The Arkansas in the Civil War Message Board

Spy's report (long, but worth it)

Baton Rouge, La., May 11, 1865.

Maj. Gen. J. J. Reynolds, Commanding Department of Arkansas, Little Rock.

General—I send you herewith the report of your scout, C. S. Bell, which he left with me on his arrival at this place, requesting that I forward the same to you.

I have the honor to be, general, your most obedient servant,

Report of C. S. Bell, scout.

I left Little Rock, Ark., January 1, 1865, at 6 a.m. By a long detour I gained the Benton road, about ten miles distant from Little Rock. This detour was necessary from the fact of there being a rebel flag of truce at that time at the pickets on the Benton road. I reached Denton, twenty-five miles southwest of Little Rock, at 7 p.m.

The 2d, about 10 a.m., I left Benton in company with the flag of truce, which had come up an hour previously in charge of Lieut. Col. John P. Bull, of Morgan’s regiment of Arkansas (rebel) cavalry. Crossing the Saline two miles farther on, we made a point six miles north of Rockport, which is twenty-two miles from Benton. I find, much to my surprise, that two ladies, Mrs. Shaver, wife of the rebel commander at Camden, and Mrs. Cravens, wife of Major Cravens, of an Arkansas command (rebel), who were at Major-General Reynolds’ headquarters a few days since, and were positively refused passes, are with the flag. They recognize me, but as they know nothing I feel easy on that score. I remained all night with Judge Miller, two miles north of Rockport; the flag four miles farther north still.

At 8 a.m. the 3d of January, in company with the flag, I passed on southward. I find the country hence to Arkadelphia, seventy-six miles distant from Little Rock, utterly destitute of forage or even supplies for the inhabitants. But few people live on the road. The flag halted in the edge of the bottom about eight miles north of Arkadelphia and remained all night. I remained at the house of James Barkman, in Arkadelphia. There is but a picket guard here. We came the east road; that is, we did not cross at Rockport, but kept east of the Washita until arriving at Arkadelphia. Road good and no bridges broken down.

January 4, started at 10 a.m. and reached a point twenty miles southwest. Remained with a Captain Reed. Country still destitute; timber, pine; roads hard and no broken bridges.

January 5, started at 6 a.m.; rainy. Reached Washington at 5 p.m. Good fords at Antoine and Wolf Creeks, respectively, sixteen and nineteen miles northeast of Washington. Little Missouri bottom bad for four miles; ford good. Learned that Price was in Texas on sixty days’ furlough. Half of the cavalry to be dismounted. Magruder superintends the dismounting at Fulton, fourteen miles distant. I remained at Washington until the 15th. I had a very satisfactory interview with Magruder near Fulton on the 8th. He promised me all I desired, and was very cordial indeed. I was to leave Washington on the 16th for Shreveport to pursue my mission. The evening of the 15th, however, as I was passing the guard-house, I was recognized by one W. R. Delaney, a deserter from the Eleventh Texas (rebel) cavalry, who had for a year past resided at Pine Bluff and Little Rock, and who was in the confidence of the post commander at the latter place. He had in 1862 killed his lieutenant-colonel in an altercation near Corinth, Miss., and been compelled in consequence to seek safety in flight. He located at Pine Bluff on its capture by our army, and is well known there as a desperate gambler. He saw me on the steamer Emma No. 2, while on White River, destined for Devall’s Bluff, in December, 1864. About the time I left Little Rock this scoundrel also left on the post commander’s pass, good “till further orders.” He also had the oath of allegiance and an amnesty oath. After leaving Little Rock his intention was to proceed to Kaufman County, Tex., and obtain certain moneys owned by him; thence go to Mexico and return to Arkansas. He was recognized at Camden, Ark., about the 8th of January by an officer of his regiment, and immediately arrested and sent to Washington. Here he was charged with murder and put in irons. He saw me and by a full betrayal he thought to cause my death and save his much endangered life. A note was by him sent to Magruder, terms were agreed upon, and from being free at noon of the 15th the setting sun of the same day beheld me, ironed and charged with “being a Federal spy.”
My trial commenced on the 22d and was prosecuted with vigor. I had able counsel. I impeached Delaney and two other witnesses, all that were brought against me. I proved a clear character; that I had fought and bled for their bogus Confederacy, and after a long delay and an expenditure of all my effects I was fully acquitted on the 22d of February. The proceedings in my case were not published until the 12th of March. I received a copy the 20th. My irons were removed and a change of clothing allowed me. The sentry who had positive instructions to watch me at all times was relieved. I had suffered everything but death for sixty-four days; confined in a room but eighteen by twenty-eight; were at no time less than thirty-five prisoners and at times upward of sixty. They existed (they could not live) there. My irons were heavy and but little motion was allowed me. Upon reading the general order in my case I saw at once a flaw. I had been acquitted by a court of competent jurisdiction acting under an act of the rebel Congress. Magruder had approved the acquittal, but still would deprive me of my liberty and send me to Tyler for an indefinite period. He did not wish to acknowledge he was wrong. Here was a case for habeas corpus. I applied and on the 4th of April it was granted by the judge of the circuit court for Hempstead County, Ark., and I was free. Before night I was conscribed into the C.S. service and had passed a medical examination. I was pronounced “fit for active service,” and assigned by Special Orders, No. 18, headquarters Commandant of Conscripts, District of Arkansas, to McNally’s battery of light artillery. For fear that conscripts will not report promptly they are kept in prison a time and then sent to their respective commands “under guard.” This was my fate. I was started with four others to Shreveport en route to my battery on the 10th of April. It was impossible to escape. I had seen the results of attempts to escape from the den at Washington. Those who escaped, even Confederate soldiers, white men, were trailed with blood hounds and most brutally abused otherwise. I had seen five men led out to execution during my confinement, and written for them their last sad messages to their friends. These were Southern soldiers condemned for slight offenses. To kill a blood hound on your track was death by the military law as resistance to capture. Such is chivalry! First trail the unfortunate negro, then their own flesh and blood, with hounds.

I reached Shreveport Sunday, the 17th of April. Here I was confined in the stockade, about two miles and a half southwest of the city. The fare was tolerably good here, consisting of a moderate quantity of bread made of unsifted meal, and very lean beef, at the rate of three-quarters of a pound per day to each prisoner. There have been many Union soldiers confined here within eighteen months past. During the evening of my arrival a sergeant of the guard, belonging to the 3rd Louisiana Infantry, attacked and brutally beat several colored soldiers of the 75th and 92nd U.S. Regiments; two of them in particular I noticed with blood trickling over their brows. Several of us remonstrated with the scoundrel for thus beating helpless prisoners, even though they were black, and he replied that “By God he’d cut their d—n hearts out if they didn't work when he set them at it.” The truth was he would not give the men time to put on their shoes, but immediately beat them without provocation.

The morning of the 18th I was taken before the post commander at Shreveport, and he informed me that I was to be sent to Tyler. I showed him a copy of the writ of habeas corpus granted me at Washington, Ark., and he would not listen to it. I then showed him my special order from Colonel Danley, commandant of conscripts, District of Arkansas. This caused him to send me to General Kirby Smith, who said Magruder had been very importunate in his demands that I be sent to Tyler, but that under date of the 15th of April Major General Fagan had said I had clearly proved myself a Confederate citizen. I then informed him that I had been most grossly abused while seeking to aid the South, and that I was now conscribed into the service. After some further conversation he said I would go to the battery to which I was assigned for the present. I reached the battery the evening of the 19th, at Rocky Mountain, La., thirty miles northeast of Shreveport.

On the 24th, while on dress parade, a general order dated the 23d and signed “E. Kirby Smith,” was read to the troops. He recounted the disasters to Lee’s army and bade his army to be hopeful; to not abandon their colors; that the eyes of the world were upon them; that their resources were inexhaustible, and that on them depended the fate of the Confederacy. The effect of this order upon the troops was marked in the extreme. The men instantly became dejected. Mutiny and wholesale desertion was openly talked of. This soon gave way to a general apathy and indifference, but through all could be seen by close observer that the Army of the Trans-Mississippi was in spirit crushed. The night of the 26th of April was rainy. In company with a Union-loving lad who had been forced from his home by the press gangs of the Confederacy in March, I set out for liberty and our lines. We traveled southwest all night. At daylight the baying of hounds told us but too truly that we were followed. To be taken was death. We were in the vicinity of Red River, and plunging into the deep swamps, we fled onward through the day among snakes and mosquitoes, with the blood hounds close behind. By almost superhuman exertions we kept beyond the reach of the hounds, although they were several times within 200 yards. My only weapon was a large knife. Our only safety was in keeping in the water. The horns of the drivers were continually heard. At last the welcome shades of night covered the earth, and our baffled pursuers called off their dogs until the light of another day should enable them to regain our trail. Celerity and ten miles travel would save us. I knew where a canoe lay on a bayou eighteen miles above Shreveport. We struck out for a road, reached it, and after avoiding several pickets, reached the canoe. Wet, weary, and exhausted, we stepped silently within it. My comrade, utterly exhausted, sank immediately into a deep slumber. I guided our craft until day, and, landing in an obscure place, we went ashore. Here we lay all day. I saw certain success in the future; my comrade naught save disaster. At night (this was Friday, the 28th) we again set out. Passed Shreveport at 2 a.m. Saturday. This day I made out two false furloughs for myself and comrade and they were well calculated to deceive. We sped on, night and day; passed Natchitoches and Alexandria by night, and ran on the picket a few miles above Fort De Russy Thursday morning, the 4th of May. Here our furloughs saved us from certain detection. After some further difficulties and dangers we arrived safe on the bank of the Mississippi twenty-five miles above the mouth of Red River on the 7th of May. Here my eyes were gladdened by a sight of our glorious star spangled banner. We had made a journey of 400 miles in a canoe in the short space of eight days, and subsisted on a very small allowance of parched corn, moldy bread, and rancid bacon. I have made thirty-seven forays or scouts singly into the enemy’s lines and met every danger, but for suffering, anxiety, and torturing suspense this last long adventure has eclipsed any of my former ones. I append such items of interest as I have been enabled to obtain and also a statement of certain commands. These may be implicitly relied upon.

In the county of Marion, but more especially that of Cherokee, are very extensive ironworks. Arrangements are being made to cast heavy ordnance at the latter works. A manufactory for percussion-caps has been established at Houston, Tex. The machinery was built and put in operation by a mechanic from a Northern arsenal. A large powder-mill and armory has been established at Marshall, Tex. Several large cotton factories have been put in operation near Houston, Tex. At Shreveport a laboratory for the fabrication of ammunition has been established on a large scale; also an arsenal for the complete equipment of arms of all grades. There are no works in the Trans-Mississippi Department for the manufacture of heavy ordnance. Nothing larger than 12-pounders have as yet been attempted, so far as I can learn. There is reported to be but twenty-one heavy guns in the Trans-Mississippi Department. Of these eleven, viz, two 11-inch, one 10-inch, two 8-inch, and six 24 and 32 pounders (the latter rifled) are now at Alexandria, the remainder at Galveston. Some of the guns at Alexandria were transported on wheels from Galveston at an immense expenditure of labor and time. The resources of the Trans-Mississippi are as follows: Arkansas is literally starved out. There is not enough to feed the people on the route between Little Rock and Shreveport, via either Camden or Washington. Louisiana is better supplied; still an army could by no means subsist off the country, and it is problematical whether a small column of cavalry would not starve their horses on a scout of 250 miles in any direction. Texas is full to repletion. Cattle, hogs, and horses, immense graneries of corn, and abundant forage may be found within 100 miles of the Arkansas or Louisiana borders. The people throughout Arkansas and Louisiana are intensely hostile to the Federal Government. In Texas they are more moderate. They have so far lost confidence in the Confederacy that all trade has been on a specie basis for six months past. The people of the entire Trans-Mississippi infinitely prefer an alliance with a foreign power to a return to old ties. France has the first choice. As to the numbers and conditions of the forces at present west of the Mississippi, I would estimate them at 58,000, with 120 pieces of artillery, well served. I have seen sixteen batteries of field artillery, of four guns each. The guns of the artillery are 6-pounders (old pattern), part smooth-bore, balance rifled, 12-pounder howitzers and several rifled 10-pounder Parrotts. Ammunition plenty and of good quality.

The infantry are well armed with Enfield, Austrian, and Springfield rifles, and the small-arms, equipments, and ammunition are in every respect good. The men are for the most part badly clothed, but their drill is superb. The cavalry, as a general rule, are very badly mounted and indifferently armed with Sharps rifles and Austrian and Enfield rifles shortened into carbines. Revolvers are quite plentiful; sabers not used. Magruder armed one regiment (Gordon’s Arkansas cavalry) in February with lances, guns, and revolvers. The force in the Trans-Mississippi is divided as follows:

Churchill's division, 4 brigades—6,500
Parsons' division, 2 brigades—3,200
Forney’s (Walker’s) division, 3 brigades—4,500
Polignac’s division, 3 brigades 5,000
Four divisions in the vicinity of Galveston and Houston 18,000

Shelby’s division, 2 brigades—2,300
Monroe’s and Slemons’, 2 brigades (consolidated)—1,500
Brooks’ and Logan’s, 2 brigades—1,150
Cooper’s, 2 brigades (Indian District)—3,000
One division, 3 brigades, in Texas—7,000

Twenty-eight 4-gun batteries. There is but one 6-gun battery in Trans-Mississippi Department. Among the batteries are Collins’, Ruffner’s, Zimmerman’s, Hughey’s, West’s, and Bradford’s—3,500

Grand total—55,650

Cavalry on Lower Red River, 2 brigades—3,000


Names of district commanders in Trans-Mississippi Department: District of Texas, Major-General Magruder; Indian District, Major-General Cooper; District of Arkansas and West Louisiana, Lieut. Gen. S. B. Buckner, commanding by general order from E. Kirby Smith, of date 19th of April. The bulk of the Trans-Mississippi Army was massed in the vicinity of Galveston, Tex., in March. Cause of this movement was because of the embarkation of our army for Mobile. They thought the Texas coast threatened. A division of infantry and two brigades of cavalry with two light batteries remained at Alexandria until about the 16th of April, when the infantry and one brigade of cavalry moved to Natchitoches. I estimate the force at Alexandria April 10 at 7,500 men; the force now there at 2,000. It is extremely probable that Alexandria is about to be abandoned and the heavy guns mounted on works farther up the river at Natchitoches, or thirty-five miles above. There are no heavy guns at Shreveport, but the works, consisting of redoubts and curtains with extensive rifle-pits, are very formidable. At Shreveport there are three light batteries and a brigade of infantry. Force will not exceed, all told, 2,000 effective men. A column consisting of 10,000 infantry and 5,500 cavalry, with nineteen pieces of artillery, supposed to be destined for Little Rock or Pine Bluff, was organized about the 15th of April, and one division of infantry (Parsons’), then at Shreveport, was thrown across Red River on the steamers General Quitman, Countess, and Beauregard on the morning of the 18th of April, and they immediately moved northward. I heard of them on the 22d about thirty-five miles south of Washington, still en route north. Churchill’s division, at Marshall, supposed to be a portion of this expeditionary corps, had not moved on the 24th. Shelby’s, Logan’s, and Monroe’s cavalry, however, was on the march, and Shelby had two pieces of artillery issued to his battery on the 15th, and I saw a great deal of ammunition issued to troops and on the road north. I think the news from Lee will stop this movement. Peremptory orders were sent to Kirby Smith several times between the 1st of November, 1864, and February, 1865, to cross the bulk of his army to the east of the Mississippi River. He made preparations to do so by dismounting 8,000 of his cavalry in January, but it having leaked out that a project was on foot to cross the Mississippi, such a violent outbreak and storm of disapproval arose that he was compelled to abandon his design. In March, about the 8th, Smith’s quartermaster (Major Cabell) and his chief disbursing officer were sent east of the river to procure funds to liquidate the enormous claims against the rebel Government in the Trans-Mississippi Department. It was expected they would return with about $8,000,000. Catfish Point, below Gaines’ Landing, was to be the crossing. I do not think Jeff. Davis has yet reached the west side of the river, but it is almost certain that he will attempt to do so. Major Cabell being personally intimate with Davis, what more likely than that he will fall in with him, and, being the only officer of rank from the Trans-Mississippi Department, guide his fallen chief to that place of refuge, Texas. In this case they will cross at or near Catfish Point, or in Cypress or Choctaw Bend, all notorious as rebel crossing places. It would be best, perhaps, to watch these points. If Jeff. Davis reaches the west side of the river he will fight to the bitter end, and it would therefore save much bloodshed to capture him.


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Spy's report (long, but worth it)
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