About 1.30 o'clock there was a very heavy fire of musketry for about ten minutes, and soon after about two regiments of our cavalry came into the field on our left front and formed in line facing the woods on that side. Colonel Drew then came to me with his regiment, about 500 strong, and I sent him across the field, directing him to form in rear of the line of cavalry, and if they advanced through the woods to follow them, dismount his men near the other edge, and let them join in the fight in their own fashion. They crossed the field and took the position indicated.
It was just after this that I directed Sergeant-Major West, of Colonel Watie's regiment, to take some of the Cherokees and drag the captured guns into the woods, which was done, the enemy still firing over them into the woods, where he placed a guard of Cherokees over the cannon.
Soon after the cavalry force crossed to our side of the field and formed in line in front of the woods in which the Indians were and remained there until the enemy threw a shot in that direction, when they also took shelter in the woods. During all this time I received no orders whatever nor any message from any one.
About 3 o'clock I rode towards the fenced field. I saw nothing of our cavalry, but found a body of our infantry halted on the road running along the fence by which we had originally come. It consisted of the regiments of Colonels Churchill, Hill, and Rector, and Major Whitfield's battalion. Major Whitfield informed me that Generals McCulloch and McIntosh were both killed, and that 7,000 of the enemy's infantry were marching to gain our left, one body of which, at least 3,000 strong, he had himself seen. Totally ignorant of the country and the roads, not knowing the number of the enemy, nor whether the whole or what portion of General McCulloch's command had been detached from the main body for this action, I assumed command and prepared to repel the supposed movement of the enemy.
To our left, beyond the field where our infantry had first been seen by me in the forenoon, was a wooded ridge of no great height, with a fence running along the foot of it on the west and northwest; between it and the Bentonville road was open and level ground. I marched the infantry, Welch's squadron and Watie's regiment, across the field, dismounted the horsemen, directed all to be posted behind the fences, and sent Major Boudinot, of Watie's regiment, to inform General Van Dorn that I would try to hold the position; but upon riding up and along the ridge to the rear I found the position not tenable, as the enemy could cross it and descend upon our rear by an open road that ran over it.
At this time the firing on the field had ceased, and I saw coming into the road at the farm house a large body of cavalry and Good's battery. It was evident enough that the field was left to the enemy, and as we were not in sufficient numbers to resist them and the ground afforded no defensive position I determined to withdraw and troops and lead them to General Van Dorn. Indeed, the officers assured me that the men were in such condition that it would be worse than useless to bring them into action that day.
I accordingly sent orders to the artillery and cavalry to join me. What had become of the other troops engaged no one could inform me. I concluded they had retreated towards Camp Stephens, gaining the road by which we had come in the morning. Colonel Stone and Captain Good came to me, and I informed them of my purpose. Placing the squadron of Captain Welch in front, the infantry marching next, followed by Good's battery, with the Cherokees on the flanks,
19 R-VOL VIII