Houston, Mo., January 16, 1863.
COLONEL: I have the honor to report the operations of my force against the combined troops of General Marmaduke and [Colonel] MacDonald and Colonel Porter.
Immediately on the receipt of a copy of the telegram from Brigadier-General Brown, commanding at Springfield, January 9, informing Major-General Curtis of the advance of a column of 6,000 rebels toward Springfield, I ordered Colonel [S.] Merrill, of the Twenty-first Iowa, senior officer, to move with 700 men - infantry, cavalry, and one section of artillery - by a forced march to Springfield, to report to the commanding officer there. My own health incapacitated me from the fatigue of the expedition. For greater speed and progress, I sent with them a heavy transportation train for use of the infantry.
They reached Hartville at 6 a. m. Saturday, and learned that Porter's column had passed through, taking the Marshfield road. Here Colonel Merrill was re-enforced by 180 men of the Third Iowa and Third Missouri Cavalry, under command of Captain [T. G.] Black, Third Missouri Cavalry, sent by me to overtake and join them. The command pushed on some miles toward Springfield, and halted for supper and rest on Wood's Fork.
No indications of the enemy were observed until reveille was sounded at 2 o'clock Sunday morning, when our scouts reported the advance of a heavy column in the direction of Springfield. Our position was a most unfavorable one, being an open space on the margin of the river, with high swells of ground, covered with timber and brush, surrounding. The command was thrown into line of battle, and skirmishers sent out to dispute the advance.
Brisk firing was kept up for and hour, during which Captain [G. D.] Bradway, Company E, Third Missouri Cavalry, was killed, when the enemy fell back in a southerly direction. This was a most favorable movement for us. Had they made a stand with their combined forces, they would have completely enveloped the command and cut them to pieces.
Sending out a pursuing force of cavalry, Colonel [S.] Merrill resumed his march on the Hartville road, and soon discovered that the rebel force was swinging round and moving on Hartville by the old Springfield road. The cavalry were promptly ordered to a trot and the artillery thrown to the front, while the infantry came up on double-quick in gallant style. Colonel Merrill's dispositions were made with great judgment and coolness. The artillery took position on a favorable elevation west of the court-house; the Ninety-ninth Illinois formed the right, flanked on the left by the Twenty-first Iowa, both in a cover of low brush, while the left, composed of detachments of the Third Iowa and Third Missouri Cavalry, dismounted, extended in an attenuated line on the Lebanon road, also screened by a sparse undergrowth.
Our artillery opened fire at 11 o'clock. The position of their troops was, 1,000 thrown out 3 1/2 miles on the Houston road; 1,000 held the lower approach from Springfield; 1,000 rested on the Gasconade, south of town, covered by a high bluff, while 2,500 to 3,000 were in the open field in front of our lines, and occupying the court-house and the dwellings of the town. Their artillery (five pieces) was in battery on a high bluff east of town, and to occupy it they used a road cut out by my order for the same purpose during my former occupancy of Hartville.
The officers in command were General Marmaduke and [Colonel] Mac-