after another came and told me that no one had seen either General Van Dorn or General Price for some time and it was supposed they were captured, as the field where they were last seen was full of Federals; and he remarked to me, "You are not safe here, for the enemy's cavalry are within 150 yards of you."
The troops that had come across the ridge and down the Hospital Hollow were now below us on the Telegraph road. Colonel Watie had sent to me for orders. I had sent to him to bring his men from the ridge down into the valley and there halt for orders,and I supposed he had done so; but he did not receive the order and remained on the mountain, from which he went direct to Camp Stephens.
Just at this moment the two batteries close to me commenced to wheel and hurried down he hill into the road. I do not know that any one gave them any order to fall back. The captain of one battery said that some one ordered it, but I think that the information of the capture of our generals was overheard and that no order was given. No one was there to give an order. The batteries rattled down the steep hill and along the Telegraph road, and as I rode by the side of them I heard an officer cry out, "Close up, close up, or you will all be cut to pieces."
On reaching the road I rode past the batteries to reach a point at which to make a stand, for, having passed the road but once, and then in the night, it was all an unknown land to me. When we reached the first open level ground I halted the leading gun, directed the captain of the company in front to come into battery, facing to the rear, on the right of the plain going northward. The battery in the rear I knew had no ammunition. Saw the first gun so placed in position, rode back to the second battery and directed the only officer I could find to do the same on the left of the plain, and when I turned around to go to the front found that the gun faced to the rear had been again turned into the road, and that the whole concern was again going up the road northward. I rode again to the front and halted the leading battery at the foot of the next level, ordered it into line, facing to the rear, gave the necessary commands myself, and had three guns brought into position. Two regiments of infantry were standing there in lines ranging up and down the valley, the flank of each to the enemy. I directed them to form in the rear of the batteries; but at this moment a shell was sent by the enemy up the road from the point of the hill around which we had just passed. The cry of "The cavalry are coming" was raised, and everything became confusion.
It was impossible to bring the other guns into battery. Those already faced turned again into the road; and supposing that of course they would take the Bentonville road, which, at leaving the other, ascends a steep hill, and thinking I could certainly halt them, after a slow ascent, on its summit, I galloped through the bottom and up the ravine on the left of the hill, dismounted, and climbed the hill on foot, remounted at the summit, rode to the brow of the hill, looked down into the road, and found that our retreating troops, batteries and all, had passed by on the Telegraph road, the enemy's cavalry pursuing, en route for Springfield, Mo.
Captain Hewitt and my aide-de-camp, Lieutenant W. L. Pike, had followed me, and, except half a dozen stragglers, we were alone. We waited a few moments on the brow of the hill uncertain what course to pursue, when, on our right, as we faced the valley, and at a distance of about 100 yards, a gun of the enemy sent a shot into the valley, and another on the other side, farther off, replied with another.