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Doc. 46. the battle of Belmont, Mo.


General Grant's official report.

headquarters armies of the United States, Washington, June 26, 1865.
sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith a full and complete return of the battle of Belmont, Missouri, fought November seventh, 1861, which I would respectfully ask to have substituted,in the place of my report of that action of date of November nineteenth, 1861, made to General S. Williams, Assistant Adjutant-General to the General-in-Chief.

Very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

U. S. Grant, Lieutenant-General. Hon. E. M. Stanton, Secretary of War.

June 27, 1866.
Referred to the Adjutant-General for publication, with the accompanying report.

E. M. Stanton, Secretary of War.

headquarters District Soute-East Missouri, Cairo, ill, November 17, 1861.
General: The following order was received from Headquarters Western Department:

St. Louis, November 1, 1861.
General Grant, Commanding at Cairo:
You are hereby directed to hold your whole command ready to march at an hour's notice, until further orders, and you will take particular care to be amply supplied with transportation and ammunition. You are also directed to make demonstrations with your troops along both sides of the river toward Charleston, Norfolk, and Blandville, and to keep your columns constantly moving back and forward against these places, without, however, attacking the enemy.

Very respectfully, &c.,

Chauncey McKeever, Assistant Adjustant-General.

At the same time I was notified that similar instructions had been sent to Brigadier-General C. F. Smith, commanding Paducah. Kentucky, and was directed to communicate with him freely as to my movemements, that his might be cooperative.

On the second of the same month, and before it was possible for any considerable preparation to have been made for the execution of this order, the following telegraphic despatch was received:

St. Louis, November 2, 1861.
To Brigadier-General Grant:
Jeff. Thompson is at Indian ford of the St. Francis river, twenty-five miles below Greenville, with about three thousand men. Colonel Carlin has started with force from Pilot Knob. Send a force from Cape Girardeau and Bird's Point to assist Carlin in driving Thompson into Arkanas.

By order of Major-General Fremont.

Chauncey McKeever, Assistant Adjutant-General.

The force I determined to send from Bird's Point were immediately designated, and Colonel R. J. Oglesby, Eighth Illinois volunteers, assigned to the command, under the following detailed instructions:

headquarters District South-East Missouri, Cairo, November 8, 1861.
Colonel R. J. Oglesby, commanding, &c., Bird's Point. Mo.:
You will take command of an expedition consisting of your regiment, four companies of the Eleventh Illinois, all of the Eighteenth and Twenty-ninth, three companies of cavalry from Bird's Point (to be selected and notified by yourself), and a section of Schwartz's battery artillery, and proceed by steamboats to Commerce, Missouri. From Commerce you will strike for Sikeston, Mr. Cropper acting as guide. From there you will go in pursuit of a rebel force, understood to be three thousand strong, under Jeff. Thompson, now at Indian ford, on the St. Francis river.

An expedition has already left Ironton, Missouri, to attack this force. Should they learn that they have left that place it will not be necessary for you to go there, but pursue the enemy in any direction he may go, always being cautious not to fall in with an unlooked — for foe too strong for the command under you.

The object of the expedition is to destroy this force, and the manner of doing it is left largely at your discretion, believing it better not to trammel you with instructions.

Transportation will be furnished you for fourteen days rations and four or five days forage. All you may require outside of this must be furnished by the country through which you pass. In taking supplies you will be careful to select a proper officer to press them, and require a receipt to be given, and the articles pressed [396] accounted for in the same manner as if purchased.

You are particularly enjoined to allow no foraging by your men. It is demoralizing in the extreme, and is apt to make open enemies where they would not otherwise exist.

U. S. Grant, Brigadier-General

Colonel J. B. Plummer, Eleventh Missouri volunteers, commanding Cape Girardean, was directed to send one regiment in the direction of Bloomfield, with a view of attracting the attention of the enemy.

The forces under Colonel Oglesby were all got off on the evening of the third.

On the fifth, a telegram was received from headquarters, St. Louis, stating that the enemy was reinforcing Price's army from Columbus by way of White river, and directing that the demonstration that had been ordered against Columbus be immediately made. Orders were accordingly at once given to the troops under my command that remained at Cairo, Bird's Point, and Fort Holt. A letter was also sent to Brigadier-General C. F. Smith, commanding at Paducah, requesting him to make a demonstration at the same time against Columbus.

To more effectually attain the object of the demonstration against the enemy at Belmont and Columbus, I determined on the morning of the fifth to temporarily change the direction of Colonel Oglesby's column toward New Madrid, and also to send a small force under Colonel W. H. L. Wallace, Eleventh Illinois volunteers, to Charleston, Missouri, to ultimately join Colonel Oglesby. In accordance with this determination, I addressed Colonel Oglesby the following communication:

Cairo, November 6, 1861.
Colonel R. J. Oglesby, commanding expedition:
On receipt of this turn your column toward New Madrid. When you arrive at the nearest point to Columbus from which there is a road to that place, communicate with me at Belmont.

U. S. Grant, Brigadier-General

Which was sent to Colonel Wallace with the following letter:

Herewith I send you an order to Colonel Oglesby to change the direction of his column toward New Madrid, halting to communicate with me at Belmont from the nearest point on his road.

I desire you to get up the Charleston expedition ordered for to-morrow, to start to-night, taking two days rations with them. You will accompany them to Charleston and get Colonel Oglesby's instructions to him by a messenger, if practicable, and when he is near enough you may join him. For this purpose you may substitute the remainder of your regiment in place of an equal amount from Colonel Marsh's. The two days rations carried by your men in haversacks will enable you to join Colonel Oglesby's command, and there you will find rations enough for several days more, should they be necessary. You may take a limited number of tents, and at Charleston press wagons to carry them to the main column. There you will find sufficient transportation to release the pressed wagons.

U. S. Grant, Brigadier-General.

On the evening of the sixth I left this place in steamers, with McClernand's brigade, consisting of: Twenty-seventh regiment Illinois volunteers, Colonel N. B. Buford; Thirtieth regiment Illinois volunteers, Colonel Phillip B: Fouke; Thirty-first regiment Illinois volunteers, Colonel John A. Logan; Dollins' company independent Illinois cavalry, Captain J. J. Dollins; Delano's company Adams county (Illinois) cavalry, Lieutenant J. R. Cattlin ; Dougherty's brigade, consisting of: Twenty-second regiment Illinois volunteers, Lieutenant-Colonel H. E. Hart; Seventh regiment Iowa volunteers, Colonel J. G. Lauman; amounting to three thousand one hundred and fourteen men of all arms, to make the demonstration against Columbus. I proceeded down the river to a point nine miles below here, where we lay until next morning, on the Kentucky shore, which served to distract the enemy, and lead him to suppose that he was to be attacked in his strongly-fortified position at Columbus.

About two o'clock on the morning of the seventh I received information from Colonel W. H. L. Wallace at Charleston (sent by a messenger on steamer W. H. B.) that he had learned from a reliable Union man that the enemy had been crossing troops from Columbus to Belmont the day before, for the purpose of following after, and cutting off the forces under Colonel Oglesby. Such a move on his part seemed to me more than probable, and gave at once a two-fold importance to my demonstration against the enemy, namely, the prevention of reinforcements to General Price, and the cutting off of the two small columns that I had sent, in pursuance of directions, from this place and Cape Girardeau in pursuit of Jeff. Thompson. This information determined me to attack vigorously his forces at Belmont, knowing that, should we be repulsed, we could re-embark without difficulty under protection of the gunboats. The following order was given:

on board steamer Belle Memphis, November 2, 1861, 2 o'clock
Special Order.
The troops composing the present expedition from this place, will move promptly at six o'clock this morning. The gunboats will take the advance and be followed by the first brigade, under command of Brigadier-General John A. McClernand, composed of all the troops from Cairo and Fort Holt. The second brigade, comprising [397] the remainder of the troops of the expedition, commanded by Colonel John Dougherty, will follow. The entire force will debark at the lowest point on the Missouri shore, where a landing can be effected in security from the rebel batteries. The point of debarkation will be designated by Captain Walke, commanding naval forces.

By order of

Brigadier-General U. S. Grant.

John A. Rawlins, Assistant Adjutant-General.

Promptly at the hour designated, we proceeded down the river to a point just out of the range of the rebel batteries at Columbus, and debarked on the Missouri shore. From here the troops were marched, with skirmishers well in advance, by flank, about one mile toward Belmont and there formed in line of battle. One battalion had been left as a reserve near the transports. Two companies from each regiment were thrown forward as skirmishers, to ascertain the position of the enemy, and about nine o'clock met and engaged him. The balance of my force, with the exception of the reserve,was promptly thrown forward, and drove the enemy foot by foot, and from tree to tree, back to his encampment on the river bank, a distance of over two miles. Here he had strengthened his position by felling the timber for several hundred yards around his camp, making a sort of prattis. Our men charged through this, driving the enemy under cover of the bank, and many of them into their transports in quick time, leaving us in possession of everything not exceedingly portable.

Belmont is situated on low ground, and every foot is commanded by the guns on the opposite shore, and of course could not be held for a single hour after the enemy became aware of the withdrawal of his troops. Having no wagons with me, I could move but little of the captured property, consequently gave orders for the destruction of everything that could not be moved, and an immediate return to our transports. Tents, blankets, &c., were set on fire and destroyed, and our return march commenced, taking his artillery and a large number of captured horses with us. Three pieces of artillery being drawn by hand, and one by an inefficient team, were spiked and left on the road; two were brought to this place.

We had but fairly got under way, when the enemy, having received reinforcements rallied under cover of the river bank, and the woods on the point of land in the bend of the river above us, and made his appearance between us and our transports, evidently with a design of cutting off our return to them.

Our troops were not in the least discouraged, but charged the enemy and again defeated him. We then, with the exception of the Twenty-seventh Illinois, Colonel N. B. Buford commanding, reached our transports and embarked without further molestation. While waiting for the arrival of this regiment, and to get some of our wounded from a field hospital near-by, the enemy, having crossed fresh troops from Columbus, again made his appearance on the river bank, and commenced firing upon our transports. The fire was returned by our men from the decks of the steamers, and also from the gunboats, with terrible effect, compelling him to retire in the direction of Belmont. In the meantime, Colonel Buford, although he had received orders to return with the main force, took the Charleston road from Belmont and came in on the road leading to Bird's Point, where he had formed a line of battle in the morning. At this point, to avoid the effects of the shells from the gunboats that were beginning to fall among his men, he took a blind path direct to the river, and followed a wood road up its bank, and thereby avoided meeting tho enemy, who were retiring by the main road. On his appearance on the river bank, a steamer was dropped down and took his command on board, without his having participated or lost a man in the enemy's attempt to cut us off from our transports.

Notwithstanding the crowded state of our transports, the only loss we sustained from the enemy's fire upon them was three men wounded, one of whom belonged to one of the boats.

Our loss in killed on the field was eighty-five, three hundred and one wounded (many of them, however, slightly), and ninety-nine missing. Of the wounded, one hundred and twenty-five fell into the hands of the enemy. Nearly all the missing were from the Seventh Iowa regiment, which suffered more severely than any other. All the troops behaved with great gallantry, which was in a great degree attributable to the coolness and presence of mind of their officers, particularly the Colonels commanding.

General McClernand was in the midst of danger throughout the engagement, and displayed both coolness and judgment. His horse was three times shot under him.

Colonel Dougherty, Twenty-second Illinois volunteers, commanding the second brigade, by his coolness and bravery, entitles himself to be named among the most competent of officers for command of troops in battle. In our second engagement he was three times wounded, and fell a prisoner into the hands of the enemy.

Among the killed was Lieutenant-Colonel A. Wentz, Seventh Iowa volunteers, and among the wounded were Colonel J. G. Lauman, and Major E. W. Rice of the Seventh Iowa.

The reports of sub-commanders will detail more fully particulars of the engagement, and the conduct of both officers and men.

To my staff, Captain John A. Rawlins Assistant Adjutant-General; Lieutenants C. B. Lagow and William S. Hillyer, Aides-de-Camp; and Captain R. B. Hatch, Assistant Quarter-master, I am much indebted for the promptitude with which they discharged their several duties. [398]

Surgeon J. H. Brinton, United States volunteers, chief medical officer, was on the field during the entire engagement, and displayed great ability and efficiency in providing for the wounded, and in organizing the medical corps.

Major J. D. Webster, Acting Chief-Engineer, also accompanied me on the field, and displayed soldierly qualities of a high order.

My own horse was shot under me during the engagement.

The gunboats Tyler, Captain Walke, and Lexington, Captain Stembolt, convoyed the expedition, and rendered most efficient service. Immediately upon our landing they engaged the enemy's batteries on the heights above Columbus, and protected our transports throughout. For a detailed account of the part taken by them, I refer with pleasure to the accompanying report of Captain H. S. Walke, senior officer.

In pursuance of my request, General Smith, commanding at Paducah, sent, on the seventh instant, a force to Mayfield, Kentucky, and another in the direction of Columbus, with orders not to approach nearer, however, than twelve or fifteen miles of that place. I also sent a small force on the Kentucky side toward Columbus, under Colonel John Cook, Seventh Illinois volunteers, with orders not to go beyond Elliott's Mills, distant some twelve miles from Columbus. These forces having marched to the points designated in their orders, returned, without having met any serious resistance.

On the evening of the seventh, information of the result of the engagement at Belmont was sent to Colonel Oglesby, commanding expedition against Jeff. Thompson, and orders to return to Bird's Point by way of Charleston, Missouri. Before these reached him, however, he had learned that Jeff. Thompson had left the place where he was reported to be when the expedition started (he having gone toward New Madrid or Arkansas), and had determined to return. The same information was sent to the commanding officer at Cape Girardeau, with directions for the troops to be brought back that had gone out from the place.

From all the information I have been able to obtain since the engagement, the enemy's loss in killed and wounded was much greater than ours. We captured one hundred and seventy-five prisoners, all his artillery and transportation, and destroyed his entire camp and garrison equipage. Independent of the injuries inflicted upon him, and the prevention of his reinforcing Price, or sending a force to cut off the expedition against Jeff. Thompson, the confidence inspired in our troops in the engagement will be of incalculable benefit to us in the future.

Very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

U. S. Grant, Brigadier-General. Brigadier-General Seth Williams, Assistant Adjutant-General, Washington, D. C

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