Engagement at Cabin Creek, Indian Territory - July 1-2, 1863
Report of Col. James M. Williams, First Kansas Colored Infantry.
Fort Blunt, C. N., July --, 1863.
COLONEL: I have the honor to report to you the following account of incidents occurring upon the march of my command from Baxter Springs, Kans., to Fort Blunt, C. N.:
I left Baxter Springs on the 26th ultimo, and overtook the supply train the same day. I concluded to accompany this train on the route, with the view of offering assistance in ease of an attack by the enemy, which was expected, as it was known that a large force of the enemy had been concentrated with this view.
Nothing unusual occurred until about noon of the 1st instant, when we came upon the enemy, strongly posted upon Cabin Creek, completely commanding the ford. Major Foreman, of the Third Indian Home guards, skirmished with their pickets, killing 3 and capturing 3, when they retired across Cabin Creek, to their main body. I ordered up one of the 12-pounder howitzers attached to my command, which, with the mountain howitzers of Major Foreman, opened a brisk fire of shell and canister under the fire of which the soundings of the creek were taken, and, finding it too high to cross the train, the forces were ordered into camp to await the falling of the stream, usually quite small, but now much swollen by the recent rains. That evening I held a consultation with Lieutenant-Colonel [Theodore H.] Dodd, commanding escort to the train, and Major Foreman, and it was determined to unite the different forces, as many as could be spared from the immediate defense of the train, which had been corralled upon the prairie, about 2 miles from the ford. Accordingly Colonel Dodd ordered to my support three companies of the Second Colorado Infantry [Cavalry], under command of Major [J. Nelson] Smith, and Company B, Third Wisconsin Cavalry, Company C, Ninth Kansas Cavalry, and Company B, Fourteenth Kansas Cavalry, under the command of Captain [John E.] Stewart, Company C, Ninth Kansas Cavalry, and the Indian Battalion commanded by Major Foreman, with one section of Second Kansas Battery, commanded by Lieutenant [Aristarchus] Wilson. after making a careful reconnaissance on the evening of the 1st in company with Colonel Dodd and Major Foreman, I laid the plan of attack as follows, viz: To place the two 6 pounders under command of Lieutenant Wilson on a point to the extreme left; one 12-pounder howitzer and one mountain howitzer in the center directly in front of and not more than 200 yards from the position held by the enemy, and one 12-pounder howitzer on the right, and to attempt to cross the stream under the fire of these pieces. Accordingly I formed a column of attack in the following order:
1st. One company Indian Home Guards, led by Major Foreman in person.
2nd. First Regiment Kansas Colored Volunteers, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel [John] Bowles. 3d. Battalion of Second Colorado Infantry.
4th. Battalion of three companies of cavalry, the balance of the Indian Battalion being detached guarding the river above and below.
This disposition being completed, at 8 a. m. of 2d instant I opened a brisk cannonade, with shell and canister, upon the enemy's position, which was continued for forty minutes without interruption, when the firing ceased, the enemy having apparently retired from his position, and I ordered the column forward, it having previously been ascertained that the creek had fallen sufficiently to allow a passage. As the advance, led by Major Foremen, had nearly reached the opposite shore, they were met by a violent fire of musketry from the enemy, who had concealed themselves behind logs in the thick brush which lined the opposite shore. Major Foreman was twice shot by musket-balls, his horse receiving five shots. Seeing their gallant leader fall, this advance company retired somewhat confusedly to the position formerly occupied by them, At this time the advance of the infantry had nearly reached the water's edge, and I ordered a belt, filed the three leading companies to the right, and opened upon the enemy a fire of musketry and again opened the artillery upon their position, which was continued for twenty minutes, when I ordered the two pieces on my left to cease firing, and brought Company C, Ninth Kansas Cavalry, under command of Lieut.. R. C. Philbrick, to replace the Indian company, who were directed to follow the column across. This disposition being made, I ordered the advance at the double-quick, still keeping up the fire from the three companies of infantry, formed as before stated, and the howitzers. The enemy again opened fire, but did not succeed in checking our advance, and, with the loss of but 3 or 4 wounded, I succeeded in crossing my column, the infantry wading to the arm-pits in water, and, driving the enemy from the brush, formed a line of battle directly in front of the enemy, who now formed in battle array about 400 yards in advance upon the edge of the prairie. I ordered two companies of cavalry, under Captain Stewart, to take position on my right, to prevent any flank movement that might be attempted by the enemy in that direction, and ordered the company commanded by Lieutenant Philbrick to charge the advance line of the enemy, penetrate it, and, if possible, ascertain his strength and position, which was gallantly executed by the lieutenant, who charged directly upon the center of the enemy's line, broke it, and put him to flight. Seeing this, I ordered forward all the cavalry in pursuit of the now fleeing enemy, who were pursued for 5 miles, killing many and dispersing them in all directions.
My whole loss in this engagement was 1 killed and about 20 wounded, among the latter Major Foreman, seriously, and Captain [Ethan] Earl, of the First Regiment Kansas Colored Volunteers, slightly.
The loss of the enemy is not definitely known, but, from the best I am able to obtain, I think it will not fall short of 50 killed, as many more wounded, and 9 prisoners.
The strength of the enemy, as near as can be ascertained from the prisoners, was from 1,600 to 1,800, consisting of Cols. Stand Watie's and McIntosh's Cherokee [and Creek] regiments, with detachment of 600 men from the Twenty-seventh [Fifth Texas Partisan Rangers*] and Twenty-ninth Texas [Cavalry] Regiments. My column of attack, which crossed the stream, was less than 900 men, all told.
I cannot close this communication without referring to the chivalrous and soldierly conduct of the entire command during the engagement; the whole command crossing this difficult ford, and forming in the face of the enemy, with as much ease and little confusion as if upon parade. Had there been no train to guard, so that the whole force could have been employed against the enemy, I don't know but I should have been able to capture the whole force. But as the prime object was to conduct the supply train to your commend, it was not deemed proper to cause any delay in pursuing the enemy; consequently I directed that portion of my command which had been sent me from the escort to report back to Lieutenant-Colonel Dodd, and immediately on the evening of the same day resumed, the march, arriving at Fort Blunt on the 5th instant without any further interruption.
I have the honor, colonel, to be, and remain, your obedient servant,
J. M. WILLIAMS,
Colonel First Regiment Kansas Colored Volunteers, Commanding.
Col. WILLIAM A. PHILLIPS.
SOURCE: United States War Department. THE WAR OF THE REBELLION: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1880-1901.