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Doc. 30.-fight at Cabin Creek, I. T.

A National account.

Leavenworth, Kansas, Monday, July 20, 1803.
The news from the district of the frontier is quite cheering. We hope soon to have intelligence of that triumph which has always followed in the path of General Blunt. A small Federal force has gained quite a triumph over a rebel command of equal numbers, posted in a very advantageous position.

Let me give the particulars as I glean them from letters and persons who were eye-witnesses to the conflict, and such knowledge of the ground as I possess.

A subsistence train with paymasters and sutlers, numbering over three hundred wagons in all, left Fort Scott for Colonel Phillips's command, at Fort Blunt, on or about the twenty-fifth ultimo. The escort consisted of three companies of the Third Wisconsin cavalry, one company Sixth Kansas cavalry, company I, Ninth Kansas cavalry, Captain Stewart, (escort to the paymasters,) and six companies of the Second Colorado volunteer infantry, a part of which was temporarily mounted on horses and mules, being taken to Fort Blunt for the purpose of replacing the stock captured several weeks since in the rebel attack upon Phillips's position. The Colorado volunteers were under Lieutenant-Colonel Dodd, and train escort under Captain Moore, Third Wisconsin. This force, with the centre section of the Second Kansas battery, Captain Smith, and a twelve-pound mountain howitzer attached to the cavalry, numbering about eight hundred men, composed the escort. At Neosho, Mo., they were met by Major Forman, Third regiment Indiana brigade, with five hundred Indians, sent by Colonel Phillips to escort the train. At Baxter's Spring, the First regiment Kansas colored volunteers, with two guns, served by detailed negro soldiers, under Captain A. J. Armstrong, company D, joined the train. The regiment numbers eight hundred men, under Colonel J. M. Williams. By the way, the guns attached to the regiment and now served by the negroes, were formerly used by the rebels against us, being a couple of those captured by Grant at Fort Donelson. This addition made our force about one thousand six hundred strong, with four twelve-pounders, two of them rifled, and two howitzers, Major Forman's command having brought one.

On the thirtieth of June the train reached a point seven miles from Cabin Creek, a branch of the Grand, on Neosho River. The advance, composed of the Indians, came suddenly upon a scouting-party of thirty Texans. A fight ensued. The rebels stood their ground, not seeing any [180] force but Indians. After the loss of three killed, four wounded, and three captured, they concluded to leave, which they did before our reenforcements arrived.

From the prisoners we learned that Colonel Stand Waitie, the Cherokee rebel leader, with one thousand two hundred men, about half of whom were Texans and the remainder Indians, was posted on the south bank of Cabin Creek, in a most advantageous position. From this information and other we learned that the movement had been planned for the purpose of cutting off this train. Stand Waitie crossed the Arkansas River, above the mouths of the Grand and Verdigris Rivers, and took position at the Creek. General Cabell was to and did leave Arkansas with two thousand men and six guns, and moving across the Territory, until he got in the rear of our train, which Stand Waitie was to hold at the crossing of Cabin Creek. The plan was well laid, but sufficient margin was not made for contingencies. Cabell got to the Grand River on the night of the thirtieth ultimo, but was not able to cross on account of the high water.

After the picket fight the train encamped for the night. Colonel Williams sent scouting-parties forward to the creek. They found the rebel pickets strongly posted in the timber on the north of the creek. The main body were very advantageously posted behind high banks on the south side. The timber is about a mile across, the larger portion being on the north.

On the morning of the first of July, the train advanced to the edge of the timber and corraled. The cavalry was pressed forward, and a portion of the First colored regiment deployed as skirmishers. The north side of the river was found clear, but when the troops reached the stream the fire became so warm as to cause the cavalry to fall back hastily. The skirmishers, taking positions behind trees, etc., continued the fight. The negroes made their mark, and whenever a head showed they blazed away. Their fire had effect, according to the report of the prisoners taken on the next day. The stream was deep and swift, and the crossing under the heavy rebel fire impracticable. The artillery was placed in position, a section on each flank and the howitzers in the centre. The south bank was then shelled, the fire being rapid and heavy. Under this shelling and the effective fire of the colored skirmishers, Colonel Williams directed the advance of the Third Wisconsin cavalry, for the purpose of attempting the crossing of the stream.

A little incident occurred at this stage, showing the pluck and elan of the negro soldiers. The officer in command of the troopers was a Pro-Slavery Democrat, and thought it would be more appropriate to send “the-----niggers or Injuns” to do the work. But in obedience to orders he started out to the bank of the creek, and hastily retreated under the sharp fire of the enemy. On reporting to Colonel Williams, that officer, who is well known as brave even to rashness, declared that “he would find men to make the attempt.” Five companies of the colored regiment moved on the double-quick to the creek, and under the fire of the opposing forces dashed into the stream with their Colonel at the head. But they could not cross; the stream was too deep. The men followed their leader till they commenced to swim, when Colonel Williams reluctantly ordered them to fall back. All the time, while the bullets spattered on the water like hail, the negroes preserved the most perfect order, and re-formed on the bank of the creek.

The remainder of the day was consumed in skirmishing, with occasional shelling of the rebel position. On the morning of the second, the stream having fallen considerably in the night, it was determined to attempt the crossing. Major Forman assumed command of the party, which consisted of the Indians, five companies of the colored regiment, the mounted men of the Colorado Second, and Captain Stewart's company, Ninth Kansas. They moved down to the creek, and, under cover of the shells and musketry, prepared to cross. Major Forman, followed by Captain Gritz, of the Third Indian, advanced into the stream, with the view of ascertaining its depth. In the attempt, he was severely wounded in the back and neck.

Colonel Williams took command of the column, and, at the head of the troops, dashed into the stream. The water was above the waist of the infantry, yet the men, holding their guns and cartridge-boxes above their heads, followed their gallant leader, who, with waving sword and ringing shouts, was cheering on his men. They got across with little loss, and charged on the rebel position.. They fled from the centre precipitously when the negroes and Colorado boys charged, leaving arms and accoutrements scattered as they went. To Captain Stewart was intrusted the attack on the right of the enemy's position, where their fire was the best sustained. As our cavalry advanced, the enemy fell back from the timber to the edge of the prairie, when they fired as our men advanced. The Texans numbered four hundred, and their firing was deadly and rapid. Captain Stewart, ordering his men to draw revolvers and reserve their fire, rode rapidly upon the foe. His whole force was less than one hundred. When within thirty or forty yards, the order to fire was given, and volley after volley came crashing from their heavy dragoon Colts. On they rode, and the Texans fled in disorder, leaving eighteen dead, and three prisoners. The wounded got off. Captain Stewart had fifteen men wounded and two killed in that dashing charge. Five of the negroes were severely wounded, and this, with Major Forman's wound, completed our casualties. Forty of the enemy were buried on the field, and nine prisoners taken. These stated that three wagons were loaded with those wounded by our shells, and removed the night before. About half the force had fallen back, and the Texans, numbering seven hundred, were left to contest our advance.

The enemy's position was found to be formidable, and well chosen for its purpose. The [181] ground was uneven and thickly wooded, affording shelter for the men. All the approaches to the road and ford were covered by rude rifle-pits, made by felling trees or piling up the loose stones and brush. These were all along the bank, and along the road. The trees had been thinned so as to make rifle-lanes, if I may use the term, bearing upon the way in which our troops must approach. One of these lanes was continued through the thick underbrush for several hundred yards, and at short intervals were rude abatis and pits. Had it not been for our shells, the advance would have been very fatal.

The defeat of the rebels was disheartening and disastrous. Stand Waitie fled, and with only two companions crossed the Arkansas and returned to the rebel camp near Fort Gibson. So we were informed by their pickets on the sixth. Our trains moved on after burying the dead, and reached Fort Gibson on the morning of the fifth. Their advent was hailed with delight by the garrison and its commander. Supplies were short and the fresh troops much needed. Every body was in good spirits. General Blunt arrived on the twelfth, having been met at Cabin Creek on the tenth by the returning train. He will soon dispose of the rebel force in that vicinity at an early day, make a sweep on Fort Smith, and ere he return to Fort Scott, wake up the Red River valley.

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J. M. Williams (6)
Alexander Stewart (5)
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