Official Report of Attack on Fayetteville

HEADQUARTERS POST FAYETTEVILLE, ARK., April 19, 1863. MAJ. GEN. S. E. CURTIS, Commanding Department of the Missouri:

General: The following report of the battle of yesterday, at Fayetteville, is respectfully submitted, in addition to the telegraphic dispatches of last evening. On Friday, 17th inst., a scout under command of Lieut. Robb, First Arkansas Cavalry, returned from the direction of Ozark, and reported no apparent preparations of the enemy to move in this direction. Having no fresh horses I ordered Lieut. Robb to take his command to quarters, expecting to be able to send a small scout again on the next day. On Saturday morning, 18th inst., at a few minutes after sunrise, the enemy, having made a forced march from the Boston Mountains during the night, surprised and captured our dismounted picket, on Frog Bayou road. and approached the town with wild and deafening shouts. Their cavalry charged up a ravine on the east of the city, and attacked my headquarters (Col. Tibbett’s place). The firing of the picket had alarmed the command, and by the time the enemy had reached town the First Arkansas Infantry had formed on their parade ground under command of Lieut.-Col. E. J. Searle, assisted by Maj. E. D. Ham, and slowly retired by my orders toward the cavalry, then formed, dismounted at their camp. Fearing that, not being uniformed, they might be mistaken for the enemy, and be fired upon by the cavalry, I ordered Lieut.-Col. Searle to post seven companies as a reserve, in a sheltered position in our rear, two of which were afterward ordered to support the left wing. The remaining three companies of the First Infantry. together with four companies of the First Cavalry, formed the center of our line, under my own immediate command. The right wing was composed of the Third Battalion. First Cavalry, under command of Maj. Ezra Fitch; and the left wing, Second Battalion (First Arkansas Cavalry), was commanded by Lieut.-Col. A. W. Bishop, assisted by Maj. T. J. Hunt. Headquarters was made the “bone of contention,” and was repeatedly charged by the rebels, who were gallantly repulsed by our men. In less than thirty minutes after the first attack the enemy planted two pieces of artillery, one a twelve-pounder and one a sixpounder, upon the hillside cast of town, near Col. Gunter’s place, and opened a sharp fire of canister and shell upon the camp of the First Arkansas Cavalry, doing some damage to tents and horses, but killing no men. At 8 A. M. our center had advanced and occupied the house, yard, out-buildings and hedges of my headquarters; the right wing had advanced to the arsenal, and the left occupied the open field northeast of town, while the enemy had possession of the whole hillside east, the Davis place, opposite to, and the grove south of headquarters. This grove was formerly occupied by the buildings of Arkansas College. At about 9 A. M., or a little before, Col. Monroe led a gallant and desperate cavalry charge upon our right wing, which was met by a galling crossfire from our right and center, piling rebel men and horses in heaps in front of our ordnance office, and causing the enemy to retreat in disorder to the woods. During this charge Capts. Parker and Smith, of the First Infantry, while bravely cheering their men, were both wounded in the head, though not dangerously. At about the same time, by my order, two companies of the First Cavalry, led by the gallant Lieut. Robb, advanced within rifle range of the enemy’s artillery, and, guided by the blaze of its discharges, fired several volleys into the midst of the artillerists, which effectually silenced their battery and caused its precipitate withdrawal from the field. The enemy’s center, occupying the Davis place, made a desperate resistance for nearly an hour after both wings had partially given away, and skirmishing continued at intervals for some time with pickets, reconnoitering parties and stragglers. At 12 M. their whole force was in full retreat for Ozark. Having only a very few horses, and those already on duty with picketing and reconnoitering parties, I was utterly unable to pursue them. During the whole action the enemy occupied ground covered with timber and brush, while my command were in the streets and open fields.

Since the battle I have ascertained the following particulars: Gen. Cabell and staff, with about 2,000 men and two pieces of artillery, left Ozark on Friday morning with three days’ rations and a full supply of ammunition. They halted at the crossing of the mountains a little past noon, and rested until nearly sunset, afterward marching rapidly toward Fayetteville. They were delayed by the darkness of the night and the incumbrance of their artillery, so that they did not commence the attack as early by nearly two hours as they had intended. Col. Monroe recommended a cavalry attack, to be supported by the artillery, but was overruled by Cabell, and a halt was made until the artillery could come up. Their force was made up as follows: Brig.-Gen. W. L. Cabell commanding, accompanied by staff and escort; Carroll’s First Arkansas Cavalry Regiment, Col. Scott, of Virginia, commanding, assisted by Lieut.-Col. Thompson; Monroe’s Second Arkansas Cavalry, Col. Monroe commanding in person; First Battalion Parson’s Texas Cavalry, Lieut.-Col. Noble commanding; one section of artillery, commanding officer not known; four companies of bushwhackers, commanded by Mankins, Palmer, Brown and others. The enemy left all their dead and wounded, which they could not take away on their retreat, in our hands, leaving Surgeon Russell and Assist.-Surgeon Holderness to take charge of them. Today Capt. Alexander arrived at our picket with a flag of truce, bringing a communication from Gen. Cabell, a copy of which I enclose. The flag was immediately ordered back with my reply, a copy of which is also enclosed. The following is a list of casualties on our side:

First Arkansas Infantry

Killed–S. Cockerill, Company A. Wounded–Capt. Randall Smith, Company A, head, slightly; Capt. William C. Parker, Company H, head, slightly; Corp. John Woods, Company A, slightly; James Shackley, Company A, mortally; Niles Slater, Company A, slightly; Daniel Rupe, Company E, slightly; William Rockdey, Company F, severely; –– Nolin, Company H, slightly.

First Arkansas Cavalry

Killed–Privates H. Morris and J. D. Bell, Company I; R. B. Burrows, Company A. Wounded–Capt. W. S. Johnson, Company M, right arm, dangerously; Sergt. Frederick Kise, Company A, slightly; Sergt. John Asbill, Company D, severely; First Sergt. W. M. Burrows, Company E, severely; Com. Sergt. Benjamin K. Graham, Company L, slightly; Corp. Josiah Fears, Company A, slightly; Corp. Henry C. Lewis, Company D, slightly; Corp. George A. Morris, Company G, slightly; Corp. Doctor B. Morris, Company M, slightly; Farrier William Wooten, Company C, slightly; John Hays, Company A, severely; James Jack, Company A, severely; William J. Qunton, Company D, slightly; Francis M. Temple, Company D, John Grubb, Company E, slightly; Jordan Taylor, Company E, severely; William F. Davis, Company G, slightly; George Davis, Company H, mortally; William J. York, Company H, severely; Davis Chyle, Company M, slightly. Missing–thirty-five (mostly stampeded toward Cassville during the engagement). Prisoners–one lieutenant and eight men First Arkansas Cavalry, taken while absent without leave at a dance nine miles from town; also one private First Arkansas Infantry, and six privates in other commands, taken in town. Total killed, 4; wounded, 26; prisoners, 16; missing, 35.

The enemy’s loss is not accurately known. At and about this post are not less than twenty killed and fifty wounded. Citizens report one colonel and several men as having died on the retreat, also a large number of wounded still moving on with the command. We captured during the engagement Maj. Wilson, Gen. Cabell’s commissary, wounded, and Capt. Jefferson, of Carroll’s regiment; also four sergeants, three corporals and forty-six privates, a part of them wounded; also not less than fifty horses and one hundred stand of arms, mostly shot-guns. Among their killed are Capt. Hubbard, of Carroll’s regiment, and a captain of bushwhackers. The enemy admit the loss of over 200 horses, killed, taken and stampeded. Enclosed please find a rough sketch of the position of forces at 9 A. M., when the battle culminated.

Every field and line officer, and nearly every enlisted man, fought bravely, and I would not wish to be considered as disparaging any one when I can mention only a few of the many heroic men who sustained so nobly the honor of our flag. Lieut.-Col. Searle and Maj. Ham, in command of the reserve, did good service in keeping their men in position, and preventing them from being terrified by the artillery. Lieut.-Col. Bishop and Majs. Fitch and Hunt, of the First Cavalry, led their men coolly up in the face of the enemy’s fire, and drove them from their position. Capt. W. S. Johnson, Company M. First Cavalry, had his right arm shattered while leading his men forward under a galling fire. Lieut. Roseman, post-adjutant, and Lieut. Frank Strong, acting adjutant. First Cavalry, deserve much praise.

I remain, General, your most obedient servant.

M. LA RUE HARRISON, Colonel First Arkansas Caralry, Commanding.

P. S We had actively engaged during the battle between three and four hundred men only. I should not neglect, also, to mention that S. D. Carpenter, assistant surgeon of volunteers, assisted by Assist.-Surgeons Coffee, Drake and Tefft, were actively engaged during the contest in carrying the wounded from the field and attending to their wants.

M. LA RUE HARRISON. Colonel First Arkansas Caralry, Commanding.

Back to: Washington County, Arkansas History

Source: History of Benton, Washington, Carroll, Madison, Crawford, Franklin, and Sebastian Counties, Arkansas. Chicago, IL, USA: Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1889.


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