Reports of Brigadier General William L. Cabell, C. S. Army, commanding brigade, of engagement at Poison Spring and action at Marks’ Mills
No. 52. Reports of Brigadier General William L. Cabell, C. S. Army, commanding brigade, of engagement at Poison Spring and action at Marks’ Mills.
HEADQUARTERS CABELL’S BRIGADE, April 20, 1864.
MAJOR:I have the honor to state that on the evening of the 17th, I was detached from Fagan’s division and ordered to report to General Marmaduke for special duty. On the night of the 17th, we left camp and moved to attack the enemy, who had a large commissary train under their protection. After moving out and marching a short distance the command returned to camp. Early on the morning of the 18th, I being the senior officer to Fagan’s division present, Colonel Crawford was ordered to report to me with his brigade. Immediately after he reported I moved, under the direction of General Marmaduke, to attack and to capture the Federal train, then on the Camden and Prairie D’Ane road, about 10 miles distant. After marching up that road to the vicinity of the Poison Spring my advance was fired on by the enemy’s advance guard. I dismounted all my command except Morgan’s regiment and Gunter’s and McMurtrey’s battalions, and moved up on foot and formed line of battle immediately in front of the enemy, Crawford’s brigade on the right, Hughey’s battery in the center, and Cabell’s brigade on the left; Hill’s regiment, of Cabell’s brigade, held in reserve as a support to the battery. Morgan’s regiment, of Cabell’s brigade, was sent to the rear on the Camden road about 2 miles to prevent the enemy from re-enforcing from Camden; Gunter’s battalion, of Cabell’s brigade, was ordered to protect our extreme left flank; McMurtrey’s battalion, of Crawford’s brigade, was ordered to protect our extreme right flank. After these dispositions were made I ordered out a heavy line of skirmishers from each brigade. The skirmishers moved out rapidly and kept up a brisk fire on the enemy, driving them back several times.
After my line of battle was formed General Maxey arrived with his command, and being the senior officer present assumed command, placing his division of Texas and Indians on the left. After getting his division into line he attached the enemy’s right flank. I was ordered as soon as I heard that this division was heavily engaged with the enemy to open with my artillery. This order was obeyed. My artillery opened at and kept up a continued fire on the enemy as well as the train. The practice of this battery, commanded by Captain Hughey, was magnificent. After a very severe and heavy cannonading with my battery, and after Maxey’s division had become well engaged with the enemy, I moved up my whole command by direction of General Maxey; moved across an open field for about 200 yards, the enemy being under cover of the timber in front. After reaching the timber I halted Cabell’s brigade for a few moments to form line, the enemy then being in front with a heavy line of skirmishers about 80 yards distant. I ordered my men to charge them at once, which they did in grand style (Monroe’s regiment on the right, Gordon’s in the center, and Trader’s State troops on the left), driving the enemy before them from the train under a very heavy fire. I then ordered Crawford’s brigade to move up rapidly, which was done, and to assist in pursuit of the fleeing enemy. I continued with my division, which had been re-enforced by Greene’s brigade, to pursue the enemy until he was scattered and completely routed and we had complete possession of the train and all his artillery, which was captured by my command, Gordon’s regiment, of Cabell’s brigade, capturing one rifled piece; McMurtrey’s battalion, of Crawford’s brigade, capturing two howitzers, and Crawford’s and Wright’s regiments, of the same brigade, the fourth piece.
After I had continued the pursuit as far as considered it necessary, about 2 1/2 miles, and my men being much exhausted, as the troops to withdraw. This order was repeated by General Marmaduke, who arrived on the field immediately afterward, which was done in as good order as could possibly be done, mixed up as the different commands were. Never were men known to fight better than my whole command. It was a continuous huzza from the moment the command to charge was given to the close of the fight. Both officers and men behaved with the greatest coolness and with the greatest gallantry. It would be doing wrong to particularize when every one did so nobly. I must mention, however, the gallant conduct of Colonels Monroe, Gordon, Trader, and Morgan; also Majors Harrell, Reiff, Arrington, and Portis, and Lieutenant-Colonels O’Neil, Fayth, and Bull, of Cabell’s brigade. Colonel Hill, although not engaged, did great service with his command in getting the train off the field. Colonel Crawford, commanding brigade, acted with the greatest gallantry. I refer you to his report in reference to his officers.
The enemy’s strength was about 2,500 men, from all the information I could get-1,500 negroes and about 1,000 white troops, with four pieces of artillery. The number of killed of the enemy was very great, especially among the negroes. You could track our troops by the dead bodies lying on the ground. I estimated his loss, from what I saw and heard from reliable officers, as follows: Killed-negroes, 450; Indians, 7; white troops, 30; total, 487. No estimate of wounded can be made.
Morgan’s regiment, which was stationed on the Camden road east of the battle-ground, killed at least 80 negroes and captured 35 prisoners. My whole command captured 62 prisoners-58 white troops and 4 negroes.
My staff officers-Major Duffy, inspector-general; Captain King, assistant adjutant-general; Surg. John H. Carroll; Lieutenant W. J. Tyus, acting assistant adjutant-general; Lieutenants Carlton and Inks, acting aides-de-camp, and Captain Ballos, quartermaster-deserve especial mention for their gallantry on the field.
Captain Hughey with his officers and men deserve especial mention for the skillful manner with which they handled their guns.
In conclusion, I ask to be allowed to bear testimony to the gallantry displayed not only by my own command of Arkansas troops, but to that of the Missouri, Texas, and Choctaw troops. I never did see troops display more gallantry and more kindly feelings toward each other. I would also state that I captured a stand of colors belonging to the negro regiment. I gave it to an officer to carry it to the rear, but have not been able to find either the officer or the colors since.
I regret the loss of several brave and good soldiers. My whole loss was as follows:
Killed. Wounded. Missing.
Cabell’s brigade 6 35 1
Crawford’s brigade 2 7 —
Total 8 42 1
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
W. L. CABELL,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Maxey’s Division.
Page 790-792 LOUISIANA AND THE TRANS-MISSISSIPPI. Chapter XLVI.