Camp-Fire and Cotton-Field
Thomas W. Knox
Part 2 out of 8
I should have called it sixteen hundred, had I been called on for an
Down the valley rose the smoke of Sigel's guns, about a mile distant,
though, apparently, two or three miles away.
Opposite Sigel's position was the camp of the Arkansas Division:
though it was fully in my sight, and the tents and wagons were plainly
visible, I could not get over the impression that they were far off.
The explosions of our shells, and the flashes of the enemy's guns, a
short distance up the slope on the opposite side of the creek, seemed
to be at a considerable distance.
To what I shall ascribe these illusions, I do not know. On subsequent
battle-fields I have never known their recurrence. Greater battles,
larger streams, higher hills, broader fields, wider valleys, more
extended camps, have come under my observation, but in none of them
has the romance exceeded the reality.
The hours did not crowd into minutes, but the minutes almost
extended into hours. I frequently found, on consulting my watch, that
occurrences, apparently of an hour's duration, were really less than a
half or a quarter of that time.
As the sun rose, it passed into a cloud. When it emerged, I fully
expected it would be some distance toward the zenith, and was
surprised to find it had advanced only a few degrees.
There was a light shower, that lasted less than ten minutes: I judged
it had been twenty.
The evolutions of the troops on the field appeared slow and awkward.
They were really effected with great promptness.
General Lyon was killed before nine o'clock, as I very well knew.
It was some days before I could rid myself of an impression that his
death occurred not far from noon.
The apparent extension of the hours was the experience of several
persons on that field. I think it has been known by many, on the
occasion of their first battle. At Pea Ridge, an officer told me,
there seemed to be about thirty hours between sunrise and sunset.
Another thought it was four P.M. when the sun was at the meridian.
It was only at Wilson Creek that I experienced this sensation. On
subsequent battle-fields I had no reason to complain of my estimate of
The first shell from the enemy's guns passed high over my head. I well
remember the screech of that missile as it cut through the air and
lost itself in the distance. "Too high, Captain Bledsoe," exclaimed
our artillery officer, as he planted a shell among the Rebel gunners.
In firing a half-dozen rounds the Rebels obtained our range, and then
used their guns with some effect. The noise of each of those shells
I can distinctly recall, though I have since listened to hundreds of
similar sounds, of which I have no vivid recollection. The sound made
by a shell, in its passage through the air, cannot be described, and,
when once heard, can never be forgotten.
I was very soon familiar with the whistling of musket-balls. Before
the end of the action, I thought I could distinguish the noise of
a Minie bullet from that of a common rifle-ball, or a ball from a
smooth-bored musket. Once, while conversing with the officer in charge
of the skirmish line, I found myself the center of a very hot fire.
It seemed, at that instant, as if a swarm of the largest and most
spiteful bees had suddenly appeared around me. The bullets flew too
rapidly to be counted, but I fancied I could perceive a variation in
After I found a position beyond the range of musketry, the artillery
would insist upon searching me out. While I was seated under a small
oak-tree, with my left arm through my horse's bridle, and my pencil
busy on my note-book, the tree above my head was cut by a shell.
Moving from that spot, I had just resumed my writing, when a shot tore
up the ground under my arm, and covered me with dirt. Even a remove
to another quarter did not answer my purpose, and I finished my notes
after reaching the rear.
It is not my intention to give the details of the battle--the
movements of each regiment, battalion, or battery, as it performed
its part in the work. The official record will be sought by those who
desire the purely military history. It is to be regretted that the
official report of the engagement at Wilson Creek displays the
great hostility of its author toward a fellow-soldier. In the early
campaigns in Missouri, many officers of the regular army vied with the
Rebels in their hatred of "the Dutch." This feeling was not confined
to Missouri alone, but was apparent in the East as well as in the
West. As the war progressed the hostility diminished, but it was never
entirely laid aside.
The duration of the battle was about four and a half hours. The
whole force under the National flag was five thousand men. The Rebels
acknowledged having twelve thousand, of all arms. It is probable that
this estimate was a low one. The Rebels were generally armed with
shot-guns, common rifles, and muskets of the old pattern. About a
thousand had no arms whatever. Their artillery ammunition was of
poorer quality than our own. These circumstances served to make the
disparity less great than the actual strength of the hostile forces
would imply. Even with these considerations, the odds against General
Lyon were quite large.
Our loss was a little less than one-fifth our whole strength. Up to
that time, a battle in which one-tenth of those engaged was placed
_hors de combat_, was considered a very sanguinary affair. During the
war there were many engagements where the defeated party suffered a
loss of less than one-twentieth. Wilson Creek can take rank as one
of the best-fought battles, when the number engaged is brought into
The First Missouri Infantry went into action with seven hundred and
twenty-six men. Its casualty list was as follows:--
Dangerously wounded................... 93
Otherwise wounded..................... 126
The First Kansas Infantry, out of seven hundred and eighty-five men,
lost two hundred and ninety-six. The loss in other regiments was quite
severe, though not proportionately as heavy as the above. These two
regiments did not break during the battle, and when they left the
ground they marched off as coolly as from a parade.
At the time our retreat was ordered our ammunition was nearly
exhausted and the ranks fearfully thinned. The Rebels had made a
furious attack, in which they were repulsed. General Sweeney insisted
that it was their last effort, and if we remained on the ground we
would not be molested again. Major Sturgis, upon whom the command
devolved after General Lyon's death, reasoned otherwise, and
considered it best to fall back to Springfield. The Rebels afterward
admitted that General McCulloch had actually given the order for
retreat a few moments before they learned of our withdrawal. Of course
he countermanded his order at once. There were several battles in the
late Rebellion in which the circumstances were similar. In repeated
instances the victorious party thought itself defeated, and was much
astonished at finding its antagonist had abandoned the struggle.
In our retreat we brought away many of our wounded, but left many
others on the field. When the Rebels took possession they cared for
their own men as well as the circumstances would permit, but gave no
assistance to ours. There were reports, well authenticated, that some
who lay helpless were shot or bayoneted. Two days after the battle a
surgeon who remained at Springfield was allowed to send out wagons for
the wounded. Some were not found until after four days' exposure. They
crawled about as best they could, and, by searching the haversacks of
dead men, saved themselves from starvation. One party of four built a
shelter of branches of trees as a protection against the sun. Another
party crawled to the bank of the creek, and lay day and night at the
water's edge. Several men sought shelter in the fence corners, or by
the side of fallen trees.
Two days before the battle, ten dollars were paid to each man of the
First Kansas Infantry. The money was in twenty-dollar pieces, and
the payment was made by drawing up the regiment in the customary two
ranks, and giving a twenty-dollar piece to each man in the front rank.
Three-fourths of those killed or wounded in that regiment were of the
front rank. The Rebels learned of this payment, and made rigid search
of all whom they found on the field. Nearly a year after the battle a
visitor to the ground picked up one of these gold coins.
During the battle several soldiers from St. Louis and its vicinity
recognized acquaintances on the opposite side. These recognitions were
generally the occasion of many derisive and abusive epithets. In the
Border States each party had a feeling of bitter hostility toward the
other. Probably the animosity was greater in Missouri than elsewhere.
A lieutenant of the First Missouri Infantry reported that he saw one
of the men of his regiment sitting under a tree during the battle,
busily engaged in whittling a bullet.
"What are you doing there?" said the officer.
"My ammunition is gone, and I'm cutting down this bullet to fit my
gun." (The soldier's musket was a "54-caliber," and the bullet was a
"Look around among the wounded men," was the order, "and get some
54-cartridges. Don't stop to cut down that bullet."
"I would look around, lieutenant," the soldier responded, "but I can't
move. My leg is shot through. I won't be long cutting this down, and
then I want a chance to hit some of them."
Captain Gordon Granger was serving on the staff of General Lyon. When
not actively engaged in his professional duties, he visited all parts
of the field where the fight was hottest. Though himself somewhat
excited, he was constantly urging the raw soldiers to keep cool and
not throw away a shot. Wherever there was a weak place in our line,
he was among the first to discover it and devise a plan for making
it good. On one occasion, he found a gap between two regiments,
and noticed that the Rebels were preparing to take advantage of it.
Without a moment's delay, he transferred three companies of infantry
to the spot, managing to keep them concealed behind a small ridge.
"Now, lie still; don't raise your heads out of the grass," said
Granger; "I'll tell you when to fire."
The Rebels advanced toward the supposed gap. Granger stood where he
could see and not be seen. He was a strange compound of coolness and
excitement. While his judgment was of the best, and his resources were
ready for all emergencies, a by-stander would have thought him heated
almost to frenzy. The warmth of his blood gave him a wonderful energy
and rendered him ubiquitous; his skill and decision made his services
of the highest importance.
"There they come; steady, now; let them get near enough; fire low;
give them h--l."
The Rebels rushed forward, thinking to find an easy passage. When
within less than fifty yards, Granger ordered his men to fire. The
complete repulse of the Rebels was the result.
"There, boys; you've done well. D--n the scoundrels; they won't come
here again." With this, the captain hastened to some other quarter.
The death of General Lyon occurred near the middle of the battle. So
many accounts of this occurrence have been given, that I am not fully
satisfied which is the correct one. I know at least half a dozen
individuals in whose arms General Lyon expired, and think there are
as many more who claim that sad honor. There is a similar mystery
concerning his last words, a dozen versions having been given by
persons who claim to have heard them. It is my belief that General
Lyon was killed while reconnoitering the enemy's line and directing
the advance of a regiment of infantry. I believe he was on foot at
the instant, and was caught, as he fell, in the arms of "Lehman," his
orderly. His last utterance was, doubtless, the order for the infantry
to advance, and was given a moment before he received the fatal
bullet. From the nature of the wound, his death, if not instantaneous,
was very speedy. A large musket-ball entered his left side, in the
region of the heart, passing nearly through to the right. A reported
wound in the breast was made with a bayonet in the hands of a Rebel
soldier, several hours afterward. The body was brought to Springfield
on the night after the battle.
It was my fortune to be acquainted with General Lyon. During the
progress of the war I met no one who impressed me more than he, in his
devotion to the interests of the country. If he possessed ambition
for personal glory, I was unable to discover it. He declared that
reputation was a bubble, which no good soldier should follow. Wealth
was a shadow, which no man in the country's service should heed. His
pay as an officer was sufficient for all his wants, and he desired
nothing more. He gave to the Nation, as the friend he loved the
dearest, a fortune which he had inherited. If his death could aid in
the success of the cause for which he was fighting, he stood ready to
die. The gloom that spread throughout the North when the news of his
loss was received, showed a just appreciation of his character.
"How sleep the brave who sink to rest
By all their country's wishes blest!"
At that battle there was the usual complement of officers for five
thousand men. Two years later there were seven major-generals and
thirteen brigadier-generals who had risen from the Wilson Creek Army.
There were colonels, lieutenant-colonels, and majors, by the score,
who fought in the line or in the ranks on that memorable 10th of
August. In 1863, thirty-two commissioned officers were in the service
from one company of the First Iowa Infantry. Out of one company of the
First Missouri Infantry, twenty-eight men received commissions. To the
majority of the officers from that army promotion was rapid, though
a few cases occurred in which the services they rendered were tardily
[Illustration: DEATH OF GENERAL LYON]
THE RETREAT FROM SPRINGFIELD.
A Council of War.--The Journalists' Council.--Preparations for
Retreat.--Preceding the Advance-Guard.--Alarm and Anxiety of the
People.--Magnificent Distances.--A Novel Odometer.--The Unreliable
Countryman.--Neutrality.--A Night at Lebanon.--A Disagreeable
Lodging-place.--Active Secessionists.--The Man who Sought and
Found his Rights.--Approaching Civilization.--Rebel Couriers on the
Route.--Arrival at Rolla.
On the night after the battle, the army was quartered at Springfield.
The Rebels had returned to the battle-ground, and were holding it in
possession. The court-house and a large hotel were taken for hospitals,
and received such of our wounded as were brought in. At a council of
war, it was decided to fall back to Rolla, a hundred and twenty miles
distant, and orders were given to move at daylight.
The journalists held a council of war, and decided to commence their
retreat at half-past two o'clock in the morning, in order to be in
advance of the army. The probabilities were in favor of the enemy's
cavalry being at the junction of certain roads, five miles east of
the town. We, therefore, divested ourselves of every thing of a
compromising character. In my own saddle-bags I took only such toilet
articles as I had long carried, and which were not of a warlike
nature. We destroyed papers that might give information to the enemy,
and kept only our note-books, from which all reference to the strength
of our army was carefully stricken out. We determined, in case
of capture, to announce ourselves as journalists, and display our
One of our party was a telegraph operator as well as a journalist. He
did not wish to appear in the former character, as the Missouri
Rebels were then declaring they would show no quarter to telegraphers.
Accordingly, he took special care to divest himself of all that
pertained to the transmission of intelligence over the wires. A
pocket "instrument," which he had hitherto carried, he concealed in
Springfield, after carefully disabling the office, and leaving the
establishment unfit for immediate use.
We passed the dangerous point five miles from town, just as day was
breaking. No Rebel cavalry confronted us in the highway, nor shouted
an unwelcome "halt!" from a roadside thicket. All was still, though we
fancied we could hear a sound of troops in motion far in the distance
toward Wilson Creek. The Rebels were doubtless astir, though they did
not choose to interfere with the retreat of our army.
As day broke and the sun rose, we found the people of both
complexions thronging to the road, and seeking, anxiously, the latest
intelligence. At first we bore their questions patiently, and briefly
told them what had occurred. Finding that we lost much time, we began,
early in the day, to give the shortest answers possible. As fast as
we proceeded the people became more earnest, and would insist upon
delaying us. Soon after mid-day we commenced denying we had been at the
battle, or even in Springfield. This was our only course if we would
avoid detention. Several residents of Springfield, and with them a
runaway captain from a Kansas regiment, had preceded us a few hours
and told much more than the truth. Some of them had advised the people
to abandon their homes and go to Rolla or St. Louis, assuring them
they would all be murdered if they remained at home.
In pursuance of this advice many were loading a portion of their
household goods upon wagons and preparing to precede or follow the
army in its retreat. We quieted their alarm as much as possible,
advising them to stay at home and trust to fortune. We could not
imagine that the Rebels would deal severely with the inhabitants,
except in cases where they had been conspicuous in the Union cause.
Some of the people took our advice, unloaded their wagons, and waited
for further developments. Others persisted in their determination to
leave. They knew the Rebels better than we, and hesitated to trust
their tender mercies. A year later we learned more of "the barbarism
Southwest Missouri is a region of magnificent distances. A mile in
that locality is like two miles in the New England or Middle States.
The people have an easy way of computing distance by the survey lines.
Thus, if it is the width of a township from one point to another,
they call the distance six miles, even though the road may follow
the tortuosities of a creek or of the crest of a ridge, and be ten or
twelve miles by actual measurement.
From Springfield to Lebanon it is called fifty miles, as indicated by
the survey lines. A large part of the way the route is quite direct,
but there are places where it winds considerably among the hills, and
adds several miles to the length of the road. No account is taken of
this, but all is thrown into the general reckoning.
There is a popular saying on the frontier, that they measure the roads
with a fox-skin, and make no allowance for the tail. Frequently I have
been told it was five miles to a certain point, and, after an hour's
riding, on inquiry, found that the place I sought was still five, and
sometimes six, miles distant. Once, when I essayed a "short cut" of
two miles, that was to save me twice that distance, I rode at a good
pace for an hour and a half to accomplish it, and traveled, as I
thought, at least eight miles.
On the route from Springfield to Lebanon we were much amused at the
estimates of distance. Once I asked a rough-looking farmer, "How far
is it to Sand Springs?"
"Five miles, stranger," was the reply. "May be you won't find it so
After riding three miles, and again inquiring, I was informed it was
"risin' six miles to Sand Springs." Who could believe in the existence
of a reliable countryman, after that?
Thirty miles from Springfield, we stopped at a farm-house for dinner.
While our meal was being prepared, we lay upon the grass in front
of the house, and were at once surrounded by a half-dozen anxious
natives. We answered their questions to the best of our abilities,
but nearly all of us fell asleep five minutes after lying down. When
aroused for dinner, I was told I had paused in the middle of a word
of two syllables, leaving my hearers to exercise their imaginations on
what I was about to say.
Dinner was the usual "hog and hominy" of the Southwest, varied with
the smallest possible loaf of wheaten bread. Outside the house, before
dinner, the men were inquisitive. Inside the house, when we were
seated for dinner, the women were unceasing in their inquiries. Who
can resist the questions of a woman, even though she be an uneducated
and unkempt Missourian? The dinner and the questions kept us awake,
and we attended faithfully to both.
The people of this household were not enthusiastic friends of the
Union. Like many other persons, they were anxious to preserve the
good opinion of both sides, by doing nothing in behalf of either. Thus
neutral, they feared they would be less kindly treated by the Rebels
than by the National forces. Though they had no particular love for
our army, I think they were sorry to see it departing. A few of the
Secessionists were not slow to express the fear that their own army
would not be able to pay in full for all it wanted, as our army had
Horses and riders refreshed, our journey was resumed. The scenes of
the afternoon were like those of the morning: the same alarm among
the people, the same exaggerated reports, and the same advice from
ourselves, when we chose to give it. The road stretched out in the
same way it had hitherto done, and the information derived from the
inhabitants was as unreliable as ever. It was late in the evening, in
the midst of a heavy shower, that we reached Lebanon, where we halted
for the night.
I have somewhere read of a Persian king who beheaded his subjects for
the most trivial or imaginary offenses. The officers of his cabinet,
when awaking in the morning, were accustomed to place their hands
to their necks, to ascertain if their heads still remained. The
individuals comprising our party had every reason to make a similar
examination on the morning after our stay in this town, and to express
many thanks at the gratifying result.
On reaching the only hotel at Lebanon, long after dark, we found the
public room occupied by a miscellaneous assemblage. It was easy to see
that they were more happy than otherwise at the defeat which our arms
had sustained. While our supper was being prepared we made ready for
it, all the time keeping our eyes on the company. We were watched
as we went to supper, and, on reaching the table, found two persons
sitting so near our allotted places that we could not converse freely.
After supper several individuals wished to talk with us concerning
the recent events. We made the battle appear much better than it had
really been, and assured them that a company of cavalry was following
close behind us, and would speedily arrive. This information was
unwelcome, as the countenances of the listeners plainly indicated.
One of our party was called aside by a Union citizen, and informed
of a plan to rob, and probably kill, us before morning. This was not
pleasing. It did not add to the comfort of the situation to know that
a collision between the Home Guards and a company of Secessionists was
momentarily expected. At either end of the town the opposing parties
were reported preparing for a fight. As the hotel was about half-way
between the two points, our position became interesting.
Next came a report from an unreliable contraband that our horses had
been stolen. We went to the stable, as a man looks in a wallet he
knows to be empty, and happily found our animals still there. We
found, however, that the stable had been invaded and robbed of two
horses in stalls adjacent to those of our own. The old story of the
theft of a saw-mill, followed by that of the dam, was brought to our
minds, with the exception, that the return of the thief was not likely
to secure his capture. The stable-keeper offered to lock the door and
resign the key to our care. His offer was probably well intended, but
we could see little advantage in accepting it, as there were several
irregular openings in the side of the building, each of them ample for
the egress of a horse.
In assigning us quarters for the night, the landlord suggested that
two should occupy a room at one end of the house, while the rest were
located elsewhere. We objected to this, and sustained our objection.
With a little delay, a room sufficient for all of us was obtained. We
made arrangements for the best possible defense in case of attack, and
then lay down to sleep. Our Union friend called upon us before we were
fairly settled to rest, bringing us intelligence that the room, where
the guns of the Home Guard were temporarily stored, had been invaded
while the sentinels were at supper. The locks had been removed
from some of the muskets, but there were arms enough to make some
resistance if necessary. Telling him we would come out when the firing
began, and requesting the landlord to send the cavalry commander to
our room as soon as he arrived, we fell asleep.
No one of our party carried his fears beyond the waking hours. In
five minutes after dismissing our friend, all were enjoying a sleep
as refreshing and undisturbed as if we had been in the most secure
and luxurious dwelling of New York or Chicago. During several years
of travel under circumstances of greater or less danger, I have never
found my sleep disturbed, in the slightest degree, by the nature of my
surroundings. Apprehensions of danger may be felt while one is awake,
but they generally vanish when slumber begins.
In the morning we found ourselves safe, and were gratified to discover
that our horses had been let alone. The landlord declared every thing
was perfectly quiet, and had been so through the night, with the
exception of a little fight at one end of the town. The Home Guards
were in possession, and the Secessionists had dispersed. The latter
deliberated upon the policy of attacking us, and decided that their
town might be destroyed by our retreating army in case we were
disturbed. They left us our horses, that we might get away from the
place as speedily as possible. So we bade adieu to Lebanon with much
delight. That we came unmolested out of that nest of disloyalty, was a
matter of much surprise. Subsequent events, there and elsewhere, have
greatly increased that surprise.
After a ride of thirteen miles we reached the Gasconade River, which
we found considerably swollen by recent rains. The proprietor of the
hotel where we breakfasted was a country doctor, who passed in that
region as a man of great wisdom. He was intensely disloyal, and did
not relish the prospect of having, as he called it, "an Abolition
army" moving anywhere in his vicinity. He was preparing to leave for
the South, with his entire household, as soon as his affairs could
be satisfactorily arranged. He had taken the oath of allegiance,
to protect himself from harm at the hands of our soldiers, but his
negroes informed us that he belonged to a company of "Independent
Guards," which had been organized with the design of joining the Rebel
This gentleman was searching for his rights. I passed his place six
months afterward. The doctor's negroes had run away to the North, and
the doctor had vanished with his family in the opposite direction. His
house had been burned, his stables stripped of every thing of value,
and the whole surroundings formed a picture of desolation. The doctor
had found a reward for his vigilant search. There was no doubt he had
obtained his rights.
Having ended our breakfast, we decided to remain at that place until
late in the afternoon, for the purpose of writing up our accounts.
With a small table, and other accommodations of the worst character,
we busied ourselves for several hours. To the persona of the household
we were a curiosity. They had never before seen men who could write
with a journalist's ordinary rapidity, and were greatly surprised
at the large number of pages we succeeded in passing over. We were
repeatedly interrupted, until forced to make a request to be let
alone. The negroes took every opportunity to look at us, and, when
none but ourselves could see them, they favored us with choice bits of
local information. When we departed, late in the afternoon, four stout
negroes ferried us across the river.
A hotel known as the California House was our stopping-place, ten
miles from the Gasconade. As an evidence of our approaching return to
civilization, we found each bed at this house supplied with two clean
sheets, a luxury that Springfield was unable to furnish. I regretted
to find, several months later, that the California House had been
burned by the Rebels. At the time of our retreat, the landlord was
unable to determine on which side of the question he belonged, and
settled the matter, in conversation with me, by saying he was a
hotel-keeper, and could not interfere in the great issue of the day. I
inclined to the belief that he was a Union man, but feared to declare
himself on account of the dubious character of his surroundings.
The rapidity with which the Secessionists carried and received news
was a matter of astonishment to our people. While on that ride
through the Southwest, I had an opportunity of learning their _modus
operandi_. Several times we saw horsemen ride to houses or stables,
and, after a few moments' parley, exchange their wearied horses for
fresh ones. The parties with whom they effected their exchanges would
be found pretty well informed concerning the latest news. By this
irregular system of couriers, the Secessionists maintained a complete
communication with each other. All along the route, I found they knew
pretty well what had transpired, though their news was generally mixed
up with much falsehood.
Even in those early days, there was a magnificence in the Rebel
capacity for lying. Before the war, the Northern States produced by
far the greatest number of inventions, as the records of the Patent
Office will show. During the late Rebellion, the brains of the
Southern States were wonderfully fertile in the manufacture of
falsehood. The inhabitants of Dixie invent neither cotton-gins,
caloric engines, nor sewing-machines, but when they apply their
faculties to downright lying, the mudsill head is forced to bow in
In the last day of this ride, we passed over a plateau twelve miles
across, also over a mountain of considerable height. Near the summit
of this mountain, we struck a small brook, whose growth was an
interesting study. At first, barely perceptible as it issued from a
spring by the roadside, it grew, mile by mile, until, at the foot
of the mountain, it formed a respectable stream. The road crossed it
every few hundred yards, and at each crossing we watched its increase.
At the base of the mountain it united with another and larger stream,
which we followed on our way to Rolla.
Late in the afternoon we reached the end of our journey. Weary, dusty,
hungry, and sore, we alighted from our tired horses, and sought the
office of the commandant of the post. All were eager to gather the
latest intelligence, and we were called upon to answer a thousand
With our story ended, ourselves refreshed from the fatigue of our long
ride, a hope for the safety of our gallant but outnumbered army,
we bade adieu to Rolla, and were soon whirling over the rail to St.
GENERAL FREMONT'S PURSUIT OF PRICE.
Quarrel between Price and McCulloch.--The Rebels Advance upon
Lexington.--A Novel Defense for Sharp-shooters.--Attempt to Re-enforce
the Garrison.--An Enterprising Journalist.--The Surrender.--Fremont's
Advance.--Causes of Delay.--How the Journalists Killed Time.--Late
News.--A Contractor "Sold."--Sigel in Front.--A Motley
Collection.--A Wearied Officer.--The Woman who had never seen a Black
Republican.--Love and Conversion.
After the battle of Wilson Creek and the occupation of Springfield,
a quarrel arose between the Rebel Generals, Price and McCulloch. It
resulted in the latter being ordered to Arkansas, leaving General
Price in command of the army in Missouri. The latter had repeatedly
promised to deliver Missouri from the hands of the United States
forces, and made his preparations for an advance into the interior.
His intention, openly declared, was to take possession of Jefferson
City, and reinstate Governor Jackson in control of the State. The
Rebels wisely considered that a perambulating Governor was not
entitled to great respect, and were particularly anxious to see the
proclamations of His Excellency issued from the established capital.
Accordingly, General Price, with an army twenty thousand strong,
marched from Springfield in the direction of Lexington. This point
was garrisoned by Colonel Mulligan with about twenty-five hundred men.
After a siege of four days, during the last two of which the garrison
was without water, the fort was surrendered. Price's army was
sufficiently large to make a complete investment of the fortifications
occupied by Colonel Mulligan, and thus cut off all access to the
river. The hemp warehouses in Lexington were drawn upon to construct
movable breast-works for the besieging force. Rolling the bales of
hemp before them, the Rebel sharp-shooters could get very near the fort
without placing themselves in great danger.
The defense was gallant, but as no garrisons can exist without water,
Colonel Mulligan was forced to capitulate. It afterward became
known that Price's army had almost exhausted its stock of
percussion-caps--it having less than two thousand when the surrender
was made. General Fremont was highly censured by the Press and people
for not re-enforcing the garrison, when it was known that Price was
moving upon Lexington. One journal in St. Louis, that took occasion to
comment adversely upon his conduct, was suddenly suppressed. After a
stoppage of a few days, it was allowed to resume publication.
During the siege a small column of infantry approached the north bank
of the river, opposite Lexington, with the design of joining Colonel
Mulligan. The attempt was considered too hazardous, and no junction
was effected. Mr. Wilkie, of the New York _Times_, accompanied
this column, and was much disappointed when the project of reaching
Lexington was given up.
Determined to see the battle, he crossed the river and surrendered
himself to General Price, with a request to be put on parole until
the battle was ended. The Rebel commander gave him quarters in
the guardhouse till the surrender took place. Mr. Wilkie was then
liberated, and reached St. Louis with an exclusive account of the
While General Price was holding Lexington, General Fremont commenced
assembling an army at Jefferson City, with the avowed intention of
cutting off the retreat of the Rebels through Southwest Missouri. From
Jefferson City our forces moved to Tipton and Syracuse, and there left
the line of railway for a march to Springfield. Our movements were not
conducted with celerity, and before we left Jefferson City the Rebels
had evacuated Lexington and moved toward Springfield.
The delay in our advance was chiefly owing to a lack of transportation
and a deficiency of arms for the men. General Fremont's friends
charged that he was not properly sustained by the Administration, in
his efforts to outfit and organize his army. There was, doubtless,
some ground for this charge, as the authorities, at that particular
time, were unable to see any danger, except at Washington. They often
diverted to that point _materiel_ that had been originally designed
for St. Louis.
As the army lay at Jefferson City, preparing for the field, some
twelve or fifteen journalists, representing the prominent papers
of the country, assembled there to chronicle its achievements. They
waited nearly two weeks for the movement to begin. Some became sick,
others left in disgust, but the most of them remained firm. The
devices of the journalists to kill time were of an amusing nature.
The town had no attractions whatever, and the gentlemen of the press
devoted themselves to fast riding on the best horses they could
obtain. Their horseback excursions usually terminated in lively races,
in which both riders and steeds were sufferers. The representatives
of two widely-circulated dailies narrowly escaped being sent home with
Evenings at the hotels were passed in reviving the "sky-larking"
of school-boy days. These scenes were amusing to participants and
spectators. Sober, dignified men, the majority of them heads of
families, occupied themselves in devising plans for the general
One mode of enjoyment was to assemble in a certain large room, and
throw at each other every portable article at hand, until exhaustion
ensued. Every thing that could be thrown or tossed was made use of.
Pillows, overcoats, blankets, valises, saddle-bags, bridles, satchels,
towels, books, stove-wood, bed-clothing, chairs, window-curtains,
and, ultimately, the fragments of the bedsteads, were transformed into
missiles. I doubt if that house ever before, or since, knew so much
noise in the same time. Everybody enjoyed it except those who occupied
adjoining rooms, and possessed a desire for sleep. Some of these
persons were inclined to excuse our hilarity, on the ground that the
boys ought to enjoy themselves. "The boys!" Most of them were on the
shady side of twenty-five, and some had seen forty years.
About nine o'clock in the forenoon of the day following Price's
evacuation of Lexington, we obtained news of the movement. The mail at
noon, and the telegraph before that time, carried all we had to say of
the affair, and in a few hours we ceased to talk of it. On the evening
of that day, a good-natured "contractor" visited our room, and,
after indulging in our varied amusements until past eleven, bade us
good-night and departed.
Many army contractors had grown fat in the country's service, but this
man had a large accumulation of adipose matter before the war broke
out. A rapid ascent of a long flight of stairs was, therefore, a
serious matter with him. Five minutes after leaving us, he dashed
rapidly up the stairs and entered our room. As soon as he could speak,
he asked, breathing between, the words--
"Have you heard the news?"
"No," we responded; "what is it?"
"Why" (with more efforts to recover his breath), "Price has evacuated
"Is it possible?"
"Yes," he gasped, and then sank exhausted into a large (very large)
We gave him a glass of water and a fan, and urged him to proceed with
the story. He told all he had just heard in the bar-room below, and we
listened with the greatest apparent interest.
When he had ended, we told him _our_ story. The quality and quantity
of the wine which he immediately ordered, was only excelled by his
hearty appreciation of the joke he had played upon himself.
Every army correspondent has often been furnished with "important
intelligence" already in his possession, and sometimes in print before
his well-meaning informant obtains it.
A portion of General Fremont's army marched from Jefferson City
to Tipton and Syracuse, while the balance, with most of the
transportation, was sent by rail. General Sigel was the first to
receive orders to march his division from Tipton to Warsaw, and he was
very prompt to obey. While other division commanders were waiting
for their transportation to arrive from St. Louis, Sigel scoured the
country and gathered up every thing with wheels. His train was the
most motley collection of vehicles it has ever been my lot to witness.
There were old wagons that made the journey from Tennessee to Missouri
thirty years before, farm wagons and carts of every description,
family carriages, spring wagons, stage-coaches, drays, and hay-carts.
In fact, every thing that could carry a load was taken along. Even
pack-saddles were not neglected. Horses, mules, jacks, oxen, and
sometimes cows, formed the motive power. To stand by the roadside and
witness the passage of General Sigel's train, was equal to a visit to
Barnum's Museum, and proved an unfailing source of mirth.
[Illustration: GENERAL SIGEL'S TRANSPORTATION IN THE MISSOURI
Falstaff's train (if he had one) could not have been more picturesque.
Even the Missourians, accustomed as they were to sorry sights, laughed
heartily at the spectacle presented by Sigel's transportation. The
Secessionists made several wrong deductions from the sad appearance
of that train. Some of them predicted that the division with _such_ a
train would prove to be of little value in battle. Never were men
more completely deceived. The division marched rapidly, and, on a
subsequent campaign, evinced its ability to fight.
One after another, the divisions of Fremont's army moved in chase of
the Rebels; a pursuit in which the pursued had a start of seventy-five
miles, and a clear road before them. Fremont and his staff left
Tipton, when three divisions had gone, and overtook the main column at
Warsaw. A few days later, Mr. Richardson, of the _Tribune_, and myself
started from Syracuse at one o'clock, one pleasant afternoon, and,
with a single halt of an hour's duration, reached Warsaw, forty-seven
miles distant, at ten o'clock at night. In the morning we found the
general's staff comfortably quartered in the village. On the staff
there were several gentlemen from New York and other Eastern cities,
who were totally unaccustomed to horseback exercise. One of these
recounted the story of their "dreadful" journey of fifty miles from
"Only think of it!" said he; "we came through all that distance in
less than three days. One day the general made us come _twenty-four_
"That was very severe, indeed. I wonder how you endured it."
"It _was_ severe, and nearly broke some of us down. By-the-way, Mr.
K----, how did you come over?"
"Oh," said I, carelessly, "Richardson and I left Syracuse at noon
yesterday, and arrived here at ten last night."
Before that campaign was ended, General Fremont's staff acquired some
knowledge of horsemanship.
At Warsaw the party of journalists passed several waiting days,
and domiciled themselves in the house of a widow who had one pretty
daughter. Our natural bashfulness was our great hinderance, so that it
was a day or two before we made the acquaintance of the younger of the
women. One evening she invited a young lady friend to visit her, and
obliged us with introductions. The ladies persistently turned the
conversation upon the Rebellion, and gave us the benefit of their
views. Our young hostess, desiring to say something complimentary,
declared she did not dislike the Yankees, but despised the Dutch and
the Black Republicans."
"Do you dislike the Black Republicans very much?" said the _Tribune_
"Oh! yes; I _hate_ them. I wish they were all dead."
"Well," was the quiet response, "we are Black Republicans. I am the
blackest of them all."
The fair Secessionist was much confused, and for fully a minute
remained silent. Then she said--
"I must confess I did not fully understand what Black Republicans
were. I never saw any before."
During the evening she was quite courteous, though persistent in
declaring her sentiments. Her companion launched the most bitter
invective at every thing identified with the Union cause, and
made some horrid wishes about General Fremont and his army. A more
vituperative female Rebel I have never seen. She was as pretty as she
was disloyal, and was, evidently, fully aware of it.
A few months later, I learned that both these young ladies had become
the wives of United States officers, and were complimenting, in high
terms, the bravery and patriotism of the soldiers they had so recently
The majority of the inhabitants of Warsaw were disloyal, and had
little hesitation in declaring their sentiments. Most of the young men
were in the Rebel army or preparing to go there. A careful search of
several warehouses revealed extensive stores of powder, salt, shoes,
and other military supplies. Some of these articles were found in a
cave a few miles from Warsaw, their locality being made known by a
negro who was present at their concealment.
Warsaw boasted a newspaper establishment, but the proprietor and
editor of the weekly sheet had joined his fortunes to those of General
Price. Two years before the time of our visit, this editor was a
member of the State Legislature, and made an earnest effort to secure
the expulsion of the reporter of _The Missouri_ _Democrat_, on account
of the radical tone of that paper. He was unsuccessful, but the
aggrieved individual did not forgive him.
When our army entered Warsaw this reporter held a position on the
staff of the general commanding. Not finding his old adversary, he
contented himself with taking possession of the printing-office, and
"confiscating" whatever was needed for the use of head-quarters.
About twenty miles from Warsaw, on the road to Booneville, there was a
German settlement, known as Cole Camp. When the troubles commenced in
Missouri, a company of Home Guards was formed at Cole Camp. A few
days after its formation a company of Secessionists from Warsaw made a
night-march and attacked the Home Guards at daylight.
Though inflicting severe injury upon the Home Guards, the
Secessionists mourned the loss of the most prominent citizens of
Warsaw. They were soon after humiliated by the presence of a Union
THE SECOND CAMPAIGN TO SPRINGFIELD.
Detention at Warsaw.--A Bridge over the Osage.--The
Body-Guard.--Manner of its Organization.--The Advance
to Springfield.--Charge of the Body-Guard.--A Corporal's
Ruse.--Occupation of Springfield--The Situation.--Wilson Creek
Revisited.--Traces of the Battle.--Rumored Movements of the
Enemy.--Removal of General Fremont.--Danger of Attack.--A Night of
Excitement.--The Return to St. Louis.--Curiosities of the Scouting
Service.--An Arrest by Mistake.
The army was detained at Warsaw, to wait the construction of a
bridge over the Osage for the passage of the artillery and heavy
transportation. Sigel's Division was given the advance, and crossed
before the bridge was finished. The main column moved as soon as the
bridge permitted--the rear being brought up by McKinstry's Division. A
division from Kansas, under General Lane, was moving at the same time,
to form a junction with Fremont near Springfield, and a brigade from
Rolla was advancing with the same object in view. General Sturgis was
in motion from North Missouri, and there was a prospect that an army
nearly forty thousand strong would be assembled at Springfield.
While General Fremont was in St. Louis, before setting out on this
expedition, he organized the "Fremont Body-Guard," which afterward
became famous. This force consisted of four companies of cavalry,
and was intended to form a full regiment. It was composed of the
best class of the young men of St. Louis and Cincinnati. From the
completeness of its outfit, it was often spoken of as the "Kid-Gloved
Regiment." General Fremont designed it as a special body-guard for
himself, to move when he moved, and to form a part of his head-quarter
establishment. The manner of its organization was looked upon by many
as a needless outlay, at a time when the finances of the department
were in a disordered condition. The officers and the rank and file of
the Body-Guard felt their pride touched by the comments upon them, and
determined to take the first opportunity to vindicate their character
When we were within fifty miles of Springfield, it was ascertained
that the main force of the Rebels had moved southward, leaving behind
them some two or three thousand men. General Fremont ordered a cavalry
force, including the Body-Guard, to advance upon the town. On reaching
Springfield the cavalry made a gallant charge upon the Rebel camp,
which was situated in a large field, bordered by a wood, within sight
of the court-house.
In this assault the loss of our forces, in proportion to the number
engaged, was quite severe, but the enemy was put to flight, and the
town occupied for a few hours. We gained nothing of a material nature,
as the Rebels would have quietly evacuated Springfield at the approach
of our main army. The courage of the Body-Guard, which no sensible
man had doubted, was fully evinced by this gallant but useless charge.
When the fight was over, the colonel in command ordered a retreat of
twenty miles, to meet the advance of the army.
A corporal with a dozen men became separated from the command while
in Springfield, and remained there until the following morning. He
received a flag of truce from the Rebels, asking permission to send
a party to bury the dead. He told the bearer to wait until he could
consult his "general," who was supposed to be lying down in the
back office. The "general" replied that his "division" was too much
exasperated to render it prudent for a delegation from the enemy to
enter town, and therefore declined to grant the request. At the same
time he promised to send out strong details to attend to the sad duty.
At sunrise he thought it best to follow the movements of his superior
officer, lest the Rebels might discover his ruse and effect his
Two days after the charge of the Body-Guard, the advance of the
infantry entered Springfield without the slightest opposition. The
army gradually came up, and the occupation of the key of Southwest
Missouri was completed. The Rebel army fell back toward the Arkansas
line, to meet a force supposed to be marching northward from
Fayetteville. There was little expectation that the Rebels would
seek to engage us. The only possible prospect of their assuming the
offensive was in the event of a junction between Price and McCulloch,
rendering them numerically superior to ourselves.
During our occupation of Springfield I paid a visit to the Wilson
Creek battle-ground. It was eleven weeks from the day I had left it.
Approaching the field, I was impressed by its stillness, so different
from the tumult on the 10th of the previous August. It was difficult
to realize that the spot, now so quiet, had been the scene of a
sanguinary contest. The rippling of the creek, and the occasional
chirp of a bird, were the only noises that came to our ears. There was
no motion of the air, not enough to disturb the leaves freshly fallen
from the numerous oak-trees on the battle-field. At each step I could
but contrast the cool, calm, Indian-summer day, with the hot, August
morning, when the battle took place.
All sounds of battle were gone, but the traces of the encounter had
not disappeared. As we followed the route leading to the field, I
turned from the beaten track and rode among the trees. Ascending a
slight acclivity, I found my horse half-stumbling over some object
between his feet. Looking down, I discovered a human skull, partly
covered by the luxuriant grass. At a little distance lay the
dismembered skeleton to which the skull evidently belonged. It was
doubtless that of some soldier who had crawled there while wounded,
and sunk exhausted at the foot of a tree. The bits of clothing
covering the ground showed that either birds or wild animals had been
busy with the remains. Not far off lay another skeleton, disturbed and
dismembered like the other.
Other traces of the conflict were visible, as I moved slowly over the
field. Here were scattered graves, each for a single person; there a
large grave, that had received a dozen bodies of the slain. Here were
fragments of clothing and equipments, pieces of broken weapons; the
shattered wheel of a caisson, and near it the exploded shell that
destroyed it. Skeletons of horses, graves of men, scarred trees,
trampled graves, the ruins of the burned wagons of the Rebels,
all formed their portion of the picture. It well illustrated the
desolation of war.
The spot where General Lyon fell was marked by a rude inscription upon
the nearest tree. The skeleton of the general's favorite horse lay
near this tree, and had been partially broken up by relic-seekers. The
long, glossy mane was cut off by the Rebel soldiers on the day after
the battle, and worn by them as a badge of honor. Subsequently the
teeth and bones were appropriated by both Rebels and Unionists. Even
the tree that designated the locality was partially stripped of its
limbs to furnish souvenirs of Wilson Creek.
During the first few days of our stay in Springfield, there were vague
rumors that the army was preparing for a long march into the enemy's
country. The Rebel army was reported at Cassville, fifty-five miles
distant, fortifying in a strong position. General Price and Governor
Jackson had convened the remnant of the Missouri Legislature, and
caused the State to be voted out of the Union. It was supposed we
would advance and expel the Rebels from the State.
While we were making ready to move, it was reported that the Rebel
army at Cassville had received large re-enforcements from Arkansas, and
was moving in our direction. Of course, all were anxious for a battle,
and hailed this intelligence with delight. At the same time there
were rumors of trouble from another direction--trouble to the
commander-in-chief. The vague reports of his coming decapitation were
followed by the arrival, on the 2d of November, of the unconditional
order removing General Fremont from command, and appointing General
Hunter in his stead.
Just before the reception of this order, "positive" news was received
that the enemy was advancing from Cassville toward Springfield, and
would either attack us in the town, or meet us on the ground south
of it. General Hunter had not arrived, and therefore General Fremont
formed his plan of battle, and determined on marching out to meet the
On the morning of the 3d, the scouts brought intelligence that the
entire Rebel army was in camp on the old Wilson Creek battle-ground,
and would fight us there. A council of war was called, and it was
decided to attack the enemy on the following morning, if General
Hunter did not arrive before that time. Some of the officers were
suspicious that the Rebels were not in force at Wilson Creek, but when
Fremont announced it officially there could be little room for doubt.
Every thing was put in readiness for battle. Generals of division were
ordered to be ready to move at a moment's notice. The pickets were
doubled, and the grand guards increased to an unusual extent. Four
pieces of artillery formed a portion of the picket force on the
Fayetteville road, the direct route to Wilson Creek. If an enemy had
approached on that night he would have met a warm reception.
About seven o'clock in the evening, a staff officer, who kept the
journalists informed of the progress of affairs, visited General
Fremont's head-quarters. He soon emerged with important intelligence.
"It is all settled. The army is ready to move at the instant. Orders
will be issued at two o'clock, and we will be under way before
daylight. Skirmishing will begin at nine, and the full battle will be
drawn on at twelve."
"Is the plan arranged?"
"Yes, it is all arranged; but I did not ask how."
"Battle sure to come off--is it?"
"Certainly, unless Hunter comes and countermands the order."
Alas, for human calculations! General Hunter arrived before midnight.
Two o'clock came, but no orders to break camp. Daylight, and no orders
to march. Breakfast-time, and not a hostile shot had been heard. Nine
o'clock, and no skirmish. Twelve o'clock, and no battle.
General Fremont and staff returned to St. Louis. General Hunter made
a reconnoissance to Wilson Creek, and ascertained that the only enemy
that had been in the vicinity was a scouting party of forty or fifty
men. At the time we were to march out, there was not a Rebel on the
ground. Their whole army was still at Cassville, fifty-five miles from
On the 9th of November the army evacuated Springfield and returned to
the line of the Pacific Railway.
General Fremont's scouts had deceived him. Some of these individuals
were exceedingly credulous, while others were liars of the highest
grade known to civilization. The former obtained their information
from the frightened inhabitants; the latter manufactured theirs with
the aid of vivid imaginations. I half suspect the fellows were like
the showman in the story, and, at length, religiously believed what
they first designed as a hoax. Between the two classes of scouts a
large army of Rebels was created.
The scouting service often develops characters of a peculiar mould.
Nearly every man engaged in it has some particular branch in which he
excels. There was one young man accompanying General Fremont's army,
whose equal, as a special forager, I have never seen elsewhere.
Whenever we entered camp, this individual, whom I will call the
captain, would take a half-dozen companions and start on a foraging
tour. After an absence of from four to six hours, he would return
well-laden with the spoils of war. On one occasion he brought to camp
three horses, two cows, a yoke of oxen, and a wagon. In the latter
he had a barrel of sorghum molasses, a firkin of butter, two sheep, a
pair of fox-hounds, a hoop-skirt, a corn-sheller, a baby's cradle, a
lot of crockery, half a dozen padlocks, two hoes, and a rocking-chair.
On the next night he returned with a family carriage drawn by a horse
and a mule. In the carriage he had, among other things, a parrot-cage
which contained a screaming parrot, several pairs of ladies' shoes,
a few yards of calico, the stock of an old musket, part of a
spinning-wheel, and a box of garden seeds. In what way these things
would contribute to the support of the army, it was difficult to
On one occasion the captain found a trunk full of clothing, concealed
with a lot of salt in a Rebel warehouse. He brought the trunk to camp,
and, as the quartermaster refused to receive it, took it to St. Louis
when the expedition returned. At the hotel where he was stopping, some
detectives were watching a suspected thief, and, by mistake, searched
the captain's room. They found a trunk containing thirteen coats
of all sizes, with no pants or vests. Naturally considering this a
strange wardrobe for a gentleman, they took the captain into custody.
He protested earnestly that he was not, and had never been, a thief,
but it was only on the testimony of the quartermaster that he was
released. I believe he subsequently acted as a scout under General
Halleck, during the siege of Corinth.
After the withdrawal of our army, General Price returned to
Springfield and went into winter-quarters. McCulloch's command formed
a cantonment at Cross Hollows, Arkansas, about ninety miles southwest
of Springfield. There was no prospect of further activity until the
ensuing spring. Every thing betokened rest.
From Springfield I returned to St. Louis by way of Rolla, designing
to follow the example of the army, and seek a good locality for
hibernating. On my way to Rolla I found many houses deserted, or
tenanted only by women and children. Frequently the crops were
standing, ungathered, in the field. Fences were prostrated, and there
was no effort to restore them. The desolation of that region was just
TWO MONTHS OF IDLENESS.
A Promise Fulfilled.--Capture of a Rebel Camp and Train.--Rebel
Sympathizers in St. Louis.--General Halleck and his Policy.--Refugees
from Rebeldom.--Story of the Sufferings of a Union Family.--Chivalry
in the Nineteenth Century.--The Army of the Southwest in
Motion.--Gun-Boats and Transports.--Capture of Fort Henry.--The Effect
in St. Louis.--Our Flag Advancing.
Early in the December following the events narrated in the last
chapter, General Pope captured a camp in the interior of the State,
where recruits were being collected for Price's army. After the return
of Fremont's army from Springfield, the Rebels boasted they would eat
their Christmas dinner in St. Louis. Many Secessionists were
making preparations to receive Price and his army, and some of them
prophesied the time of their arrival. It was known that a goodly
number of Rebel flags had been made ready to hang out when the
conquerors should come. Sympathizers with the Rebellion became bold,
and often displayed badges, rosettes, and small flags, indicative of
their feelings. Recruiting for the Rebel army went on, very quietly,
of course, within a hundred yards of the City Hall. At a fair for
the benefit of the Orphan Asylum, the ladies openly displayed Rebel
insignia, but carefully excluded the National emblems.
This was the state of affairs when eight hundred Rebels arrived in St.
Louis. They redeemed their promise to enjoy a Christmas dinner in St.
Louis, though they had counted upon more freedom than they were then
able to obtain. In order that they might carry out, in part, their
original intention, their kind-hearted jailers permitted the friends
of the prisoners to send a dinner to the latter on Christmas Day. The
prisoners partook of the repast with much relish.
The capture of those recruits was accompanied by the seizure of a
supply train on its way to Springfield. Our success served to diminish
the Rebel threats to capture St. Louis, or perform other great and
chivalric deeds. The inhabitants of that city continued to prophesy
its fall, but they were less defiant than before.
General Fremont commanded the Western Department for just a hundred
days. General Hunter, his successor, was dressed in brief authority
for fifteen days, and yielded to General Halleck. The latter officer
endeavored to make his rule as unlike that of General Fremont as could
well be done. He quietly made his head-quarters at the Government
Buildings, in the center of St. Louis, instead of occupying a
"palatial mansion" on Chouteau Avenue. The body-guard, or other
cumbersome escort, was abolished, and the new general moved unattended
about the city. Where General Fremont had scattered the Government
funds with a wasteful hand, General Halleck studied economy. Where
Fremont had declared freedom to the slaves of traitors, Halleck issued
his famous "Order No. 3," forbidding fugitive slaves to enter our
lines, and excluding all that were then in the military camps. Where
General Fremont had surrounded his head-quarters with so great a
retinue of guards that access was almost impossible, General Halleck
made it easy for all visitors to see him. He generally gave them such
a reception that few gentlemen felt inclined to make a second call.
The policy of scattering the military forces in the department was
abandoned, and a system of concentration adopted. The construction
of the gun-boat fleet, and accompanying mortar-rafts, was vigorously
pushed, and preparations for military work in the ensuing spring went
on in all directions. Our armies were really idle, and we were doing
very little on the Mississippi; but it was easy to see that we were
making ready for the most vigorous activity in the future.
In the latter part of December many refugees from the Southwest began
to arrive in St. Louis. In most cases they were of the poorer class of
the inhabitants of Missouri and Northern Arkansas, and had been driven
from their homes by their wealthier and disloyal neighbors. Their
stories varied little from each other. Known or suspected to be loyal,
they were summarily expelled, generally with the loss of every thing,
save a few articles of necessity. There were many women and children
among them, whose protectors had been driven into the Rebel ranks, or
murdered in cold blood. Many of them died soon after they reached our
lines, and there were large numbers who perished on their way.
Among those who arrived early in January, 1862, was a man from
Northern Arkansas. Born in Pennsylvania, he emigrated to the Southwest
in 1830, and, after a few years' wandering, settled near Fayetteville.
When the war broke out, he had a small farm and a comfortable house,
and his two sons were married and living near him.
In the autumn of '61, his elder son was impressed into the Rebel
service, where he soon died. The younger was ordered to report at
Fayetteville, for duty. Failing to do so on the day specified, he was
shot down in his own house on the following night. His body fell upon
one of his children standing near him, and his blood saturated its
The day following, the widow, with two small children, was notified
to leave the dwelling, as orders had been issued for its destruction.
Giving her no time to remove any thing, the Rebel soldiers, claiming
to act under military command, fired the house. In this party were two
persons who had been well acquainted with the murdered man. The widow
sought shelter with her husband's parents.
The widow of the elder son went to the same place of refuge. Thus
there were living, under one roof, the old man, his wife, a daughter
of seventeen, and the two widows, one with two, and the other with
three, children. A week afterward, all were commanded to leave the
country. No cause was assigned, beyond the fact that the man was
born in the North, and had been harboring the family of his son, who
refused to serve in the Rebel ranks. They were told they could have
two days for preparation, but within ten hours of the time the notice
was served, a gang of Rebels appeared at the door, and ordered an
They made a rigid search of the persons of the refugees, to be sure
they took away nothing of value. Only a single wagon was allowed, and
in this were placed a few articles of necessity. As they moved away,
the Rebels applied the torch to the house and its out-buildings. In
a few moments all were in flames. The house of the elder son's widow
shared the same fete.
They were followed to the Missouri line, and ordered to make no halt
under penalty of death. It was more than two hundred miles to our
lines, and winter was just beginning. One after another fell ill and
died, or was left with Union people along the way. Only four of the
party reached our army at Rolla. Two of these died a few days after
their arrival, leaving only a young child and its grandfather. At St.
Louis the survivors were kindly cared for, but the grief at leaving
home, the hardships of the winter journey, and their destitution among
strangers, had so worn upon them that they soon followed the other
members of their family.
There have been thousands of cases nearly parallel to the above. The
Rebels claimed to be fighting for political freedom, and charged the
National Government with the most unheard-of "tyranny." We can well
be excused for not countenancing a political freedom that kills men
at their firesides, and drives women and children to seek protection
under another flag. We have heard much, in the past twenty years, of
"Southern chivalry." If the deeds of which the Rebels were guilty
are characteristic of chivalry, who would wish to be a son of the
Cavaliers? The insignia worn in the Middle Ages are set aside, to
make room for the torch and the knife. The chivalry that deliberately
starves its prisoners, to render them unable to return to the field,
and sends blood-hounds on the track of those who attempt an escape
from their hands, is the chivalry of modern days. Winder is the
Coeur-de-Leon, and Quantrel the Bayard, of the nineteenth century;
knights "without fear and without reproach."
Early in January, the Army of the Southwest, under General Curtis,
was put in condition for moving. Orders were issued cutting down
the allowance of transportation, and throwing away every thing
superfluous. Colonel Carr, with a cavalry division, was sent to the
line of the Gasconade, to watch the movements of the enemy. It was the
preliminary to the march into Arkansas, which resulted in the
battle of Pea Ridge and the famous campaign of General Curtis from
Springfield to Helena.
As fast as possible, the gun-boat fleet was pushed to completion. One
after another, as the iron-clads were ready to move, they made their
rendezvous at Cairo. Advertisements of the quartermaster's department,
calling for a large number of transports, showed that offensive
movements were to take place. In February, Fort Henry fell, after an
hour's shelling from Admiral Foote's gun-boats. This opened the way up
the Tennessee River to a position on the flank of Columbus, Kentucky,
and was followed by the evacuation of that point.
I was in St. Louis on the day the news of the fall of Fort Henry was
received. The newspapers issued "extras," with astonishing head-lines.
It was the first gratifying intelligence after a long winter of
inactivity, following a year which, closed with general reverses to
In walking the principal streets of St. Louis on that occasion, I
could easily distinguish the loyal men of my acquaintance from the
disloyal, at half a square's distance. The former were excited with
delight; the latter were downcast with sorrow. The Union men walked
rapidly, with, faces "wreathed in smiles;" the Secessionists moved
with alternate slow and quick steps, while their countenances
expressed all the sad emotions.
The newsboys with the tidings of our success were patronized by
the one and repelled by the other. I saw one of the venders of
intelligence enter the store of a noted Secessionist, where he shouted
the nature of the news at the highest note of his voice. A
moment later he emerged from the door, bringing the impress of a
The day and the night witnessed much hilarity in loyal circles, and a
corresponding gloom in quarters where treason ruled. I fear there
were many men in St. Louis whose conduct was no recommendation to the
membership of a temperance society.
All felt that a new era had dawned upon us. Soon after came the
tidings of a general advance of our armies. We moved in Virginia,
and made the beginning of the checkered campaign of '62. Along the
Atlantic coast we moved, and Newbern fell into our hands. Further
down the Atlantic, and at the mouth of the Mississippi, we kept up
the aggression. Grant, at Donelson, "moved immediately upon Buckner's
works;" and, in Kentucky, the Army of the Ohio occupied Bowling Green
and prepared to move upon Nashville. In Missouri, Curtis had
already occupied Lebanon, and was making ready to assault Price at
Springfield. Everywhere our flag was going forward.
ANOTHER CAMPAIGN IN MISSOURI.
From St. Louis to Rolla.--A Limited Outfit.--Missouri Roads in
Winter.--"Two Solitary Horsemen."--Restricted Accommodations in a
Slaveholder's House.--An Energetic Quartermaster.--General Sheridan
before he became Famous.--"Bagging Price."--A Defect in the
Bag.--Examining the Correspondence of a Rebel General.--What the
Rebels left at their Departure.
On the 9th of February I left St. Louis to join General Curtis's army.
Arriving at Rolla, I found the mud very deep, but was told the roads
were in better condition a few miles to the west. With an _attache_
of the Missouri _Democrat_, I started, on the morning of the 10th, to
overtake the army, then reported at Lebanon, sixty-five miles distant.
All my outfit for a two or three months' campaign, was strapped behind
my saddle, or crowded into my saddle-bags. Traveling with a trunk
is one of the delights unknown to army correspondents, especially
to those in the Southwest. My companion carried an outfit similar to
mine, with the exception of the saddle-bags and contents. I returned
to Rolla eight weeks afterward, but he did not reach civilization till
the following July.
From Rolla to Lebanon the roads were bad--muddy in the valleys of
the streams, and on the higher ground frozen into inequalities like a
Over this route our army of sixteen thousand men had slowly made its
way, accomplishing what was then thought next to impossible. I found
the country had changed much in appearance since I passed through on
my way to join General Lyon. Many houses had been burned and others
deserted. The few people that remained confessed themselves almost
destitute of food. Frequently we could not obtain entertainment
for ourselves and horses, particularly the latter. The natives
were suspicious of our character, as there was nothing in our
dress indicating to which side we belonged. At such times the
cross-questioning we underwent was exceedingly amusing, though coupled
with the knowledge that our lives were not entirely free from danger.
From Lebanon we pushed on to Springfield, through a keen, piercing
wind, that swept from the northwest with unremitting steadiness. The
night between those points was passed in a log-house with a single
room, where ourselves and the family of six persons were lodged. In
the bitter cold morning that followed, it was necessary to open the
door to give us sufficient light to take breakfast, as the house could
not boast of a window. The owner of the establishment said he had
lived there eighteen years, and found it very comfortable. He tilled a
small farm, and had earned sufficient money to purchase three slaves,
who dwelt in a similar cabin, close beside his own, but not joining
it. One of these slaves was cook and housemaid, and another found the
care of four children enough for her attention. The third was a man
upward of fifty years old, who acted as stable-keeper, and manager of
the out-door work of the establishment.
The situation of this landholder struck me as peculiar, though his
case was not a solitary one. A house of one room and with no window, a
similar house for his human property, and a stable rudely constructed
of small poles, with its sides offering as little protection against
the wind and storms as an ordinary fence, were the only buildings
he possessed. His furniture was in keeping with the buildings. Beds
without sheets, a table without a cloth, some of the plates of tin and
others of crockery--the former battered and the latter cracked--a less
number of knives and forks than there were persons to be supplied, tin
cups for drinking coffee, an old fruit-can for a sugar-bowl, and two
teaspoons for the use of a large family, formed the most noticeable
features. With such surroundings he had invested three thousand
dollars in negro property, and considered himself comfortably
Reaching Springfield, I found the army had passed on in pursuit of
Price, leaving only one brigade as a garrison. The quartermaster
of the Army of the Southwest had his office in one of the principal
buildings, and was busily engaged in superintending the forwarding
of supplies to the front. Every thing under his charge received his
personal attention, and there was no reason to suppose the army would
lack for subsistence, so long as he should remain to supply its wants.
Presenting him a letter of introduction, I received a most cordial
welcome. I found him a modest and agreeable gentleman, whose private
excellence was only equaled by his energy in the performance of his
This quartermaster was Captain Philip H. Sheridan. The double bars
that marked his rank at that time, have since been exchanged for other
insignia. The reader is doubtless familiar with the important
part taken by this gallant officer, in the suppression of the late
General Curtis had attempted to surround and capture Price and his
army, before they could escape from Springfield. Captain Sheridan told
me that General Curtis surrounded the town on one side, leaving two
good roads at the other, by which the Rebels marched out. Our advance
from Lebanon was as rapid as the circumstances would permit, but it
was impossible to keep the Rebels in ignorance of it, or detain
them against their will. One of the many efforts to "bag" Price had
resulted like all the others. We closed with the utmost care every
part of the bag except the mouth; out of this he walked by the
simple use of his pedals. Operations like those of Island Number Ten,
Vicksburg, and Port Hudson, were not then in vogue.
Price was in full retreat toward Arkansas, and our army in hot
pursuit. General Sigel, with two full divisions, marched by a road
parallel to the line of Price's retreat, and attempted to get in his
front at a point forty miles from Springfield. His line of march was
ten miles longer than the route followed by the Rebels, and he did not
succeed in striking the main road until Price had passed.
I had the pleasure of going through General Price's head-quarters only
two days after that officer abandoned them. There was every evidence
of a hasty departure. I found, among other documents, the following
order for the evacuation of Springfield:--
HEAD-QUARTERS MISSOURI STATE GUARD,
SPRINGFIELD, _February_ 13, 1862.
The commanders of divisions will instanter, and without
the least delay, see that their entire commands are
ready for movement at a moment's notice.
By order of Major-General S. Price.
H.H. Brand, A.A.G.
There was much of General Price's private correspondence, together
with many official documents. Some of these I secured, but destroyed
them three weeks later, at a moment when I expected to fall into the
hands of the enemy. One letter, which revealed the treatment Union men
were receiving in Arkansas, I forwarded to _The Herald_. I reproduce
its material portions:--
DOVER, POPE CO., ARKANSAS, _December_ 7, 1861.
I wish to obtain a situation as surgeon in your army. * * * Our men
over the Boston Mountains are penning and hanging the mountain
boys who oppose Southern men. They have in camp thirty, and in the
Burrowville jail seventy-two, and have sent twenty-seven to Little
Rock. We will kill all we get, certain: every one is so many less. I
hope you will soon get help enough to clear out the last one in your
State. If you know them, they ought to be killed, as the older they
grow the more stubborn they get.
Your most obedient servant,
JAMES L. ADAMS.
In his departure, General Price had taken most of his personal
property of any value. He left a very good array of desks and other
appurtenances of his adjutant-general's office, which fell into
General Curtis's hands. These articles were at once put into use by
our officers, and remained in Springfield as trophies of our success.
There was some war _materiel_ at the founderies and temporary arsenals
which the Rebels had established. One store full of supplies they left
undisturbed. It was soon appropriated by Captain Sheridan.
The winter-quarters for the soldiers were sufficiently commodious to
contain ten thousand men, and the condition in which we found them
showed how hastily they were evacuated. Very little had been removed
from the buildings, except those articles needed for the march. We
found cooking utensils containing the remains of the last meal, pans
with freshly-mixed dough, on which the impression of the maker's hand
was visible, and sheep and hogs newly killed and half dressed. In the
officers' quarters was a beggarly array of empty bottles, and a few
cases that had contained cigars. One of our soldiers was fortunate in
finding a gold watch in the straw of a bunk. There were cribs of corn,
stacks of forage, and a considerable quantity of army supplies. Every
thing evinced a hasty departure.
THE FLIGHT AND THE PURSUIT.
From Springfield to Pea Ridge.--Mark Tapley in Missouri.--"The
Arkansas Traveler."--Encountering the Rebel Army.--A "Wonderful
Spring."--The Cantonment at Cross Hollows.--Game Chickens.--Magruder
_vs_. Breckinridge.--Rebel Generals in a Controversy.--Its Result.--An
Expedition to Huntsville.--Curiosities of Rebel Currency.--Important
Information.--A Long and Weary March.--Disposition of Forces before
the Battle.--Changing Front.--What the Rebels lost by Ignorance.
When it became certain the army would continue its march into
Arkansas, myself and the _Democrat's_ correspondent pushed forward
to overtake it. Along the road we learned of the rapid retreat of the
Rebels, and the equally rapid pursuit by our own forces. About twenty
miles south of Springfield one of the natives came to his door to
greet us. Learning to which army we belonged, he was very voluble in
his efforts to explain the consternation of the Rebels. A half-dozen
of his neighbors were by his side, and joined in the hilarity of the
occasion. I saw that something more than usual was the cause of their
assembling, and inquired what it could be.
"My wife died this morning, and my friends have come here to see me,"
was the answer I received from the proprietor of the house.
Almost at the instant of completing the sentence, he burst into a
laugh, and said,
"It would have done you good to see how your folks captured a big
drove of Price's cattle. The Rebs were driving them along all right,
and your cavalry just came up and took them. It was rich, I tell you.
Not knowing what condolence to offer a man who could be so gay after
the death of his wife, I bade him good-morning, and pushed on. He
had not, as far as I could perceive, the single excuse of being
intoxicated, and his display of vivacity appeared entirely genuine. In
all my travels I have never met his equal.
Up to the time of this campaign none of our armies had been into
Arkansas. When General Curtis approached the line, the head of the
column was halted, the regiments closed up, and the men brought their
muskets to the "right shoulder shift," instead of the customary "at
will" of the march. Two bands were sent to the front, where a small
post marked the boundary, and were stationed by the roadside, one in
either State. Close by them the National flag was unfurled. The bands
struck up "The Arkansas Traveler," the order to advance was given,
and, with many cheers in honor of the event, the column moved onward.
For several days "The Arkansas Traveler" was exceedingly popular with
the entire command. On the night after crossing the line the news of
the fall of Fort Donelson was received.
Soon after entering Arkansas on his retreat, General Price met General
McCulloch moving northward to join him. With their forces united, they
determined on making a stand against General Curtis, and, accordingly,
halted near Sugar Creek. A little skirmish ensued, in which the Rebels
gave way, the loss on either side being trifling. They did not stop
until they reached Fayetteville. Their halt at that point was very
At Cross Hollows, in Benton County, Arkansas, about two miles from
the main road, there is one of the finest springs in the Southwest. It
issues from the base of a rocky ledge, where the ravine is about three
hundred yards wide, and forms the head of a large brook. Two small
flouring mills are run during the entire year by the water from this
spring. The water is at all times clear, cold, and pure, and is said
never to vary in quantity.
Along the stream fed by this spring, the Rebels had established a
cantonment for the Army of Northern Arkansas, and erected houses
capable of containing ten or twelve thousand men. The cantonment
was laid out with the regularity of a Western city. The houses were
constructed of sawed lumber, and provided with substantial brick
Of course, this establishment was abandoned when the Rebel army
retreated. The buildings were set on fire, and all but a half-dozen of
them consumed. When our cavalry reached the place, the rear-guard of
the Rebels had been gone less than half an hour. There were about
two hundred chickens running loose among the burning buildings. Our
soldiers commenced killing them, and had slaughtered two-thirds of
the lot when one of the officers discovered that they were game-cocks.
This class of chickens not being considered edible, the killing was
stopped and the balance of the flock saved. Afterward, while we lay in
camp, they were made a source of much amusement. The cock-fights that
took place in General Curtis's army would have done honor to Havana or
Vera Cruz. Before we captured them the birds were the property of the
officers of a Louisiana regiment. We gave them the names of the Rebel
leaders. It was an every-day affair for Beauregard, Van Dorn, and
Price to be matched against Lee, Johnston, and Polk. I remember losing
a small wager on Magruder against Breckinridge. I should have won if
Breck had not torn the feathers from Mac's neck, and injured his right
wing by a foul blow. I never backed Magruder after that.
From Cross Hollows, General Curtis sent a division in pursuit of
Price's army, in its retreat through Fayetteville, twenty-two miles
distant. On reaching the town they found the Rebels had left in the
direction of Fort Smith. The pursuit terminated at this point. It had
been continued for a hundred and ten miles--a large portion of the
distance our advance being within a mile or two of the Rebel rear.
In retreating from Fayetteville, the Rebels were obliged to abandon
much of the supplies for their army. A serious quarrel is reported
to have taken place between Price and McCulloch, concerning the
disposition to be made of these supplies. The former was in favor
of leaving the large amount of stores, of which, bacon was the chief
article, that it might fall into our hands. He argued that we had
occupied the country, and would stay there until driven out. Our army
would be subsisted at all hazards. If we found this large quantity of
bacon, it would obviate the necessity of our foraging upon the country
and impoverishing the inhabitants.
General McCulloch opposed this policy, and accused Price of a desire
to play into the enemy's hands. The quarrel became warm, and resulted
in the discomfiture of the latter. All the Rebel warehouses were set
on fire. When our troops entered Fayetteville the conflagration was at
its height. It resulted as Price had predicted. The inhabitants were
compelled, in great measure, to support our army.
The Rebels retreated across the Boston Mountains to Fort Smith, and
commenced a reorganization of their army. Our army remained at Cross
Hollows as its central point, but threw out its wings so as to form
a front nearly five miles in extent. Small expeditions were sent in
various directions to break up Rebel camps and recruiting stations.
In this way two weeks passed with little activity beyond a careful
observation of the enemy's movements. There were several flouring
mills in the vicinity of our camp, which were kept in constant
activity for the benefit of the army.
I accompanied an expedition, commanded by Colonel Vandever, of the
Ninth Iowa, to the town of Huntsville, thirty-five miles distant. Our
march occupied two days, and resulted in the occupation of the town
and the dispersal of a small camp of Rebels. We had no fighting,
scarcely a shot being fired in anger. The inhabitants did not greet us
very cordially, though some of them professed Union sentiments.
In this town of Huntsville, the best friend of the Union was the
keeper of a whisky-shop. This man desired to look at some of our
money, but declined to take it. An officer procured a canteen of
whisky and tendered a Treasury note in payment. The note was refused,
with a request for either gold or Rebel paper.
The officer then exhibited a large sheet of "promises to pay," which
he had procured in Fayetteville a few days before, and asked how they
"That is just what I want," said the whisky vender.
The officer called his attention to the fact that the notes had no
"That don't make any difference," was the reply; "nobody will know
whether they are signed or not, and they are just as good, anyhow."
I was a listener to the conversation, and at this juncture proffered a
pair of scissors to assist in dividing the notes. It took but a short
time to cut off enough "money" to pay for twenty canteens of the worst
whisky I ever saw.
At Huntsville we made a few prisoners, who said they were on their
way from Price's army to Forsyth, Missouri. They gave us the important
information that the Rebel army, thirty thousand strong, was on the
Boston Mountains the day previous; and on the very day of our arrival
at Huntsville, it was to begin its advance toward our front. These
men, and some others, had been sent away because they had no weapons
with which to enter the fight.
Immediately on learning this, Colonel Vandever dispatched a courier
to General Curtis, and prepared to set out on his return to the main
army. We marched six miles before nightfall, and at midnight, while
we were endeavoring to sleep, a courier joined us from the
commander-in-chief. He brought orders for us to make our way back with
all possible speed, as the Rebel army was advancing in full force.
At two o'clock we broke camp, and, with only one halt of an hour,
made a forced march of forty-one miles, joining the main column at ten
o'clock at night. I doubt if there were many occasions during the
war where better marching was done by infantry than on that day.
Of course, the soldiers were much fatigued, but were ready, on the
following day, to take active part in the battle.
On the 5th of March, as soon as General Curtis learned of the Rebel
advance, he ordered General Sigel, who was in camp at Bentonville, to
fall back to Pea Ridge, on the north bank of Sugar Creek. At the
same time he withdrew Colonel Jeff. C. Davis's Division to the same
locality. This placed the army in a strong, defensible position, with
the creek in its front. On the ridge above the stream our artillery
and infantry were posted.
The Rebel armies under Price and McCulloch had been united and
strongly re-enforced, the whole being under the command of General Van
Dorn. Their strength was upward of twenty thousand men, and they were
confident of their ability to overpower us. Knowing our strong front
line, General Van Dorn decided upon a bold movement, and threw himself
around our right flank to a position between us and our base at
In moving to our right and rear, the Rebels encountered General
Sigel's Division before it had left Bentonville, and kept up a running
fight during the afternoon of the 6th. Several times the Rebels, in
small force, secured positions in Sigel's front, but that officer
succeeded in cutting his way through and reaching the main force, with
a loss of less than a hundred men.
The position of the enemy at Bentonville showed us his intentions,
and we made our best preparations to oppose him. Our first step was
to obstruct the road from Bentonville to our rear, so as to retard
the enemy's movements. Colonel Dodge, of the Fourth Iowa (afterward
a major-general), rose from a sick-bed to perform this work. The
impediments which he placed in the way of the Rebels prevented their
reaching the road in our rear until nine o'clock on the morning of the
Our next movement was to reverse our position. We had been facing
south--it was now necessary to face to the north. The line that had
been our rear became our front. A change of front implied that our
artillery train should take the place of the supply train, and _vice
versa_. "Elkhorn Tavern" had been the quartermaster's depot. We made
all haste to substitute artillery for baggage-wagons, and boxes of
ammunition for boxes of hard bread. This transfer was not accomplished
before the battle began, and as our troops were pressed steadily back
on our new front, Elkhorn Tavern fell into the hands of the Rebels.
The sugar, salt, and bread which they captured, happily not of large
quantity, were very acceptable, and speedily disappeared. Among the
quartermaster's stores was a wagon-load of desiccated vegetables, a
very valuable article for an army in the field. All expected it would
be made into soup and eaten by the Rebels. What was our astonishment
to find, two days later, that they had opened and examined a single
case, and, after scattering its contents on the ground, left the
Elkhorn Tavern was designated by a pair of elk-horns, which occupied a
conspicuous position above the door. After the battle these horns were
removed by Colonel Carr, and sent to his home in Illinois, as trophies
of the victory.
A family occupied the building at the time of the battle, and remained
there during the whole contest. When the battle raged most fiercely
the cellar proved a place of refuge. Shells tore through the house,
sometimes from the National batteries, and sometimes from Rebel guns.
One shell exploded in a room where three women were sitting. Though
their clothes were torn by the flying fragments, they escaped without
personal injury. They announced their determination not to leave home
so long as the house remained standing.
Among other things captured at Elkhorn Tavern by the Rebels, was
a sutler's wagon, which, had just arrived from St. Louis. In the
division of the spoils, a large box, filled with wallets, fell to the
lot of McDonald's Battery. For several weeks the officers and privates
of this battery could boast of a dozen wallets each, while very few
had any money to carry. The Rebel soldiers complained that the visits
of the paymaster were like those of angels.
THE BATTLE OF PEA RIDGE.
The Rebels make their Attack.--Albert Pike and his Indians.--Scalping
Wounded Men.--Death of General McCulloch.--The Fighting at Elkhorn
Tavern.--Close of a Gloomy Day.--An Unpleasant Night.--Vocal Sounds
from a Mule's Throat.--Sleeping under Disadvantages.--A Favorable
Morning.--The Opposing Lines of Battle.--A Severe Cannonade.--The
Forest on Fire.--Wounded Men in the Flames.--The Rebels in
Retreat.--Movements of our Army.--A Journey to St. Louis.
About nine o'clock on the morning of the 7th, the Rebels made a
simultaneous attack on our left and front, formerly our right and
rear. General Price commanded the force on our front, and General
McCulloch that on our left; the former having the old Army of
Missouri, re-enforced by several Arkansas regiments, and the latter
having a corps made up of Arkansas, Texas, and Louisiana troops. They
brought into the fight upward of twenty thousand men, while we had not
over twelve thousand with which to oppose them.
The attack on our left was met by General Sigel and Colonel Davis.
That on our front was met by Colonel Carr's Division and the division
of General Asboth. On our left it was severe, though not long
maintained, the position we held being too strong for the enemy to
It was on this part of the line that the famous Albert Pike, the
lawyer-poet of Arkansas, brought his newly-formed brigades of
Indians into use. Pike was unfortunate with his Indians. While he
was arranging them in line, in a locality where the bushes were about
eight feet in height, the Indians made so much noise as to reveal
their exact position. One of our batteries was quietly placed within
point-blank range of the Indians, and suddenly opened upon them with
grape and canister. They gave a single yell, and scattered without
waiting for orders.
The Indians were not, as a body, again brought together during the
battle. In a charge which our cavalry made upon a Rebel brigade we
were repulsed, leaving several killed and wounded upon the ground.
Some of Pike's Indians, after their dispersal, came upon these, and
scalped the dead and living without distinction. A Rebel officer
subsequently informed me that the same Indians scalped several of
their own slain, and barbarously murdered some who had been only
On this part of the field we were fortunate, early in the day, in
killing General McCulloch and his best lieutenant, General McIntosh.
To this misfortune the Rebels have since ascribed their easy defeat.
At the time of this reverse to the enemy, General Van Dorn was with.
Price in our front. After their repulse and the death of their leader,
the discomfited Rebels joined their comrades in the front, who had
been more successful. It was nightfall before the two forces were
In our front, Colonel Carr's Division fought steadily and earnestly
during the entire day, but was pressed back fully two-thirds of a
mile. General Curtis gave it what re-enforcements he could, but there
were very few to be spared. When it was fully ascertained that the
Rebels on our left had gone to our front, we prepared to unite against
them. Our left was drawn in to re-enforce Colonel Carr, but the
movement was not completed until long after dark.
Thus night came. The rebels were in full possession of our
communications. We had repulsed them on the left, but lost ground,
guns, and men on our front. The Rebels were holding Elkhorn Tavern,
which we had made great effort to defend. Colonel Carr had repeatedly
wished for either night or re-enforcements. He obtained both.
The commanding officers visited General Curtis's head-quarters,
and received their orders for the morrow. Our whole force was to be
concentrated on our front. If the enemy did not attack us at daylight,
we would attack him as soon thereafter as practicable.
Viewed in its best light, the situation was somewhat gloomy. Mr.
Fayel, of the _Democrat_, and myself were the only journalists
with the army, and the cessation of the day's fighting found us
deliberating on our best course in case of a disastrous result. We
destroyed all documents that could give information to the enemy,
retaining only our note-books, and such papers as pertained to our
profession. With patience and resignation we awaited the events of the
I do not know that any of our officers expected we should be
overpowered, but there were many who thought such an occurrence
probable. The enemy was nearly twice as strong as we, and lay directly
between us and our base. If he could hold out till our ammunition was
exhausted, we should be compelled to lay down our arms. There was no
retreat for us. We must be victorious or we must surrender.
In camp, on that night, every thing was confusion. The troops that had
been on the left during the day were being transferred to the front.
The quartermaster was endeavoring to get his train in the least
dangerous place. The opposing lines were so near each other that our
men could easily hear the conversation of the Rebels. The night was
not severely cold; but the men, who were on the front, after a day's
fighting, found it quite uncomfortable. Only in the rear was it
thought prudent to build fires.
The soldiers of German birth were musical. Throughout the night I
repeatedly heard their songs. The soldiers of American parentage
were generally profane, and the few words I heard them utter were the
reverse of musical. Those of Irish origin combined the peculiarities
of both Germans and Americans, with their tendencies in favor of the
I sought a quiet spot within the limits of the camp, but could not
find it. Lying down in the best place available, I had just fallen
asleep when a mounted orderly rode his horse directly over me. I made
a mild remonstrance, but the man was out of hearing before I spoke.
Soon after, some one lighted a pipe and threw a coal upon my hand.
This drew from me a gentle request for a discontinuance of that
experiment. I believe it was not repeated. During the night Mr.
Fayel's beard took fire, and I was roused to assist in staying the
The vocal music around me was not calculated to encourage drowsiness.
Close at hand was the quartermaster's train, with the mules ready
harnessed for moving in any direction. These mules had not been fed
for two whole days, and it was more than thirty-six hours since they
had taken water. These facts were made known in the best language the
creatures possessed. The bray of a mule is never melodious, even when
the animal's throat is well moistened. When it is parched and dusty
the sound becomes unusually hoarse. Each hour added to the noise as
the thirst of the musicians increased. Mr. Fayel provoked a discussion
concerning the doctrine of the transmigration of souls; and thought,
in the event of its truth, that the wretch was to be pitied who should
pass into a mule in time of war.
With the dawn of day every one was astir. At sunrise I found our
line was not quite ready, though it was nearly so. General Curtis
was confident all would result successfully, and completed the few
arrangements then requiring attention. We had expected the Rebels
would open the attack; but they waited for us to do so. They deserved
many thanks for their courtesy. The smoke of the previous day's fight
still hung over the camp, and the sun rose through it, as through a
cloud. A gentle wind soon dissipated this smoke, and showed us a clear
sky overhead. The direction of the wind was in our favor.
The ground selected for deciding the fate of that day was a huge
cornfield, somewhat exceeding two miles in length and about half a
mile in width. The western extremity of this field rested upon the
ridge which gave name to the battle-ground. The great road from
Springfield to Fayetteville crossed this field about midway from the
eastern to the western end.
It was on this road that the two armies took their positions.
The lines were in the edge of the woods on opposite sides of the
field--the wings of the armies extending to either end. On the
northern side were the Rebels, on the southern was the National army.
Thus each army, sheltered by the forest, had a cleared space in its
front, affording a full view of the enemy.
[Illustration: SHELLING THE HILL AT PEA RIDGE.]
By half-past seven o'clock our line was formed and ready for action. A
little before eight o'clock the cannonade was opened. Our forces
were regularly drawn up in order of battle. Our batteries were placed
between the regiments as they stood in line. In the timber, behind
these regiments and batteries, were the brigades in reserve, ready
to be brought forward in case of need. At the ends of the line were
battalions of cavalry, stretching off to cover the wings, and give
notice of any attempt by the Rebels to move on our flanks. Every five
minutes the bugle of the extreme battalion would sound the signal
"All's well." The signal would be taken by the bugler of the next
battalion, and in this way carried down the line to the center. If
the Rebels had made any attempt to outflank us, we could hardly have
failed to discover it at once.
Our batteries opened; the Rebel batteries responded. Our gunners
proved the best, and our shot had the greatest effect. We had better
ammunition than that of our enemies, and thus reduced the disparity
caused by their excess of guns. Our cannonade was slow and careful;
theirs was rapid, and was made at random. At the end of two hours of
steady, earnest work, we could see that the Rebel line was growing
weaker, while our own was still unshaken. The work of the artillery
was winning us the victory.
In the center of the Rebel line was a rocky hill, eighty or a hundred
feet in height. The side which faced us was almost perpendicular, but
the slope to the rear was easy of ascent. On this hill the Rebels had
stationed two regiments of infantry and a battery of artillery. The
balance of their artillery lay at its base. General Curtis ordered
that the fire of all our batteries should be concentrated on this hill
at a given signal, and continued there for ten minutes. This was done.
At the same time our infantry went forward in a charge on the Rebel
infantry and batteries that stood in the edge of the forest. The
cleared field afforded fine opportunity for the movement.
The charge was successful. The Rebels fell back in disorder, leaving
three guns in our hands, and their dead and wounded scattered on the
ground. This was the end of the battle. We had won the victory at Pea
I followed our advancing forces, and ascended to the summit of the
elevation on which our last fire was concentrated. Wounded men were
gathered in little groups, and the dead were lying thick about them.
The range of our artillery had been excellent. Rocks, trees, and earth
attested the severity of our fire. This cannonade was the decisive
work of the day. It was the final effort of our batteries, and was
terrible while it lasted.
The shells, bursting among the dry leaves, had set the woods on fire,
and the flames were slowly traversing the ground where the battle had
raged. We made every effort to remove the wounded to places of safety,
before the fire should reach them. At that time we thought we had
succeeded. Late in the afternoon I found several wounded men lying in
secluded places, where they had been terribly burned, though they were
still alive. Very few of them survived.
Our loss in this battle was a tenth of our whole force. The enemy lost
more than we in numbers, though less in proportion to his strength.
His position, directly in our rear, would have been fatal to a
defeated army in many other localities. There were numerous small
roads, intersecting the great road at right angles. On these roads the
Rebels made their lines of retreat. Had we sent cavalry in pursuit,
the Rebels would have lost heavily in artillery and in their supply
train. As it was, they escaped without material loss, but they
suffered a defeat which ultimately resulted in our possession of all
The Rebels retreated across the Boston Mountains to Van Buren and Fort
Smith, and were soon ordered thence to join Beauregard at Corinth.
Our army moved to Keytsville, Missouri, several miles north of the
battle-ground, where the country was better adapted to foraging, and
more favorable to recuperating from the effects of the conflict.
From Keytsville it moved to Forsyth, a small town in Taney County,
Missouri, fifty miles from Springfield. Extending over a considerable
area, the army consumed whatever could be found in the vicinity. It
gave much annoyance to the Rebels by destroying the saltpeter works on
the upper portion of White River.
The saltpeter manufactories along the banks of this stream were of
great importance to the Rebels in the Southwest, and their destruction
seriously reduced the supplies of gunpowder in the armies of Arkansas
and Louisiana. Large quantities of the crude material were shipped
to Memphis and other points, in the early days of the war. At certain
seasons White River is navigable to Forsyth. The Rebels made every
possible use of their opportunities, as long as the stream remained in
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