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Doc. 117.-fight at Mingo swamp, Mo.


Missouri Democrat account.

St. Louis, February 16, 1863.
on the morning of the second of February, detachments from seven companies of the Twelfth were ordered to form a junction at Dallas, Missouri, on the night of the second instant, which was done by nine P. M. During the night small parties scoured the country south and west, as low down as Castor, which it was found impossible to ford just then. In the course of the morning our parties came in with a number of prisoners, and twenty saddles that had been concealed in the woods by the rebels. Being somewhat decayed, they were burned. At eight A. M. on the morning of the third instant, Major Reeder having learned that the enemy were in the neighborhood of Big Mingo, gave the order to fall in, determined by a forced march to surprise the rebels. When six miles from the ford, at Bolling's Mill, Adjutant Macklind was ordered forward, with twelve men, to try the ford and to secure any parties in the vicinity. Wishing to see the result, I joined the party. A sharp gallop soon brought us to the ford, when on the opposite bank at the mill we discovered a few men mounting their horses. They were ordered to halt under the range of our rifles, and the Adjutant crossed in a canoe with a few men, and secured the prisoners, gaining from them exact information as to the position of the rebels. A brief examination decided the ford practicable. A messenger was despatched to Major Reeder, and in a short time the head of our column was in sight. The crossing was soon effected without serious accident. It being impossible to bring wagons through the stream, they were ordered back to Jackson, and preparations made for a rapid movement on the stronghold of the rebels, under the immediate command of the notorious guerrilla chief Dan McGee, said to number sixty men, stationed, as they supposed, in an impenetrable swamp to any thing in the shape of cavalry. The crossing being effected, the Major called for volunteers and the best horses. Sixty men responded with alacrity. Fours right! trot — forward! and away we went, the remaining force being ordered to join us as rapidly as possible. On we went for eight miles over a contemptible “apology” for a road, when the guide announced the vicinity of Sim. Cato's, the headquarters of the guerrillas. The command, “Draw pistols — prepare to charge!” passed along the line. In a moment all were ready, when a sudden turn in the road discovered to Major Reeder, Macklind, and Lieutenant Chaveaux, in the advance, the presence of the enemy at a few hundred yards distance. “Charge!” rang sharp and clear on the winter air, and we were upon them. They grasped their arms in vain — in vain they sought to mount their horses. Our men were among them dealing death; they were completely surprised; a brief struggle, and the forest was again quiet; the sharp report of the pistol and carbine had ceased. McGee and eight of his men were killed and twenty wounded--all but four too seriously to be removed. Leaving the dead and wounded to the neighborhood, and being now joined by the remainder of the command, we pushed forward to Bloomfield. Our road lay through the Big Mingo Swamp. Night was gathering around, and a drifting snow-storm swept in wild eddies through the deep forest — blinding horse and rider — ever and anon down went some luckless trooper through the treacherous crust of the Mingo; thus for three weary hours the little column struggled through snow, ice, mud, and tangled underbrush, vines and creepers stooped from the branches overhead, and chucked you under the chin, or doffed your cap “sans” ceremony — your cap gone, it was a bootless task to think even of again possessing it; still on, on we went, plash, plash, curses low but deep might be heard, as some half-blinded trooper lodged against a sapling, or in a grape-vine across the path; all else was silent; the troopers and their snow-covered garments and horses looked like great phantoms making their nocturnal grand rounds; anon a wild hog, startled from his lair, would rush by with a snort, and all again be quiet save the plash, plash of many feet. At last the joyful sound of “The swamp is crossed!” ran along the lines; a twinkling light in the distance assured us that we belonged yet to the upper world. A few minutes brought us to the house of a good Union man — a curiosity in these parts — where the troopers shook the snow from their great-coats, and fed their horses, a halt for an hour being ordered, while your correspondent sought the cheerful [416] face of a blazing fire, in an ample chimney. The good dame soon prepared a snack, the first we had tasted since morning. This was soon despatched — to horse sounded. Brushing the snow hastily from their saddles, the troop mounted, and we moved on through the darkness, to Bloomfield, yet fifteen miles distant. The snow still came down in great white flakes. Three hours brought us to the once charming capital of Stoddard County. The column closed up and the order to charge into the town was given, and right gallantly was the charge made — a few minutes and every road was secured and house under our command. The report that a force of three hundred of the rebels proved false — they having fell back to Chalk Bluffs some days previous; the rebel Provost-Marshal, one Sickle, from New-York, having fled with the rest. Bloomfield, once a flourishing town, presents a dreary and deserted appearance, its rebel proclivities have left the mark of Cain upon its once fair face.

On the morning of the sixth instant, took up our line of march for Jackson, where the command arrived in safety, having accomplished a distance of two hundred miles in three days, and completely defeated a gang of desperadoes that have been a terror to South-east Missouri from the beginning of the war.

The officers and men behaved throughout with credit to themselves and the army. Major Reeder, Adjutant Macklind, W. Pape, Lieut. Chaveaux, and Capt. Bangs, deserve especial notice for their coolness and efficiency. I shall long remember the “gallant” Major's “Close up! Close up!” through that dreary night march; and the many courtesies shown me by the officers and men of the command, not forgetting their gallant and efficient commander, Lieut.-Colonel B. F. Lazear.

H.

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