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[418] River was at least fifty miles from Brownsville, and that our line of march would cross the Searcy and Batesville roads, along either of which a section of six-pounders could be galloped abreast, our column cut in two, and, in case of disaster, a superior force thrown directly in our rear, intercepting at once support and supplies. A flank movement upon the enemy's left was not deemed practicable after this reconnoissance.

Upon the enemy's right the Arkansas River inclined toward us, and could not be over eighteen miles distant, with no roads of consequence opening our rear to the enemy, in case of an advance in that direction. The most feasible plan, then, presenting itself was to avoid the road the enemy had so carefully obstructed, and was so well prepared to defend, and by a detour to the left reach the Arkansas River below Little Rock, and, moving up, assault the enemy's works upon their extreme right, where they were known to be weaker than at the point or intersection with the Brownsville road.

Accordingly General Steele placed his whole column in motion on the morning of the seventh, with the exception of one brigade of infantry and two of cavalry, which followed on the eighth. Bayou Metaire was reached and crossed the same day with much difficulty, and consequent delay, at Shallow Ford, some eight or ten miles to the left of the usual crossing at the bridge. On the following morning General Davidson, with a single brigade of his cavalry, was assigned the advance, and pushed on, through by-paths and obscure roads, through the canebrakes and jungles of bushes and vines, in the direction of Terry's Ferry, on the Arkansas, eight miles in a direct line below Little Rock. The enemy was not seen until within three miles of the river, where a brigade of cavalry was encountered in a strong position behind Ashley's Bayou. Dismounting “Merrill's horse,” and deploying them in the woods, the rebels were driven back toward their works, and in the mean time General Davidson, with the remainder of the brigade and a section of Stange's howitzers and Hadley's battery of rifled guns, dashed down a road upon the east side of the bayou, which was crossed lower down, and reached the river a short distance below the point desired. A rebel picket was surprised upon the river-bank, part of it captured, and the remainder, to General Davidson's great surprise — for he had been led to believe it quite deep — forded the river.

Had his entire division been with him, he would have crossed the river and dashed immediately upon Little Rock. But with only two regiments, and in ignorance of the force he would encounter upon the opposite bank, the crossing could not be attempted. General Steele arrived the same evening, with General Rice's and Colonel Engleman's infantry divisions. An examination of the ford led Generals Davidson and Steele to hesitate about trusting their batteries in the treacherous quicksands of the Arkansas, and demonstrated that artillery could only be crossed by a pontoon-bridge. The advance of the trains was very slow and tedious, notwithstanding General Rice's pioneers had widened the road, and in many places constructed an entirely new one. The wheels sank to the hub at every revolution for miles, and the pontoon train did not arrive until the afternoon of the day following, being the ninth. In the mean time the enemy had brought down a battery and two or three regiments to dispute our crossing.

The possibility of crossing the Arkansas, which would enable us to effectually turn Price's position, opened a new field to General Steele, of which he at once determined to take advantage. It was at first suggested to cross the entire army to the south bank of the river, and move with the whole force upon Little Rock at once. This plan was open to the very serious objections of exposing to inevitable interruption our communication with our base of supplies at Duvall's Bluffs, on White River, perhaps involving the capture of Duvall's Bluffs, with all its supplies of ammunition, quartermaster and commissary stores.

We were, besides, with short supplies, the whole army being on half-rations. And, had General Steele crossed his entire force to the south bank of the Arkansas, and left Price upon the north bank, with five or ten days supplies, he would not only have exposed his communications to interruption, but he would have subjected himself to the necessity of recrossing the river in the face of Price's army, and cutting his way back to Duvall's Bluffs, or retreat upon Napoleon! The former, under the circumstances, would be hazardous in the extreme, as it would dishearten our troops, and lend to the superior forces of Price an enthusiasm which would prove but the forerunner of victory. The retreat upon Napoleon would have given Price an open road to Missouri, where we have no adequate force to meet him. In short, the plan was not feasible, and there remained to be done but the one thing, which was done.

A reconnoissance revealed the fact that, in advancing along the river to the assault of the rebel works on the north bank, we would be subjected for eight miles, as well as in the attack itself, to an enfilading fire from rebel batteries, along the south bank of the Arkansas. This new obstacle would probably make our advance along the north bank, unsupported by a column upon the south bank, and an assault upon the enemy's works, a failure, or, in the event of success, subject us to a heavy loss.

It was then determined that General Davidson should cross the Arkansas with his whole division, and, taking with him Hadley's and Clarkson's batteries, and Stange's and Lovejoy's howitzers, follow up the south bank of the stream, while General Steele, with the infantry and the remaining batteries, advanced along the opposite bank to the assault of the rebel works on the north side. Dividing the army by placing an impassable river between its two wings, gave Price the opportunity of concentrating his whale

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