Charles R. Freeman
The Battle of Honey Springs, sometimes called the Battle of Elk Creek, was fought between the Confederate and Federal forces on July 17, 1863. This battle ground is located in McIntosh County about four and one-half miles northeast of Checotah and about fifteen miles south of Muskogee, in what was then the Creek Nation.
In the early part of the War between the States, Albert Pike was commissioned by the Southern Confederacy to effect treaties of alliance with the several Indian tribes of the Indian Territory. John Ross, Chief of the Cherokees, was opposed to any such treaty. He was, in fact, a Unionist at heart, though he urged a neutral position. The Ridge party among the Cherokees, the chief man of whom was, at that time, Stand Watie, favored the Confederacy and consistently urged the signing of the treaty with the Confederate Commission. In the Creek Nation, Pike found it less difficult to secure this treaty. He had the benefit of the influence of the powerful McIntosh family. The treaty with the Creeks was signed July 10, 1861, at North Fork Town on the Canadian, near Eufaula, though Apothleyahola made a fiery speech against the signing of it. Chief John Jumper of the Seminoles, and Tandy Walker, a prominent Choctaw, were Southern sympathizers and soon brought their people in agreement. Treaties of alliance were thus effected between the Confederacy and the Five Civilized Tribes in the latter part of 1861. But sentiment for the Northern side, or for the Federal Government, was not lacking among the Indians. Apothleyahola had led about three thousand men, women and children into Kansas during November and December 1861, and many Union sympathizers among the Indians had joined up with the Federals, forming the First, Second and Third Home Guards.
So at the Battle of Honey Springs, Indian met Indian. Maj. Gen. James A. Blunt, in command of the Federal forces at this battle had about three thousand men under him, commanded by the following officers:
Col. Stephen H. Wattles, First Indian Home Guard;
Lieut. Col. Frederick W. Schaurte, Second Indian Home Guard;
Lieut. Col. John Bowles, First Kansas Colored Infantry, Judson's Brigade;
Capt. Edw. A. Smith, Second Kansas Battery;
Capt. Henry Hopkins, Hopkins Kansas Battery;
Capt. Edward R. Stevens, Third Wisconsin Cavalry;
Maj. J. Nelson Smith, Second Colorado Infantry, Phillips' Brigade.
On the other hand, the Confederates led by Brig. Gen. Douglas H. Cooper, had under him in this battle about four regiments of Indians and certain Texas Troops. His force probably did not exceed three thousand, and were commanded by the following officers:
Gen. Douglas H. Cooper, in command, with First and Second Choctaw Regiments and Texas Troops.
Col. Tandy Walker, First Cherokee and Choctaw Regiment;
Capt. L. E. Gillett, Squadron Texas Cavalry;
Col. Stand Watie, Cherokee Regiment;
Col. D. N. McIntosh, First Creek Regiment, Mtd. Vols., with ten Companies.1
Chilly McIntosh, Second Creek Regiment, Mtd. Vols., with eleven companies.2
1Col. D. N. McIntosh, Commanding;
Lt. Col. Wm. R. McIntosh;
Maj. Jas. McHenry;
Adj. Wm. Percival;
A. G. M. Jno. Barnwell;
A. C. S. I. A. Clark;
Surgeon O. Alexander
Capt. Yakenah Fixico, Company A;
" F. B. Severs, Company B;
" Cully Micco, Company C;
" Yahardy, Company D;
" Hulputta Micco, Company E;
" Sam Miller, Company F;
" Wm. Jacobs, Company G;
" Washington Kennard, Company H;
" Young Hardage, Company I;
" L. J. Callahan, Company K;
2Col. Chilly McIntosh, commanding
Major Timothy Barnett
Adj. Geo. W. Grayson
Q. Master F. M. Sanger
Surgeon Lee M. Alexander
Gen. Cooper had established his headquarters at Honey Springs some days before the Battle. This spring was one mile south of the ford on Elk Creek, on the road leading from Fort Gibson to Texas. Elk Creek was heavily timbered on both sides. On the 14th he had expected an attack from Gen. Blunt, and issued General Order No. 25, giving the location and position his troops would occupy along Elk Creek. General Blunt learned that Cabell, who was located in Northwest Arkansas with a force of about 4,000 men, was expected to join General Cooper at Honey Springs July the 17th. He began to push forward at once in an effort to dispose of Cooper before Cabel could reach Honey Springs. Cabell was one day late and did not reach the battle ground until the 18th. General Blunt effected a crossing of the Arkansas River with his force on the late afternoon of the 16th and by marching all night coming in view of the Confederates encamped on Elk Creek in the early morning of the 17th. Cooper's pickets, stationed some miles north of Elk Creek, saw Blunt's columns pushing rapidly forward; his long line of cannon glistening in the early morning sunlight They immediately rushed back to notify General Cooper of their approach. On arriving Blunt immediately forced the engagement. The cannonading commenced and the battle on the north of the Creek was furious for a few hours, finally driving Cooper's men back across Elk Creek. The Federals crossed to the south side where they encountered Cooper's main army. The battle continued at this point until about two o'clock in the afternoon when Coop.er effected a retreat in the direction of Briartown and Fort Smith. Abel, in her excellent work, says:
"The odds were all against Cooper from the start and, in ways that Steel has not specified, the material equipment proved itself inadequate indeed. Much of the ammunition was worthless. Nevertheless, Cooper stubbornly contested every inch of the ground and finally gave way only when large numbers of his Indians, knowing their guns to be absolutely useless to them, became disheartened and then demoralized. In confusion they led the van in flight across the Canadian."2
The number of Federals killed and wounded was seventy-five. The number of the Confederates killed and wounded, as reported by General Cooper, was 134 and forty-seven taken prisoners.
General Blunt's report of this engagement made to Major General Schofield, July 26, 1863, reads in part, as follows:3
"I have the honor to report that, on my arrival here on the 11th instant, I found the Arkansas River swollen, and at once commenced the construction of boats to cross my troops.
"The rebels, under General Cooper (6,000), were posted on Elk Creek, 25 miles South of the Arkansas, on the Texas road, with strong outposts guarding every crossing of the river from behind rifle-pits. General Cabell, with 3,000 men, was expected to join him on the 17th, when they proposed attacking this place. I could not muster 3,000 effective men for a fight, but determined, if I could effect a crossing, to give them battle on the other side of the river.
"At midnight of the 15th, I took 250 cavalry and four pieces of light artillery, and marched up the Arkansas about 13 miles, drove their pickets from the opposite bank, and forded the river, taking the ammunition chests over in a flat-boat. I then passed down on the South side, expecting to get in the rear of their pickets at the mouth of Grand River, opposite this post, and capture them, but they had learned of my approach and had fled. I immediately commenced crossing my forces at the mouth of Grand River in boats, and, by 10 p. m. of the 16th, commenced moving south, with less than 3,000 men, mostly Indians and negroes, and twelve pieces of artillery. At day-light I came upon the enemy's advance about 5 miles from Elk Creek, and with my cavalry drove them in rapidly upon their main force, which was formed on the South side of the timber of Elk Creek, their line extending 1 1/2 miles, the main road running through their center.
"While the column was closing up, I went forward with a small party to examine the enemy's position, and discovered that they were concealed under cover of the brush awaiting my attack. I could not discover the location of their artillery, as it was masked in the brush. While engaged in this reconnaissance, one of my escort was shot.
"As my men came up wearied and exhausted, I ordered them halted behind a little ridge, about one-half mile from the enemy's line, to rest and eat a lunch from their haversacks. After two
hours' rest, and at about 10 a. m., I formed them in two columns, one on the right of the road, under Colonel (William R.) Judson, the other on the left, under Colonel (William A.) Phillips. The infantry was in column by companies, the cavalry by platoons and artillery by sections, and all closed in mass so as to deceive the enemy in regard to the strength of my force. In this order I moved up rapidly to within one-fourth of a mile of their line, when both columns were suddenly deployed to the right and left, and in less than five minutes my whole force was in line of battle, covering the enemy's entire front. Without halting, I moved them forward in line of battle, throwing out skirmishers in advance, and soon drew their fire, which, revealed the location of their artillery. The cavalry, which was on the two flanks, was dismounted, and fought on foot with their carbines. In a few moments the entire force was engaged. My men steadily advanced into the edge of the timber, and the fighting was unremitting and terrific for two hours when the center of the rebel lines, where they had massed their heaviest force, became broken, and they commenced a retreat. In their rout I pushed them vigorously, they making several determined stands, especially at the bridge over Elk Creek, but were each time repulsed. In their retreat they set fire to their commissary buildings which were 2 miles South of where the battle commenced, destroying all their supplies. I pursued them about 3 miles to the prairie south of Elk Creek, where my artillery horses could draw the guns no farther, and the cavalry horses and infantry were completely exhausted from fatigue. The enemy's cavalry still hovered in my front, and about 4 p. m. General Cabell came in sight with 3,000 re-enforcements. My ammunition was nearly exhausted, yet I determined to bivouac on the field, and risk a battle in the morning if they desired it, but the morning revealed the fact that during the night they had retreated South of the Canadian River.
"The enemy's loss was as follows: Killed upon the field and buried by my men, 150; wounded, 400; and 77 prisoners taken, 1
piece of artillery, 1 stand of colors, 200 stand of arms, and 15 wagons, which I burned. My loss is 17 killed, 60 wounded,
most of them slightly.
Very Respectfully, your obedient servant,
JAMES G. BLUNT, Major-General.
"P. S.—I have designated this engagement as the 'Battle of Honey Springs,' that being the headquarters of General Cooper, on Elk Creek, in the immediate vicinity of the battle-field."
The report of the Battle by Lieut. Colonel John Bowles, First Kansas Colored Infantry, made to Col. Judson, on July 20, 1863, reads in part:4
"Colonel: I have the honor to submit the following report of the First Regiment Kansas Colored Volunteers at the battle of Honey Springs, July 17, 1863:
"Previous to forming a line of battle, Colonel (James M.) Williams was informed that his regiment would occupy the right and support Captain Smith's battery. Colonel Williams then called 'attention,' and said to the men, 'I want you all to keep cool, and not fire until you receive the command; In all cases aim deliberately and below, the waist." *** After a lapse of ten minutes, during which time the fire from the battery was incessant, General Blunt came in person to Colonel Williams, and said, 'I wish you to keep an eye on those guns of the enemy, and take them at the point of the bayonet, if an opportunity offers.' Colonel Williams then made some remarks to the men, intimating that we had work to do, and ordered them to 'fix bayonets.' We then moved to the front and center, forming to the right of a section of Smith's battery, consisting of two 12-pounder field pieces, that had already taken position within 300 yards of the enemy's lines, which was only apparent by the smoke from the frequent firing of their battery, so completely were they concealed by the brush in their position. Quite a number of rounds of shell and canister had been fired from our guns, when our gallant colonel gave the command 'forward,' and every man stepped promptly and firmly in his place, advancing in good order until within 40, paces of the concealed foe, when we halted on the right of the Second Colorado. Colonel Williams then gave the command, 'Ready, aim, fire,' and immediately there went forth two long lines of smoke and flame, the one from the enemy putting forth at the same instant, as if mistaking the command as intended for themselves, or as demonstration of their willingness to meet us promptly
"At this juncture Colonel Williams fell, he and his horse at the same instant; Colonel Williams badly wounded in his right breast, face and hands. Being on the right, and partly shut out from view of the left by the thick brush, I was, therefore, ignorant of the fact that Colonel Williams had fallen. * * * * In the meantime the firing was incessant along the line, except on the extreme right, where some of our Indians had ridden in the brush between us and the enemy. I immediately ordered them to fall back, and to the right. The enemy, which has since proven to have been the Twenty-ninth Texas Regiment, commanded by Colonel De Morse in person, who was badly wounded in the right arm, supposed from the command, that we were giving way in front, and, like true soldiers, commenced to press, as they supposed, a retreating foe. They advanced to within 25 paces, when they were met by a volley of musketry that sent them back in great confusion and disorder. Their color-bearer fell, but the colors were immediately raised, and again promptly shot down. A second time they were raised, and again I caused a volley to be fired upon them, when they were left by the enemy as a trophy to our well-directed musketry.
"As soon as I learned of Colonel Williams having been severely wounded and having left the field, I assumed command, our right pressing the enemy back to a corn-field, where he broke and fled in confusion."
The report of Lieut. Col. Frederick W. Schaurte, Second Indian Home Guards, made on July 20, 1863, read in part as follows: (pp. 451-52 inc., Series 1, pt. 1, Vol. 22, War of the Rebellion Official Records.)
"My command crossed the Arkansas River, below the mouth of Grand River, at 11 p. m. on the 16th instant. Three privates of Company F, Second Regiment Indian Brigade, were drowned while attempting to swim the river—Privates Huston Mayfield, Key Dougherty, and To-cah-le-ges-kie. We moved forward on the Texas road (course West of South), and arrived at camp to the North of and near Elk Creek timber, at 8:45 o'clock, July 17, 1863. About an hour afterwards I received orders to get my command in readiness, and take position in close column of companies in rear of the First Kansas Colored Regiment. *** About 10:20 a. m. Blair's battery, consisting of four pieces, commanded
by Capt. E. A. Smith, commenced firing. Soon afterwards the section changed from the right to the left of the brigade, supported by the First Kansas Colored Regiment. As soon as the artillery ceased firing I was ordered to deploy my command as skirmishers and enter the timber. My command continued to act as skirmishers during the entire engagement, which lasted about four hours."
Lieut. Col. William T. Campbell, in command of the Sixth Kansas Cavalry, reports to his commanding officer as follows:5
"Sir: I have the honor to report the part taken by my command, ***** in action on the 17th instant, at Honey Springs, Creek Nation.
"My command left camp at 4 o'clock on the morning of the 16th instant, with a section of Second Kansas Battery, crossing the Verdigris and Arkansas Rivers without loss. About daybreak the advance came up with the enemy in considerable force, posted on a rise of ground, and near the timber. The captain immediately formed his men and opened a brisk fire on the enemy but was compelled by superior numbers to fall back. I brought the rest of my command forward at a gallop to the support of the advance, and, after a sharp skirmish, drove the enemy from his position, with a loss of 1 killed and 3 wounded. ***** I then advanced and came up with the enemy, posted in force under cover of timber at Elk Creek. Here I came to a halt, and sent a company forward to reconnoiter; found the enemy strongly posted in the woods, their line extending on the right and left to the road. I kept up a brisk fire on them; they, however, kept under cover. Private White was here shot through the shoulder. At 7 o'clock I was transferred from the command of Colonel Judson to that of Colonel Phillips (Colonel Judson retaining the section of howitzers), and assigned to the extreme left of our line of battle. Shortly after the general engagement commenced, I discovered the enemy endeavoring to flank us, under cover of timber. I immediately dismounted Companies C, F, and H, and sent them into the woods as skirmishers, and after sharp work of about an
hour and a half succeeded in driving the enemy back, and turning his right flank,*******. I immediately recalled my men, and, after obtaining a supply of ammunition, mounted and started in pursuit. Shortly after crossing the creek I charged into a large body of rebels, whom I took to be Stand Watie's Indians and Texans. They retreated to the woods where they made a stand."
Colonel Stephen A. Wattles, First Indian Home Guards, reports to Col. William A. Phillips, as follows:6
"Colonel: On the morning of the 17th of July, 1863, we came upon the enemy at Elk Creek. My command was ordered to the left, in support of Hopkins' battery, and then ordered to charge the enemy out of the timber. I advanced, under a destructive fire from the enemy, after hard fighting, gained a position in the timber, and finally drove them across the stream, on the left of the bridge, the enemy forming several times, and desperately contesting every foot of ground.
"Too much praise cannot be awarded to both officers and men for their gallant, conduct in the battle."
"General Cooper, making his report of the battle to General William Steele under date of August 12, 1863, says: (pp. 457 to 461, Inc., War of the Rebellion, Vol. 22, Ser. 1, Pt. 1, Official Reports)
"General: My official report of the affairs at Elk Creek, on the 17th ultimo, has been delayed in consequence of the movements of the troops under your command and the difficulty of getting correct reports from subordinate officers of the killed and wounded. ****
6Ibid., 455. For reports of other Federal officers in charge of command, at this engagement, see Ser. 1, Vol 22, pp. 147 to 157.
The reports of the Confederate commanders do not appear in these official records, except that of Gen. Douglas H. Cooper, and Gen. William Steele, who was in command of the entire Confederate forces of Indian Territory at the :time of this engagement. (pp. 28 to 36, inc., Vol. 22, Ser. 1, Part 1, War of the Rebellion Official Reports of the Union and Confederate Armies.)
These official Reports may be found in the Carnegie Library, Oklahoma City, and the Muskogee Public Library, Muskogee, and in the Library of the Tulsa University.
"On July 15, reports were sent to me from the officers in charge of the pickets on Arkansas River that it had become fordable above the mouth of the Verdigris; that Federal officers were seen examining the fords; ***** Believing there was a probability that the attack might be made upon me before General Cabell arrived, whose movements were known to the spies, ***** I directed their concentration on Coody's Creek, with instructions to send vedettes to the different fords.
"Early on the 16th ultimo, information reached me that the Federals were crossing in force at the Creek Agency. Col. Tandy Walker, Commanding First Cherokee and Choctaw Regiment, and Captain (L. E.) Gillett, commanding squadron Texas cavalry, with their command, accompanied by Lieutenant (T. B.) Heiston, aide-de-camp and acting assistant Adjutant-general, were ordered out in the direction of the Chimney Mountain, where the roads to Creek Agency and to Gibson intersect, with order to send out small parties of observation on both roads and to withdraw the pickets from Coody's Creek.
"About daylight on the morning of the 17th, the advance of the enemy came in sight of the position occupied by the Choctaws and Texans; commenced a brisk fire upon them, which was returned and followed by a charge, which drove the enemy back upon the main column. Lieutenant Heiston reported the morning cloudy and damp, many of the guns failing to fire in consequence of the very inferior quality of the powder, the cartridges becoming worthless even upon exposure to damp atmosphere. Soon after the Federals had been driven back, it commenced raining heavily, which rendered their arms wholly useless These troops then fell back slowly and in good order to camp, for the purpose of obtaining a fresh supply of ammunition and preparing for the impending fight. *** Accordingly their advance halted until the main body came up and formed in line of battle, thus affording my aide opportunity to form an estimate of their strength. He reported their force to be probably 4,000, which I found nearly correct, though some 500 under the mark. After ascertaining that the enemy were advancing in force, orders were issued to the officers commanding corps to prepare for immediate action and take their positions, all which had been, in anticipation of an at-
tack, previously defined by General Orders, No. 25, to copy of which, marked A, herewith, reference is made.7
"Having made these arrangements, I rode forward to the position North of Elk Creek, where Captain Lee's light Howitzer battery had been posted, and found it supported by Colonel Bass' regiment (Twentieth Texas dismounted cavalry), by a portion of the Second Cherokee Regiment, and a body of skirmishers on the right, under command of Capt. Hugh Tinnin, of the First Cher-
7(INCLOSURE, A.) (pp. 461-462, Official Records)
Hdqrs. First Brig., Indian Troops,
"I. The First and Second Cherokee Regiments will constitute the right wing of the brigade, Col. Stand Waitie, senior colonel, commanding.
"II. The left wing will be composed of First and Second Creek Regiments, Col. D. N. McIntosh commanding.
"III. The center will consist of Twentieth Texas dismounted cavalry, Twenty-ninth Texas Cavalry, Fifth Texas Partisan Rangers, and Lee's light battery, Col. Thomas C. Bass, senior colonel, commanding.
"Scanland's squadron, (L. E.) Gillett's squadron, and First Choctaw and Chickasaw Regiment, Col. Tandy Walker commanding, will be attached to headquarters and constitute the reserve, to which such other troops belonging to this brigade as may report will be added until further orders. Captain (John) Scanland will fall back to a position which will be assigned him near headquarters, Honey Springs.
"The right wing will encamp convenient to the two lower crossings on Elk Creek; the center near or at such places as may be convenient to the middle ford, and the left wing at or near the upper ford; the reserve near headquarters, Honey Springs Depot. Commandants of each wing will see that necessary ways are opened along the front and near Elk Creek to enable the troops to move with facility from point to point, and also that proper roads from the camps perpendicular to the way along the bank of the creek are opened. Each regiment will occupy a front at least equal to the number of filets, minus one-fifth. For example: If the total of a regiment be 1,000 men, or 500 files, the front will be 400 yards. The proper intervals between squadrons and regiments will be observed, and kept free from obstruction, to allow the passage of the troops. These intervals may be increased where the ground is obstructed, and in timbered places the line may be extended. In case of attack there should be an advance party thrown out to and along the skirt of the prairie in front (north side of the creek), with adequate supports formed near the creek. The enemy must, if possible, be prevented from gaining the cover of the timber on the north side. Commandants will examine the ground in front of them, and especially creeks, bayous, or wooded ways leading from the prairie north and west of camp down Southward and connecting with the main bottom of Elk Creek. These smaller creeks will be used in case of attack by the enemy to penetrate to Elk Creek, and thus flank the different positions near the fords. These can be used by our troops to advantage in gaining a position in advance of the general line of the prairie to flank the columns of the enemy while advancing on the roads leading to the fords. It is necessary that commanding officers should examine and understand the ground in front of their own positions, and also those occupied by other corps.
"By order of Brig. Gen. D. H. Cooper."
okee Regiment, the remainder of the Cherokee regiments being near the Creek.
"A movement on my right was discovered, and Captain Tinnin reported that the skirmishers would soon be engaged. One-half of Colonel Bass' regiment under Captain (J. R.) Johnson, was then ordered to the right to support Captain Tinnin, and I rode over to their position and found, by movements of officers, that there was a body of troops on my extreme right. A part of Second Cherokee Regiment, just returned from a scout to Prairie Springs, who were getting breakfast at camp, were then ordered up and conducted by myself to the right, and a messenger sent for half of the Choctaw regiment, which soon arrived and were placed also on the right along the edge of the prairie. Seeing a heavy force wheeling off to their right and taking the road up the creek to the second crossing above the bridge—our weakest point, and from he road continues up to the third crossing, where the Creeks were posted—I rode back to the main road, sent orders to the Creeks to move down and support Colonels (Charles) De Morse and (L. M.) Martin, who were directed to support Colonel Bass' command and the battery, which was engaged with that of the enemy. Riding back near the creek, I discovered our men in small parties giving way. These increased until the retreat became general. Colonel Bass' regiment and Captain Lee's battery, after a most gallant defense of their positions, were compelled to fall back; Colonel De Morse's regiment and Colonel Martin's, on the left, also retiring, except a few who were cut off from the main body.
"Colonel Martin who retired in good order across the creek when the line along the prairie near the battery gave way was directed to hold the ford above the bridge; but seeing the whole right wing falling back from the bridge and below it, Colonel Martin was withdrawn and ordered to fall back to Honey Springs. Our forces were now in full retreat and the enemy pressing them closely. The Texans, under Scanland's and Gillett's command, were ordered to join me, at Honey Springs, and the Creeks to withdraw from the extreme left and also concentrate at the same place. Colonel Bass' and Colonel De Morse's regiments, a part of which (under Major (J. A.) Carroll) had reached their horses, were directed also to rally at the same place. The remainder of
this regiment, under Lieutenant-Colonel (O. G.) Welch, who bravely maintained his position on the North side of the creek too long to rejoin his (regiment), were cut off and compelled to make a circuit via North Fork to this camp. Captain Gillett's squadron, arriving promptly, was formed on the road, and for a short time held the advance of the enemy in check. The Choctaws, under Colonel Walker, opportunely arrived at this time, and under my personal direction charged the enemy, who had now planted a battery upon the timbered ridge about 1,000 yards north of Honey Springs. With their usual intrepidity the Choctaws went at them, giving the war-whoop, and succeeded in checking the advance of the enemy until their force could be concentrated and all brought up. The Choctaws, discouraged on account of the worthless ammunition, then gave way, and were ordered to fall back with the others in rear of the train, which had moved off in an easterly direction, covered by our troops, who remained formed for hours in full view of the enemy, thus giving the train time to gain some 7 or 8 miles on the road to Briartown, which had been indicated by yourself as the route by which reinforcements would be sent. *** The retreat of the forces under my command eastward instead of south completely deceived the enemy, and created, as I anticipated, the impression that re-enforcements from Fort Smith were close at hand and that by a detour in rear of the mountain east of Honey Springs our forces might march upon Gibson and destroy it while General Blunt was away with almost the whole Federal force. Under the force of this reasonable fear, General Blunt withdrew his forces and commenced a hurried march for Gibson. North Fork, where we had a large amount of commissary stores, was then saved, as well as the whole of the train, except one ambulance purposely thrown in the way of the enemy by the driver. A quantity of flour, some salt, and sugar were necessarily burned at Honey Springs, there being no transportation for it.
"Our loss was 134 killed and wounded and 47 taken prisoners, while that of the enemy exceeded 200, as I learned from one of our surgeons who was at Gibson when General Blunt's forces returned.
"I feel confident we could have made good the defense of the postion at Elk Creek but for the worthlessness of our am-
munition. The Choctaws, who had skirmished with the enemy on the morning of the 17th, returned wet and disheartened by finding their guns almost useless, and there was a general feeling among the troops that with such ammunition it was useles to contend with a foe doubly superior in numbers, arms, and munitions, with artillery ten times superior to ours, weight of metal considered. Notwithstanding all these untoward circumstances, the men of Colonel Bass' regiment stood calmly and fearlessly to their posts in support of Lee's battery until the conflict became a hand-to-hand one, even clubbing their muskets and never giving way until the battery had been withdrawn; and, even when defeated and in full retreat, the officers and men of different commands readily obeyed orders, formed, falling back and reforming at several different positions, as ordered, deliberately and coolly. Their steady conduct under these circumstances evidently intimidated the foe, and alone enabled us to save the train and many valuable lives. The Creeks, under Col. D. N. McIntosh, at this juncture behaved admirably, moving off in good order slowly and steadily across the North Fork road in full view of the enemy. They contributed greatly to the safe retreat of the train and brigade.
"Among the officers who were distinguished for gallantry and good conduct, Col. T. C. Bass and Captain Lee were particularly conspicuous. Colonel DeMorse's conduct, though suffering under a severe wound, has been represented to me as all that should characterize a brave man. Colonel Martin, for his coolness and good management of his command, deceiving the enemy as to his real strength, and preventing our left from being turned, deserves great credit. Captain Gillett behaved with his usual gallantry. Major Carrol was active and prompt in bringing his men into line to cover the retreat. Colonel Walker and his Choctaws behaved bravely as they always do. Captain (F. M.) Hanks, of Bass' regiment was also distinguished for his gallantry, being dangerously wounded while carrying orders which I had sent to Colonel Bass to draw the right wing to his support. And the lamented (H. H.) Molloy, of the same regiment, fell, mortally wounded, soon after having delivered my order to his colonel to move DeMorse's and Martin's regiments up on the right flank of the enemy, who were advancing upon the battery at the center.
"Captain Johnson, who commanded a detachment from Colonel Bass' regiment, came under my immediate notice. His conduct was, at the most trying time, cool and collected—that of a brave man and good officer. The nature of the ground precluded the possibility of personally observing all the movements of our troops and the conduct of the men and officers. Among those who were mentioned with praise by their immediate commanding officers are Capts. Hugh Tinnin, James L. Butler, and James Stewart, First Cherokee Regiment; Adjt. L. C. De Morse, Twenty-ninth Texas Cavalry; Lieut. Henry Forrester and Sergt. J. Riley Baker, Lee's light battery; Lieut. A. G. Ballenger, Second Cherokee Regiment (killed), and Acting Sergt. Maj. J. H. Reierson, of Bass' regiment, and Sergt. Henry Campbell, of the same regiment, were particularly distinguished, etc."
Both armies buried their dead on the ground, but the bodies of the Federal Soldiers, and possibly a few of the Confederate dead, were later moved to the National Cemetery at Fort Gibson, but most of those who fell on the Confederate side, still rest in the hastily made graves along the banks of Elk Creek, where they fell.