Nashville, Tennessee, January 24, 1862, James Fleming Wall, Special Correspondent
In the mist and fog of this past Sabbath, the war of Northern aggression came to Southern Kentucky near Mill Springs. The confederate 1st Brigade commander, Felix K. Zollicoffer of Maury County Tennessee had lead his troops north of his headquarters in Mill Springs to a winter camp (Beech Grove) to stop the advance of the Yankees. The North,under the command of Brigader General George H. Thomas of Virginia, had moved from Lebanon, Kentucky south to Logan’s Cross Roads on Januray 17th.
Early this month Major General George Bibb Crittenden reached Beech Grove to strengthen the southern troops to just above 4,000 men. Union Brigader General Albin F. Schoepf was stationed in Somerset some ten miles east of General Thomas.
General Crittenden ordered General Zollicoffer to advance against General Thomas in the early hours of January 19th. It was hoped the attack would happen before General Schoepf could reach the Beech Grove area, however Schoepf was already there.
The fog and rain slowed Zollicoffer’s advance thus costing the element of surprise. The first action was spirited and achieved some inital success. The 15th Mississippi Infantry and the 20th Tennessee pused back the Union 4th Kentucky Infantry, under the charge of Colonel Speed S. Fry, as well as some of the Union cavalry.
The weather caused the flintlocks not to fire, smoke and dark woods lead to confusion. Fearing that General Zollicoffer’s troops where firing on there own men, he rode off toward the Federal 4th Kentucky line. Colonel Fry could not see either and went down the same road that the General was on. General Zollicoffer was wearing a white rain coat and Fry did not recognize him. Zollicoffer order Fry to cease firing on friendly troops.
Thinking Zollicoffer a superior Union officer, Fry began to ride back and give the order to cease fire, but a confederate staff officer rode out of the woods shouting to General Zollicoffer that they were the enemy! He fired at Fry with a pistol and Colonel Fry and the Federal soldiers nearby open fire on the General, killing him and an aid.
The General’s death demoralized his troops and the Confederates advance was stopped. The Federal line advanced forcing the Southern troops back to Fishing Creek just north of Mill Springs.
Beside the General’s death the CSA lost 125 men with 404 wounded or missing. Union losses where 40 killed and 207 wounded.