Doc. 79. operations against General Price.
Report of Major-General Rosecrans.
headquarters Department of Missouri, St. Louis, December 7, 1864.Colonel: The Commanding General of the military division is already informed, by my current official despatches, of the principal incidents of the late campaign against Price in this department; but it is proper that I should submit a more detailed and connected report of the operations, for a correct understanding of their extent and the importance of the results. From early in the spring it was known, through the lodges of the O. A. K.'s and other rebel sources, that Price intended a great invasion of this State, in which he expected the co-operation of that order, and of rebels generally, and by which he hoped to obtain important military and political results. In pursuance of these plans, the lodges, with rebel recruiting officers and agents, sent into Missouri clandestinely or under cover of the amnesty oath for that purpose, began an insurrection in Platte county on the seventh of July last. From that time guerrilla warfare raged in the river counties, west from Calloway on the north, and from Cooper on the south side of the Missouri. This department having been depleted of troops, permission was obtained to raise volunteers to meet the exigencies of our situation, and under it about five complete, and as many incomplete regiments of twelve-months volunteer infantry had been organized previously to the raid. On the third of September General Washburn sounded the tocsin by information that the force under Shelby, at Batesville, Arkansas, was about to be joined by Price, for the invasion of our State. The ripening of the corn lent to this additional color of probability, so that on the sixth Major-General A. J. Smith, passing Cairo with a division of infantry on the way to General Sherman, I telegraphed General Halleck the state of affairs, requesting orders for this division to halt at that point and wait until we could ascertain the designs of the enemy. The division was halted, and on the ninth General Smith received orders from General Halleck to “operate against Price & Co. ;” but, deeming it impracticable to penetrate between one and two hundred miles into Arkansas with a small column of infantry, in pursuit of a large mounted force, the exact whereabouts as well as intentions of which were still unknown, he decided to move his command to a point near St. Louis, whence he could readily move by rail or river, and await Price's movements. From that time information accumulated, showing the imminence of the raid. On the twenty-third we received certain information that Price had crossed the Arkansas with two divisions of mounted men, three batteries of artillery, a large wagon train, carrying several thousand stand of small arms, and was at or near Batesville, on White river. From this point, midway between the Mississippi and the western boundary of the State, there are three practicable routes of invasion: one by Pocahontas, into South-eastern Missouri; another by West Plains and Rolla or vicinity, north, toward Jefferson City: a third by Cassville, north, either through Springfield and Sedalia, or by the Kansas border, to the Missouri river. Strong military reasons favored the movement of their main force by the central route, while a detachment should go by Pocahontas, and strip South-eastern Missouri. Under these circumstances my first object was to secure our great depots at Springfield and Rolla, the hay cut during the summer, and our train of government wagons, required to maintain the troops in the Springfield district. To do this, and, as far as possible, save the scanty agriculture of the country from devastation, it was necessary to hold both Springfield and Rolla. Indeed, to have abandoned these points would have been not only to abandon the loyal people of those districts and their property to destruction, but to invite the enemy to destroy our trains while moving them, capture our stores, and beat our troops in detail. Generals Sanborn and McNeill were therefore informed and ordered to place the trains and public property of their districts under the protection of the fortifications of Springfield and Rolla, to put their forts in the best possible state of defence, using every foot and dismounted cavalry soldier, including citizens and local militia, to the best advantage, and with all their efficient mounted force to watch the enemy's motions, and report the earliest indications of the direction of the coming storm. General Brown was ordered to concentrate all the troops from the west of the central district at Sedalia, to notify the citizen-guards, and see that neither they nor their arms were exposed to capture. On the twenty-fourth Shelby was reported south of Pilot Knob, moving toward Farmington, with five thousand men and four pieces of artillery. General Ewing was ordered to concentrate the troops in the southern part of his district at Pilot Knob and Cape Girardeau, and to verify the accuracy of this report, which proved true. On the twenty-sixth General A. J. Smith, with two of his brigades, was ordered to a point on the Iron Mountain railroad “as far toward Pilot Knob as he deemed compatible with certainty that his position could not be turned,” and the “enemy get between him and St. Louis.” On the day before Sanborn had orders to move, with all his mounted force, to Rolla, it having become evident that the enemy would not probably strike west of that point. The safety of St. Louis was vital to us; I therefore telegraphed Brigadier-General H. E. Paine, commanding in Illinois, who promised me assistance from some regiments of returning “hundred-day volunteers,” who, though they