Elias Smith Dennis.
Birth: Dec. 4, 1812
Death: Dec. 17, 1894.
Photo provided by John Griffith.
In 1857, he was appointed US Marshal of Kansas by President Buchanan and remained in office until the outbreak of the Civil War. When war broke out He mustered into the Army in 1861, was appointed Lieutenant Colonel in the 30th Illinois Infantry and participated in the capture of Fort Donelson, Tennessee. He was promoted Colonel in May 1862 and to Brigadier General in November 1862. In April 1863, he fought in the Battle of Port Gibson, Mississippi and in May 1863, at the Battle of Raymond, Mississippi. Later in May 1863, he was placed in command of the District of Northeast Louisiana when guerillas were causing problems on the leased plantations there. He served as the Louisiana Union Militia commanding officer until the end of the war and was brevetted Major General of US Volunteers in 1865. After the war he split his time between Illinois and Louisiana where served as a County Sheriff.
In his early public live he served in the Illinois House of Representatives from 1842 to 1844. He also served as a a State Senator, 1846 to 1848.
Number 4. Report of Colonel Michael K. Lawler, Eighteenth Illinois Infantry, of skirmishes at Medon and near Toone's Station, August 31, 1862, and at Britton's Lane, near Denmark, Tenn., September 1, 1862.
HEADQUARTERS COMMANDER OF THE POST, Jackson, Tenn., September 6, 1862.
SIR: I have the honor to report the following concerning the recent engagements along the line of the Mississippi Central Railroad and in the vicinity of Medon Station:
Immediately after the repulse of the enemy at Bolivar large bodies of his cavalry attacked the different detachments stationed along the line of the Mississippi Central Railroad between Medon and Toone's Stations. The detachments being small, consisting at most of single companies, after sharp skirmishing retired to Medon Station, at which point, at and near the railroad depot, a barricade was constructed of cotton bales, under the direction of Adjutant Frohock, of the Forty-fifth Illinois Infantry. At 3 p.m. August 31, the enemy attacked the defenses at Medon in force, estimated to be 1,500 strong, but were gallantly held at bay by about 150 men of the Forty-fifth Illinois.
Being informed of the attack on Medon I immediately sent six companies of the Seventh Missouri Infantry, under the command of Major W. S. Oliver, by railroad, with instructions to re-enforce our men at that place. On the arrival of the train at Medon the Seventh immediately formed line and charged the enemy, driving him from the town and inflicting considerable loss upon him, also taking a number of prisoners. As soon as I was informed of the demonstration on Bolivar I ordered the force stationed at Estanaula, and under the command of Colonel E. S. Dennis, of the Thirtieth Illinois, to return to this post. The command of Colonel Dennis consisted of the Thirtieth Illinois, commanded by Major Warren Shedd; the Twentieth Illinois, commanded by Captain Frisbie; a section of two pieces of Gumbart's artillery and two companies of cavalry, commanded by Captain Foster.
Colonel Dennis struck tents on the morning of August 31, destroying such stores and baggage as he was unable to carry, and marched to within 12 miles of this post, where he was met by an order from me, directing him to march for Medon Station, to intercept the enemy near that point. Colonel Dennis countermarched his command, arriving in the vicinity of Denmark that night. About 10 o'clock on the morning of September 1 his advance guard reported the enemy in strong force at Britton's Lane, near the junction of the Denmark and Medon roads.
The enemy's force consisted of seven regiments of cavalry, viz: Barteau's, Adams', Slemons', Jackson's, Forrest's, Wheeler's, and Pinson's, amounting in the aggregate to 5,000 men, under the command of Brigadier-General Armstrong. The aggregate of Colonel Dennis' force was about 800. Discovering that he was outnumbered, Colonel Dennis immediately selected the best position the ground would admit of and formed in line of battle. His position was in a large grove, surrounded by farms, all the fields being in corn, the woods and some broken ground being in the rear and corn fields in front, the line being on a ridge.
The greatly superior force of the enemy enabled him to entirely surround the command of Colonel Dennis, and early in the engagement to capture the transportation train, taking with it the teamsters and sick as prisoners. The enemy also captured the two pieces of artillery, but were unable to get possession of the caissons and ammunition. During the engagement the artillery and train were recaptured by Colonel Dennis, the enemy having destroyed four of the wagons by fire. The enemy made many determined charges. Dividing their force and dismounting a part they attacked both as infantry and cavalry, the cavalry charging so close as to fall from their horses almost within the ranks of our men.
The battle was of four hours' duration, at the end of which time the enemy left Colonel Dennis in possession of the field, leaving 179 of his dead on the field and also a large number of wounded. The total loss of the enemy in killed and wounded is over 400. The loss of Colonel Dennis in killed was 5 - buried on the field immediately after the action. His wounded numbered about 55, who were brought to the general hospital at this post the day after the battle.
Great praise should be given to the admirable generalship and ability displayed by Colonel Dennis, and in fact every officer acted with the greatest bravery. Where all did so nobly it would perhaps be invidious to particularize. Great credit is due Captain Frisbie, commanding the Twentieth Illinois, and to Major Shedd, commanding the Thirtieth Illinois; also to Adjutant Peyton, of the Thirtieth, who, severely wounded, refused to leave the field. Major Shedd was also wounded. Great praise is due Captain Foster, commanding the cavalry, he rendering Colonel Dennis imtant aid on every part of the field. The men acted with the most veteran courage. Surgeon Goodbrake, of the Twentieth Illinois, was untiring in attention to the wounded, and for skill is deserving of great praise. Accompanying this report I send a list or the wounded, as furnished by him.
I have the honor to be, respectfully,
M. K. LAWLER,
Colonel, Commanding Post.