The enemy made their attack in two divisions, on the right and left, and, massing their forces, endeavored to force our inferior numbers back, so that, by extending his lines to flank us, his first attack was partially successful by the failure of one regiment to do its duty. The enemy were repulsed, however, and thrice over returned to the charge. Upon the final repulse, after six hours of continuous fighting, he retired from the field and sent a flag of truce for leave to bury his dead. A copy of the correspondence is annexed.
The boat which brought down the dispatches to me from Colonel Cahill, upon whom the command devolved after the death of General Williams, collided with the gunboat Oneida and sank, so that I am not able by this mail to give the details, as I hope to do by the next dispatch.
Our loss was very heavy, say 90 killed and 250 wounded.* Of general and field officers we mourn the loss of Brigadier-General Williams and Colonel Roberts, Seventh Vermont, killed; and Lieutenant-Colonel Keith of the Twenty-first Indiana, severely wounded. A number of the line officers were killed and wounded, whose names I am unable to give for the reason before stated, and upon such matters a mistake should not be made.
The casualties of the enemy were very much larger. They have lost Brigadier-General Clark, wounded, probably mortally, and a prisoner, with his aide; Brigadier-General Allen, killed; Brigadier-General Helm, disabled by a fall from his horse. Brigadier-General Ruggles is reported dead, and a very large number of field and line officers killed and wounded. We have buried already more than 300 of their dead, and they have left their wounded in every cabin on their line of retreat. Their killed and wounded are more than equal to one-half of our men actually engaged against them. The enemy's forces were at least 6,000 effective men, while we had not over 2,000 in this action.
The necessities of the ground caused General Williams to form his line of battle in rear of the camps of the Fourteenth Maine and Twenty-first Indiana Regiments, so that the enemy, for the hour, were permitted to occupy these camps and destroy much camp equipage.
Upon the first report of the engagement reaching me I sent up Lieutenant Weitzel of my staff, to report that condition of affairs, and to see what further dispositions were necessary to meet a renewed attack, if any could be feared.
The Arkansas although supported by the rebel steamers Webb and Music, did not choose to come down and attack our gunboats, the Essex, Sumter, and Kineo, and so did not co-operate with the land forces. Flag-Officer Farragut immediately went up the river to attack the Arkansas, but upon the 6th the Essex steamed up to the rebel fleet. The Webb and Music fled, and the Arkansas, after firing a few shots, was set on fire and blew up.
Appended please find the reports+ of Colonel Cahill and Lieutenant Weitzel, as well as the general orders issued from this department upon the sad event of General Williams' death and the victory at Baton Rouge. I trust the actions of my brave men will receive your approbation.
I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,
BENJ. F. BUTLER,
Hon. E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War.
*See revised statement, p. 51.
+See Reports Nos. 11 and 12.