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Chapter 1:

  • Resume of the operations of the army under Gen. Blunt during the last three months of 1862
  • -- the battles of Newtonia and Maysville mentioned -- the charge led by Capt. S. J. Crawford, Second Kansas cavalry, and capture of Gen. Cooper's artillery -- the battle of Cane Hill -- brave charge of Col. Lewis R. Jewell, Sixth Kansas cavalry -- his mortal wound and death -- remarks on his character -- after the battle of Cane Hill, Gen -- Blunt orders his trains to Rhea's Mills -- couriers sent to Gen. Herron to bring forward his division on a forced march -- strength of the two divisions -- strength of Gen. Hindman's army -- battle of Prairie Grove described -- it lasts until after dark -- furious charging of the infantry -- terrific artillery fire -- Gen. Hindman defeated, and retreats to Van Buren -- Gen. Blunt's trains ordered to Fayetteville -- burying the dead and caring for the wounded -- Concluding remarks.

When I commenced my Memoirs I felt sure that shortly after peace should be established between all sections of the country, the military operations with which I was connected as an humble participant would be regarded by many with deep interest. I therefore thought it worth while to undertake to chronicle the important events that came under my notice during the year 1863, as I had done during the year 1862.1 [34]

I commenced to write the following memoirs at Rhea's Mills, Washington County, Arkansas, on the 25th day of December, 1862. In my chronicles I said that as our offensive operations are temporarily suspended; and as we are expecting orders shortly to move northward towards the Missouri line; a resume of our operations since we came into this section last fall will be useful. After the battles of Newtonia on the 30th of September and 4th of October last, we moved steadily forward, and defeated the enemy in every engagement. At the battle of Maysville or Old Port Wayne, Cherokee Nation, on the 20th of October, we gained a substantial victory by capturing from General Cooper four pieces of light artillery, brass twelve pounders. The Second and Sixth regiments Kansas cavalry led in the charge which resulted in the capture of these guns. It is generally conceded however, that the meed of honor should go to Captain Samuel J. Crawford, Second Kansas cavalry, for conspicuous bravery displayed on the field that bright sunny morning. It was one of the most exciting contests that I had up to that time witnessed. The enemy were completely routed in less than half an hour after the engagement commenced, and besides his artillery, a considerable number of small arms, which were thrown down by General Cooper's troops in their flight, fell into our hands.

Passing over minor engagements and skirmishes, we come next to the battles of Cane Hill and Prairie Grove. The battle of Cane Hill took place November [35] 29th. Though we drove the enemy through the mountains from position to position all day, we gained nothing of consequence, since we lost one of the bravest and best officers of our command, Lieutenant Colonel Lewis R. Jewell, Sixth Kansas Cavalry. We also had two other officers of the same regiment seriously wounded, Lieutenants John G. Harris and John A. Johnson, besides some twenty enlisted men. Colonel Jewell fell mortally wounded while leading a sabre charge through a narrow pass in the mountains near the head of Cove Creek just as darkness was coming on.2 The gorges in the mountains through which we were pressing the enemy made our pursuit of him exceedingly difficult and hazardous, for we could rarely display a front of more than fifty men.

I feel that it is eminently right and proper that I should, give Colonel Jewell more than a passing notice in this resume. He permitted me to accompany him on all scouts and reconnoissances whenever I could be spared from my regular duties. And when I could not go with him, he generally made it a point on his return to report to me such facts as he thought would be worth noting down. As I endeavored to notice the chief points of interest covering the area of our operations, he frequently furnished me with information from higher authorities, which I could not have otherwise got. When I carried orders on the field at [36] Newtonia last September, it was Colonel Jewell that I saw lead two battalions of the Sixth Kansas Cavalry on our right against two battalions of the enemy's cavalry. This force of the enemy, though somewhat superior to ours, had no sooner drawn several volleys from our carbines than Colonel Jewell ordered his bugler to sound the charge, and in an instant, withdrawn sabres and at the head of his regiment, he swept forward over the prairie like a storm, leaving a cloud of dust in his rear. The enemy stood for a moment, but when they saw our cavalry coming towards them with such impetuosity, they turned and fled, and sought the covering of their guns. Colonel Jewell pursued them for about three-quarters of a mile right at their heels, sabreing some of the rearmost, until he came near the stone wall or fence, behind which were posted a large body of rebel infantry. It was the grandest sight I ever saw-our bright sabres gleaming in the sunlight of that lovely afternoon. This short action took place on the open prairie, and as I was near Colonel Weir and our batteries, a few hundred yards to the left of Col. Jewell's position, I could see every movement as distinctly as if I were watching two of our cavalry regiments going into a sham battle. In the presence of the enemy he never sought an excuse to be absent from his regiment or post of duty. And his men loved him, for he respected their manhood, and shared Equally with them all dangers and hardships. In another way he endeared himself to us more than any other field-officer [37] of our regiment. He always seemed to me to be more in earnest and devoted to the cause for which we are fighting, and in which I believe we shall be successful, than any of the other field-officers. We had some rather lively discussions around headquarters sometimes in regard to the policy of the Government towards the rebellious States, and I know that he was an ardent supporter of Mr. Lincoln's administration, and believed that the war should be prosecuted without dallying with the enemy.

It is a matter of simple justice to state that no truer and braver soldier has thus far in the war been sacrificed on the altar of liberty, nor has a purer patriot drawn his sword in defence of his country. Though his family and friends and all who knew him will mourn that he has been thus cut down in the prime of his manhood and usefulness, yet there is a sad pleasure in knowing that he fell in the full discharge of a noble duty, the noblest it is given man to perform.

If Kansas shall in the future erect monuments to her heroic dead, I know that none will be more deserving of a monument than. Colonel Jewell.

After the battle of Cane Hill, General Blunt ordered forward all his trains from Camp Moonlight to Rhea's Mills, eight miles north of Cane Hill. All the troops of his division, except some detachments which were posted to guard the principal passes in the mountains to the south of us, were collected at Rhea's Mills, for he knew from the information that our scouts brought [38] in each day, that a great struggle was near at hand-a struggle that would require the co-operation of all the Federal troops in southwest Missouri and northwest Arkansas to save us from defeat and utter destruction. General Herron's division of Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and Missouri troops, which had been with us during the latter part of October, while we were encamped at Pea Ridge, moved back early in November in the direction of Wilson Creek and Springfield, Missouri. Having received reliable information that a large army of the enemy, consisting of all the available troops from Texas, Arkansas and Missouri, had concentrated at Fort Smith and Van Buren under the supreme command of General Hindman, who had positively fixed the 3d or 4th of December as the day when he would set out with his army to attack and destroy this division and invade Missouri, General Blunt sent couriers to General Herron to bring forward his division on a forced march. General Herron responded with great promptness, marching day and night, and on Sunday morning, December 7th, his advance guard, composed of a battalion of the Seventh Missouri Cavalry, was attacked by General Hindman's advance cavalry division about twelve miles south of Fayetteville, near Illinois river, and some five miles southeast of our camp. The officer in command of General Herron's advanced guard, supposing that he was in the neighborhood of our division, allowed himself to be surprised by the enemy, and in this preliminary engagement lost upwards of one hundred of his men by [39] capture, and some ten or twelve killed and wounded. But I think he cannot be justly censured for this misfortune, since he had a right to suppose that we had not permitted the enemy to pass us. This engagement in the morning, however, stopped the progress of the enemy and enabled General Herron to bring up his infantry and artillery. And in the meantime our division was also coming into position on the enemy's left flank.

With the exception of the above affair, and a reconnoisance by our division, which will presently be mentioned, the early part of the day was consumed by the commanding generals on both sides in bringing up troops and artillery and getting them into position, so that a calm prevailed before the storm which was to break over Prairie Grove in the afternoon.

While the two opposing armies were thus getting ready for the impending conflict,a movement with which I was connected seems worth mentioning. About two o'clock on Sunday morning the 7th, Colonel W. R. Judson, with most of the available men of his regiment and two mountain howitzers, was detailed by Gen. Blunt to occupy a pass in the mountains about twelve miles southeast of Rhea's Mill, as a report came in that the enemy were making a demonstration against an outpost which we had there. When we reached the point designated, we found that all Gen. Hindman's army with the exception of some detachments, which had been thrown out as flankers and as rear guard, had passed. After we struck the Fort Smith and Fayetteville [40] road and marched north a short distance, we came in sight of the enemy's rear column. Col. Judson ordered the howitzer battery to fire a few rounds into it,and Gen. Hindman supposing that his army was attacked in the rear by Gen. Blunt's division from Rhea's Mills, ordered his troops to form in line of battle, facing to the rear. We saw them forming on the sides of the mountain and in the openings in the woods in large masses. After discharging a few volleys from our carbines into their line, we retreated around a section of the mountain and joined our division on the extreme right about the middle of the afternoon. This movement it is generally conceded had the effect of delaying Gen. Hindman in massing his troops in front against Gen. Herron, as he could not feel sure that the main attack was not to be made in his rear, until he sent out a reconnoisance and discovered the true situation. Several rebel wounded with whom I talked on the subject of the battle, stated that Gen. Hindman had actually commenced to change his main line of battle to face south. When we came on to the field the divisions of Gens. Blunt and Herron had just formed a junction, and their line of battle must have been fully two and a half miles long. Gen. Herron's division had already had several sharp contests with the enemy, and the engagement was becoming general all along the line. On both sides the skirmish lines were being pushed back on the infantry and artillery. The enemy had apparently the best position, as he occupied a side of the mountain and a plateau or intermediate elevation, [41] thickly covered with timber, mostly of young growth; while our forces occupied the lower ground north and west of Prairie Grove meeting house. Shortly after we had taken our position, there was a lull in the skirmish firing, which was soon followed by a heavy roll of musketry on our extreme left. Gen. Hindman had thrown forward a division of infantry which attacked Gen. Herron's division furiously. He then dispatched another division against Gen. Blunt. The heavy volleys of musketry now extended all along the lines of both armies. In the meantime the artillery of both sides had not been idle. It furnished the base notes of that awfully grand performance. Our batteries were skillfully handled, and sometimes when they came into new positions with the enemy plainly in view, their terrific thundering seemed to shake the very foundation of the mountains. The storm surged back and forth along the lines of both armies with no perceptible intermission until dark with small arms, and until long after dark with the artillery; for I could distinctly see from our position the enemy's guns on the side of the mountain belching forth long volumes of fire from their horrid throats. My experience at Newtonia and Prairie Grove convinces me that shells from an enemy's guns bursting over one's head at night make quite a different impression upon the mind than when bursting over one's head in broad daylight. The bursting and singing of shells flying through the air, and the crackling and falling of limbs of trees produce an indescribable feeling, such perhaps as is not easy [42] to imagine by any one who has not had the experience.

As the twilight grew into darkness the volleys of musketry died away gradually, and only the batteries kept up the firing of shot and shell. But when night came and drew a mantle of darkness over the earth, and shortly separated the combatants, neither we nor our foes knew the amount of death and suffering the last few hours had wrought. Nor is it likely that the commanding Generals of either army, until long after silence reigned over the bloody field, felt sure as to the result of the day's contest. At the close of the day both armies occupied very nearly the same positions they had taken up on going into action. Some of the bloodiest parts of the field were neutral ground during the night. Our troops slept on their arms, and all night long active preparations were being made to bring every available man on the field the next day, and to renew the battle at early dawn. The supply and baggage trains of our division at Rhea's Mills, had been in an unsafe position during the day, and were removed during the night to Fayetteville, so that they would be covered by our army in the event of its being compelled to retreat the next day. During the progress of the battle, Gen. Solomons, with the Ninth Wisconsin infantry and some detachments from different regiments, was left to guard our trains. But the next morning was clear and frosty, and the sun, with its disc half obscured, peeped over the distant outlines of the mountain and seemed to smile on [43] all below. The distant mountain peaks, too, bathed in a soft haze, seemed to speak words of hope and confidence. We found ourselves in complete possession of the field instead of another bloody day before us. Gen. Hindman not being willing to renew the contest, had during the night ordered the wheels of his artillery carriages and caissons muffled, and drawn off the field and retreated towards Van Buren. He remained however with a division of cavalry in the vicinity of the battle field a short time the next day, and sent a flag of truce to Gens. Blunt and Herron concerning the picking up of arms on the field, the burying of the dead and caring for the wounded. Our victory was complete. The defeat of the enemy was a severe blow to the Confederate cause west of the Mississippi. Gen. Hindman is reported to have boasted that his horse should drink out of the Missouri river or from the rivers of Pluto's regions before Christmas. The morning before leaving Van Buren, he issued a flaming address to his troops to inspire them with courage and hope, and in it, in speaking of the Federal troops, he went on to say, “they have desolated your homes, defiled the graves of your kindred,” etc. A copy of this address I picked up on the field beside a dead Confederate soldier, and presume it was printed and distributed among the rebel troops. This bombastic display of oratory may have had some effect towards firing the flagging zeal of his troops, for some of his soldiers that we captured had very exaggerated notions about alleged outrages committed by our troops. particularly the Kansas division. [44]

This battle is one of the three big battles that have as yet been fought west of the Mississippi river, and as it has resulted so favorable to our arms, it will no doubt do much to strengthen our cause in the west. There are always men who are looking out for the winning side.

It requires time and an immense expenditure of energy and money to organize and equip such an army as Gen. Hindman brought against us. His army has been estimated at sixteen to twenty thousand men. Our two divisions did not bring on the field exceeding ten thousand men. From what I saw and could find out, I estimated that our loss must have been very nearly two hundred men killed, and upwards of eight hundred wounded.3 The enemy, I estimated [45] from counting different groups of their slain on the field, lost about three hundred men killed, and probably upwards of a thousand wounded.

There was some gallant charging by the infantry on According to official reports the casualties were as follows in Second and Third Divisions: Indiana: Twenty-sixth infantry, enlisted men killed, 41. Illinois: Thirty-seventh regiment infantry, enlisted men killed, : wounded, . Ninety-fourth regiment, enlisted men killed, 2; wounded, 10. Tenth regiment cavalry, enlisted men wounded, 9. Iowa: First cavalry, wounded enlisted men, 1; missing enlisted men, 2. Nineteenth infantry, killed, officers, 3; enlisted men, 42; wounded, officers, 6; enlisted men, 139; missing, officers, 1; enlisted men, 2. Twentieth infantry, killed, officers, 1; enlisted men, 7; wounded, officers, 5; enlisted men, 34. Missouri: Seventh cavalry, killed, officers, 2; enlisted men, 4; wounded, enlisted men, 6; missing, officers, 1; enlisted men, 105.--Eighth cavalry, missing, enlisted men, 4. Batteries E, F and L, First Light artillery, killed, enlisted men, 1; wounded, 2. Wisconsin: Twentieth infantry, killed, officers, 2; enlisted men, 51; wounded officers, 8; enlisted men, 154; missing, enlisted men, 10. Battalion Second cavalry, wounded, enlisted men, 1.

First Division: Kansas: Second cavalry, killed, enlisted men, 3; wounded, officers, 1; enlisted men, 11. Sixth cavalry, missing, enlisted men, 3. Tenth infantry, killed, enlisted men, 7; wounded, officers, 2; enlisted men, 58. Eleventh infantry, killed, enlisted men, 2; wounded, officers, 2; enlisted men, 19. Thirteenth infantry, killed, enlisted men, 7; wounded, officers, 2; enlisted men, 33; missing, enlisted men, 6. First Battery, killed, enlisted men, 1; wounded, enlisted men, 8. Indiana brigade; First regiment, killed, enlisted men, 1; wounded, enlisted men, 1. Third regiment, missing, enlisted men, 3.

There were according to the official reports of Gens. Blunt and Herron, killed, 167, wounded, 798; missing, 183! making a total of casualties of 1,148. I make 175 killed, which I think is very nearly correct. This is 28 less than the number of men killed at Pea Ridge during three days fighting. [46] both sides to capture batteries and to secure certain desirable positions. In Gen. Herron's division the Twentieth regiment Wisconsin infantry, Twenty-sixth Indiana Infantry, the Nineteenth and Twentieth regiments of Iowa infantry, and Thirty-seventh and Ninety-fourth regiments Illinois infantry were most fiercely assaulted by the enemy, and sustained the heaviest loss in charging the enemy at the point of the bayonet. Never was greater bravery and firmness displayed by troops in action, and no general ever handled his men more skillfully than G-en. Herron.

On that bloody day several of the enemy's batteries, after every horse belonging to the gun carriages had been killed, were captured by our infantry, and while they were being hauled off the field by the hands of the men, the enemy rallied and came down in lines of six deep, and recaptured them just before they were drawn to the foot of the hill. Gen. Herron strengthened his line at this hotly contested spot, and in a few moments a strong force of infantry charged up the hill through the woods and at the point of the bayonet retook one of the batteries and held it. Shortly after this fierce contest Gen. Hindman sent a division of infantry against our right with a view of breaking through Gen. Blunt's line. Again the enemy came down in line of battle six deep. Gen. Blunt ordered his batteries into positions from which they were able to use grape and canister against the enemy with terrible effect. The Tenth, Eleventh and Thirteenth regiments Kansas infantry [47] suffered the heaviest losses in this fierce engagement. Our batteries were well handled and did excellent service. They dismounted several of the enemy's guns, knocked the wheels off some of their gun carriages and caissons, and by exploding shells killed a good many of their artillerymen and artillery horses. I saw near the peach orchard on the hill where this fierce contest was waged over the taking and retaking of the batteries above mentioned, nearly all the horses that belonged to those batteries within a radius of fifty yards, and I noticed that many of them had been killed by exploding shells. Indeed in some instances they were dreadfully mutilated.

I account for the enemy's loss in killed and wounded being larger than ours in this way. In the first place I am satisfied that Gen. Hindman's army was not as well organized and equipped as ours; though he unquestionably had several divisions of well organized troops. In the second place, I don't believe that the great body of his troops were as eager for the fray as ours. I sincerely believe that a large proportion of our soldiers were actually eager for the contest, and went into it with confidence of their strength and in the justice of our cause. They felt too, that our officers would not blindly lead them into a contest in which they would be put to disadvantage in every respect. Our small arms also were perhaps as a general thing superior to the small arms of the enemy, though some of their infantry regiments were armed with fine Enfield muskets with the crown stamped [48] upon them. When it could be done conveniently it was probably the intention to pick up these costly arms whenever a soldier was killed or fell severely wounded, but in many instances this would have been impossible, hostile bullets were flying so thick and fast. Several women whom I saw on the field the second day after the battle, looking for dead or wounded relatives and friends, told me that the rebel authorities had conscripted every able bodied man in the State they could get, and put him into the army, and that the conscripts were always sure to be put into the front ranks, poorly armed and equipped, so as to draw our first fire, and so that their best trained and equipped soldiers could be reserved for the fiercest and most important contests. From inquiries that I have made, I have no doubt but that a good many men who were indifferent as to the results of the war, and many others whose sympathies were more with the Government than with the Confederacy, were killed and wounded in .this battle. But in times like the present, if not indeed upon all questions of public and private interests, men should have decided convictions, and support them by all honorable means in their power. If a man is not in sympathy with the rebellion he should at once either join the Federal army or seek its protection. It is an unsafe time to attempt to sit a straddle the political fence. Whoever attempts it is liable to get knocked off by either party, and to receive very little sympathy from neither. [49]

And thirdly, I don't think that the enemy were able to use their artillery as effectively as ours was used. Gen. Hindman's position on the side of the mountain and on the plateau below, though covered with a dense young forest, was not much advantage to him, if not indeed a positive disadvantage. On account of the few openings in the woods, his batteries could not find a sufficient number of good positions from which to sight our troops and batteries. And being obliged to stick to the same positions all the afternoon, our batteries soon got their range from the smoke which arose from them, and knocked them to pieces fearfully. Our batteries constantly shifted their positions and consequently suffered very little loss. Only at the peach orchard above mentioned, did the enemy attempt to use any of his batteries at short range with grape and canister, and we have seen how that performance ended. The batteries of both our divisions, about forty-two pieces, all the afternoon poured a constant and terrific shower of shot and shell into the dense woods which seemed to afford the enemy shelter. The day after the battle, in passing through this woods with an officer and several comrades, the number of torn and mutilated bodies of rebel soldiers, scattered here and there, told us plainly enough that the forest had afforded the enemy very little shelter, that though it had concealed them from our view, it had not concealed them from our exploding shells. On one occasion when General Hindman massed a large force of infantry in front of our right, and directed them to break our line, two of our batteries took positions [50] well selected, and cross-fired them with grape and canister, as soon as they came within range, with terrible effect.

The names of many officers who displayed conspicuous bravery on the bloody field of Prairie Grove could be mentioned, but as there were probably others, whose names I did not get, who displayed equal bravery, it would be unjust to make any discrimination. The officer of highest rank killed on our side, was Lieut.-Colonel Samuel McFarland, Nineteenth Iowa infantry, while gallantly leading his regiment.

The smoke of the battle having cleared away, and it having been ascertained that the enemy had not stopped in his retreat until he reached Van Buren, our next care was to bury our dead and look after our wounded. The enemy also, under a flag of truce, had men and surgeons on the field gathering up their dead and wounded. I visited a number of our Field Hospitals, and it was the most affecting sight I ever saw to see so many of our poor fellows breathing out their noble lives. A young man to my left, as I passed through a ward in which most of the patients were regarded as mortally wounded, knowing that dissolution was near, was dictating a last message to his young wife; and another to my right was directing a comrade by his side to send some loving word to his mother; and near by another, whose countenance showed that life was fast ebbing away, looked intently on a picture of some dear one at home for a moment and then fell to weeping. Others were undergoing great mental as well as physical suffering, because [51] they were conscious that they were going to die far away from homes and friends. But the groans and agonies of these brave men shall not have been in vain. Future generations will enjoy the blessings that their blood has helped to purchase. It would be base ingratitude on the part of those for whom they died, were they to make no effort to commemorate their glorious actions.

1 Two volumes of my Ms., for 1862, and 1864, were left in the Adjutant General's Office at Fort Smith, Arkansas, the latter part of 1864, and are supposed to have been destroyed by fire the following year.

2 Captain J. K. Hudson, Assistant Adjutant General of Colonel Weir's brigade, who had been on several bold adventures with Colonel Jewell during the day, was only a few yards from him when he fell.

3 The First Division, commanded by Brig.-General James G. Blunt,consisted of the following troops; Kansas: Second, Sixth and Ninth regiments of cavalry, with four twelve pound mountain howitzers; Tenth, Eleventh and Thirteenth regiments infantry, and First, Second and Third batteries light artillery. Indiana: Second battery light artillery commanded by Captain Rabb. Wisconsin: Third regiment cavalry, two battalions, and Ninth regiment infantry. And Colonel Phillips Indiana brigade, consisting of the First, Second and Third regiments.

The Second and Third Divisions commanded by Brig..General Frank J. Herron were composed of the following organizations: Iowa: Nineteenth and Twentieth regiments of infantry, and First regiment cavalry. Illinois: Tenth regiment cavalry and Thirty-seventh and Ninety-fourth regiments infantry and Peoria battery light artillery. Indiana: Twenty-sixth regiment infantry. Missouri: First, Seventh and Eight regiments cavalry, and batteries “E,” “F” and “L” First light artillery. Wisconsin: One battalion Second regiment cavalry; and Twentieth regiment infantry, and First regiment Arkansas cavalry.

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