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Chapter III

  • Return to duty
  • -- General Harney's attitude -- Nathaniel Lyon in command -- defense of the St. Louis Arsenal -- service as mustering officer -- Major of the first Missouri -- surrender of Camp Jackson -- adjutant -- General on Lyon's staff -- a missing letter from Fremont to Lyon -- Lyon's reply -- battle of Wilson's Creek -- death of Lyon -- a question of command during the retreat -- origin of the opposition of the Blairs to Fremont -- affair at Fredericktown.

when it became probable that military force would be required by the government to maintain its authority in the Southern States, I informed the War Department of my readiness to return to duty whenever my services might be required, and was instructed to await orders in St. Louis. Upon President Lincoln's first call for volunteers, I was detailed to muster in the troops required of the State of Missouri. With the order of detail was furnished a copy of the old instructions for mustering into service, etc., which required me to call upon the governor of Missouri for the regiments to be mustered, and to accept only fully organized regiments. It was well and publicly known that the executive of Missouri was disloyal to the United States, and that compliance with the President's demand for volunteers was not to be expected from the State government; yet my instructions authorized me to take no action which could be effective under such circumstances, and the then department [33] commander, Brigadier-General William S. Harney, would not consent that any such action be taken without orders from Washington. I called upon Governor Jackson for his regiments, but received no reply.

In my visit to General Harney after the attack on Fort Sumter, I urged the necessity of prompt measures to protect the St. Louis Arsenal, with its large stores of arms and ammunition, then of priceless value, and called his attention to the rumor of an intended attack upon the arsenal by the secessionists then encamped near the city under the guise of State militia. In reply, the general denounced in his usual vigorous language the proposed attempt upon the arsenal; and, as if to clinch his characterization of such a ‘—outrage,’ said: ‘Why, the State has not yet passed an ordinance of secession; she has not gone out of the Union.’ That did not indicate to me that General Harney's Union principles were quite up to the standard required by the situation, and I shared with many others a feeling of great relief when he was soon after relieved, and Captain Nathaniel Lyon succeeded to the command of the department. Yet I have no doubt General Harney was, from his own point of view, thoroughly loyal to the Union, though much imbued with the Southern doctrines which brought on secession and civil war. His appropriate place after that movement began was that of the honorable retirement in which he passed the remainder of his days, respected by all for his sterling character and many heroic services to his country.

Two days later, Captain Lyon, then commanding the St. Louis Arsenal, having received from the War Department authority to enroll and muster into the service the Missouri volunteers as they might present themselves, I reported to him and acted under his orders. Fortunately, a large number of the loyal citizens of St. Louis had, in anticipation of a call to take up arms in support [34] of the government, organized themselves into companies, and received some instruction in tactics at their places of secret nightly meeting in the city. On the other hand, the organized militia of the State, mostly disloyal, were in the city of St. Louis near the arsenal, which contained many thousand muskets, and which was defended by only a small body of regular troops. There was great danger that the arsenal would follow the fate of the public arsenals in the more Southern States. To avert this danger was the first great object.

Upon receipt of the necessary authority by Captain Lyon, I was called out of church on Sunday morning, April 21, and the loyal secret organizations were instructed to enter the arsenal at night, individually, each member being furnished with a pass for that purpose. The mustering officer employed himself all night and the following day in distributing arms and ammunition to the men as they arrived, and in stationing them along the arsenal walls. Thus the successful defense of the arsenal was secured, though its garrison was neither mustered into service nor organized into regiments, nor even enrolled. The organization of the volunteers now began, the mustering officer superintending the election of officers, enrolling the men, and perfecting the organization in conformity to the militia laws of the State.

On June 4 I transmitted to the adjutant-general ‘the muster-rolls of five regiments of infantry; of four rifle battalions of two companies each, attached to the 1st, 2d, 3d, and 4th regiments; of one artillery battalion of three companies; and of a company of pioneers’; also ‘the muster-roll of Brigadier-General Lyon's staff, mustered by himself.’ Accompanying the muster-rolls was a return showing the strength of each regiment and of the brigade.

Lyon had previously been elected brigadier-general of the brigade the regiments of which I had mustered in, [35] but I had no authority to muster in a brigadier-general and staff.

The Missouri United States Reserve Corps, organized in St. Louis about the same time, consisting of five regiments, was mustered into service by General Lyon, under special authority from the War Department. Upon the cordial invitation of the officers of the 1st Regiment, I accepted the place of major of that regiment, mustered myself into service as such, and devoted all the time that could be spared from my mustering duties to instructing the officers in tactics and military administration—a labor which was abundantly repaid by the splendid record soon made by that regiment.

On June 24 I made a full report to the adjutantgen-eral of the discharge of my duties as mustering officer, including three new regiments of three years volunteers whose muster would be completed in a few days. With this report my connection with that service was terminated. On the following day I was relieved from mustering duty, and at General Lyon's request was ordered to report to him at Boonville, remaining with him as adjutant-general and chief of staff until his death at Wilson's Creek.

The foregoing account gives the organization (the strength was about 14,000) of the volunteer force with which the war in Missouri was begun. To this was added Lyon's company of the 2d Infantry, a detachment of regular recruits, about 180 strong, commanded by Lieutenant Lothrop, and Totten's battery of the 2d United States Artillery. Lyon, who, as described, had been elected brigadier-general of the militia, was on May 17 appointed by the President to the same grade in the United States volunteer forces; and when, on May 30, General Harney was relieved from the command of the Department of the West, General Lyon became the commander of that department. [36]

General Lyon was a man of ability and scholarly attainments, an earnest patriot, keenly alive to the nature and magnitude of the struggle in which the country was about to engage, and eager to take the initiative as soon as he had at his command sufficient force to give promise of success. To his keen foresight the State militia at Camp Jackson, near St. Louis, though a lawful State organization engaged in its usual annual field exercises, was an incipient rebel army which ought to be crushed in the bud. This feeling was shared by the more earnest Union men of St. Louis, who had the confidence of the President and were in daily consultation with Lyon; while the more prudent or conservative, hoping to avoid actual conflict in the State, or at least in the city, advised forbearance. Subsequent events showed how illusive was the hope of averting hostilities in any of the border States, and how fortunate it was that active measures were adopted at once.

On May 10 General Lyon marched out with the force then organized, surrounded Camp Jackson, and demanded its surrender. The militia commander, Brigadier-General Daniel M. Frost, after protesting in vain against the ‘wrong and insult’ to the State, seeing resistance hopeless, surrendered his command, about 1500 men, with their arms and munitions of war. After the surrender, and while preparations were making to conduct the prisoners to the arsenal, some shots were fired upon our troops from a crowd that had assembled round the campground. The fire was returned by some of the troops, in spite of all efforts of the officers to prevent it, and a number of persons, mostly inoffensive, were killed and wounded. In this affair I was designated by General Lyon to receive the surrender of the commander of Camp Jackson and his troops, and to take charge of the prisoners, conduct them to the arsenal, and the next day to parole them. I extended to the commander and other [37] officers the courtesy of permitting them to retain their swords, and treated the prisoners in such a manner as to soothe somewhat their intensely excited feelings. One of the colonels, not anticipating such courteous treatment, had broken his sword and thrown the pieces upon the ground, rather than surrender it to the hated Yankees.

The possession of St. Louis, and the supremacy of the national authority therein, being now secured, General Lyon directed his energies toward operations in the interior of the State. On June 13 he moved up the Missouri River with the 1st Missouri Volunteers, Totten's battery of the 2d United States Artillery, one company of the 2d United States Infantry, two companies of regular recruits, and nine companies of the 2d Missouri Volunteers, and attacked the enemy under Sterling Price on the 17th, near Boonville, and gained an easy victory. The loss on our side was two killed and nine wounded; that of the enemy, ten killed and a number of prisoners.

I joined General Lyon at Boonville on June 26, and began duty as his adjutant-general. Preparations were now made as rapidly as possible to push operations into the southwestern part of Missouri. A force consisting of about 1500 infantry and one battery of four guns, under Colonel Franz Sigel, was sent from St. Louis, via Rolla, to Springfield; while a force of regular troops under Major Samuel D. Sturgis, 1st Cavalry, consisting of one company of the 2d Dragoons, four companies of the 1st Cavalry, Du Bois's battery of four guns, three companies of the 1st Infantry, two companies of the 2d Infantry, some regular recruits, the 1st and 2d Kansas Infantry, and one company of Kansas Cavalry Volunteers, was ordered from Fort Leavenworth to join General Lyon's immediate command, en route to Springfield. General Lyon's march was begun on July 3, and Major Sturgis joined him at Clinton, Mo., on the 4th. [38] The command reached Springfield on July 13, and there met Colonel Sigel's brigade, which we learned had pushed as far to the front as Newtonia, but, meeting a superior force of the enemy at Carthage on July 5, had fallen back to Springfield. General Lyon's intention was, upon effecting this junction with Sturgis and Sigel, to push forward and attack the enemy, if possible, while we were yet superior to him in strength. He had ordered supplies to be sent from St. Louis via Rolla, but they remained at Rolla, the railroad terminus, for want of wagon transportation. The troops had to live upon such supplies as could be obtained from the country, and many of them were without shoes. A continuous march of more than two or three days was impossible. General Lyon's force was rapidly diminishing, and would soon almost disappear by the discharge of the three months men, while that of the enemy was as rapidly increasing and becoming more formidable by additions to its supplies of arms and ammunition. General Lyon made frequent appeals for reinforcements and for provisions, but received little encouragement, and soon became convinced that he must rely upon the resources then at his command. He was unwilling to abandon southwestern Missouri to the enemy without a struggle, even though almost hopeless of success, and determined to bring on a decisive battle, if possible, before his short-term volunteers were discharged. Learning that the enemy was slowly advancing from the southwest by two or three different roads, Lyon moved out, August 1, on the Cassville road, had a skirmish with the enemy's advance-guard at Dug Springs the next day, and the day following (the 3d) again at Curran Post-office. The enemy showed no great force, and offered but slight resistance to our advance. It was evident that a general engagement could not be brought on within the limits of time and distance to which we were confined by the state of [39] our supplies. It was therefore determined to return to Springfield.

General Lyon was greatly depressed by the situation in which he was placed, the failure of expected reinforcements and supplies from St. Louis, and an evidently strong conviction that these failures were due to a plan to sacrifice him to the ambition of another, and by a morbid sensitiveness respecting the disaster to the Union people of southwestern Missouri, (who had relied upon him for protection) which must result from the retreat of his army. Lyon's personal feeling was so strongly enlisted in the Union cause, its friends were so emphatically his personal friends and its enemies his personal enemies, that he could not take the cool, soldierly view of the situation which should control the actions of the commander of a national army. If Lyon could have foreseen how many times the poor people of that section were destined to be overrun by the contending forces before the contest could be finally decided, his extreme solicitude at that moment would have disappeared. Or if he could have risen to an appreciation of the fact that his duty, as the commander in the field of one of the most important of the national armies, was not to protect a few loyal people from the inevitable hardships of war (loss of their cattle, grain, and fences), but to make as sure as possible the defeat of the hostile army, no matter whether to-day, to-morrow, or next month, the battle of Wilson's Creek would not have been fought.

On August 9 General Lyon received a letter from General John C. Fremont, then commanding the department, which had been forwarded to him from Rolla by Colonel John B. Wyman. The letter from General Fremont to Colonel Wyman inclosing that to General Lyon appears among the published papers submitted by Fremont to the Committee on the Conduct of the War in the early part of 1862, but the inclosure to Lyon is wanting. The [40] original letter, with the records to which it belonged, must, it is presumed, have been deposited at the headquarters of the department in St. Louis when the Army of the West was disbanded, in the latter part of August, 1861. Neither the original letter nor any copy of it can now (July, 1897) be found. It can only be conjectured what motive caused General Fremont to omit a copy of the letter from the papers submitted to the committee, which were at the time strongly commented upon in Congress, or what caused to be removed from the official files the original, which had again come into his possession.

General Lyon's answer to this letter, given below, the original draft of which was prepared by me and is yet in my possession, shows that Fremont's letter to Lyon was dated August 6, and was received on the 9th. I am not able to recall even the substance of the greater part of that letter, but the purport of that part of it which was then of vital importance is still fresh in my memory. That purport was instructions to the effect that if Lyon was not strong enough to maintain his position as far in advance as Springfield, he should fall back toward Rolla until reinforcements should meet him.

It is difficult to see why General Fremont did not produce a copy of those instructions in his statement to the committee. It would have furnished him with the best defense he could possibly have made against the charge of having sacrificed Lyon and his command. But the opinion then seemed so strong and so nearly universal that Lyon's fight at Wilson's Creek was a necessity, and that Fremont ought to have reinforced him before that time at any cost, that perhaps Fremont had not the courage to do what was really best for his own defense, namely, to acknowledge and maintain that he had ordered Lyon to fall back, and that the latter should have obeyed that order.

At my suggestion, General Lyon instructed me to prepare [41] an answer to General Fremont's letter on the morning of August 9. He altered the original draft, in his own hand, as is shown in the copy following; a fair copy of the letter as amended was then made, and he signed it.

Springfield, Aug. 9, 1861.
General: I have just received your note of the 6th inst. by special messenger.

I retired to this place, as I have before informed you, reaching here on the 5th. The enemy followed to within ten miles of here. He has taken a strong position, and is recruiting his supplies of horses, mules, and provisions by forays into the surrounding country; his large force of mounted men enabling him to do this without annoyance from me.

I find my position extremely embarrassing, and am at present unable to determine whether I shall be able to maintain my ground or be forced to retire. I can resist any attack from the front, but if the enemy moves to surround me I must retire. I shall hold my ground as long as possible, [and not] though I may without knowing how far endanger the safety of my entire force with its valuable material, being induced by the important considerations involved to take this step. The enemy yesterday made a show of force about five miles distant, and has doubtless a full purpose of making an attack upon me.

Very respectfully your obedient servant,

N. Lyon, Brigadier-General Vols., Commanding. Major-General J. C. Fremont, Comdg. Western Department, St. Louis, Mo.

The words in my handwriting which were erased (‘and not’ in brackets), and those substituted by General Lyon, given in italics, clearly express the difference of opinion which then existed between us upon the momentous question which we had then been discussing for several days, namely: What action did the situation require of him as commander of that army?

I was then young and wholly inexperienced in war; [42] but I have never yet seen any reason to doubt the correctness of the views I then urged with even more persistence than my subordinate position would fully justify. And this, I doubt not, must be the judgment of history. The fruitless sacrifice at Wilson's Creek was wholly unnecessary, and, under the circumstances, wholly unjustifiable. Our retreat to Rolla was open and perfectly safe, even if begun as late as the night of the 9th. A few days or a few weeks at the most would have made us amply strong to defeat the enemy and drive him out of Missouri, without serious loss to ourselves. Although it is true that we barely failed winning a victory on August 10, that was, and could have been, hoped for only as a mere possibility. Lyon himself despaired of it before the battle was half over, and threw away his own life in desperation. In addition to the depressing effect of his wounds, he must probably have become convinced of the mistake he had made in hazarding an unnecessary battle on so unequal terms, and in opposition to both the advice of his subordinates and the instructions of his superior. But this is only an inference. After Lyon had with the aid of Sigel (as explained hereafter) decided to attack, and arranged the plan, not a word passed between him and me on the question whether an attack should be made, except my question: ‘Is Sigel willing to undertake this?’ and Lyon's answer: ‘Yes; it is his plan.’

We went forward together, slept under the same blanket while the column was halted, from about midnight till the dawn of day, and remained close together nearly all the time until his death. But he seemed greatly depressed, and except to give orders, hardly uttered a word save the few I have mentioned in this narrative.

He was still unwilling to abandon without a desperate struggle the country he had occupied, thought the importance of maintaining his position was not understood [43] by his superior commander, and in his despondency believed, as above stated, that he was the intended victim of a deliberate sacrifice to another's ambition. He determined to fight a battle at whatever risk, and said: ‘I will gladly give my life for a victory.’

The enemy had now concentrated his forces, and was encamped on Wilson's Creek, about ten miles from Springfield. There had been some skirmishing between our reconnoitering parties and those of the enemy during the past few days, and a general advance had been determined on for the night of August 8, but it was postponed on account of the fatigued condition of the troops, who had been employed that day in meeting a reconnaissance of the enemy. The attack was finally made at daylight on the morning of the eventful August 10.

The plan of battle was determined on the morning of the 9th, in a consultation between General Lyon and Colonel Sigel, no other officers being present. General Lyon said, ‘It is Sigel's plan,’ yet he seemed to have no hesitation in adopting it, notwithstanding its departure from accepted principles, having great confidence in Sigel's superior military ability and experience. Sigel's brigade, about 1200 strong, was to attack the enemy's right, while Lyon, with the main body, about 4000 strong, was to attack the enemy's left. The two columns were to advance by widely separated roads, and the points of attack were so distant that communication between the two columns was not even thought of. The attack was made, as intended, by both columns at nearly the same instant, and both drove the enemy from his advanced position, Sigel even occupying the enemy's camp. Here he was soon after assailed by a superior force, and driven from the field with the loss of his artillery and 292 men killed, wounded, and missing. He did not appear upon the scene again that day, and the result of his attack was unknown to any one in the other column until after the [44] close of the battle. The main body, under Lyon's immediate command, made no general advance from the position first gained, but maintained that position against several fierce assaults. The enemy manifestly did not make good use of his superior numbers. He attacked us in front several times, but with a force not greatly superior to our own, and was invariably repulsed. Our men fought extremely well for raw troops, maintaining their ground, without any cover whatever, against repeated assaults for six hours, and losing in killed and wounded fully one third of their number. General Lyon received two wounds, one in the leg and one in the head, about the middle of the engagement; he then became more despondent than before, apparently from the effects of his wounds, for there appeared nothing in the state of the battle to dishearten a man of such unbounded courage as he undoubtedly possessed. A portion of our troops had given away in some disorder. Lyon said: ‘Major, I am afraid the day is lost.’ I looked at him in surprise, saw the blood trickling down his face, and divining the reason for his despondency, replied: ‘No, General; let us try it again.’ He seemed reencouraged, and we then separated, rallied and led forward the only troops then not in action—two regiments. Lyon was killed at the head of one of these regiments while exposing himself with utter recklessness to the enemy's fire.

When Lyon and I separated, he to lead the attack in which he fell, I reformed the other regiment and led it into action, giving the command ‘Charge!’ as soon as we came within plain view of the enemy, hoping to try conclusions with the bayonet, with which we were much better supplied than they. That regiment advanced in splendid style until it received the enemy's fire, then the command ‘Charge!’ was forgotten, and the regiment halted and commenced firing. Thus I found myself ‘between two fires.’ But the brave boys [45] in my rear could see me, and I don't believe I was in any danger from their muskets, yet I felt less ‘out of place’ when I had passed around the flank of a company and stood in rear of the line. I there witnessed, for the only time in my experience, one of those remarkable instances of a man too brave to think of running away, and yet too much frightened to be able to fight. He was loading his musket and firing in the air with great rapidity. When I took hold of his arm and shook him, calling his attention to what he was doing, he seemed as if aroused from a trance, entirely unconscious of what had happened.

This circumstance recalls the familiar story of two comrades in the ranks, the one apparently unmoved, the other pale and trembling. The first said: ‘Why, you seem to be scared!’ ‘Yes,’ replied the other; ‘if you were half as scared as I am, you would run away!’

A few minutes later I went toward the right to rejoin my chief, and found his lifeless body a few feet in rear of the line, in charge of his faithful orderly, Lehman, who was mourning bitterly and loudly the death of the great soldier whom he adored. At that supremely critical moment—for the fight was then raging with great fury—my only thought was the apprehension that the troops might be injuriously affected if they learned of the death of the commander who had so soon won their profound respect and confidence. I chided poor Lehman for his outcry, and ordered that the body be taken quietly to the rear, and that no one be told of the general's death.

Thus fell one of our bravest and truest soldiers and patriots, a man who had no fear of death, but who could not endure defeat. Upon Lyon's fall, Major Sturgis became the senior officer of military education and experience present. Several of the senior volunteer officers had been wounded and carried from the field. Who was the actual senior in rank on the ground was not easy to [46] ascertain in the midst of a fierce engagement. It was no time to make experiments with untried military genius.

I captured a ‘secesh’ horse found running loose,—for my own horse had been killed and I had been afoot quite a long time,—mounted him, and as soon as the state of the contest would permit, I rode to Major Sturgis, informed him of Lyon's death, and told him he must assume the command, which he accordingly did. It afterward appeared that there was one lieutenant-colonel of volunteers remaining on the field, but neither he nor any one else thought of questioning the propriety of Major Sturgis's taking the command. Soon after Lyon's death the enemy was repulsed, but then seemed to gather up all his remaining strength for a last effort. His final attack was heavier than any of the preceding, but it was more firmly met by our troops and completely repulsed. There is probably no room for doubt that the enemy was beaten if we had but known it; but the battle-field was covered with timber and underbrush, so that nothing could be seen beyond a few hundred yards. Our troops were nearly out of ammunition, and exhausted by a night march and by six hours hard fighting without breakfast.

It did not seem possible to resist another such attack as the last, and there was no apparent assurance that another would not be made. Hence Major Sturgis decided to withdraw from the field while he was free to do so. The movement was effected without opposition, the wounded were brought off, and the command returned to Springfield in the afternoon. This retreat was undoubtedly an error, and the battle of Wilson's Creek must be classed as a defeat for the Union army. The error was a failure to estimate the effect that must have been produced upon the enemy as well as upon ourselves by so much hard fighting. It was only necessary to hold our ground, trusting to the pluck and endurance of our men, and the victory would have been ours. Had [47] Lyon, who was in front of the line of battle when wounded as well as when killed, appreciated this fact and acted upon it, instead of throwing his life away, it is safe to say he would have won a brilliant victory.

On the march from the battle-field the main body was joined by the remnant of Sigel's brigade, which had made a complete circuit in rear of the enemy's position. They were without brigade or regimental commanders, and were escorted by a troop of regular cavalry. On our arrival in Springfield it was found that Colonel Sigel and Colonel Salomon, commanding the 5th Missouri Regiment, of Sigel's brigade, had arrived in town some hours before. Major Sturgis then relinquished the command to Colonel Sigel, and it was determined to retreat toward Rolla next morning. Sigel's brigade was placed in advance, and Sturgis's brigade of regulars was assigned the important post of rear-guard. This order of march was continued during three days, and the march was so conducted that while the advance would reach camp at a reasonable hour and be able to get supper and rest, the rear-guard, and even the main body, would be kept in the road until late in the night, and then, unable to find their wagons, be compelled to lie down without food. The clamor for relief from this hardship became so general that Major Sturgis determined to resume the command, justifying this action upon the ground that Colonel Sigel, although mustered into the United States service, had no commission from any competent authority. Colonel Sigel protested against this assumption of Major Sturgis, but the latter was so manifestly sustained by the great majority of the officers of the army that Colonel Sigel quietly submitted.

One of Sigel's officers proposed that the question of title to the command be put to a vote of the assembled officers. Sturgis objected on the ground that the vote might possibly be in favor of Sigel. ‘Then,’ said [48] Sturgis, ‘some of you might refuse to obey my orders, and I should be under the necessity of shooting you.’

The march was continued under Sturgis's command, and the column arrived at Rolla on August 19, nine days after the battle. Here the little Army of the West, after its short but eventful career, disappeared in the much larger army which Major-General Fremont was then organizing.1

My knowledge of the operations conducted by General Fremont in Missouri is so slight that I must confine myself to some account of those minor affairs with which I was personally connected.

My duties as assistant adjutant-general ceased when Major Sturgis resumed command on August 13. I then took command of my regiment, the 1st Missouri, the colonel and lieutenant-colonel being absent, the latter on account of wounds received at Wilson's Creek. Soon after our arrival at Rolla the regiment was ordered to St. Louis, to be converted into an artillery regiment. I was employed in the reorganization and equipment of batteries until September 16, when General Fremont ordered me to visit Cincinnati, Pittsburg, Washington, West Point, and such other places in the East as I might find necessary, to procure guns, harness, etc., to complete the equipment of the regiment.

While in St. Louis after the battle of Wilson's Creek, I learned much in confirmation of the opinion of the character and ability of General Fremont which had very generally been held in the army.

Immediately after my arrival Colonel Frank P. Blair, Jr., said he wanted me to go with him to see Fremont; so we went the next morning. The headquarters palace was surrounded by a numerous guard, and all ingress by the main entrance appeared to be completely barred. But Blair had some magic word or sign by which we [49] passed the sentinels at the basement door. Ascending two flights of stairs, we found the commanding general with a single secretary or clerk occupying the suite of rooms extending from front to rear of the building. The general received me cordially, but, to my great surprise, no questions were asked, nor any mention made, of the bloody field from which I had just come, where Lyon had been killed, and his army, after a desperate battle, compelled to retreat. I was led at once to a large table on which maps were spread out, from which the general proceeded to explain at length the plans of the great campaign for which he was then preparing. Colonel Blair had, I believe, already been initiated, but I listened attentively for a long time, certainly more than an hour, to the elucidation of the project. In general outline the plan proposed a march of the main Army of the West through southwestern Missouri and northwestern Arkansas to the valley of the Arkansas River, and thence down that river to the Mississippi, thus turning all the Confederate defenses of the Mississippi River down to and below Memphis. As soon as the explanation was ended Colonel Blair and I took our leave, making our exit through the same basement door by which we had entered. We walked down the street for some time in silence. Then Blair turned to me and said: ‘Well, what do you think of him?’ I replied, in words rather too strong to repeat in print, to the effect that my opinion as to his wisdom was the same as it always had been. Blair said: ‘I have been suspecting that for some time.’

It was a severe blow to the whole Blair family—the breaking, by the rude shock of war, of that idol they had so much helped to set up and make the commander of a great army. From that day forward there was no concealment of the opposition of the Blairs to Fremont. [50]

I had another occasion at that time to learn something important as to Fremont's character. He had ordered me to convert the 1st Regiment of Missouri Volunteer Infantry into an artillery regiment. I had organized eight batteries and used all the field-guns I could get. There remained in the arsenal a battery of new rifled guns which Fremont had purchased in Europe. I applied to him personally for those guns, telling him I had a well-disciplined company of officers and men ready to man them. He gave me the order without hesitation, but when I went to the arsenal I found an order there countermanding the order he had given me. I returned to headquarters, and easily obtained a renewal of the order to issue the guns to me. Determining to get ahead this time, I took the quickest conveyance to the arsenal, but only to find that the telegraph had got ahead of me —the order was again countermanded. The next day I quietly inquired at headquarters about the secret of my repeated disappointment, and learned that some foreign adventurer had obtained permission to raise a company of artillery troops and wanted those new rifled guns. It was true the company had not been raised, but I thought that would probably make no difference, so I never mentioned the matter to the general again. Instead I planned a flank movement which proved far more successful than the direct attack could possibly have been. I explained to General Fremont the great need of field-guns and equipment for his army, and suggested that if ordered East I might by personal efforts obtain all he needed. He at once adopted my suggestion, bade me sit down at a desk in his room and write the necessary order, and he signed it without reading. I readily obtained twenty-four new rifled Parrott guns, and soon had them in service in the Western Department, in lieu of the six guns I had failed to get from the St. Louis Arsenal.

When I had accomplished this duty and returned to [51] St. Louis, where I arrived in the early part of October, 1861, General Fremont had taken the field in the central part of Missouri, with the main body of his army, in which were eight batteries of my regiment. I was instructed to remain in St. Louis and complete the organization and equipment of the regiment upon the arrival of guns and equipments procured in the East.

It was while waiting for the expected guns that a demand for artillery came from Colonel W. P. Carlin, commanding a brigade at Pilot Knob and threatened with an attack by a Confederate force under Jeff. Thompson. The latter had already made a raid in Carlin's rear, destroyed the railroad bridge across the Big River, and interfered seriously with the communication to St. Louis. In the nervous condition of the military as well as the public mind at that time, even St. Louis was regarded as in danger.

There was no organized battery in St. Louis, but there were officers and men enough belonging to the different batteries of the 1st Missouri, and recruits, to make a medium-sized company. They had been instructed in the school of the piece, but no more. I hastily put them upon the cars, with four old smooth-bore bronze guns, horses that had never been hitched to a piece, and harness that had not been fitted to the horses. Early next morning we arrived at Big River where the bridge had been burned, unloaded the battery and horses by the use of platforms extemporized from railroad ties, hitched up, and forded the river. On the other side we converted platform-cars into stock-cars, loaded up, and arrived at Pilot Knob the next morning (October 20). The enemy was understood to be at Fredericktown, about twenty miles distant, and Colonel Carlin determined to march that night and attack him at daylight the next morning. Carlin's command consisted of the 8th Wisconsin Volunteers, 21st Illinois Volunteers, parts of the 33d and 38th Illinois Volunteers, [52] 350 of the 1st Indiana Cavalry, one company of Missouri Cavalry, and six pieces of artillery (including two old iron guns which he had managed to make available in addition to the four from St. Louis). His total force was about 3000 men. The enemy's strength was supposed to be about the same, but it turned out that he had only four old iron guns, so we had the advantage of him in artillery at least.

The head of our column reached the vicinity of Fredericktown some time before daylight, and the troops lay upon their arms until dawn. Upon entering the town in the morning, no enemy was found, and citizens reported that he had marched south the day before. The troops were ordered to rest in the village, and Colonel Carlin, who was not well, went to bed in the hotel. Some hours later, I think near noon, Colonel J. B. Plummer, with a brigade of infantry and two pieces of artillery from Cape Girardeau, arrived at Fredericktown. I am not aware whether this junction was expected by the respective commanders, or what orders they had received from department headquarters. Soon after Colonel Plummer arrived I was summoned to the presence of the two commanders and requested to decide a question of rank between them. It appeared that Colonel Carlin had the older date as colonel of volunteers, while Colonel Plummer was commanding, by special assignment of General Fremont, a brigade in which at least one of the colonels was senior, not only to him, but also to Colonel Carlin. It was clear enough that according to the Articles of War this senior colonel of the Cape Girardeau brigade should command the combined forces; but that would be in plain disregard of General Fremont's order, the authority for which nobody knew, but in comparison with which the Articles of War or the Army Regulations were at that time regarded as practically of trifling consequence. The question was settled, or rather avoided [53] (for there was no satisfactory settlement of it), by the proposition that Colonel Plummer, who proposed to go in pursuit of the enemy, should take with him, besides his own brigade, such portion of Colonel Carlin's as he (Plummer) thought necessary, Colonel Carlin, who was sick, remaining behind with the remainder. Accordingly, early in the afternoon Plummer's column started in pursuit. It had hardly got well out of the village when the head of the column received a volley from the enemy drawn up in line of battle. How long the enemy had been in that position I have never learned; but it is certain that his presence there was not even suspected by our commander, who supposed him to be in full retreat. This mistake, however, did not seem to cost us anything, except perhaps the loss of a few men at the head of the column in the first volley. Colonel Plummer quickly formed his troops; Carlin jumped out of bed and galloped to the front, followed by those who had remained in town. The volunteers, who had not yet been in battle, threw off their knapsacks, blankets, and overcoats, and went into action most gallantly. The engagement was sharp for a few moments, and resulted in considerable loss on both sides; but the enemy soon gave way and retreated in disorder. The pursuit was continued several miles, and until near night, when a recall was ordered, and our troops returned to the town to pick up their trappings and get their supper.

The next morning Colonel Plummer continued his pursuit. I left my extemporized battery, under Captain Manter, with Colonel Carlin, and returned to St. Louis.2

1 My official report and others are published in the War Records, Vol. III.

2 For the official reports, see the War Records, Vol. III.

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