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RETRIBUTION AT BENTONVILLE.
in color. The business of dispersing these well nigh ubiquitous denizens of the woods mainly devolved upon the cavalry, but from their imperfect knowledge of the country they seldom met with success.
Prior to these events, a portion of the town of Bentonville, the county seat of Benton County, Arkansas, was burned by a detachment of the Benton Hussars. The town had frequently been visited by troops, both of cavalry and infantry, and a part of the time occupied as a post. Apparently a
Apparently a kindly feeling existed between the citizens and soldiers, and intercourse between them was uninterrupted. Their property was protected from injury, their persons from violence and insult, and nothing for some time occurred that betrayed the duplicity of the people. On this occasion liquor was set out, of which the Huzzars drank rather freely, but no disturbance resulted or other incident to mar the convivial occasion, or to reveal the intense hatred of the citizens toward their “ federal invaders.” Soon after mounting their horses and departing for camp, one of their number was seized with a sudden spasm of thirstiness which could not be appeased without liquor, and he announced his intention of returning for another drink. His comrades could not dissuade him from his purpose, and he left them with the intention of soon returning, but this was the last they ever saw of him alive. Not rejoining them when expected, the detachment returned to town, but could learn nothing of the whereabouts of their associate. A search was instituted, and after some time his mutilated remains were found in a vault, his skull cleft with a blow from an axe which had been buried in his quivering brain. Just enough liquor had been drank to arouse all the vengeful feelings within the breasts of the Huzzars. The proprietor of the drinking establishment was shot, his building fired, and the torch applied
to a number of the business houses in the heart of the town, which, together with their contents, were consumed. A swift and terrible retribution for an outrage as unprovoked as it was criminal. But such is war—a kaleidoscope of horrors, of brutal atrocities and fiendish barbarities.
A rumor, with sufficient foundation for belief in its truth, was afloat through the camps, to the effect that a large confederate force was passing up into Missouri by the “line road,” which ran along the borders of Arkansas and the Indian Territory, with a view to cutting off our communications with Springfield and Rolla. To ascertain its truth, as well as to menace and skirmishi with
any such force, Major Conrad, of the 3rd Missouri Cavalry, was placed in command of an expedition of five hundred inen, including six companies of infantry, a squadron of cavalry, and two guns from Welfley's battery, with orders to reconnoitre the country, and if an enemy was encountered, to ascertain their strength and intentions and report the result of his observations as soon as practicable. Among the infantry detailed with this expedition was Company F of the 36th. The command left the camp near Bentonville on the morning of the 5th of March. The adventures, long marches and hair-breadth escapes of this detachment will hereafter be fully related.
RICE continued his retreat to the Boston Moun
tains, occupying a strong position fifteen miles south of Fayetteville, where, being joined and strengthened by the army of Ben. McCulloch, composed of Texans, Louisianans and Arkansans,
he awaited the approach and invited the attack of Curtis. For some days it was known that the enemy was concentrating a large force in these mountain fastnesses, preparatory to swooping down upon the handful of federals menacing them, and with one fell blow terminate the campaign and decide the fate of Missouri and the South-west. A force of two thousand Indians from the scattered tribes inhabiting the territory west of Arkansas, composed principally of Creeks, Cherokees and Chocktaws, commanded by Albert Pike-who, as a reward for his labors in attaching the Indians to the Confederate cause, was commissioned a Brigadier General—joined the forces of Price and McCulloch, and were by them armed and became a part of the
army, which was now in numbers assuming formidable proportions. Both Price and McCulloch held separate commands, and generally, unless occasion required their combined action, were independent of each other. A bitter feud had for some time existed between them, and to such an extent were these personal differences indulged, that the Confederate authorities were apprehensive that individual enmities might be carried so far as to imperil the bright prospects of success which they confidently believed were now about to be realized.
To guard against misunderstandings which were at any time liable to break out between these two commanders, Gen. Earl Van Dorn was designated as Commander-in-Chief, and immediately proceeded to the camp in the Boston Mountains and assumed control of the forces gathered there. Several fresh batallions from the East came with this commander, which raised the number of the Confederate forces to about twenty-five thousand men. Van Dorn arrived at the camp March 2nd, and on the 4th his columns were in motion.
Gen. Curtis was apprised of this change of commanders, and well aware that he had nothing to hope from any differences which might arise from diversity of opinions among officers, and that stubborn fighting would alone decide the issues between the opposing forces. The Confederate advance was so rapid through a broken, mountainous and sparsely settled country, well calculated to conceal their movements, as nearly to surprise the federal commander, and required the utmost dispatch to concentrate our widely scattered forces. On the 5th a foraging party was driven back in hot haste, with loss of wagons and horses, simultaneous with the arrival of a trusty scout, who reported the near approach of the enemy in force, and that his advance guard was even then menacing our outlying pickets. An express was sent to Col. Vandevere at the War Eagle Mills, near White River, to march his detachment of nine hundred men at once to Sugar Creek. The march of forty-two miles was accomplished in fifteen hours, arriving in time to participate in the battle of the 7th.
A MIDNIGHT START.
Sigel's Division was fourteen miles away in camp near Bentonville, and to him also the nearness of the enemy was made known by the timely arrival of scouts, as well as a dispatch and orders from Cross Hollow, directing him to march at once for Sugar Creek. This dispatch was brought by the hands of George B. Raymond, a private in Company D of the 36th Illinois, who at that time was acting Orderly for Gen. Curtis. It was known that nearly every road and by-path was picketed by confederates thrown out from their advance, and that such a trip was attended with danger and difficulty, requiring presence of mind and nerve to accomplish successfully. A citizen, on whose fidelity the General could rely, and who knew the country perfectly, was sent with Raymond. They set out in the darkness, threading their way through the long forest aisles, frequently within sight of the enemy's camp fires, and were rapidly approaching Sigel's camp where they were first hailed and then fired upon by a rebel picket, when the guide fell, shot dead, from his horse. Raymond dashed into the adjoining thicket, and making a wide detour, reached camp and delivered his message. Orders were issued at once to the various regiments and commands to prepare at midnight, to march at two o'clock A. M. The men, who had quite generally retired to rest, could not conjecture the cause for so untimely a movement. Some supposed it was for the purpose of accustoming them to sudden emergencies and night marching; while others, with an air of mystery, remarked, “there's something up," but what that something was, the rank and file of the army had no means of knowing. It was not their province to ask questions, but to obey orders.
The sharp notes of a bugle sounding clear and shrill upon the midnight air proclaimed the hour, and soon the various camps were instinct with life and busy with preparations for moving.