HEADQUARTERS FIRST ARKANSAS REGIMENT,
Near Corinth, Miss., April 9, 1862.
COLONEL: I beg leave to submit the following report of the part taken and the loss sustained by my regiment in the battles of the 6th and 7th instant:
Under the circumstances it must necessarily be meager and imperfect. Were it at my command, I should use no gloss and finish of language on this occasion. A simple reference to the list of casualties will tell in terms too plain to be misunderstood the story of our loss and sufferings and the degree of daring that was exhibited throughout those two memorable days.
It is impossible also to give any detailed account of the movemente and maneuvers of the regiment. The extent and nature of the ground over which it marched precludes this. A brief report of the most important engagements with the enemy is all that I can render.
Where a command behaved as well generally as did the First Arkansas Regiment it is hard to discriminate or designate any individual instances of bravery. Officers and men did their duty well and conducted themselves as men should who fight for all that is near and dear to them. Against odds and at great disadvantage they fought time and again bravely, desperately, defiantly, and where they could not by heroic daring force their way they crimsoned the ground with their life-blood.
On the 6th instant my regiment was the right center regiment of the First Brigade, and held this position during the day. The first casualties which befell it were on the morning of that day, while the regiment was filing through the margin of an old field in full view and at a short distance from the camps of the enemy and a strong battery posted near them. Here Capt. William A. Crawford, of Company E, was seriously wounded by a bomb bursting right under him, and at the same time several of my men, of Companies A, B, and F, fell near and around him. I felt the loss of Captain Crawford very much thus early in the day, for I knew well his coolness and decision and what his presence was worth to his command.
It was an hour or more after this before we had the first real engagement with the enemy. it occurred in an old field to the right of the First, where the regiment engaged a force of the enemy's infantry, supported by a battery of artillery. It lasted only a few minutes. The enemy retired. Our loss at this point was several in killed and wounded.
The manner in which my men sustained themselves in this the first engagement was gratifying and fully justified my expectations, and fortified the belief of what they would do when the time should come which tried men's souls.
It was not long before that time arrived-it was about noon, the turning point of the day and the turning point of the battle. Upon the edge of a wheat field, to the right of the field last mentioned, the regiment, with the whole brigade, was drawn up in line of battle, and marching directly to the front, across the field, entered a dense thicket of undergrowth, which led down to a ravine and to a hill beyond. Here we engaged the enemy three different times, and braved a perfect rain of bullets, shot, and shell. Exposed, facing great odds, with the enemy in front and on the flank, the regiment endured a murderous fire until endurance ceased to be a virtue. Three different times did we go into that valley of death, and as often were forced back by overwhelming numbers intrenched in a strong position.
That all was done that could possibly be done the heaps of killed and wounded left there give ample evidence. On the right of the regiment, dauntlessly leading the advance, fell Lieut. Col. John B. Thompson, mortally wounded, pierced with seven balls. His loss no one can feel so sensibly as myself. Like Havelock, he united the graces of religion to the valor of the soldier.
Here fell Capts. J. T. Gibson, of Company H, and Jesse T. McMahan, of Company C, mortally wounded, while cheering their men and leading them on to the charge. Maj. J. W. Colquitt was here severely wounded, and Capt. James Newton, of Company A, dangerously. Lieut. L. C. Bartlett, of Company C, was killed and several other commissioned officers wounded all gallantly leading that forlorn hope.
It was late in the afternoon when the enemy were repulsed and were followed up in the direction of the river. That night we slept in the enemy's tents, worn with fatigue, decimated in numbers, but elated that such a hard-fought day had such a glorious close.
About 7 a. m. on Monday, the 7th instant, the regiment marched from the tents it had occupied during the night, being on this day on the right of the First Brigade. Marching toward the left, orders were received to charge a battery of artillery some distance off and to the left. The order was executed and one field piece taken, but abandoned again under a brisk fire from the enemy, who were concealed in numbers in the woods beyond. Under this fire several of my men were wounded, none seriously.
Retiring into a ravine, the regiment was withdrawn from its exposed position and left that portion of the field. An hour or so later it was marched toward the right, where every inch of ground was being hotly contested, and here the regiment engaged the enemy for some time in the most desperate and determined style, moving steadily on against the serried ranks in front of them, and when broken and temporarily thrown into disorder by the tremendous numbers before them, they only retired to rally again and come on with renewed eagerness to the charge. They rallied around their colors and pressed on time and again, until they were forced to retire by the overwhelming pressure against them. Here we suffered severely, losing several commissioned officers in killed and wounded, and leaving many brave men, who had ever been foremost in the fray, dead or dying.
After this little occurred that is worthy of mention. The regiment soon after left the field, under orders, and encamped that night at Monterey, in the quarters occupied by it previous to going out to fight. Night closed upon us, tired and foot-sore, but not dispirited.
I have thus given, colonel, a summary account of the part that my regiment took in the fight on each day. It only remains for me to add the list of casualties. As before said, these speak with an eloquence more powerful than words.
Capt. A. S. Morgan, of Arkansas, kindly volunteered as my aide and rendered valuable services during the engagement.
I remain, colonel, with much respect, very truly,
JAS. F. FAGAN,
Col. R. L. GIBSON,
Commanding First Brigade, Ruggles' Division.
SOURCE: Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, Series 1, Volume 10, Part 1, Pages 487-489.
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