Numbers 21. Report of Lieutenant Colonel John Charles Black, Thirty-seventh Illinois Infantry.
HDQRS. THIRTY-SEVENTH ILLINOIS VOL. INFANTRY, Fayetteville, Ark., December 10, 1862.
COLONEL: I have the honor of submitting the following report of the marches of the Thirty-seventh Illinois prior to the late engagement, and also of the part borne by the regiment in the battle of Prairie Grove:
On December 4, at 3 a.m., we marched from Camp Lyon, near Crane Creek, some 25 miles south of Springfield, and encamped on Flat Creek at 4 p. m., having made 20 miles.
Reveille was ordered at 2 a. m., and the regiment marched at 4 a. m., December 5, passing through Cassville and Keytesville to within 3 miles of the Arkansas line, making 23 miles.
We started the next morning (December 6) at 5 o'clock, and marched to Cross Hollow, 28 miles, by 1.30 p. m. Resting until 12 midnight, we started for Fayetteville, Ark., distant 16 miles, and arrived there at sunrise December 7. A halt of one and a half hours was ordered, to get breakfast and snatch a few moments of much-needed sleep. We were speedily aroused by the cannon of General Herron's advance, skirmishing with the enemy, some 12 miles in advance. Moving rapidly forward, we reached the Illinois Creek, and, crossing it, took position on the battle-field of Prairie Grove at 12 m. of December 7, having made the tremendous march of 66 miles in thirty-six hours, after marching 43 miles in the two preceding days.
By your order, I took post on the extreme right, supporting half of Captain Murphy's battery (F, First Missouri Light Artillery), moving up under cover of a dense chaparral until abreast of our position, and then advancing to the edge of the brush, by the left flank, in line of battle. A halt was opened by the artillery on either side, and a fierce cannonade was kept up for an hour. So completely were the men exhausted that I saw them sleeping quietly around, paying no heed to the fierce missiles.
At the end of an hour we were ordered to advance into the open field. A cheer was given, and we moved out a short distance, and remained stationary for some fifteen minutes, when I was ordered by Colonel Huston, commanding the Second Division, to advance the regiment down the slope to the support of the batteries of the Third Division.
Scarcely had this position been reached before Colonel Huston again ordered our advance against the hill, on which the center of the enemy was posted in unknown strength, and from which two regiments had just been driven with heavy loss. Throwing out Company A on the right and Company I on the front and left, as skirmishers, I ordered a charge up the hill. It was executed in fine style, the men advancing steadily and swiftly up to the edge. The firing of the skirmishers in front announced the enemy close at hand. Clearing the edge, we stood face to face with them, their numbers overwhelming (5,000 or 6,000 strong, as it was subsequently proved), one column moving by left-oblique upon our left and the right of the Twenty-sixth Indiana, another moving direct upon our right. They moved in column en masse, with guns at a ready. The firing began first upon the left, and in a few minutes was general along the entire line. But, pressed by overwhelming numbers, the right of the Twenty-sixth gave way after most gallantry contesting the ground. My skirmishers about the same time reported the