I should have called it sixteen hundred, had I been called on for an estimate.
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 time.
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 their sound.
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 consideration.
The First Missouri Infantry went into action with seven hundred and twenty-six men. Its casualty list was as follows:–
Killed………………………….. 77 Dangerously wounded………………. 93 Otherwise wounded………………… 126 Captured………………………… 2 Missing…………………………. 15 —
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 “59.”)
“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 acknowledged.
[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 credentials.
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 of Slavery.”
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 much.”
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 done.
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 army.
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 reverence.
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 questions.
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. Louis.
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 affair.
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 broken necks.
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 amusement.
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 Lexington!”
“Is it possible?”
“Yes,” he gasped, and then sank exhausted into a large (very large) arm-chair.
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 CAMPAIGN.]
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 Tipton.
“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_ miles.”
“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_ correspondent.
“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 despised.
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 army.
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 as soldiers.
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 capture.
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 enemy.
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 Springfield.
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 understand.
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 beginning.
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 garments.
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 instant departure.
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 our arms.
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 Secessionist’s boot.
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 gigantic rasp.
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 situated.
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 official duties.
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 Rebellion.
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. Ha! ha!”
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 brief.
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 chimneys.
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 would answer.
“That is just what I want,” said the whisky vender.
The officer called his attention to the fact that the notes had no signatures.
“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 Springfield.
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 7th.
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 balance undisturbed!
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 carry.
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 slightly injured.
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 united.
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 morrow.
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 latter.
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 conflagration.
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 Ridge.
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 Northern Arkansas.
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 their possession.