Battle of Pea
No. 54. -- Report of Brig. Gen. James S. Rains, commanding Eighth Division, Missouri State Guard.
HDQRS. EIGHTH DIVISION, MISSOURI STATE
SIR: In reporting the action of the Eighth Division in the recent engagement at Elkhorn I need not refer to the details of the march from Cove Creek or while in pursuit of the enemy, save to thank you for placing it in front of the other divisions at Fayetteville and retaining it there until we met and engaged the enemy on the morning of the 7th instant.
Our numbers were much reduced by the expiration of the term of service of our men, the numbers left sick in camp, and still further by a detail of Major [H. W.] King's battalion to escort some Federal prisoners to the rear.
After having marched the greater part of the night of the 6th instant without any other refreshment than a few hours' rest, we started at daylight on the 7th, and soon reached the Telegraph road,, near which we were ordered to place our battery in position while a reconnaissance was being made. We soon advanced and took position in the cañon with the artillery, while the infantry crowned the crests of the neighboring hills. About 10 a.m. we were ordered forward in double-quick time, and ascended a steep hill on the left, up which our artillery was rapidly rolled by the infantry, who there displayed the eagerness with which they pushed forward to meet the foe. By this movement we reached the same plateau upon which the enemy were posted, and our battery was brought into action under command of Lieutenant [C. W.] Higgins, but assisted by Colonel [H. M.] Bledsoe, of the Sixth Infantry, who had been in charge of it since the commencement of the war, and who had so signally distinguished himself as a brave officer and skillful field artillerist. Here our favorite old piece "Sacramento" found herself sustained by others, commanded by those who proved themselves during the day to be brave and gallant soldiers.
Captains Wade's and S. Churchill Clark's batteries on the right, with the Saint Louis Battery, under Captain Emmett MacDonald, on the left, formed a living wall of fire which Missouri may well be proud of and fearlessly trust to for defense. Here the artillery soon crippled and silenced the famous Dubuque Battery of the enemy, and as an opportunity occurred sustained the First Brigade of Missouri Volunteers, under Colonel Little, as it gallantly pressed forward the right wing of our line.
Meantime the infantry, under command of Colonel [William H.] Erwin, Lieutenant-Colonels John [P.] Bowman, [A. J.] Pearcy, and Stemmons, were held ready to support the batteries. As the right wing nobly pushed forward, gaining their ground inch by inch, the left, of which we formed a portion, was gradually advanced, and the enemy driven back until towards evening, when they concentrated their forces on their right wing, and took a strong position on the west and south sides of an open field, where they were protected by a breastwork of fence rails and logs.
From this point they opened a well-directed fire of artillery as our advancing column deployed along the east side of the same field. This was promptly replied to by Colonel Bledsoe, who, along with Captains MacDonald and Clark, dashed forward in the face of a murderous fire into the field itself. Our infantry, sustained by Brigadier-General Price's division, with other forces on the left, were also formed in the field. Here an order was received, through Colonel Clay Taylor, to move the batteries forward by hand, which was handsomely executed. Then came the battle. Fiercely was it fought, nobly was it won, under the very eye of their leaders. For a moment the infantry wavered and staggered under the fire of the enemy; but their ranks were soon closed and their hearts nerved by the rallying cry of their old veteran chief himself, who had so often led them to conquest, as, with his majestic form, he rode along the lines and bade them onward to victory. Like a "hurricane of steel" swept that infantry over the field, drove the enemy from his strong position, routed and pursued him through the woods until night closed the chase.
Our troops bivouacked upon the ground they had so nobly won, and the morning of the 8th instant found them, though exhausted and fatigued, flushed with the victories of the day previous, anxious to renew the fight. The enemy had not been idle, but during the night had planted batteries of heavy artillery in a commanding position, which soon opened upon our lines. Our battery, with others, promptly replied and dealt destruction to the advancing columns of the foe. At this time I was ordered to take position in the field which had been won the night before, and consequently drew off my forces for that purpose. The movement was reluctantly obeyed by the whole of my command, as the enemy were then in sight and almost within reach. On arriving at the old field and reporting to Major-General Van Dorn I was ordered by him to march on the road towards Huntsville. For the first time I realized the fact--the fight was over; the victory within our grasp was lost.
To the officers and men of my command I must add my thanks to the praise they are entitled to from their country. The cool bravery of Colonel Erwin, Lieutenant-Colonels Bowman, Pearcy, and Stemmons, who had command of the infantry, will ever be gratefully remembered by me.
Captain Shelby acted with his well-drilled company during the day with Colonel Gates, on the extreme left, where he was much exposed and did efficient service. In the evening his men were dismounted and served under Lieutenant-Colonel Bowman in the gallant charge across the field. Colonel Bledsoe and Lieutenant Higgins managed the battery with their usual skill and daring.
To the members of my staff I am particularly indebted. Colonel [L. A.] Maclean, assistant adjutant-general; Lieutenant-Colonel [Walter S.] O'Kane, aide-de-camp, and Lieutenant-Colonels [George S.] Rathbun and [George W.] Haymakeur were with me on the field all the time and bore themselves gallantly in the thickest of the fight. As prompt, brave, and efficient officers I commend them to your favorable notice. To Mr. W. K. Palmer and Majors Blanc and Martin, with Sergeant-Major Orear, I tender my thanks for their services on the field.
Notwithstanding the dangers through which we passed, I am pleased to have to record so small a list of killed and wounded. It is hereby appended and made part of this report.
On the march since the engagement the exposure was so great that I have to mourn the loss of some of our bravest and best men. Lieutenant-Colonel Bowman, of the Sixth Infantry, and Captain [Jesse] Darrow, of the Thirteenth Cavalry, with 6 of the rank and file, who all behaved so gallantly on the field, have fallen from fatigue and exhaustion. Such losses are not easily repaired. I am pleased to be able to state that Captain Powers' wound is not considered mortal.
JAMES S. RAINS,
Brig. Gen, Comdg. Eighth Div., Missouri State Guard.
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