War of the Rebellion: Serial 024 Page 0703 Chapter XXIX. ARKANSAS POST.

Search Civil War Official Records

vesting the upper side of the fort. His column was put in motion at 11 a.m., but diverging below that point the head of it, consisting of General Hovey's brigade of General Steele's division, after meeting and dispersing a strong picket of the enemy, soon encountered a swamp, about one-fourth of a mile wide. Passing this swamp with much difficulty the brigade rested upon an open space called Little Prairie.

Riding up to the point where the brigade had entered the swamp and witnessing its embarrassment, I sent Colonel Stewart, of my staff and chief of cavalry, with my escort to the left and front to ascertain whether the embrasures, now discovered in that portion of the levee farthest from the river, were occupied by cannon, and to verify the practicability of the river road. He soon reported that there was no cannon in the embrasures; that the levee been held the night before as a line of defense by infantry, which had retired upon the fort; that he had discovered one brass piece beyond the next line of defense limbered up for removal, and that the river road was not only practicable but good.

Accordingly I directed General Sherman to move the Second Division of his corps, commanded by General Stuart, by that road, which was rapidly and successfully done. After the rear of General Steele's division, consisting of General Blair's brigade, had crossed the swamp, Major Hammond, assistant adjutant-general of General Sherman's corps, brought information from his that he had learned from a farmer that the upper side of the fort could not be gained by any practicable route on that side of the swamp short of 7 miles in length and without crossing a bayou on a narrow bridge.

I immediately crossed the swamp; informed myself of the situation by personal interrogation of the farmer and by personal observation. Seeing at once that for General Steele's division to go forward on a line so extended and remote from the enemy's works would be virtually to retire it from the pending fight, to separate it by a wide and miry swamp from the rest of my command, to expose it to rear attack by any hostile re-enforcements that might be approaching to weaken my assaulting columns on the left and center and the cover afforded by them to my transports, and to leave it no other way to rejoin the advanced forces except by crossing the bayou on a narrow bridge, in the power of the enemy to destroy or obstruct by force, I instantly decided that the division ought to return, and so ordered.

Recrossing the swamp with me, General Sherman, in pursuance of my instructions, hastened up the river to General Stuart's division of his corps, the head of which he found resting within half a mile of the fort. I also hastened to the same spot, and finding General Morgan already there learned that his corps, guided by a member of my staff, was advancing in the same direction, and within a few minutes the head of General A. J. Smith's division appeared to the right and rear of General Stuart's.

Indicating to General Morgan the ground I wished his corps to occupy, I ordered General Sherman to move General Stuart's division to the right, and General Steele's, when it should come up, still farther to the right-across a bayou on the upper side of the enemy's works-to the river, in order to let in General Smith's and General Osterhaus' divisions of General Morgan's corps, on the left and next to the river, so as to complete the investment of the enemy, according to my original plan.

Dispatching Colonel Stewart, chief of cavalry, with my escort, to explore the ground to the bayou on the right, I hastened back and re-