General Sterling Price's Report of the Battle of Camden, Arkansas, 1864
Headquarters, District of Arkansas, Camden, May --, 1864.
GENERAL: I have the honor to submit the following as a report of the operations of the troops under my command in this district during the campaign just terminated: The infantry (Price's division) having been ordered from Spring Hill to Louisiana on March 18, and followed soon after by Fagan's brigade, then at Camden, left for the time only cavalry at my disposal.
On March 23, the advance guard of the enemy moved out from Little Rock on the military road toward Arkadelphia, and were followed on the succeeding day by their whole column. Their force,commanded by Major-General Steele in person, was estimated at 10,000 men of all arms, with 25 pieces of artillery and a train of 400 wagons, including pontoons. As soon as the intentions of the enemy were developed Cabell's brigade was moved from near Columbus, on Red River, toward Tate's Bluff, at the mouth of the Little Missouri. At the same time Brigadier-General Marmaduke, with Marmaduke's brigade, was ordered from Camden to that point. Brigadier-General Shelby had been with his command previously thrown across the Ouachita toward Princeton and Tulip, with instructions to watch the movements of the enemy, and in conjunction with Dockery's brigade and Wood's battalion to harass his rear, and, if practicable, cut off his trains. Unfortunately, before Brigadier-General Dockery could execute this order he was on March 29  attacked at Mount Elba by a party of the enemy from Pine Bluff and completely routed. They at the same timecaptured at Long View his entire train (twenty-six wagons) and about 200 prisoners. On March 29, the enemy occupied Arkadelphia, having been annoyed on the whole line of march by scouting parties and other small bodies of our troops.
On April 1, they advanced to Spoonville, 14 miles, having awaited e-enforcements under Brigadier-General Thayer from Fort Smith, but which did not then arrive. Nine miles from Spoonville, at the crossing of the Terre Noir, Brigadier-General Marmaduke, with Marmaduke's and Cabell's brigades, being in front, Shelby threw himself upon their rear, killing near 100 and capturing 60, with little loss to himself. On April 3, they crossed theLittle Missouri River at Elkin's Ferry. The next day (April 4) were attacked by Marmaduke and driven back some 3 miles. In this affair we have only some 1,200 men actually engaged; captured one stand of colors and numbers of small-arms. The road was strewn with knapsacks abandoned in their flight. The Federal General Rice was slightly wounded.
On April 5, I left Camden and took the field in person. Almost all the stores and public property of value had been removed, and a small guard only was left in the town, with instructions upon the approach of the enemy to remove or destroy the pontoon bridge across the Ouachita as well as any remaining supplies useful to them.
On April 7, I reached Prairie D'Ane with Dockery's and Crawford's brigades and Wood's battalion of cavalry, all of which had been withdrawn from the north side of the Ouachita River. I found Brigadier-General Marmaduke, re-enforced by Brigadier-General Gano's brigade (500 men) from the Indian Territory, drawn up in line of battle at the west end of the prairie, where some rude and imperfect intrenchments had been thrown up. Brigadier-General Shelby was 5 miles in advance, close up with the enemy, with whom he was constantly skirmishing. The enemy having been re-enforced by Thayer's command of 5,500 men, with ten pieces of artillery, on April 6, advanced slowly and cautiously, and on the evening of the 10th attacked Shelby with great fierceness, massing sixteen pieces of artillery and keeping up an incessant cannonade until 9:30 p.m., but with very trifling loss on our part.
On the evening of the 11th, I withdrew my forces from Prairie D'Ane and fell back to a very strong position 8 miles from Washington, my object being to draw the enemy beyond the prairie to a point where I felt confident if he advanced I could attack him at great disadvantage, and destroy or capture the greater part of his train. With his habitual caution he moved but a short distance beyond our line of intrenchments, and on the morning of the 13th I found that he had fallen back during the night, and was retreating rapidly toward Camden. Brigadier-General Maxey, commanding Indian Territory, having arrived in person, and additional re-enforcements from his command, consisting of Tandy Walker's Choctaw Brigade, about 1,000 strong, then coming up, I moved again to the front with Maxey's and Fagan's divisions and engaged the enemy's rear guard, some 3,000 strong, with ten pieces of artillery, commanded by General Thayer. The enemy were strongly posted near Moscow in a skirt of timber on the edge of the prairie, and would not venture beyond it. Dockery being in the advance attacked with great intrepidity, and at one time captured a section of artillery, but which was afterward retaken by a greatly superior force and his troops driven back with some loss. In this affair we dismounted one of the enemy's guns, which they concealed, and retreated during the night. Marmaduke with Shelby had been previously detached, if possible, to reach his front and impede his advance. This, owing to the distance to be traveled over, the scarcity of forage, and the exhausted condition of the horses, and the rapid flight of the enemy, was not fully successful, though every foot of their advance was disputed, and the debris of trains, camp
equipage, and scattered clothing along their line of march showed how disastrous was their retreat from Moscow. On the evening of April 15, the enemy occupied Camden, Colonel Lawther with his regiment gallantly disputing their advance and giving them volley after volley as he slowly retreated through the streets of the town. On April 16, I established my headquarters at Woodlawn, my troops being so disposed as to watch all the approaches to or from Camden, on the south side of the OuachitaRiver. On the 17th, the enemy sent out a foraging train of some 225 wagons, guarded by about 1,500 men and four pieces of artillery. Early on the morning of the 18th, dispositions were made to attack them on their return, Brigadier-General Maxey being in command of the expedition. This was a perfect success. Their whole train was captured, all their artillery, and a large number of prisoners. The enemy were completely routed, leaving near 500 dead (mostly negroes) on the field. Among the killed was Colonel Williams, who commanded them.
(NOTE: This actually happened at a place called Poison Spring, AR)
On April 19, General Smith reached the field of operations, and on the 20th and following days Churchill's and Parsons' divisions of infantry arrived from Louisiana. On April 19, Brigadier-General Fagan received orders to cross the Ouachita with his own division, consisting of Cabell's, Dockery's and Crawford's brigades, to which Shelby's brigade was temporarily attached, and to attack and cut off all trains of the enemy he might find on that side of the river. On the evening of the 23rd, to divert attention from this movement, a feint was made upon the city of Camden. The Arkansas and Missouri divisions of infantry were moved up on the Wire road, the enemy' pickets driven in beyond the bridge over Two Bayous, 1 mile from the town, and shell thrown from Lesueur's battery into the woods on the other side, with good effect. Several of the enemy are said to have been killed; 23 were wounded, and great alarm produced, without any loss on our part. On April 25, Brigadier-General Fagan, having made a forced march, attacked at Marks' Mills a train of several hundred wagons, guarded by a brigade of infantry, 500 cavalry, and six pieces of artillery, on its way from Camden to Pine Bluff for supplies. The victory was complete. All their wagons fell into our hands. All their artillery (6 pieces), 4 stand of colors, and 1,100 prisoners were captured, the enemy losing in killed near 500 men, Lieutenant-Colonel Drake, who was in command, being mortally wounded. The mail, containing official reports and returns from Major-General Steele, with information of much value to us, was found in train. The enemy, on learning the loss of their train, evacuated Camden on the night of April 26, and at 2 o'clock on the morning of the 27th their rear guard crossed the Ouachita. The town was occupied by our advance about 9 a.m. of the same day. We found they had abandoned a large number of wagons, and thrown quantities of harness into the river, which were afterward saved. Walker's division of infantry having arrived, General Smith had on April 26 assumed command of the Army of Arkansas in person, and I was assigned to the immediate command of the Arkansas and Missouri divisions of infantry, commanded,
respectively, by Brigadier-Generals Churchill and Parsons, and the operations of the army [were] afterward conducted by the general commanding. On the morning of April 28, a raft bridge having been laid during the night previous, the two divisions of infantry under my command crossed the Ouachita and moved rapidly in pursuit of the retreating enemy, whose route was plainly marked at every step by cast-off garments, and other property and plunder abandoned in their flight. We marched 16 miles and encamped on the ground occupied by the enemy the night before. At 2 o'clock on the morning of the 29th, my column was again in motion, and passing through Princeton bivouacked at night 11 miles beyond that town, making a distance of 28 miles marched that day. After a few hours' rest, at midnight the troops were again in line of march. The night very dark, with heavy rain, increased the toil of these weary and gallant soldiers. At daylight on April 30, we had come upon the enemy's rear, near Jenkins' Ferry, 22 miles from Princeton. Marmaduke's cavalry had already engaged them, when at 8 a.m., my command was moved forward into action. Churchill's division Arkansas infantry being in the advance was pushed rapidly to the support of Marmaduke's command, then skirmishing sharply with the enemy, Parsons' division Missouri infantry being held in reserve. The nature of the ground, swampy, with dense woods and undergrowth, rendered the movements of the troops very difficult, and the falling rain increased the discomfort of men already nearly exhausted by long marches and loss of rest. The line was formed, and under all obstacles moved with spirit and alacrity to the attack. The enemy re-enforced rapidly, and an incessant roar of musketry attested the stubbornness of the conflict. For two hours, under a most destructive fire, with varying success, this division maintained the unequal contest greatly outnumbered by the enemy.
Parsons' division being brought to their support, the whole line advanced with great steadiness, pouring volley after volley with fatal precision into the ranks of the foe. A section of Lesueur's battery had been brought to the support of the infantry and placed, at the suggestion of General Marmaduke, in the open field (Cooper's) and near the edge of the creek. The boggy ground was almost impassable, and it was with great effort that the guns were put in position. After firing a few rounds, being disabled by the loss of several horses, they were withdrawn. A section of Ruffner's battery, which had been also ordered up, was delayed by this movement and the nature of the road, and mistaking the line of the enemy for our own troops, was pushed far in advance, and the horses and most of the cannoneers being killed, the two guns were lost. The ammunition of the infantry giving out, my whole line was retired to the foot of the hill in our rear. Walker's division now going into action my command was ordered up to its support, the entire force of the enemy being engaged. The contest now raged with great violence, when the enemy yielded the ground, leaving his dead and wounded; many wagons, his India-rubber pontoons (cut, and for the time rendered useless), and much spoil fell into our hands....
In closing this report I beg leave to acknowledge the prompt and effective support rendered me by Brigadier-General Maxey and his troops. Leaving the District of the Indian Territory, which he commanded, he joined me at a time when the necessity for re-enforcements seemed greatest, and until relieved from duty here after the evacuation of Camden by the Federal forces continued to perform most efficient service. I regret that the country was deprived, temporarily, of the services of Brigadier-General Gano (ofMaxey's division) by a severe and painful wound received in a skirmish near Munn's Mill, at a period when that bold and experienced officer would have added fresh laurels to those already gained on many hard-fought fields.
To the general officers of my own immediate command - Brig. Gens. J.F. Fagan, J.S. Marmaduke, W.L. Cabell, T.P. Dockery, J.O. Shelby, and Colonel Greene - I desire to return my acknowledgments for their prompt, efficient, and gallant services. To these and to the cavalry under them the country owes a debt of gratitude for their indomitable perseverance in harassing and annoying the enemy, impeding his movements, crippling and demoralizing his forces until final victory crowned their efforts, and the army of Steele, foiled in its purpose, turned from its line of march to Red River, was driven for temporary refuge to Camden. The infantry divisions under Brigadier-GeneralsChurchill and Parsons, having returned by forced marches with their laurels fresh from the fieldsof Louisiana, fully sustained their old reputation. To the gallant leaders of these forces and their brigade commanders - Brig. Gens. J.C. Tappan, A.T. Hawthorn, J.B. Clark, Jr., and Cols. L.C. Gause and S.P. Burns - the South is indebted for results which attest fully the patient endurance and fortitude of their troops. My staff merit my highest commendation. Lieut. Col. J.F. Belton, assistant adjutant-general, was with me throughout the campaign, conspicuous for the intelligent discharge of his duties and his gallantry on the field. Maj. Thomas L. Snead, on this, as on other important occasions, rendered me very valuable service by his cool, ripe judgment and experience and the efficient, prompt, and fearless manner in which he bore himself on the field. I regret that his services are lost to the rmy in the field, but only to be given to his country on another and perhaps as important an arena. Maj. G.A. Gallagher, Capt. J.W. Lewis, and S.H. Buck, assistant Adjutant-generals; Lieut. Col. Clay Taylor, chief of ordnance and artillery; Capt. T.J. Mackey, chief engineer; Maj. Isaac Brinker, chief quartermaster; Maj. N.S. Hill, chief commissary of subsistence; Capt. A. Sigourney, chief paymaster; Surg. Thomas D. Wooten, medical director, and Surg. C.M. Taylor, medical inspector, are all deserving of high praise and entitled to my thanks.
To my personal staff, consisting of Lieuts. R.T. Morrison and Celsus Price, assisted by
Col. Washington L. Crawford, Capt. D.C. Cage, and Lieut. B.F. Scull, as volunteers, I am particularly indebted for the prompt and accurate manner my orders were transmitted to the various commands. Of these, Lieutenants Scull and Price, with my orderly (Private D. Kavenaugh), particularly distinguished themselves at Jenkins' Ferry by responding with alacrity to a call for volunteers to reconnoiter the enemy's position, riding coolly up to their ranks and receiving a heavy volley, which disclosed the Federal lines, but unfortunately took effect upon Lieutenant Scull, fracturing his leg, which was afterward amputated. Nor while enumerating the chivalric services of the living can the deeds of the heroic dead be forgotten. Their bright example will light others onward in the path to glory. The names of Grinsted, Cocke, Pettus, and Harris, who fell while gallantly leading their regiments, will be perpetuated with the memory of other heroes in the hearts of a grateful people.
Brig. Gen. W.R. Boggs,
Chief of Staff, Trans-Mississippi Department.
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