Confederate Reports Series 1, Volume XXXIV,
Chapter LXVI, Pages 793-795 HEADQUARTERS
CABELL’S BRIGADE, May 3, 1864.
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of my division in the battle of Marks’ Mills on the 25th of last month, being a portion of Fagan’s division, which, together with Shelby’s command, formed a command to operate east of the Ouachita River: On the 23rd, General Dockery was ordered to report to me, and I to command a division composed of Cabell’s and Dockery’s brigades.
On the morning of the 25th, while marching to the road leading from Chanbersville to Mount Elba, it was reported that a train of wagons belonging to the enemy, escorted by a large force, was moving from that place toward Mount Elba. The order of march that morning was, Shelby’s division in front and Cabell’s division in rear,Dockery’s brigade, of Cabell’s division, being rear guard to the whole command, and marched in rear of the wagons and ambulances. After getting in the neighborhood of the train General Shelby was ordered on the road leading toward Mount Elba to intercept the train and to attack in front and in the rear. Cabell’s brigade moved up to the road
leading direct to Marks’ Mills. After detaching Hill’s regiment and one company of Monroe’s regiment and sending them to ascertain if there was any enemy on our left flank, in moving down the Marks’ Mills road the enemy’s pickets were soon encountered, and it was definitely known that the train was moving rapidly toward Mount Elba. I at once formed Monroe’s regiment, of Cabell’s brigade, in line of battle, dismounted them, and Colonel Monroe by my order threw out two companies rapidly as skirmishers and drove them back until I could dismount Cabell’s brigade and form it into line of battle. This was done, Gunter’s command, composed of his battalion and Pettus’ battalion of State troops, on the right, Monroe’s regiment on his left, and Morgan’s regiment on Monroe’s left, crossing the road, Gordon’s regiment acting as a support to the battery, which was planted to sweep the road.
Skirmishers were thrown out in front of our whole line, and were engaged all the time with those of the enemy. As soon as I commenced forming line of battle I sent my aid to General Dockery to hasten forward with his command. General Fagan being present ordered me to command Cabell’s brigade and all the troops in my front, and that he would give General Dockery, I sent to General Fagan and informed him of my position, which was moving, and which could be distinctly heard.
I received orders to "move rapidly forward and attack the train." This order was promptly obeyed, and my whole line of skirmishers and all excepting two companies of skirmishers under Colonel Monroe, who were heavily engaged with the enemy, who were forming line of battle on my left, moved forward rapidly under a tremendous fire, driving him through the train and beyond it some 300 or 400 yards until they were completely routed, throwing down their arms and giving themselves up as prisoners.
These men were captured by General Shelby’s command, who were moving rapidly in their rear. Hearing heavy firing on my left flank and rear, I halted my men, formed line, and marched to the rear in line of battle, and moved forward in line to aid Colonel Monroe, who was fighting at least 1,500 infantry and a battery of artillery, which was posted in the road about 100 yards above a house, which was also filled with infantry. As fast as each regiment came into position it became heavily engaged with the enemy.
At this time Captain Hughey’s battery of artillery was firing rapidly, and, from the movements of the enemy’s lines, was evidently doing terrible work, and continued to fire grape and canister into the enemy’s battery, which was about 400 yards in advance, until nearly all the horses and a good many of the Cannoneers were killed. The musketry firing was terrible. Notwithstanding this terrible fire Cabell’s brigade stood for an hour and a half without any assistance. The brigade suffered here terribly, and some of its best officers and men were killed and many wounded. After this General Dockery’s command came up on the left of Cabell’s brigade and attacked the enemy vigorously, supported by Hill’s regiment, of Cabell’s brigade. I charged the enemy (about that time I heard two pieces of artillery, and I knew the gallant Shelby was coming to my relief) and drove him into the house and through the train, capturing 2 pieces of artillery and over 200 prisoners.
(See Colonels Gordon, Monroe, Morgan, and Gunter’s reports, which are respectfully submitted.) The train was then completely in our possession. The enemy, however, returned some distance higher up the road to our left and attempted to recapture the train by taking advantage of the confusion of the troops owing to the commingling of commands.
Two regiments of Shelby’s arrived. I immediately formed line of battle with Cabell’s brigade and threw Shelby’s two regiments as mounted men on my right and moved rapidly toward the enemy. The firing at once became general and very heavy. My men continued to advance steadily, notwithstanding the heavy fire, and routed them the third time, and continued the pursuit until they were driven more than a mile beyond the rear of the train, when I halted the footmen and sent a cavalry regiment in pursuit, who captured many prisoners.
No report has been furnished by General Dockery with reference to the part his brigade took in the action; besides, I did not consider him under my control after the brigadier-general commanding informed me that he would carry them into action. The killed and wounded of Cabell’s brigade show how stubborn the enemy was and how reluctantly they gave up the train. Men never fought better. They whipped the best infantry regiments that the enemy had (old veterans, as they were called), and then in numbers superior to them.
It would be invidious to particularize any regiment when all fought, both officers and men, with gallantry and with such daring. Three different positions were taken; three different lines of battle formed by this brigade, and each time they drove the foul invader off with terrific slaughter. It is not detracting from my command to say that this brigade bore the brunt of the fight. For five hours it poured a deadly fire into the enemy’s ranks. At the same time it was subjected to a fire from the enemy that has carried sorrow to many a family.
Colonels Monroe, Gordon, Morgan, Pettus, and Hill; Lieutenant-Colonels Basham (who was wounded), Bull, Harrell, Fayth; also Majors Reiff, Portis, and Adams, deserve great credit for daring and intrepidity, as well as the faithful discharge of duty during the fight. The brave Lieutenant-Colonel O’Neil, of Monroe’s regiment, fell at the front urging his men forward.
Colonel Pettus fell mortally wounded while gallantly urging the men forward. Many officers and men fell that day who have left proud names of their State and friends to cherish. This brigade here, as it did at the Poison Spring, charged the enemy with an intrepidity unknown, and bore the brunt of the fight, as it did there.
The conduct of this brigade, although sadness was sent to many a happy home, will never be forgotten. A grateful people will reward it for its heroism, and will mingle their tears with those of the survivors for those who fell on that bloody field. It is with great pleasure that I am able to bear testimony to the gallantry of the Missouri troops and their gallant leader, General Shelby, and to the perfect harmony which characterized their every move with the Arkansas troops. I also wish to return my thanks to Captains Belding and Thomas, of General Fagan’s staff, and to Lieutenant Field, of my own staff, for their assistance. To Captain Belding and Lieutenant Field, both of whom exposed themselves regardless of all danger, I am particularly indebted for their assistance at a most critical moment. Lieutenant Field was seriously wounded. My staff-officers-Major Duffy, inspectorgeneral; Captain King, assistant adjutant-general; Lieutenant Inks aide; Lieutenant Carlton, aide-decamp, and Lieutenant Tyus, acting assistant adjutant-general; also, Dr. Carroll, brigade surgeon-acted with great gallantry and gave me great assistance.
Lieutenant Field, who was wounded, was noted for his daring and intrepidity. Captain Hughey and his battery deserve especial mention for their gallantry and for their successful practice. The number of the enemy’s killed I estimate at 150; wounded, 300; prisoners, 1,300. The number of prisoners captured by my command was nearly 500, including Colonel Drake, the Federal commanding officer. Exact number not known. Number of pieces of artillery, 4. The following is my loss, viz: Command. Killed. Wounded. Missing. Cabell’s brigade 31 62 93 Dockery’s brigade 10 40 50 Total 41 102 143 This embraces only wounded in hospitals. The slightly wounded would increase the number of wounded to over 200 in Cabell’s brigade alone.
I am, sir,
your obedient servant,
W. L. CABELL,
This article can be found in the April, 2007 edition of the newsletter, available for download at the top of the page.