Doc. 24.-the battle of Prairie Grove, Ark.
Official report of General Blunt.
headquarters army of the frontier, Rhea's Mills, Ark., Dec. 20, 1862.General: I have the honor to report that, on the second instant, and four days subsequent to the battle of Cane Hill, or Boston Mountain, of November twenty-eighth, I obtained reliable information that the entire force of infantry and artillery of Gen. Hindman's army had crossed the Arkansas River, and joined Gen. Marmaduke at Lee's Creek, fifteen miles north of Van Buren, to which point the latter had retreated after the battle of the twenty-eighth ultimo. I further learned that the united forces under Gen. Hindman's command numbered between twenty-five and thirty thousand men, and that he designed advancing upon me in case I did not attack him south of the mountains. Determined to hold my position at Cane Hill, unless driven from it by a superior force, I immediately telegraphed to the Second and Third divisions to come to my support by forced marches. I may here mention that I had had no knowledge of the whereabouts of these two divisions, except from rumor, and had not been apprised of their movements or locality for a period of over two weeks. My telegraphic despatches reached Gen. Herron, commanding the Second and Third divisions, on the third, who promptly responded to my order, keeping me advised, by telegraph from Elkhorn, of his progress. The Second and Third brigades of the First division, with my headquarters, were at Cane Hill; the First brigade at Rhea's Mills, eight miles north, where a large supply-train, just arrived from Fort Scott, was halted. My pickets were advanced six miles beyond Cane Hill, on the road leading to Van Buren, and a strong outpost of the Kansas Second established where that road intersects the Cove Creek road, running from Fayetteville to Van Buren, and which road passes about six miles east of Cane Hill. On the morning of the fifth instant, this outpost was attacked by a large force of rebel cavalry, but they were repulsed and driven back some six miles through the mountains. Expecting that the same demonstration would be repeated on the next morning, I directed Col. Cloud, commanding the Third brigade, to strengthen this post by the addition of one hundred cavalry and two howitzers, to be at the outpost at daybreak. In consequence of this order not being promptly carried out, and the support not arriving at the time directed, the pickets, on being attacked about daylight by a superior force, were compelled to retire some three miles, when support having reached them, they held the ground during the day, with continued skirmishing, in which several of my men were wounded and a number of the enemy killed. The enemy now got possession of Cove Creek and Fayetteville road, and I learned about eight o'clock P. M. that a force of about ten thousand had advanced beyond the junction of Cove Creek road with the Crane Hill and Van Buren road, and were massed upon the mountain in front of my outpost, while the remainder of the rebel army were below the junction of the roads just named, about three miles in rear of their advance. The Third brigade, under Colonel Cloud, was ordered to bivouac for the night on their arms, upon the ground south of the town, that I had selected to make a stand upon, in case I was attacked in front. It was now evident that a general engagement must take place next day, and my apprehensions were, that with their superior numbers, they would make a feint in front, while with their main force they would make a flank movement on my left, by the Cove Creek road, to intercept Gen. Herron, before he could reach me from Fayetteville, which point he was expected to reach by daylight on the morning of the seventh. At about ten P. M. the Sixth, Col. Wickersham, with about one thousand six hundred cavalry, of the Second Wisconsin, First Iowa, Tenth Illinois, and Eighth Missouri regiments, who, at my request, had been sent forward by General Herron, arrived at Cane Hill. I had, as I have before remarked, considerable apprehensions that a flank movement would be attempted on my left during the night. I therefore determined to send a cavalry force across on a road called the hog-eye road, running from the north part of Cane Hill east to the telegraph road, and crossing the Cove  Creek and Fayetteville road about four miles north of the junction of the latter with that running from Cane Hill to Van Buren, already referred to, and from which my outpost had been driven in the morning. At daylight on Sunday morning I had the transportation of the Second and Third brigade of the First division hitched up, ready to move to Rhea's Mills, should circumstances render it necessary; and the Second brigade was ordered to the front, south of town, where the Third brigade had bivouacked during the night, the First brigade and Col. Wickersham's brigade of cavalry being stationed about a mile and a half in the rear, on the north side of the town, where the hog-eye road intersects that between Cane Hill and Fayetteville, and where it was possible the enemy might attempt to come in upon my rear. About five o'clock, with my staff, I proceeded to the front. On arriving there I learned the enemy were still in considerable force upon the mountain; and so soon as it became sufficiently light they threw several shots from their artillery at my advance outpost, which was replied to by two of my twelve-pound mountain howitzers, without any damage to either party. I directed Col. Cloud to withdraw his troops on the outposts, with a view of drawing them out and ascertaining their force and design. Upon my advance falling back, the rebels came forward a short distance and formed in line of battle, their right resting on the mountain, their left extending down the valley, and presenting a front of half a mile. It now became evident that their demonstration in front was only a feint, and that their main force had gone by the Cove Creek road, for the purpose of intercepting communication between Gen. Herron and myself; and, notwithstanding that I had received no intelligence from Col. Richardson--upon whom I had relied to watch this movement — I determined to act accordingly. I immediately ordered the transportation to Rhea's Mills, by a road leading directly north over the mountain, guarded by the Third Indiana regiment, Col. Phillips, keeping the bottom road on the right, leading to the same point, and also the Fayetteville road, open for the movement of troops. I ordered Col. Wickersham, with his cavalry, to move rapidly in the direction of Fayetteville, and form a junction with Gen. Herron. He was followed by Gen. Salomon's brigade, and the Second and Third brigades were withdrawn from the front, and directed to move rapidly on the Fayetteville road. As soon as I determined on this disposition of the forces under me, I sent two messenger parties with despatches to Gen. Herron, apprising him of my movements, and, what I believed to be those of the enemy, and urged him to press forward as rapidly as possible, that we might form a junction of our forces before Hindman could get between us, and also directing him to send his trains to Rhea's Mills. Neither of these despatches reached him, the messenger being cut off by Marmaduke's advance. . . . . On learning that Hindman's forces had passed north, I ordered Col. Judson, with his regiment (cavalry) and two twelve-pound mountain howitzers, to proceed rapidly on the same road by which I had sent Col. Richardson the previous night, and to attack and harass them in the rear, which order he executed with promptness and gallantry, attacking them in the rear with his howitzers, and following them two or three miles, until they made a stand in such force as to compel him to withdraw his command. Moving with my staff in advance of the First division, on reaching a point some three miles north of Cane Hill, where a road to the left leads to Rhea's Mills, I learned that Col. Wickersham, who was in the advance with the cavalry, and had been instructed to proceed directly on the Fayetteville road, and furnished with a guide, instead of doing so, had taken the left-hand road to the mills. Not deeming it prudent, under all the circumstances, to separate my command, I was compelled to follow the same road in order to get my forces concentrated. On coining up with Col. Wickersham, I ordered him to proceed in the direction of Fayetteville with all of his cavalry, and endeavor to open communication with Gen. Herron. I also set forward Major Calkins, with the Third Wisconsin cavalry, for the same purpose. But a few minutes elapsed after
Major-General S. R. Curtis, Commanding Department of the Missouri:
Major-General S. R. Curtis, Commanding Department of the Missouri: