War of the Rebellion: Serial 032 Page 0424 MO., ARK., KANS., IND. T., AND DEPT. N. W. Chapter XXXIV.

Search Civil War Official Records

Brooks with his regiment, one section of [C. B.] Etter's battery of light artillery, commanded by Lieutenant John C. Arnett, and three companies of cavalry, commanded by Captain [W. B.] Denson, to move to the front in support of the cavalry, then within 3 miles of the town of Helena.

About 11 o'clock at night with the three remaining regiments, commanded, respectively, by Colonels [J. P.] King, [A. T.] Hawthorn, and [S. S.] Bell, and Blocher's battery of light artillery, commanded by Captain W. D. Blocher, I moved forward ont he road toward Helena. On joining Colonel Brooks where the old hill road leaves the Little Rock road, I ordered him to advantage at once with his command on the latter road, to attack and engage the attention of the enemy south of town, and hold his forces in the rifle-pits on the river. At the same time I ordered Colonel Hawthorn, whose regiment was in advance, to lead the brigade forward on the hill road. This was promptly complied with, and the brigade moved on without interruption until within 1 mile of the outer works of the enemy. At this point the road was completely filled with felled timber, the largest forest growth intermingling and overlapping its whole length, while on either side precipitous and impassable ravines were found running up even to the very intrenchments of the enemy. It was utterly impossible to move my artillery or ammunition train along this road. The obstacles were so great, indeed, that I was under the necessity of directing every officer of my command to dismount and proceed on foot - a dire necessity which subsequent events gave occasion seriously to deplore. After crawling through the interstices of the closely jutting limbs and boughs, and climbing over the thickly matted timber for 1 mile, my line of skirmishers, who had been ordered by me not to fire, came within sight of the enemy. I went to the front,a nd could plainly see that the enemy was on the alert, and evidently expecting and waiting an attack. The order of the lieutenant-general commanding was to assault the fortifications with the several attacking columns precisely at daylight on the morning of the 4th. Not having been apprised of the obstructions in the road, I had made no arrangements to remove them. The limited time to daylight would not allow of an attempt even to take my artillery along. It was ordered to remain in the road where the obstructions were first met with. To conform to orders, it was necessary for me to move with the utmost celerity. Freeing myself of everything except my column of infantry, I pushed forward with all the haste in my power. At daylight I reached and attacked the enemy in his works. Colonel Hawthorn, being in advance, was hurried rapidly into line on the right of the road which led directly up to the fort on Hindman's Hill. He at once engaged the enemy, who occupied their extreme or outer line of rifle-pits. Bell's regiment emerged next from the confused mass of felled timber, and, coming up, was also double-quicked into line on the left of the road, engaging, as they came into position, the intrenched forces of the enemy over against them. King's regiment brought up the rear. He rapidly threw his men into position, and was ordered by me immediately to the support of Colonel Hawthorn. My entire force was now engaged. The assault upon the rifle-pits was made from both the right and left of the road. Never did men behave with greater steadiness and gallantry than did the troops of those three regiments. Over the heavy timber, the deep gorges, and the precipitous banks they moved. Over opposite to them ran the long line of fortifications, toward which they moved with eager, anxious steps. Cowering behind their strong works, the enemy beheld their advance with consternation. Still, on they moved, unhesitatingly, amid the leaden rain and iron hail. The gorge is passed, the ascent of