JANUARY 12, 1863.-Skirmish at Lick Creek, near Helena, Ark.
Report of Lieutenant James B. Bradford, Second Wisconsin Cavalry.
HELENA, ARK., January 13, 1863.
COLONEL: I have the honor to state that, by order of Colonel Powell Clayton, of the Fifth Kansas Cavalry, commanding the expedition which left Helena, Ark., on Sunday, January 11, for White River, I was detailed by Colonel Thomas Stephens, commanding Second Wisconsin Cavalry to convey dispatches to the commanding officer at Helena, Ark., and was furnished with a command, consisting of 1 sergeant and 24 men, for that purpose from the Second Wisconsin Cavalry.
The command left Big Creek, the camp of the above-named regiment (a point 18 miles west of Helena, on the Saint Charles road, I believe), on Monday, January 12, at 3 p. m. A small party of rebels having been reported to me as seen a short distance in the advance, I used the utmost caution, keeping 3 men well in advance, but in sight of myself and command.
On arriving at a point called Lick Creek, about 6 miles east of Big Creek and 12 miles from Helena, I found that the bridge across said creek, constructed by the Federal troops the day previous, had been destroyed. Thinking it necessary that I should advance as rapidly as possible, I immediately gave orders to cross the creek at a ford a short distance from the bridge. I had succeeded in crossing about 10 of the command (including myself and sergeant), and while on the east bank superintending the crossing of the balance (the ford being very deep and muddy), we were attacked by a body of rebel cavalry from the west creek, having reasons to believe that we might be attacked at that point, some of the command had examined a road and the surroundings leading into the one upon which I had advanced at a distance of about 40 rods from the creek. They reported that no enemy were visible. I now think that the above-mentioned cavalry were secreted in the woods between the roads.
On being attacked, those of the command who had crossed the creek immediately commenced pouring a very effective fire (with their revolvers, not having any carbines) into the enemy, and succeeded in unhorsing 5 or 6 of them. We continued to fire until our revolvers were exhausted of their loads, when my men commenced to retreat, having seen that those who were in the creek and on the west bank were either killed, wounded, or prisoners.
I succeeded in rallying those remaining of the command after retreating about 30 rods, and commanded them to reload their revolves and endeavor to assist those who were on the east side of the creek unhorsed or wounded; but, while preparing to load, we were fired upon by a party of about 30 men, commanding us at the same time to surrender. The said men were concealed about 4 rods north of the road leading to Helena. Not deeming it safe to attack (our arms being unloaded), and their party numbering at least four to one of my command, I gave the order to follow, and succeeded in passing the enemy, after receiving tow volleys from them at a distance of about 10 and 4 rods. I immediately pursued my way to Helena with what remained, consisting of myself, sergeant, and 3 privates. We succeeded in securing 4 horses and equipments belonging to those who had been unhorsed, and brought them to Helena, at which point we arrived at 7 p. m., when I immediately reported myself and command, and delivered the dispatches as ordered.