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Doc. 111.-the battle of Helena.1

Report of Lieutenant-Colonel Heath.

headquarters Thirty-Third Missouri volunteers, Helena, Ark, July 6, 1863.
Colonel: I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by the Thirty-third Missouri volunteers in the action of the fourth inst. Companies D and F manned the heavy guns in Fort Curtis; company A the guns in battery A; company C the guns in battery B; company E the guns in battery C, supported by company H, acting as sharp-shooters; company B the guns in battery D, supported by companies G, I, and K, acting as sharp-shooters.

The first assault of the enemy in force was made at four o'clock A. M. upon batteries A, C, and D simultaneously. In front of batteries A and D they were handsomely checked before any advantage had been gained, but the entire Missouri brigade of Parsons (said to have been personally directed by Major-General Sterling Price) charging furiously upon battery C, drove the infantry support (four companies of the Thirty third Iowa) out of the rifle-pits in great confusion, and after killing, wounding, and capturing thirty men of the two companies on duty at the guns, succeeded in driving them from the battery, but not before they had spiked one of the guns and brought away all the friction-primers and prilhing wires, thus rendering the pieces useless to the enemy. The companies in For: Curtis, with the siege-guns, supported by the remnants of cornpanies E and H with numerous stragglers from other commands acting as sharp-shooters, succeeded in checking the enemy's further advance, and finally drove his main force back from battery C, compelling him by their steady and increasing fire to leave the guns of the battery uninjured and beat a hasty and disastrous retreat, leaving over three hundred and fifty prisoners, with their officers and colors, and his dead and wounded in our hands. The prisoners were mainly of the Seventh and Tenth Missouri regniments, and had taken refuge from the fire of our artillery in a deep ravine opening toward the river,. but protected by a ridge from the direct fire of Fort Curtis. Immediately the Thirty-fifth Missouri was drawn up across the mouth of this ravine, part of the Thirty-third Iowa moving to attack the enemy's flank, and the siege-guns playing shell, grape, and canister upon the ridge above, them, preventing retreat. They were surrendered by hoisting a white flag, their own sharpshooters upon the ridge at their rear firing from. cover upon and cursing them as they marched out prisoners of war.

At about nine o'clock A. M., a second attack was made upon battery D by Fagan's brigade of Arkansas troops, three regiments strong, and said, by prisoners, to have acted under the personal direction of Lieutenant-General Holmes. The battery was bravely supported by detachments from the Forty-third Indiana, under Major Norris, and the Thirty-third Iowa, under Major Gibson. In spite, however, of the most determined resistance, Bell's regiment, with small portions of Hawthorn's and Brooks's, succeeded in penetrating our outer line of rifle-pits, and securing a position in a deep ravine to the left of the battery and below the range of its guns. The remainder of the brigade was broken and scattered by the terrific fire of our artillery in the works, and [386] compelled to seek shelter in the woods out of range. Immediately upon their retreating, our riflemen from all three regiments in the pits closed in upon those of the enemy who were in the ravine, from all sides, cutting off retreat. The reserve of the Forty-third Indiana formed across the mouth of the ravine, and two Parrott guns of the First Missouri battery, under Lieutenant O'Connell, were also brought to rake the enemy's position. Captain John G. Hudson of the Thirty-third Missouri, commanding battery D, then demanded the surrender of the entire force. The men at once threw down their arms, and Lieutenant-Colonel Johnson of Bell's regiment, made a formal surrender of his command, mustering twenty-one officers and between three and four hundred men, with all their arms and one stand of colors. At about half-past 10 o'clock A. M., the main body of the enemy had entirely drawn off from in front of our batteries, and the firing ceased.

Companies E and H returned to battery C, capturing some fifty of the enemy, and finding both guns of the battery turned, upon Fort Curtis and loaded with shell, but not discharged for want of friction-primers. The rout of the enemy was materially assisted by flank fires from batteries A, B, and D, and ten-inch shell from the gunboat Tyler.

Upward of three hundred killed and wounded were left by the enemy in the vicinity of this battery, seventy of these being killed outright and a great number so wounded they cannot survive. Nearly the same number were found in front and on the left flank of battery D.

The immense power of the batteries supporting each other, and with the guns of the Fort affording the most perfect concentration upon any given point, entirely demoralized the enemy, who broke at the first few rounds, and could only be coaxed and forced forward after that in a shapeless and disorganized mob. Considering that the gunners in Fort Curtis had had no target practice, the firing from the Fort as well as the batteries was in the main remarkably good, and our riflemen and the infantry supports sent to the batteries behaved with rare courage and steadiness, being in position from two o'clock A. M. until eleven o'clock A. M. without food, steadily for six and a half hours of that time.

I desire especially to mention Majors Norris and Gibson, Captains Schenck and Tracy, and Lieutenant Reid for gallantry for leading their men, upon the suggestion of Captain Hudson, against Bell's regiment. Of the men of the Thirty-third Missouri who distinguished themselves by coolness, activity, and determination, may be mentioned Major George W. Vanbeak, superintending batteries A and B; Captains William J. McKee, commanding Fort Curtis; Daniel D. Carr, three siege-guns; William M. Blake, battery A; Alexander J. Campbell, battery B; Thomas M. Gibson, battery C; John S. Hudson, battery G; Stuart Carkner, company G, (wounded;) George H. Tracy, company I; Elias S. Schenck, company K; Lieutenants Henry Cochran, commanding company H; Stephen J. Burnett, (wounded;) Adam B. Smith, (killed at his post;) Luther P. Eldridge, Isaac S. Coe, Charles L. Draper,----Lombar, Joseph W. Brooks, (killed while gallantly leading a charge,) Moses Reed, Robert M. Reed, Edgar L. Allen, Henry H. Knowlton, and James M. Conner, and gunners. Sergeant E. Bates, J. W. Welles, L. D. Alden, company F; Sergeant Henry S. Carroll, Corporal James K. Frier, private J. S. Martin, company D; private John Driscoll, Kansas cavalry, all in Fort Curtis. Battery A--Sergeants D. R. McClammer and George B. Maher. Battery B--Corporal George W. Coleman. Battery C--Sergeant James M. Freeman; privates Thomas W. Wheeler and Joseph W. Phillips. Battery D--Corporal Robert McPhate (Dubuque battery) and Luke P. Maxen. Nathaniel Leavitt, commissary sergeant, killed at his post. Color-Sergeant Patrick Collins, a regular soldier of twenty-six years standing, wounded in the face while bravely fighting over the parapet of battery D.

There were others who did as well as those named, but whose names have not been handed me. The entire regiment, officers and men, be haved with steadiness and judgment.

Very respectfully,

William H. Heath, Lieutenant-Colonel Commanding Regiment. To Colonel S. A. Rice, Commanding Second Brigade, Third Division, Thirteenth Army Corps.

1 see Doos. Page 185, ante.

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