400 yards of the fort and await an answer to the flag of truce which had been sent in by the brigadier-general commanding demanding a surrender of the fort. Very soon the information came that the demand for surrender was declined by the enemy. I was then ordered to move through the skirt of woods to the right to a field which Colonel Hovis had already reached and to form on his left. This disposition being about completed, the colonel commanding brigade received an order from the brigadier-general to cross the railroad to the north side and to charge the fort in the rear. For this purpose he immediately caused the command to wheel out in column to the right, the First Partisans taking the advance.
When within a few hundred yards of the road, they encountered some of the enemy's pickets, upon whom they fired, taking up the charge, and crossed to the north side, pressing the enemy, who now seemed almost wild with fright in their hurried efforts to find shelter and protection behind the dark lines of infantry posted in the edge of the woods and at the foot of their camps, about half a mile to the north of the fort. Hovis, at the head of his column, was still pressing the fleeing vandals until he dashed within a few rods of the enemy, whose position was partially concealed, when they delivered a withering volley at his column, the shock of which was so great as to cause it to break and fall back in some disorder. The command was moving at a sweeping gallop at the moment Colonel Hovis was repulsed. By my right flank I brought my column front into line under the fire of the enemy, who in turn at the same time had commenced a charge on the column they had the moment before repulsed, and but for the coolness displayed by the Third Mississippi in coming to the front and covering the broken ranks of Colonel Hovis, who was gallantly endeavoring to reform his lines, I think the results might have been disastrous.
It is but simple justice to the men and officers of the Third Mississippi to state that there was not a moment delayed in dismounting, nor a gun fired except a few shots from the right company, by whose immediate flank Colonel Hovis was repulsed, until they had advanced in splendid order 150 yards, which brought them under the heavy fire of the enemy to within 200 yards of their position, where the command "commence firing" was given, and executed with such coolness and accuracy as the enemy could not longer withstand. A few more volleys, at a slow but steady advance, and the charge was given, which utterly routed the enemy, fleeing for their very lives through woods and camp in every possible direction, when the rout was completed, and five stand of colors then in our possession attested the fact, the men having double-quicked for nearly a mile in pursuit.
I dispatched to Colonel McGuirk for cavalry, but from some cause it did not reach him in time, and none could be had until the householders were ordered to lead to the front, a distance of about a mile, when the command was mounted, moved forward, scouring the woods to Wolf River Bottom, but without any further success, the enemy, as I was afterward led to believe, having turned off to the left and west of town, seeking refuge in their fortifications.
The property in the camps consisted of about 200 tents, 50 wagons, blankets, clothing, and a variety of sutler's and some medical and commissary stores. We brought out about 20 wagons, a few good horses, some blankets and clothing. Majority of these, however, were destroyed with the tents.
49 R R-VOL XXX, PT II