Affair at Russellville/Morristown


Confederates surprised Union troops retreating from Bull’s Gap, broke their lines and captured men and supplies as they chased the retreating troops for 25 miles.

Following a failed Confederate assault on Bull’s Gap by troops under Maj. Gen. John C. Breckinridge on 12 November 1864, the Union commander in the Gap, Brig. Gen. Alvan C. Gillem, determined to evacuate the Gap the next night. Alert Confederate scouts noticed when Union troops abandoned Taylor’s Gap southwest of Gillem’s position, a fact they immediately reported to Breckinridge and his second-in-command, Brig. Gen. Basil Duke. Breckinridge hoped to find Gillem strung out on the road to Russellville and pushed his troops through Taylor’s Gap and rushed to Russellville on the Warrensburg/Arnott Road. Gillem, moving up to Whitesburg on a parallel turnpike and hearing that Union reinforcements had arrived at Morristown, sent word for the new troops to meet him in Russellville. There, he placed two battalions of dismounted cavalry in separate supporting positions in case the initial line was overrun. At 1 a.m. on November 14, Breckinridge attacked Gillem’s Union battalions in Russellville and sent them reeling west towards Morristown, capturing many prisoners in the woods. The second line of troops held the charging Confederates until ammunition ran low. At that point, the entire Union force streamed back to Morristown, where it rallied behind the new regiment sent to reinforce them. After capturing a single artillery piece on a knoll, rampaging Confederates broke the Federal line once more. This time, pursuing cavalrymen chased Union survivors all the way back to Strawberry Plains, a distance of 25 miles. Gillem, separated from his troops during the charge, made his way to the Plains by a side road and rejoined his shattered command, minus several hundred men lost mostly to capture.

  • Confederate scouts saw signs that Union troops were trying to evacuate Bull’s Gap attacked at 1 a.m., capturing many prisoners
  • Confederates chased Union troops 25 miles to Strawberry Plains, where the Union commander rejoined his troops