As officially reported by Colonel Douglas E. Cooper, Confederate Commander.
This is an account of the first battle of the Civil War in the present state of Oklahoma. It was contributed by Dr. Berlin B. Chapman, Oklahoma State University, from his collection of Oklahoma historical records from the National Archives.
Having exhausted every means in my power to procure an interview with Hopoeithleyohola, for the purpose of effecting a peaceful settlement of the difficulties existing between his party and the constituted authorities of the Creek Nation, finding that my written overtures, made through several of the leading captains, were treated with silence, if not contempt, by him, and having received positive evidence that he had been for a considerable length of time in correspondence, if not alliance, with the Federal authorities in Kansas, I resolved to advance upon him with the forces under my command, and either compel submission to the authorities of the nation or drive him and his party from the country.
Accordingly, on the 15th day of November last, the troops, consisting of six companies of the First Regiment Choctaw and Chickasaw Mounted Rifles; a detachment from the Fourth (Ninth) Regiment Texas Cavalry under Lieutenant-Colonel Quayle; the Creek regiment, under Col. D.N. McIntosh (the Creek war chief), and Maj. John Jumper (Chief of Seminoles), in all about 1,400 men, were moved up the Deep Fork of the Canadian towards the supposed camp of Hopoeithleyohola’s forces. The camp, which had been abandoned, was found, and the trail from it followed, with varied prospects of success, until the 19th of the month named, on which day some of the disaffected party were seen and a few prisoners taken. From those prisoners information was obtained that a portion of Hopoeithleyohola’s party were near the Red Fork of the Arkansas River, on their route towards Walnut Creek, where a fort was being erected, and which had for some time been their intended destination in the event of not receiving promised aid from Kansas before being menaced or attacked. ("Red Fork" is the old name for Cimarron River.)
After crossing the Red Fork it became evident that the party was near and the command was pushed rapidly forward. About 4 o’clock p.m. some camp smokes were discovered in front a short distance and the enemy’s scouts seen at various points. A charge was ordered to be made by the detachment of Texas cavalry, under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Quayle, upon the camp, which however, was found to have been recently deserted. Other scouts, being discovered beyond the camp, were pursued by the Texas troops about 4 miles, when they disappeared in the timber skirting a creek, upon which it was afterwards ascertained the forces of Hopoeithleyohola were then encamped. While searching for the fugitives the troops were fired upon by the concealed enemy, and 1 man was killed. The enemy immediately appeared in a large force, and our troops, rallying and forming, succeeded in making a stand for a short time, when the efforts of the vastly superior force of the enemy to outflank and inclose them caused them to retire.
During the retreat towards the main body of our forces a constant fire was kept up on both sides. Many of the enemy were killed, and on our part 1 officer and 4 men and 1 man wounded. So soon as the firing was heard at the position of the main body, the Choctaw and Chickasaw regiment was formed and advanced towards the enemy.
The exceeding darkness of the night rendered the relative position of our friends and foes uncertain and restrained the firing on our part until the enemy was within 60 yards of our line. Even then the order to fire was withheld until Col. James Bourland, of Texas (my volunteer aide on this occasion), and myself rode to the front, and the former called to those approaching, asking if any Texans were there, which was answered by the crack of the enemy’s rifles. A brisk fire was then opened by companies I and K, under Captains Welch and Young, and by companies D, E, and G, under Captains Hall, Reynolds, and McCurtain, as they successively took position. After a short but sharp conflict the firing of the enemy ceased, and under cover of the darkness he made good his retreat. About 50 Choctaws and Texans were then sent out, under Actg. Asst. Adjt. Gen. R.W. Lee, to examine the ravine in front and on the flanks, when it was found that the enemy had left the field and retreated in the direction of their camps.
During the action the line was re-enforced by portions of Captains Brinson’s, T.G. Berry’s, J.E. McCool’s and Stewart’s companies, of the Texas regiment, under Lieutenant-Colonel Quayle, and by a few Creeks, under Lieut.-Col. Chilly McIntosh, Captain Severs, and Lieutenant Berryhill. In the last encounter we had two men severely wounded and 1 slightly. Many horses were shot. Our men escaped mainly in consequence of being dismounted and by firing either kneeling or lying down. Our entire loss in the engagement was 1 captain and 5 men killed, 3 severely and 1 slightly wounded, and 1 missing. Prisoners taken since the battle concur in stating the loss of the enemy to have been about 110 killed and wounded.
Soon after daylight on the 20th the main camp of the enemy was entered, and it was found that they had precipitately abandoned it, leaving behind the chief’s buggy, 12 wagons, flour, sugar, coffee, salt, etc., besides many cattle and ponies. Hopoeithleyohola’s force in this engagement has been variously estimated at from 800 to 1,200 Creeks and Seminoles and 200 to 300 negroes.
The conduct of both officers and men within the scope of my observation was marked by great coolness and courage. I would particularize as worthy of high commendation the conduct of Col. James Bourland (who kindly volunteered his valuable services on this occasion and at other times); Actg. Asst. Adjt. Gen. R.W. Lee; Maj. Mitchell Leflore; Lieut. Joseph A. Carroll, acting adjutant Choctaw and Chickasaw Mounted Rifles; Capts. O.G. Welch, R.A. Young, and Lem M. Reynolds, commanding Chickasaw companies, and Capts. Joseph R. Hall and Jackson McCurtain, commanding Choctaw companies of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Mounted Rifles; Lieutenant-Colonel Quayle and Captains Brinson and McCool, of the Texas Regiment; Captain Severs, of the Creek regiment; Lieut. Col. Chilly McIntosh, Creek battalion, Lieut. Samuel Berryhill, of the Creek regiment, and Maj. J. Jumper, Seminole battalion.
The promptness with which the Choctaws and Chickasaws came into line and the steadiness with which they maintained their position during the entire action merit unqualified praise, especially when it is considered that the night was extremely dark, the number and position of the enemy uncertain, and that they stood for the first time under an enemy’s fire.
The following is a list of the killed and wounded; W.J. Lyttle, Captain Welch’s squadron Choctaw and Chickasaw regiment, severely wounded; Daniel Cox, Captain Welch’s squadron Choctaw and Chickasaw regiment, slightly wounded; Capt. C.S. Stewart, Texas Regiment, killed; John H. Crow, Texas regiment, killed; _____Reed, Texas regiment, killed; _____Jackson, Texas regiment, killed; John Friend, Texas regiment, severely wounded; _____Smith Creek regiment, killed; _____Smith, Creek regiment, severely wounded; one killed, name not reported.
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