ADDENDUM REPORT - VOL. 22 (SERIES NO. 32)
NOTE: Hawthorne's Arkansas Infantry was in this brigade.
FIRST BRIGADE, SECOND DIVISION,
CAMP NEAR "OLIVER'S,"
December 9, 1862.
CAPTAIN: Of the part which my brigade bore in the battle of Prarie Grove on December 7, I have the honor to make the following report.
On the morning of December 7 between 8 and 9 o'clock, I entered the Cane Hill and Fayetteville Road with my brigade. Previous to this I had been marching in the rear of the Third Division of the Army under General Daniel Marsh Frost. On emerging here from the by-road we had been following into the road, I was ordered wtih my brigade to the front. Proceeding along the road it soon became evident that the approach of the enemy was early expected. I advanced steadily along the road until I reached the crest of a long wooded hill, which sloped gradually down to an open and extended prarie. Our cavaly, then on the lookout, occupied the further side of this open field or prarie and seemed momentarily expecting the sudden approach of the enemy. At a glance I was struck with the natural strength of the position and its adaptability to the purpose of defense. Here I was ordered by General (Francis Asbury) Shoup to take position.
Halting my brigade, I formed line of battle along the crest or summit and waited the issue which it was evident was close at hand. Plesants' Regiment, commanded by Colonel (Joseph) C. Pleasants, was on my extreme right; King's Regiment, commanded by Colonel James P. King, formed my right center; Hawthorn's Regiment, commanded by Colonel (Alexander Travis) Hawthorn, formed my left center; and Brooks' Regiment commanded by Colonel (William) H. Brooks, was on the extreme left of the brigade, the left of his regiment resting upon and commanding the (Cane Hill) and Fayetteville Road, which road ran straight down the side of the hill, bisected with a broad, red lane, the prarie or meadow in front. Blocher's Battery, commanded by Captain William D. Blocher, was by order of General Shoup placed in position in front of my brigade near the foot of the declivity, about 200 yards to the right of the (Cane Hill) and Fayetteville Road and near to a white framed dwelling house (Borden's House).
We had not long to wait. Soon the cavalry in front commenced falling back slowly, but significantly, a portion at a time until the whole body was in motion, returning along the lane through the prarie. The cavalry had casually reached the hill, where my line was formed, and passed to the rear, when the head of the enemy's column appeared aat the farther end of the land on the opposite side of the prarie. They came up boldly and confidently deployed their skirmishers on the right of the lane, planted a battery at its mouth, and opened a brisk fire upon our position. The fire was responded to by Captain Blocher with great accuracy and admirable affect. I could plainly see the whole conduct and progress of this brief artillery duel, and it was nothing more than justice to Cptain Blocher to state that his battery was handled with excellent skill and gallantry - so much so, indeed, that the enemy, after a few rounds, beat a hasty retreat, in evident dismay and confusion.
And here I wish to say, for Captain Blocher and his men, that up to the very moment his battery was taken, it was handled with such superior skill and effect as to render its capture still more to be regretted; for this unfortunate circumstance Captain Blocher was in no way responsible, nor could he, under the orders he received, by any possibility avert such a lamentable result.
Could he have held safe position of it the entire day, he would doubtless have done much greater execution, but could not have displayed greater coolness, nor bravery, then he did in the brief period he used it with such effect on that day.
After the repulse which the enemy had suffered, there was an interval of an hour or more before his forces again appeared in sight. It was between 1 and 2 o'clock in the eveing that the interval of silence and expectation was broken by the approach again of the enemy's columns at the opposite end of the land, this time apparantly in force. They came up with a boldness and assurance that argued a certain belief of easy success. Their batteries, after deliberate reconnaissance, were planted in commanding positions on the knolls and high places on the opposite slope in the prarie, and large numbers were deployed as skirmishers extending along the entire front of my line. Under cover of their skirmishers and the high weeds of the prarie, they advanced the dense lines of their infantry; nor was their approach discovered in its full extent, until tlhey had about reached the edge of the wooded slope, near the summit upon which my line of battle was formed. Captain Blocher, who in conformity with orders from General Shoup had ceased firing for a while, was now ordered by me through Major William Edward Woodruff, Jr. to open upon their advancing ranks. He did so with grape and canister and continued to fire until the enemy had nearly reached his battery, when he abandoned it to save his life.
My skirmishers, who had been deployed in front of their respective regiments and been advanced to the front, were now driven in, and I ordered each regiment to advance. The first attack of the enemy was received by Colonel Pleasnats' Regiment on the extreme right, and gallantly repulsed. The enemy were permitted to advance to within sixty paces, when Colonel Pleasants gave orders to fire and charge, which orders were responded to with aclarity, and under the murdeous fire many of the enemy fell, and the remainder, staggered by its effect, turned and fled.
It was in this charge that Colonel Pleasants, while gallantly leading his men to the charge, received a serious wound, his leg being broken. The other regiments of the brigade, which were ordered forward to meet their advance, now came up, Colonel Hawthorn's Regiment coming up immediately behind Blocher's Battery, which the enemy had just possessed and were preparing to carry off the field. It was only for an instant that the possession was theirs. The next and deliberate and deadly fire from these regiments were poured into their dense columsn. The captors fell from the horses and in numbers around the battery. They were stunned and dismayed. The fire upon them became closer and deadlier. their lines were broken and shattered. The battery was retaken and the dismayed and terror-stricken enemy fled in confusion, falling at every step. Nearby was a small orchard, adjacent to the Borden house, through which the retreating masses fled. The corpses that day in that orchard and precincts around the batteries gave unmistakable evidence of the effect of that charge.
It was in this charge that Lieutenant-Colonel C. L. Polk was mortally wounded, and Major Chew killed. They died at their posts gallantly discharging their duty.
And here let me make mention, honornable mention, of Colonels Pleasants, King, Hawthorn, and Brooks. Where officers behaved unusually well, as did all the officers of my brigade, it seems almost individious to make any distinction, but as commanders of regiments, their responsibilities were greater than other officers, and well and bravely did they discharge those responsibilities. For their ready obedience and rapid discharge of every order -- their excellent judgement, their bravery, and intrepidity, I have to thank them. With such men as they command and such officers to lead them, success can never in the end ellude them.
After the severe repulse with the dead and dying, their ranks broken and scattered, their confident hopes of early triumph turned to with wild dismay and despair. There was a lapse of some time before they returned to the attack. Again, however, under the terrific fire of their admirably handled and destructive artillery, they advanced with their fresh, compact columns. The attempt was to hem my right, and for this purpose a large force was brought up. My brigade was reenforced in its former position and untill they were again in plain view, and in perfect range of their guns, only a short space separated the advancing foe who fired as they advanced, from the eager expectant men. The order to charge was given; it was answered with a shout along the line from end to end. Again a storm of bullets streamed upon the enemy's lines; again they fell in numbers, and the decimated ranks fled in dread and consternation.
They were soon hotly pursued through the little orchard above mentioned, and beyond even as far as to one end of their batteries, a portion of which they had abandoned in terror, and which could easily have been brought away by the men of my brigade, but for the want of horses; in this charge many of my men were killed and wounded and here I left several officers, but if they fell, very dearly were their lives avenged, if numbers ought atone for their loss.
To give some idea of the execution done in their charges, I have been informed that within the little orchard enclosure, enclosing perhaps an acre and a half of ground, after the conflict the dead bodies of more than 100 Federals were counted. Beyond this orchard to a considerable distance, and for and near around Blocher's Battery, the carnage seemed equally great.
After this there was little more heavy infantry firing on the right; the batteries of the enemy continued to play furiously upon our position, but they never summoned courage or numbrs for a repetition of the scene of carnage. They had doubtless "supped full of horrors." Late in the afternoon Hawthorn's Regiment went around to the left as reenforcement, the firing having become quite heavy in that quarter.
The other regiments were drawn up in line of battle and were ready for any emergency. This was about the position of things at twilight, when in obedience to orders from General Shoup, I again formed line of battle on the same ground I had first occupied in the day, but at right angles with my original line of battle, here after throwing our skirmishers and taking every precaution to avoid surprise and be prepared for any advance. I remained until 12 o'oclock at night; at this hour I received orders to withdraw quietly from the field, which was accomplished in perfect order.
These are the principal incidents of the fight on that portion of the field that came directly under my eye. By their spirit, gallantry, and unerring accuracy of our men, the heavy masses that were thrown upon them were every time repulsed and dispersed. The ground was strewn with their corpses and their broken ranks recoiled and finally fled without power to rally any more.
To the officers of my command, field and company officers, too much praise cannot be given, and to the men, the brave stout-hearted privates, all praises and honor is due. Though of a short time in service, no veterans could have done better on the battlefield of Prarie Grove.
Before closing this report I must mention my Assistant Adjutant General, Captain Wyatt C. Thomas and my Aide-de-Camp, Lieutenant Albert Belding; both of these officers were with me during the whole of the engagement. Their conduct on the field is deserving of the highest praise, and for the valuable assistance rendered me I have to tender them my thanks. They were prompt and active in carrying out all orders given them. For their gallantry they deserve especial mention; it gives me great pleasure to report this.
I have likewise to thank Major Blake (Dandridge) Turner, of Colonel McRae's Brigade, who was a volunteer aide for the occasion. He was an active, zealous and brave soldier and was of much assistance to me in the discharge of my duties. I take occasion to give him the meal of praise he deserves.
The loss of my brigade in killed, wounded and missing accounted in the aggregate to 614. A complete list and classification of the casualties will, however, at another time be forwarded.
Very respectfully, etc.
J. F. FAGAN
Commanding First Brigade, etc.