War of the Rebellion: Serial 032 Page 0429 Chapter XXXIV. ATTACK ON HELENA, ARK.

Search Civil War Official Records

storming Graveyard Hill, and ordered us to move forward at once. Our men responded with a shout, dashed down into the deep ravine, climbed the steep sides of the opposite hill, and just as the noble brigades of Parsons and McRae swept in triumph across the face of Graveyard Hill, drove the enemy from his fifth and last line of ride-pits back to his forts and under cover of his siege guns. An attempt was now made by General Fagan to capture the fort on Hindman's Hill, which was immediately in our front, but our men were too much exhausted, and our numbers too few. The attack was unsuccessful, and resulted in the death and capture of many valuable officers and men.

It was here that Captain Walton Watkins, commanding Company D, of my regiment, was killed while gallantry leading this last and most desperate charge. His conduct throughout the engagement had been chivalrous and manly; so much so as to attract universal attention and admiration.

Here also I lost the services of Major John B. Cocke, who was severely wounded and compelled to retire from the field. It affords me much pleasure to bear testimony to the coolness, courage, and efficiency of this gallant officer. His services throughout that desperate fight were invaluable, and his absence was most keenly and sensibly felt.

Lieuts. Richard J. Shaddock, [W. H.] Hinson, [L. R.] Kinniard, and [J. N.] Thompson* were killed while bravely fighting at their posts.

But to return to the fight. Graveyard Hill was evacuated soon after it was taken. The other positions to the left of that hill that were to have been taken at daylight had not even been attacked. The firing had ceased at all points, except the firing of our brigade and that of our enemies directed against us. This latter was now most terrific, and the whole force of the enemy seemed to be directed against our little band. yet, notwithstanding their vast superiority in numbers and position, notwithstanding the repeated attempts of the enemy to flank our position, both on the right and on the left, we held our position firmly for three long hours.

At 10.30 a. m. I received an order from General Fagan to withdraw my regiment from the field. I had marched some 40 or 50 paces, in compliance with this order, when I received another, requiring me to leave a small guard to cover our retreat. I called for volunteers, but no one responding, I returned, myself, and with 9 men, who volunteered to accompany me, kept up a fire upon the enemy for twenty minutes longer. The ammunition was now expended, and I thought it prudent to retire. The enemy were close upon us and advancing from all points. Not a moment was to be lost. We retreated as rapidly as possible, but as we descended the first hill the enemy assailed us with a terrible volley of musketry. Three of our little party fell to rise no more. The remaining 6, myself, and a Yankee prisoner, whom we had kept with us all the time, succeeded in making our escape.

My officers and men, with but few exceptions, deported themselves with great gallantry.

My loss, so far as I have been able to ascertain, is as follows: Killed, 20; wounded, 70; missing, 43.+

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Colonel, Commanding Regiment.

Captain WYATT C. THOMAS, Assistant Adjutant-General.


*Reported by Captain Hudson as captured in charge on Battery D.

+But see revised statement, p. 412.