May 6, 2012

The Capture of Capt. Kendrick's Detail

Location: Pulaski, TN 38478, USA
Capt. William G. Kendrick (WGK)
On May 2, 1862, Capt. William G. Kendrick (bio), the regiment's senior line officer, and his detached detail serving with the the telegraph corps near Pulaski, Tennessee, were interrupted by Confederate cavalry under the notorious John Hunt Morgan (bio).  The rebel horsemen approached unrecognized to within twenty yards of the detail before leveling their rifles at Capt. Kendrick, who was in no position to resist.  Kendrick recounted
The first thing I knew twenty rifles were leveled at me by a desperate gang of Guerillas swearing they wold kill me if I moved.  One snapped his piece.  Had it gone off I might not be now writing this letter.  Such is the fortune of war.  I took supper with Capt. Morgan.  He and all his officers treated me as a gentleman.  I had not one unkind word spoken to me after I got in the town by the Rebel soldiers.  The ladies were very jubilant over our Capture.  I had my album and the little boys ambrotypes with me.  An old lady asked if I had children.  I showed the little boys.  She shed tears over them saying poor, dear little fellows, their father a prisoner and so far from them.  There was quite a rush of ladies to see them, nearly all pronouncing them the handsomest of children they ever saw.  I soon had a number of friends amongst the women, who pitied me for the sake of my dear little boys.  [WGK 5/3/1862]

John Hunt Morgan (Source)
Word of the capture of Capt. Kendrick and ten or fifteen others from the Lancaster County Regiment quickly got back to Negley's brigade camp thirty miles north in Columbia and caused much excitement.  Around midnight, four companies--Companies C, E, I, and G--of the 79th Pennsylvania with some cavalry and artillery set out in the darkness to find out what was going on.  As a corporal in Company E, correspondent Elias H. Witmer made the forced overnight march of thirty-one miles.  When the expeditionary force came within five miles of Pulaski, they ran Kendrick and the others, who had been lumped in with 200 prisoners from Gen. Mitchell's division and paroled.  

The incident clearly elicited the fighting spirit of the men in the 79th Pennsylvania.  Witmer, the Mountville storekeeper, concluded his letter by creatively asserting, "A dead codfish could as easily climb a greased sapling, tail foremost, with a loaf of bread in his mouth, as a band of these marauders to whip the Lancaster Co. Regiment."  His entire letter describing the expedition, published in the May 14, 1862, Daily Evening Express, is here: (alternate link)

As paroled prisoners, Capt. Kendrick and the other men returned from the front lines. I'm not sure how the exchange process worked, but Kendrick sat out the rest of 1862 and would rejoin the army as a key staff officer for Gen. Negley.

No comments:

Post a Comment