Organization & History 

of the 

39th Kentucky Mounted Infantry Regiment

and Company 'F'

 

A Platoon of Company 'F', 39th Kentucky Mounted Infantry Regiment, Photograph taken during the war

(Photo from the Bicentennial History of Washington County, Virginia by J. Allen Neal. 

Original Photo in possession of David Grant Webb)

 

 

Note: Narrative still in progess

Field Commanders

Colonel John S. Dils

Colonel David A. Mims

Lt. Colonel Stephen Meek Ferguson

 

The 39th Kentucky Infantry was formed under the organizational efforts of by a citizen of Pike County, Kentucky by the name of John Dils. Dills had been arrested for his Union sympathies by then Colonel John S. Williams of the 5th Kentucky Infantry and Confederate Regiment that had been recruiting in Eastern Kentucky. Dils was sent to prison in Richmond but was soon afterward released. In Feb of 1862 he went to Washington D.C. and had a personal visit with President Lincoln. 

 Returning to Eastern Kentucky he began his efforts to form a Regiment of Volunteer Infantry for the Union from that part of the state. Dils began gathering recruits from the 'Southern Loyalist element' from the counties along the Big Sandy River and it's tributaries most notably Lawrence, Pike and Johnson Counties in Kentucky and about 20 to 25% (approximately 200 or more) of its enlistees came from the Southwestern Virginia Counties of Washington, Russell, Wise, Tazewell, Buchanan  Counties. Also from McDowell County in present day West Virginia.

 On Sept. 1, 1862. John Dils received his commission as Colonel in the United States Volunteers in that same month Dils could boast 400 recruits armed with 200 various types of firearms. The Regiment was organized in camp at Peach Orchard, when it was mustered into service on February 16, 1863. Before it was mustered into service it began a series of fights and skirmishes with the enemy in that section which continued during almost its entire term of service. 

 November 5th Col. Dils and the 39th captured the Confederate camp at Piketon taking 95 prisoners, 150 guns, and many wagons, horses and mules. He then pursued the flying enemy to the vicinity of Pound Gap. At this time Col. Dils reported his men to be efficient soldiers and good marksmen, and thought nothing of marching 30 or 40 miles over the mountain roads in 24 hours. General H. G. Wright complimented him and his regiment for their gallantry.

Company 'F' of the 39th Kentucky Mounted Infantry was organized as a company at Camp Jim Robinson in Lawrence County, Kentucky on December 18, 1862.  

December 31st the 39th was again engaged with the enemy four miles from Prestonsburg. In April, 1863, it fought again at Pikeville, and captured Col. French and some his command in which was composed of mainly recurits of a regiment French was trying to raise for the Confederacy in Eastern Kentucky. Col. Gallup, of the 14th Kentucky Infantry, who commanded the Federal force in this fight says, and his report: "the 39th is a new regiment, but behaved nobly and unflinchingly under fire." He also says: "Col. Dils, Lt. Col. Mims, and [Lt.] Col. Ferguson are deserving of great credit for the able manner in which they acquitted themselves and managed the expedition."

 The regiment, having already been in numerous engagements with Confederate forces and regional 'bush-wackers', was formally muster into the service of the United States at Peach Orchard, Pike County, Kentucky on February 16, 1863 by mustering officer Captain W. B. Royal of the 5th U.S. Cavalry.

July 10th General Julius White, who had been sent to command the forces in Eastern Kentucky, reports a successful fight at Beaver Creek, in which the 39th is specially mentioned as taking a number of prisoners and as having "made a charge up the mountain with great gallantry."

In the organization of the Department of the Ohio, June 30, 1863, the 39th was under Col. Dils, in Col. David Cameron's brigade, General Julius White's division. July 11, 1863, the 39th was entrenched with other troops at the mouth of Beaver. At this time a portion of the regiment moved into Virginia to Gladesville with other troops and captured Col. Benjamin Caudill and some of his men of the 10th Kentucky Mounted Rifles [the original says "Col. Condill," clearly a misspelling] and his command at that place. Jan. 9, 1864, part of the regiment under Capt. King fought at Turman's Ferry [the original says, "Sherman' s Ferry"], losing Lieut. Richard D. Coleman killed, and Lieut. James M. Thornbury and several men captured. February 15, 1864, the 39th and 14th, under Col. Gallup, fought at Laurel Creek, W. Va., defeating and capturing Col. Ferguson and a number of his men, for which Col. Gallup and his command received congratulatory thanks from the commanding generals. In April, 1864, the 39th under Lt. Col. Ferguson and associated with other troops, particularly the 14th Kentucky, fought at various places, among others at Half Mountain and Paintsville, with complete success. In May it was engaged at Pond Creek, Pike County.

In the organization of May 31, 1864, the 39th was in General Hobson's division, and was with the troops with which that general opposed the coming into Kentucky of Morgan. With those troops it made forced marches from the Sandy Valley to Mount Sterling, where it fought with Morgan June 9th, and also at Cynthiana, June 12, and then participated in the pursuit. The 39th also accompanied General Burbridge on the Saltville expedition in September, 1864, engaging in the fighting at that place.

In November General Stoneman, now commanding the Department of the Ohio, directed General Burbridge to concentrate all his available force on the road between Crab Orchard and Cumberland Gap for the purpose of accompanying his expedition to Saltville, Virginia. November 21st part of the 39th were at Camp Nelson, but some of the men refused to leave their own section, knowing the exposed condition of their country and their families; they remained with other troops in the Sandy Valley to continue to do their duty there. A portion of the regiment, however, accompanied General Stoneman and shared in all the fighting and suffering of that severe but successful campaign.

The destruction of the salt and lead works by General Stoneman being accomplished the return to Kentucky was through Pound Gap. After that the regiment wintered in the Sandy Valley and was held in the service through the spring and summer of 1865, guarding and protecting and quieting the country. It was mustered out at Louisville, September 25, 1865 [actually September 15], having had three years of continuous active service and participating in such a number of fights and skirmishes it would be difficult to enumerate them all. Capt. David V. Auxier died of wounds received on the Saltville expedition.

Assignments:

 Attached to District of Eastern Kentucky, Dept. of Ohio, to June, 1863. 1st Brigade, 4th Division, 23rd Army Corps, Dept. of Ohio, to August, 1863. District of Eastern Kentucky, 1st Division, 23rd Army Corps, to April, 1864. 1st Brigade, 1st Division, District of Kentucky, 5th Division, 23rd Army Corps, to July, 1864. 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, District of Kentucky, to December, 1864. Louisa (Ky.) District and Dept. of Kentucky, to September, 1865.

Combat Actions:

Action near Piketon, Ky., November 5, 1862. 

Wireman's Shoals (Johnson County Boat Fight), Big Sandy River, December 4, 1862

Skirmishes in Floyd County December 4 and near Prestonburg December 4-5, 1862 

Near Prestonburg December 31, 1862

Near Louisa, Ky., March 25-26, 1863 

Piketon April 13 and 15, 1863

Beaver Creek, Floyd County, June 27, 1863 

Mouth of Coal Run, Pike County, July 2, 1863 

Expedition from Beaver Creek into Southwest Virginia July 3-11, 1863 

Pond Creek July 6, 1863

Clark's Neck and Carter County August 27, 1863 

Marrowbone Creek September 22, 1863

Terman's Ferry January 9, 1864

Laurel Creek, W. Va., February 12, 1864 

Operations in Eastern Kentucky March 28-April 16, 1864 

Forks of Beaver March 31, 1864

Brushy Creek April 7, 1864

Paintsville April 13, 1864 

Half Mountain, Magoffin County, April 14, 1864 

Saylersville April 16, 1864

Expedition from Louisa to Rockhouse Creek (Co. "B") May 9-13, 1864 

Pond Creek, Pike County, May 16, 1864

Pike County May 18, 1864

Operations against Morgan May 31-June 20, 1864

Mt. Sterling June 9, 1864

Cynthiana June 12, 1864

Burbridge's Expedition into Southwest Virginia September 20-October 17, 1864 

Saltville, Va. October 2, 1864

Stoneman's Expedition Into Southwest Virginia December 10-29, 1864 

Bristol, Tenn., December 13, 1864

Abingdon, Va., December 15, 1864

Marion, Va., December 17-18, 1864 

Saltville, Va., December 20-21, 1864. Capture and destruction of salt works. 

Duty in the Sandy Valley and in Eastern Kentucky guarding and protecting the country until September, 1865. 

Mustered out September 15, 1865.

Regiment lost during service 3 Officers and 24 Enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and 3 Officers and 194 Enlisted men by disease. Total 234.

 

Click here for Roster of Company 'F'

 

 

References:

1. Dyer, Frederick H.  A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion.  Vol. 2.  Dayton, OH:

            Morningside, 1979.  Ref., See pp. 1210-11 . 

2. Bicentennial History of Washington County, Virginia. J. Allen Neal.

            Taylor Publishing Company, Dallas Tx. 1976. Ref, See pp. 118

3. Union Soldiers & Sailors Monument Assn.  The Union Regiments of Kentucky.  Louisville, KY:

            Courier Jrnl, 1879.  See pp. 6090-16 for a brief history and roster of the regiment.

 

4. Addition information provided by correspondence by Robert M. Baker, Historian of the 39th Kentucky Mounted Infantry. Who is currently writing a history of the unit. His website for the 39th Kentucky has loads of extra information on the unit. He and  Brian E. Hall have compiled a record of the 39th on a CD-ROM available at www.bushwackerbooks.com. We greatly appreciate his help and the knowledge he has imparted on us to portray the 39th Kentucky more correctly to the mark as the unit was during the conflict.

Robert M. Baker and Brian E. Hall's Site Link:

The 39th Kentucky Mounted Infantry Web-Page

 

 

Other Internet Links for the 39th Kentucky Mounted Infantry:

Captain Thomas L. Speed's The Union Regiments of Kentucky

  

Carter County, Kentucky Homepage

(Companies that served in the 39th Kentucky Mounted Infantry)

 

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02/28/07

The Web Dragoon