Battle of Pea
Report of Maj. Eli W. Weston, Twenty-fourth Missouri Infantry, provost-marshal Southwestern District.
HDQRS. LYON LEGION, TWENTY-FOURTH MO.
I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by my command in the late action of the 7th and 8th instant:
We were encamped at what is known as the Elkhorn Tavern. On the evening previous to the conflict I had placed cavalry pickets on the Huntsville and on a cross-road leading into the Springfield and Bentonville road, supported by infantry. I should here remark that I had two companies of cavalry attached to my command, to wit: Company G, commanded by Capt. Barbour Lewis, of the First Missouri Cavalry, and Company M, commanded by Capt. James H. O'Connor, of the Third Illinois Cavalry. About 3 o'clock the morning of the engagement Private Welch, of Company M, Third Illinois Cavalry, while on duty near the Bentonville road, was captured by a party of rebel cavalry. While on the road to the rebels' camp he suddenly turned into a by-road and fortunately escaped, minus his arms. In the mean time my pickets reported a force moving around on our left flank. I immediately ordered Company F, of my battalion, commanded by Capt. S. P. Barris, together with my two companies of cavalry, to go out into the cross-roads and reconnoiter the enemy, and ascertain, if possible, their strength. They proceeded to do as ordered, and on arriving near our picket ground they discovered a small force of rebel cavalry, who upon their approach fell back through a field and copse of timber. Captain Barris, dividing his company, sent Lieutenant Hart to the right and went to the left himself, the cavalry keeping up the center. They followed them a short distance and gave them one or two volleys, which caused them to disperse and disappear. The whole then returned to camp.
I soon learned of a force approaching on the Cassville road. I immediately sent Company B, commanded by Capt. R. W. Fyan, down the road, with instructions to take them, supposing them to be the same scouting party before alluded to at the cross-roads. On arriving near the tannery Captain Fyan, discovering the force to be larger than before anticipated, sent back to be re-enforced. I immediately sent him Companies I and H, under command of Lieutenant Lyon, of Company H, to his assistance, at the same time ordering out the two remaining companies, A and F, to be in readiness, and sent Company K, Capt. J. R. Vanzant, with my train and 40 prisoners then in charge, to the extreme rear. At this time, receiving information that the enemy were on our left and steadily moving around to our right, I deployed the second platoon of Company A on the high hill to the left, and the first platoon, together with Company F, to the right, as skirmishers. My entire command being now engaged, I waited patiently for the result of what was yet to be. After waiting anxiously for an hour or more, I was somewhat relieved by the appearance of Acting Brigadier-General Carr and his division. I then drew in my companies of infantry that were deployed as skirmishers on the right, and took a position on the extreme left of the division, bordering on the base of the hill, deploying Company A to the cone of the hill and Company F down the ravine making down from the house, holding this position for two hours or more. My men being in range of the enemy's battery, their ranks gradually being thinned, and the infantry of the enemy slowly closing in upon them with greatly superior numbers, I ordered them to retire to my main line. I then took a position in line of battle on the brow of the hill; deployed Lieutenant Hart and 20 men to the cone of the hill. This position I held till forced to retire with the Ninth Iowa, under a raking fire of a vastly superior number of the enemy's fresh troops.
After falling back some distance I again formed my battalion, and the field officers of the Ninth Iowa Volunteers all being absent or wounded (Colonel Vandever commanding a brigade), I assisted in forming them. Colonel Vandever, then coming up, took command of the brigade, and moved it by the right flank to the right of the road. I here halted my battalion in support of a battery there stationed in the open field. This position I held until the close of the day, when I then retired with my command to camp, where were the remainder of my provost guard. My two cavalry companies, Captains O'Connor and Lewis, were doing very efficient service during the day, scouting and skirmishing, ascertaining movements of the enemy, &c. They executed all my orders promptly and with a zeal and gallantry highly praiseworthy, and I would be glad had I time and space to give particular note of some of their daring exploits.
I must not omit to mention that quite early in the morning I sent out my quartermaster, Lieut. S. L. Fritz, with one of my own and one each of the cavalry companies' wagons, foraging, with a guard, under Lieutenant Moore, of Company G, First Missouri Cavalry. I regret to say that, although Lieutenants Fritz and Moore and one or two of the guard escaped, the wagons loaded with forage, also the teams with several of the guard, were captured by the enemy's cavalry. However, they did not succeed in getting all the wagons away, as on the evening of the 8th I found one of my wagons, minus the team (four good mules), in a ravine to the right of the road, below the blacksmith shop.
On the evening of the 8th instant, receiving no special orders to repair to the battle-field and having a large number of prisoners in charge I remained with my command in camp in charge of the prisoners. There are several officers and men whom I desire to mention particularly for their gallant deeds of skill and bravery. Capt. T. A. Reed, of Company A, exhibited great bravery and coolness, maintaining the position assigned him in the morning two or three hours, with but few men, against great odds. Capt. R. W. Fyan also displayed the greatest courage and skill as an officer, executing all orders with calmness and precision. Captain Barris and Lieutenant Hart, of Company G, were of great service to me indeed as skirmishers, and their part could not have been acted better by the most veteran soldiers. Lieutenant Lyon, commanding Companies I and H, held his companies to their post under a raking fire of the enemy, and was among the very last to retire from his position. Lieutenant Lyon is a gallant young officer, and acted his part nobly. Lieutenant Robberson, of Company A, conducted himself bravely, and displayed great coolness and ardor for a contest with the enemy. I am also highly pleased with Captain Vanzant for his services in taking charge of the prisoners and my train. I desire to mention Sergt. Maj. A. A. Harrison as showing much bravery, and Private Collins, of Company F, and would be glad if I had time and space to mention others.
I desire to take this opportunity of speaking of Adjt. J. C. S. Colby, and to tender him my thanks for his efficient services in carrying orders from point to point, which he did with alacrity and with the least possible concern for his personal safety. In short, my whole command behaved with remarkable coolness, and obeyed my orders promptly and to the letter. Our loss sustained is as follows, viz: 4 killed, 13 badly wounded, 3 slightly, 10 missing; for particulars of which I refer you to company commanders' reports, which I herewith transmit.
Most respectfully, your obedient servant,
ELI W. WESTON,
Major, Commanding Twenty-fourth Mo. Vols., Provost. Marshal S. W. D., U.S. Army.
Brig. Gen. SAMUEL R. CURTIS,
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