Doc. 90.-the capture of Van Buren, Ark.
Despatch from General Blunt.
Van Buren. On learning that Hindman had been reenforced, and contemplated making another attempt to force his way to Missouri, I determined to attack him. Leaving my transportation north of the mountains, I marched from Prairie Grove at eight o'clock yesterday morning, upon this place, a distance of fifty miles. At ten o'clock this morning, my advance came upon two regiments of rebel cavalry at Dripping Springs, eight miles north of the river. Dashing upon them with three thousand cavalry and four mountain howitzers, a brisk running fight took place, which was kept up into the town, resulting in the capture of all their transportation, forty wagons, with six mule-teams, camp and garrison equipage, one hundred prisoners, a large amount of ammunition, four steamboats and a ferry-boat. The latter was taken in attempting to cross the river with rebel troops, and was shelled from the howitzer. When in the middle of the stream the boat was disabled and a number of men killed. The remainder jumped overboard and swam to the shore. Three large steamers heavily laden with supplies, had got up steam and attempted to escape down the river, but were pursued by cavalry five miles and brought to by the fire of their carbines, and returned back to the levee. The enemy then brought their artillery to the opposite bank of the river and commenced shelling the town, for the purpose of driving out my cavalry, but resulting in no other damage than the destruction of some buildings. My artillery coming up, soon silenced their batteries. Quite a number of the enemy have been killed. During the day's operations the only casualties on our side are five or six men slightly wounded. My long-range guns are now shelling the rebel camp across the river, five miles below this place. If the enemy does not retire during the night, I shall endeavor to cross my troops over the river in the morning, and offer them battle. Respectfully,
James G. Blunt, Brigadier-General Commanding.
Missouri Democrat account.
headquarters, army of the frontier, Fayetteville, Ark., January 3, 1863.Since my last report of the battle of Prairie Grove, another dash has been made by our gallant army of the frontier, which, as I suppose, will be soon again forgotten, like all other efforts for the success of the “Flag of our country” made by this far-off Western army. In the battle of Prairie Grove, it was principally our artillery and infantry that vindicated their valor as veteran soldiers. The incident of which this is to be but a mere recapitulation, must now pass entirely to the credit of the cavalry of the army of the frontier, the artillery only to some degree sharing in the result. On the twenty-sixth of December last, there was a mysterious bustle visible in the three divisions of the army, occasioned by a verbal order to pick all the best men out of each command — mounted  men to provide themselves with one <*>k of shell-corn for each animal, and every body to take six rations in his haversack. Each regiment was allowed but two wagons. It was evident that no retrograde movement was in view, as all available ambulances of the whole force were also put in readiness, each having the red flag hoisted. Early, at six o'clock of the twenty-seventh, each division commenced to move — the First division by way of Cove Creek road, and the Second and Third divisions over the telegraph road, toward Van Buren, Arkansas. The various divisions marched that day toward Lee's Creek and rested there for the night. According to reports, the rebel pickets were but two and a half miles from Lee's Creek, a little back of Oliver's farm, and on account of the close proximity, each company was allowed but one small fire for cooking purposes principally. Pickets were thrown across the creek, and ordered not to build fires. Here we rested until daybreak of the twenty-eighth of December, when the army was set in motion again. The crossing of Lee's Creek presented a novel sight, especially on the telegraph road crossing, where the Second division (under the gallant commander, Col. Daniel Huston, Jr.) and the Third division (under Gen. Herron) crossed. “Frank Leslie's own special artist,” or any other of the “special artist” tribe, could have found an item for the “illustrated.” The rapidly current and deepness of the creek was a little too much for the infantry, and it was therefore ordered that every mounted man should take one of the infantry over on the croup of his horse. This occasioned great merriment, especially as there were many horse that protested forcibly against such intrusion, by constant and rapid elevations of their two hind-quarters, thereby making it somewhat difficult for the fortunately spurless infantry to be comfortably seated. Other cavalry, in top-boots, were carrying logs into the creek for the construction of a bridge, but many a log was drifted down-stream before the bridge could he completed. The current was so swift that even heavy boulders rolled down. Before all hands had crossed the creek, the cavalry of both divisions were ordered forward, accompanied by a few pieces of mountain howitzers, cavalry and infantry, and rest of artillery to limber up at convenience. The sudden report of musketry in the distance, indicated that our advance had come into close proximity with the rebel pickets, and a lively forward run was observable through the whole line of the cavalry force. (The cavalry of the First division, under General Blunt, joined our force one mile below Oliver's farm, on the telegraph road.) On we went, driving in picket after picket, and this was done with such a speed, that the rebel regiments of cavalry, stationed at a little village called Dripping Springs, (about nine or ten miles north of Van Buren,) had scarcely time to pack their wagons, which they commenced to do when they heard the first firing on their pickets. They left, therefore, the most of their camp equipage behind them, and took up their usual vocation and skedaddled, helter-skelter, over mountains and ravines, strewing the whole road down to Van Buren, with more than one half of the articles, which the haste in which it was done had allowed them to pack on their wagons. Wagon-covers, tents, carpet-sack and contents, drawers, harnesses, saddles, etc., etc., following one after another, the nature of the road, a constant up and down, addling not a little to the successful emptying of their wagons; smashed ambulances and wagons which were lying along the road, also proving the great hurry in which they must have skedaddled. The distance charged over by our cavalry from Dripping Springs toward Logtown, could have been selected as an admirable ground for one of those old-fashioned breakneck steeple-chases of Auld England. When our forces neared Logtown, which is but one mile distant from Van Buren, and separated therefrom only by a hill or mountain, our mountain howitzers were brought forward, and the cavalry force deployed to the right and left. After a few shots from the howitzers, the cavalry en masse at about twelve o'clock M. made a dash into Van Buren, down-hill. Part of the cavalry went into the city, and some after three stern-wheelboats, which, as was observed from the hill, were making a down-stream skedaddle. These stamboats were loaded principally with corn, and during the downward trip all available hands were engaged in lightening the crafts, by tumbling the corn overboard; the whole Arkansas River, as far as could be seen, was but one floating mass of corn. The hindmost boat, the Frederick Nortrebe, first gave up the contest, by landing about two and a half miles below Van Buren, near the opposite shore, all hands, officers and crew, jumping into the water and wading to the dry land, making their escape into the woods. Before the crew jumped, our men fired into the boat, and landed about twenty shots into the pilot-house and Texas. This firing hastened the speed of the fleeing. About this time the most of the cavalry cast of Van Buren, went in pursuit of the other two steamboats, which were then almost rounding the point; only Major Bauzof's command, consisting of company A, First Missouri, and Major McKee's command of the Seventh Missouri volunteer cavalry, remaining opposite the Frederick Nortrebe. After a short time there appeared three persons opposite, one of them carrying a white flag. On our signal, they crossed over to this side in a skiff. General Blunt, who had arrived on the spot in the mean time, and his Adjutant-General, Lieutenant-Colonel Moonlight, and some other officers, jumped into the skiff and cared back to the skiff, with intentions to take a trip on the F. Nortrebe to Van Buren, (General Blunt having first asked what the captain of the Nortrebe would charge for such trip); and as soon as the boat could get off, (it being aground amidship, the machinery during all this time not having stopped, worked the boat fast aground,) it made its way toward Van Buren. One mountain howitzer  and one company of cavalry remaining on the spot, to see to the proper fulfilment of the contract entered into by General Blunt and the steamboat captain, who, by the way was a very gentlemanly fellow. The other cavalry, which had gone down under command of Col. Cloud of Kansas, soon secured the other two steamboats, the Key West and Rose Douglass, (one of them being captured by company E, First Missouri volunteer cavalry, Capt. Fuller;) and also a lot of rebel transportation, which was skedaddling fast. Thus ended the downward trips of these boats, and rebel teams of Col. Lane's regiment of Texas Partisan Rangers. We all then started back toward the city, and arrived just in time to participate in the cheers for the Stars and Stripes which were hoisted on the flag-staff over the court-house, waving defiance at Dixie land. We prepared a small collation, such as soldiers generally carry with them, consisting of hard bread and bacon, and enjoyed this as well as the other fun, when, at about three o'clock P. M., all of a sudden the rapid discharge of cannon was heard from the opposite shore of the Arkansas, followed by the explosion of shells in our midst. Every body secured his horse, and the whole rallied around their commanders, and then marched to the height near the city. As luck would have it, the tiring of the rebels was chiefly directed against the largest brick and frame houses, thereby showing that they could well hit the mark, and may it be recorded here, that for the first time I saw them hit something. The principal damage was done to the citizens of Van Buren. Our loss consisted of two killed--one of the First Iowa cavalry, the other of the Second Kansas cavalry; and the wounded were also two--Second Lieutenant John J. Ault, and private Paul Schleiffarth, both of Captain H. J. Stierlin's company A, First Missouri cavalry. Both will be well again in a week's time. They also killed two children. After about one hour's shelling, our own artillery, which had hastened to the ground, appeared on the height between Van Buren and Logtown, and opened on the rebel batteries, (seven pieces.) The third shot from our guns occasioned a stirring limber up of the rebel pieces, and off they went, while our artillery continued to assist their speed by following them with “a little more shell.” Nothing of note transpired now until after dark, when our whole army of the frontier arrived in and around the city, the artillery placing their pieces all along the landing, looking toward Dixie. At about eight o'clock, firing of cannon was heard some distance eastward of Van Buren, and I learned that one of the Kansas batteries was shelling a rebel camp about five or six miles below Van Buren, on the south side of the river. The rebels found this place too hot, and gently withdrew from the spot. This concluded another Sunday fight of the army of the frontier, crowned with success. All steamboats having in the mean time effected their landing on the banks of the city, gave, on the next morning, a lively appearance to the landing, which our men well enjoyed, especially those who had been so long away from navigable rivers, and every body interested took a survey through town toward the river, concluding that every thing was well done. On the levee we found many hogsheads of superior sugar, which was no longer confederate property. In fact, we found ourselves in possession of a large amount of contraband property, such as sugar, corn, cattle, mules, horses, wagons, and almost every thing necessary and useful for man and beast. On the forenoon of the twenty-ninth, our whole infantry force and two batteries marched en parade through the principal streets of Van Buren, the respective field-bands in front, the whole of the streets lined with spectators — even the rebel hospitals nearly emptied to look at the Lincolnites, who went shouting and hurrahing with an enthusiasm that awakened in many a rebel heart the feeling of “Oh! Could I be among them!” All around you could hear, “What a difference in appearance between these and our troops,” or “How far superior they look to our men,” etc., etc. In short, as our army was the first of the Federals that ever made their entrance into Van Buren, you may imagine the surprise of the citizens, who, instead of beholding “Pin Indians, Southern tories, Kansas jay-hawkers, hired Dutch cut-throats, and free negroes,” saw nothing but well-clad and well-disciplined troops. When the first cavalry entered Van Buren, the women inquired whether we had any Pins along with us; and some unsophisticated Federals, not knowing that they meant Pin Indians, drew forth a few genuine pins to accommodate the ladies, which created some merriment amongst those who knew what the ladies meant. In the afternoon of the twenty-ninth orders for a return march were given, and again every mounted man provided himself with a peck of shell-corn, of which article the place was full. At about five o'clock a small party, consisting of Brigadier-Generals Blunt and Herron, and Col. Huston, his Adjutant-General, Lieut. Chandler; Medical Director, Dr. Porter, and Major Bauzof, accompanied by Henry L. Stierlin, First Missouri cavalry, and fourteen of his men armed with axes and a few shooting-irons, all on foot, marched down to the ferry-boat, and made a trip across the Arkansas into the interior of Dixie. The officers, except Captain Stierlin, stopped near the shore while the latter and his men went through the woods to destroy some wagons, said to be left somewhere by the rebels. At this time a deserter came in from Fort Smith with the information that Hindman had burned a large part of the fort, including all buildings containing confederate stores; also, that he had burned two steamboats and blown up a magazine, and that he had left with his whole command, as was supposed, to a place called Dardanelle. After the above-mentioned command had accomplished its errand, the whole party started back to the ferry-boat; but scarcely had it arrived there, when  three mounted butternuts made their appearance on the bank of the river. Not knowing what they wanted, three men of the First Missouri cavalry were ordered to inquire into their wishes, but before they could reach the butternuts they turned, and our men fired upon them with their revolving carbines, which made the rebels run, as usual. Before the ferry-boat reached the Van Buren side of the river, a whole cavalry force was observed on the opposite shore, but darkness prevented us from further observation. As soon as the ferry-boat landed, the same command that had gone over with the Generals commenced to cut some kindling-wood from the ferry-boat, and then set it on fire. From this they went to the three steamboats, and a dense smoke soon indicated that they underwent the same process. Another steamboat, the Arkansas, which was lying a little further down-stream, was also set on fire. The two boats, to wit, the Frederick Nortrebe and the Rose Douglas, were first-class boats, and had a splendid outfit. The four boats were valued at about eighty to ninety thousand dollars. The total loss to the confederates on the whole occasion cannot be less than two hundred thousand dollars. While the steamboats were burning, one of the warehouses on the landing caught fire therefrom; it also was entirely consumed. This warehouse had been occupied by the confederates as a storehouse. Thus ended the experience of the army of the frontier at the last attempt as Arkansas travellers, and at about nine o'clock the whole of the army was on its way home to Prairie Grove battle-field and Cane Hill, etc. The rebels sustained losses by this last dash which cannot be recovered well during the four seasons of 1863, and the Trans-Mississippi army of the C. S.A. received a blow which will be stunning to them, and will assist largely in the demoralization of their available forces. The cavalry of the army of the frontier, to whom the whole credit is due, has now proved to be equally as brave and daring as their comrades, the infantry and artillery, and you may safely bet on the whole army of the frontier. The loss on the rebel side, as far as learnt, was seven killed and many wounded. It is here well in place to add that after the battle of Prairie Grove, the rebel regiments in their grand skedaddle marched about half the distance between Prairie Grove and Van Buren with white flags. Their fright must have been complete entirely. From citizens of Van Buren I learned the following market prices of articles, to wit: For one barrel of common whisky, eight hundred dollars, or a good house and lot; one pound of coffee, two dollars; one sack of salt, two hundred dollars; one pair of coarse boots, forty dollars; if a little larger than common size, sixty dollars. Coffee, salt and tea commanded the highest prices, and would even dig up gold instead of confederate currency. Wheat or rye, instead of Rio coffee, and spice-wood tea, are principally used. The ladies now hunt up their oldest dresses, and make them do even for Sunday attire. Butternut colors are the prevailing colors in Dixie. Yours,
P. S.--In my last report, I forgot to add Henry W. Williams, to the St. Louis rebels in Hindman's army. He is Quartermaster in Frost's division, and as Mother Famer says, looks careworn and old. Louis Kretschmar, son of Clerk Kretschmar, is also in the same army.