Battle of Pea
Report of Col. Evander McNair, Fourth Arkansas Infantry.
MEMPHIS, TENN. April 29, 1862.
GENERAL: I have the honor to report to you the action of my regiment (Fourth Arkansas) and other troops under my command in the battle of Sugar Creek, or Elkhorn, on March 7:
At about 10.30 a.m. my regiment, constituting the extreme right of Colonel Hebert's brigade, composed of McIntosh's, Hébert's (Third Louisiana), Fourth and Fourteenth Arkansas Regiments, and McRae's battalion, was ordered, with the rest of the brigade, to take a battery which was directly in front, but at some distance, and in the rear of an open field and a strip of woods of dense undergrowth and filled with fallen timber, intervening between us and the field and extending around on the left of the field. Ordering a charge, my men obeyed with alacrity and cheerfulness; but after advancing some 200 yards they were, owing to the nature of the ground and obstacles in the way, thrown into disorder and were halted, and reformed as well as the ground would permit. The enemy discovering us, immediately opened upon us a heavy fire of shell and grape. In a few moments the order was given to renew the charge. I accordingly moved my regiment forward, obliquing, however, to the left, keeping in the skirt of woods that extended around the field, in order to protect my men from the enemy's fire. This I succeeded in doing in a great degree.
While making this movement, however, another portion of the brigade, moving by the flank, cut off two companies and a half on the left from the main body of my regiment, which did not rejoin it during the day, but, connecting themselves with other troops of the brigade, as I am credibly informed, fought most gallantly through the day. Continuing to move forward, we came upon a body of the enemy's infantry in ambuscade; attacked and drove them back until they were reformed on a second body in the rear. We attacked the whole body and repulsed them again; but, rallying upon their reserves, they made a stand, but were soon driven back again by our brave troops. In this last charge one of the enemy's batteries, at a distance of 200 yards, opened upon us, but we charged and took it in a very short time. In this charge the loss of the enemy was very great.
The enemy, receiving heavy re-enforcements, made a simultaneous attack with cavalry on the left and infantry on the right of our brigade in numbers far superior to our own. After a fierce conflict the enemy were for the fourth time repulsed and with heavy loss. Generals McCulloch and McIntosh having fallen and Colonel Hébert being taken prisoner and there being no other field officers present, I assumed command of the brigade, which did not at that time number more than 1,000 men, our ranks having been much broken and thinned by casualties and men being much fatigued and disordered.
Perceiving the enemy advancing heavily re-enforced, preparatory to making an attack upon my right wing, I ordered Captain Harris, who was then in command of the right of the Third Louisiana, to resist them. He did so with great gallantry and success, again repulsing the enemy. The enemy's cavalry, at the same time attacking my right, were defeated with actual slaughter.
Shortly afterwards the enemy were seen advancing in several columns towards us, numbering at least 5,000. My command being then greatly exhausted and seeing no advantage likely to accrue from retaining the position then occupied, after consulting with the officers under my command, all agreeing, I determined to fall back on our reserve, which I did in good order and without haste, the enemy not offering to pursue us.
Having occupied the new position selected by me, I was ordered by the general commanding to hold the same until further orders. I did so, and about 2 a.m. on March 8, by his order, I united my command with the forces which had been under his immediate command on the Telegraph road.
The loss in my own regiment was 16 killed and 38 wounded. Some 40 were found missing after the battle, but all except 5 or 6 have since then rejoined the regiment.
The officers and men who came under my observation behaved in a manner not only worthy of themselves, but of the sacred cause in which they were engaged; and though doubtless many others whom I did not observe acted in an equally noble manner, and I cannot, therefore, do them justice in this report, yet I must particularize the following persons, whose actions I noted:
In my own regiment Lieutenant-Colonel [Samuel] Ogden and Major [James H.] May nobly performed their duty, cool and intrepid, encouraging and rallying the men. They placed me under many obligations.
Capt. Rufus K. Garland, during the whole battle, constantly engaged in rallying and encouraging his men and leading them on to the attack, was of invaluable assistance to me.
Capt. John M. Simpson charged the enemy's battery to the cannon's mouth; and springing upon one of the guns, while waving his sword and cheering his men, fell mortally wounded by a volley from the enemy, thus nobly offering up his life for his country.
Capt. Josephus C. Tison, who led the van in the same charge, while leading on his men, fell severely wounded in both legs a few paces from the cannon.
Capt. F. J. Erwin, early in the action, had been shot through the body, and I thus had been deprived of the services of one of my most efficient officers.
Capts. Jos. B. McCulloch and Augustus Kile, by their personal coolness and intrepidity during the entire engagement, did much to encourage and sustain the men.
Lieut. Henry G. Bunny my adjutant, rendered efficient service during the whole engagement, and was wounded by the explosion of a shell on the head as we were retiring from the field.
Mr. William Garland, who voluntarily participated in the whole engagement, proved himself a good and valiant soldier, and rendered me great assistance.
Capt. W. J. Ferguson, my quartermaster, who acted as my aide during the whole engagement, conducted himself with marked ability and intrepidity.
I must also be permitted to make most honorable mention of Captains Harris, Gunnels, and Gilmore, of the Third Louisiana Regiment, who during the whole engagement showed themselves thorough soldiers and gallant gentlemen, untiring in their exertions in rallying and leading on their men, ardent, yet acting with the steadiness of veterans. They by their conduct that day proved themselves worthy of their gallant State and the regiment which has so nobly fought during this entire war.
With respect, I am, your obedient servant,
Colonel, Commanding Fourth Arkansas Regiment.
General D. H. MAURY,
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