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Doc. 196.-fight near Fort Gibson, Ark.

Colonel Philips's report.

sir: I have the honor to report to you a somewhat severe engagement with the enemy on the twentieth instant.

I had eight hundred (800) mounted men guarding my supply line, to cover approaching trains, when the enemy, in the night, crossed the Arkanas River with five regiments, going a mountain road. A scout I had sent, failing to do his duty, left that road unwatched, and they approached within five miles of me, getting me on the left flank. They were, however, afraid to attack me in the works, and taking a strong position on the mountains on the south, five miles distant, and close to the Arkansas River, tried to cut off the stock. As all had been reported quiet for twenty (20) miles in all directions this side of the river, the stock was, therefore, being sent out to graze, when the enemy pounced upon it. Sending all the mounted men I could raise, the larger portion of the stock was taken from them. The Creek regiment refused to charge, or it could all have been saved.

I sent forward Majors Foreman, Wright, and Pomeroy, with all the present available force, and as rapidly as possible moved every thing within the works. The enemy being strongly posted five miles distant, drove back Major Foreman and the others for some distance, although the ground was hotly contested. Captain Lucas, of the Sixth Kansas, was nearly surrounded, as was Captain Anderson, of the Third Indiana, but they gallantly cut their way through.

Leaving Colonel Dole, with a strong command, and most of my artillery behind the works, I moved rapidly forward with two battalions of Indian infantry and a section of Hopkins's battery, under Lieutenant Bassett. Leaving one battalion as reserve, I supported the forces already in front, and soon drove the enemy into the woods. Here they contested the ground for a short time, but they were pushed over the mountain, and rapidly driven in complete rout to Webber's Falls, where they crossed the Arkansas River.

As we were following the enemy up the mountain, I learned that the enemy, with two six-pound field-pieces and one twelve-pound howitzer, were trying to cross Arkansas River, two miles from Gibson. Leaving the mounted men to follow the retreating enemy, I took my infantry and two guns down to the river, and found that the enemy, although in considerable numbers on the opposite bank, were only making a feint. Desiring to dismount their artillery, I immediately opened on them, but they rapidly withdrew their guns and fell back.

The battle was a very severe one while it lasted, as I could only bring a portion of my forces to bear. My loss in killed is upwards of twenty--probably twenty-five or twenty-six--as some are missing, and about half that number wounded. I understand that the enemy's loss is much more severe. We lost no officers. The rebels had one major killed.

On the field there were Colonel Coffey, (with Missouri and Arkansas troops,) Major Bryant, Colonels Levi and Chili McIntosh, each with a regiment; Colonel Adair's regiment and a Choctaw regiment. Only one battalion of Texans came over, as the remainder (infantry) staid with the artillery across the river, with the design of crossing the short way if we were pressed back.

Yesterday the enemy kept up a heavy cannonade until dark, over the river at my picket stations. This morning, at daylight, it had been renewed. Lieutenant-Colonel Schurate got in yesterday with the first part of the train, and the paymaster. The refugee train, which I reenforced--sixty miles off — is also in safety.

The enemy have left Van Buren and taken all but a handful of men from Fort Smith. They are massed south of the river in front of me, and give their forces at eleven thousand, but their real force is between four and five thousand men. They are nervously determined that I shall not recruit in the country south of the river, and tell the Indians that the United States forces are whipped in Virginia, and will be obliged to evacuate the Indian country, and that their only safety is with the Confederacy.

Three of my Indian picket stations behaved very badly, having deserted their posts without giving me notice, and allowed the enemy to get on my flank in the morning. I feel it due to the majority of the men and officers to compliment [624] their gallantry and heroism, by which we, without risking our position, achieved a decided victory over greatly superior numbers.


William A. Philips, Colonel Commanding.

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