Battle of Pea
Report of Brig. Gen. Albert Pike, C. S. Army, commanding Department of Indian Territory.
DWIGHT MISSION, CHEROKEE NATION, IND. T.,
SIR: On February 25 I reached Cantonment Davis, near Fort Gibson, with Colonel Cooper's Choctaw and Chickasaw battalion, which had been encamped near the mouth of the Canadian. The same evening Col. D. N. McIntosh's regiment of Creeks arrived at the same point. I had in charge a large amount of coin and other moneys for the different Indian tribes, and found delegations of the Osages, Comanches, and Reserve Indians awaiting me, and the disposition of the moneys left unexpectedly in my hands, together with the dealings with the Indian tribes, detained me there three days.
The Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Creeks refused to march until they were paid off, and as by their treaties with us they could not be taken out of the Indian country without their consent, I had no alternative but to submit. The payment of the Choctaws and Chickasaws occupied three days.
On the morning of the third day I left them behind at Fort Gibson, except O. G. Welch's squadron of Texans, part of the First Choctaw and Chickasaw Regiment, with which, and the Creek regiment, whom I persuaded to move by the promise that they should be paid at the Illinois River, I marched to Park Hill, near that river, remained there one day, and not being overtaken, as I expected to be, by the Choctaw and Chickasaw troops, moved the next day, Monday, March 3, towards Evansville, and the next day to Cincinnati, on the Cherokee line, where I overtook Col. Stand Watie's regiment of Cherokees.
The next day, Wednesday, with Colonel Watie's regiment and Captain Welch's squadron, I reached Freschlag's Mill, and on Thursday overtook Colonel Drew's regiment of Cherokees at Smith's Mill, and carne up with the rear of General McCulloch's division late in the afternoon. That night I encamped within 2 miles of Camp Stephens, and at 9.30 o'clock received General Van Dorn's order, to the effect that the army would move at 8 o'clock and that I would follow General McCulloch's division. I sent to General McCulloch to ascertain at what hour the road would be clear for me to move, and received his reply that it would be clear at 12 o'clock and that his train would not move until daylight. At 12 o'clock I marched with my command, overtook and passed General McCulloch's train, which was in motion, and had to wait until sunrise a little south of Sugar Creek until his infantry had passed it on a little bridge of rails. We followed closely in his rear until the head of my command had passed the houses on what is called Pea Vine Ridge, where we were halted, and Colonel Sim's Texas regiment, countermarching, passed us to the rear, an officer informing me that I was to countermarch and follow the other troops. I did so, and we were then marched off the Bentonville road to the south through the woods. Soon after Captain Lomax, of General McCulloch's staff, informed me that the enemy had fortified a little place called Leetown, about 4 ½ miles to the south, which we were marching to attack, and that General McCulloch's orders were that my command, on reaching the spot, should form in line in rear of General McIntosh's brigade, which would itself be in rear of a line of infantry, and that when the firing should begin all were to dismount and charge together.
We had marched from the road in a southeasterly direction about a mile from the point where we left it, and were passing along a narrow road, between a piece of woods on our left and a fenced field on our right, when we discovered in front of us, at the distance of about 300 yards, a battery of three guns, protected by five companies of regular cavalry. A fence ran from east to west through the woods, and behind this we formed in line, with Colonel Sims' regiment on the right, the squadron of Captain Welch next to him, and the regiments of Colonels Watie and Drew in continuation of the line on the left. The enemy were in a small prairie, about 250 yards across, on the right of which was the fenced field, and on our left it extended to a large prairie field, bounded on the east by a ridge. In rear of the battery was a thicket of underbrush, and on its right, a little to the rear, a body of timber.
General McIntosh's cavalry had passed on into the large prairie field to our left and the infantry were quite across it, close to the ridge, about 600 yards from us. My whole command consisted of about 1,000 men, all Indians, except one squadron. The enemy opened fire into the woods where we were, the fence in front of us was thrown down, and the Indians (Watie's regiment on foot and Drew's on horseback), with part of Sims' regiment, gallantly led by Lieutenant-Colonel Quayle, charged full in front through the woods and into the open ground with loud yells, routed the cavalry, took the battery, fired upon and pursued the enemy, retreating through the fenced field on our right, and held the battery, which I afterwards had drawn by the Cherokees into the woods. Four of the horses of the battery alone remained on the ground, the others running off with the caissons, and for want of horses and harness we were unable to send the guns to the rear.
The officers of my staff, Captains Schwarzman and Hewitt and Lieutenant Pike, with Captain Lee, of Acting Brigadier-General Cooper's staff, rode with us in the charge. Our loss was 2 of Colonel Drew's men killed and 1 wounded. Colonel Sims had 1 man killed and 1 wounded. Of the enemy, between 30 and 40 were killed in the field and around the guns. The charge was made just at noon.
We remained at the battery for some twenty minutes, when Colonel Watie informed me that another battery was in our front, beyond the skirt of underbrush, protected by a heavy force of infantry. General McIntosh's force was not near us, nor do I know where it then was. The infantry were still in their position near the ridge, across the large field on the left, and did not approach us; indeed, at one time moved farther off along the ridge. Colonel Drew's regiment was in the field on our right, and around the taken battery was a mass of Indians and others in the utmost confusion, all talking, riding this way and that, and listening to no orders from any one. I directed Capt. Roswell W. Lee, of Acting Brigadier-General Cooper's staff, always conspicuous for gallantry and coolness, to have the guns which had been taken faced to our front, that they might be used against the battery just discovered; but he could not induce a single man to assist in doing so.
At this moment the enemy sent two shells into the field, and the Indians retreated hurriedly into the woods out of which they had made the charge. Well aware that they would not face shells in the open ground, I directed them to dismount, take their horses to the rear, and each take to a tree, and this was done by both regiments, the men thus awaiting patiently and coolly the expected advance of the enemy, who now and for two hours and a half afterwards, until perhaps twenty minutes before the action ended, continued to fire shot and shell into the woods where the Indians were from their battery in front, but never advanced. This battery also was thus, with its supporting force, by the presence of the Indians, rendered useless to the enemy during the action.
In the mean time our artillery had come into action some distance to our left and front, beyond a large field, extending from the woods in which we were to a line of woods beyond it, which hid the conflict from our view. Leaving the Indians in the woods, I passed beyond them to the left into the open ground nearer the conflict, and remained some time.
About 1.30 o'clock there was a very heavy fire of musketry for about ten minutes, and soon after about two regiments of our cavalry came into the field on our left front and formed in line facing the woods on that side. Colonel Drew then came to me with his regiment, about 500 strong, and I sent him across the field, directing him to form in rear of the line of cavalry, and if they advanced through the woods to follow them, dismount his men near the other edge, and let them join in the fight in their own fashion. They crossed the field and took the position indicated.
It was just after this that I directed Sergeant-Major West, of Colonel Watie's regiment, to take some of the Cherokees and drag the captured guns into the woods, which was done, the enemy still firing over them into the woods, where he placed a guard of Cherokees over the cannon.
Soon after the cavalry force crossed to our side of the field and formed in line in front of the woods in which the Indians were and remained there until the enemy threw a shot in that direction, when they also took shelter in the woods. During all this time I received no orders whatever nor any message from any one.
About 3 o'clock I rode towards the fenced field. I saw nothing of our cavalry, but found a body of our infantry halted on the road running along the fence by which we had originally come. It consisted of the regiments of Colonels Churchill, Hill, and Rector, and Major Whitfield's battalion. Major Whitfield informed me that Generals McCulloch and McIntosh were both killed, and that 7,000 of the enemy's infantry were marching to gain our left, one body of which, at least 3,000 strong, he had himself seen. Totally ignorant of the country and the roads, not knowing the number of the enemy, nor whether the whole or what portion of General McCulloch's command had been detached from the main body for this action, I assumed command and prepared to repel the supposed movement of the enemy.
To our left, beyond the field where our infantry had first been seen by me in the forenoon, was a wooded ridge of no great height, with a fence running along the foot of it on the west and northwest; between it and the Bentonville road was open and level ground. I marched the infantry, Welch's squadron and Watie's regiment, across the field, dismounted the horsemen, directed all to be posted behind the fences, and sent Major Boudinot, of Watie's regiment, to inform General Van Dorn that I would try to hold the position; but upon riding up and along the ridge to the rear I found the position not tenable, as the enemy could cross it and descend upon our rear by an open road that ran over it.
At this time the firing on the field had ceased, and I saw coming into the road at the farm house a large body of cavalry and Good's battery. It was evident enough that the field was left to the enemy, and as we were not in sufficient numbers to resist them and the ground afforded no defensive position I determined to withdraw the troops and lead them to General Van Dorn. Indeed, the officers assured me that the men were in such condition that it would be worse than useless to bring them into action again that day.
I accordingly sent orders to the artillery and cavalry to join me. What had become of the other troops engaged no one could inform me. I concluded they had retreated towards Camp Stephens, gaining the road by which we had come in the morning. Colonel Stone and Captain Good came to me, and I informed them of my purpose. Placing the squadron of Captain Welch in front, the infantry marching next, followed by Good's battery, with the Cherokees on the flanks, and, as I supposed, Colonel Stone's regiment in the rear, we gained the Bentonville road, and marched on it in perfect order to the Telegraph road. The order sent to the Cherokees to join us had not, by some accident, reached Colonel Drew, and his regiment remained in the woods, and after a time retreated towards Camp Stephens, where, he informs me, he found Colonel Stone's regiment arrived before him. This regiment understanding, I have learned, that part of the enemy's force was marching to attack the train, took that direction.
The infantry had in three days marched 60 miles, had been on foot all the preceding night, and fought that day without water, and Colonel Churchill begged me to leave them where they could procure it. When we reached the Telegraph road I was about to conduct them to headquarters; but unable to learn the position of the two armies or how the road came upon the field, and learning that where our forces were there was no water and that there was a running stream on the Pineville road about a mile and a half from the point where the Bentonville road descends into the valley, I led them to and on the Pineville road, intending to halt at the water, and letting the men have that at least, as they had nothing to eat, to join the main army early in the morning. Orders from General Van Dorn caused us to retrace our steps and march to his headquarters, which we reached long after dark.
On Saturday morning I was directed by General Van Dorn to post part of Colonel Watie's men, who were my whole command, except Captain Welch's squadron, on the high ridge to our right and the residue on another ridge on the left, to observe the enemy and give him information if any attempt was made by them in force to turn his left flank. I accompanied those sent on the ridge to the right, and sent Capt. Fayette Hewitt, of my staff, to post the others. To Captain Welch I gave permission to join any Texan regiment he chose; and he joined that of Colonel Greer and remained with it until the action ended.
After remaining for some two hours near the foot of the ridge, on the south side observing the enemy's infantry, heavy columns of which were in the fields beyond and the fire of their batteries in full view of me and seeing no movement of the infantry to the left, I recrossed the ridge, descended it, and went towards General Van Dorn's headquarters. Being told that he and General Price were in the field to the left of his headquarters, I took the road that led there and halted on the first hill below headquarters, where a battery was posted, facing the Telegraph road, and which I was told had been sent to the rear for ammunition. Here I heard that orders had been given for the army to fall back and take a new position. Another battery came up and the captain asked me for orders. I told him he had better place his battery in position in line with the others to play upon the road, and then send to General Van Dom for orders. In the mean time I sent two officers to the general to deliver him message and myself remained with the batteries.
We now heard long-continued cheering in front. Bodies of our troops had come across the ridge on the right and down the Hospital Hollow, in good order apparently, and I suppose they were marching to the left to repel perhaps the attempt upon our left flank, apprehended by General Van Dorn in the morning. Seeing no fugitives on the Telegraph road we supposed the cheering to proceed from our own troops and that the day was ours, when an officer rode down and informed me that the field was occupied by Federal troops; and soon after another came and told me that no one had seen either General Van Dorn or General Price for some time and it was supposed they were captured, as the field where they were last seen was full of Federals; and he remarked to me, "You are not safe here, for the enemy's cavalry are within 150 yards of you."
The troops that had come across the ridge and down the Hospital Hollow were now below us on the Telegraph road. Colonel Watie had sent to me for orders. I had sent to him to bring his men from the ridge down into the valley and there halt for orders, and I supposed he had done so; but he did not receive the order and remained on the mountain, from which he went direct to Camp Stephens.
Just at this moment the two batteries close to me commenced to wheel and hurried down the hill into the road. I do not know that any one gave them any order to fall back. The captain of one battery said that some one ordered it, but I think that the information of the capture of our generals was overheard and that no order was given. No one was there to give an order. The batteries rattled down the steep hill and along the Telegraph road, and as I rode by the side of them I heard an officer cry out, "Close up, close up, or you will all be cut to pieces."
On reaching the road I rode past the batteries to reach a point at which to make a stand, for, having passed the road but once, and then in the night, it was all an unknown land to me. When we reached the first open level ground I halted the leading gun, directed the captain of the company in front to come into battery, facing to the rear, on the right of the plain going northward. The battery in the rear I knew had no ammunition. Saw the first gun so placed in position, rode back to the second battery and directed the only officer I could find to do the same on the left of the plain, and when I turned around to go to the front found that the gun faced to the rear had been again turned into the road, and that the whole concern was again going up the road northward. I rode again to the front and halted the leading battery at the foot of the next level, ordered it into line, facing to the rear, gave the necessary commands myself, and had three guns brought into position. Two regiments of infantry were standing there in lines ranging up and down the valley, the flank of each to the enemy. I directed them to form in the rear of the batteries; but at this moment a shell was sent by the enemy up the road from the point of the hill around which we had just passed. The cry of "The cavalry are coming" was raised, and everything became confusion.
It was impossible to bring the other guns into battery. Those already faced turned again into the road; and supposing that of course they would take the Bentonville road, which, at leaving the other, ascends a steep hill, and thinking I could certainly halt them, after a slow ascent, on its summit, I galloped through the bottom and up the ravine on the left of the hill, dismounted, and climbed the hill on foot, remounted at the summit, rode to the brow of the hill, looked down into the road, and found that our retreating troops, batteries and all, had passed by on the Telegraph road, the enemy's cavalry pursuing, en route for Springfield, Mo.
Captain Hewitt and my aide-de-camp, Lieut. W. L. Pike, had followed me, and, except half a dozen stragglers, we were alone. We waited a few moments on the brow of the hill uncertain what course to pursue, when, on our right, as we faced the valley, and at a distance of about 100 yards, a gun of the enemy sent a shot into the valley, and another on the other side, farther off, replied with another.
We then turned and rode up the road towards Bentonville, and after riding about a mile found that the enemy's cavalry were pursuing at full speed. Leaving them in the rear by rapid riding, we turned into the woods on the right, passed around the farm house on the Pea Vine Ridge, and road westward between the Pineville and Bentonville roads.
We had been informed by my brigade commissary, who had come up from Camp Stephens about 10 o'clock, that our whole train had been turned back and was encamped at Pea Vine Ridge.
Three miles from the Telegraph road we saw a small body of our retreating horsemen fired upon by the enemy's infantry, and concluded, as they had evidently anticipated our retreat and made every arrangement necessary in view of it to destroy our retreating forces, that General Sigel, returning by the route up Sugar Creek, by which he had retreated, was in front of our train and it was lost.
Owing to the circuit which we were constrained to make and to the fatigued condition of our starved horses, we were unable to gain the front of our retreating forces until after they had left Elm Springs; and learning that the Indian troops had marched from that point to Cincinnati, we joined them at that place.
The enemy, I learn, had been encamped at Pea Vine Ridge for three weeks, and Sigel's advance was but a ruse to induce our forces to march northward and give them battle in positions selected by themselves.
I may add that in their pursuit of our retreating train they followed no farther than Bentonville and returned from that point. I was within 5 miles of that place on Monday morning and was misled by information that they had taken it that morning; but they did not enter it until the afternoon.
I did not know until I reached Cincinnati what had become of the main body of our threes. I there met Captain Schwarzman and Major Lanigan, who informed me of their retreat, and that Generals Van Dorn and Price were marching from Huntsville to Van Buren, and also heard of the order to burn all the wagons on the Cove Creek road that could not cross Boston Mountains.
Just before night, Saturday afternoon, I had met Colonel Rector in the hills, who told me he had about 500 men with him; that they were in such condition that they could not go more than 6 or 8 miles a day, and that lie thought he would take them into the mountains, hide their arms in a secure place, and, as he could not keep them together and feed them, let them disperse. He asked my opinion as to this, and I told him that no one knew where the rest of the army was; that Generals Van Dorn and Price were supposed to be captured and the train taken; that if his men dispersed with their arms they would throw them away, and that I thought the course he proposed was the wisest one under the circumstance The enemy were pursuing on all the roads, and as it was almost impossible for even a dozen men in a body to procure food, I still do not see what better he could have done.
General Cooper, with his regiment and battalion of Choctaws and Chickasaws, and Colonel McIntosh, with 200 men of his regiment of Creeks, came up with our retreating train at Camp Stephens, where they found Colonel Drew's regiment, and remained with General Green, protecting the train until it reached Elm Springs, where they were all ordered to march with their own train to Cincinnati.
I am, captain, very respectfully, yours,
Brigadier-General, Comdg. Department of Indian Territory.
Capt. D. H. MAURY,
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