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[71]

But Price was doomed to disappointment. Fremont, no doubt, would have followed him if the authorities at Washington had not intervened by relieving him of his command. He did not take his removal at all kindly. He knew the order was on the way from Washington, and he surrounded himself with guards instructed to admit no one to his presence without first informing him and getting his consent. This was to prevent the order reaching him in an official form. But by stratagem a messenger finally reached him and delivered the order which terminated his military career in Missouri. It was understood at the time that he contemplated disregarding it, and was only prevented by the refusal of his subordinates, particularly Sigel and Asboth, to uphold him. It is probable, bitterly as Fremont was disappointed, Price's disappointment was more bitter. He had taken Fremont's measure, and if he could have drawn him deep enough into the mountains, would have captured or annihilated him and his army. It is certain that General Hunter, who succeeded him in the command, found the army so demoralized and so unfit for active service, that, with no force threatening him, he retreated precipitately to Rolla. As soon as Hunter left, Price occupied Springfield again, and a little later moved northward to Osceola. The battle of Belmont, which was fought in the extreme southeastern corner of the State, had very little significance of any kind, but closed the military record in Missouri for the year 1861. The Confederates, under General Polk, had occupied Columbus, Ky., and with their batteries controlled the navigation of the Mississippi river. To strengthen their position a Confederate force, under General Pillow, occupied the opposite bank of the river in Missouri. Col. U. S. Grant was sent with a brigade of Illinois troops to dislodge them. At first the Federals gained some advantages, but the Confederates being reinforced Grant was compelled to seek the protection of the guns of his boats, and under their cover reembarked his men and returned to Cairo.

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