m. our forces gave way leaving their commander mortally wounded on the field, and a loss of near 500 killed & wounded. The loss of the enemy was also heavy. Our forces then fell back precipitately & crossed to the South of Cumberland river at “Mill Springs” _ on the road between Somerset & Monticello, Kentucky. The battle was fought at a point some miles in advance or north of the Cumberland river and not a very great distance from the town of Somerset Ky: The attack was made by Genl: Zollicoffer, with an intention to surprise the enemy before he could unite his forces _ but by great activity the union was accomplished, giving superior numbers against us when the attack was made _ This defeat threatens to open the way for our enemy into East Tennessee. Should this be the sequence _ disastrous indeed it will be.
Better fortune, I trust, will attend our army on the Tennessee and Mississippi rivers _ The forces in that quarter are prepared to meet any advance of the enemy, and we have much confidence they can drive him back
My dear Loulie, in the movements of troops on the Rail Roads, the regularity of mails from this place will be interfered with more or less. You must not, therefore, be worried if there be delay now & then in my letters. I will send you a line whenever I can __
The rains ceased a day or two ago, and the weather is turning cold again, but the cold is not severe for January: little or no ice: _ no snow _ James has been a little sick for some days past, but is getting quite wll again. His trouble was cold and pains in the head, with dizziness which has passed off_ He is going about attending to his business_ with much love to you _ the chits _ to Aunt Loulie & your Uncle, I am ever your loving J.F.