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Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014

Tomahawks and Sabers at Honey Springs

Saturday, July 25, 2009

On July 17, 1863, the 1st and 2nd Regiments of Kansas Indian Home Guards and battalions of the 6th Kansas and 3rd Wisconsin Cavalry participated in the Battle of Honey Springs that occurred near the present town of Checotah, Okla. The Indian Home Guards functioned as mounted infantry and were armed with their own rifles, shotguns and revolvers.

However, in hand-to- hand combat, their weapons of choice were their traditional "tomahawk" and hunting or scalping knife. The 6th Kansas and 3rd Wisconsin troops were armed with sabers, carbines and revolvers that were the standard weapons of the cavalry.

During the mounted charges at Honey Springs the saber and revolvers were used to good effect and when deployed dismounted the troopers used their carbines (short barreled rifles that could be effectively reloaded and discharged if necessary on horseback.) In this battle, the Union and Confederate forces were supported by the artillery that were called "Thunder Sticks" or "War Wagons," by the Indian troops which will be the subject of next week's column.

The following after action reports of the participating Union mounted infantry and cavalry are located on Pages 451-453 and 455 in Series I, Vol. 22, Part I Reports of the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion.

Tomahawk Time

Fort Blunt (Gibson), C.N, July 20, 1863.

(To:) Actg. Assist. Adj. General, 1st Brigade, Army of the Frontier; Sir: I have the honor to forward to you the following report of the Battle on Elk Creek, Creek nation, July 17, 1863, in which my regiment (2nd Indian H. G.) was engaged.

I was ordered to get all my available force in readiness to march on Thursday, July 16, 1863.

My command consisted of field and staff officers Major M. B. C. Wright, surgeon A. J. Ritchie, Adj. E. W. Robinson, Chaplin J.B. Jones and Sergt. Major Ed. Baldridge; of line officers four captains, nine first Lieutenants and five second Lieutenants; of enlisted men 345, only 10 of whom were mounted. Total, 368.

My command crossed the Arkansas River, below the mouth of the Grand River, at 11 p.m. on the 16th instant. Three privates of Co. F, 2nd Indian Regiment, were drowned while attempting to swim the river -- Privates Huston Mayfield, Key Dougherty and Tocah-le-ges-kie. We moved forward on the Texas Road (Modern analog in Oklahoma is Highway 69) (course west of south) and arrived at camp to the north and near Elk Creek timber, at 8:45, July 17, 1863.

About an hour afterward I received orders to get my command in readiness and take position in close column of companies in the rear of the First Kansas Colored Regiment.

The First Brigade of which my regiment formed a part, moved forward in close column of companies, on the right of the Texas Road and formed in line of battle near and in front of Elk Creek timber. About 10:20 a.m. Blair's Battery (2nd Ks. Light Artillery, named after Col. Charles W. Blair, Commanding Officer of Fort Scott), consisting of four pieces (cannons) commanded by Capt. E. A. Smith, commenced firing. Soon afterward the right section (of Blair's Battery) changed position from the right to the left of the Brigade and was supported by the First Kansas Colored Regiment. As soon as the artillery ceased firing I was ordered to deploy my command as skirmishers (advancing in front of the main force) and enter the timber.

My command continued to act as skirmishers during the entire engagement, which lasted about four hours.

The enemy was repulsed from the field and pursued till pursuing became useless, they being well mounted and our men worn down with fatigue. A little after 2 o'clock, my command was ordered back to camp on Elk Creek, where it remained until 5 p.m., July 18, 1863, when we were ordered to march for Fort Blunt, on the same route pursued in going to the scene of action. We camped about 12 p.m., on the prairie 2 miles south of the Arkansas River. My command left camp soon after sunrise and arrived at Fort Blunt at 11 a.m., July 19, 1863.

The casualties in my command are as follows: Privates Huston Mayfield, Tocah-le-ges-kie and Key Dougherty Co. F, drowned in the Arkansas River; private Grass, Co. B, wounded in the left side severely; Pvt. Backwater, Co. A, right thigh broken, wound mortal; Pvt. Leach Rice, Co. I, right hand wounded slightly.

I feel it my duty to state that the officers and men of my command behaved nobly and gallantly. They were the first who charged through Elk Creek and took position in the farther edge of the timber, opposite to where the enemy had massed their forces for the time.

Frederick W. Schaurte, Lt. Colonel, 2nd Regiment Indian Brigade, Comdg. Regiment.

Hdqrs. 1st Regiment of Indian Home Guards, Fort Blunt, C. N., July 18, 1863

Colonel: On the morning of the 17th of July 1863, we came upon the enemy at Elk Creek. My command was ordered to the left, in support of Hopkins' battery and then ordered to charge the enemy out of the timber. I advanced under a destructive fire from the enemy, after hard fighting, gained a position in the timber and finally drove them across the stream, on the left of the bridge, the enemy forming several times and desperately contesting every inch of ground!

Too much praise cannot be warded to both officers and men for their gallant conduce in battle.

Among the former who did efficient service were Lt. Col. George Dole, who had command of the left wing and was the first to cross the stream, which he accomplished, under a most galling fire from the enemy, who were formed on the opposite side; Act. Adjt. E. C. Lowe, Captains No-Ko-so-lo-chee and So-nuk-mik-ko and Lts.R. T. Thompson, Fred. Crafts, Ferd. R. Jacobs and Charles N Rix. Of the latter who deserve honorable mention are O.P Willetts, A. Flanders and Thompson Overton.

My loss was: Killed, two; wounded, six; missing, none. Number of guns captured, 24.

I am Colonel, very respectfully, etc.

Stephen H. Wattles, Colonel, Commanding 1st Indian Regiment

Charge Sabers Camp Near Fort Blunt, C.N., July 19, 1863

Sir: I have the honor to report that part taken by my command, consisting of companies A, C, F and H (6th Ks. Vol. Cavalry), commanded respectively, by Lt. Thomas J. Darling, Lt. Richard L. Phillips, Capt. William Gordon and Capt. David Medford; also mountain howitzers (small cannon), under Lt. John P. Grassberger, in action on the 17th instant at Honey Springs, Creek Nation.

My command left camp at 4 o'clock' on the morning of the 16th instant, with a section of 2nd Kan., Battery (cannons), crossing the Verdigris and Arkansas rivers without loss.

After a halt of a few hours, I, with my command, was ordered to take the advance, Co. F, Captain Gordon, being the advance guard.

About daybreak the advance came up with the enemy in considerable force, posted on a rise of ground and near the timber. The captain immediately formed his men and opened a brisk fire on the enemy, but was compelled by superior numbers to fall back. I brought the rest of my command forward at a gallop to the support of the advance and after a sharp skirmish, drove the enemy from his position, with the loss of one killed and three wounded. Private Banks of Co. C and Allingham of Co. F, were slightly wounded; also had 1 horse killed. I then advanced and came up with the enemy posted in force under cover of timber at Elk Creek. Here I came to a halt and sent a company forward to reconnoiter; found the enemy strongly posted in the woods, their line extending on the right and left of the (Texas) Road. I kept up a brisk fire on them: they, however, kept under cover. Private White was here shot through the shoulder. At 7 o'clock I was transferred from the command of Col. Judson to that of Col. Phillips (Col. Judson retaining the section of howitzers,) and assigned to the extreme left of our line of battle. Shortly after the general engagement commenced, I discovered the enemy endeavoring to flank us (going around the end of a line to attack the enemy from the rear) under cover of timber. I immediately dismounted Co.'s C, F and H and sent them into the woods as skirmishers and after sharp work of about an hour and a half succeeded in driving the enemy back and turning his right flank, with slight loss.

During this time Col. S. H. Wattles, 1st Indian Regiment, made a gallant charge, driving the enemy from his position, which relieved my flank. I immediately recalled my men and after obtaining a supply of ammunition, mounted and started in pursuit. Shortly after crossing the creek, I charged into a large body of Rebels, whom I took to be Stand Watie's Indians and Texans. They retreated to the woods where they made a stand. My men dismounted and opened a vigourous fire, which together with a section of Hopkins, Battery and the mountain howitzers put them to flight. I followed on until ordered to cease pursuit, the enemy retreating in great disorder Hospital Steward Holdeman was badly wounded on the field.

I state with great pleasure that the officers and men under my command behaved without exception coolly and bravely.

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

W. T. CAMPBELL, Lt. Colonel, Commanding Regiment

Camp near Fort Blunt, July 19, 1863

Sir: I have the honor to make the following report of the part taken by the battalion of the 3rd Cavalry Wisconsin volunteers in the action at Honey Springs on the 17th instant.

My command command was formed in battle order on the right about 10 a.m., in accordance with your orders and moved forward toward the enemy, posted in the timber.

A portion of my battalion was sent farther on to the right, for the purpose of flanking the enemy. The howitzers, which we were supporting at this point opened (fire) upon the enemy, posted behind a rail fence, in the edge of a cornfield. These two movements forced the enemy to fall back upon their center. dismounting a portion of my command and I skirmished the woods, capturing 8 prisoners, with their arms and following the enemy through the timber, I encamped on the prairie beyond.

I am highly gratified to speak in terms of praise of the conduct of officers and men under my command and of their bravery and promptness in obeying orders.

The able manner in which our force was handled in other parts of the field drew the attention of the enemy in such a manner that they inflicted no loss upon my command.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

E. R. Stevens, Capt., 3rd Wisconsin Volunteer Cavalry, Comdg. Battalion.

Next week's column will feature the "After Action Reports" of the "Union" artillery or "Thunder Sticks" / "War Wagons" in the Battle of Honey Springs and of course the war went on!

Arnold W. Schofield
Battlefield Dispatches