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[133] would have had the shorter road and a day the start. But he was wary, and had no idea of putting himself in a position where a Confederate force could get at him. He purposely took another road, and allowed Marmaduke to pass the critical point unopposed, and get the whole pursuing force behind him. McNeil's conduct gave rise to a newspaper controversy shortly afterward, in which the facts came to light.

At the crossing of Whitewater Vandiver undertook to force things, but was hurled back so suddenly and effectually by Shelby that he kept at a respectful distance until Bloomfield was reached. There Marmaduke halted and remained in line of battle all day. At Chalk Bluffs he had to cross the St. Francis river, and there was no bridge. He, therefore, sent Maj. Robert Smith of his staff, Maj. Robert Lawrence of Shelby's staff, and Gen. Jeff Thompson who volunteered for the occasion, in advance with a hundred men to build a bridge, and halted at Bloomfield to fight the enemy and give the bridge-builders time. But Vandiver was cautious, and though skirmishing continued all day and the fighting sometimes became sharp, he did not make a general attack. Again Marmaduke halted, early in the afternoon, when he reached the hills that border the St. Francis at Chalk Bluffs, and again Vandiver skirmished with him, but did not attempt to force his position.

The bridge was a rough affair, but it answered the purpose for which it was built. It was a raft rather than a bridge. During the night the artillery and wagons, with the water up to the axles, were pulled across by the men, the horses were driven into the river and swam across, and the men crossed in single file, and just as the sun rose the next morning the raft was cut loose from its moorings and sent floating down the turbid stream, leaving not a trace of evidence of how the command had crossed. An hour afterward the Federals reached the river, but there was not a wagon, a gun, a horse or a

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