HDQRS. FIRST DIV., ARMY OF SOUTHEASTERN MISSOURI,
Camp opposite Van Buren, December 25, 1862.
Commanding Army of Southeastern Missouri:
I have the honor to report that Boyd and Harding arrived here yesterday, and are now comfortable in camp.
The forage train of Colonel Harris was attacked yesterday about a miles below, at old man Carter's, 3 miles from our camp. The rebels captured 2 men and killed 1 horse. We chased them 9 miles, but failed to punish them in the least. I have reliable information that there is a rebel force, from 500 to 800, at Doniphan, and as many more at Pitman's Ferry, while in the vicinity of Pocahontas there are about 2,000; the former cavalry, and the latter infantry. We are in great need of 1,000 cavalry to protect our flanks.
I find it next to a physical impossibility to construct a boat of the dimensions indicated by you. I can and will build two 12 by 45, which will give more space and be much [more] easily handled in this swift current than one of the size specified. We need two ropes, and nails, and spikes, and calking material for the boats, and a half dozen adzes and as many broad axes would facilitate the construction.
At 8 o'clock yesterday morning, I started 100 wagons from the First Division. Forty more have started this morning from Boyd's, both under strong escorts.
Hearing that there was a rebel force, 600 strong, moving in our rear, I re-enforced the first train with two companies of infantry.
The telegraph is completed here, and I have an officer who is a good operator, but the lines will not work. Forage is scarce on this side of the river. I expect the other 50 wagons of the supply train, First Division, in to-day. If they come, I will put down the pontoon and collect all the forage I can get on the other side of the river.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully,
WM. P. BENTON,
Brigadier General, Commanding First Div., Army of the Southeastern Missouri.
CHRISTMAS MORNING, BEFORE DAYLIGHT,
Near Fort Gibson, C. N., December 25, 1862.
General JAMES G. BLUNT:
SIR: On leaving Cane Hill I proceeded with the forces that had reported to me; marched 20 miles. The Sixth Kansas not been heard from. Next day rained hard. Sent back after the Sixth, and marched on Tahlequah, 28 miles; stream up; fording difficult. Stopped a short distance from Tahlequah, and undertook to surround a party of secesh in town, but they escaped. The howitzers and ambulance of the Sixth had dropped behind Captain Mefford, took the wrong road at Dutch Mills, went to Oransville, and marched with that part of their command by another road, and reached our camp that night; Captain Mefford reaching camp at this place about 1 o'clock this morning. I marched here yesterday. The enemy have not sent a sufficient force to attack our trains. The largest force that went up returned on the evening before yesterday. The enemy are scattered over the country in small bands of from 100 to 400.
I had a man taken in Fort Gibson last night who left the command at Fort Smith on Monday. His information seems to be reliable, and I hasten to apprise you of it. The rebel force did not go down to Darda-