Accounts of Civil War activity as described by Major J. A. Brents in his 1863 book:  The Patriots and Guerillas. 

Contributed By: Morris Shepherd



Colonel Wolford is forty-five years old. He is heavy built, but not tall;
has black hair, a gray, restless eye, and a Roman nose; dresses plainly,
and is quite homely. He is a member of the Baptist Church, and never
drinks intoxicating liquors. He resides in Liberty, Ky., and is a lawyer
of high standing. He is very effective before a jury. In society he is
fond of a joke, and keeps everybody in his presence in good humor. He has
been a member of the Kentucky Legislature, but is no politician, and is
strongly opposed to the use of money or liquors in elections. He is a
widower, his wife having died several years ago, leaving him three
children, two boys and a girl. During the war with Mexico he raised a
company, but as their services were not received, he enlisted as a private
in another company----the 2d Kentucky regiment, commanded by Colonels
McKee and young Henry Clay. He was in the battle of Buena Vista, and near
Colonel Clay when he received his first wound. He called together a squad
of soldiers, told them that they must save their Colonel, and directed two
of them to take Colonel Clay in their arms, which they did, when the
others formed a circle around them, and with their bayonets kept the
Mexicans off. In this order they proceeded about half a mile, when they
were compelled to abandon their gallant Colonel, some of the men being
killed, and circle broken. Wolford and one other soldier only of this
squad made their escape.

Colonel Wolford has always been an uncompromising Union man, even when
others were talking about the glorious results to be derived from a
condition of neutrality, and proud position Kentucky occupied----that
while the storm was raging, and all was confusion and excitement on every
side, Kentucky remained calm, and stood majestic, bidding defiance to the
waves of passion that were surging and beating aganist her ship of state;
that Kentucky would become the most honored member of the confederacy.
Colonel Wolford told them that this was very pretty talk, but as for him,
he knew no neutrality; the strife was between his country and traitors who
were attempting to destroy it; and if Kentucky permitted others to crush
the rebellion and restore the Union without her help, she would be the
most dishonored State of the Union.

In July he received a commission as colonel of cavalry, and at once set
about to recruit his regiment. On August 3d, three companies of his
regiment went into camp at Camp Dick Robinson. It was not long before his
regiment numbered twelve companies. He is a brave, energetic officer, and
restless unless in active service; is very kind to his soldiers, and
beloved by all of them. If there is any fighting to be done, he wants to
do a part of it. He is perfectly cool upon the battle-field, not appearing
to be the least excited. His regiment has done service in all parts of
Kentucky and Middle Tennessee. The Colonel distinguished himself at the
battles of Wild Cat, October 21st, 1861, Mill Springs, January 19th, 1862,
and Lebanon, Tenn., May 5th, 1862, where he was severely wounded. Besides
these battles, his regiment has been in many skirmishes, and done good
service as scouts.

I will here introduce a letter written to the Louisville Journal, February
26, 1862, which gives a characteristic yet truthful account of the
services rendered by Colonel Wolford's regiment to that date.


"To the Editors of the Louisville Journal:

"GENTLEMEN: Colonel Wolford and his regiment have at last found a resting
place. No pickets out, no camp guard, yet restless and anxious to be on
march to the South. This regiment has been on almost a continual scout for
nearly six months past. They met the rebels first in an attempt to stop
our arms at Lexington, and, headed by Colonel Bramlette, by one dicisive
stroke put down all armed interference there. They marched to Munday's
landing, and by that movement showed the difficulty of escaping to
Zollicoffer at the Cumberland Gap. They hastened to Frankfort to secure
that city and arsenal, and, headed by Colonel Wolford and with Bramlette's
infantry, terrified the secesh of 'Sweet Owen' to silence. They were then
despatched to meet the advance of Zollicoffer's cavalry upon London, and
when they reached that place the inhabitants had all fled, except one old
lady, who came out clapping her hands and shouting, 'Glory to God, the
country is saved! Here is Colonel Wolford and his cavalry.' The people
soon returned, when he again fell back upon Camp Wildcat, and, in
connection with Garrard's regiment, fortified that place. In a few days he
had a heavy skirmish at London with a double number, and drove them back
in terror. We had hardly time to return and rest our horses and men, when
Zollicoffer marched up to storm Camp Wildcat. We reached the works on
Sabbath, and took the advance position with the 33d Indiana, and there
about seven hundred men of these gallant regiments, with a few home
guards, met the main attack of the enemy as they attempted to storm that
point in order to shell our camp. Wolford's and Colonel Coburn's Indiana
regiments, both on foot and side by side, mingled their kindred blood in
that short, decisive conflict. The other regiments would have doubtless
done as well, but these occupied the front and most exposed position. The
enemy ever after were heard to say that they feared the 'Old Wolf' with
his Sharp's-rifle boys. This regiment are nearly all mountain boys,
farmers' sons, quiet and orderly in camp, befriended by the mountain
people, and welcome in every house, and known over all Southeastern
Kentucky. After, the Wildcat battle, all except two companies were sent to
Somerset, and scouted down to Albany, and even over to Tennessee. Captain
Morrison and his company were the first to pass into Tennessee of all the
Union forces, when they broke up the secesh camp, McGinnis. After clearing
the counties of Wayne and Clinton three times, they were ordered back with
Bramlette's and Hoskins's regiments to Somerset, and from there in a few
days passed down to Columbia. From Columbia a part under Colonel Wolford
returned to Waitesboro, and, after assisting to repel Zollicoffer,
returned again to Columbia, where, after nearly four months' hard service,
they were furnished proper clothing for the first time, and two months'
pay. After this, Lientenant-Colonel Letcher, with half (six companies) of
the regiment, was ordered to the Big Sandy to assist in driving back
Marshall's forces, and these companies will rejoin us again this week
here. From the fact that this regiment has been divided into three
divisions, and were the only cavalry in Southeastern Kentucky to bear
despatches, and often passed from one division to the other, some think
they have no discipline or order, which is a secesh falsehood, and used by
them because they wished to injure, and, if possible, get the regiment
changed into infantry. But if they would know how this regiment is
regarded by the Union citizens, let them go to those parts where they have
been, and where all Union citizens welcomed them as their protectors and
friends. Wolford and his regiment are more dreaded by the enemy in East
Tennessee than all the rest, the prisoners tell us. And Zollicoffer was in
the continual habit of charging them, when he sent them out on
reconnoissance from Mill Spring toward Green river, 'to keep a sharp
lookout, or the Old Wolf would get them certain.' With only four companies
he occupied camp Williams, within twenty-five miles of the whole force of
Zollicoffer, for over a month, coming in almost daily conflicts with some
of his pickets. His prisoners tell us they were awfully afraid of our
pickets, as we carried such long-ranged, deadly guns. And when their
forage trains came over toward Green river, the Union men would hide, and
the women stand in the door and tell them how glad they were that they
were going over there, 'for the Old Wolf would be sure to get them.' And
under that apprehension they would often turn back or go some other course
for forage. They say they did not like to meet men who carried young
cannons on their horses. They had heard their balls whistle at Wildcat,
and did not wish to hear them again. They always reconnoitered in large
force, and at every few miles inquired for Wolford's cavalry; and, we
think, the secrecy of General Thomas's success was owing in part to their
dread of meeting him. The two companies at Somerset never had much chance,
as they were always met by five times their number when on picket, and
they often met and fought ten times their own number, falling back
generally in good order to the encampment.

"There has been hardly a battle or skirmish in all Eastern or Southeastern
Kentucky but what some of this regiment were in it, fighting either on
horseback or afoot, as they could do the best service. They do not,
however, pretend to be a well-drilled regiment, nor are they all armed as
regular cavalry. But in a kind of 'half-horse and half-alligator fight'
they are hard to beat. Their companies are drilled in company drill, and,
as companies, in your own graphic language, are 'h--l on a scout.' The
Colonel is the idol of his men, and, as a quiet, plain, sensible,
generous, Christian gentleman, is an example to all in like position. A
lawyer by profession, and a soldier who, when his company (of which he was
captain) was not received in the Mexican war, enlisted in another as a
private and served with honor, he deserves the high position he holds in
the service and in the people's affections. He and his brave boys did
their duty in the battle at Logan's Fields and Mill Spring, as all know.
In the advance on horses, and then with the gallant Indiana 10th and
Kentucky 4th on foot, they fought on until the victory was complete.

"They claim no precedence over the other brave regiments in that battle,
where all did their duty nobly and well. But it is a wonderful coincidence
that these same cavalry boys, with another Indiana regiment, were again in
the advance as at Wildcat, and thus, as brothers from sister States,
cemented their love of the union with their blood. They fell side by
side---they fill a common and a hallowed grave; and let Indiana and
Kentucky, Ohio and Minnesota, remember their brave sons sleeping on the
banks of the Cumberland, and let no prejudice jar the living who have so
glorious a common heritage there.

"P.S. One of our companies has just returned from detached service in
Clinton county. They report the cavalry of McHenry and Bledsoe as still
stealing horses and committing outrages in that county. They had a
skirmish with a party headed by Champ Ferguson, in which they killed one
and mortally wounded three more, as we learned, and got six horses; one of
ours only slightly wounded. The forces of Mill Spring, after their defeat,
all fled home in utter confusion, and no company of all that army can be
gathered together again.

It may not be out of place here to give a few anecdotes of Colonel
Wolford, which may prove interesting to the reader.

General Nelson had great confidence in Colonel Wolford, and always treated
him kindly. On one occasion, in the Colonel's absence, General Nelson
visited the cavalry camp, and, not finding things to suit him, cursed both
officers and privates. This created considerable excitement, as the
Kentuckians did not like to be talked to in that manner. On Colonel
Wolford's return to camp he was informed of the occurrence. He went to
General Nelson, and told him that he understood he had cursed his officers
and men. General Nelson said that it was true; that he could not get them
to do right, and that they would not obey his orders. Col. Wolford said he
did not wish any one to curse his soldiers----that he would as soon be
cursed himself. General Nelson said he would not curse them if the Colonel
would make them obey. The Colonel replied that he could do that. General
Nelson then remarked, "Well, Colonel, if you will, I will not go in your
camp any more." The General kept his word. When he spoke of them afterward
he would say, "They don't like discipline, but they will fight like h--l."
In the latter part of September, 1861, Colonel Wolford, with a portion of
his regiment, was marching in the direction of London, Ky., to meet the
advance of General Zollicoffer's forces, who were then moving into
Kentucky. A lady ran to the roadside, shouting, "Glory to God! I thank God
that I have been spared to see the sight." Colonel Wolford in a loud voice
gave the command, "Column, halt!" --and rode to the lady , and said, "Are
you a single lady, a married woman, or a widow?" She said, "I am a widow."
Said the Colonel, "I am a widower, and if you are willing, we will get
married when the war is over." She said, "Agreed." He continued, "You must
get you a pair of shoes before the wedding." "I have a pair of shoes," she
replied, "but the rebel scamps didn't give me time to put them on." Said
the Colonel, "Well, give me your hand." They shook hands and separated.
Colonel Wolford rode back and gave the word of command, "Forward, march!"
and moved away. The Colonel said he would know the lady if he was to see
her again, but forgot to ask her name; and is afraid that he will have
some difficulty in finding her at the end of the war.

In April, 1862, Colonel Wolford, with a portion of his regiment, marched
from Glasgow, Ky., to Celina, Tenn., expecting to meet a rebel force
reported to be in the vicinity: they were not found, however. While his
forces were crossing the Cumberland river, the men of the town fled; but
the women collected in squads, and from their actions Colonel Wolford
supposed they were alarmed. He approached them calmly, and told them not
to be alarmed, as he came to make war upon soldiers, and not upon
defenceless women. One of them replied, "Colonel, I am not afraid of you
or any of your soldiers; and I don't suppose these ladies are; if so, they
are not genuine Southern ladies." The Colonel replied that he was glad to
know they were not alarmed, and left, without attempting to quiet any
other ladies of that town.

While Colonel Wolford's regiment was stationed at Camp Dick Robinson, a
citizen inquired for him. An officer pointed him to the Colonel. The
citizen said, "Do you mean to insult me? I want to see the Colonel. I want
no burlesque." He expected to see a fine-looking officer, dressed in
splendid uniform, but was disappointed, as Colonel Wolford is an
unhandsome man, dressing in plain attire.

Colonel Wolford is very strict about interfering with citizens or their
private property, maintaining that they should be respected. He is kind to
prisoners: no officer in the army shows more attention to the sick and
wounded. He is a pure patriot. It was reported to him that he was about to
be removed from his command. He said, "They can't prevent me from
fighting. I will go in the ranks."