Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 06.djvu/48
Southern Historical Society Papers.
entered. Had we been one hour sooner, we should have cut him off with his whole force, and certainly have beaten the enemy next day.
We followed him, our advance skirmishing with his rear guard, which was admirably handled, until we had gained a point on Sugar creek about seven miles beyond Bentonville and within one or two miles of the strongly entrenched camp of the enemy.
In conference with Generals McCulloch and Mclntosh, who had an accurate knowledge of this locality, I had ascertained that by making a detour of eight miles, I could reach the Telegraph road, leading from Springfield to Fayetteville, and be immediately in rear of the enemy and his entrenchments.
I had resolved to adopt this route, and therefore halted the head of my column near the point where the road by which I proposed to move diverges, threw out my pickets, and bivouacked as if for the night; but soon after dark I marched again, moving with Price's division in advance, and taking the road by which I hoped before daylight to reach the rear of the enemy.
Some obstructions, which he had hastily thrown in the way, so impeded our march, that we did not gain the Telegraph road until near 10 o'clock A. M. of the 7th.
From prisoners with forage wagons whom our cavalry pickets brought in, we were assured that we were not expected in that quarter, and that the promise was fair for a complete surprise.
I at once made dispositions for attack, and directing General Price to move forward cautiously, soon drew the fire of a few skirmishers, who were rapidly reinforced, so that before 11 o'clock we were fairly engaged, the enemy holding very good positions and maintaining a heavy fire of artillery and small arms upon the constantly advancing columns which were being pressed upon him.
I had directed General McCulloch to attack with his forces the enemy's left, and before 2 o'clock it was evident that if his division could advance, or even maintain its ground, I could at once throw forward Price's left, advance his whole line, and end the battle. I sent him a dispatch to this effect, but it was never received by him; before it was penned, his brave spirit had winged its flight, and one of the most gallant leaders of the Confederacy had fought his last battle.
About 3 P. M. I received by aid-de-camp the information that Generals McCulloch and McIntosh and Colonel Hebert were killed, and that the division was without any head. I nevertheless pressed