For ten days previous to the battle, indications of a premeditated attack on this place began to multiply; citizens from the country were not permitted to come to our lines; disaffected residents were unusually reserved, and the enemy's pickets were pushed forward and strengthened. Advised of the character of one of the principal generals said to be in this vicinity, I expected the attack, if one was to be made, would be sudden, and at an early hour in the morning. It was, therefore, ordered, a week previous to the battle, that the entire garrison should be up and underarms at 2.30 o'clock each morning. Wednesday night I learned definitely that the enemy had collected a large force at Spring Creek, distant some 15 miles from Helena, and that an attack would not be long delayed. Arrangements had been made by my patriotic regimental commanders for celebrating in a fit and becoming manner the approaching anniversary of our National Independence. In view of the length of line to be defended by so small a number of troops, it was deemed imprudent to permit the garrison to be assembled en masse, and on Friday, therefore, orders were issued prohibiting a general celebration on the following day. Events justified these precautions.
On Saturday morning, July 4, at 3 o'clock, my pickets were attached by the enemy's skirmishers. They made an obstinate resistance, holding the enemy well in check until 4 o'clock, when they reached over rifle pits and breastworks, and joined their respective regiments, which before this time had assumed their designated positions in the intrenchments. The attack was now commenced in earnest, in front and on the right flank; but the enemy, although assured by his overwhelming numbers of a speedy victory, were driven back again and again. For four hours Now, however, they attack in front became more furious; the enemy covered every hill-top, swarmed in every ravine, but seemed to be massing his force more particularly against Battery C. I now signaled the gunboat Tyler, the only one at hand, Lieutenant Commander Pritchett commanding, to open fire in that direction. The enemy (Parsons' and McRae's brigades), nothing daunted by the concentrated fire form Fort Curtis, Batteries B, C, and D, the Tyler, and all the infantry I could bring to their support, and led, as I since learn, by Lieutenant-General Holmes and Major-General Price in person, charged upon Battery C. Twice they were repulsed, but the third time, exhibiting a courage and desperation rarely equaled, they succeeded in driving my small force at the point of the bayonet and capturing the battery the battery. Dividing his forces, and sending a part, as a feint, to menace Fort Curtis, the enemy then assaulted Battery D, to reach which they must pass through a deep ravine and encounter a heavy cross-fire. The enemy faltered, seeing which the men in Battery D, and those behind the breastwork, and in the rifle-pits supporting it, sallied forth, and surrounding more than three times their number, brought them off prisoners. Not to be outdone by their comrades, the men who had been supporting Battery C, assisted by a detachment (dismounted) from the First Indiana Cavalry, under command of Lieutenant-Colonel [T. N.] Pace, gallantly charged upon the enemy in Battery C, retaking it, and capturing as well a large number of prisoners. This was about 10 o'clock. I immediately dispatched two of my aides to carry this information to Colonels [S. A.] Rice and [Powell] Clayton, who, with the remnants of two small brigades, were holding the enemy in check on the right flank, where the attack was only less severe and successful than it had in front. At 10.30 it became evident that thee enemy was withdrawing his forces; but, unaware how severely he had been pun-