Headquarters District of the Frontier,
In the Field, Fort Blunt, Creek Nation
July 20, 1863
Mr. Frank J. Bramhall, New York City
Yours of the twenty-eighth of June came to hand by expressman, late on the eve of the sixteenth instant, while on the march to the battle-field of Honey Springs, Creek Nation, which took place the following morning. On learning that this place, which had been beleaguered for months by an overwhelming force, was in imminent danger, and being unable to get any reinforcements to send to their relief, I determined to play a bold game. On the night of the fifth instant, with a portion of my staff and a small escort, I left Fort Scott and made this place in five days, (one hundred and seventy-five miles,) without any transportation, and only the baggage we could carry on our backs and on our horses. On arriving here I found the Arkansas River too high to ford, and commenced the construction of ferry-boats. The rebels had all the fords on the other side of the river for forty miles guarded by rifle-pits. On the fifteenth instant I learned that General Cooper's headquarters were at Honey Springs, on Elk Creek, twenty-five miles south from this post, on the Texas road; that his force was six thousand strong; and that he expected a reenforcement of three Texas regiments on the seventeenth, when he intended to make a demonstration upon this place.
At midnight, on the fifteenth, I took two hundred and fifty cavalry and two six-pound guns, and proceeded thirteen miles up the river to a point that was fordable, drove their pickets from the opposite side, crossed over, came down on the south side to the ford at the mouth of Grand River, near which this fort is located, drove their outpost from there, and commenced crossing all my available force, which was less than three thousand men and twelve pieces of light artillery. At ten o'clock P.m. the little column commenced moving. At daylight we came upon the enemy's advance, which fell back, as we pressed them, upon their main line, which was on Elk Creek, five miles beyond. Their line was formed in the edge of the timber, (which was very bushy,) on the north side, in a semicircular form, one and a half miles in length, the main road running through the centre. I directed the command halted as it came up behind a little rise of ground half a mile in front of their line, while I went forward with a small party of mounted men to reconnoitre their position. I soon discovered their entire force crouched in the bushes waiting for their prey. The locality of their artillery I could not learn, as it was masked. I gave time for the stragglers all to come up, and the men to rest a short time and eat a lunch from their haversacks. At ten o'clock a.m. I formed the command in two columns, by companies closed in mass, and marched with one column on either side of the road until within a quarter of a mile of their line, when I quickly deployed one column to the right and the other to the left, with such rapidity that in five minutes my line covered their entire front They now opened upon us from their batteries, which revealed the location. In a moment the engagement became general and desperate. My cavalry force, which was upon either flank, and armed with carbines, were dismounted and sent into the timber as infantry. The Texans fought gallantly and maintained their line for nearly two hours, but at last gave way. Then commenced a running tight, which lasted between two and three hours, the enemy making a stand at every available point, and being as often routed. Three miles through the timber of Elk Creek brought us again to the prairie, where they made a vigorous stand to enable them to destroy their commissary supplies by setting fire to the buildings. I soon shelled them from this position, and they fled in confusion. My cavalry horses were now tired out, infantry exhausted, artillery horses unable to draw the guns farther, and the pursuit had to be abandoned.
In about two hours General Cooper was reenforced by three Texas regiments, and I supposed he would make a stand. Consequently I bivouacked on the field until morning, when I found he had retreated twenty-five miles during the night, and is still on the skedaddle. My loss was seventeen killed and thirty-six wounded. We buried one hundred and eighty of the rebel dead, have sixty prisoners, (among them several officers,) captured one stand of colors, two hundred stand of small arms, one piece of artillery, (which we dismounted early in the fight,) and have forty of their wounded, most of whom will die. All of their wounded that could be carried away on a horse were removed by them to the rear as they fell, and thus escaped.
I have merely noted these facts for your perusal, thinking it might instruct a New-Yorker to know how we do up matters in the West. You must excuse the bad scribbling, as I am sitting up in a sick-bed, and it is the first time I have attempted to write for some days. I was taken with a bilious fever the day after I started after Cooper, and forty-eight hours in the saddle, without rest or sleep, or a mouthful to cat, and all the time with a burning fever, did not improve my health much. When the excitement of the battle was over, my powers of endurance were completely exhausted, and I had to come down. Have not been ablo to sit up since, but am improving, and hope to be all right again soon.
James G. Blunt.