[Report of Col. James McIntosh, Second Arkansas Mounted Rifles, commanding division]
Van Buren, Ark., January 1, 1862.
General S. COOPER, Adjutant-General, C. S. Army, Richmond, Va.
GENERAL: I have the honor to submit the following report of the battle of Chustenahlah, which took place in the Cherokee Nation on the 26th of December, 1861:
Before entering upon the details of the battle it is necessary for me to state that I entered the Cherokee Nation with a portion of my division upon the representation of Colonel Cooper, commanding the Indian Department, calling upon me for additional force. This call was based upon the hostile stand taken by the Creek chief Hopoeithleyohola and the disaffection which has sprung up in one of the Cherokee regiments. I hastened to Fort Gibson, with 1,600 men, and had an interview with Colonel Cooper, and entered into arrangements for mutual co-operation. The plan proposed was that Colonel Cooper, with his force strengthened by Major Whitfield's battalion, should move up the Arkansas River and endeavor to get in the rear of Hopoeithleyohola's position on one of the tributaries of the Verdigris River, near the Big Bend of the Arkansas, while my force should march up the Verdigris River opposite the position held by the enemy, and then move directly upon him. On account of the scarcity of forage it was mutually determined that either force should attack the enemy on sight.
I left Fort Gibson at 12 m. on the 22d ultimo with the following force: Five companies of the South Kansas-Texas Regiment, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Lane; the available strength of the Sixth Regiment of Texas Cavalry, under Lieutenant-Colonel Griffith; seven companies of the Third [Eleventh] Regiment of Texas Cavalry, commanded by Colonel Young; four companies of my own regiment, Second Arkansas Mounted Riflemen, under Captain Gipson; and Captain Bennett's company of Texans attached to the headquarters of the division. This force amounted to 1,380 men.
On the evening of the 25th ultimo a part of the enemy's force appeared in sight immediately after our arrival in camp. A regiment was sent to observe them. I soon became satisfied that this party was endeavoring to lead us on a fruitless chase. I therefore restrained my impatient men and ordered them back to camp. During the evening an express reached me from Colonel Cooper, with the intelligence that it would probably be two or three days before he could make the preconcerted movement, on account of the desertion of his teamsters, and generously stated that if I found it necessary to advance he would give me all the assistance in his power. From this point, knowing it was impossible to move my train farther, I ordered it to remain in charge of Captain Elstner, acting brigade quartermaster, with a guard of 100 men.
With four days' cooked rations I left camp early on the morning of the 26th, and moved cautiously toward the stronghold of the enemy among the mountains running back into the Big Bend of the Arkansas. Lieutenant-Colonel Lane, with his regiment, moved in advance. A company of his regiment, under Captain Short, was thrown forward as an advance guard, with orders to throw out flankers well to the right and left. Toward 12 m. we approached Shoal Creek, a tributary of the Verdigris.
As soon as Captain Short had crossed the stream a heavy and continuous firing was opened upon him. The company gallantly maintained its position. I immediately ordered Lieutenant-Colonel Griffith, with his regiment, to move up on the right, and Colonel Young on the left. The center, composed of Lieutenant-Colonel Lane's regiment, Captain Bennett's company, and the detachment of the Second Regiment of Arkansas Mounted Riflemen, then moved forward and crossed the stream in the face of the enemy in large numbers posted to the right on a high and rugged hill, with its side covered with oak trees. The enemy continued their fire upon us. Colonel Young promptly crossed the stream and formed upon the left of the center, which was already in line of battle. Lieutenant-Colonel Griffith, with his regiment, was ordered to march up the stream, which flowed at the base of the hill on which the enemy was posted, and, after coming opposite their left flank to dismount, cross the stream, and attack him in the flank. All these orders were promptly and efficiently executed, and the whole force ready for action. The enemy was in a very strong position, and from it observed our actions, in happy innocence of the gallant resolve which animated the hearts of those in the valley below them. The Seminoles, under the celebrated chief Halek Tustenuggee, were in front on foot, posted behind the trees and rocks, while others were in line near the summit of the hill.
Hopoeithleyohola's Creeks were beyond, on horseback. A few representatives of other tribes were also in the battle. The whole force was estimated at 1,700. Between the rough and rugged side of the hill a space of 200 or 300 yards intervened of open ground. Each tree on the hill-side screened a stalwart warrior. It seemed a desperate undertaking to charge a position which appeared almost inaccessible, but the order to charge to the top of the hill met a responsive feeling from each gallant heart in the line, and at 12 m. the charge was sounded, one wild yell from a thousand throats burst upon the air, and the living mass hurled itself upon the foe. The sharp report of the rifle came from every tree and rock, but on our brave men rushed, nor stopped until the summit of the hill was gained and we were mingled with the enemy. The South Kansas-Texas regiment, led by those gallant officers Colonel Lane and Major Chilton, breasted itself for the highest point of the hill, and rushed over its rugged side with the irresistible force of a tornado, and swept everything before it. The brave Major Chilton, while approaching the summit of the hill, received a severe wound in the head, but with unabated vigor continued in the fight. Captain Bennett, with his company and the detachment of the Second Regiment Arkansas Mounted Riflemen, under Captain Gipson, gallantly charged side by side. Captain Gipson was ordered to dismount his command and move into a thicket into which he had driven a portion of the enemy, which he did promptly and with great execution.
After charging some distance on the extreme left, the gallant Colonel Young, observing that the enemy were moving to the more rugged part of the field of battle on the right, with ready foresight rapidly moved his regiment to that portion of the field, and succeeded in cutting off many of the enemy. Lieutenant-Colonel Griffith, having obeyed the first order given him, observing the enemy flying from the hill, rapidly mounted his command, and moved forward up the stream, crossed it some distance above, and gallantly encountered the enemy, who had made a stand near their principal encampment. The enemy by this time were much scattered and had retreated to the rocky gorges amid the deep recesses of the mountains, where they were pursued by our victorious troops and routed in every instance with great loss. They endeavored to make a stand at their encampment, but their efforts were ineffectual, and we were soon in the midst of it. Property of every description was scattered around. The battle lasted until 4 o'clock, when the firing gradually ceased, and we remained victors in the center of Hopoeithleyohola's camp.
The loss sustained by the enemy was very severe. Their killed amounted to upwards of 250. Our loss was 8 killed and 32 wounded. The brave and gallant Lieutenant Fitzhue was shot in the head, and fell while gallantly leading his company. Capt. J. D. Young, of Young's regiment, and Lieutenant Durham, of the South Kansas-Texas Regiment, were both wounded while in the thick of the battle. We captured 160 women and children, 20 negroes, 30 wagons, 70 yoke of oxen, about 500 Indian horses, several hundred head of cattle, 100 sheep, and a great quantity of property of much value to the enemy. The stronghold of Hopoeithleyohola was completely broken up, and his force scattered in every direction, destitute of the simplest elements of subsistence.
At 4 o'clock the rally was sounded, and the different commands went into camp on the battle-field. The dead and wounded were collected and cared for. The officers of the medical department of the different regiments deserve much credit for their promptness in attending to the wounded.
A party of Stand Watie's regiment of Cherokees, numbering 300, under the command of the colonel, although under my orders, came up just as the battle terminated. This regiment had been ordered to join me from its station on Grand River. It was no fault of its commander that it did not reach us sooner. Every effort on his part was made in order to reach us in time.
At early dawn on the day after the battle I again left camp in pursuit of the flying enemy. After a hot pursuit of 25 miles we overtook 2 wagons, which were captured and burned. At this moment sharp firing was heard upon the left, and a messenger came from Col. Stand Watie with the report that he was engaged with the enemy. I immediately moved in the direction, and upon our arrival I ascertained that Colonel Watie had overtaken a number of the enemy and had gallantly charged them. Major Boudinot, commanding the left flank of the regiment, had rushed into a deep ravine and driven the enemy from it. In the skirmish 15 men of the enemy were killed and a number of women and children taken.
Throughout our rapid march-sometimes on ground covered with snow and at others facing the chilly blasts from the north-the greatest enthusiasm prevailed in anticipation of the coming struggle, and at all times during the march and on the battle field every officer and soldier of the brigade nobly did his duty, and it is with heartfelt pride that I bring them to the notice of the Department. The charge at the commencement of the battle was splendid; none more gallant was ever made. Individual acts of daring and hand-to-hand encounters were of frequent occurrence during the day, but it would be impossible to enumerate them. I therefore refer the Department to the reports of regimental and detachment commanders, herewith transmitted.
To Captain Elstner, of the Second Regiment Arkansas Mounted Riflemen, who acted as brigade quartermaster and commissary, my thanks are due for the efficient and able manner in which he conducted the affairs of his department. To my personal staff I am indebted for much valuable service. Both Mr. Frank C. Armstrong and Mr. James S. Vann, my volunteer aides-de-camp, went gallantly into the fight, and bore themselves with great coolness and courage. Lieut. G. A, Thornton, the acting assistant adjutant-general, was also active and efficient in carrying various orders, and deserves great credit for his coolness during the battle.
Casualties. Killed, 9; wounded, 40.
I have the honor to be, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Colonel, Commanding Division.