Today in History:

18 Series I Volume XLI-I Serial 83 - Price's Missouri Expedition Part I



Helena, Ark., July 31, 1864.

This command is in morning for four of its most meritorious and gallant officers. On the morning of the 26th instant Colonel W. S. Brooks in command of detachments of the Fifty-sixth and the Sixtieth U. S. Colored Infantry, and one section of Lembke's battery, numbering, all told, 368 men and officers, were attacked by overwhelming forces, at least three to one,at Big Creek. Surrounded and pressed on three sides, the whole command unflinching held their ground for three hours, doing so much damage to the enemy that he was successfully kept at bay. Colonel W. S. Brooks early in the engagement, mounted,marshaling and encouraging his men, at the post of duty and honor,fell mortally wounded. His honorable career is thus early closed. He entered the services as a private in the First Iowa Infantry. He was promoted to a lieutenant of the Nineteenth Iowa. He distinguished himself at the battle of Wilson's Creek, and again at the battle of Prairie Grove,where he was wounded. He was appointed lieutenant-colonel of his regiment, now the Fifty-sixth U. S. Colored Infantry, and promoted to be its colonel, in which office he displayed all the qualities of an excellent officer, the regiment exhibiting daily improvement in knowledge and discipline under his command. He was enterprising and sought active duty and distinction. And how shall mourn the gallant Captain James F. Lembke? He was a youthful foreigner, but he became a true American citizen. He enlisted as a private at the breaking out of the rebellion in Taylor's (Chicago) battery. He fought at Belmont, Donelson, Shiloh, Chickasaw Bayou, Arkansas Post, and Vicksburg. He was so brave and intelligent that he was made captain of Battery E, Second U. S. Colored Artillery (light), and came here with orders to enlist and organize his battery. We have witnessed his success and faithfulness. Early in the action of the 26th instant, at the post of duty,he fell mortally wounded. The Swedes in America have given us no better soldier. They and we shall cherish his fame. Adjt. Theodore W. Pratt, of the Sixtieth U. S. Colored Infantry,eagerly volunteered to go with his small detachment as aide-de-camp to Colonel Brooks. He was a useful and faithful officer. He sought active service and distinction, and proved his gallantry and devotion. He fell mortally wounded, on the 26th instant, at the post of duty. Surg. J. C. Stoddard has been known to us as the skillful and faithful surgeon of the Fifty-sixth U. S. Colored Infantry from its organization. His attention to his duties was unsurpassed by any of the officers of his department. He was killed while in the act of examining the wounds of his brave commander.

While this action has filled us with mourning for the four gallant officers who yielded up their lives,we mourn also for nineteen killed of our brave troops, and sympathize with Lieutenant A. B. Crane, of Company D, of the Fifty-sixth U. S. Colored Infantry, who was severely wounded. But we rejoice in the glory acquired on this well disputed field by our colored troops. Will they fight? Ask the enemy.

This little band was to co-operate by Major Carmichael, who was sent out on a parallel line to co-operate and who instantly flew to the relief of the detachment,as soon as he heard the sounds of battle, seven miles distant, and with his small force of 140 men of the Fifteenth Illinois Cavalry broke the enemy's line and enabled our forces to assume the offensive and return safely to Helena, though having to cut their way through