HEADQUARTERS IN THE FIELD,
SECOND DIVISION, ARMY OF THE FRONTIER,
Bloomfield, April 30, 1863.
GENERAL: I crossed the Castor yesterday afternoon, in face of the enemy, with a large part of my command. The stream was considerably swollen, and fording was difficult. The enemy had destroyed all conveniences for crossing.
General McNeil, in command of the advance, pushed forward to within 1\2 miles of this place, which was occupied by the enemy in force. The skirmishing in the evening was spirited, and the enemy retired beyond the town and assumed a position as if he intended to fight. This morning I crossed the balance of my forces, and upon moving forward the enemy again retreated.
The demonstration in front appear to be merely for the purpose of protecting his rear while in retreat, and to drawn us on. The enemy is retiring in the direction of Chalk Bluff, on the Saint Francis River, where he undoubtedly intends to cross. His trains and most of his artillery are ahead. I shall follow him up. This afternoon I again send General McNeil forward with a strong force. All accounts agree in the statement that the enemy is 7,000 or 8,000 strong, with ten pieces of artillery, but he seems to be much demoralized. The indications are that a portion of the enemy went west from here, toward Greenville; probably one brigade.
Not having received any communication from your since leaving Fredericktown, I am somewhat in doubt as to what wishes and designs may be regarding operations in this district. I take the liberty of remarking that, if supported, an effectual advance can be speedily made into Arkansas. Forage is plenty in this direction.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Saint Louis, Mo.
MAY 2, 1863.
Respectfully inclosed for the general's reading.
Vandevers' remark that, if supported, an effectual advance might he made into Arkansas, makes me think of my own situation last winter. With 9,000 splendid troops at my back, two gunboats and a boat-load of provisions on the White River would have enabled us to make an "effectual advance" also. I will at once send out from Pilot Knob to look out for the brigade which crossed toward Greenville. There is no apprehension for the Knob, even if part of the enemy should wheel that way, thinking we had robbed it of its troops.
J. W. DAVIDSON.
HDQRS. SECOND DIVISION, ARMY OF THE FRONTIER,
Chalk Bluff, May 2, 1863.
GENERAL: One hour ago I received your dispatch of the 30th ultimo, * per hands of Captain [R. H.] Brown, Twenty-third Missouri Volunteers.
I was at the moment actively shelling the enemy across the river. I had
* See p. 281.