Sunday, June 29, 2008
The Battle of Fayetteville, Arkansas - Part Four
This is a view taken from the front of the Headquarters House looking south. Dickson Street runs from left to right behind the trees.
This is approximately the view seen by Union soldiers in the center of Harrison's line of battle during the Battle of Fayetteville.
The Confederates launched three primary attacks against this line during the battle. The first had come as fighting opened, but was turned back. The second was a dismounted charge led by Colonel Monroe, but it was also turned back.
Although they had two pieces of artillery, the Southern troops found themselves at a severe disadvantage during the battle. Most of Cabell's cavalrymen were armed with shotguns, etc., and their small arms were no match for the longer range rifles and carbines of the Union troops. They had to close the range to be able to bring their small arms to bear, but doing so brought them under intense fire from Union weaponry well before they could use their own arms.
Shortly before 9 a.m., though, the Confederates attempted a major gamble. Their artillery ammunition was already running short, so they attempted a mounted charge up Dickson Street against the Union right. Led by Colonel Monroe, the attack was described even by their enemies as "gallant and desperate."
Unfortunately, the route selected for the attack (picked because it provided road access for the mounted troops) brought Monroe and his men under withering fire from both their front and right. Colonel Harrison described the critical moment in his post-battle report:
At about 9 a.m., or a little before, Colonel Monroe led a gallant and desperate cavalry charge upon our right wing, which was met by a galling cross-fire from our right and center, piling rebel men and horses in heaps in front of our ordnance office, and causing the enemy to retreat in disorder to the woods. During this charge, Captains [William C.] Parker and [George W.R.] Smith, of the First Infantry, while bravely cheering their men, were both wounded in the head, though not dangerously.
At about the same time, Harrison ordered Lt. Robb to lead forward two dismounted companies from the 1st Arkansas U.S. Cavalry and open fire on the Confederate artillery pieces. The cannon were manned by Captain W.M. Hughey and a crew assembled from recruits at the camp of instruction in Dardanelle less than one month earlier. According to Gen. Cabell, they stood well under the Union attack, but not without losses:
Two horses were killed and 2 wounded in the battery; 1 man killed and several wounded.Captain Hughey deserves special mention for his bravery, skill, and energy in the management of his two pieces of artillery.
Our series on the Battle of Fayetteville will continue. Until the next post, you can read more by visiting www.exploresouthernhistory.com/battleoffayetteville.