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Chapter 16:

  • The rebel pickets shout across the River that the Federal supply train is coming
  • -- another rebel force gone to meet the Federal supply train -- movements of the Confederate armies in the east as reported by rebel pickets -- Vicksburg closely invested by General Grant -- Federal troops in southwest Missouri -- Federal supply train detained by high water at Neosho River -- Federal supplies running short at Fort Gibson -- high water in Grand River -- Indian women report heavy firing in the vicinity of Cabin Creek -- General Cabell on the east side of Grand River, near Cabin Creek, with artillery -- the suspense -- a National salute fired in honor of Independence day -- beef and beans for barbecue -- the pinch of hunger -- horses and dead rebels floating in the River -- two days fighting at Cabin Creek -- gallant charge of the colored regiment -- total rout of the enemy -- how the Federal troops crossed Cabin Creek under fire -- General Cabell unable to join General Cooper's division on account of high water -- arrival of supply train at Fort Gibson.

The rebel pickets shouted across the river on the 24th instant, that our commissary train was on the way down, and that Colonel Dodd was commanding the escort to it, which is composed of two infantry regiments and four pieces of artillery. This is really news to our officers here, as we have not heard what troops and how strong a force would guard it down. Our hostile neighbors across the river seem to be better informed [303] of the movements of our train and troops in the country above than we are. Livingston, the guerrilla chieftain, whom I have frequently mentioned as operating in the vicinity of Baxter Springs, it is thought sends couriers to General Cooper every three or four days, and that they must either travel at night or take a route not much frequented by our troops. If Colonel Phillips would have carefully posted at half a dozen points twenty-five or thirty miles above here, say three men at each station, well armed and mounted on good horses, I believe that the enemy's dispatch bearers could be captured.

A large part of the remaining force of the enemy on the south side of the Arkansas made a movement in some direction on the 25th. Their pickets intimate that this force has marched out to join the cavalry General Cooper sent out a few days ago to attack our train. That their pickets should venture to refer to the movements of this force in connection with our train looks as if they feel very confident of success, or else believe that we are perfectly advised of all their movements.

It is now reported by our scouts that most of the enemy's camp has been removed back to Elk Creek, some twenty miles south of this post. This explains the activity noticed in their camp on the 25th instant. Should we endeavor to cross the river and compel the flight of the detachments guarding the different fords, they would endeavor to warn their baggage trains at Elk Creek by signals, so that they could be moving [304] south, several hours before we could reach that point. The troops of this division, however, are too busily engaged elsewhere to make a dash on the enemy's camp.

The rebel pickets on Sunday, 28th instant, stated that they had just heard that the Confederate army in the east, under General Lee, has recently gained a great victory over the Federal army, and that our army has fallen back to the immediate vicinity of Washington. They also stated that General Lee is preparing for another invasion of Maryland, and intends entering Pennsylvania with the army of Northern Virginia, with the view of capturing Philadelphia and Baltimore. Though, in our isolation here, news from the East is a long time reaching us, yet that which comes shows that both the Federal and Confederate armies are displaying great activity, and that a great conflict is imminent. The loss of a great battle now, or the capture by the enemy of either of the large cities above mentioned, would be extremely damaging to our cause, and I know that thousands of loyal hearts are trembling in regard to the impending result. Our defeat would encourage the faint hearted, and those in the North who have all along opposed the war, to cry for peace at almost any price. Our forces, under General Grant, are still besieging Vicksburg,. and our lines are tightening around the enemy there. We may expect to hear of some definite action at that place shortly, as the enemy have now run short of supplies, with very little hope of being provisioned [305] again, as they are surrounded from all sides, and therefore completely isolated from other divisions of the rebel army. It seems that General Grant has not relaxed his grasp in the slightest degree since he commenced the siege. He has perhaps nearly a hundred thousand men, and has already made several furious assaults on the enemy's works. The capture of Vicksburg and opening of the Mississippi River to the Gulf, will break the backbone of the Confederacy in the West, if not indeed of the entire South. When the Confederacy shall thus be cut into two nearly equal divisions, there can be very little co-operation between the eastern and western Rebel armies.

And should reinforcements of a thousand or so men come down with our train the enemy in our front will not likely occupy their position on the south side much longer. What a grand idea it would be if our forces, when the half year is up, could make an advance all along our lines, east and west, and overthrow the enemy at every point.

Several Indian women who have just arrived from near the Arkansas line a few miles south of Maysville, state that it was currently reported when they left, that General Brown, commanding the Missouri State troops in southwest Missouri, recently had a fight with General Marmaduke's cavalry and defeated it with considerable loss. We do not hear much about the movements of our troops southwest of Springfield and around Cassville, but hope that they have not been idle. We have expected however, that they would have moved [306] forward and re-occupied Fayetteville before this. Had they done so a month ago, it would have relieved us of the necessity of using so many of the troops of this command is watching the movements of the enemy along the Arkansas line to the east of us, and our isolation would not have been so complete as it is at present. Even at this moment it is probable that a force of the enemy is moving from Arkansas northeast of us, to attack our supply train. If there are as many volunteer troops in Southwest Missouri as there were nearly two months ago when I was at Cassville, it is surely strange that the Department Commander does not permit them to march into Arkansas and seek the enemy. At any rate a large infantry force is not required in Southwest Missouri.

A dispatch from Major Foreman states that our commissary train was detained on the north side of the Neosho river, on account of high water. He thought, however, that it would be able to cross in another day, provided no other recent heavy rains have fallen upon the region which that river drains. If it crossed that stream as he predicted, it is now within a day's march of Cabin Creek, where we anticipate it will be attacked by the enemy. All the detachments that Colonel Phillips has sent out to make reconnaissances within the past two days, report having discovered signs of trails through the prairie, which show that the enemy have marched in several strong divisions, to some point thirty or forty miles above this place. They have had a month to make preparations [307] for this event, and no doubt will make a heroic effort to accomplish their purpose. Their cavalry horses are reported to be in better condition than ours, having had less hard service to perform during the spring than ours. And they have an advantage in being able to choose whatever position they wish.

We feel quite anxious here in regard to the result of the struggle, which will doubtless be decided in the course of the next two or three days. We are now, and have been for some ten days, issuing to the troops at this post less than half rations; a thing that has not occurred before in that division of the army with which I have been connected. Our hard bread and flour, sugar, tea and coffee, are nearly exhausted, so that after two days more we shall have to subsist on beans, rice and fresh beef. Fortunately we have sufficient salt for seasoning purposes for perhaps ten days yet. Fresh beef without salt would likely undermine the health of our troops in a short time. A considerable quantity of wheat has been obtained recently, which under a stress can be cooked and used for food. But the soldiers, whites and Indians, appear very cheerfully; and we do not apprehend that we shall be obliged to kill the dogs, and mules and horses here, before our provisions reach us. The shortness of rations and the isolation of our position sometimes causes the soldier to jocularly refer to such a contingency. The Indian dogs would not be fit for anything except soup, as there is very little flesh on their bones ; besides they are generally quite small. Probably [308] nearly every boy, soon after he begins to read, drifts into reading the histories of wars and sieges. Nothing can be more interesting to the young mind of the budding man, judging by my own experience. Well, as we are into the same kind of war as those we used to read about, we know that we are liable to be subjected to hardships and privations as severe as any of those mentioned in the histories we read. We do not absolutely know what a day may bring forth. But our stomachs would rebel against such food as the flesh of dogs, and mules and horses, in fact absolutely refuse it for some days yet. While a dog's flesh is perhaps equally as clean as that of a hog, our education through generations has been such that we refuse the former with disgust, almost amounting to nausea, and relish the latter as a delicacy. Horses and mules are clean-feeding animals, indeed as much so as sheep and cattle; yet the thought of having to use their flesh for food, would almost derange the appetite of those who are not even getting their full rations. If our imaginations did not act so powerfully on our stomachs, I cannot see why the flesh of these animals, if slaughtered in good healthy condition, should not be as wholesome as beef and mutton. But there is an old saying, “That which is one man's food, is another man's poison.”

Grand River has risen considerably since June 29th, and we hear that there have been heavy rains in the direction of southern Kansas recently. The rise in the river that is just commencing here now, is probably [309] from the same rains that caused the big rise in the Neosho, and detained our train there several days. How this rise in the Grand River will affect the operations of the two opposing forces above here, we will know in a few days.

Two Indian women came into our camp July 1st from a section about fifteen miles north of Tahlaquah, and they report that a large force of the enemy, composed of cavalry and artillery, passed their places yesterday evening, moving westward in the direction of Grand Saline. This, we are informed through our scouts, is the force I mentioned about a week ago as being encamped at Cincinnati, on the Arkansas line, under command of Brigadier-General Cabell. If the enemy arrive on the ground at the place they have chosen to make the attack, as they doubtless have, before our troops and train come up, they will be able to fortify themselves to some extent. They can also make a thorough survey of the position they have chosen, so that if they are driven from one point, they will have another position equally as good for attack or defense. It is not likely that they feel so sure of success, that they will not leave a way open for retreat.

A deserter from the rebel command, now encamped on Elk Creek, was brought in this morning, July 1st, and he states that just before he left the enemy on the 28th ultimo, General Cooper had sent out another division of cavalry to join the force that had gone out several days previous. He says that they are very [310] confident of success this time, as they have made great preparations, and are well advised of the movements of the train and escort since they left Fort Scott. It was the intention of the first division that went out, he thinks, to examine all the positions between Flat Rock and Cabin Creek, and to select the one which would be the most advantageous for making the attack. An experienced engineer officer accompanied them, so that nothing should be laking to make the organization of the expedition complete.

Well, from all the information we have been able to obtain, it is regarded as certain that the enemy's forces have converged at a point about forty miles above here in the neighborhood of Cabin Creek, yesterday evening (June 30th). Our train and escort, according to our calculation, should arrive there July 1st, perhaps in the afternoon. The contest for the prize will soon have been settled. As it is now eleven days since Major Foreman left here with his force of six hundred men and one twelve-pound mountain howitzer, he has had ample time to march as far north as Hudson's Ford on the Neosho, or perhaps to Baxter Spring, fifteen miles still further north. In either event he will probably advise Colonel Williams, commanding the First regiment Kansas colored volunteers at Baxter Spring, of the preparations that the enemy have been making to capture the train. As Colonel Williams has the reputation of being a gallant officer, and as he will doubtless be anxious to give his colored troops an opportunity of displaying their valor on the field, we [311] feel quite sure, from what we have heard of him, that, if his orders are not too positive to remain where he is, he will accompany the train with his regiment. At such a time as this he should not be hampered with orders that would keep his regiment inactive when it is needed, within the hearing of booming artillery. Though there is still some prejudice in regard to using colored soldiers in the field beside white soldiers, and though I think that this prejudice has been somewhat respected, yet, under the present pressure, I do not believe that any serious objection will be made to the colored regiment coming down to participate in the fight, for if it does, the proportion of white troops will be less than Indians and colored soldiers, unless there is a regiment of white troops along that we have not heard of. I hope that Colonel Williams will be permitted to bring his regiment along, and that his men will show a disposition to enter the lists in competition for bravery, if the enemy make the attack which we believe they have planned; so that our enemy neighbors across the river may become fully satisfied that colored soldiers are not myths.

We have been discussing the situation at Cabin Creek, and it was suggested that this night our officers may be in conference concerning the plan of attack or defense for the morrow. If such is the case, we hope that their deliberations will be full of wisdom, and that they may have strength and valor to carry out their plans.

Another day has dawned; the sun has climbed the [312] middle sky and is now descending low on the western heights; our rations are well nigh exhausted, and our soldiers are beginning to feel the pinch of hunger. I pause a moment in anxious suspense.

I have just been to the river, and I find that it has risen nearly two feet since this hour yesterday evening. Every one is anxious for news from our train and troops, for it is regarded as quite certain that an engagement has taken place or is in progress. Several Indian women who have just arrived from Grand Saline state that they heard artillery and musketry firing yesterday evening in the direction of Cabin Creek. They also state that they heard of a large force of the enemy being encamped near Grand Saline, who were unable to.cross Grand River on account of its being so full, and that the river is unusually high at that point this season. They seem to have been much frightened when they started, and came as quickly as possible, that they might be under the protection of Colonel Phillips, and learn the result of the engagement, as they have near relatives in the Third Indian regiment. Colonel Phillips has watched over the Indians with such solicitude, that the men, women and children regard him almost, if not quite, with real affection. They show commendable zeal, too, in keeping him advised of the movements of the enemy. And from my own observations since I have been with this command, I believe it would have been impossible for any other officer to have won such affectionate regard from these Indians. [313]

To-day (July 3rd) was very quiet along the Arkansas; the enemy's pickets were in suspense as well as our troops at this post. They do not even seem to have heard of the artillery and musketry firing of Wednesday evening. Or if they have, they do not care to say anything about it. If the commanding officer of the expedition has sent any dispatches back to General Cooper at Elk Creek, it is not likely that they show anything definite to have been accomplished when the courier left. The different scouting parties that Colonel Phillips has sent out in various directions the last three or four days, who have returned, report that the enemy are displaying very little activity around us at present. Their force south of us has no doubt been reduced quite low to furnish men for the expedition that has gone after our train. If we had means of crossing the Arkansas, and a regiment of cavalry to spare, it would be a good time to make a dash on their camp. The river has continued to rise since yesterday evening, and is now quite full at this point. It is not likely that it has been fordable at any point between this post and Grand Saline for the last four days.

To-day being the 4th, or Independence Day, a national salute of thirty-four guns was fired this morning at sunrise, by Hopkins' battery. The sunrise was unusually fine, and the mountains in the distance, just before the first rays of the sun fell on the plain below, seemed more charming than at any other time since we have been encamped here. Though we have not had a barbecue to-day with all the delicacies of the season, [314] we have made the best of that which we had. Most of the messes have had either rice, or beans, or hominy, or wheat, with coffee and fresh beef. There is, perhaps, some slight difference in fare of the various messes throughout the camp, for some had accumulated a larger surplus of rations than others during the past month, when we commenced to issue a reduced ration about two weeks ago. Men are economical or wasteful in their army life, just as they are in their every day life around their homes. The food we get is quite nutritious, if we would only get accustomed to it. To make a very radical and sudden change in the diet of soldiers, may result very injuriously to them. We shall be fortunate if evil effects do not flow from the change of food which we have recently been subjected to.

Several horses and men were discovered floating in the river nearly opposite the fort to-day. As they were: first noticed about a half mile above the fort, and nearest this side, and out of the strong current, they were sometime in passing, and a good many people gathered along the banks to see them. We have no boats fit for service in the river in its present condition, and I heard of no efforts being made to bring the men to shore. Their clothing showed that they were not Federal soldiers, for at one or two points they floated near enough to shore to see whether they had on blue blouses or sky-blue trousers. A good many conjectures were advanced as to whether they were recently friends or foes, and how they came to get [315] drowned. The mystery of their deaths, however, will probably be cleared up in a few days, when we shall have been better informed of the operations of the two, opposing forces on the river north of us.

The train and escort arrived at Fort Gibson, July 5th, just before twelve o'clock, although .we heard, early in the morning, that they would get in during the day. I made a good many inquiries concerning the cause of delay since they crossed the Neosho River at Hudson's ford. But we may now go back of the Neosho River to Fort Scott, and trace the progress of the train to Fort Blunt or Gibson. The train left Fort Scott with the following troops as an escort: One company of the Third Wisconsin cavalry, company C Ninth Kansas cavalry; six companies of the Second Colorado infantry; one section of Blair's battery, and one twelve-pound mountain howitzer. This force and the train reached Baxter Springs, on the 26th of June, where they were joined by Major Foreman of this division, with the six hundred men and one twelve-pound howitzer, which I have already mentioned as having left here on the 20th ultimo. This force and train moved fifteen miles south of Baxter to Hudson's Ford on Neosho River, where they were detained two days on account of high waters. While they were thus detained, Colonel J. M. Williams, commanding the colored regiment at Baxter Springs, received information which led him to believe that the escort and train would certainly be attacked on the way down, and perhaps within a day or two after they crossed the [316] Neosho River, by a large force of the enemy. He, therefore, determined to march his colored regiment to Neosho River, and offer its services to Lieut. Colonel Theo. R. Dodd, Second Colorado infantry, commanding the escort. Colonel Dodd accepted this reinforcement to his escort without interposing any objection on account of color; and the whole force moved forward as soon as the river was low enough to ford. I should almost be justified in dwelling a moment right here, for I think that this is the first time in our history that white and colored troops have co-operated that is, have joined hands in a common cause against the enemy. It is a grand step in the direction of wiping out the idea that man's right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, should depend upon the color of his skin. The first day's march south of the Neosho River, Major Foreman, with a force of cavalry, on the left flank discovered a fresh trail, and on following it some distance, came upon, and captured one and killed two of Standwaitie's pickets. The man the Major held was badly frightened, and was easily persuaded and even anxious to tell all he knew. Such information as he was able to give, however, was of little value, as our troops marched in such order that it would almost have been impossible for the enemy to surprise them. In the afternoon of Wednesday, July 1st, our train and escort arrived on the heights on the north side of Cabin Creek. The stream, where the old military road crosses it, runs nearly directly east, perhaps inclining a little to the southeast, and empties [317] into the Grand River not more than three miles distant. The topography of that section is perfectly familiar to me, as we were encamped there one year ago, having moved there shortly after the capture of Colonel Clarkson, referred to in a previous chapter. We were in that immediate vicinity nearly two weeks. It, was a good point for a camp, and our reconnoitering parties were daily sent out through the Nation to the south and southeast of our main camp.

But to return to the recent operations at Cabins Creek. A little skirmishing occurred a few miles north of the heights, near the crossing of the military road, but the resistance of the enemy was not sufficient to cause a halt of our troops and train. It is all prairie north of the heights for several miles, but descending the heights and getting into the bottom, there is a, heavy growth of timber and thick woods. At this season, some places the woods are so thickly clothed with foliage, that foot or cavalrymen could not be seen twenty yards in front. As the advance of the escort came upon the heights overlooking the strip of timber along Cabin Creek, which is upwards of two miles wide at the military crossing, Colonel Dodd, the commanding officer, directed that a skirmish line be thrown out at once, and that the train be parked on the prairie as fast as the teams drove up. The train having been corraled without the slightest excitement or confusion, there was detailed to guard it the Second Colorado infantry, one company of the First Kansas colored infantry, and one company of the [318] Sixth Kansas cavalry. The other troops and artillery were to be held in readiness to operate against the enemy. The skirmish line now pushed forward to the right and left through the woods towards the stream. It had not proceeded far when considerable firing commenced on both sides, but not at very short range.

Our cavalry moved steadily forward, determined to develop the strength of the enemy on the north side of the stream if possible. As he did not have more than four or five hundred men on the north side, they could not stand much pressing, and soon broke. Some fled up the stream under cover of the timber, and some down it, and some made their horses attempt to swim it at the nearest accessible point, but are supposed, in plunging over the steep bank, to have been drowned, and washed down the stream. Our cavalry did not pursue them vigorously, but moved cautiously, as it was not known but that the enemy had a massed force on the north side, which would rise up at the proper moment and endeavor to throw our troops into confusion. But there was no massed force on the north side, and our cavalry soon reached the north bank of Cabin Creek, to discover the stream raging and foaming along furiously, and evidently too deep to be fordable in the shallowest place. The rains which caused the rise in Neosho river, also caused the high waters in Cabin Creek; besides a more recent heavy rain falling on the head waters of Cabin Creek, kept it up longer. When our cavalry arrived on the north bank they found that the enemy lined the woods on the opposite [319] shore for nearly a mile up and down the stream. They opened a brisk fire upon our troops at every point when they approached the water's edge, particularly in the neighborhood of the ford. This soon brought down a portion of the colored infantry under Colonel Williams. After his arrival, and the formation of his line along the north bank, there was some sharp musketry firing over the stream for some time, from both forces. At convenient distances apart, signal stations were established by Colonels Dodd and Williams, to watch the movements of the enemy, and to warn the different bodies of our troops when they might be in ,danger of being overwhelmed by a superior force of the enemy. Several signal stations were high up in the boughs of trees, where the men remained for hours. Colonels Williams and Dodd being convinced that there was not a sufficient force of the enemy on the north side of the stream to make them any serious resistance, determined to take its soundings with the view of forcing a crossing that evening. Major Foreman, with a force of cavalry, was to try the ford and the colored infantry was to form in line .on the banks above and below the entrance to the stream, supported by two howitzers. A few shells were thrown into the woods on the opposite shore, to drive the enemy from his concealed position, and the colored infantry stood in line ready to deliver a volley into the ranks of the enemy, should they come within range, and the cavalry started into the foaming, eddying stream. The enemy immediately opened fire at rather long range, [320] and the cavalry having entered the stream only a few yards, and finding it not fordable, returned. A consultation was then held between Colonels Dodd and Williams, and Major Foreman, and it was decided that further operations should cease until the next morning, when the stream would likely be fordable, as it was already beginning to run down. Night was coming on, and orders were given to set the guards at all necessary points, and to refresh the troops with food and sleep. After the disposition of the troops had been made for the night, and all had satisfied the demands of appetite, another consultation of officers was; held, at which were representatives from all the different detachments composing the escort. At this conference the plan of operations in regard to forcing a crossing of the stream in the morning, was discussed and agreed to. It was decided that the signal stations should be established next morning, very nearly as they had been during the evening, as already described. It was arranged that the positions of the troops should be about as follows: The section of Blair's battery and the twelve pound mountain howitzers, were to take positions on eminences above and below the ford, two hundred yards or so apart, so that their fire would converge to a point wherever desired on the opposite shore. Our officers saw that the enemy could not cross the apex of this inverted A without a dreadful loss of life, while our four pieces were discharging grape and canister in a continuous stream. Our troops were to enter the base of the inverted A in the following order: [321] Major Foreman with the Indian cavalry, and some detachments from the battalion of the Sixth Kansas cavalry, were to take the advance. This force was to be followed by Captain Stewart, with one company of the Ninth Kansas cavalry, one company of the Third Wisconsin cavalry, and the First Kansas colored infantry, under the immediate command of Colonel Williams. The cavalry was to form in line as fast as they crossed over, to be supported by the colored infantry as fast as they could get over. With these plans for the morrow the officers separated, each going to his proper station to partake of refreshing sleep. Each left the council of war in good spirits, fully determined to do his duty, as soon as the present veil of darkness should be removed, and Aurora should declare that a new day had dawned. The Goddess of Liberty, with contracted brow and storm-clad aegis, watched over them. The videttes had no occasion to report to the officer of the guard any hostile movements of the enemy, to disturb the slumbering troops. Not a solitary shot from the various picket and vidette stations, fell upon the stillness of the night. No doubt but that stern expressions, as if grappling in bloody conflict with the foe, played over the countenances of many of the sleeping heroes during the night. It was known that the enemy had nearly two thousand men, .a force superior to ours, besides they were not hampered in their movements by having to guard a large train. It was known too, that he had chosen his own position, and that [322] we could not expect to pass the stream without a hard fight.

At daylight on the morning of the 2nd our troops were up making preparation for the struggle soon to commence. An officer who had made the rounds of the guards reported that the stream was probably fordable on the morning of the 2nd. He also reported that the enemy seemed to be displaying considerable activity, as if preparing for the coming storm. When our men and animals had satisfied the demands of hunger, the wagon masters were directed to have their mule teams harnessed and hitched to the wagons, in readiness to move at a moment's notice; ammunition was given to the soldiers to replenish their cartridge boxes, and their arms inspected to see that they should be in complete order. And everything was in readiness, and our troops moved out about eight o'clock in splendid order, as if going on parade or out to drill. Major Foreman marched at the head of the column of cavalry, and was followed by Colonel Williams at the head of his colored infantry regiment, which marched with a firm steady step, with their bright muskets glittering in the morning sunlight at a right shoulder shift. The section of Blair's battery and the howitzers marched in the rear; but when the head of the column had reached a point within two hundred yards of the ford, it halted a moment, and the field pieces and howitzers were ordered to take their positions on the elevations which had been selected for them. While these movements were being made the skirmish line advanced to [323] the bank of the stream, and the skirmishers were exchanging shots here and there with the enemy quite lively. The stream running across the inverted A nearer its base than its apex, the area of the apex on the opposite shore, it was estimated, would be sufficiently large for our troops to form in echelon as soon as they crossed over. The bugler beside Major Foreman sounded forward, and in a moment more the head of the column entered the base of the inverted A and the storm burst forth furiously. The artillery opened with shell and shrapnel, and swept the woods on each side of the apex of the inverted A, but did not entirely succeed in driving the enemy from their positions behind logs and felled trees. Our cavalary, under Major Foreman, continued to move forward, and just as they were about to enter the ford, a large force of the enemy advanced from under cover of the thick woods to within a few yards of the opposite bank, and delivered a volley into the ranks of our advancing column, wounding several men. The field pieces and howitzers immediately after this poured a stream of grape and canister into the ranks of the enemy, and they quickly disappeared behind their temporary defences. Major Foreman continued to move steadily forward until he reached about the middle of the stream, which was well up the flanks of the horses, when the enemy discharged another volley of musketry into the ranks of our advancing troops, wounding Major Foreman and several men seriously, so seriously that they were obliged to be taken to the rear. This casualty caused a [324] momentary halt in the stream, but not a retreat. The enemy were not allowed to gain any advantage by it, for a steady stream of grape and canister was poured into them by our batteries, and the colored infantry, which had not yet entered the stream, were formed along the bank, and also discharged volley after volley into their ranks, whenever they attempted to move towards the opposite ford. A few moments after Major Foreman was wounded and taken to the rear, Captain Stewart of the Ninth Kansas cavalry marched to the front with his company, with drawn sabers, and when his horses had passed the deepest water, dashed forward and reached the south bank. The Indian cavalry, detachments of the battalion of the Sixth Kansas cavalry, and the colored regiment followed in close order, and quickly reached the south bank, and formed in line, in echelon. The battery stationed at the left base of the inverted A was directed now to play upon the enemy, directly in front and to the left, and the battery stationed at the right base was directed to play upon the enemy directly in front, and to the right, instead of the two lines of fire converging to a point some distance south of the south ford. The troops formed in line, the bugle sounded forward, and Captain Stewart led the cavalry, and Colonel Williams the colored infantry, with fixed bayonets. No angry stream now separated the contending forces, and when the enemy saw our troops approaching them in double quick time with glittering bayonets and flashing sabres, they made a few feeble efforts to stand, but soon broke [325] and could not be rallied. Immediately after our troops reached the south bank of the stream and formed in line, they commenced a brisk fire upon the enemy at short range, and drove them from their improvised defences in less than ten minutes. But they retreated only about three hundred yards, and commenced to form again. Our troops followed them steadily with lines formed as perfectly as on drill, and poured volley after volley into their ranks, as rapidly as the men could load and fire, and move forward. When the enemy attempted to form his last line, our troops were perhaps less than one hundred and fifty yards from him. Then it was that the bugles sounded the charge, and our troops rushed forward impetuously, and swept the field like a storm.

When the colored soldiers discharged their last volley, and then started forward on the double quick, the long line of bristling bayonets they displayed were not allowed to approach nearer than fifty yards of the enemy, when he turned and fled in great disorder Captain Stewart, who had led the cavalry in the charge at another point, dashed into the ranks of the enemy, and many felt the eager points or edges of the swords of his men. The route of the enemy was complete. Captain Stewart, with all the cavalry pursued them for five miles south, cutting and shooting them down in great numbers. It is the almost universal opinion of officers and soldiers, that had not our tops been hampered with the care of the large train, they could have captured or destroyed the entire force of the [326] enemy; and Captain Stewart thinks that had it not been inadvisable to leave the train too far, he could with the cavalry which he had, have captured most of the enemy in the course of a few hours. But our officers learned on the same evening that the train and escort arrived on the heights of Cabin Creek, that General Cabell, with fifteen hundred cavalry and four pieces of artillery, had arrived at Grand Saline, three miles east of Cabin Creek, on the east bank of Grand River, the day before, and was unable to cross and join General Cooper's divisions on account of high water. It is likely that General Cabell was to have had command of the entire rebel force, as there was no General officer with the rebel force that our troops fought. Colonels Standwaitie and McIntosh's Indian regiments, and the 27th and 29th Texas mounted regiments, were the rebel troops with whom we had to contend. We heard that General Cooper's assistant adjutant general, did mole than any other officers to hold the rebel forces together. Standwaitie, with three men, is reported to have left the field very soon after our troops crossed Cabin Creek, and to have swam Grand River, some seven or eight miles to the southeast. Several other detachments attempted to swim the river at other points. If the enemy could have detained our troops and train at Cabin Creek another day, General Cabell would probably have been able to cross Grand River with his force, and to have joined in the engagement.

After the rout of the enemy, it is not believed that [327] they made a halt north of the Arkansas river, so much were they demoralized.

We may now glance a moment over the field at the casualties. I have already mentioned the wounding of Major Foreman; and of the cavalry under him, there were four enlisted men killed, ten wounded and eight missing. Captain Stewart's company “C,” Ninth Kansas cavalry, had one man killed, three wounded slightly, and one seriously. Colonel Williams' colored regiment had one officer and twelve enlisted men wounded. Three of the colored soldiers were mortally wounded and died on the field. It is supposed that the loss of the enemy in killed and wounded must be upwards of a hundred, as they were exposed to grape and canister and shrapnel for some time before they could open fire upon our troops with any effect; and also while our forces were crossing the stream, and forming in the apex on the south bank. They must also have suffered severely from the galling fire of the colored soldiers, after they passed the stream, formed, and moved forward in line. In crossing the stream, the colored infantry were obliged to unfasten their belts, so as to hold their cartridge boxes above the water, which came up to their armpits. The whole plan of dislodging the enemy, and driving him from his strong position, was skillfully conceived and magnificently and boldly executed. A military genius would not have conceived a better and more successful plan. To whom we are mostly indebted for the success of our arms, it would be difficult to say, where [328] every one performed his duty so nobly. The enemy against whom we have been operating this spring and summer, are now doubtless satisfied that “niggers” can fight, and fight bravely under “yankee” officers. The Texas soldiers, if they had felt inclined to wait a few moments when Colonel Williams was leading the charge of his colored regiment, might have had an opportunity of seeing the fire in the eyes of the colored soldiers. But men who once delighted to ply the lash to the backs of colored men were now extremely anxious to get out of sight of these same colored men as quickly as possible. A beautiful thought to my mind comes up in connection with this first regular engagement, participated in by the colored troops. They in effect say, “we are willing to meet on the field, man for man, in defence of our freedom and our rights.”

Our killed having been buried, and the wounded taken up and provided for as well as possible, the train, guard and artillery moved out and crossed Cabin Creek after twelve o'clock. The escort continued to move with great caution, as it was not known but that the enemy might receive reinforcements and attempt to make another stand, as there are two rather strong positions between Cabin Creek and Fort Gibson. But our cavalry on the flanks noticed that the trails of the enemy through the high prairie grass did not point to either of the positions from which an attack would most likely be made if intended. It was ascertained that the enemy, after the engagement, broke up into detachments; and that a good many attempted to [329] swim Grand River with their horses for fear of being cut off by our troops if they endeavored to reach the Arkansas. The men and horses seen floating in the river opposite the fort yesterday are supposed to have belonged to the enemy, and were doubtless drowned in attempting to cross Grand River on the last day of the engagement at Cabin Creek.

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