BIG ROCK, Clinton Co., Iowa, April 28.
EDITOR GAZETTE: – I noticed in the St. Louis Democrat a short sketch of the capture of the rebels and escape of one Charley Baker, at the battle of Pea Ridge. I claim said Charley as my son. Having recently had a letter from him giving a little different account of his adventures, I will give it in his own words, and if you think it worth publishing you are at liberty to do so. As Charles is pretty well known in this part of our country and in part of Cedar, I should like to have it published. I will here state that Charles was Ward Master in the hospital of the Iowa 4th regiment volunteers.
DAVID C. BAKER.
CAMP NEAR THE BATTL-FIELD,
Benton Co., Ark, March 19.
DEAR ONES AT HOME: Perhaps you have heard ere this that we have had a fight with “Old Price.” Yes, one week ago to-day I witnessed a scene I shall never forget, and could I have had time would have written you before; but my time has been all occupied in taking care of the wounded, till to-day I have had a little leisure. We learned on the 5th ult., that Price was advancing with his force, and commenced making preparations for his reception at our other camp 12 miles south of this. In the evening we learned he was coming in west of us, going north, intending doubtless to surround us on the north. We then marched ten miles that night and camped two miles south of here, on the main Springfield and Fayetteville road, and remained there that day, which was the 6th. The next day, Friday the 7th, we proceeded to this place and it was not over half a mile from where I now write that we met Price and his men, and gave them the best we had.
The first charge we made was about 10 o’clock a. m. But few of our men were killed, though several were wounded. The enemy lost a good many and retreated. At about 1 o’clock our men also retreated to take advantage of the ground, expecting the enemy to advance which they did about 3 o’clock. Our boys were then ready for them, being in the edge of timber, and Price’s men came up in the open field, not expecting our men so near, when our boys let in upon them, and fought desperately for about 2½ or 3 hours. Most of our men had then fired their ninety rounds of cartridge, and were ordered to retreat, which was accordingly done.
I have been speaking of our regiment; there were also three companies of 35th Illinois and two pieces of 1st Iowa battery engaged in this charge against Price, who had teen regiments and twelve pieces of artillery. During this engagement Price’s men retreated once clear behind his artillery, and had it not been for his cannon our men would have slain them all. Prices men advanced no farther that night, but also retreated back of the battle-field and camped for the night.
The next morning, our men being reinforced, we pitched in upon them and whipped them out nicely, and the vile rebels retreated on the double quick, leaving their killed and a great many prisoners with our men.
Perhaps you would like to know where I was during the fight. On the morning of the 7th I was with the ambulances by order of the surgeon, about one mile behind the regiment, till after the first charge – we were then ordered up. While coming one ambulance horse was killed by a shell and one ambulance destroyed. The wounded were mostly brought by the musicians of our regiment to a house close by the battle-field, by the time I got there. I commenced dressing the wounds and had taken out one or two balls with a jack-knife before the surgeon arrived. The wounds were then all dressed, and the wounded men sent to a house two miles off. The surgeon then left and told me to remain there till he came back. He went in the direction of the enemy, as I supposed in search of wounded, and did not come back by the hospital where I was then, probably thinking it not safe. Our men had then retreated, as I said before, to take advantage of the ground, and as the surgeon did not come back and our men had then all left, I felt like getting towards them, and was about to start, when a cavalry officer rode past the house and ordered me to climb to the roof of the house and look over the top (lying down of course) and let his men know when the secesh began to advance. The secesh were in the timber one-fourth of a mile off from where I was. I lay on the roof watching their movements for about an hour. They then planted a battery and commenced throwing shell at the cavalry, and I could then see the men advancing. By the time I got off the roof the ball and shell were flying thick and fast all around me. The cavalry were a little beyond me getting out of the way as fast as possible. I went into the house and sat down. Soon after two cannon balls came through the house, and one shell hit it and burst.
You perhaps can imagine my feelings when about this time a Captain of Price’s battery came into the house, revolver in hand, and asked me if I was a Federal? I told him I was. He then asked me what I was there for? I told him it was by the order of our surgeon, and that I had been assisting in dressing the wounded. He told me he would not hurt me, but I must follow him. He took me to Gen. Price, who was about forty rods off with his force. He told the Captain to give me to the infantry and place a guard over me, and commanded me to go with them and I should not be hurt.
I was then a prisoner in the Secesh army, and in fifteen minutes I was in front of the front rank, opposite our regiment, in as brisk a fight as seldom occurs, and our boys were just pouring in the buckshot and musket balls all around me. After the fight I told them I would help dress the wounded if they wished; thinking I would stand a better chance to get away in the hospital than in their ranks. I then went there and helped them dress their wounded, and some of our boys were brought in. I dress them too. When the secesh retreated, I was at the hospital with their wounded and some of our boys, and was left taking care of them. Soon after the Stars and stripes made their appearance, being supported by our regiment. I was no longer a prisoner.
Our regiment lost about 40 killed and 180 in all, killed and wounded. Till yesterday I had the care of seventeen wounded by myself, in the house where I was taken prisoner. Of course the surgeon sent me medicine, &c., and I did the best I could. Cannon balls came within five feet of me, and musket balls within two inches. The 4th Iowa has had a chance to show her bravery, and she has done it! The secesh said they were devils to fight, and you may judge they did fight bravely, for they were facing twelve of their large cannon for two and a half or three hours, and when Sigel’s men came up the next morning to our aid, we whipped them out completely, for they went by the hospital, where I was, on the double-quick – down South. That is the last I have seen of them.
C. W. BAKER.
– Published in The Davenport Daily Gazette, Davenport, Iowa, Thursday Morning, May 1, 1862, p. 2