ments. Not being satisfied with their reports I repaired to the picket line in person, and was soon convinced that they were moving up, with pieces of artillery, in front of Fort Thompson. I immediately ordered the pickets strengthened; they already constituting one-fifth of my entire command. The enemy's picket line, numbering as much as the whole garrison of the fort, was pressed forward, and our pickets forced to retire a distance of 300 paces. Protected by a strong force of cavalry and infantry, as well as by the darkness of the night, the enemy succeeded in planting two batteries in front of the fort, 1 mile distant. This we could not prevent without bringing on a general engagement at night on the enemy's ground, which would have been disastrous to us beyond question.
About 2 o'clock I sent Captain Jordan to report to General Stewart the movements of the enemy, &c. Apprehending an attack not from the front (properly the rear, as the fort was intended to front the river), but from the flank down the river, which is the most vulnerable point of the fort, I directed Captain R. A. Stewart, commanding Artillery Corps, to send into the fort at once detachments to move a portion of the guns bearing both in front and on the left of the fort. I also went in person to 'Colonel Smith, of the Eleventh, and Colonel Cook, commanding the Twelfth, Arkansas Regiments, instructing them to hold their commands in readiness, a portion of which I desired to enter the fort and the residue the rifle pits below the fort. These dispositions were ordered about 2 a. m., March 13.
Just at day-dawn the enemy's batteries in front of the fort opened fire upon us. Our guns from the northern bastion of the fort responded promptly and with ammunition, and a brisk cannonading was kept up for half an hour.
The morning turned out to be dark and foggy, which, with the smoke from the guns, rendered it impossible to ascertain anything of the enemy's movements or to direct the firing from the fort with proper accuracy. I therefore directed a cessation of firing from our guns. The enemy kept up firing from their batteries, which seemed to be directed not at us, but at the transports in the river, the chimneys of which were visible above the fog. The smoke clearing off revealed to us the enemy's batteries, with four regiments of infantry more than half a mile from them, partly secreted from view by the timber in front of us. I ordered a fire from three of the fur guns from the northern bastion and the two 12-pounders on the curtain in front to be directed at the infantry, and from three of the 24-pounder guns in the northwestern bastion upon the enemy's batteries. This was done with such accuracy and effect that the infantry were forced to retire from view. I then directed the fire to be concentrated upon the battery in the feild to the left. This was kept up for nearly an hour. The smoke and fog again becoming dense, we were compelled to suspend firing. Observing that the fog was heavy over the gunboats, I directed our firing to be held until such times as they might be enabled to ascertain the locality of the enemy.
In the course of a half hour the fire of the gunboats, heretofore irregular and desultory, was opened warmly upon the battery on the left. This was kept up for some time, our fort in the mean time remaining silent.
After the firing from the gunboats had slackened I directed that every available gun in the fort should be concentrated upon the enemy's battery on the left; that the first should be fired from the