Gen. J.G. Blunt, U.S.A.
The Union commander of the
Army of the Frontier, Blunt was
not on the ground at the Battle
of Devil's Backbone.
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Battle of Devil's Backbone, Arkansas
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Battle of Devil's Backbone, Arkansas
The Battle of Devil's Backbone - Greenwood, Arkansas
Official Accounts of the Battle of Devil's Backbone
Fort Smith, Arkansas
September 3, 1863
Report of Maj. Gen. James G. Blunt, U.S. Army
“…On the 31st ultimo, I encamped 3 miles west of the ford of the Poteau, 12 miles from its
mouth. I there learned that Cabell was strongly posted near the ford, on the right bank of the
creek, and had obstructed with fallen trees all the other roads leading this way. His force
consisted of six regiments of infantry and cavalry and four pieces of artillery, in all numbering
about 2,500 effective men.
“At daylight the following morning, I advanced to attack his position, but found that he had
retreated during the night a short distance toward Fort Smith, and that from that point his force
had divided, proceeding by various routes southward. I then detached Colonel Cloud, with the
Second Kansas and Sixth Missouri Cavalry and two section of Rabb’s battery, in pursuit of the
fleeing enemy. He followed them closely 16 miles, when he engaged their rear, killing and
wounding from 20 to 30 and capturing 40 prisoners. His advance guard, Capt. Edward Lines’
company of the Second Kansas, unfortunately fell into an ambush prepared by the enemy, and
suffered a loss of 8 wounded, 2 of them mortally. One of the latter was Captain Lines, a brave
and skillful officer, whose loss is sincerely deplored. After detaching Colonel Cloud, I marched
with my staff and body guard and the First Arkansas Infantry to this place, and possessed the
fort and city without opposition.”
Official Records, Series 1, Volume XXII, Part One, pages 601-602.
Camp opposite Little Rock
September 20, 1863
Report of Col. William F. Cloud, Second Kansas Cavalry.
“In the morning, moving my brigade to the attack, the enemy were found to have retreated, at 12
o’clock in the night, in the direction of Fort Smith; but, upon following in his trail, it was
determined that he had turned in the direction of Arkadelphia, entering that road at a town
named Jenny Lind.
“At my request, General Blunt consented that I should take the efficient cavalry and the two
sections of Rabb’s Second Indiana Battery and two mountain howitzers and push the retreating
enemy, hoping to capture baggage, &c. At 12 o’clock we came to their rear guard in ambush,
whose deadly fire cut down Captain Lines and 10 or 12 of his command. I found a line of
dismounted cavalry and howitzers, and steadily drove their rear from their position, and up the
mountain side, to within one-fourth of a mile of their line of battle, skillfully formed upon the
summit of Backbone Mountain, of the Poteau range. I here brought my whole force into action,
and for three hours the battle raged with variable violence. During a suspense of my fire, the
enemy suddenly withdrew, leaving his dead and wounded, together with arms, baggage, &c., in
our possession. I immediately occupied the field, and extended my pickets beyond, taking
prisoners and receiving deserters, who came flocking in.
“Our entire loss was 14. The enemy’s, in killed and wounded, was from 15 to 20.
“In the morning I returned to Fort Smith and assumed command, where I remained until the
9th, receiving several hundred deserters, to whom I extended the lenient policy directed in
General Schofield’s letter upon that subject…”
Official Records, Series 1, Volume XXII, Part One, pages 602-603.
Headquarters Cabell’s Brigade
December 7, 1863
Report of Brig. Gen. W.K. Cabell, C.S. Army, including operations July 17-September 14.
“About 9 p.m. on the 31st, I determined to fall back, if possible, to Waldron, in Scott County. The
baggage trains were all ordered to a little place called Jenny Lind, 10 miles on that road, early
in the day. As soon as I commenced falling back, taking the Jenny Lind road, I sent and started
the train. The ordnance train, which was an ox train, I had previously sent to Waldron.
“General Blunt, finding out that I had abandoned the position I had on the Poteau, sent Colonel
Cloud, with 1,500 cavalry, six pieces of artillery, and 40 wagons, loaded with infantry, in pursuit
of me. They followed, and attacked the picket I left at Jenny Lind about 9 o’clock on the 1st day
of September. The picket skirmished with their advance until they reached the foot of Backbone
Mountain, about 16 miles from Fort Smith, where I had formed my command for battle. I placed
Monroe’s regiment in ambush at the foot of the mountain, and placed all the different regiments
en echelon along the sides of the mountain, near the road; the battery being placed so as to
command the whole field of operations. The enemy came dashing up, yelling and shouting,
confident of success, their cavalry in advance. When they came within gunshot, Monroe’s
regiment opened fire on them, and dismounted every man except two in the front companies.
The action soon became general, and, after a heavy fire of nearly three hours and a half,
especially of artillery, the enemy were repulsed…. My loss was 5 killed and 12 wounded. The
number of missing I cannot state, as eight companies of Morgan’s infantry regiment, Hill’s and
Thomson’s regiments, and Woosley’s battalion of cavalry ran in the most shameful manner.
Hill’s regiment, in running, ran through the provost guard, where I had 80 prisoners under
sentence for treason and desertion. These men in running carried all the prisoners off with
them. Thomson’s and Hill’s regiments acted in the most disgraceful manner. The eight
companies of Morgan’s regiment acted but little better. There was nothing to make these
regiments run, except the sound of the cannon. Had they fought as troops fighting for liberty
should, I would have captured the whole of the enemy’s command, and gone back to Fort
Smith, and driven the remainder of the enemy’s force off, and retaken the place. As it was, I was
forced, on account of the smallness of my force, to content myself with repulsing the enemy and
protecting the public property. Leaving a party to bury the dead and take off the wounded, I, after
posting a heavy picket on the battle-field, withdrew in good order, and marched to Waldron,
Scott County, arriving there on the 2d of September.”
Official Records, Series 1, Volume XXII, Part One, pages 606-607.
Gen. W.L. Cabell, C.S.A.
The Confederate commander
at the Battle of Devil's
Backbone, Cabell was
outraged by the conduct of his
men at the end of the battle.
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