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[515] Toward night the panic in a degree subsided, but many of those who remained did not retire or attempt to sleep. A consultation was held, and the question of evacuating Springfield seriously discussed. Looking at it in a military point of view, there was no doubt of the propriety, and even necessity, of the step, and many of Gen. Lyon's officers counselled such a movement. Some favored a retreat in the direction of Kansas, while others regarded Rolla as the more desirable. Gen. Sweeney, however, pointed out the disastrous results which must ensue upon retreating without a battle — how the enemy would be flushed and boastful over such an easy conquest, the Union element crushed or estranged from us, and declared himself in favor of holding on to the last moment and of giving the enemy battle as soon as he should approach within striking distance. This kind of counsel decided Gen. Lyon to remain, save his own reputation and that of the officers under him, and not evacuate Springfield until compelled.

Thursday morning the rebels were reported actually advancing upon the city. The troops were quickly in line of battle, baggage-wagons all sent to the centre of the town, and in this position they remained during nearly the entire day. The enemy having been reinforced, had encamped in position two miles nearer the city on Wilson's Creek, their tents being on either side of it, and extending a mile east and south of the road, crossing to two miles west and north of the same, the creek running nearly in the shape of a horizontal <01>. At the crossing of the Fayetteville road the hills on either side of the stream were two or three hundred feet high, the slopes being very gentle on the north and abrupt on the south side, and the valley about half a mile in width, though in many places up stream or west and northward, the slopes were so gentle that they were occupied by tents for a much greater distance. Thursday evening the troops were ready for marching orders, but a portion of the Kansas troops had been so much engaged the night before as to be really unfit for service, and an order for all except those actually on guard to retire and rest was issued, and the night attack was again deferred.

Friday the city was remarkably quiet. Those who made it a business to repeat exciting rumors had been frightened away with much of the material upon which they operated. Enlistments in the Springfield regiment “for the war” were rapid, and a feeling of security prevailed. During the afternoon Capt. Wood's Kansas cavalry with one or two companies of regulars, drove five hundred rebel rangers from the prairie five miles west of the town, capturing eight of their number and killing two, without loss to our side.

At 8 o'clock in the evening, Gen. Siegel, with his own and Colonel Salomon's command, and six pieces of artillery, moved southward, marching until nearly 2 o'clock, and passing around the extreme camp of the enemy, where he halted thirteen miles from town, and on the south side of the rebels, ready to move forward and begin the attack as soon as he should hear the roar of Gen. Lyon's artillery.

The main body of troops, under Gen. Lyon, moved from the city about the same hour, halted a short time five miles west of the city, thence in a southwesterly direction four miles, where we halted and slept till 4 A. M., Saturday, the day of the battle.

Moving forward, with Captain Plummer's company and Major Osterhaus' battalion thrown out as skirmishers, we soon saw a party of rebel pickets near our extreme right, scampering off to alarm the camp, but as our centre and left were already partially between them and camp, they were forced to the westward, and it is doubtful whether they reached the camp at all before the battle. It was now five o'clock. The enemy's pickets were driven in; the northern end of the valley in which they were encamped was visible, with its thousands of tents and its camp-fires; the sky was cloudy, but not threatening, and the most terribly destructive of battles, compared with the number engaged, was at hand. Our army moved now toward the southwest, to leave the creek and a spring which empties in it on our left. Passing over a spur of high land which lies at the north end of the valley, they entered a valley, and began to ascend a hill moderately covered with trees and underwood, which was not, however, dense enough to be any impediment to the artillery. Capt. Wright, with three or four companies of mounted Home Guards, the only ones in the engagement, was sent to the left, across the creek, to cut off a party of horsemen visible on that side, near a house recently vacated by a Union man named Hale. Upon their approach, the rebels retired behind the south fence of a corn-field, and in the adjoining bush were soon visible swarms of men, whose fire threatened to be disastrous to the Home Guard cavalry should they approach. Through the thin stalks of the broom-corn, Capt. Wright had seen the ambuscade, and approached only near enough to draw their fire, when he withdrew, to induce them to follow him into the field, where he could charge upon them effectively. He repeated this movement three times, but the enemy were too wily, and would only remain behind the fence. Captains Plummer and Gilbert's companies of regulars were then ordered to attack them in the corn-field, which they did, and were driven back from the fence and followed by three thousand or thirty-five hundred rebels, before whom the two companies retired firing.

Meanwhile the opposite hill had been stormed and taken by the gallant Missouri First and Osterhaus' battalion, and Totten's battery of six pieces had taken position on its summit and north side, and was belching forth its loudmouthed thunder, much to the distraction of


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N. Lyon (8)
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