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Doc. 128.-battle of Fitzhugh's woods, Ark.

Report of Major Foster.

headquarters Third Minnesota Volunteer infantry, little Rock, Ark., April 3, 1864.
Captain John Peetz, Post-Adjutant, Little Rock:
Captain: I have the honor to report the part which the detachment of the Third Minnesota volunteers, under my command, took in the recent expedition and action up White River, under command of Colonel C. C. Andrews, of the Third Minnesota.

I received orders from Colonel Andrews at half-past 4 o'clock P. M., March thirtieth, to be in readiness to march with four days rations at six o'clock that evening, and at seven o'clock I marched my command, six companies--company B, commanded by Lieutenant Pierce, company C by Lieutenant Grummons, company E by Lieutenant Knight, company G by Captain Devereux, company H by Lieutenant Misener, company I by Captain Swan--one hundred and eighty-six strong — to the ferry, and immediately proceeded to the railroad depot, where, by direction of the Colonel, we embarked on the cars, and at nine P. M. left for Duvall's Bluff. We reached the Bluff at four o'clock next morning, and forthwith embarked on the steamer Dove, and at seven o'clock, together with a small force of the Eighth Missouri cavalry, proceeded up White River, reaching Gregory's Landing — which is ten miles above the mouth of the Little Red, and one hundred and ten miles above Duvall's Bluff — about eight o'clock P. M., where we disembarked, and marched to the support of the cavalry, toward Cache River Crossing, where it was supposed McCrea was encamped. After marching three miles. in the darkness and rain, it was ascertained that McCrea had left that country and gone toward Jacksonport. Upon getting this information, we immediately returned to the boat, and proceeded up the river to Augusta, where we arrived at half-past 5 A. M., on the first of April; disembarked, and pushed without delay, with one hundred and sixty men, all told, into the country, on the Jacksonport road, the cavalry in advance. My orders were to keep within supporting distance, which I did. At the crossing of the Cache River road, four miles from Augusta, I encamped with the cavalry, which had been skirmishing with the enemy for the last two miles, and here found them in force. The Colonel ordered me to take three companies into the woods and engage them. I took companies B, H, and I, [511] and drove the enemy before me about one mile, and across a large cypress-swamp. I afterward learned from prisoners that the force. I drove was the notorious Rutherford and about one hundred and fifty men. At this time the rest of the force came up, the cavalry advanced, and I followed, crossing the swamp, and proceeding toward Jacksonport, the cavalry doing the skirmishing. We marched on to the Methodist church, near Dr. Westmoreland's house, twelve miles from Augusta, where, by the Colonel's orders, I halted my command, while the cavalry, scouted in advance. Finding no force of the enemy, they returned, and, after a short rest, started back for the boats. We had moved back about two and a half miles, and halted to rest at Fitzhugh's farm-house, where we discovered a large force of mounted men charging down upon us on our right and rear. I immediately formed, and, by Colonel Andrews's orders, sent two companies to engage the enemy; Captain Swan, company I, those in the road, and Lieutenant Misener, company H, those on the right. They charged down through the open field with loud yells. I let them approach within one hundred and fifty yards, then sent a volley of Minie balls into them, which caused them to cease their yelling, and break to the rear for the woods with headlong speed. I followed a short distance, and discovered we had inflicted a severe loss on them. Our cavalry having pushed on in advance, we did not follow up. Finding the enemy was not disposed to come out of the woods, we again proceeded toward Augusta. We marched on about two and a half miles, to Fitzhugh's Woods, when the enemy was again heard shouting and yelling, and seen coming down through an old corn-field, on the same flank as before. I immediately fixed bayonets, and charged on at a double-quick to meet him, coming up in line at about two hundred yards from this force, which was, I should judge, at least three hundred strong, and gave him a volley before he opened. He immediately broke to the rear for the thick timber. At this instant, when we gave a shout to see the enemy so broken, we were attacked by another and still larger force from the road we had just come up. The troops were immediately faced about, and charged down into the woods in the face of a deadly fire from the enemy. While leading this charge, the Colonel's horse was killed under him. After gaining the heavy timber, we engaged the enemy as skirmishers, in a contest which lasted two hours and a half, when I discovered that we were getting short — of ammunition. I immediately reported the fact to Colonel Andrews, who ordered me to withdraw gradually from the timber and occupy some farm-buildings up the road toward Augusta, and protect the crossing of Cypress Swamp, about half a mile further on, which was successfully accomplished; the cavalry passed through the swamp, the infantry following. We then formed on the opposite side, and marched to Augusta, six miles, without further molestation, bringing some thirty prisoners, and a large number of contrabands, which had been picked up during the day.

The following embraces a full list of the casualties in the regiment at the combat of Fitzhugh's Woods:

Company B.--Privates Benjamin Sanderson and Ole Hanson, killed; Sergeant Albert G. Hunt, severely wounded; Corporal Edward Fraygang, severely wounded; private William F. Ingham, severely wounded; First Sergeant, Henry A. Durand, slightly wounded; privates George Brewer and William Shearier, wounded and missing.

Company C.--Private Henry W. Farnsworth, killed; privates James P. Chapin and Henry H. Wallace, severely wounded; Corporal Lewis Kimball, slightly wounded; private Orin Case, slightly wounded.

Company E.-- First Sergeant Corydon D. Bevans and private Clark D. Harding, killed; Corporal Isaac Lauver and private Albert G. Leach, severely wounded.

Company G.--Private Albert R. Pierce, severely wounded; private Andrew Bingham, missing.

Company H.--Corporal George H. Peaslee, killed; privates Rollin O. Crawford and John Eaton, severely wounded.

Company F.--Privates: Washington I. Smith, killed; Joseph Markling, dangerously wounded; Andrew Clark, severely wounded; John Pope, wounded and missing.

Quartermaster's Sergeant, H. D. Pettibone, slightly wounded.

Killed, seven; wounded, sixteen; missing, four. Total casualties, twenty-seven.

The loss of the enemy, as near as could be astertained, was upward of one hundred killed and wounded-four times our own. Of these, several were known to be officers.

I am very proud to say that every man was perfectly cool during the entire engagement, and many instances of great daring and bravery occurred which are worthy of being mentioned. Hardly a man escaped without some bullet-mark through his clothing.

I am especially obliged to Lieutenant E. Champlin, Acting Adjutant; Sergeant-Major Akers, Quartermaster Sergeant H. D. Pettibone, and First Sergeant C. D. Bevans, who, I lament to say, was killed; also First Sergeant James M. Moran, company H, and, in short, to all the officers and men of the regiment, for their promptitude in obeying all orders.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Everett W. Foster, Major Third Minnesota, commanding Regiment.

St. Paul Pioneer account.

St. Paul, April 16.
In conversation with Captain Devereux, of the Third regiment, who has just returned from Little Rock, Arkansas, we were favored with the following particulars of the recent fight at Fitzhugh's Woods, near Augusta, in North-Eastern Arkansas.

On Wednesday, the thirtieth ultimo, the Third regiment was on duty at Little Rock, in Arkansas. [512] At five P. M. it received orders from Colonel (now General) Andrews, commanding the post, to be prepared to march in one hour. At halfpast six o'clock, the regiment was marched to the railroad depot, and conveyed by the cars to Duval's Bluff. At four A. M., the expedition, consisting of six companies of the Third, numbering one hundred and sixty men, under Major E. W. Foster, and forty of the Eighth Missouri cavalry, under Captain Estes--the whole under command of General Andrews--was embarked at Duval's Bluff on the steamer Dove, and proceeded up White River, convoyed by gunboat No. Twenty-five, of the Mosquito Fleet. At Gregory's Landing, sixty-five miles from the Bluff, the expedition was landed at eight P. M., and marched into the interior, a distance of four or five miles, in the direction where the noted rebel General McRae was supposed to be encamped. His camping-ground was found, and it was learned from inhabitants of the neighborhood that McRae, with a considerable force, had left that camp on the Monday previous, and gone in the direction of Augusta, near which place they supposed him then to be. The command was immediately returned to the boat, and proceeded up the river to Augusta, reaching that place at about daylight of Friday morning. A picket-guard was at once posted around the town, and a patrol sent through it, which latter arrested and brought to the boat a number of citizens, that information might be obtained from them as to the whereabouts of McRae and his command. The citizens, however, knew, or pretended to know, little or nothing about McRae. General Andrews, acting on the previous information, resolved to leave the boats at Augusta, and march into the country; and did so march the command a distance of twelve or thirteen miles. It was remarked as a singular fact that the citizens along the line of our march, as at Augusta, all professed to know nothing of McRae or his whereabouts, though the command soon after learned positively that he was in the immediate neighborhood. Having gained no reliable information whatever, the General ordered a return to the boats, intending to proceed from Augusta further up the river, and make another landing and reconnaissance.

At half-past 12 o'clock, on the return, at about six miles from Augusta, the command was attacked by General McRae's force, from five hundred to eight hundred mounted men; at the same time on both flanks and in the rear. Retaining small reserve, General Andrews caused his men to be deployed as skirmishers toward each point of attack, while the rebels were coming on with a yell, as if to make a desperate charge. So soon as the lines of Federal skirmishers were formed, firing was commenced, at orders given, and the rebels were repulsed, retreated, and were followed by the skirmishers, till the lines becoming too extended, it was deemed best they should be withdrawn, and kept available for mutual support. At the retiring of our lines, the rebels advanced again. We had to retire a short distance, and then formed our line behind a fence, from whence we checked the rebel advance. After an hour and a half of continual firing on both sides, our lines were moved forward, and the rebels driven to the original position of their attack. After about fifteen minutes, the rebels were dismounted, and charged upon us, yelling and whooping. We were unable to check their advance until we had fallen back to the line at the fence. We held this line until about half-past 4 o'clock, the enemy ceasing their fire at about four o'clock and retiring, protected by rough ground and the trees, annoyed by prompt fire from our line at every exposure.

The fight lasted about four hours, on ground of McRae's own choosing, and three desperate attacks from superior numbers had been repulsed, our men behaving nobly. Twice the rebels charged upon our lines, in line, mounted. The third time they dismounted, and advanced under cover of trees and with the advantage of ground. The enemy, at the close, showed no stomach for further fight, and was, in the opinion of our men, badly hurt. His first intention seems to have been, under the impression that his force was large enough to capture us, to cut off our line of retreat to the river.

Finding that the rebels intended no further attack, General Andrews returned with his command to the river, without hindrance or gaining sight again of their forces. Near the battle-field, about five miles from Augusta, the column had to make its way on the road through a swamp, where the muddy water overflowed it from one to three feet deep, and where the enemy, with his knowledge of the country, might, if his fighting disposition had remained good, have attacked General Andrews in a bad position for concerted defence.

The loss of General Andrews's force in this action was seven killed, sixteen wounded, and four missing. Total casualties, twenty-seven. The loss of the enemy, as near as could be ascertained, was upward of one hundred in killed and wounded, of whom a number were known to be officers. Our force, having no ambulances or wagons, left its dead on the field.

Among the incidents of this fight at Fitzhugh's Woods are the following: General Andrews's horse was shot dead from under him. Two bullets passed through Major Foster's coat into his saddle. Three bullets passed through Captain Swan's coat. Orderly-Sergeant H. A. Durand, of company B, was taking aim at a rebel, when a bullet struck the cock of his gun on the side, knocked it off, and glancing wounded the Sergeant slightly on the side of his forehead. The men wore their blankets rolled and twisted, the ends tied together, and the coil thus made thrown over the head, and hanging on the left shoulder and right side. After the fight one of the men found a very large bullet imbedded in his blanket, having passed two thirds through the twisted folds, just above his stomach.

It was understood, at leaving Little Rock, that the object of the expedition was to relieve Batesville, an outpost on White River, threatened by [513] McRae's force, or to divert McRae's attention from that post for the time.

Missouri Democrat account.

little Rock, Ark., April 6, 1864.
A force of one hundred and fifty of the Third Minnesota infantry, and fifty of the Eighth Missouri cavalry, under Colonel C. C. Andrews, left Little Rock at eight P. M. of the thirtieth ultimo, reached Duvall's Bluff at four o'clock next morning, and embarked on the steamer Dove. With the iron-clad No. 25 we reached Gregory's Landing at dark. Secrecy being indispensable, we took every man we met prisoner. Disembarking, we moved in the dark toward the understood locality of the rebel McRay's camp, five miles distant. After fording the muddy branch of White River, we learned that Ray and his band had gone up the river to attack our transports then on their way to Batesville.

Returning to our boat, we reached Augusta and landed at sunrise; then took up our line of march on the Jacksonport road, having learned that the enemy was posted in strong force near it. Less than a mile ahead, we discovered McRay's advance. They ran like Indians, and we chased about one mile, making several prisoners, and at length approaching a body of rebels who snowed some disposition to stand, but soon dispersed in the woods. We followed McRay twelve miles over the Jacksonport road, and then, learning nothing more of him, started back near night for our boats. We had gone about five miles when we were suddenly attacked on the left rear. Our brave lads sprang to position and went to work. The battle lasted two hours and a half. The rebels were at least three to our one. They struggled powerfully to surround us, at one time forming in a complete semi-circle and inflicting a severe cross-fire. They showed little disposition to advance far from the swamp, for whenever they attempted to leave it, our fire was most effectual. To draw them from the timber, we fell back a few hundred yards to a strong position near a farm-house. Every attempt they made to approach us was repulsed with loss. Being five miles from our boat, the sun getting low, and the rebels retiring in their swamp, we leisurely resumed our march, and at sunset reached the boat, singing the “Battle-cry of freedom,” giving three cheers for the flag and three for Colonel Andrews.

We were away from Little Rock three days, travelled three hundred and twenty miles, chased McRay's boasted band of eight hundred twelve miles without being able to get a fight out of them, and repulsed an attack of five hundred rebels. We lost twenty-five killed, wounded, and missing, and are sure the rebels lost not less than one hundred. We saw several of their officers unsaddled, one of them doing his best to get his men to charge. He was killed — a brave fellow, and may have deserved a better fate.

The moral effect of this successful expedition in this section will be excellent. A majority are praying for the overthrow of the rebellion.

I would be doing injustice to my own feelings if I were to close this article without speaking of Colonel Andrews's noble behavior in this engagement. His horse was shot from under him, and the strap of his sabre was shot in two, and balls whistled thick as hail all around him. Through all this he was cool and deliberate as a judge upon the bench. He inspired his men with bravery, and the enemy with terror. He is certainly one of the ablest commanders west of the Mississippi.

A. B. Frazier, Surgeon Fourth Arkansas Cavalry.

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