Numbers 20. Report of Colonel W. H. Brooks, Thirty-fourth Arkansas Infantry.
CAMP NEAR COTTON PLANT, July 10, 1863.
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report the following as the part taken by my command in the engagement of the 4th instant at Helena:
At dusk on the 3rd, in compliance with instructions from Brigadier-General Fagan, I moved forward with my regiment and one section of [C. B.] Etter's light artillery, Lieutenant J. C. Arnett commanding, to the support of the cavalry, then within 3 miles of the enemy.
At 1.30 o'clock on the morning of the 4th, I received orders from Brigadier-General Fagan to advance on the Little Rock road with my regiment, Captains [W. B.] Denson's, Miller's, and --- compliance of cavalry, and the section of artillery; make a feint on the south of Helena; attract the attention of the enemy in that direction; hold the force in the rifle-pits south of the town, and operate otherwise as I could. Before reaching Beach Grove I withdrew the cavalry advance, and, deploying skirmishers, met the enemy's infantry and cavalry pickets at daybreak. A sharp skirmish ensued, in which 3 of the enemy were killed and 6 captured. Company of cavalry in position on the right of the line of skirmishers received a fire which killed 4 horses. Moving forward to the negro quarters, I found them abandoned, the occupants having fled to the town at the first alarm. Eight negroes were taken and sent to the rear. Shortly afterward I reached the hill at the Clements house, and, placing my command in position, advanced skirmishers well to the front and right, extending nearly to the river. The enemy soon opened with a rifled battery from the left of the rifle-pits next to the levee, but without doing any injury. Immediately the gunboat commenced firing, one shell exploding in Captain Denson's company, wounding 3 men and killing 3 horses.
Captain Blocher reported to me with his battery, but a position for it could not be obtained. I moved Etter's section to the hill, and upon gaining the summit was found practicable to use but one piece. This opened briskly, drawing a terrific fire from the battery and gunboat, and after expending 13 rounds, Lieutenant Arnett was compelled to withdraw. About 11 o'clock I ordered Lieutenant E. T. Deloney upon the hill with the gun. The range of the enemy's guns was so accurate and the fire so furious that he retired after firing 8 rounds. The force in front and on the right was fully three times as large as mine. An advance to attack the enemy in the rifle-pits would have subjected my small command to the heavy guns of Fort Curtis, a light battery in rear of the works, an enfilading fire from the rifled battery, and an attack in flank and rear from the levee. Under these circumstances I deemed it best to hold that force of the enemy in check, and prevented him from re-enforcing his most important points of defense, and by the use of a 6-pounder (not being able to bring more than one piece into position) divert as much as possible the fire of the battery and gunboat from the attacking columns. In this I was entirely successful.
At 12 m. I received orders from Brigadier-General Fagan to retire, and subsequently instructions from Lieutenant-General Holmes to halt at a designated position as the rear guard of the army.
By my direction, Captain Denson's company applied the torch to the negro quarters, which were consummated, together with 5,000 pounds of bacon, 1,500 bushels of corn, and a quantity of commissary stores and clothing.