Monday, August 29, 2011

Captain Avra P. Russell, A Kansas Soldier.

Numbers 2. Report of Lieutenant Colonel Owen A. Bassett, Second Kansas Cavalry.

In the Field, December 10, 1862.

SIR: I have the honor to report that, in obedience to instructions received from yourself, I detailed a scouting party from my regiment under command of Captain [A. P.] Russell, consisting of Companies A, D, and I, 10 men from Company C, 10 from Company E, and 10 from Company F, numbering 147 men.

Captain Russell left camp with this force at about 4 p. m. on the 4th instant, and the following in his report to me:


Cane Hill, Ark., December 5, 1862. Lieutenant S. K. CROSS, Acting Regimental Adjutant:

I have the honor to report that, pursuant to orders received on the afternoon of the 4th instant, with a detachment of 147 men from the Second Kansas Volunteers, I left camp to reconnoiter, and, if possible, to discover the position and movements of the enemy. About 2 miles from camp I sent Lieutenant [H. L.] Moore with about 60 men (Companies A and D) down what is known as the Mount Air road, while O proceeded with the remainder of the party of the direction of the Cove Creek road. I came into the Cover Creek road at Price's old headquarters, 9 miles southeast of camp, where our advance pickets are posted, and, after following this road about 6 miles, the advance discovered a fire, supposed to be that of the enemy's pickets. After reconnoitering, I became satisfied that it was either a very strong picket or the advance of the main force of the enemy, and concluded to wait until daylight before proceeding and farther. I posted a picket, and, with remainder of my men, fell back half a mile and formed line in a field.

In this position, every man standing by his horse, I remainder until the morning of the 5th, when just before sunrise my picket was fired on by the enemy, and morning of the 5th, when just before sunrise my picket was fired on by the enemy, and at once retired. I then sent forward about 30 men dismounted, as skirmishers, under charge of Lieutenant [J. M.] Mentzer, holding the others mounted in line as reserve. A brisk skirmish ensued, lasting for several minutes, when, seeing a movement made to flank me, I withdrew the skirmishers and fell back about 4 mils, where I again formed line and remainder two hours. Seeing nothing further of the enemy, I returned to camp, reaching it about 3 p. m.


AVRA P. RUSSELL, Captain, Commanding Detachment.

Numbers 5. Report of Lieutenant Colonel Owen A. Bassett, Second Kansas Cavalry.

Boonsborough, Ark., December 2, 1862.

[SIR: ] I have the honor to report that, on the evening of the 27th ultimo, I left Camp Babcock and marched in column, formed by the Third Brigade, in the place assigned, which was in the immediate rear of the Eleventh Kansas Infantry.

My command consisted of nine companies of cavalry: Company A, commanded by Lieutenant [J.] Johnston; Company C, by Captain [D. S.] Whittenhall; Company D, by Lieutenant [A.] Moore; Company E, by Captain [J.] Gardner; Company F, by Captain [H.] Cameron; Company G, by Captain [A. W.] Matthews; Company H, by Captain [A.] Gunther; Company I, by First Sergt. M. Enright, and Company K, by Captain [A. P.] Russell, numbering 337 enlisted men; one battery of light artillery (four pieces), the same captured by this regiment at Maysville on October 22, under command of Captain [H.] Hopkins, known as Company B, Second Kansas Volunteers, and one section of mountain howitzers, under command of Lieutenant [E. S.] Stover, Second Kansas Volunteers.

On the evening of the 27th, I went into camp 10 miles north of Cane Hill, and received orders to march next morning at 5 a. m.

Moved on the morning of the 28th, at 5 o'clock. I was ordered to send a portion of my force in advance, and accordingly I sent Companies C, I, and G to the head of the column, under command of Major [J. G.] Fisk, and with the rest of my regiment took the same position assigned to me the day previous, Captain Gunther having been detailed by yourself as field officer of the day, leaving Company H in command of Lieutenant Ballard.

About 10 a. m., Captain Whittenhall, at the head of the column as advance guard, surprised and captured 3 of the enemy's pickets and killed 1. Major risk hurried forward, and at the foot of the hill, about one-half mile north of Boonsborough, came upon a party of the enemy's cavalry drawn up in a lane leading to the village. He formed line, and Lieutenant Stover, coming up with his howitzers, opened upon them with good effect. The enemy was drawn up in force on a hill to the right from of Major Fisk's line, and with three pieces of artillery opened fire. Lieutenant Stover immediately turned his howitzers to bear upon them. Rabb's Second Indian Battery coming up, Major Fisk moved a portion of his force to the rear, over the brow of the hill, dismounted it, and ordered the men to lie down and hold themselves as a support to Rabb's battery. The remainder he sent to reconnoiter the enemy's position. Just after making this disposition of his battalion, the major received a severe wound on the top of his head by a piece of shell, which tore away the top of his hat crown and knocked him down. He recovered in a few minutes, and remained in command for a full hour afterward.

When the first shot was fired by the enemy, I was still in rear of the Eleventh Kansas Infantry, which had halted 2 miles back, but immediately passed that regiment by file to their right and left flanks, through timber and underbrush; brought up my men to the brow of the hill in rear of Major Fisk's position, where I found General Blunt, and, under his orders, I sent Captain [S. J.] Crawford, with Companies A and D, to occupy a hill to the right and front of Major Fisk's position.

At the same time, Captain Cameron, commanding Company F, was sent to a hill still farther to the right of the position occupied by Captain Crawford, and Captain Gardner, commanding Company E, to the right of the position taken by Captain Cameron. Lieutenant [D. E.] Ballard and Captain Russell, with their companies, remained on the hill to support Rabb's battery.

I rode over the where Captain Cameron was stationed, and discovered the enemy in full retreat from the timber on the hill, where they had made a stand, and sent word to General Blunt, communicating to him what I had discovered, and caused Companies A, C, D, F, G, and I to move forward to the front and right, and soon afterward, under direction of Colonel Cloud, skirmished through the timber the enemy had lately occupied; passed out on their trail to the top of the hill I had discovered them retreating over, and awaited there for Captain Hopkins' battery to come up, which, arriving soon after, opened fire on the retreating column, about three-fourths of a mile distant, and upon a section of the enemy's battery on a hill about 1 mile distant. With such precision was the round shot thrown from the gun handled by Corporal Sawyers that the enemy retreated with their pieces immediately.

Companies H and K, left in support of Rabb's battery, having been relieved by the Eleventh Kansas Infantry, came up to the support of Captain Hopkins' battery, under command of Major Fisk, whom I ordered to report to the surgeon to have his wound dressed, and, with the other companies under my command, moved forward to the right front over the chain of hills, where I remained for half a hour inactive.

General Blunt coming up, I moved forward to the town of Newberry, 1 mile south of Boonsborough, and there, under direction of Colonel Cloud, dashed down the road, across the valley to the heights opposite, and pressed the enemy's rear closely to the foot of the mountain, 5 miles from where the fight first commenced. Companies F, G, and I had, by some means, become separated from me in the woods. The enemy had made a stand, placing their artillery upon a high point, and stationed their cavalry at the foot of the hill. I sent Companies C, A, and D, forward through the brush, under command of Captain Crawford, to drive back the cavalry, and a sharp skirmish took place, lasting for several minutes, when the enemy gave way and retreated up the hill, taking position behind his artillery. I here drew in my skirmishers, ordered them to mount and remain under cover. The enemy's artillery opening, Lieutenant Stover, having withdrawing his artillery, I started with my men up the hill. Having gained the point which the enemy had just abandoned, I dismounted my men, and ordered them to skirmish. At this time Captain Russell came up and took position on the right, and with Companies C, D, A, and K, I moved forward to the second bench, when Company C. returned to their horses and mounted. Captain Russell, commanding Company K, pressed forward in advance of everything else around the base of the rocky ledge, just below the summit, along which runs the main road, and Companies A and D pressed on up and over the summit, under my immediate command, and returned into the road about 1 mile from the foot of the hill. I halted to let the Eleventh and Thirteenth Kansas Infantry and Sixth Kansas Cavalry pass; collected my regiment, and moved forward about 2 miles farther into a field, and encamped for the night.

My loss during the day amounted to 1 killed and 4 wounded, my regiment maintaining the advance from the first opening of the fight, at 11 a. m., until 3.30 p. m., following the enemy's retreating column for a distance of about 6 miles. It is unnecessary for me to say more than this for the courage and bravery displayed by the men under my command. I could not discriminate if I desired.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Rhea's Mills, Ark., December 20, 1862.

Authors note. As this report is very long I will ony give the part that states A. P. Russell name. However if you would like the full report I will be glad to send it on request.

Many instances of individual gallantry and daring occurred during the day, for an account of which I refer you to the reports of regimental, brigade, and division commanders. As the immediate commander of the First Division, I deem it but justice to say of Colonel William Weer, commanding the Second Brigade, that he behaved throughout with great gallantry, leading his men into the thickets of the fight. The same is true of Colonel [T. M.] Bowen and Major H. H. Williams, commanding regiments in the same brigade. Captain S. J. Crawford, of the Second Kansas Cavalry, who commanded a battalion of that regiment that fought on foot, displayed great gallantry, as did also the lamented Captain A. P. Russell, who fell, mortally wounded. Colonel Thomas Ewing, Lieutenant-Colonel Moonlight, and Major Plumb, of the Eleventh Kansas, gave evidence of their high qualities as gallant officers. To Captains Rabb and Hopkins and Lieutenants Tenney and Stover, who served their artillery with such terrible and destructive effect upon the enemy's ranks, too much praise cannot be awarded. All did their duty well and nobly. Men of Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana mingled their blood upon the same field, and for the same worthy cause. For their deeds of valor upon the field of Prairie Grove, their native States may well be proud of them.

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