Colonel James J. Neely’s West Tennessee Brigade advanced on LaFayette from the south on the Summerville Road. He later reported:

“When the brigade had come within a short distance of the picket-lines the troops were halted and (Brig. Gen. Gideon Pillow) proceeded to reconnoiter the grounds.  After some delay of half hour…I was ordered to move through some old fields upon my left and to the west of the road we had been travelin ... I was ordered to form and move  upon the town ... Just as I was receiving these orders the firing of the pickets upon the road which  (Colonel Charles) Armistead had moved indicated that his forces had been discovered by the enemy.  A single gun in my immediate front indicated that the enemy had discovered our approach upon that road.  While tearing down the fences of the old field through which I was to move, the enemy’s bugles sounded the alarm, and almost simultaneously heavy firing indicated that Armistead’s forces were engaged.  Daylight was just dawning.”

Neely moved his 600 men rapidly through the fields with Colonel F. M. Stewart’s 15th Tennessee leading the advance.  Dismounting Stewart’s regiment, he sent them forward as skirmishers. Federal troop formations were visible in the streets.  Stewart’s skirmishers advanced upon the enemy sharpshooters, driving them from several houses and past a railroad embankment which the Rebels then occupied.  Neely formed Lieutenant Colonel Raleigh R. White’s 14th Tennessee on the left of Stewart’s line and sent them against the Federals.  The 12th Tennessee, including Tipton’s soldiers, under Major G. W. Bennett, was held in reserve.  Continuing his attack, Neely kept moving his line toward the left so as to connect with Armistead’s attack. 

Mounting pressure forced the Federals to the center of town.  Neely’s battle line now formed a line running north to south and parallel to the west side of the square.  The 12th Tennessee under Major Bennett was sent to the right of Stewart’s line.  Neely discovered the Federals had “taken position in the brick court-house and jail, the doors and windows barricaded with sacks of corn or sand.”  With Bennett and the 12th Tennessee deployed, Neely ordered his Tennesseans to attack.  

“At the sound of the bugle, my brigade moved forward gallantly…and did all they could to drive the enemy from his barricades and walls.”  

The command drove the Federals from buildings adjacent to the square and captured some prisoners. Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Logwood and some of Stewart’s Regiment captured a Union camp and before leaving, burned their tents and equipage.   

Having the Federals surrounded, Gen. Pillow sent a note to Federal commander to surrender.  Although without water and ammunition running low, Colonel Louis Watkins refused to  capitulate.  The fighting then resumed about 8 a.m.  Neely ordered “a detail with axe and torch to fire the court-house.”  

It was near 8:30 a.m., when Union Colonel John T. Croxton’s 4th Kentucky Mounted Infantry, on their way to Resaca to join Gen. William T. Sherman, rode into LaFayette “and quickly turned the tide of battle.”  (These Federals had been alerted by those who escaped from the fighting around Chattooga Academy.) The unexpected arrival of Croxton’s men forced the Confederates to abandon the center of town and retreat north and west of the square — where they had left their horses earlier that morning.   Most all of the Confederates were able to regain their mounts and make a quick withdrawal.  Pillow had alerted Neely of the arrival of Union reinforcements and ordered a withdrawal. 

Continued.

Echo Day is The Leader's managing editor. To contact her, call 901-476-7116 or email eday@covingtonleader.com.

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