Doc. 12.-expedition up White River.
Report of Colonel Andrews.
headquarters post of Little Rock, Saturday evening, April 2, 1864.General: In compliance with General Orders No. 169, War Department, October twenty-seventh, 1862, I have the honor to report the result of an engagement at Fitzhugh's woods, six miles above Augusta, on White River, with the forces under Brigadier-General McCrae. On Wednesday afternoon last, March thirtieth, at half-past 4 o'clock P. M., I received orders from Brigadier-General Kimball to proceed on an expedition up White River. At seven o'clock that evening, I left Little Rock with a detachment of the Third regiment Minnesota volunteer infantry, (veterans,) Major E. W. Foster commanding, consisting of companies B, C, E, G, H, and I, numbering one hundred and eighty-six, and proceeded to Duvall's Bluff by railroad. We reached there at twenty minutes past four the next morning, and found the steamer Dove, Captain Erwin, in readiness to move. A detachment from the Eighth Missouri cavalry at that post, numbering forty-five men, under command of Captain J. L. Matthews, reported to me on the boat at twenty minutes past six, and we immediately put off up the river. The gunboat Covington proceeded with us by the mutual wish of the captain of the transport and of Lieutenant G. P. Lord, commanding the gunboat. After getting some distance up the river, we took the precaution to bring on board and detain any persons lurking about the shore whom we suspected would carry intelligence into the country of our approach; and in this way I gained more or less valuable information, and also the services of a good guide. We arrived at Gregory's Landing, Jackson County, at dusk, and having learned that one of the camps of McCrae's men was four miles back of that landing, on Straight Lake, I ventured to move out there to surprise it. The evening was rainy and extremely dark, but my guides knew the road perfectly, and my patrols moved forward so carefully, there could be no possibility of an ambush. Three miles from the river was a bayou (Cache) difficult even for cavalry to ford, but the detachment of cavalry crossed it without accident, and suddenly surrounded the farm-house near by, and as quickly threw out pickets. The information received, however, was that the camp had been abandoned early that morning. The cavalry then recrossed the bayou, and we returned to the transport, arriving on board at ten o'clock. I gave orders for my command to have breakfast by five o'clock next morning, and the transport moved on up to Augusta. At five o'clock, therefore, yesterday morning, (April first,) we landed at Augusta, a small but pleasantly situated village, and immediately had it surrounded by pickets, and had citizens and colored men brought on board, that I might ascertain the number and whereabouts of McCrae's forces. I learned that for a few days past his forces had been concentrating, that two. or three days previously they had moved toward Jacksonport, that they had returned, and that the principal camp was at Antony's, said to be seven miles distant on the Jacksonport road. I then ordered my small command to land, leaving a guard on board the transport, and proceeded up the Jacksonport road. It was about six o'clock when we moved from Augusta. We had scarcely got a mile and a half out of town when our advanced-guard encountered a small party of the enemy, and pursued and charged them two miles, and captured two prisoners. Coming then to the fork of two roads, the cavalry waited for the infantry to come up. It was at this point that we met Rutherford's company, and drove it into the woods on a road leading to the right. We then continued the march on the Jacksonport road, keeping out for some distance flankers and patrols. At the bayou, some six miles from Augusta, our advanced-guard came upon a small party of mounted men, who, after one shot being fired at them, turned and fled. At the next farm-house we reached, we learned that General McCrae was one of the party. This fact I discovered very soon, and immediately ordered the cavalry detachment to pursue at their utmost speed, which was done. It appeared that he turned off the Jacksonport road toward McCoy's, one of his places of resort, to which place Captain Matthews pursued him. He, however, escaped. Beyond Fitzhugh's, we came upon one of their camps, which appeared to have been suddenly abandoned, and where, also, we found and appropriated, as far as we needed, a wagon-load of  hams. We also gained some information at almost every farm-house concerning the movements and locality of McCrae's forces. I had heard his forces estimated variously at from five hundred to one thousand five hundred, many of them, however, being poorly armed; and I had learned at Augusta that he had from four hundred to six hundred men near Antony's. The farther, however, I advanced, the more his force in any one body appeared to diminish, and the less appeared to be the chance for a fair fight with them. After, therefore, reaching a point twelve miles above Augusta, and meeting no force, I determined to return to the transport. After a rest, it being half-past 12 o'clock, we started back. At half-past 1 o'clock, as we passed the road leading to McCoy's, a party of men showed themselves in the road, and being, as I had reason to believe, a decoy to draw us into an ambuscade, I ordered that they should not be pursued. We arrived at Fitzhugh's, less than a mile from that road, and were resting, when the enemy made his appearance from the direction of McCoy's, advancing in line in a field on our left, and commenced charging on us. I had a part of our infantry quickly moved against them, which checked them, and by a volley-fire killed and dismounted a number of them. The same infantry force then charged on them, and, amid the loud shouts and cheers of our men, drove them back into the woods out of sight. I then increased our rear-guard, resumed the march, and proceeded about two miles, when the enemy came upon us in much larger force, our first notice being his attack on our rear-guard. The place can perhaps be best designated as Fitzhugh's woods, and was almost five hundred yards north of a well-known bayou or swamp. On the east side of the road was a field of cultivated land on which there was a thin body of dead timber. West of the road was heavy timber, with more or less dead logs lying about, but not much underbrush. It was immediately apparent that the enemy had collected all his forces, and meditated our destruction. His lines having previously been deployed, moved up around us in good order, but shouting loudly, and seemed almost to encircle us. I plainly saw, and every one in my command could see, that we were greatly outnumbered, but I had the most unfaltering confidence in the unflinching valor and superior soldiership of every officer and man of my small party, and I believed from the start we would come out victorious. Our line was immediately deployed, as skirmishers, the men cautioned to take advantage of every shelter, and a strong company was held in reserve. The cavalry formed on the left and fought dismounted. The fighting commenced sharply, the enemy being within two hundred yards of us, and the men on both sides uttering defiant shouts. Above all the clamor, we could hear the loud exhortations of their chiefs urging on their men to a charge. They made an attempt, but were repulsed and charged on by us. The firing was the sharpest during the first half-hour, and during this time my horse was shot under me. We could see, moreover, that every movement of the enemy was thwarted by the unerring fire of our sharp-shooters. We were damaging and subduing him every minute. Still we were aware that we were fighting experienced and daring men, Rutherford's men especially being well known as cool fighters and good marksmen. They fought dismounted. The fight had lasted an hour, when it was discovered that a part of the enemy's forces were moving around to our right at difficult range for us, with the evident purpose of intercepting our passage across the bayou. In order to defeat that purpose and to get a somewhat better position, and also to have the benefit of a well of water, which we were beginning to need, I determined to withdraw our line about one hundred and fifty paces, where we could hold the bayou, and also have the protection of a cluster of log buildings and some fences. The greater part of my force had withdrawn to this new position unperceived by the enemy. When he discovered that we had abandoned our first line, which we had stubbornly held during the hardest of the contest, he conjectured we were retreating, and rose up and came on with the utmost shouting and clamor. But our men, who were already in position, calmly waiting their approach, poured forth a fire more damaging and deadly than they had yet suffered. From this moment they seemed to give up the fight. Yet leaders advanced, and, with language plainly heard by us, vainly endeavored to stimulate their men to a desperate attack. Two or three of their leaders were picked off by our men while making such brave endeavors. We held that position an hour and a half, during which time our men maintained a cool and effective skirmish-fire. The combat had now lasted two hours and a half, and the enemy was beaten. To guard, however, against any surprise at the bayou, the crossing being difficult, and it appearing also that it had been the purpose of the enemy to do us an injury there, I caused a line of sharp-shooters to be deployed, concealed on both flanks of the crossing of the bayou in the woods, to protect our crossing whenever we might choose to move. This was promptly attended to by Major Foster. Although the ford of the bayou is about one hundred and twenty-five yards wide, and extremely difficult to cross in the vicinity of an enemy, we made the passage without any interference or obstacle, which is further evidence that he had been thoroughly whipped. We then moved on in our march to the transport, a distance of six miles, the road passing through woods, by cross-roads and open fields, where, if the enemy had dared, he might have chosen his position, knowing,, as he well did, the country. But he did not venture near us again; and we proceeded into Augusta in perfect order, our colors flying, and the men singing, “Down with the traitor!” and arriving in front of the town, we halted and gave three cheers for the Stars and Stripes. We then moved aboard the  transport, and started on our return, our object having in the main been accomplished. My loss was in the infantry seven killed, sixteen wounded, and four wounded and missing. In the cavalry, one killed, and one (a recent recruit) missing. All of the wounded except three will be fit for duty in a few days. I cannot accurately judge of the enemy's loss, but am confident it exceeds one hundred in killed and wounded, including the loss he sustained in his first ineffectual charge. I also captured from him thirteen prisoners, including one commissioned officer and one sergeant. We also took a number of good horses, and brought away several freedmen. The following is a list of killed and wounded: Killed: Privates Benjamin Sanderson and Ole Hanson, company B; private Henry W. Farnsworth, company C; First Sergeant Corydon D. Bevans, and private Clark D. Harding, company E; Corporal George H. Peaslee, company H; private Washington J. Smith, company I. Wounded and missing: Privates George Brewer and William Shearer, company B; private Andrew Brigham, company G; private John Pope, company I. Wounded: Sergeant Albert G. Hunt, First Sergeant Henry Durant, Corporal Edward Frygang, and private William F. Ingham, company B.; Corporal Lewis Kimball, and privates James B. Chapin, Henry W. Wallace, and Orin Case, company C; Corporals Isaac Laurer and Albert G. Leach, company E; private Albert R. Pierce, company G; privates Rollin 0. Crawford and John Eaton, company H; privates Joseph Markling and Andrew Clark, company I; Quartermaster Sergeant Herman D. Pettibone. Seven killed, four wounded and missing, sixteen wounded. Total casualties, twenty-seven. Eighth cavalry, Missouri volunteers: John E. Mode, company I, killed;----Buckner, company I, missing. Total killed, eight; wounded and missing, five; wounded, sixteen; whole loss, twenty-nine. A few men were left as a guard on the transport, and some were used in guarding prisoners; so that the whole number of men I had engaged was only one hundred and eighty. The moral effect of this combat is greatly on our side, showing as it does, that, with a very small force we are able to defy the combined numbers of the enemy which has been left to hold sway in that fine region of country, and that he is liable to be struck from unexpected sources. The conduct of the officers and men of my command was eminently heroic and prudent. Their efficiency and skill were what I had reason to expect from accomplished and well-disciplined soldiers. Their emulous valor equaled the Spartan standard. The result of their hard-fought contest shows what a resource there is in courage, and what power there is in discipline. The place to which we marched, is one hundred and sixty-eight miles from Little Rock, and we made the expedition and returned to this place, and had resumed our ordinary duties here inside of three days. I am obliged to the Quartermaster's department for promptitude in furnishing transportation; also to the commanders of the gunboat and transport for their promptitude and assistance. I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,