The Battle of Honey Springs, Oklahoma - Confederate Report
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Battle of Honey Springs Confederate Report
This is the official report filed by Gen. D.H. Cooper following the Battle of Honey Springs or Elk Creek, Oklahoma. It is
taken from the Official Records set, Series I, Volume 22, Part One, pp. 457-461.
The Battle of Honey Springs, Oklahoma
Imochiah Creek, near Canadian, August 12, 1863 - My official report of the affair at Elk Creek, on the 17th ultimo, as
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. Referring to my notes of the 18th ultimo, I now have the
honor to submit the following:
On July 15, reports were sent to me from the officer in charge of the pickets on Arkansas River that it had become
fordable above mouth of the Verdigras; that Federal officers were examining the fords, that the two spies, Clark and
Lane, formerly employed in the quartermaster's department at Forts Arbuckle and Cobb, who imposed themselves
upon you, and thereby obtained permission to enlist in this brigade, had reached Gibson; that they had been at the
agency examining that ford, &c. Believing there was a probability that the attack might be made upon me before
General Cabell arrived, whose movements were known to these spies, or at all events that a heavy scout might be
sent across to capture the pickets on the Arkansas, I directed their concentration on Coody's Creek, which 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 commands, 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 the Creek Agency and
to Gibson intersect, with orders to send out small parties of observation on both roads and to withdraw the pickets
from Coody's Creek. Up to this time I had been unable to determine whether the force which crossed at the Creek
Agency was merely a heavy scout or the advance of the main body of the enemy. About 200 to 300 had been reported
moving from the Creek Agency down the river toward Nevins' and Rabbit Fords, near Frozen Rock, to capture or drive
off our pickets, who were supposed, no doubt, still to be there.
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. A few remained with
Lieutenant Heiston at Prairie Mountain, about 3 miles north of camp on the Gibson road, and was so disposed as to
create the impression on the enemy that a large force was there awaiting them. 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...Captain [R.W.] Lee's light battery had been moved up on the
Gibson road the evening previous, intending it to go with the scout under Colonel Walker, but, owing to some
misunderstanding or neglect in delivering the order, the scout left without it. Colonel [T.C.] Bass, with his regiment,
was ordered forward to support Lee's battery. [John] Scanland's squadron and Gillett's squadron were directed to
support the creeks at the upper crossing of Elk Creek, and Colonel Walker to hold his regiment in reserve at their
camp near Honey Springs, sending pickets out on the road across the mountain in the direction of Prairie Springs.
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
Captain Hugh Tinnin, of the First Cherokee 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. Upon
reconnoitering the enemy from the high prairie, where I had a full view of them, then advancing upon the Gibson road,
I found there force larger than reported by Lieutenant Heiston, and larger than I supposed they would bring from
Gibson; and, seeing a heavy force wheeling off to their right and taking the road up to the creek to the second crossing
above the bridge - our weakest point, and from which the road continues 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
Morese and [L.M.] Martin, who were directed to support Colonel Bass, and, if possible, flank the enemy on our left. I
then rode to where I expected to find the Choctaws, in order to bring them to the support of Colonel Bass' command
and the battery, which was engaged with that of the enemy. Colonel Walker, mistaking the order, had moved off on the
mountain several miles with his whole force, instead of sending a picket. Messengers were sent after him and he
returned promptly, but too late for the defense of the bridge. 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.
We have to mourn the loss of many brave officers and men who fell here, sacrificing their lives in opposition to an
overwhelming force to save our little battery, all of which was brought off, except one howitzer, dismounted by the
heavy ordnance of the enemy.
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 own troops, who remained formed for hours in full view of the enemy, thus giving the train time to gain some 6
or 8 miles on the road to Briartown, which had been indicated by yourself as the route by which re-enforcements
would be sent.
Too much praise cannot be awarded the troops fro the accomplishment of the most difficult of all military movements
- an orderly and successful retreat, with little loss of life or property, in the face of superior numbers, flushed with
victory. The retreat of the forces under my command eastward instead of south completely deceived the enemy, and
created, as I had 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 influence 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, as 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 Geneal Blunt's forces returned.
I feel confident we could have made good the defense of the position at Elk Creek but for the worthlessness of our
Brig. Gen. Douglas H. Cooper to Brig. Gen. William Steele, Commanding Department of Indian Territory.
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