My brigade was promptly on the ground indicated, and, after some delay for the completion of the brigade, I requested and received permission of the general to ford the river above the bridge. This was accomplished without difficulty, the ford being entirely practicable for anything. During the succeeding march up the right bank of the Arkansas toward the town (some 8 miles distant), the Second Brigade, in my front, became sharply engaged with the enemy at the crossing of the Fourche Bayou. Here I was directed to halt my column and send a regiment to support four pieces of Hadley's battery, then in position on the sand-bar, and engaged. For this purpose I sent the Seventh Missouri, under Lieutenant-Colonel [J. L.] Chandler, my leading regiment. From some misconception of orders, the regiment was left in my rear after being relived from this duty, and I did not again have a report from them until late in the engagement, after it was too late to bring them into action. I had meanwhile moved up the rest of my column on the road near to where I found two of Hadley's pieces in position, and held it there awaiting orders. In the course of half an hour I received, through Lieutenant-Colonel [H. C.] Caldwell, chief of staff, an order to take the left-hand or main road across Fourche Bayou, and, making my own dispositions against the enemy, to push up the road.
I immediately dismounted the Eighth Missouri, under Colonel [W. F.] Geiger, and ordered him forward on the left-hand road, directing him to push forward a line of skirmishers in the corn-fields, between which the road ran, and feel the position of the enemy, believed to be upon that road. I followed him immediately the section of Hadley's battery, then ordered to report to me, supported by Merrill's Horse, under Major [G.] Harker, my last remaining regiment. Just as I was starting, I was informed by the general's chief of staff that he had just that moment learned that the First Iowa was on the road ahead of me, and directed to be careful and not mistake them. The information was conveyed to the Eighth at once, and Colonel Geiger immediately deployed his line, pushing forward to the support of the two squadrons of the First Iowa, then skirmishing with the enemy in front. The remainder of the First Iowa I found drawn up in line of battle in the cornfield, on the right of the road. One of their guidons was incautiously exposed near the road, and a hot fire of shells and spherical case was drawn upon them from the enemy's battery, posted at the dam across the bayou. I ordered them to move back into the field farther and conceal their guidons, which was done. Shortly afterward, upon sending for them to support a battery, I was informed that they had been ordered out and had moved to the rear, by whose orders I could not learn, as the order was not given through me. Just at this time a heavy fire of artillery opened from the left of the road, and near my line of skirmishers, somewhat alarming me at first, from thinking that the enemy had opened a battery on my left rear. I found immediately, however, upon riding toward where the battery was posted, that it was a section of Stange's howitzers, of whose presence on my line of attack I now learned for the first time. The ground, as will be seen by the accompanying sketch,* was very difficult to reconnoiter. It was impossible to see anything in the corn-fields or beyond them except on the road where the enemy's battery was posted, and only the smoke and flash of their guns could be seen there, as they were behind the levee, across the bayou. My line of skirmishers was so weak from the smallness of my force that I could not push it to connect with Glover's left, which I wished to do. This left me in great doubt as his position. I
* See p. 493.