Battle of Pea
Report of Col. John T. Hughes, Confederate Cavalry.
GENERAL: In the action which took place on March 7 and 8 between the Federal forces and those of Missouri and the Confederate States at Trott's Hill, or Sugar Mountain, near the State line, I have the honor of reporting to you the part taken by the troops placed under my command, consisting of two companies of infantry of the Fourth Division Missouri State Guard and my own regiment of Confederate Missouri Volunteers belonging to the Second Brigade, under General Slack, and also a squadron of light-horse under Major Gause. The Second Brigade, under General Slack, occupied the right of the line of battle of the Missouri forces and the troops of my command the extreme right of said brigade, resting upon the summit of Trott's Hill.
I took my first position on the east side of said hill, near the summit, on Friday morning, the 7th, early in the day, at the commencement of the action, to the right of Colonels Rosser and Bevier. I threw out a body of skirmishers, some 30 in number, to prevent the enemy from turning our right flank and to guard against any surprise. We were soon attacked by a body of infantry, and a very sharp conflict ensued for perhaps an hour. The enemy were repulsed with considerable loss. Our loss was 1 man killed and I wounded. About the same time the other regiments of the brigade, under Colonels Rosser and Bevier, were engaged sharply with the enemy's infantry, capturing one piece of artillery and several prisoners.
About this time General Slack was severely wounded and taken from the field, when the command of the Second Brigade devolved upon Colonel Rosser. In the course of an hour after this a squadron of horse, said to be 1,300 strong, formed to attack my right, when we poured such a galling fire into their ranks as to completely disperse them. They fled precipitately down the steeps of the rocky hill, leaving several of their men and horses dead on the field, and overcoats, knapsacks, caps, hats, guns, and sabers strewn upon the ground.
I now ordered an advance, captured a Federal flag, gained the heights, and cleared the entire hill of the Federals, Colonels Rosser and Bevier's commands advancing at the same time. Our right now rested upon the summit of the mountain, having taken a strong position along the rocky margin on the south side, overlooking the enemy's lines and camps. While occupying this position a most terrific shower of balls, from small-arms as well as cannon shot and shell, was poured upon us. The men stood the fire gallantly. At length a charge was ordered along the whole line, and the right rapidly advanced down the steep sides of the mountain, leaping from rock to rock over the rugged descent for some half a mile, driving the Federals like a tempest before them. The Federals retreated to their baggage trains, some distance off, and renewed the cannonading. The volleys of musketry and the booming of cannon were heard until night put an end to the strife.
The right wing, including my command, now fell back to the summit of the mountain and laid on their arms all night without refreshments.
Never did men bear up with more true courage and fortitude under the trying circumstances in which they were placed, without any comforts, without fire, food, or blankets. Weary, hungry, and fatigued with the march for several days previous, and with one day's hard fighting, my men stood ready early in the morning, without breakfasting, to renew the struggles of yesterday. It was indeed trying on the soldiers and officers, but their courage and manliness was equal to the task.
When the cannonading began and the roar of musketry excited their minds they flew to their posts and with alacrity they formed the line of battle. Our right was now extended to the westward and took position on the west margin of Trott's Hill. A terrific volley of bombs and balls hailed through our ranks; several were wounded pretty severely, but none killed in my command. Several of our brave Confederates in Colonel Churchill's regiment and Major Whitfield's battalion, from Texas and Arkansas, were killed fighting alongside of us on the left.
During this part of the action the order to retire from the hill was received and reluctantly complied with. My command was the last to leave the field, coming off under a shower of balls and bombs, bringing with us two fine pieces of the enemy's cannon which had been captured the previous day, but which were now about to be abandoned to the enemy again.
Under my direction Col. A. W. Slayback, who had behaved very gallantly throughout the entire action and who was acting as lieutenant-colonel for me (in place of Col. Thomas McCarty, who was unavoidably absent, being unwell), with a small detachment of men seized the two field pieces with ropes, and by hand brought them off safely in the face of the enemy and under a galling fire. They are now in camp; one a 12, the other a 6 pounder.
I take great pleasure in expressing my gratitude to all my officers and soldiers for their noble bearing and gallantry during the entire engagement.
Capt. Reuben Kay, recently escaped from the Saint Joseph prison, where he had been unjustly confined by the Federals, fell into the ranks as a private and fought very gallantly during the whole time. His actions deserve to be imitated by the thousands of supernumeraries now following this army.
The squadron of light-horse, under Major Gause, was attached to Colonel McCulloch's regiment during the fight, where they did good service. Two of them were (not seriously) wounded (Morris Johnson and Lawson Moore), both of Clinton County, Missouri.
Recapitulation: Killed, one; wounded, three; taken prisoners, four. Total, eight.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully,
JOHN T. HUGHES,
Maj. Gen. STERLING PRICE,
Comdg. Mo. State Guard.
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