Battle of Pea
Report of Col. Joseph Nemett, Fifth Missouri Cavalry (Benton Hussars).
SIR: Agreeably to your orders I hereby submit the following report of the part which the Benton Hussars took in the battle of Sugar Creek.
We formed the rear guard of the army on the march from the camp 3 miles west of Bentonville to Sugar Creek, and started about 6 a.m. We arrived at Bentonville about 10. First perceived the enemy at 11. He had then surrounded us on three sides, and we were soon closely pressed. My rear guard did not exceed 100 men (Companies A, B, and F, and 9 men of Company D). Observing a large cavalry force, about 500 men, bearing a secession standard, advancing rapidly upon our rear, I, with Companies A and B, of the Benton Hussars, charged them and put them to flight, and by these means kept them at a respectful distance for half an hour, thus giving time to the whole column to retreat from the town without molestation. Following, we formed again on the hill east of town in line of battle, fronting the enemy, who formed in town. On the whole retreat we sent out flankers and skirmishers to the rear, fronting to the enemy about every ten minutes, thus keeping them in check and preventing their advance upon us. Although delayed on the road by the breaking down of a piece of artillery for a half an hour, and separated by this means over a mile from the main body, we kept the enemy from encroaching upon us, and succeeded in carrying off the gun. We were continually fired upon, and only saved ourselves from being cut off and surrounded by repeated charges to the rear and flanks, thus letting the enemy believe that our force was superior to what it really was.
After marching about 3 miles the whole column halted, and we were happily re-enforced and supported by a battalion of the Second and Twelfth Missouri Infantry and two pieces of light artillery, our situation having then become so critical that unless thus supported we must have succumbed to the infinitely superior numbers. The enemy soon ceased his fire, and we marched 5 or 6 miles without molestation. Then we were again attacked, but ordered by General Sigel to proceed to our quarters.
My force was as follows: Company A, Captain Pfaff and Lieutenant Apprederis, 28 men; Company B, Captain Langen and 30 men; Company D, Lieutenant Borcherdt and 9 men; Company F, Lieutenant Luther and 26 men; in all, 93 men. Company E, 45 men, under command of Lieutenant Galeskowsky, remained as guard to the flying battery, and did its duty well. Company G, under command of Captain Lehmann had the advance guard, and, as I understand, at one time made a spirited charge and cleared the road in front near Bentonville. Lieutenant Kluefer, of Company D, with 30 men, had been ordered off two days previous, to form part of an expedition under Major Conrad; Lieutenant Hansen, of Company B, with 30 men, to form part of an expedition under Major Meszaros; and Lieutenant Schipper, of Company A, with 20 men, the night before the retreat, as a scouting party. Fifteen men of Company F were detailed as provost guard to Captain Hesse, division provost-marshal.
I must here observe that the bravery and bearing of my men were exemplary, but notwithstanding this, had the enemy shown the least military spirit, we should unavoidably have been sacrificed.
On the 7th, Companies A, B, E, and G, with the First Missouri Cavalry, Third Iowa Cavalry, and three pieces of flying artillery, besides two or three regiments of infantry and Welfley's battery, under command of General Osterhaus, proceeded to attack the left flank. Colonel Bussey, of the Third Iowa, commanded the cavalry. The order of march was: 1, First Missouri; 2, Flying Battery; 3, Third Iowa; 4, two companies of Fremont Hussars; 5, Benton Hussars. The forces ahead of us had already engaged the enemy in the timber (9.30 a.m.) when we came upon the battle-field. We were about forming right into line when suddenly the First Missouri and Third Iowa rushed in mad flight upon us and carried us along. We, however, immediately formed as soon as we reached the open field, and were the only cavalry that kept the open field the whole day. One gun of Welfley's battery, the horses of which had been shot, was left behind in the timber, but I immediately returned with Company A, commanded by Lieutenant Schipper, rescued it, and brought it back in safety. We afar this were all day posted on the extreme left flank and as guard to the battery. We remained in the open field exposed to the fire, which lasted until 5.30 p.m. The rest of the forces were then ordered off the field, and the Benton Hussars and two companies Fremont Hussars were alone left to maintain the battle-field during the night.
March 8, 1862, early in the morning, I was ordered back to the Second Division, posted on the extreme left flank as guard to that flank, and advanced until we reached Elkhorn Tavern. There we were ordered to halt, and in the afternoon sent in pursuit of the enemy, taking 15 prisoners. In the evening we reached the encampment and there remained.
Colonel, Commanding Fifth Missouri Cavalry.
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