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Campaign against Steele in April, 1864.

Report of General Marmaduke.

headquarters Marmaduke's division, in the field, May 28th, 1864.
Colonel,—In obedience to orders from the Major-General commanding, I have the honor to make the following report of the operations of my command in the campaign against the Federal forces under Major-General Steele, which was ended on the 30th ult. by their retreat across the Saline, and to their base, Little Rock.

At the time information was received of the advance of Steele's army from Little Rock southward on the military road, and of his arrival at Benton, my division, consisting of Cabell's Arkansas Cavalry brigade and Shelby's and Greene's (Marmaduke's) Missouri Cavalry brigades, numbering about thirty-two hundred (3,200) effectively armed and mounted men for duty, was stationed as follows: Cabell's brigade sixteen miles west of Washington, and sixty-six miles from Camden; Shelby's and Greene's brigades at Camden. To meet the movement of the enemy I made the following dispositions: March 22, Cabell's brigade was ordered to Tate's Bluff, twenty-three miles northwest of Camden, at the junction of the Little Missouri with the Ouachita river; March 25, Shelby's brigade was ordered to Princeton, but no forage being there, moved fifteen miles northeast of Princeton (47 miles from Camden), and on the 28th March, with Greene's brigade and a section of Blocker's battery under Lieutenant Zimmerman, I marched directly to Tate's Bluff. The several brigades could by this disposition co-operate against the enemy's front, or if need be, Cabell and Greene against his front, while Shelby was in position to march directly to and operate upon his rear. On my arrival at Tate's Bluff, March 30, finding no forage nor subsistence in its vicinity, and ascertaining that the enemy 9,500 strong, infantry, cavalry and artillery, had reached Rockport and were marching upon Arkadelphia, I ordered Shelby to cross the Ouachita river and move upon the enemy's rear, and Cabell's brigade [76] (which in view of the probability of the enemy advancing direct upon Washington, and the derth of forage and subsistence at Tate's Bluff, had been ordered to halt fifteen miles southwest of that point) to cross the Little Missouri by the military road and resist him in front, while Greene's brigade (the middle column) would cross the Little Missouri at Tate's Bluff and attack his left flank, and as he advanced southward from Arkadelphia co-operate with Cabell, each command to make short and desperate attacks, retire, and attack again, until the enemy reached the Little Missouri river, when all would concentrate to prevent the passage of that stream. Before the several brigades could cross the river and get into position, the enemy had entered Arkadelphia.

On the 1st of April, Steele with his whole force moved out of Arkadelphia, directing his march on the ‘military road’ toward Washington. Late on the evening of the 1st the scouts in advance of Shelby's brigade had entered Arkadelphia, capturing a dozen stragglers, including one Captain, and closed up to the enemy's rear. But the main body of his brigade had not arrived. Cabell had, however, moved up to the Antoine, eighteen miles southwest of Arkadelphia, and his advance commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Fayth, struck the advance of the enemy, consisting of two regiments of cavalry, near Spoonville, ten miles southwest of Arkadelphia. Here several sharp fights occurred, in which the enemy suffered considerable loss and were driven back upon the main body. Greene, on the enemy's left had attacked and driven in with loss his flankers to the main body. On the night of the 1st Steele encamped near Spoonville, having marched only ten miles. Shelby encamped that night near Arkadelphia, Cabell on the Antoine, and Greene was at nightfall about eight miles east of Spooneville. The design of the enemy evidently was to co-operate with the Federal army under Banks, then moving against Shreveport. His shortest route to Shreveport was by way of Washington. The crossing of the Little Missouri river on the military road was a good one. The latest information from my scouts on the 1st (I was then with Greene's column) was that Steele had certainly advanced as far as Spooneville, on the direct Washington road. These facts taken into consideration, I ordered Colonel Greene to leave Lawther's regiment of his brigade on the enemy's left flank, and, marching that night, join Cabell at Cottingham's store, fourteen miles northeast of Washington and three south of Little Missouri river on the military road. Before daylight on the morning of the 2d, I had joined Cabell at Antoine. At Spooneville [77] a good road makes off southward from the military road by way of Okalona to Elkin's Ferry, and by roads leading from it to several of the fords and ferries on Little Missouri river. Fearing that Steele might take this road and reach and occupy one of the fords below the military road crossing, on the morning of the 2d April, after leaving Monroe's regiment, Fayth's battalion, and a section of Hughey's battery, all under command of Colonel Monroe of Cabell's brigade, at the Antoine, I withdrew the balance of the regiment to Cottingham's store, where it could either reinforce Monroe when driven back to the river, or resist the occupation by the enemy of any of the fords below the military road.

No change appeared in the direction of the enemy's march on the 2d. His supposed advance came up with Colonel Monroe's force at the Antoine, and was driven back with loss; Monroe, according to instructions, then falling slowly back. At Wolf Creek he again halted and took position; the enemy again advanced, and this time Monroe by his excellent dispositions, the well directed fire of the small arms of his command, and of the section of Hughey's battery, drove him in wild disorder back upon his main body. At 2 o'clock P. M. the march of the enemy was partially developed—he had taken the road leading off by way of Okalona. Simultaneously, almost with this information, the small picket which had been stationed at Elkin's Ferry galloped up to inform me that the enemy had occupied that ford with a ‘small force.’ About 4 o'clock Greene arrived, having marched when he heard the firing between Monroe and the enemy in a northwesterly direction to the assistance of Cabell, as he supposed, but finding that the enemy was in strong force, and would in his then position overpower him, retired to Cottingham's store. By this time the enemy had occupied Elkin's Ferry with a strong force, and posted artillery to sweep any line attempting to drive them from it; and his main body was in supporting distance.

In the meanwhile, Shelby encountering the enemy's rear-guard, consisting of a brigade of infantry, regiment of cavalry, and a battery, had with the gallantry and dash, which ever accompany him and his brigade, charged in line of battle mounted—charged and charged again until the sun went down, and driven it to seek safety with the main body now encamped twelve miles from the scene of his first attack. Shelby then encamped. In this day's fight, foremost in the pursuit, fell mortally wounded second Lieutenant Trigg of my escort, who was sent by me to General Shelby with despatches, and having accomplished that duty, and the fight coming on, joined the advance, [78] and there fought with a valor worthy the emulation of the bravest. Captain Thorpe, of Elliott's battalion, the advance, charged with his company through a regiment of Federal infantry, scattering them to the four winds. He received a severe though not mortal wound in that charge.

Placing a sufficient force at Elkin's Ferry to hold in check any further advance until it could be reinforced, Cabell's and Greene's brigades were camped so as to reach in time any of the fords yet liable to be crossed by the main body of the Federal army. The 3d of April was passed by the enemy in closing up to the river with his main force. His point of crossing was not yet ascertained, and Burbridge's regiment of Greene's brigade, under Lieutenant-Colonel Preston, was thrown forward to make a forced reconnoissance at Elkin's Ferry. Late in the day, after having driven in the advanced posts on the south side of the river with sharp skirmishing, the enemy was discovered in heavy masses. Yet during that day his main body still remained on the north bank. His slow, changeful marches, his seeming indecision were inexplicable, until Shelby's cannon were heard in his rear. On the morning of the 3d, Shelby had again attacked his rear-guard, when finding that it was being heavily reinforced, and closing its flanks around his small force, he withdrew in good order. In these actions General Shelby fought his brigade entirely mounted, and, time and again, the irresistible charge of his line thoroughly demoralized and completely routed the long and serried lines of the enemy's infantry, causing them great loss in killed, wounded and prisoners, while Collins's battery did most effective service, and almost exceeded its usual superlative excellence in the accuracy of the fire and the devoted bravery of the company.

On the 4th, as afterward appeared, Steele commenced crossing his main army. Having concentrated Greene and Cabell in front of the ferry, posted the main portion of Cabell's brigade as a reserve on a naturally strong position at the edge of the bottom, with Greene's brigade, Colonel Greene commanding, one piece of Blocker's battery, under Lieutenant Zimmerman, Monroe's regiment, Colonel S. C. Monroe commanding, and a section of Hughey's battery under Lieutenant Miller, of Cabell's brigade, twelve hundred in all, I advanced and attacked the enemy, to finally determine if he intended to cross his whole force here, and to relieve Shelby. The troops were rapidly formed, and the attack quickly and vigorously made, which resulted in my driving the enemy two miles before he could mass his forces against me. Lieutenant Fackler of my staff was captured in [79] this affair. From the official reports of the enemy, captured afterwards, it appeared that I fought a greatly superior force, and killed and wounded a great number. I cannot pay too high a tribute to the alacrity, steadiness, and splendid bravery of Greene's brigade and Monroe's regiment, nor compliment the artillery of Lieutenants Zimmerman and Miller more fittingly than in the enemy's own language, who complained that our ‘artillerists must have measured the ground before the battle.’ The enemy's design of crossing here was now made fully manifest.

Shelby was enabled to join me on the evening of that day without molestation, and again my whole force was united. No forage being in the vicinity of the ferry, I was compelled to withdraw my main force on the morning of the 5th to the south side of Prairie d'anne, on the Washington road, about sixteen miles from the ferry. Here I had breastworks of logs and small earthworks thrown up with which to deceive the enemy into the belief that I would here give him battle. This day my outpost, Greene's regiment, under Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell, skirmished heavily with him, and again on the 6th. On the 7th the enemy continued to advance slowly, my advance, under Captain Porter, of Burbridge's regiment; skirmishing with him the entire day. General Price now arrived with Dockery and Crawford's brigades and Woods's battalion, and took command. Cabell's brigade was taken from me and placed in Fagan's division. On the 8th the enemy again advanced, driving Captain Porter with my outpost to the northeast edge of the prairie. Greene's brigade was then relieved from outpost duty by troops of Fagan's division.

On the evening of the 9th, the enemy having been reinforced by Thayer's division from Fort Smith, four thousand strong, cavalry, infantry and artillery, marched upon the outposts of our army under General Dockery, drove them in, and was preparing to flank General Shelby's camp when he evacuated it, and being ordered to keep in the enemy's front, threw his force into line of battle across the Elkin's Ferry and Washington and Camden roads, ordered Dockery to protect his flank, and attacked the advancing enemy. The picket fighting soon assumed heavy proportions. The enemy moved up and opened upon Shelby with fifteen pieces of artillery, and continued to advance, but the resistance was as dogged as their advance was overwhelming. The section of Collins's battery, under the immediate command of Captain Collins, with almost unexampled courage, held the column of the enemy at bay, while the brigade swept from flank to flank, by the fierce fire of artillery and small arms, budged [80] not until the order for retiring came. At nightfall the enemy had advanced but half a mile south of his position in the morning. At midnight I withdrew Shelby. The enemy had now reached the point where the roads from Washington, Camden and Louisville join, looking northward. He wished to move to Camden, but he could not leave a force so near on the Washington road to attack his rear, and he feared to attack the fortified position on the southwest edge of the prairie. Two days he spent, the 10th and 11th, in preparing for battle. On the 12th, with his whole force in line of battle, a glorious sight in the open prairie, he moved upon the works, flanking them on the left, to find them abandoned. The works had served their purpose admirably, deceiving the enemy, and forcing him to waste his time and keep his army starving in a barren country for nearly three days. Greene's brigade was again in action, skirmishing in the enemy's front, and bringing up the rear of our army with its usual cool, desperate courage.

On the night of the 12th my division encamped on Prairie de Rhoan, and for the first time in fourteen nights enjoyed uninterrupted quiet. On the morning of the 13th, at 10 A. M., we were again en route to reach the enemy's front and oppose his advance on Camden. At 4 P. M., on the 14th, we were in his front, fourteen miles from Camden, at the junction of the Prairie d'anne and Camp Bragg and Camden and Washington roads, having marched sixty miles. That evening, night and the next day, were spent in continued fighting. Late on the evening of the 15th, finding that the enemy was determined to reach Camden that night, and that further resistance was unwise and unprofitable, and having sent Captain John C. Moore, my A. A. General to Camden to destroy such government property there as would benefit the enemy, and leaving Colonel Lawther's regiment with orders to contest the enemy's advance, and after being driven from Camden to move out on the Shreveport wire-road and watch the enemy on that approach—I crossed my command from the Prairie d'anne and Washington road to the Camp Bragg and Camden road, and encamped eight miles from Camden. Colonel Lawther fought the enemy's advance in gallant style to the town, and encamped as directed. That night the enemy occupied Camden.

Such were the operations of my command up to the entrance of Steele's army into Camden. For over three weeks no day passed without hard marching and fighting; few nights in which it had rest. Its rations consisted mainly of jerked beef, with occasionally corn meal. During that time no complaint was ever heard; their courage [81] was high and confident; their conduct in battle admirable and worthy the highest praise—indeed in and out of battle it was noble. For the last six days we were assisted by other troops; during the remainder of the time we were opposed alone to the enemy, and General Steele's army of 13,000 men consumed twelve days in marching about as many miles.

The enemy was now encamped in and around Camden. On the 16th Shelby's brigade was ordered to Miller's Bluff to watch the river, and I then had only Greene's brigade of about 500 effective men with me. On the 16th Greene drove in the enemy's pickets on the Prairie d'anne road. They were driven in on the 17th on various roads by portions of that brigade. On the morning of the 17th Colonel Greene's scouts informed me that a large train, two hundred and twenty-five wagons, with a guard of three regiments, two of infantry and one of cavalry, and two pieces of artillery, had moved out on the Prairie d'anne road from Camden I wrote to General Fagan for assistance, as I had only five hundred men. He sent me immediately Cabell's and Crawford's brigades. That night I marched to attack this train, but was met with information that the guard had been reinforced by two regiments of infantry and two pieces of artillery, making their force now 2,500 and four pieces of artillery. With the reinforcement of Cabell and Crawford my force was but 1,500, and as I was certain the train could not return until next morning, I wrote to General Fagan for more assistance, and requested him to send my letter to General Price for his approval. The plan was for Greene, Cabell and Crawford to intersect the road ten miles from Camden, for the other troops to enter the road at Poison Springs, fifteen miles from Camden, at 8 o'clock next morning. This plan was agreed upon. With Greene's, Cabell's and Crawford's brigades I marched early, and about 10 o'clock met the enemy's advanced pickets at Poison Springs, drove it back with my escort and staff, and occupied an advantageous position on the brow of a hill, deployed my escort as skirmishers on the slope, and held the enemy in check until Cabell and Crawford came up, dismounted and deployed in front of the enemy. Greene was held in reserve dismounted. At this time General Maxey's troops, chiefly Indians, and Wood's battalion arrived. General Maxey being my senior in rank, I reported to him, asking his plan of battle and stating how I had disposed my troops. He answered that as I had planned the whole movement I should take charge and make the fight. This I did, requesting him to post his command at right angles with my line, enfilading the [82] enemy's line in my front, and to open the fight. My purpose was to cause them to ‘change front’ toward Maxey, and while they were executing this movement, to attack their flank with the main line. Wood's battalion was dismounted by my order and posted on my extreme right; both flanks were guarded by cavalry. Maxey's troops attacked and drew the enemy's attention and front towards him. Cabell's and Crawford's brigades, under General Cabell, advanced cheering and were driving the enemy when Greene's brigade rushed to the charge, and the enemy was soon broken and their retreat shortly became a rout. After driving then two miles I ordered Wood's battalion to mount and move rapidly to the front in pursuit of the enemy. General Maxey, who from this time assumed command, countermanded this order and put Wood to work at the train to assist in getting off the wagons. At this juncture I received an order from General Maxey to withdraw the whole force from the pursuit. Federal loss in this engagement from 400 to 600 left dead on the field, about 100 wounded, and 120 prisoners. Four pieces of artillery, 195 wagons—six mules each—and many hundred small arms were brought off, and thirty wagons were burned. I cannot but think that at least 1,000 prisoners would have been added to the list had the pursuit been continued. Cabell, inimitable almost in personal gallantry, led his command and first broke the enemy's columns, and assisted by Greene, who brought up his line under a heavy fire as steadily as on parade, crushed the enemy, who turned and fled in total confusion. On the evening of the 18th we were again in camp. Cabell's and Crawford's brigades reported back to General Fagan, and with Greene's brigade I marched on the 19th, to the Wire Road, twelve miles from Camden. At the same time General Shelby's brigade was detached temporarily from my command and ordered to General Fagan for duty. From the 20th to the 26th inclusive, my command was encamped, picketing to the front, and had various small but successful encounters with the enemy. On the 26th I was ordered to report direct to General Smith. On the 27th, the evacuation of Camden by General Steele having been discovered, my command marched to Whitehall on the Ouachita river, where Wood's battalion was ordered to report to me, swam the river, came up with the retreating enemy, and fought him until General Smith arrived with the infantry, and the battle of Jenkins's Ferry was fought, in which engagement the brigade was commanded by Colonel Greene.

During this long and arduous campaign, fought as most of it was under my own eye, I take pleasure in speaking of the officer-like conduct [83] and the many acts of splendid bravery of my officers and men. To speak of the quick perception and reckless boldness of Shelby, the cool and chrivalous bearing of Cabell, or the perseverance, thoughtfulness, and steady courage of Greene, is telling an oft-told tale. The list is too long to narrate, but, I say it with pride, of all the officers and men in my division, not one have I seen or heard of who shrank from the performance of any duty, however dangerous.

In conclusion, I desire to express my happiness at the conduct of the whole division, and my belief that posterity will do them the honor they so well deserve. At present I cannot give my losses in killed, wounded and missing, as several of the commands which were under me are temporarily or permanently absent; but I am of opinion that my loss compared with that of the enemy is as one to twenty.

John S. Marmaduke, Major-General Commanding.

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