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Chapter 3:

  • The First division army of the Frontier moves from Rhea's Mills to Elm Springs
  • -- all the Federal wounded in the field Hospitals at Prairie Grove removed to Fayetteville -- General Blunt relieved and starts north -- General Schofield takes command of the army of the Frontier -- future operations to be conducted according to west point tactics -- the army to retreat to the Missouri line -- reorganization of the army -- Colonel W. A. Phillips to command the Indian division -- a battalion of the Sixth Kansas cavalry and Captain Hopkin's battery to go with it -- Grand Review of the army of the Frontier by General Schofield -- the author's last visit to his brother in the General hospital at Fayetteville -- the reduction of transportation -- order from war Department for recruiting several loyal Arkansas regiments -- General Marmaduke marching on Springfield -- the army of the Frontier on the march, except the Indian division.

Hail, Happy New Year! I welcome you; though I know not what you have in store for us. We have no seer or prophet to unfold to us in doubtful and mysterious language the most important events which you will disclose to us in due time. But we have reason to hope that, with honesty of purpose and persistence in the right, on the part of our leaders and of each of us, we shall have made substantial progress in accomplishing the objects for which we are striving, when you shall have expired.

The New Year was ushered in by a national salute [75] fired from the batteries of General Herron's Division still encamped on the battle-field of Prairie Grove. But to the soldier in the field, in camp and on the march, it has no more significance than any other day. It is impossible for him to observe the forms of polite society. His feelings of happiness find expression in a sterner manner than that of flying around in full dress suit, kid gloves and swallow tail coat, and in indulging in pretty conceits with charming maidens. He takes more pleasure in relating to his comrades around the camp fire some adventure in which he took a part, or some hair-breadth escape; how, for instance, he grasped the guidon or standard from the hand of a fallen comrade, while the enemy's bullets were flying around his head as thick as hail. With all the hardships and dangers which war entails on the soldier in the field, his disposition is generally not only not gloomy, but on the contrary, cheerful and happy. No doubt sad thoughts flit through his mind in regard to loved ones at home, but as fresh excitements are coining up every day, and as old battle scenes and incidents have to be gone over occasionally, his mind is never allowed to dwell long on those ideal pictures which have a natural tendency to produce gloominess.

The rumor that, on the return of our division from Van Buren, the Army of the Frontier would move north-ward, turned out to be true. On the morning of January 2d, 1863, the First Division struck tents, left Rhea's Mills, and took up a line of march for Elm Springs, about twenty-two miles north. The General [76] Hospitals were established at Fayetteville several days ago, and most of the sick and wounded have been removed there. It is the chief town in northwestern Arkansas, and is capable of affording much better facilities for properly caring for sick and wounded soldiers than could easily be provided at Rhea's Mills or Prairie Grove. When it is possible, I think our surgeons prefer substantial buildings for hospitals to the Field Hospital tent. If we were in railroad communication with the rest of the country, a good many of our wounded could be sent to their homes, where they would have loving wives, mothers, daughters and friends to look after them. Those who are conscious that they will never recover from their wounds or sickness, often give vent to the expression, that they would be perfectly content to die if they could only be permitted to die at home, surrounded by their families and friends. If a young man gets severely wounded, the first thing he thinks of is his mother or his sweetheart; if a married man, his wife and children. But a grateful government will not neglect to provide justly for the widow and orphaned children, or mother of the soldier who dies in defense of his country. All this intense longing for the affectionate regard of those at home we know is not unappreciated. The letters we receive from time to time from our relatives and friends, are teeming with love and affection, and are convincing enough that there are lacerated hearts at home as well as in the field. It is the consciousness that there exists these loves and affections that touches [77] so deeply the heart of the soldier; and I believe it is these strong affections that make the effective soldier, for he feels that he is fighting for the protection and happiness of those he loves, and whose lives are as dear to him as his own life. If he thought that by going to war it would ultimately subject his family to greater peril, and bring upon it greater unhappiness, he would not go. We regard a man as having lost his manhood if he shows no concern for the happiness and well-being of his family. And in social organization the family is the social or political unit, and whatever weakens family ties and interests must in time weaken the social fabric.

On the evening of the 2nd we camped on Wild Cat Creek, having marched a distance of about sixteen miles from Rheas Mills. A heavy rain last night put the roads in bad condition for our trains and artillery. But as there is no necessity for rapid movement, and as our backs are turned towards the enemy's heels, we can afford to march leisurely, so as not to injure or break down our animals. Officers and men who have served in a campaign like that we have just closed, soon learn how important it is to take every possible care of their cavalry, artillery and draught animals. We arrived at Elm Springs on the 3rd, and there seems to be a prospect of our remaining here several days, as we hear that there is going to be shortly a reorganization of the Army of the Frontier. Gen. Blunt has been relieved, and bade his troops farewell to-day, and, with his staff and escort, started to Forts Scott and Leavenworth. [78] On account of his personal bravery and the brilliant achievements of his campaign, he has greatly endeared himself to his troops. I speak from personal knowledge of his bravery. He was to the front all day during the battle of Cane Hill, and was only a few yards from Col. Jewell when he fell mortally wounded. At Prairie Grove too, he was on the field all the afternoon in dangerous positions, directing the movements of his troops. And at Dripping Springs he was at the front with us when we charged the enemy's camp, and rode with the advance squadrons when we dashed into Van Buren. How well he would succeed in a campaign which required of the Commanding General that every movement of his troops should be made with a distinct but involved end in view, I, of course, have no means of knowing. He is probably able to meet any movement his opponents are able to make on the military chess board. My own impression, however, is, that if a campaign in this section were conducted according to the military science taught at West Point, and embodied in General Schofield, the enemy could soon put us on the defensive, and we should never accomplish anything except our destruction. If military science is a common sense view of contending with your foe, of warding off his blows and of striking him most effectively, I believe in it. But if it be a mysterious method of directing the movements of troops, which no one can understand unless he be a graduate of West Point, then I have little confidence in it. A special education for a special purpose is always [79] desirable, and a military education no doubt qualifies men for organizing and skillfully handling large bodies of troops in time of war; but there seems to be such a tendency among the graduates of West Point to want to do something incomprehensible to the common mind, as to make many of them utter failures. Perhaps only a small percentage of each graduating class display any special aptitude for military science, or for any particular arm of the military service. It amounts to this, a blockhead sent to West Point is as apt to come out a blockhead as if he had been sent to any other school. If a boy who has a natural military genius goes to the Military Academy and graduates, and afterwards has an opportunity to develop his military genius, I think the chances are that he will make a great military commander. Such special aptitudes may be inherited through a line of ancestors, or they may be due to powerful antenatal influences. Napoleon's military genius is said to have been due to the latter cause.

General John M. Schofield assumed command of the Army of the Frontier on the 4th. I understand that he has virtually been in command of it since our return from Van Buren. Had he arrived here a few days sooner, it is probable that the expedition to Van Buren would never have been made. He is a graduate of the Military Academy, and I suppose that military operations will now be conducted according to the military science taught at West Point. We shall see. In the first place it seems that we are already [80] under orders to continue our march further northward, though there is not an officer or soldier in our division who does not.feel sure in his own mind that there is not an organized force — of the enemy in western Arkansas, north of the river. If this be true, and the Commanding General should know whether it is or not, then why continue to fall back and give up the country we have gained at the cost of so many lives and of so much toil and suffering? Is it because the present Commanding General did not direct the movements of our army in gaining the splendid victories that we have won? The jealousies of military rivals have already in other instances been a curse to our arms.

The reorganization of the Army of the Frontier, which I have already mentioned as probable, is to take place immediately. General F. J. Herron is to command the second and third divisions, Colonel William Weir, Tenth Kansas infantry, the first division, and Colonel William A. Phillips, Third Indian regiment, the Indian division, consisting of all the Indian troops, one battalion of the Sixth Kansas cavalry, and Captain Hopkin's battery formerly attached to Colonel Cloud's brigade. With this force I-understand that Colonel Phillips will take up a position near Maysville, Benton county, Arkansas, a little town right on the line of the Cherokee Nation. I have been assigned to duty as Commissary Sergeant of this battalion of the Sixth Kansas cavalry, and directed to report to Captain John W. Orahood, the senior officer. Lieutenant [81] John S. Lane, the Regimental Commissary, accompanies the other battalion, together with the other field and staff officers of our regiment.

On the 6th, General Schofield arrived at Elm Springs for the purpose of reviewing the First Division before any important movement shall have been made. The different arms of the service are therefore actively engaged in making preparations for the Grand Review to-morrow. This is a kind of military luxury of which we have had very little experience. During the autumn of 1861, however, when we were in General James H. Lane's command, we had several reviews and sham battles. But since then we have had nothing on as extensive a scale as that which is to take place to-morrow. All the men reported present for duty of the following organizations, are ordered to turn out with their arms and equipments complete, to-wit: Cavalry, Second, Sixth and Ninth Kansas, and Third Wisconsin; infantry-Tenth, Eleventh and Thirteenth Kansas, and Ninth Wisconsin; First, Second and Third Indian regiments; artillery-Capt. Rabbs, Second Indiana battery, First and Second Kansas batteries, and Captain Hopkin's four gun battery, which was captured from the enemy, besides two twelve-pound howitzer batteries, attached to the Sixth and Ninth regiments Kansas cavalry, respectively.

Well, the gala day is over; we have had the Grand Review, and I think that we made a very creditable appearance. We formed in line in an open field, and the ground is rather favorable, considering the general [82] broken condition of the country, for reviewing an army no larger than ours. After we had gone through a few evolutions upon the field, we then formed in line, and in a short time General Schofield and staff, and several mounted messengers, galloped along our front and took up a position near our extreme right. Some of the soldiers within my hearing remarked, looking at their gay uniforms as they passed along, “Too much fuss and feathers for a fighting general.” The whole command then formed in columns of companies, and marched by the place where General Scofield and staff had posted themselves. The brass bands, marching at the head of brigades and playing soul-stirring airs, give additional interest to the fine display made by the troops. Thus ended the Grand Review, after which we marched to our respective camps. This is probably the last time the first Division will ever all be together. It seems to be the intention to break it up into brigades and detachments, and to scatter these along the southern border counties of Missouri and northern Arkansas. If we are not going to make any effort to hold a more advanced position, or even our present position, or if we are no longer to assume the offensive, perhaps to scatter the troops in this manner is the best policy.

This morning (the 8th) General Schofield, staff and escort left for Fayetteville, as I understand to review the second and third divisions under command of General Herron. It does not appear that General Schofield has established any headquarters here with [83] the army. It is therefore thought that his presence here is only temporary, and that after he shall have made such disposition of his troops as in his judgment seems best, that he will return to Springfield or St. Louis.

As we shall march away from here in two or three days, I obtained permission to go to Fayetteville to-day to see my brother who is in the general hospital there. He was in right good spirits when I came to him, though he complained that the wound which he received in the shoulder at the battle of Coon Creek last August, caused him intense suffering at times. He also informed me that the old wound which he received through the thigh a little over a year ago, had broken out again, and gave him much pain when he made certain movements, and his weight came on that leg. He still clings to the ball that passed straight through his thigh, touching the femoral artery and lodging on the opposite side just under the skin. When it was cut from the wound the conical end of the elongated ball was found to be considerably flattened, having struck the femur or thigh bone. But he says that he cannot bear to have the surgeons probe any more for the ball which he still carries in his shoulder, as it has either broken through the encysting and poisoning his blood or touching some very sensitive part. He expressed a strong desire to be at home, but thought that he had not strength enough to be transported in an ambulance so far, even if he could get permission to go. I encouraged him to be cheerful, and said that I hoped he [84] would come out of this all right, and be able to report to his company for duty in a few weeks, or in a few months at the farthest. I then bid him adieu, but not without emotion, for I have serious doubts of his recovery; the lines of his expression were not natural, and his life is ebbing away through the wound in his shoulder. But.1 will not mourn my brother dead who is yet living.

The order for the reduction of our transportation goes into effect to-day. Hereafter each cavalry regiment will be entitled to only sixteen four-mule wagons, and each infantry regiment to twelve four-mule wagons. This seems a wise measure adopted by the War Department, for during an active campaign troops should be encumbered as little as possible with large trains and useless baggage. Five hundred wagons and teams in motion, stretch over a distance of several miles, and in an enemy's country always require a large force of cavalry to protect them. They also offer inducements to the enemy to fit out expeditions for their capture or destruction. Though officers and soldiers will have to dispense with certain conveniences which they have heretofore enjoyed, yet I think that they will soon see that by doing so, there will be entailed upon them no great hardships. Our object is to beat the enemy at every point with as little sacrifice of life and public property as possible. If large trains embarrass our movements, and if we can get along with smaller ones without decreasing our effectiveness, we should do it without a murmur. [85]

It was reported a few days ago· that authority had been obtained from the Secretary of War for raising two regiments of Federal troops in this State, one cavalry and one infantry. This report I find is true, and the recruiting is to commence at once, and the regiments will probably be organized and in the field by spring. For the present, Col. Ferguson is to have charge of the matter, with headquarters at Fayetteville. Once organized and equipped, these regiments will be a valuable acquisition to our army in holding this section. Our troops have shown that they have no hatred or ill will towards the people with whom we are contending; that we only want them to lay down their arms and renew their allegiance to the Government. The consequence is, I think, that we have made friends of many of those who had been misinformed and had a rather bad opinion of us before we came into this State. At the beginning of the war there was a strong Union sentiment in nearly all the counties of northwestern Arkansas; and also in other sections of the State. And now that there is an opportunity for those whose sympathies have all along been with the Government, to assist it by organizing for the defense of their lives and homes, we may reasonably expect that these two regiments will soon have their maximum of men. If they see that there is a probability of our permanently holding this part of the State, many of those who are refugees to Missouri and Kansas, will doubtless return and enter the service. [86]

A post has been established at Neosho, Missouri. Major John A. Foreman with a battalion of Indian troops, has already been ordered there. A large number of refugee Indian families are in that vicinity, and they are all to be collected at that point to remain until spring. There is an abundant supply of fine spring water at Neosho, and as it is in a wooded region plenty of fuel can be easily furnished them at a small cost during the winter. Their subsistence supplies can also perhaps be mostly drawn from that section.

Last night, the 8th, the First division, with the exception of the Indian command, having received orders, struck tents and moved out quite suddenly. Some of the troops that left last night, are ordered to Springfield, Missouri, on a forced march, as General Marmaduke with a division of cavalry, and several batteries of light artillery, is reported on the way there, having passed through this State three days ago, about seventy-five miles east of us. General E. B. Brown, with a considerable force of Missouri State troops and some artillery, will doubtless give the enemy a warm reception if they attack him before the reinforcements get there.

That one is obliged to separate from those with whom he has shared the dangers and hardships of the field for more than a year, is cause for profound feelings of sadness. Serving in a common cause, and sharing alike dangers and hardships, tends to unite men by the strongest ties of friendship. [87]

Though many of our troops have been in the service less than sixth months, yet they have moved forward with brave hearts and unfaltering steps, never swerving from the path of duty. Veterans could not have performed more effective service, and service of which the true soldier may well feel proud. Military achievements of less consequence, as far as bettering men's condition is concerned, than the achievements of the Army of the Frontier, have been recorded and handed down to us through twenty-five centuries. Many infant children now in the arms of their mothers, when grown to manhood or womanhood, will doubtless refer with pride to the services of their fathers in this campaign.

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