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[137] was raised on a rock near the summit of Shepherd Mountain, where a group of officers had been taking observations under shelter. With the opening of a brisk cannonade on the group the flag was hauled down. The design was plainly to suspend the firing, so that their forces might approach to the assault in safety. I now ordered into the fort the section of artillery operating outside, but the horses stampeded and could not be got in. The section remained under cover of our fire, however, and was brought in before dark. Here the enemy opened on us with two guns from the Summit of Shepherd Mountain, at about seven hundred yards, and two from the side, at a less distance. The guns were well covered, and we could silence only one of them, the two nearest getting and keeping our range exactly.

The division on Shepherd Mountain was Marmaduke's, which, on the withdrawal of the white flag, and the opening of their artillery, moved rapidly down to the assault, his lines greatly broken by the rugged and steep descent, and by our fire, which told with marked effect upon them. On reaching the plain, the most of the assaulting force took cover in the deep bed of the creek, from which they opened and kept up an incessant fire. About one hundred ventured on to the assault, but fell, or were driven back before they reached the ditch.

Almost simultaneously with the movement of Marmaduke's division, that of General Fagan marched over Pilot Knob in stronger force, and less disturbed by our fire, sweeping back in disorder, or cutting off our companies which held the town and part of the mountain sides. His lines were greatly broken by the houses and fences of the skirt of the town, but were hastily re-formed by him, and by General Cabell, who led the assault, and swept upon the plain in handsome style, yelling, and on the double-quick. We opened on them when at four hundred yards from the fort, with musketry from the ramparts, and from the long line of the north rifle-pit, and with grape and canister from seven pieces of artillery. They rushed on most gallantly, but were broken, confused, and swept down by our rapid and well-directed fire, until the advance reached the ditch, when the attacking forces fled in dismay, leaving apparently almost half their comrades dead or wounded on the plain. Pending the assaults, the enemy threw a large cavalry force around the west end of Shepherd Mountain, to occupy the road north of us to Mineral Point. As they moved along the base of Cedar Mountain, just after the last assault was repulsed, a sortie was made from the north ditch, by which they were routed and lost considerably. A half hour of ineffective musketry and artillery firing ended the engagement with the approach of night.

An examination of prisoners that evening convinced me that Price was there, with about twelve thousand men and ten pieces of artillery — Shelby's division, with eight pieces, having gone from Fredericktown to Farmington. I had found myself unable, with my force intact, to hold the mountain sides so as to prevent his planting artillery there. My command was now reduced one-fourth in effective strength, as I had lost seventy-five killed and wounded, and more than double that number missing. I knew that next morning the enemy, having possession of the mountain top and sides, would place all his artillery in position to command the fort, which would make it certainly untenable. That morning, at the time when telegraphic communication ended, two regiments of Major-General Smith's command were at Mineral Point, twenty-three miles north of us, and four miles east of Potosi. I thought they were probably there still, and that by getting a good start we could effect a junction with them, and fall back or stand, as the movement and force of the enemy might permit. I therefore determined to evacuate that night. The chief danger, was that the preparations for the retreat might be observed, and the garrison cut to pieces or captured, in the confusion incident to the exit. The works of the Iron Company, at the north base of Pilot Knob had been fired by the enemy, and the immense pile of charcoal glowed and flamed all night, making the valley as light as noonday. Moreover, I learned Colonel Slayback's command held the Mineral Point road just north of the town, leaving the Potosi road the only exit not certainly in the possession of the enemy. But, with all its dangers, the policy of retreat was clearly best; and preparations for it began at midnight. I had Colonel Fletcher arrange for having the magazine, (which was large and filled with every variety of ammunition) blown up two hours after we left, or as soon as our exit should be discovered by the enemy. We took possession of the town and valley, and drove thence, all straggling rebels. The garrison was then aroused, knapsacks packed, haversacks and cartridge-boxes well supplied, and everything destructible, which we could not take away, and the enemy might use, placed near or on the magazine. At three o'clock Colonel Fletcher silently led the infantry out of the sally-port, around the ditch and through the north rifle-pit, forming them under the cover of a deep shadow at the end of the pit. The drawbridge was then covered with tents to muffle the sound, and the cavalry and battery, marching out, formed column with the infantry, and took a by-way to the Potosi road. We left Slayback's camp on our right, and another rebel camp near the road on our left, both unapprised of our movement. The body of the rebel army was at Ironton; and, thinking us sufficiently hemmed in, were busy making fascines and scaling ladders, for an assault in the morning. They even failed to take the hint when the magazine, an hour before daylight, shook the hills with its explosion.

At sunrise, I started Captain Hills, Tenth Kansas, Acting Aide-de-Camp, with twelve men, to Mineral Point, to acquaint the command there of my approach, and request it to march to join me.

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Slayback (2)
Vincent Marmaduke (2)
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J. H. Price (1)
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