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[553] was attacked, as it debouched at Marks's Mill, by Gen. Fagan's Rebel division, said to be 6,000 strong, while most of our men were still making their way through the swamp with the wagons. A desperate but most unequal fight ensued, in which the 43d Indiana and 36th Iowa did all that men could do when confronted by several times their number ; Drake making superhuman efforts, and being everywhere at the point of greatest danger, until mortally wounded. By this time, the enemy had been enabled to interpose a strong force between our advance, thus engaged, and the 77th Ohio, guarding our rear; when — nearly one-fourth of our men being killed and wounded — the residue surrendered. The 77th, when assailed in its turn, of course did the same. Some of our wagons were destroyed ; but most of them were captured. The Rebel loss in this engagement was estimated by our men (probably much too high) at 1,000. Our own killed and wounded were fully 250. Our soldiers here captured were started southward at 5 P. M., and compelled to march 52 miles without food or rest within the next 24 hours. They reached their destination — the prison-camp at Tyler, Texas--on the 15th of May. The negro servants of our officers were shot down in cold blood after the surrender.

Steele, still at Camden, was soon apprised of this disaster, and regarded it as a notice to quit. By daylight of the 27th, his army was across the Washita and in full retreat, amid constant rains, over horrible roads, with the Rebel cavalry busy on every side. At Jenkins's Ferry (crossing of the Saline1 he was assailed in great force by the Rebels, now led by Kirby Smith in person. Our men had been working in mud and rain throughout the night, getting their pontoons laid and their trains across, having had little or nothing to eat since they left Camden, when, at daybreak, the enemy rushed upon them.

The river bottom is here densely wooded, which gave a great advantage to the defensive. It was sodden and trodden into deep mire, over which guns could not be moved unless on corduroy roads, and into which the combatants sank at every step. The thin brigades of Cols. Engelmann and S. A. Rice had to bear the brunt of the enemy's attack; the disparity in numbers being enormous. Part of our army was already across the river, and could with difficulty be brought back.

The 33d Iowa, Col. Mackay, covering the rear, was first impetuously attacked and pressed in, though the 50th Indiana had advanced to its support. These fell back behind the 9th Wisconsin and 29th Iowa, which were in turn fiercely assailed; and it became necessary to order up all our troops south of the river to their support. Brig.-Gen. Rice was in immediate command. Three several attacks, with different divisions in front, were made on our steadfast heroes, who repelled each with great slaughter. Our right flank being threatened, the 43d Illinois and part of the 40th Iowa were ordered to cross a swollen, muddy tributary, known as Cox's creek, into which they plunged with a shout, dashed across, and drove off the enemy.

1 April 30.

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