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Chapter IV

  • Halleck relieves Fremont of the command in Missouri
  • -- a special State militia -- brigadier -- General of the Missouri militia -- a hostile Committee sent to Washington -- the Missouri quarrel of 1862 -- in command of the army of the Frontier -- absent through illness -- battle of Prairie Grove -- compelled to be Inactive -- transferred to Tennessee -- in command of Thomas's old Division of the Fourteenth Corps -- reappointed Major -- General -- a Hibernian ‘Striker.’

on November 19, 1861, Major-General H. W. Halleck relieved Major-General Fremont of the command of the Department of the Mississippi. On November 21 I was appointed brigadier-general of volunteers, and reported to General Halleck for duty.

In the spring of 1861 a convention of the State of Missouri had assembled at St. Louis to consider the question of secession, and had decided to adhere to the Union. Nevertheless, the governor, Claiborne Fox Jackson, and the executive officers had joined the rebellion and fled from the State. The convention reassembled on July 20, and organized a provisional government. Hamilton R. Gamble was chosen provisional governor, and intrusted with very large powers. He was a sterling patriot, a man of ability and of the highest character in his public and private relations, much too conservative on the questions of States' rights and slavery to suit the ‘radical’ loyalists of that time, but possessing probably [55] in a higher degree than any other citizen of Missouri the confidence of all classes of Union men in the State.

One of Governor Gamble's first important public acts was to seek and obtain from President Lincoln authority to raise a special force of State militia, to be employed only in defense of the State, but to be paid, equipped, and supplied in all respects by the United States. This force was to be organized in conformity with the militia laws of the State, was to include an adjutant-general, a quartermaster-general, and three aides-de-camp to the governor, one major-general and his staff, and a brigadier-general and staff for each brigade. The number of regiments, aggregate strength, and arms of service were not specified.

By the terms of this arrangement the force would remain subject to the governor's command; but at the suggestion of Major-General McClellan, then generalin-chief, to avoid possible conflict of command it was stipulated by the President that the commanding general of the department should be ex-officio major-general of the militia. And it is due to the memory of Governor Gamble to say that although partizan enemies often accused him of interfering with the operations of the militia in the interest of his supposed political views, there never was, while I was in command of the militia, the slightest foundation for such accusation. He never attempted to interfere in any manner with the legitimate exercise of the authority of the commanding general, but was, on the contrary, governed by the commander's views and opinions in the appointment and dismissal of officers and in other matters in which his own independent authority was unquestioned. This authority, given by the President, was subsequently confirmed by act of Congress, by which the force was limited to 10,000 men.

As stated above, I was appointed brigadier-general, to date from November 21, 1861; and on November 27 was [56] assigned by General Halleck to the ‘command of all the militia of the State,’ and charged with the duty of raising, organizing, etc., the special force which had been authorized by the President.

The organization of the militia was not completed until about the middle of April, 1862, when the aggregate force was 13,800 men, consisting of fourteen regiments and two battalions of cavalry (mounted riflemen), one regiment of infantry, and one battery of artillery. But the troops were enrolled mainly in the districts where their services were required. As rapidly as companies were organized and equipped, they were put in the field with the United States troops then occupying the State, and thus rapidly acquired, by active service with older troops, the discipline and instruction necessary to efficiency, so that by the time the organization was completed this body of troops was an efficient and valuable force.

My official report, made on December 7, 1862,1 to the department commander and the general-in-chief, gives a detailed account of the purely military operations of that period. But many matters less purely military which entered largely into the history of that time deserve more than a passing notice.

During the short administration of General Fremont in Missouri, the Union party had split into two factions, ‘radical’ and ‘conservative,’ hardly less bitter in their hostility to each other than to the party of secession. The more advanced leaders of the radicals held that secession had abolished the constitution and all laws restraining the powers of the government over the people of the Confederate States, and even over disloyal citizens of States adhering to the Union. They advocated immediate emancipation of the slaves, and confiscation by military authority of all property of ‘rebels and rebel sympathizers’—that [57] is to say, of all persons not of the radical party, for in their partizan heat they disdained to make any distinction between ‘conservatives,’ ‘copperheads,’ and ‘rebels.’ So powerful and persistent was the radical influence that even so able a lawyer as Edwin M. Stanton, then Secretary of War, was constrained to send an order to the commander of the District of Missouri, directing him to execute the act of Congress of July 17, 1862, relative to confiscation of property of persons engaged in the rebellion, although the law provided for its execution in the usual way by the judicial department of the government, and gave no shadow of authority for military action.

It is only necessary here to remark that the order was not, as it could not be lawfully, obeyed. Action under it was limited to the securing of property subject to confiscation, and liable to be removed or otherwise disposed of, and the collection of evidence for the use of the judicial officers. The following is Secretary Stanton's order sent by telegraph, September 5, 1862:

It is represented that many disloyal persons residing at St. Louis and elsewhere in your command are subject to the provisions of the Confiscation Act, and that it would be expedient to enforce against them the provisions of that act. You are instructed to enforce that act within your command, and will please send directions for that purpose to your provost-marshal.

In compliance with the Secretary's instructions, I issued an order, on September 11, providing for the action above stated, and no further.

These instructions from the Secretary of War were subsequently repudiated by President Lincoln; but in the meantime they produced serious evil under my successor, who fully enforced them by apparently committing the national administration to the extreme radical doctrine, and making the military commander in Missouri [58] appear to be acting not in harmony with the President's views. So far as I know, this subject does not appear to have been submitted to the President until some time in 1863, after Major-General Curtis, as department commander, had for some months carried out the radical theory of military confiscation, and I, as his successor, had put a stop to it. Then an appeal was made to the President, and he, in his celebrated letter of instructions of October 1, 1863, directed the military to have nothing to do with the matter.

The State administration of Missouri, under its conservative governor, was of course sternly opposed to this radical policy, including the forced liberation of slaves, for which there was at that time no warrant of law or executive authority. A simple sense of duty compelled the military commander to act in these matters more in harmony with the State government than with the radical party, and in radical eyes he thus became identified with their enemies, the conservatives.

This gave rise on August 4, 1862, to a meeting of prominent citizens of St. Louis, who adopted resolutions, of the most important of which the following was reported to be a true copy:

Resolved, That a committee of gentlemen be requested to go to Washington City to urge upon the President the appointment of a commander of the military forces of this State who will, under instructions, act with vigor in suppressing the guerrillas of this State, and with authority to enlist the militia of the State into the service of the United States.

The chair appointed, as the committee to go to Washington, Henry T. Blow, John C. Vogle, I. H. Sturgeon, and Thomas O'Reilley, and authorized Mr. Blow to add to this committee any other ‘true Union man’ who would go. Who, if any, besides Messrs. Blow, Vogle, and O'Reilley actually composed the committee, I was never informed. [59] On August 10, Halleck, then general-in-chief, telegraphed me from Washington: ‘There is a deputation here from Colonel Blair and others asking for your removal on account of inefficiency.’

Colonel Blair happened into my office a few minutes after the receipt of this despatch on the 11th, and I handed it to him. He at once said in substance, and with feeling: ‘That is not true. No one is authorized to ask in my name for your removal’; and he sent a despatch to that effect to General Halleck.

The next day (August 12) despatches were exchanged between General Halleck and Colonel Blair, of which the latter furnished me a copy, inclosed with the following note from himself:

dear Schofield: I inclose you a copy of a despatch (marked ‘A’) received yesterday from Major-General Halleck, and my answer thereto, marked ‘B.’


Copy ‘A.’

To Hon. F. P. Blair,
August 12th, 1862. (By telegraph from War Dep't.) Washington, 12:50 P. M.
The committee from St. LouisHenry T. Blow, John C. Vogle, and Thomas O'Reilley—told me, in presence of the President, that they were authorized by you to ask for Gen. Schofield's removal for inefficiency. The Postmaster-General has to-day sent to me a letter from Mr.—, asking that you be put in Gen. Schofield's place. There has been no action in this or on the papers presented by the above-named committee.

H. W. Halleck, General-in-chief.


Copy ‘B.’

St. Louis, Mo., August 12th, 1862.
Major-General Halleck, General-in-chief, Washington City, D. C.:
I despatched you yesterday, and wrote the PostmasterGen-eral last week. Let the letter be submitted to you. Nobody is authorized to ask in my name for Gen'l Schofield's removal. I think the State military organization should be abandoned as soon as practicable, and a military commander, in this State, authorized to act without respect to Gov. Gamble. I do not want the place, but want the commander in the State to be instructed to act without any regard to the State authorities.

The foregoing gives, so far as I know it, the essence of the Missouri quarrel of 1862. I have never had the curiosity to attempt to ascertain how far the meeting of August 4 was hostile to me personally.

During the time, subsequent to General Halleck's departure for Washington, July 23, 1862, that the Department of the Mississippi was left without any immediate commander, there appears to have been a contest in Washington between the military and the political influence, relative to the disposition to be made of that important command. The following from General Halleck to me, dated September 9, 1862, indicates the situation at that time:


my dear General:

There has been a strong political pressure of outsiders to get certain parties put in command of new Dep'ts to be made out of the old Dep't of the Miss. The presence of the enemy and the danger of the capital have for the moment suspended these political intrigues, or rather prevented the accomplishment of their objects. If any one of our Western Gen'ls would do something creditable and brilliant in the present crisis, it would open the way to a new organization such as it should be.

From the position of St. Louis as the source of supplies, Missouri [61] ought not to be separated from Arkansas and western Tennessee. What will be done in the matter I do not know.

Yours truly,

None of ‘our Western generals’ had then done anything very ‘creditable and brilliant.’ Even Grant was the object of grave charges and bitter attacks. Powerful influences were at work to supersede him in command of the army in west Tennessee. Had there been any available general at that time capable of commanding public confidence, the military idea would doubtless have prevailed, but in the absence of such a leader the politicians triumphed in part.

The old department, called Department of the Mississippi, was divided, and Major-General Samuel R. Curtis was assigned to command the new Department of the Missouri, composed of the territory west of the Mississippi River. For some months the radicals had it all their own way, and military confiscation was carried on without hindrance.

When this change occurred I was in the field in immediate command of the forces which I had assembled there for aggressive operations, and which General Curtis named the ‘Army of the Frontier.’ My official report of December 7, 1862, gave a full account of the operations of that army up to November 20, when sickness compelled me to relinquish the command.

As will be seen from that report and from my correspondence with General Curtis at the time, it was then well known that the enemy was concentrating in the Arkansas valley all the troops he could raise, and making preparations to return across the Boston Mountains and ‘dispute with us the possession of northwestern Arkansas and southwestern Missouri’; and I had placed my troops where they could live to a great extent on [62] the country, and quickly concentrate to meet the enemy when he should advance. But General Curtis ordered me to move north and east with two divisions, leaving Blunt with one division to occupy that country. It was on this return march that I was overtaken by a severe attack of bilious fever.

As my official report of December 7, 1862, is published in Volume XIII of the War Records, I make no reference here to the operations covered by it. That able and impartial historian, the Comte de Paris, published a very accurate history of the operations in Missouri in the summer of 1862, in which he paid me the compliment, which a soldier values so highly, of saying that I was free from partizan passion.

It was during my absence through illness that Hindman made his expected advance. Blunt's division was encamped at Cane Hill, and Hindman crossed the mountains at Lee's Creek, aiming to reach Blunt's rear, cut off his retreat, and overwhelm him.

Fortunately, Blunt had received information in advance of the intended movement, and had called the two divisions from Missouri to his support. These two divisions, under General Herron, were encamped at Wilson's Creek, a distance of about 116 miles. On the morning of December 3 they began their march to join General Blunt. They had reached a point about six miles south of Fayetteville when, unexpectedly to both, Herron's and Hindman's heads of column met at Prairie Grove about seven o'clock in the morning of December 7, and the engagement commenced immediately. Blunt, hearing the sound of battle, moved rapidly toward Prairie Grove and attacked the enemy's left. The battle lasted all day, with heavy losses on both sides, and without any decided advantage to either side. At dark the enemy still held his position, but in the morning was found to be in full retreat across the mountains. A portion of our [63] troops occupied the battle-field of Prairie Grove when I resumed command on December 29, and the remainder were making a raid to the Arkansas River, where they destroyed some property, and found that Hindman had retreated toward Little Rock. It was evident that the campaign in that part of the country for that season was ended. The question was ‘What next?’ I took it for granted that the large force under my command—nearly 16,000 men—was not to remain idle while Grant or some other commander was trying to open the Mississippi River; and I was confirmed in this assumption by General Curtis's previous order to march eastward with two divisions, which order, though premature when given, might now be renewed without danger. At once, therefore, I set to work to organize a suitable force, including the Indian regiments, to hold the country we had gained, and three good divisions to prosecute such operations as might be determined on, and at once commenced the march north and east toward the theater of future active operations.

Although I had at first esteemed General Blunt much more highly than he deserved, and had given him most liberal commendation in my official report for all he had done, I became satisfied that he was unfit in any respect for the command of a division of troops against a disciplined enemy. As was my plain duty, I suggested confidentially to General Curtis that the command of a division in the field was not General Blunt's true place, and that he be assigned to the District of Kansas, where I permitted him to go, at his own request, to look after his personal interests. General Curtis rebuked me for making such a suggestion, and betrayed my confidence by giving my despatch to James H. Lane, senator from Kansas, and others of Blunt's political friends, thus putting me before the President and the United States Senate in the light of unjust hostility to gallant officers who [64] had just won a great victory over the enemy at Prairie Grove. The result of this, and of radical influence in general, was that my nomination as major-general of volunteers, then pending in the Senate, was not confirmed, while both Blunt and Herron were nominated and confirmed as major-generals!

Such as Lane and Blunt were the men who so long seemed to control the conduct of military affairs in the West, and whom I found much more formidable enemies than the hostile army in my front. Herron I esteemed a very different man from Blunt, and thought he would, with experience, make a good division commander. But circumstances occurred soon after which shook my confidence in his character as well as in that of General Curtis. Herron and some of his staff-officers were subpoenaed, through department headquarters, as material witnesses for the defense in the case of an officer on trial before a military commission. They failed to appear. Soon after, when Herron was assigned to command the Army of the Frontier, he ‘dissolved’ the commission ‘for the present,’ adding: ‘The court will be reassembled by order from these headquarters in the field when witnesses not at present to be had can be brought forward.’ Upon learning this, after I assumed command of the department I ordered Herron to report for duty to General Grant before Vicksburg. In the meantime Herron wrote to the War Department protesting against serving under me as department commander, and got a sharp rebuke from the President through the Secretary of War. This brief explanation is all that seems necessary to show the connection between the several events as they appear in the official records.

After the battle of Prairie Grove, being then in St. Louis, I asked General Curtis to let me go down the Mississippi and join the expedition against Vicksburg, saying that as Blunt and Herron had won a battle in my [65] absence, I did not wish to resume command over them. But Curtis would not consent to this; he said he wanted me to command the Army of the Frontier. He thus invited the confidence which he afterward betrayed, and for which he rebuked me. I felt outraged by this treatment, and thereafter did not feel or show toward General Curtis the respect or subordination which ought to characterize the relations of an officer toward his commander. This feeling was intensified by his conduct in the Herron affair, and by the determination gradually manifested not to permit me or my command to do anything. He for a long time kept up a pretense of wanting me to move east or west, or south, or somewhere, but negatived all my efforts actually to move. The situation seemed to me really unendurable: I was compelled to lie at Springfield all the latter part of winter, with a well-appointed army corps eager for active service, hundreds of miles from any hostile force, and where we were compelled to haul our own supplies, in wagons, over the worst of roads, 120 miles from the railroad terminus at Rolla. I could not get permission even to move nearer the railroad, much less toward the line on which the next advance must be made; and this while the whole country was looking with intense anxiety for the movement that was to open the Mississippi to the Gulf, and the government was straining every nerve to make that movement successful. Hence I wrote to General Halleck the letters of January 31, 1863, and February 3. These appear to have called forth some correspondence between Generals Halleck and Curtis, of which General Halleck's letter of February 18 was the only part that came into my possession.2 This account was written several years before the War Records were published. [66] In my letter of January 31, I said:

Pardon me for suggesting that the forces under command of Davidson, Warren, and myself might be made available in the opening of the Mississippi, should that result not be accomplished quickly. . . .

The immediate result of this correspondence was that some troops were sent down the river, but none of my command, while two divisions of the latter were ordered toward the east. This march was in progress when Congress adjourned. The Senate not having confirmed my appointment as major-general, the time of my temporary humiliation arrived. But I had not relied wholly in vain upon General Halleck's personal knowledge of my character. He had not been able fully to sustain me against selfish intrigue in Kansas, Missouri, and Washington; but he could and did promptly respond to my request, and ordered me to Tennessee, where I could be associated with soldiers who were capable of appreciating soldierly qualities. One of the happiest days of my life was when I reported to Rosecrans and Thomas at Murfreesboroa, received their cordial welcome, and was assigned to the command of Thomas's own old division of the Fourteenth Corps. One of the most agreeable parts of my whole military service was the thirty days in command of that division at Triune, and some of my strongest and most valued army attachments were formed there.

But that happy period of soldier life was brief. Early in May President Lincoln reappointed me major-general, with original date, November 29, 1862, and ordered me back to the old scene of unsoldierly strife and turmoil in Missouri and Kansas.

In 1861 and 1862 I had a Hibernian ‘striker’ who had been a soldier in the old mounted rifles, and had been discharged on account of a wound received in an [67] Indian fight, but was yet well able to perform the duties of an officer's servant in the field. His care of his master's property, and sometimes of the master himself, was very remarkable. In the midst of the battle at Wilson's Creek the horse I was riding was killed, and I called in vain for my spare horse. From the best information obtained I concluded that both the horse and my faithful orderly had been killed, and I sincerely mourned loss. But after the fight was over I found my man quietly riding the spare horse along with the troops, as if nothing unusual had happened. When I upbraided him for his conduct and demanded to know where he had been all that time, he replied: ‘Ah, Major, when I saw the one horse killed I thought I'd better take the other to a place of safety!’

Where my efficient assistant obtained his supplies I never knew, but he would fill without delay any requisition I might make, from a shoe-string to a buffalo-robe. One day in 1862 I found in my camp trunk several pairs of shoulder-straps belonging to the grades of captain, major, and lieutenant-colonel. As I was then a brigadier-general, I inquired of my man why he kept those badges of inferior grades. He replied: ‘Ah, General, nobody can tell what may happen to you.’ When, only a few months later, after having been promoted to the rank of major-general I was again reduced to that of brigadier-general, I remembered the forethought of my Irish orderly.

1 See War Records, Vol. XIII, p. 7.

2 The whole correspondence may be found in the War Records, Vol. XXII, part II.

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