Battle of Pea
Report of Col. E. Greer, Third Texas Cavalry.
HEADQUARTERS THIRD TEXAS CAVALRY,
I would respectfully submit the following report of my command: On the 3d instant we were ordered to take up the line of march early the next morning towards the enemy, General McIntosh's brigade to take the advance.
At 7 o'clock on the morning of the 4th we left our encampment on Boston Mountains, my regiment going in advance.
That night we encamped near Fayetteville. The day had been very cold, with quite a snow-storm during the morning. After leaving Fayetteville General McIntosh's brigade, which was composed exclusively of cavalry, marched up the Telegraph or Springfield road for 4 miles, while General Price's division, with the rest of our army, was ordered up the Elm Springs road. Four miles from Fayetteville Colonel Stone was ordered with his regiment to proceed a few miles farther up the Telegraph road, where he would remain during the night and rejoin our forces the next day. The rest of General McIntosh's brigade turned to the left, and after carefully reconnoitering the country and getting all the information we could of the enemy, joined the main body of our army at Elm Springs. Considerable snow fell again that night.
At 3 a.m. on the 6th instant we left Elm Springs, this regiment still in advance. When we had gone 2 miles that morning we were informed that our pickets during the night had fired upon the pickets of the enemy.
We arrived at Smith's Mill about sunrise, and here learned that 1,000 Federal infantry had left that place at 1 a.m., and had gone in the direction of Bentonville. On approaching Bentonville, from the smoke it was evident that the enemy had fired a portion of the town and were destroying some of their supplies, &c. The cavalry were halted in the prairie, 2½ miles south of Bentonville, in view of the town, a short time, for consultation, thus affording the rest of our army time to close up. It was agreed that Colonel Gates, with his command, should move around to the east of the town, and that General McIntosh, with his command, should go to the left. Our advance guard in the mean time had approached near the town. When we had got immediately west of the town several men were sent up to reconnoiter the enemy. They soon returned, and reported a considerable force of the enemy formed on the public square. General McIntosh, feeling confident that the enemy would take what is known as the Camp Stephens road, determined to get in rear of them. Owing to the broken, rocky, and mountainous character of the country north of the town and the absence of a road leading from where we were across to the Camp Stephens road, we found it impossible to reach that road nearer than 4 miles from Bentonville, and then only by traveling a very circuitous route. When we did reach it, it was in a rough, mountainous country. On our right there was a mountain the entire length of the brigade. The Camp Stephens road passed to the east of this mountain. Lieut J. S. Boggess, with 20 men, was ahead as an advance picket. Near the Camp Stephens road they came suddenly on a small picket of the enemy, and at once gave General McIntosh notice of it. About this time the pickets fired at each other. General McIntosh rode forward and ordered the advance to charge. This was done as effectually as possible under the circumstances. The enemy proved to be in strong force in the hollow near which the road they were traveling ran. My regiment was formed by fours at the time, and in this manner went into the charge. Considering the ambuscade they had prepared for us and the number of shots fired by them, it seems almost like a miracle that more of my men and horses were not either killed or wounded.
The force charged by us must have been 4,000 or 5,000 strong, composed of infantry, cavalry, and artillery. After making two attempts to charge them I discovered at the rear of the column that Colonel Young's regiment had obliqued to the right on the mountain. I at once ordered Lieutenant-Colonel Dimond, with a portion of his command, to oblique to the left, form, and charge the enemy, which was promptly done.
It was evident that the enemy were in a strong position in the rough and rocky gorges near the road, and about this time considerable bodies of infantry, which had already passed, were seen returning with several pieces of artillery, thus increasing their force several thousand. Owing to the unevenness of the ground and the strong position held by them we were forced to retire to the right. We formed on the next ridge. At this time General McIntosh rode up and ordered us to fall back in the direction of Bentonville.
The loss of the enemy in this affair must have been greater than ours. The army, soon after this, coming up, engaged the enemy for several miles, principally with artillery. We reached Camp Stephens late in the evening, the men and horses considerably fatigued from exertion and extreme cold. Before our wagons had all arrived we were ordered to take up the line of march, the men not having had time to prepare anything to eat. We moved only a few miles during the night, the regiments, however, keeping their position in line.
Next morning we moved slowly, giving General Price, with his division, time to reach the Telegraph road, in rear of the enemy, and commence the attack. Early in the morning we heard some skirmishing of small-arms. Soon both sides opened fire with their cannon. At this time General McCulloch gave orders that the infantry be moved forward to the left, and that the different cavalry regiments be moved up in parallel lines to the right of the infantry, the head of the different columns leading towards the Telegraph road or Elkhorn Tavern. We were at this time in an open field. West of it the country was inclined to be a level ridge, known as Pea Ridge; northeast of it was a high mountain, and beyond this mountain was the Telegraph road. Nearly east of us, about l ½ miles, was the Elkhorn Tavern; south of the field the country was hilly and broken and densely covered with heavy underbrush and large timber. Here the enemy opened fire upon us with a masked battery of three pieces in a southwesterly direction from us. This battery was supported by the heavy bodies of infantry and cavalry.
General McIntosh at once ordered the different cavalry regiments to charge them. The head of my command, which was near General McCulloch slid his staff at this time, wheeled to the right, commencing the charge, when General McCulloch in person ordered me to halt my command, remain, and cover his position. The charge was gallantly made by the rest of the cavalry, the cannon were captured, and the cavalry and infantry supporting them completely routed and dispersed. Lieutenant-Colonel Lane, of my command, joined in the charge, and afterwards performed good service in aiding and assisting in dismounting and forming the cavalry. At this time General McCulloch ordered some one to throw his pieces in battery, ready to open fire upon the' enemy in that direction, at the same time ordering me to form my regiment on the left of it. This was done. Soon afterwards I was ordered to dismount my command and hold at all hazards a hill, which was the most prominent position on the battle-field. This hill commanded our portion of the field. Leaving our horses in the rear, we took position on the hill. I soon found the enemy had the range of the same from their batteries beyond it. Here we remained during the engagement on our side of the field, anxiously awaiting orders. I dispatched several messengers for orders, but could not learn the whereabouts of either of the generals. Soon after these messengers were dispatched by me the adjutant-general rode up. I asked him where General McCulloch was. He replied that if the troops down on the right did not do better than they had done for the last few moments I had best move my command. Soon afterwards Colonel McRae passed us on our left. He stated that the enemy were advancing in overwhelming force. About this time heavy bodies of our infantry, cavalry, and artillery were seen moving to our rear. After a consultation with my officers, and finding it impossible to receive any orders from either Generals McCulloch or McIntosh, I moved my regiment back to their horses, and took position in the field near where we were in the morning when the masked battery of the enemy opened fire upon us. I then went in person in search of Generals McCulloch and McIntosh. I soon met with the staff of the two generals, who informed me that each one of them was dead, and that I was senior officer on the field. I made inquiry for Brigadier-General Pike, and was informed that he was not present. The firing had ceased on both sides before this. I at once assumed command of our remaining forces on the field.
The following is a list of the killed and wounded of my command in the two engagements, embracing also a list of the killed and wounded horses:
In conclusion, I deem it my duty to notice the gallant bearing and conduct throughout the entire engagement of Lieutenant-Colonel Lane, Maj. G. W. Chilton, Adjt. M.D. Ector, Capts. R. H. Cumby, Thomas W. Winston, J. J. A. Barker, Lieuts. J. S. Boggess, J.P. McKay, and others. As a general thing both the officers and privates of my command acquitted themselves with great gallantry and coolness throughout the engagement.
Colonel, Commanding Third Texas Cavalry.
Col. D. H. MAURY,
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