During the year 1863, I chronicled the various events mentioned in the following pages, just as they impressed me by actual observation, or by authorities deemed reliable. Though my manuscript contained all the facts here presented, except a few notes made from official data, I have never considered it in suitable shape for publication. In rewriting it, I have stricken out certain criticisms and passages hastily set down in camp or on the march, and I hope that I have improved the expression in various ways. I have endeavored to make the work a panoramic view of military operations and events on the borders of Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas and the Indian Territory during the year 1863. Eighteen years have now elapsed since I collected the material from which my Memoirs are written, and I have not as yet met with a single book pretending to give any kind of an account of [16] the military operations of our army for any one year during the rebellion, in that portion of the Trans-Mississippi region mentioned in the following chapters. Though one might, by rummaging the archives of the War Department, get material enough out of general orders and official reports of battles, skirmishes, etc., in that region, to enable him to write a small volume, he would get very little of the kind of material that I collected. I noted not only the movements of the army with which I was connected, and the battles and minor engagements which it fought, but I also turned aside now and then to note a good many other things; as, for instance, the thoughts and feelings of the soldiers on various subjects, as reflected in their conversations around their camp fires and on the march. I have also given short descriptions of the country we marched over and around our camps; the pro and con opinions of officers and soldiers in regard to the policy of the Government, in emancipating the slaves and of enlisting the freedmen into the army. And on several occasions I give a moment's thought to natural phenomena, which were subjects of conversation in the camp.

The critical reader may, perhaps, think that I have in one instance purposely arranged my composition [17] to show that “coming events cast their shadows before.” But I have not. The facts, however, show that they sometimes do. Gen. Shelby's raid through Missouri in October, 1863, affords an example. The approaching storm was indicated nearly a week before the invasion by the main force took place, and we are almost made to hear the distant rumbling of artillery carriages and caissons, and the faint tramping of marching squadrons.

Should it be asked why I have allowed eighteen years to elapse before printing my chronicles, I reply because I felt that they should have a more careful and critical revision than I have been able to give them until lately, before going to the public. A literary composition even of this kind, like other art compositions, as in painting and sculpture, for instance, is always susceptible of improvement in the manner of presentation, without affecting its truthfulness in regard to the matter treated of. I have no doubt but that much more trimming and pruning might have been done to good advantage.

I felt such an interest in the anti-slavery cause before the war, that Kansas, to me, always meant a principle, and I left home at an early age to join the Free State party. It was, therefore, a real pleasure to me to [18] chronicle everything that I thought would be of interest in the future pertaining to Kansas soldiers in the war. At the same time I endeavored to do full justice to the soldiers of other States serving with us in that section.

Though, no doubt, I always clearly show where my sympathies lie in the discussion of any given question, yet I do not believe that I have, in any instance, displayed strong partisan bias. Nor have I been tempted to write anything for the purpose of producing a sensation.

Future generations of that portion of the Trans-Mississippi country covered by my Memoirs will doubtless wish to know what part, if any, the people took in the Great War of the Rebellion. But there has been, as yet, very little published in permanent and accessible form, from which they will be able to obtain the desired information, although nearly all the able-bodied men were in the Federal and Confederate armies, and the storms of war raged furiously over that section. A few sketches of one or two campaigns have been written, but mere sketches are evanescent and pass away in a generation. I hope that I have done something towards filling up the hiatus which exists during the period of the most exciting events in our history. [19]

If the reader will endeavor to put himself in my place during the period covered by my memoirs, he will then see the marches, battles, skirmishes, reconnoissances, reviews, etc., as I saw them. As he passes about the camp alone from time to time, he will see refugees, men, women and children, of almost every conceivable color and condition, except that none of them appear to be provided with much of this world's goods and means of happiness. Passing to the hospitals, he will see the sick and wounded, men bleeding and mangled and torn by shot and shell, by small arms, and by the cuts and thrusts of swords and bayonets; he will see them bearing wounds, from the slightest contusions to limbs torn from their bodies; he will hear men groaning and pleading to die, that they may be relieved from their intense suffering; he will hear others, with piteous expressions upon their quivering lips, praying to be taken to their homes to die surrounded by their families and friends; he will see comrades who, but a few days before, were beaming with health and buoyant with life and hope, with the dark shadows of death seizing upon their countenances; and the grief-stricken forms of the dear ones these noble men left behind, when they staked their lives in defense [20] of their country and their homes, will rise up before him.

But passing from these scenes of death and woe, his mind is permitted to dwell upon other subjects less gloomy, and which tend to make the heart glad instead of making it ache. On the march and under clear blue skies, he will cross silver-eddying streams or mountain-brooks leaping and splashing and foaming along. And by the wayside he will drink from crystal springs bubbling out of the earth, as beautiful as sparkling fountains. The scenes are constantly changing, and always interesting to anyone of healthy mind and body; and he will see landscapes of every conceivable variety, from the forest-covered mountains and hills of Arkansas to the grass-covered prairies and plains of Kansas, and from the deep green of spring to the rich and variegated tints of autumn, and the snow-covered ground of winter.

It is proper that I should express my indebtedness to Captain William Gallaher, Colonel Phillips' Assistant Adjutant-General, for many kindnesses and courtesies in connection with the writing of my Memoirs while we were attached to the Indian division. And during the latter part of the year I received from General C. W. Blair, the commanding officer of the [21] post of Fort Scott and the District of Southern Kansas, many acts of kindness and words of encouragement, for which I feel under deep obligations to him. As he was one of the most accomplished orators in the State, and a man of rare culture and refinement, I have always considered myself fortunate that I made his acquaintance, and was permitted to regard him as my friend. I have never met any one who came nearer my ideal of the perfectly accomplished gentleman than General Blair.

It will perhaps be thought by some that I have given undue prominence to the operations of Colonel Phillips' division. But I think that any one who will follow the operations of this division, will agree with me that I have not magnified its achievements or overestimated the merits of its commander. Considering the number and kind of troops with which he had to operate, and the long line of communication he had to keep open from his advanced position, there was not perhaps another officer in our army who accomplished so much with a single division of troops.

I hope that I have made the work worthy of being welcomed by the young men and women who have grown up since the war, and who desire to become acquainted [22] with the great events in which their fathers participated. To thus commemorate the grand achievements of the men with whom I served, has afforded me real pleasure, for I felt that never before have the soldiers engaged in a great struggle deserved such a measure of gratitude of future generations as those whose heroic actions I have recorded.

Wiley Britton. Washington, D. C., May, 1882.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
William A. Phillips (2)
C. W. Blair (2)
Shelby (1)
William Gallaher (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
1863 AD (2)
May, 1882 AD (1)
October, 1863 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: