would have been reduced to terrible straits, and might, perhaps, have even fallen a prey to Hindman. Before describing the actual conflict, it may be well to mention the condition of affairs in Springfield, before the battle. The city of Springfield, like most towns in the South and West, is laid out around a large public square in the centre. The court-house, the bank, the hotels, the principal stores — in fact, all prominent edifices — are on or near the central square. From this geographical and mercantile focus, the four principal streets proceed, east, west, north, and south, at right angles to each other. The other streets of the city are parallel to these. In the system of fortification adopted, for the defence of Springfield, the forts are placed as follows: Fort No. 1 is near the west street, a little north of it, and about one mile from the square. This is a pentagonal fort, with five bastions, and is almost impregnable. It incloses ten acres of ground, and is provided with wells, and a magazine. Its parapet and ditch are each twenty feet in width. It wants but little of entire completion. Near the same street, but a little south of it, and at about the same distance from the centre of the city, is Fort No. 2, upon a hill directly opposite Fort No. 1. In its present unfinished condition, this fort would be of more service to an enemy attacking us than to ourselves. On the south street, within the city limits, not one half-mile from the public square, is Fort No. 4, which was the only fort directly attacked by the enemy on last Thursday. It is a small but strong work, with two bastions, one of which projects across the south street, and commands the road in both directions. Fort No. 5 is another unfinished work upon the east street, about half-a-mile from the square. Other forts are projected, but not yet begun. The city thus fortified lies half in the prairie and half in the timber. Upon the north and east all is forest; upon the south and west the country<*>s entirely open. The rebels chose to make their attack from the south, which was an error, for two reasons. First, because they were more exposed to our view, in their advance from the south, than they would have been from the east; secondly, because the north and east side of the town were not defended by forts. At the time of the battle the army of the frontier was at Fayetteville, and in that vicinity. The militia, under Generals Brown and Holland, were very much scattered over South-West Missouri. There were in Springfield not more than one thousand five hundred troops capable of service, if indeed there were so many; while Marmaduke's men numbered from two thousand to two thousand five hundred. Our men were nearly all State militia and enrolled militia, except the Eighteenth Iowa infantry, who were raw; while Marmaduke's command had been seasoned in numerous engagements. The rebels doubtless supposed that we would surrender or retreat at the first fire. Until the very night before the attack, their approach was entirely unknown, except to a few of their own friends. On Wednesday evening reports were brought to General E. B. Brown, commander of the district of South-West Missouri, that five or six thousand rebel cavalry were moving northward from White River, for an attack on Springfield. Whether the report was true or false, it was impossible to determine, but every preparation was made to defend the place from any force which might make its appearance. During the night the Commissary removed fifty thousand rations to Fort No. 1. The Medical Director organized and armed the “Quinine brigade” of convalescents from the various hospitals. The Quartermaster loaded all his wagons and started them north toward Bolivar. Cannon were mounted on Forts Nos. 1 and 4; ammunition distributed, scouts sent out, hospitals prepared for the reception of the wounded, despatches sent to St. Louis — in a word, the night was turned into day. Even some of the secesh women here were busy, preparing to feast the rebel officers, upon their arrival. At least three rebel spies were in town that night, and Emmett McDonald, the long-haired, sent word by one of them to Mrs.----, that he would take tea with her on Thursday. On Thursday morning the work of preparation was continued, although the general feeling among the soldiers was: “We may hold the town, and we will not give it up without a fight; but we shall probably be whipped.” At one o'clock the enemy showed themselves upon the prairie south of the town. Without one word of notice to remove the women and children, they opened fire upon the town with solid shot, though they knew that scores of their own friends, both women and prisoners, were exposed to the same danger as our loyal citizens. I had thought that this infamy was reserved for Marmaduke alone; but I learn that Hindman did the same thing at Van Buren, in Arkansas. “Gentlemen,” said General Brown, who stood on the south-west bastion of Fort No. 4, “this is unprecedented; it is barbarous!” After several shots from the rebels, our cannon replied, Gen. Brown himself directing the firing. His courage was conspicuous. As the balls whistled close over our heads, the men and even some of the officers would dodge, but the General stood immovable, proudly erect. The fight then opened with some skirmishing of the cavalry. Our cavalry was posted in front, a half-mile south of Fort No. 4. My blood quickened its flow, as I watched our brave boys gallop forward to the charge, then saw the enemy galloping in a long line to meet them, and heard the sharp, rapid firing of carbines, on both sides. After each charge and fire, both parties would turn and gallop back, with small loss on either side. This did not last long. The Third M. S. M., (cavalry,) under Col. King, retired to a line running east from the fort; the Fourth M. S. M., (cavalry,) under Col. Hall, retired to a line running west from the fort, and the enemy made their first attack upon Col. King's side. The Seventy-second
This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
Rebel reports and Narratives.
Doc . 91 .- General Sherman 's expedition.
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.