Brown County Historical Society Scrapbook
Col. S.P. Burns served his country during the Civil War. Before the war ended, Col. Burns was awarded the brevet rank of Brigadier General, but the war ended before it was awarded to him officially.
After the war, he moved his family from Collin County to the Owens area of Brown County to become a large cattleman, lawyer and one of the prosecution team to try and convict John Wesley Hardin. He served two terms as a state representative from this region.
Below is the report he filed after the Battle of Jenkins Ferry, praising those under his command.
Report of Col. Simon P. Burns, Eleventh Missouri Infantry, commanding Second Brigade, of engagement at Jenkins’ Ferry:
I avail myself of the earliest opportunity that has come about since the arrival of the brigade train, containing my books, papers, and writing material, to submit my official report of the part taken by the Second Brigade Missouri Infantry in the engagement of April 30, 1864, known as the battle of Jenkins’ Ferry:
About 7 o’clock on the morning of the 30th I arrived with the brigade within two miles of the battle-ground, where I was directed to halt in a field to the left of the road and rest the men, who were greatly fatigued, having constantly marched in the rain since 1 a.m. The arms had hardly been stacked and fires kindled when a sharp fire of muskets in front announced the presence of the enemy, with whom our cavalry were engaged. I received an immediate order from the brigadier-general commanding division to move the brigade to the front by the Jenkins’ Ferry road with all possible dispatch. Upon arriving at the point in the road where it descends from the hills into the Saline River bottom, I was ordered to place the brigade in position in the line of battle on the left of Brigadier-General Clark’s brigade that occupied the high ground on both sides of the road bordering the river bottom.
This order had just been obeyed when a tremendous roar of small-arms half a mile to the front, rendered it apparent that Churchill’s division of Arkansas infantry, which had moved in the advance and had already descended into the bottom, was hotly engaged with the enemy. I was immediately ordered forward with the brigade, moving by the right flank along the road leading to the ferry.
Arriving at the position on the road taken up by Major-General Price, I was directed by that officer in person to file to the right and move in the direction parallel to and in rear of General Churchill’s line of battle. Moving in this direction for some distance, the right of Churchill’s division was reached. I received an order from the brigadier-general commanding division to form the brigade in the line of battle on Churchill’s right, with directions, however, to allow the left regiment (Sixteenth Missouri) of my brigade to cover or lap onto the right regiment of the Arkansas division, which was then heavily pressed by the enemy.
Skirmishers from the Arkansas division already deployed in my front, I directed Major Pindall to place his battalion of sharpshooters in the line of battle on the right of the brigade, and move with it as infantry on the line. These orders were promptly obeyed. The troops moved quickly whenever called upon. My brigade now occupied the extreme right of our line of battle. General Clark’s brigade was detained on the left. Everything was now ready for action. I received and delivered the order to advance at quick time upon the enemy.
We had moved forward a short distance, when we encountered a strong line of the enemy’s skirmishers, who were quickly led into battle. They fired upon us with a terrific fire of muskets, to which we promptly responded. The engagement became general along our whole front. My men continued to advance, driving the enemy before them for more than a quarter of a mile, inflicting upon them serious loss.
We had now been engaged for more than an hour, advancing all the while, when suddenly the right of Churchill’s division gave way, and in falling back, became entangled with my left, throwing it into some confusion. This, however, was soon remedied and the men speedily rallied.
At this juncture I received an order from the brigadier-general commanding division to fall back to an open field some half a mile to the rear, in order to make room for Walker’s division of Texas infantry, which had just arrived upon the ground. The enemy occupied a position where we could only engage them with one division of our forces at a time. Following the order, the brigade retired slowly in line of battle, fighting the enemy as we withdrew. He did not dare to pursue more than 150 yards.
We retired to the field nearby and rested in the line of battle for ten minutes. I was again ordered to move forward and support General Walker’s right, then fiercely engaged in battle. General Clark’s brigade in the meantime formed on my right. The whole division moved forward at quick time for about half a mile, when my left joined the right of Walker’s division, which was slowly falling back, followed by the enemy. I was directed by the brigadier-general commanding division to detach two of my regiments and flank the enemy on the left.
I immediately ordered the Sixteenth Missouri, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Gumming, and the Eleventh Missouri, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Murray (the two left regiments of the brigade), to change the front on the tenth company and occupy a position in front of and at right angles with the right of Walker’s division. This movement was promptly executed by the commanders of these two regiments. This was the turning point of the battle. The enemy figured out that we flanked them on their left. They ceased firing and retired from the field in great disorder.
I remained on the field for more than an hour after the battle ceased. I was ordered about 1 p. m. to withdraw the brigade to the high ground at the edge of the river bottom, which was done, and we encamped for the night. There was heroism and courage exhibited by the men and officers under my command. Although we had marched a distance of nearly 50 miles in less than two days, furnished with only a scant supply of provisions, and almost entirely without blankets or other protection from the rain and dampness, the sharpness and
cheerfulness with which they obeyed orders and responded to every call made upon them throughout that trying march and subsequent battle proved their high reputation.
It is difficult to conceive of ground more unfavorable on which to fight a battle than that in the vicinity of Jenkins’ Ferry. The battle-field was a low swamp in the Saline River bottom, which was rendered almost impassable by the rains, which had previously fallen and the bayous and lagoons which intersect it in every direction. It was over this marshy ground that my men marched and fought for nearly six hours. The men felt exhaustion and fatigue at the close of the action. Col. William M. Moore, commanding Tenth Missouri Infantry was a gallant officer. He was severely wounded near the close of the action while at his post encouraging his men and refused to quit the field until ordered by me to do so.
Lieut. Col. Simon Harris, of the same regiment, was instantly killed while bravely engaged in the discharge of his duty. There wasn’t a more gallant or efficient officer than Simon Harris. He was endeared by all who knew him, his memory is enshrined in the hearts of his comrades in arms. His loss to the country is irreparable.
Major Magoffin efficiently commanded the regiment after the command devolved upon him. Lieut. Cols. P. W. H. Cumming and Thomas H. Murray, commanding, respectively, the Sixteenth and Eleventh Missouri Regiments of infantry, deserve the highest praise for their gallant bearing on the field which they displayed in handling their commands in action. Maj. L. A. Pindall, commanding battalion of sharpshooters, was conspicuous for coolness and courage. The ability which he displayed in the management of his command during the action marks him an officer of the highest merit.
The battalion of sharpshooters, deserve a special merit for the sturdy and unwavering courage displayed by them on the battle-field. Capt. A. A. Lesueur, commanded the Missouri Light Battery, then belonging to this brigade. It was detached from my commanding at the beginning of the engagement and ordered to report to Brigadier-General Marmaduke, commanding cavalry. He rendered efficient service with his battery on another portion of the field. I desire to return my thanks to Lieut. Samuel M. Morrison, acting assistant adjutant-general of the brigade, and Lieut. H. Buford Armistead, my aide-de-camp. The zeal and intelligence which they exhibited in carrying and delivering my orders, and their gallant bearing in the face of the enemy, renders honorable mention of them. My entire loss in the engagement was 10 killed and 50 wounded.
Pierce Burns, a Brown County resident, is a descendant. He has written a book about Colonel Burns, which is available at the Brownwood Genealogy Library and The Blanket Museum of History.