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[755] instructed at all events to send at least a brigade of cavalry to the north side of the Washita, for the purpose of cutting off the enemy's supplies in Little Rock and Pine Bluff. Neither direction was followed. On the eighteenth April, Generals Maxcy and Marmaduke fought the enemy — a forage party of about two thousand five hundred strong — at Poison Spring, twelve miles from Camden, dispersing the whole force, capturing a few prisoners, twelve wagons, and teams, and four pieces of artillery. It was so close to the enemy's main body, that we did not have time or opportunity to pick up the prisoners, who dispersed in the woods, but contented ourselves with hauling off the artillery and train. When General Smith arrived at General Price's headquarters, and ascertained that no cavalry had been thrown across the Washita, he despatched General Fagan with three thousand five hundred men, to go, if possible, into Little Rock and Pine Bluff, and destroy the depots at those points. The garrisons at both places were understood to be small. General Fagan did not accomplish this great object. He could not get his artillery, of which he had four pieces, across the Saline River, at a point where he attempted to cross.

On the twenty-third and twenty-fourth he encountered a force of the enemy about one thousand five hundred strong, in charge of a train at Mark's Mill, on the west side of the Washita. He succeeded in capturing, of the infantry, one thousand three hundred; all the cavalry--two hundred--escaped. He also captured a four-gun battery, and two hundred wagons and teams, besides one hundred which were burned during the fight. Meanwhile, our forces were drawn close around Camden. The works, which had been constructed by us last year, were such as to make it very doubtful whether we could carry the place by assault. Every exertion was made to ascertain the exact amount of subsistence the enemy had, in the hope that he might be starved out and compelled to retreat. The pontoon train had started from Shreveport, but most unfortunately, through some misconception of orders, was turned back. On the night of the twenty-sixth, the enemy, having learned of the capture of his train, evacuated Camden. His rear guard left the place at four A. M. of the twenty-seventh. Our advance entered at seven. It took us all night and all day to construct a bridge over which the infantry could pass. At sunrise on the morning of the twenty-eighth, the troops commenced crossing. The enemy had twenty-six hours the start of us. On the night of the twenty-ninth, the head of our infantry was at Tulip, fourteen miles from the Saline, at Jenkins's Ferry, and forty-nine miles from Camden. A brigade of our cavalry was at the Bottom Saline, three miles from the river. Our rear was at Princeton, twenty-two miles from Jenkins's Ferry, and thirty-two miles from Camden. The rear of the enemy's column had passed Tulip at eight that A. M. The Saline Bottom was, however, a quagmire, five miles wide, and it was possible his trains had not been gotten over. We had but little expectation of getting a fight. Our pontoon train had not come up, and even with it we could not cross the river in face of the enemy. General Fagan had not been heard from in some days. It was hoped he would hear of Steele's retreat, and throw himself in his front, thus giving us an opportunity of catching up and attacking him in the rear. Here a despatch was received, stating that he (Fagan), after vainly endeavoring to cross the Saline at points lower down, had gone up near Archidelphia for forage, and would cross the Saline at Benton. He had not learned of Steele's retreat. In a vague hope of being able to overtake the enemy's rear guard next morning, the troops were rested from dark until one o'clock--Churchill and Parsons at Tulip, Walker at Princeton, eight miles to the rear. At one o'clock the column moved forward through deep mud, rain coming down in torrents. At daylight, the two divisions were up with the cavalry advance, having marched fifty-two miles in forty-six hours. Skirmishing commenced, and the enemy's pickets were driven in. We could hardly believe there was any large force of the enemy on our side of the river. The firing became more general. Churchill's division was thrown forward. I give you a rough sketch of the ground. Dockerey's brigade was thrown to the left of the bayou, which. ran parallel with and very close to the road by which we advanced. It was pushed down toward the Saline, while the other part of the division moved down on the right side. The enemy was soon found in force, and Parsons's division was put into action on Churchill's right. Word was sent back to General Walker to bring one brigade of his division forward on the road we had come, and to take the other two brigades by a road which turns off to the right, five miles from the Sabine, and was said by our scouts to lead to the enemy's left flank. The battle-field was a big marsh covered with timber and considerable undergrowth. The enemy were concealed by the undergrowth and fallen logs, so that our men could scarcely see them at all. Scurry's and Randall's brigades, of Walker's division, moved by the road leading toward the enemy's left. Waul's brigade was held in reserve in the rear of Churchill and Parsons. The cavalry brigade was mostly thrown forward as skirmishers. Our troops, I regret to say, did not fight well. Before Walker reached the enemy, Parsons's and Churchill's divisions were driven back. They got into confusion, and it was impossible for the officers — most of whom are of no earthly account — to do anything with them. The enemy showed little disposition to follow. As soon as Walker's guns were heard off to our right, Waul's brigade was pushed forward to support his left. Parsons's division moved in his rear as a support. Waul soon became engaged. The firing was very heavy for about one hour. Our men fired very wildly. Waul's right was slowly overlapped by Walker's left. Waul's troops were repulsed. Randall in the centre, and Scurry on the right, held their ground, though their troops were in great disorder. Parsons's division did not support

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