This is a story of the war in the West, of the last campaign beyond the Mississippi; a campaign in whicha part of the Union troops and most of the Confederates marched over 1500 miles, beginning in torrid heat and ending in snow and zero cold; a campaign begun for politics and ending with dramatic coincidence on the day on which politics were finally swept out of the war in the defeat of McClellan and re-election of Lincoln; a campaign so disastrous to the enemy that from Iowa to the gulf peace prevailed during the remaining six months of the war.
In 1864 the Confederate "Trans-Mississippi Department" was commanded by Lieutenant-General Edmund Kirby Smith, with headquarters at Shreveport in the northwest corner of Louisiana. He had usually from 30,000 to 50,000 men within reach, and a plenty of supplies. He was a man aggressive in words, but not in acts, and so he always magnified his difficulties. But he was secure in his place because he was a favorite of Davis, one of the few who enjoyed that distinction. His department included Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, and the Territories. Having an ambition for administration he looked upon himself as a sort of governor-general of that region as well as its military general. And he must have had time enough for affairs of state; for, although he commanded the department more than two years, he neither originated a campaign nor marched upon one (except a short distance in repelling Banks) and the War Department at Richmond repeatedly complained that his dispatches were few and meager.
His camp was the rendezvous of all the political "lame ducks" of Missouri and Arkansas, the governors, congressmen, and other statesmen who couldn't stay at home because of the Yankees and who couldn't go into the army because their country would then suffer for lack of statesmanship. For, although Legislatures could not meet and elections could not be held in Missouri, Arkansas, or Louisiana during that time, these statesmen solemnly kept up, in one place or another, on one pretence or another, the hollow performance of their political functions. Even the holy doctrine of State rights did not prevent some of them from holding on to office. The State of Missouri voted against secession by a great majority, yet not one of its State-Righters" followed his State according to his true allegiance, " as the imposing phrase then ran. They followed its enemies and fled to other countries, where, under various fantastic theories, they persuaded themselves that they were holding the offices of Missouri - the "true" Missouri.
Before they went, however, they proclaimed their undying devotion to their people, their State, their institutions, and always their honor, in an infinite number of speeches, all filled with impassioned language, decorated with classic parallels, supported now and then by ingenious arguments, and closing with heroics and self-dedication. Some of the conceits of these logic-choppers are funny enough now. For an instance, when they got breath again after the adverse vote on secession (which vote, under the doctrine of State rights, of course clearly kept the State in the Union) they said that those who had voted against secession were not the true sons of Missouri and that the duty of the hour was to be true sons, that is, to go into or with the Confederate army; and the governor, the lieutenant-governor, the general commanding the State militia, and some of the members of the Legislature promptly did so.
That idea seems absurd enough, but it is outdone by others that sprang from these feverish brains. Safe within the lines of the Confederate army in the wilds of the Ozark Mountains, the faithful Governor, Claiborne F. Jackson, invented a dazzling scheme for the salvation of his people. Seeing that he could not bring about a convention or a Congress or a session of the Legislature, because his orders would not be obeyed, he realized that all the powers which a convention or Congress or Legislature might exercise must, in such an emergency, devolve upon the governor. He could not see where else the powers were at such a time: they must therefore be in himself. He rose grandly to his duty in this stern hour, and all alone by himself he issued a declaration of independence, - a long, solemn, stilted paper, imitating the declaration of '76, in which he appealed to the Supreme judge of the World for the rectitude of his intentions, declared that the political connection between the United States and the people and government of Missouri is and ought to be totally dissolved, and that the State of Missouri is a sovereign, free, and independent republic, with full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, etc.
If you follow out Mr. Jackson's document, you will see that he had rather more right and power to strike that great blow than the Revolutionary fathers had to issue their declaration in '76. At any rate he was sure of it himself, and, as his mighty act has never been repealed or repudiated, Missouri would seem still to be a free and independent republic.
Yet this lofty governor was only a dull plodder when compared with the genius who permitted himself to fill the office of lieutenant-governor. This serious-minded youth, Thomas C. Reynolds, carefully examined himself and found that he too was full of powers that no one else had suspected. He posted off to Richmond, without waiting for the slow governor to issue his declaration of independence, and set up as the "ambassador" of his "sovereign State." He formed an "alliance" between Missouri and the Confederate States, turned over to the Confederate President the army of his government and all the property of the United States in Missouri, and came back staggering under a load of still more powers invented and conferred upon him by the "warrior statesman," as he called Davis. He halted at New Madrid, in the midst of a noisy little rebel army, which, under Davis' direction, General Polk had sent from Kentucky. There were two small divisions under General Pillow. As many more Confederates were in northeast Arkansas under General Hardee. These bodies were to be joined as "The Army of Liberation," the Missouri rebels were to be added, St. Louis was to be taken, and the vandal hordes swept from the State. Great Reynolds reached New Madrid just after Pillow, exulting to find himself supported by a Confederate army. Governor Jackson was not then in Missouri, having gone just over the line, in Arkansas, to try to get the aid of Hardee. Reynolds immediately saw that he was governor, at least for a day or two, and promptly issued his proclamation. It begins: "I return to the State, to accompany in my official capacity one of the armies which the warrior statesman whose genius now presides over the affairs of our half of the Union has prepared to advance against the common foe. . . . The sun which shone in its full mid-day splendor at Manassas is about to rise upon Missouri. "Then, himself rising superior to the awkward fact that a great majority of his fellow-citizens had voted against secession, he said that as for himself he disregarded forms and looked to realities; that therefore he viewed any ordinance for the separation of Missouri from the United States as a mere outward ceremony; that in fact the act of secession was already consummated in the hearts of her people, and that "therefore all persons cooperating with the expedition I now accompany may expect that in the country under its influence no authority of the United States will be permitted, and that of Missouri as a sovereign and independent State will be exercised, with a view to her speedy regular union with her Southern sisters." That is, the tread of Reynolds upon the trembling earth was alone the equivalent of secession. Only his magic foot upon the various parts of the State and the thing was done.
But that was only one of the hard knots that came easy to this Alexander. He found the problem of the light of secession in Missouri quite simple. The slave States on the Atlantic coast based their secession upon the theory of powers reserved to themselves when they agreed to the Constitution of I789. Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi had to have another ground, but they professed to find it in the claim that they were formed in territory originally belonging to the Atlantic States. But the States beyond the Mississippi, in the Louisiana purchase, were without either of these grounds. Their territory had been bought with money paid in by all the States, and chiefly by the Northern States. The ordinary Southern statesmen spun out several specious arguments to evade this difficulty, but Reynolds soared above them all. He admitted that the territory had been purchased by the general government and with funds supplied by all the States, but he found that the sale was made by France on condition that the United States should never part with the territory and he said that that constituted a "condition running with the land" (as the lawyers say); that the act of secession would part Missouri from the United States and thus make a breach of the condition; that the land would therefore revert to France and become a colony of that empire; and that the emperor would undoubtedly send an army to recover his own, which army, with the true sons of Missouri, would easily defeat the United States.
But Louis Napoleon neglected his great opportunity, and that brilliant child of the little governor's warm fancy was never able to get on its legs, but died without baptism. In fact, very soon afterward both the governors had to retire in humiliation to the wilds of Arkansas before the march of the Union volunteers, enlisted mostly in their own unappreciative Missouri.
They were accompanied by other statesmen of the unhappy minority and by Sterling Price, who was both statesman and soldier. Here is the most noted man produced by Missouri on the Confederate side. He was a lawyer, he entered politics at an early age, was a conspicuous member of the Legislature for several terms, and a member of Congress, he led a regiment of Missouri cavalry in the Mexican War and was promoted to brigadier-general. He was governor of the State twice between 1850 and 1860, and although a Democrat was very popular among the Whigs. A Virginian, a tall man, of fine presence, of a genial spirit, persuasive and patriotic in speech, he had a wider influence than any man in the State. He was a "Douglas" man in 1860 and a "Conditional Union" man until Lyon's famous capture of Camp Jackson; he was president of the convention which voted against secession, but finally, late in May, 1861, accepted from Governor Jackson the appointment of general in command of the Missouri State Guard, a kind of an army of militia just then authorized by the secessionist Legislature. Under this commission he organized several brigades of Missouri secessionists and fought with them in the west and southwest of the State half a dozen of the haphazard engagements which were frequent in the first year of the war; but his forces were not strong enough to hold the country, the Confederate generals of neighboring States would not or could not help him, and within six months he was driven into Arkansas.
But the secessionists who remained in Missouri and those who were in the rebel armies constantly dreamed of the return of Price at the head of a conquering column, and he himself was always nursing hopes and schemes to that end. He considered himself especially the soldier of Missouri, and all or nearly all Missouri regiments and batteries in the Trans-Mississippi department were assigned to his command. The exiled governor and lieutenant-governor and other Missouri statesmen who found it prudent to remain in Arkansas often communed with Price upon these dreams.
When Governor Jackson died in Arkansas in 1862, the lieutenant-governor (Reynolds) assumed to be governor. Reynolds was a remarkable man. He was a young lawyer, trained in politics, fiery and vindictive in spirit, with no sense of humor, but with a vast conceit of his abilities and
of his office; and he looked upon his return to the capital of Missouri as a holy crusade. Having had no military experience himself, Price appeared to him to be the one man to direct the military work of the crusade. There must have been many conferences between the two in Arkansas and Louisiana. Reynolds' term as lieutenant-governor expired at the end of 1862, and another governor and lieutenant-governor had been elected; but it was clear to him that that election was illegal, that he was the only lawful governor, and Price and his Missouri soldiers cheerfully recognized him. He kept up strenuously his communications to the Confederate government and with the governors of the other trans-Mississippi States, who, like himself, were unwilling sojourners away from their capitals; and he constantly tried to persuade the powers at Richmond that the one thing that would win the cause of the Confederacy was a vigorous campaign in Missouri.
But no great attention was given to him except by the Missourians until the summer of 1864. Then there was a concurrence of events which led Davis to consider that, if not clearly practicable, such a campaign was at least desirable; and he gave General Smith authority to try it.
Lee's army in Virginia was staggering under the blows of Grant; Hood's in Georgia was being ground by Sherman; but Forrest had achieved two brilliant successes in Mississippi, and Smith had defeated Banks on the Red River. The Presidential campaign was on between Lincoln and McClellan, between the war party and the anti-war party, and the secessionists not only watched the political campaign with keenest interest, but with desperate zeal made many attempts to aid the McClellan cause. Not only in Missouri, but in Illinois, in Indiana, and even in Iowa; there were secret societies-the "Sons of Liberty," the "Order of American Knights," the "Knights of the Golden Circle," the "Copperheads," etc., all in communication with Southern spies and emissaries, and busy in discouraging Union enlistments, in exaggerating or inventing Union defeats and Confederate successes, and in many ways seeking to obstruct the prosecution of the war and to encourage the hopes of the rebels. Price himself was said to be "Grand Commander" of one of these societies - the "O. A. K's.
Now, on account of the geographical position of Missouri, its possession was of very great importance, and it was even more important to the Confederates than to the Federals. If a Southern army could occupy Missouri just before the Presidential election, hold the capital and perhaps St. Louis, the vote of the State could not be taken, or if taken would go for McClellan; the vote in the neighboring States would or might also be turned to McClellan, and Sherman would be compelled to retire from Atlanta to the Ohio. A rosy dream it looks from our side, but such visions were not uncommon in the warm Southern imagination. Indeed, when Hood left Atlanta it was with a definite idea of driving Sherman back to the Ohio by the easy process of marching there ahead of him, and at the same time Price was marching north to the recovery of Missouri.
Kirby Smith grumbled against the proposed campaign, but grumbling was one of his characteristics, and he was jealous of Price, who had become a Confederate major-general and inevitably would have command. A campaign for the recovery of Arkansas would have been more to his liking, and from a tight military point of view that is what ought to have been undertaken.
Though Smith at last consented, he was not at all zealous. He found difficulties in the way of supplying a force as large as Price wanted; but Price would o anyhow and his Achates Reynolds was more than eager. These two had a common cause and worked out the plans in loving harmony. Aeneas was marching to redeem Missouri and his Achates was going along to govern it.
To meet this movement no definite preparations were made on our side until Price was on his march. General Rosecrans, then at St. Louis in command of the Department of Missouri, heard rumors of it in July and August, and reported them to Washington; but Halleck and Grant were not inclined to credit the reports, and treated them indifferently. This was in part because they relied upon General Steele at Little Rock, who held the fortified line of the Arkansas River and who was sure that all movements of the enemy west of the Mississippi were designed only against his position.
But in fact communications between Price's army and the secessionists and secret societies in Missouri and especially in St. Louis were several times detected, showing schemes of organizing to aid Price's campaign. Indeed there was so little effort at concealment that in August Price's minor officers, and even the soldiers, talked openly in their camps, within a hundred miles of Steele's headquarters, of the object of their preparations then plainly in progress.
As there had been no regular Confederate forces in Missouri for two years, nearly all United States volunteers had been taken from the State to distant fields; and Rosecrans was often at his wit's end for means of defense against the guerillas and bushwhackers who swarmed all over the State. These miscreants doubled their numbers and activity when the rumors of Price's coming were spread, and every county clamored for protection against them.
Rosecrans' chief support was an organization called the State Militia Cavalry, about 4000 of whom formed a division of three brigades under General Sanborn. With this division were several battalions of Iowa and Illinois cavalry volunteers. Another body called the Provisional Enrolled Militia had been recently enlisted under Rosecrans' orders, especially to defend their own towns against the guerillas, but, excepting a portion organized into two mounted regiments and attached to Sanborn’s "Cavalry Militia," they proved of no use against Price. Rosecrans was also then trying to raise in the State several new regiments of United States volunteer infantry, and two of these were organized so far as that a part of them did good service in the first engagement.
For the rest, all of Rosecrans' appeals to the War Department, to the governors of neighboring States, and the generals of neighboring departments, brought him at the last hour, only a few regiments of "hundred-days" men from Illinois, to help defend St. Louis.
But early in September that old Roman, General Andrew J. Smith arrived at Cairo from Memphis, on his wav to join Sherman at Atlanta, with one of his divisions of veteran infantry, numbering 5000. By dint of much telegraphing Rosecrans got Grant to direct Smith to take the field against Price; and he moved on up to St. Louis. Then all in Missouri waited to see what Price would do.
Meantime, in July and August, small bodies of Price's cavalry made short raids and dashes upon Steele's outlying posts and gave him much trouble. He believed these attacks were only leading up to an assault in force upon Little Rock, and called loudly for more troops. Accordingly he received 7000 infantry from General Canby, commanding at New Orleans, and a little later 4000 infantry and nearly 2000 cavalry from Memphis.
These Memphis troops were " lent" by General Washbum for a special emergency supposed to exist at Devall's Bluff, the strongest post on the Arkansas below Little Rock. The infantry was one division of the Sixteenth Corps, commanded by General Joseph A. Mower, and the cavalry was composed of detachments from two brigades of the cavalry corps of the District of West Tennessee, commanded by a born cavalryman, now a member of this commandery, General Edward F. Winslow.
The infantry moved by boats down the Mississippi and up the White River to Des Arc. The cavalry was ferried over the Mississippi at Memphis, marched across the country through the great swamps of the Saint Francis valley, and halted at Brownsville, within a few miles of Little Rock. The weather was sultry almost beyond endurance.
This was September 6th, the very day on which Price was crossing the Arkansas, 60 miles above Little Rock, with two of his divisions, on his way to St. Louis. But General Steele still insisted that the movement was designed against Little Rock.
When the expedition was ordered Price was in command of the District of Arkansas, and he was to take all the cavalry in that district. He did take all except a few regiments and scattered companies. He had 33 regiments and 10 battalions, with 6 batteries, all Arkansans and Missourians. When they entered Missouri they numbered about 15,000, with 18 guns. They were all mounted, but about 3000 were then unarmed. They were organized as the "Army of Missouri," in three divisions, one commanded by Major-General James F. Fagan, a famous Arkansas soldier, one by Major-General John S. Marmaduke, a Missourian, afterward governor of Missouri, and a third by Brigadier-General Joseph O. Shelby, also a Missouri and a cavalry officer almost without a superior in marching and in boldness.
Early in August Price received his instructions from Smith, but he did not move until the 28th. On that day he left Camden, in the south of Arkansas, with the two divisions of Fagan and Marmaduke, and marched north and east toward the Arkansas River, passing west of Little Rock hardly twenty miles distant. He had already sent Shelby into northeast Arkansas to collect recruits and horses. On September 6th and 7th, at Dardanelle, he crossed the Arkansas, without resistance from Steele, and within a few days joined Shelby at Pocahontas, on the Black River, within one day's march of the Missouri line.
Here the organization of his army was completed, and the three divisions, moving on different roads, entered Missouri September 18th, at a point nearly south of St. Louis and distant by the roads about 250 miles.
General Steele finally heard of Price's concentration near the Missouri border, and decided upon pursuit. This was September I7th, and the next morning he started Mower's division of infantry and Winslow's cavalry from Brownsville. None of his own troops were sent. Twelve days had thus been lost while Price was riding steadily away.
What the theory of this pursuit was does not appear in the records; what might have happened if Price had been overtaken can only be guessed; but what was actually done is a painful memory to the survivors, and especially to the unfortunate infantry, for they not only had to march over 300 miles to the Mississippi at Cape Girardeau in the terrible heat, half the way through malarious swamps and lowlands, but they had to keep up with the cavalry, which could be done only by marching far into the night. They actually did bivouac near the cavalry every night for a week.
On the 29th Winslow's cavalry reached the Missouri line on Price's trail, the infantry coming up two days later. It was not known where Price then was, but his road was followed 60 miles further, to Greenville, Mo., where, on October 2d, definite news came of the battle at Pilot Knob, six days before, with orders to Mower and Winslow to move their men to the Mississippi at Cape Girardeau and take boats for St. Louis.
They had been out five weeks from Memphis; had lost and left behind, by sickness and death, a large part of their numbers; the remainder were exhausted by the extraordinary march and the heat; nothing had been accomplished, and the end was within one day's ride by steamboat from the starting-point. But this is only one of the many times during the war when a long and laborious struggle reached its end with no record but one of costly waste and suffering.
THE INVASION OF MISSOURI.
When Price crossed the border he looked upon himself and his coming fame very seriously. His mission was to redeem the State. The pretending Governor Reynolds with him also looked upon himself and his future seriously - very seriously. There was a hated usurper in his chair at Jefferson City and the executive mansion was closed against the lady of the lawful governor. He was eager to share the dangers of the campaign an insisted upon a place at the head of the column, notwithstanding the advice that his great office justified him in taking a safer position. He proudly replied that the proper place for the governor of Missouri, marching to restoration, was in the front.
Not only high hopes, but virtuous resolutions for the good of their countrymen, filled the breasts of these patriot leaders. At the border Price announced that his campaign was "not a raid," but for the "occupation" of Missouri; and he and his division generals and Governor Reynolds and General Kirby Smith all joined in a chorus of proclamations, declarations, and instructions, to the effect that they were undertaking a just and holy cause, that there must be no influence of personal feeling or revenge, no wanton acts of destruction or devastation, or any seizure of property except under necessity, by proper authority and upon compensation. Formal orders were issued, embodying these pious resolves and declaring that any disobedience was simply a short way to death. As more than half of Price's men were Missourians coming to their own country, and one of the expectations of the campaign was the enlistment or conscription of many more Missourians at their homes, the necessity for these orders suggests a singular moral character in this army of redeemers.
But the high virtues thus published never got into practice. The actual march of the patriots was more fearful than a cyclone. Neither friend nor enemy was spared. With unwavering impartiality they robbed secessionist and Unionist alike. They plundered and burned houses and stores, they drove people from their homes, desolated the farms, carried off or killed the livestock, and whatever they could not put to use they wantonly destroyed. The orders of the General were repeated and repeated, but nobody would submit to restraint in the midst of such opportunities. A provost-guard was organized in each brigade, and there was a provost-marshal-general, who declared that the officers of his department were extremely active in efforts to enforce orders; there was a court-martial, organized at the beginning of the campaign, which held sittings from time to time on the march. The inspector-general has testified that he rode two horses to death trying to prevent straggling and "scouting." This scouting was not the service implied in the ordinary use of that word, but was simply marauding by authority, the objects being plunder and personal vengeance. The Missourians, returning near their old homes under the protection of an army, could not resist the desire to punish their former neighbors whom they believed to be their enemies. General Price absolutely and repeatedly forbade the horrid practice, but it appeared in the court of inquiry which was held after this campaign that, in spite of his stringent orders, permits were granted for these "scouts," not only by company and regimental officers, but even by brigade and division commanders.
For disobedience of these orders arrests were made from time to time, from privates up to colonels, but there is no evidence that any one was tried or punished, except that one brigadier, in a passion, shot down two of his men out of hand, not so much for committing crimes as because one of them imprudently declared that they meant to keep at it.
But if the rough riders had no respect for their general's orders, neither had they any for their governor's comfort or dignity. That precious little man, whom they had for six weeks carried along at the head of the main column, in all the glory of a four-horse ambulance, complained bitterly to Price, in front of Jefferson City, the capital he had come to possess, that the plunder was so complete and the management so bad that he could not even get shoes for his horses; and he said, in extremity of grief, that "the wholesale pillage of horses and mules, as of goods generally in the vicinity of the army, has made it impossible for me to obtain anything by purchase. In fact, in an expedition designed to re-establish the rightful government of Missouri, the Governor of the State cannot even purchase a horse or a blanket, while stragglers and camp-followers are enriching themselves by plundering the defenseless families of our own soldiers in the Confederate service."
After a time Price gave up even the reiteration of his orders, and he seems to have considered it a defense, before the court of inquiry after the campaign, when his witnesses said that his men were largely recruits, conscripts, "absentees," and deserters, that they were officered by men of their own kind, were undisciplined, and that discipline was impossible with such a command. But that was when he was required to explain his crushing defeat.
When Price entered the State his organization and marching orders were elaborately complete. General Fagan, with the largest division, marched in the middle toward Pilot Knob, General Marmaduke on the right about ten miles distant, and General Shelby at the same distance on the left.
Each column took in the towns and villages within its reach, occasionally driving out or destroying a small party of militia, converged at Fredericktown, and moved on to the front of Pilot Knob, where they halted the night of September 26th.
The next day was to witness Price's first engagement and his humiliating defeat, and on the Union side one of the most brilliant achievements of the war.
BATTLE OF PILOT KNOB.
Pilot Knob is 86 miles southwest of St. Louis. It was then the terminus of the Iron Mountain railroad from St. Louis, a central depot for military supplies for southeast Missouri, and the site of large and very important ironworks. The chief defense was an earthwork called Fort Davidson, which was simply a large bastion, then mounting four siege guns and three large howitzers. It stood in a rounded plain or basin, surrounded except on the northwest by steep hills five or six hundred feet high. Field guns planted on any of these hills could fire directly into the fort, and there were no bomb-proofs. From the east hills a creek ran westward across the plain 500 yards south of the fort and then turned to the northwest. Along the east side of this stream was the road to Potosi, a Post 20 miles north. A curtain of rifle pits ran out on the east and west sides of the fort, facing southward. Directly south of the fort was a gap between two of the hills, through which came the road from the south, the way the enemy would be expected to come.
The night of September 24th Rosecrans heard that Price was nearing Pilot Knob. He directed Brigadier-General Thomas Ewing, Jr., then commanding the District of St. Louis, which included Pilot Knob, to take one brigade of Smith's division and patrol and garrison the railroad. Ewing was busy in these duties, the morning of the 26th, forty miles north of Pilot Knob, when scouts reported the enemy at Fredericktown, twenty miles southeast of it. He took five companies of the 14th Iowa Infantry, veterans, and went down to Pilot Knob by rail. He found Major Wilson, of the State Militia, in command, gathering his men from small posts in the district and preparing for defense. Wilson has got together eight companies from different regiments of volunteers, raw troops who had just been enlisted, eight companies of the State Militia, seven of them mounted and one dismounted, one battery of field guns and two mortars. With these and the 14th Iowa detachment, Ewing could number 1051 officers and men. He at once organized all into a defensive force, and also armed and organized the men employed in the quartermaster and commissary departments, with some citizens, so that, altogether, he had a mixed lot of about 1200 to hold the fort.
A reconnoitring force, sent out as soon as Ewing arrived, returned within a few hours, reporting the rebel advance not far beyond Ironton, a village two miles south of the fort; but it was yet uncertain whether it was part or all of Price's force. Ewing thereupon sent down to Ironton the four companies of the 14th Iowa and all his mounted men, the best half of his command, under Major Wilson, to feel of the enemy and if possible drive him back. This was apparently successful, but it turned out that only Price's advance had been met. During the night Wilson had to retire to Ironton, and at daybreak he was pushed back to the gap, which he then attempted to hold.
Ewing's orders had been to hold the fort against any mere detachment, and to evacuate if the main army of the rebels should appear; but he could not yet learn the numbers of those advancing; there were large Quantities of supplies at the post; the ironworks were of great importance, and there would be great advantages in delaying the enemy two or three days and in making a stubborn fight. To gain these advantages and to develop the plans of the enemy by conflict Ewing determined to hold on.
And then this bold young general, who came from the State where in those days generals grew, and who was schooled in Kansas where, a little earlier, men learned the courage of their convictions, performed one of the most brilliant deeds of the war, without a parallel unless it be in Corse's defense of Allatoona.
It was not, indeed, Price's whole force that was advancing upon him, but the two divisions of Fagan and Marmaduke, with ten guns, numbering nine or ten thousand. The third division, Shelby's, had been sent, by a westward circuit, to strike the railroad twenty miles north of the fort, which was successfully done, and thus General Smith was prevented from reinforcing or communicating with Ewing.
Ewing directed Wilson to hold the gap by fighting at the southern end, and if overpowered to fall back along the hillside, so as to be out of the range of the fort guns. Wilson resisted long and obstinately. Marmaduke tried to flank him by going westward around or over the western hill, but as soon as his men appeared they were picked off by skirmishers and broken up by the howitzers in the fort. Then a larger force was pushed into the gap along the hillsides, and Wilson was driven back; but all the guns of the fort could be turned in that direction, which was done, and the gap was again cleared and again seized by Wilson.
For an hour now no further attempt was made. Then Price advanced his entire force, covering the gap and the hills on both sides, and Ewing's men retired to the fort. The rifle pits were manned, supported by two of the field guns, and a plenty of canister was supplied to the guns in the fort, to sweep the plain. The lines of the enemy were seen coming down the slopes of the two hills in front. On the west hill they had planted four guns within 800 yards of the fort, and were getting its range and dropping shell into it.Under cover of this fire, Price ordered an assault. Each of his two division generals present had urged the assault and had assured Price that he could with his division take the fort within a few minutes. Martnaduke's line was formed near the foot of the west hill, facing the southwest front of the fort, and Fagan's near the foot of the east hill, facing the southeast front. There were six brigades and several unattached commands in these lines, a seventh brigade having been sent, mounted, round the west hill and across the creek to the Potosi road, to cut off retreat in that direction. Fagan's line was more or less broken by the necessity of moving through the village of Pilot Knob, and Marmaduke's by the ravines, rocks, and fallen trees in his way; but they advanced steadily.
With canister and shell Ewing swept the slopes, and when the lines reached the plain his muskets had easy and destructive range. Marmaduke's men would not stand it. When they reached the creek and found they were sheltered in its dry bed they stuck there. Only a part went further and hardly a hundred approached the ditch under the fort. Then the survivors turned and fled, and, getting again into the dry creek, they hugged that safe position until after dark.
Fagan's men did better. They moved up with fine courage, though harassed and disordered by a few companies which obstinately occupied several positions of advantage in succession and retired only when the muskets in the fort and east rifle pits could open at short range. Then they made a rush for the ditch and the advance reached it, but they too then lost heart and fled, leaving the plain covered with dead and wounded.
Meantime Fagan's mounted brigade, which had flanked the fort on the west and taken the Potosi road, moved down from the north, but was met by a sortie and fierce attack from the rifle pits and driven off. Desultory firing followed in front, at long range, for an hour, and night closed the conflict.
Ewing now found that Price himself was there, with two of his divisions, and that Shelby's third division was between him and St. Louis. He believed he had been attacked by 12,000 men with ten guns, and these numbers were not much beyond the truth. But he did not know that Price had sent north for Shelby's division to aid in the next assault, nor that Shelby, without receiving the order, was already moving down by night. He was expected to come by the Potosi road, a movement which would have cut off Ewing's retreat, but it happened that he followed the railroad, on a line parallel with the Potosi road and a few miles east of it. Ewing had lost a full quarter of his men, had but 900 left, and these were worn by two days' strenuous efforts, one whole day in fighting.
He saw that fighting outside the fort was hopeless, and he felt sure that daylight would find all the enemy's guns planted on the hillsides, firing directly into the fort. His last news of General Smith's forces was that two regiments were at Mineral Point, near Potosi, twenty-three miles north, but Shelby had cut the telegraph line and the railroad. He determined to evacuate. It was the only chance to escape surrender or destruction.
On the Potosi road the enemy had had no guns and only the mounted brigade which had been driven off. Ewing hoped that it had left the road or that he could evade it or, if necessary, drive it again. At any rate it was the only road or pass not found heavily guarded. To add to his troubles a great fire at the neighboring ironworks, burning a vast pile of charcoal, lighted up the fort and valley like noonday.
But nothing could daunt this splendid soldier. He sent out scouting parties to clear the village and the valley of any straggling or reconnoitring rebels, and kept his chain of pickets alert; and, to diminish the chances of discovery, he did not begin preparations till midnight. Then he had his men busy, filling knapsacks, haversacks, and cartridge boxes, and piling on or near the magazine all the materials he could not take away but which the rebels might. At three o'clock, the infantry, led by Colonel Fletcher, of the 47th Missouri, afterward governor of Missouri, moved out into the ditch and through the upper rifle pit, and formed in a deep shadow. The cavalry and guns went over the drawbridge, after covering it with tents and soft stuff to prevent noise. Some one was left to make sure of the firing of the magazine before daybreak.
Now the forlorn column took the road and moved as fast as could be done quietly. The fires of a camp were seen on the right and another on the left, but not a rebel was met.
There is a romantic tale told by Confederate officers since the war, to explain their failure to watch this road. It is the old story of the impressionable young brigadier and the fascinating lady who wiles him and his staff away from their posts, to a feast in her mansion, until the plans of her friends succeed. There was in fact a brigade of Arkansans, commanded by Colonel Dobbin, directed to hold this road; but whether it was the deceitfulness of woman or only commonplace neglect of duty that caused his failure I do not know.
Ewing pushed his column more and more rapidly. Ten miles away, before the day broke, he heard the explosion of the magazine, and knew that if a pursuit was not already begun it would soon begin. He sent a party across the country, to reach the troops at Mineral Point and have them march down to meet him, but it had to return with the report that these regiments had fallen back toward St. Louis and that Shelby had taken Potosi. Ewing at once turned off westward, on the road to Rolla. Shelby had in fact halted on the Potosi road, only a few miles ahead, and was waiting for Ewing to appear.
At sundown this plucky little column had made thirty-one miles from Pilot Knob. But both Shelby and Marmaduke were closing up in pursuit with their men mounted. Learning that the further road to Rolla was mostly open and easily attacked by cavalry, Ewing now turned off to the northeast, toward Harrison, thirty-five miles distant, and marched all night. He meant to gain the advantage of a road which ran for many miles along the side of a steep ridge, where his column could not be flanked. In the morning, just after the ridge was reached, the enemy's advance charged upon the rear, but Ewing kept his veterans and two guns there, and it was impracticable to flank him. Repeated attempts to break the rear were made, and fighting went on all day. Near Harrison the country became open and the whole command had to be kept fighting in rear and on both flanks. But night came to their relief and they got into Harrison. The horses were sheltered in a railway cut and the men posted behind barricades of railway ties and buildings, where they received and repulsed another assault.
Now a train of cars appeared from St. Louis, carrying stores to Rolla. Ewing turned out the goods and put in his men, but before he could move he saw that the stations nearest Harrison, on both sides, were burning. He took the men off the cars and spent the night fortifying.
At daybreak the enemy appeared in force, and held their position all day, but did not assault until night, when again they failed. But they maintained a constant fire from skirmish lines, while Ewing kept all the men possible at work in strengthening his defenses. All that night too was devoted to this work, though there were frequent harassing alarms. Saturday morning Price showed larger forces and drew in nearer, with an incessant skirmish fire. Every moment an assault was expected. Ewing had sent to Rolla and Franklin, the nearest posts, and to St. Louis, for help, but no word came back to him. Suddenly, early in the afternoon, the rebels withdrew from the front, and two hours later 500 men of the 17th Illinois Cavalry rode in from Rolla. There was still a night's march before Ewing's devoted band, but there was no more fighting, and the next day it was safe under the guns at Rolla.
Seven days these stubborn fellows had been "on the jump," as they say in the west, three days and nights they had marched, covering nearly 100 miles, three days and nights they had been fighting and fortifying, always against many times their number, and all with no thought in the mind of their fearless and indefatigable leader except that of compelling success. One third of his men were lost, but for these the enemy had had to pay four or five for one. At Pilot Knob alone Price's killed and wounded were reported by the post-surgeon there at over 1500.
To the unfortunate Price it must have seemed that he had struck a tiger, but to those of us who have had the privilege of knowing General Ewing he was not a tiger at all, but a gentle, kindly man, a lofty, unyielding patriot.
It was a disastrous day for Price. Of course he tried to minimize it in his official report, but it stands out in his court of inquiry; and it is plain enough in the records that it changed his mind and his plans and was a serious blow to his confidence of the success of his campaign.
He marched on toward St. Louis, but when within forty miles he turned to the left, sent a brigade to take Washington, a small town on the Missouri, forty miles from St. Louis, and then moved west upon Jefferson City. He reports that he had learned that the defenses of St. Louis were so strong that it would not be prudent to attack them; and so he easily abandoned that first great goal of his campaign and set out for the second,-the capture of the State capital. His men were very active, making extra marches, capturing small posts, sometimes by assault, sometimes without, breaking up the Pacific railroad, then in construction, burning bridges, plundering towns and farms, and making a wide swath of desolation. On October 4th he passed the Gasconade River, after some resistance by the militia, but at the Osage River, twelve miles from Jefferson City, and at the Moreau, six miles, he met some experienced troops and had to fight hard, suffering severely and losing, among other officers, one of his best brigadiers, Colonel Shanks. The next day, October 7th, he appeared before Jefferson City with all his force.
The care of Generals Rosecrans and Smith had been chiefly for St. Louis. Smith had withdrawn his infantry to the north of the Meramec, within ten miles of the city. Now he marched west toward Washington, and such other troops as were available were sent up the Missouri on boats. The scattered parts of Sanborn's division of the militia cavalry were hurried toward Jefferson City, and managed to concentrate there before the investment was complete, though not without a sharp brush with Price's left. General Clinton B. Fisk had been ordered to take command at Jefferson City, and by the time Price appeared he had gathered a heterogeneous body of over 7000 men, about half being Sanborn’s militia cavalry and the remainder enrolled militia, unorganized volunteers, stray detachments, and citizens. But there was a good line of entrenchments, and he manned them with the dismounted militia cavalry, as being the most experienced troops, holding the others in reserve, but keeping them busy digging more rifle pits.
Price's great fault was slowness. He spent all of October 7th in drawing up his lines and exchanging useless artillery fire with Fisk. During the night his movements indicated a complete investment, but in the morning, after threatening an attack on Fisk's right, he withdrew, and a reconnoisance disclosed that he was marching to the west. Sanborn's cavalry was immediately mounted and set to work harassing the rear. He moved his brigades on the different roads taken by Price's divisions, and kept them all occupied in petty fighting till Boonville was reached.
Price says he had information that there were 15,000 Union troops at Jefferson City and 24,000 more moving upon him from St. Louis a report two or three times as great as the fact. But his experience at Pilot Knob was probably the secret spring of his present caution. It would be a long time before he could again get his wild riders to assault earthworks. So, as he had easily given up his first great object of taking St. Louis upon an extravagant report of- its strength which he made no effort to verify, so now he did the same thing at the State capital, his one other grand goal.
What the thoughts and the language of the crushed Governor Reynolds were as he rode away from the capital and the official mansion he had so long coveted and so long labored to reach, from which he was now separated only by some entrenchments and militia, without striking a blow, probably no man could adequately tell. Certain papers which he wrote two months later, though showing heroic attempts at restraint, are yet lurid in meaning.
THE ATTEMPT UPON KANSAS.
In his official report Price keeps up a pretence that after he left Jefferson City he was still seeking the proclaimed objects of his campaign, and he talks of the people rallying to his standard, the gathering of recruits, and the capture of arms and ammunition for them; but within a few days he decided that he would not be able to protect and feed so many, and that anyhow there were not enough arms to be had. He shows that he now considered his march as simply a big raid, the goal of which was Kansas. Afterthoughts are sometimes in striking contrast to forethoughts.
There was nothing to be got in Kansas which could not be got more plentifully and more easily in Missouri, and retreat southward through Missouri would be easier and safer than through Kansas. The real motive of a march through Kansas, a free State which had not yet seen a Confederate campaign, may reasonably be guessed.
Major-General Curtis, commanding the Department of Kansas, had suspected from the beginning that Price had Kansas in mind, and before Price reached Missouri he was busily engaged in preparing to defend Kansas against him. He collected his troops from distant points in the Indian country, called upon the governor of Kansas to turn out the militia, and got into an active correspondence with
Rosecrans and other general officers in Missouri. By the time Price reached Jefferson City Curtis had his forces gathered and organized near Kansas City. He had about 5000 U. S. volunteer cavalry, nearly all being Kansas regiments under General Blunt, about the same number of Kansas militia under General Deitzler, and thirty field guns, mostly small howitzers.
Meantime the pursuit from St. Louis was kept up, but for ten days it was infantry following cavalry. General Smith was too prudent to move his infantry far from St. Louis as long as Price threatened that place, but Price's march was clearly westward. Smith set out after him. The destruction of bridges and some uncertainty as to Price's movements, however, caused delays, so that Smith did not reach Jefferson City until October 13th, five days after Price's departure.
Mower's division of Smith's command was still more unlucky. It had been sent from Cape Girardeau to St. Louis on boats, and on the 9th, still in the boats, it moved on up the Missouri River, ordered to Jefferson City; but the water was low and the sand-bars numerous, and these brigades did not reach Jefferson City until the 15th and 18th, when Smith and the other division were seventy miles further west and moving. Mower landed and set out to join by forced marches, making twenty-five miles a day and one day thirty-three. They did finally join on the border of Kansas, but both divisions had to see that their heroic efforts were wasted. They were one day behind the preliminary engagement and seventy miles behind the decisive battle. They were halted and rested, and then returned to St. Louis.
Winslow's cavalry, which had marched with Mower through Arkansas, had a different experience. It also went from Cape Girardeau to St. Louis on boats, but was stopped at St. Louis long enough for reclothing and for shoeing and replacing horses, and on October 11th marched for Jefferson City.
It reached there on the 16th, and found itself under the orders of Major-General Pleasanton. He had been a conspicuous cavalry commander in the Army of the Potomac, and was now in charge of one of the districts of the Department of Missouri.
His present orders were to organize all the cavalry in the campaign into a provisional division, and to operate in conjunction with Smith's infantry. He effected an organization in four brigades, three of them being Sanborn's militia cavalry already spoken of, commanded by Generals Sanborn, Brown, and McNeil, and the fourth Winslow's. Winslow's brigade had been diminished by detachment and casualties until it now numbered about 1200. It was composed of detachments from the 2d and 3d Iowa, 4th and 10th Missouri, and 7th Indiana, all of them old regiments. With Sanborn's militia, the division contained about 5500 men. The militia brigades had each a section of artillery, but there were no guns with Winslow's brigade. The most of Winslow's men, however, had the Spencer carbine.
On the 10th Price had occupied Boonville, on the Missouri, sixty miles above Jefferson City, with Sanborn's cavalry harassing him flank and rear. He reports that he captured at Boonville a lot of arms and received 1200 to 1500 recruits. He sent detachments in all directions to get arms and ammunition, to destroy railways, steamboats, and other property, some of them under murderous guerilla chiefs who were not officers of his army; and he sent two generals and three brigades to capture Glasgow, a small town on the north bank of the river defended by Colonel Chester Harding, who, on his way down the river, happened to stop there the day before with 600 men but no artillery. After an obstinate resistance of eight hours, and driven to the last position of defense, Harding surrendered, and Price got 500 prisoners and about 1000 small arms. The stores for which the enemy had come Harding had destroyed. This was the most important success of Price in the whole campaign.
Then he moved on toward Lexington and reached it on the 19th. Lexington is on the Missouri, about 150 miles northwest from Jefferson City. General Curtis had already sent General Blunt from Kansas City, with his division of volunteers, to meet Price. The Kansas militia had refused to leave their State. General Blunt reached Lexington on the 18th, and waited one day for news of the militia which he still hoped would be sent to reinforce him. Price promptly attacked him, and, having heavier artillery and a country easy for flanking, drove him back toward Kansas City. Blunt retreated until he reached the Little Blue River, a stream flowing north to the Missouri, twenty miles east from Kansas City. The west bank of this river is bold and rough, and Blunt undertook to defend it. But, unfortunately, under conflicting orders he first moved the greater part of his force to Independence, ten miles further west, and then returned it to the Little Blue. Meantime Price's advance arrived and forced the crossing, and then with continuous fighting Blunt was driven back to Independence. From this place he retreated by night westward to the west bank of the Big Blue River, where he found Curtis busily engaged constructing defenses. This was the night of October 21st. Curtis had induced the Kansas militia to cross the border for operations in the vicinity of Kansas City, and the Big Blue was only five miles from that place.
Pleasanton was all this time following Price with the militia cavalry, striking his rear and flanks as opportunity offered, but deferring any serious engagement until the arrival of Winslow's brigade. Winslow, on leaving Jefferson City, had marched by the most direct route toward Kansas City, instead of following the course of the river as Price and Pleasanton had done. He was frequently delayed in crossing streams where the bridges had been destroyed, but the last two days he made seventy-five miles, reaching Independence in the afternoon of October 22d.
Here Pleasanton was found, his front being then engaged with Price's rear, just west of the town. There had been a great opportunity, for Curtis had met Price's advance at the Big Blue, five miles ahead, and resisted the passage. Between the two forces Price ought to have been hurt; but for some reason action was not vigorous enough, and Price crossed the river at Byram's Ford. His first division was over and moving toward Kansas City, six miles distant.
Pleasanton, who had, practically, been waiting for days to get Winslow's experienced troopers in his front, now immediately ordered the brigade into action; and without stopping at Independence it rode on to the front. The 3d Iowa, being the head of the column, drove in the enemy's rear guard and with the aid of the 10th Missouri, which made a vigorous dash upon his right, compelled Marmaduke who commanded the division, to dismount and face a new enemy, while he slowly yielded. Night came on, but Winslow pressed forward, with occasional volleys, and crowded Marmaduke into the river, though not then aware of that effect. Marmaduke's report shows that he was in great trouble during the night between the necessities of constant defense at short range and of crossing the river in darkness. But, as the hills at this point are on the east side of the river and precipitous, there was no reaching the ford with artillery, and Marmaduke got over before morning.
Price now faced about and formed his whole command for battle. His belief was that Smith had come up with a large body of veteran infantry and cavalry. Shelby's division was his left wing, at Westport, facing north on Kansas City, Marmaduke's the right wing, facing east on the Big Blue, and Fagan's the center, on the Independence road. Curtis had fallen back before him and was in position with his right on the Kansas State line, facing south, in front of Shelby, and his left facing east in front of Fagan. This left Pleasanton on the east bank of the Big Blue, in front of Marmaduke, who held the west bank, five miles from Curtis and separated from him not only by Marmaduke's division, but also, practically, by Fagan's.
Pleasanton was thus attacking Price's right wing, while Curtis held his left and center.
The militia cavalry of Sanborn and Winslow's brigade gave Pleasanton here a force of about 5500, while Curtis had a motley command of 12,000 to 15,000, composed of Blunt's Kansas cavalry, a division of Kansas militia, many small detachments of various kinds hurried in from various posts, and many armed citizens; but he had no time for careful organization or careful dispositions.
BATTLES OF THE BIG BLUE AND WESTPORT.
At the earliest light on the 23d Winslow moved on toward the Big Blue, and Pleasanton added one of the Missouri brigades to his command. This was General Brown's, now under Colonel Phillips. The enemy began to throw shell from a low plateau 500 yards west of the river. Winslow ordered Phillips to take his brigade through the ford and move by the left around the right of this position, while he sent one battalion of the 4th Iowa, dismounted, to wade across on his own right and drive off the enemy's skirmishers. Two guns were opened on the enemy to cover these movements. Both crossings were made under sharp fire, with some loss, and the remainder of Winslow's brigade then crossed easily, quickly dismounted, and charged Marmaduke's position in front. Marmaduke ought to have held on, having his whole division there, but a second charge broke him, and he moved off rapidly to the west. Unfortunately, at the moment of success, Winslow was severely wounded in the leg. He attempted to continue the command in the saddle and then in an ambulance, but was compelled to give up.
Marmaduke's lively imagination led him to report of this affair that he was "attacked with great fierceness by an overwhelming force and after a most strenuous resistance had to fall back before the foe," none of which was true except the falling back. He must have had twice the numbers of the attacking force and certainly had twice as many guns.
But, though this was not a great battle, it was highly important in its results. While it was going on Curtis and Blunt were fighting a bigger and hotter battle with Shelby and Fagan. All the forenoon they were bitterly struggling with Kansas City for the stake, sometimes one driving the other back and sometimes yielding a mile or so.
It was in this battle that Price first made his novel use of unarmed men. He had about 3000 in a brigade under a Colonel Charles H. Tyler. He held them in line within view of his enemy, more or less under fire, and with a line of armed skirmishers in front. Of course they moved from time to time, as the action required, to make a show of numbers.
The losses were heavy on both sides, but before noon the rebels suddenly ceased to attack, and soon were seen mounted and moving rapidly southward over the prairie. This was due to Marmaduke's defeat by Winslow, which had broken off Price's right flank, and compelled him to withdraw his whole force. And the next blow of Winslow's brigade turned this movement into a rapid retreat.
When Marmaduke was driven off Pleasanton moved Sanborn's and McNeil's brigades across the river and sent them directly westward, in column of companies, converging with Price's march southward from Westport. Sanborn, in advance, struck the left of Shelby's division on a prairie, and there was another fight. As Shelby had to get out he was ugly, and Sanborn's brigade was roughly handled and thrust aside.
Winslow's brigade had now come under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Frederick W. Benteen, of the 10th Missouri Cavalry, a remarkably fine officer, who afterward distinguished himself in the regular army in many campaigns against the Indians. As the brigade had been relieved by the other brigades after the defeat of Marmaduke and was under no orders, Colonel Benteen sent the men into a large cornfield to feed their horses. While the horses were feeding the noise of battle to the west was heard, and presently both sides in the conflict appeared over a swell of the prairie. It was Shelby pressing back Sanborn and McNeil. Seeing now in the cornfield still another enemy, Shelby's gunners began to throw shells.
Benteen did not wait for news or orders. His trumpeter sounded To horse! and quickly the brigade was out of the field, formed in column of companies on the open prairie. Half a mile in front, along a low swell of the prairie, was the enemy's line, with two guns firing, but firing too high. Nothing between but the tall light grass.
Forward! rang out from a score of bugles, followed by Trot! and then Gallop! Shelby now had four guns throwing shot as fast as possible, but there was little time for that, and the range was high. His small arms rattled with desperate speed, and the air was thick with smoke in his front, but not a shot was fired from the advancing column. No sound from them but the scream of bugles and the pounding feet of their galloping horses. As one man they rode, without check or waver, like Fate rushing upon her victim. Within 200 yards Benteen ordered On the left into line! and then Charge! the bugles screamed. Rarely has there been a scene like that. Benteen meant to break the line first and fight afterward.
But the enemy would not stand it. Before they were reached they broke and fled in the utmost precipitation, scattering widely toward the south, fighting more or less as individuals, but mostly trying to escape only. The brigade was recalled, formed, and pursued four miles, until the rebels gained the cover of a range of wooded hills behind a rocky creek. General Curtis then appeared, with Blunt and the Kansas cavalry. Curtis was superior in rank to Pleasanton, and he took command of both forces and went into bivouac.
It was clear now that Price's only course must be a retreat south to the Arkansas River, but there was some confusion of counsel as to whether pursuit should be made, and Curtis did not make a start until the next day. He had Blunt's division and Pleasanton's, together about 9000 cavalry, with twelve or fifteen light guns. Price had as many guns and more men, but he had lost a large part of his best men, and a mass of green recruits or conscripts and unarmed men encumbered rather than aided him. He persisted in keeping up a long train, and he had been marching nearly two months. He was not at all as strong as he looked; but Curtis was cautious.
At ten A.M. on the 24th the column set out in pursuit, with Blunt in front. The way led over wild prairie, directly south, in Missouri but near the Kansas border. No attempt to check was made by Price, except by burning the prairie grass, which was not effective, and the pursuers rode sixty-four miles without stopping, except to feed the horses and make coffee. Then, at four in the morning, Price's rear was struck at the river Osage or Marais des Cygnes. The ford was deep and miry, the enemy had been all night crossing, and his rear was still on the north side. Two low hills or "mounds" covered the ford and were defended. It was very dark and raining. As soon as there was light enough the hill on the right was taken by the 4th Iowa, in a dismounted rush, while the other hill fell to another regiment, and the rebels not yet over the river were captured, with a lot of loaded wagons and one gun. Meantime Colonel Benteen had found the river fordable farther up, and a part of the division crossed there. All were over by ten o'clock. General Blunt's division was far behind.
BATTLE OF MINE CREEK.
The rain had ceased, the sun shone brilliantly, the air was bracing, and the scene was again a great prairie. Benteen's brigade was the last of Pleasanton's division to leave the river, but within a few miles it passed two of the Missouri brigades, The third one, Phillips's, was still ahead.
As Price could not be far in advance, the formation was in column of companies. At about twelve o'clock the advanced skirmishers reported the enemy halted. Benteen moved his command forward at a trot, and, on reaching the crest of one of the prairie ridges, saw what appeared to be the whole of Price's army. It was in fact the two divisions of Fagan and Marmaduke, the division of Shelby, with Price and the train, being then five or six miles further south.
A marshy little stream called Mine Creek was the immediate cause of the halt. It had been very troublesome to the rebels, though they had been using two crossings. Fagan and Marrnaduke had got perhaps a third of their men over, when they saw that they must turn and fight. They formed in two lines, mounted, with the creek at their backs. There were four guns in battery at the middle of the line and two at each end. Marmaduke's division was the right wing and Fagan's the left. On the south side of the creek was another lesser line with two guns. There must have been 6000 men in these lines. Small trees were scattered along the stream, but all the rest on all sides was open prairie.
Phillips's brigade was seen half a mile further back and on the light, but neither of the other Missouri brigades was in sight. Benteen saw at once the bad position of the enemy in relation to the creek. He sent an officer at high speed to Phillips, to tell him that he was going to charge and begging him to join. He did not wait for other troops to come up, nor even for orders from Pleasanton, who was in the rear. He threw his men into column of regiments, the 10th Missouri in front, the 4th Iowa second, the 3d Iowa third, and the small detachments of the 4th Missouri and 8th Indiana last. He had now about 1100 men. He took the right of the advanced regiment and ordered Trot! and Gallop! intending to charge in column of regiments. The enemy was only musket range distant, and was already firing. Benteen's regiment in front, the 10th Missouri, suddenly balked, and checked all those behind. Benteen then ordered Charge! and put himself in the lead. The regiment braced up and moved again, but only enough to clear the confusion in the rear. It was unaccountable, for these were men of long experience and many battles. Benteen rode out full in the front, his hat gone, his long hair flying, his sword swinging about his head, his face white with anger and his voice roaring Charge! with fierce profanity. Phillips's brigade had also started forward, but had already halted, and began filing on the rebel left at long range.
The commander of the 4th Iowa happened to be the genius for this awkward situation. He was Major Pierce, a long, clumsy Yankee, who had never been specially distinguished, and was never supposed to possess military ability. Seeing Benteen's difficulty, he galloped to the left of his own regiment, which, because of its larger numbers, projected to the left of the regiment in front the length of about two companies. That is, between these two companies and the enemy there was a free field.
Major Pierce had a great scheme in his head. He ordered his own regiment forward from the left in column of fours, and as the column drew out around the left of the advanced regiment, he placed himself at its head, ordered "Trot!-Gallop!-Charge!" and rode right at the rebel line. His column struck near its right flank and went through like a cannon-ball. The remainder of the brigade at once followed up the charge, and almost before it could be told the whole of Marmaduke's division was in hopeless confusion and Fagan's breaking. Phillips then brought his brigade up in a charge against Fagan, and the rout of the whole force was complete. Within a few minutes, more than a thousand rebels were killed, wounded or captured, while Marmaduke and three brigade commanders, with five of the eight guns, were captured. Fagan tried to hold the remainder of the rebels on the south side of the creek, but his resistance was feeble, three more guns were lost, and the whole command galloped away across the prairie, with no appearance of order.
When a battle had appeared imminent reports had been sent on to Price, who was with Shelby's division, six miles ahead. By a singular irony of fate Price was at that moment engaged with Shelby in planning an attack upon the town of Fort Scott, a few miles beyond, which was garrisoned by a small force and contained large supplies. But now he ordered Shelby's division back to the support of Marmaduke and Fagan, and he rode with it himself. His shock and distress may be imagined when he met the flying fragments of the two divisions, without guns and without order. He describes them as in "utter and indescribable confusion, many having thrown away their arms, deaf to all entreaties and commands, and in vain all efforts to rally them." He let them all go and turned to Shelby, his last hope. But Shelby never lost his head, and the men who followed him were dare-devils. With characteristic courage he undertook to save the day. He occupied several advantageous positions in succession, only falling back under attack, and thus protecting the broken divisions and saving the train until nightfall.
The victorious cavalrymen dropped upon the grass and fell asleep holding their bridles, too tired to care whether there was fire or food. In three days they had gone nearly 100 miles, had fought five battles, and had had little sleep, the last night none.
The next morning, more tired than ever and stiff with cold, they dragged into Fort Scott, where they had plenty of food and fire, and were allowed a day's rest.
It was the end of Price. He redoubled his efforts to get away. He destroyed the greater part of his train, abandoned all things not of stern necessity, closed up the remainder of his command, and hurried into the mountain wilderness of southwest Missouri. General Blunt, with the Kansas cavalry, by forced marches, overtook his rear three days later and at once attacked, but Shelby's division held him back in a stubborn engagement until night and then withdrew.
A LONG PURSUIT.
That was the last seen of Price by the pursuing column, although the pursuit was kept up ten days longer. Winslow's brigade ought now to have been released and returned to its own army. In fact orders had already been issued by Sherman and Thomas to bring it into Tennessee to join Thomas, then pitted against Hood. The Kansas and Missouri troops were more than enough to finish the work with Price. But Rosecrans made no effort to execute these orders, while Curtis directly ordered the brigade to go with him, and Colonel Benteen deemed it his duty to obey. So the Missouri troops, who had been in the field one month, were now all returned to their permanent camps, while Winslow's men, who had marched near a thousand miles to help them, and had been out two months, were now sent on into the wilderness for a third month.
The road led through the Ozarks of southwest Missouri, the Boston Mountains of northwest Arkansas and Indian Territory, to the Arkansas River, beyond Tahlequah, the Indian capital. The weather became very bad, storms of rain and snow alternating with hard freezing. Rations were cut down and finally disappeared. For ten days there were no commissary supplies. Corn meal and flour were picked up in small lots by foragers, apples were found, and there was on some days a scanty supply of beef from cattle that had been dropped out of Price's herds. But the horses suffered more. Very little corn was found, the snow covered the grass, and for two or three days they could eat only twigs and such dry grass as was tall enough to rise above the snow.
In the afternoon of November 7th, the advance of the pursuing column reached the Arkansas River. The last of the enemy had got over a few hours before. But their numbers had sadly dwindled. Hundreds and thousands had deserted, and Price crossed the river with only a few thousand men and three or four guns.
This was the farthest point of pursuit proposed by any of the several generals who issued orders for this badly managed campaign. But an order was now received from Halleck, directing whoever might be in command to release Winslow's brigade at once and send it to Nashville, where Thomas was straining every nerve to meet Hood.
That night the little brigade lay down in their blankets on the bank of the Arkansas in this wilderness, without any supper, and were again covered by a deep snow. But the morning was the 8th of November, election day - "McClellan and peace at any price" against "Lincoln and the vigorous prosecution of the war." They could not make their vote official, but the Iowa men went through the forms and voted unanimously for "Lincoln and the vigorous prosecution of the war." And they had " prosecuted the war" so vigorously in this campaign that from that time until Kirby Smith surrendered there was no march of the enemy and no fighting other than small bushwhacking in Missouri or Arkansas.
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New York Commandery, Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States
Source: Scott, W., 1904. The Last Fight for Missouri. Personal Recollections of the War of the Rebellion. Address delivered before the Commandery of the State of New York, Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, February 3, 1904. Published by the Commandery, Astor Place, New York: J.J. Little & Co. 1907, Volume 3, pgs.292-328.
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