My forces consisted of the First Brigade Missouri Volunteers, Colonel Henry Little commanding; the Second Brigade, Brigadier-General Slack commanding; a battalion of cavalry, under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Cearnal, and the State troops, under the command of Brigadier-General Rains, Green, and Frost, Cols. John B. Clark, jr., and James P. Saunders, and Major Lindsay, numbering in all 6,818 men, with eight batteries of light artillery.
With these I reached Elm Springs of the evening of the 5th, and on the morning of the 6th advanced to Bentonville, where burning houses indicated the presence of the enemy. Colonel Gates' regiment of cavalry, Lieutenant-Colonel Cearnal's battalion, and the mounted men of General Rains' command were rapidly pushed forward to the east of the town and soon became briskly engaged with what proved to be the rear guard of General Sigel's forces, the main body of which had passed through Bentonville that morning in the direction of Elkhorn Tavern, near which the enemy were encamped in force and strongly intrenched.
Skirmishing between our advance and this rear guard was kept up throughout the day, and resulted in the capture by us of quite a number of prisoners, from whom we gained much useful information.
Towards evening we bivouacked as if for the night within 5 or 6 miles of the enemy, but resumed the line of march at 8 p. m., and, in spite of the impediments with which the enemy had sought to obstruct our way reached a point on the Telegraph road to the north and in the rear of the enemy's position. A march of about 2 miles along the deep valley through which the road leads brought us within view of the plateau upon which the enemy were posted, and which lay to the north of the Elkhorn Tavern.
Our advance had already begun to skirmish with the vedettes of the enemy, when I discovered that they were about to place a battery in position to command the road. I at once deployed the bridges of General Slack and Colonel Little to the right and the rest of my forces to the left and took possession of the heights on either hand. This movement gave my artillery on the left a very commanding position, from which they were enabled not only to check the enemy's advance upon our left, but also to support our right in its advance upon the enemy.
The brunt of the action fell during the early part of the day upon my right wing, consisting of General Slack's and Colonel Little's brigades. They pushed forward gallantly against heavy odds and the most stubborn resistance, and were victorious everywhere.
At this time and here fell two of my best and bravest officers, Brigadier General William Y. Slack and Lieutenant-Colonel Cearnal, the former mortally and the latter severely wounded.
I now and drove them from one position to another, until we found them towards evening in great force on the south and west of an open field, supported by masked batteries.
The artillery and infantry of my left wing were brought up to attack them, and they did so with a spirit and determination worthy of all praise. The fiercest struggle of the day now ensued; but the impetuosity of my troops was irresistible, and the enemy was driven back and completely routed. My right had engaged the enemy's center at the same time with equal daring and equal success, and had already driven them from their position at Elkhorn Tavern. Night alone
30 R R - VOL VIII