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[428] enabled to organize his army, and soon found himself in condition to take the field. The northern part of the State, situated on the left side of the Missouri, was subjected to fire and the sword in the latter half of July. Five thousand partisans, under Porter, Poindexter and Cobb, were ravaging the whole of that region. Colonel Merrill was sent to fight them, and he displayed in that difficult conjuncture those rare qualities which subsequently established his reputation as a cavalry officer. Colonel McNeil, one of Merrill's lieutenants, after chasing Porter's troops for twelve successive days, overtook them at last at Kirksville, in Adair county. Although the Confederates were three thousand strong, and McNeil had only one thousand horse, the victory rested with him. Porter's band was almost annihilated; Poindexter, who was farther west, endeavored to join him, or at least to rally the remnant of his command, but was unable to cross the Chariton River, and the Missouri militia chased him with that sanguinary ardor which animates combatants in all civil wars. McNeil himself, far from restraining them, set an example of cruelty by odious executions, the report of which even reached Europe. The day after the combat of Kirksville he allowed a Confederate officer, Colonel McCullogh, to be put to death in cold blood; a few days after, August 15th, he caused ten prisoners to be shot at Palmyra, whom he had selected as hostages to secure the liberation of one of his spies arrested by the enemy. Poindexter's troops, thus tracked and caught between two fires, dispersed toward the middle of August. All the crossings of the Missouri were occupied; armed boats kept watch over the river; scarcely any of those who had taken up arms were able to cross it, to join the Confederate forces in the South. Some hid themselves; others, formed into small bands, long continued to wage a partisan war, which finally degenerated into mere brutal brigandage.

The right bank of the Missouri had also been the scene of blood, but on that side the war had assumed a more regular character. At the first rumor of an outbreak in Northern Missouri the bands which were being organized in the South rallied around one Hughes, in order to put themselves in communication with those of the North across the river. On the 11th of August, Hughes, with about one thousand combatants, surprised the garrison

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