previous next

[513] were now ordered back, and their position taken by the Iowa First. General Lyon had previously had a poor opinion of the fighting qualities of these men, formed more from supposition than upon any real failure in duty; but now the time had come for him to reverse his judgment, which he did after their first repulse of the enemy. They fought like tigers, drove the enemy back, and followed up the advantage gained for a considerable distance. Captain Mason, Company C, was killed soon after his regiment was engaged. Lieutenant Purcell was mortally wounded. Major Porter and Colonel Merritt, gallantly cheering on their boys, escaped unharmed. The Kansas First and Second regiments were now ordered forward to support the right flank of the Iowas.

Colonel Green's regiment of Tennessee cavalry, bearing a secession flag, now charged upon our wounded, who were partially guarded by one or two companies of infantry. Seeing the movement, Captain Totten poured a few rounds of canister into their ranks just in time to save our sick men from being trampled to death, dispersing the rebels so completely that nothing more was seen of them during the day.

Gen. Lyon now desired the Iowa boys, whom he had found so brave, to prepare to meet the next onset of the enemy with the bayonet immediately after firing. They said, “Give us a leader and we will follow to death.” On came the enemy in overwhelming numbers, confident of victory over such a meagre force. No time could be lost to select a leader. “I will lead you,” said Lyon. “Come on, brave men;” and placing himself in the van, received a fatal bullet in the pit of the stomach which killed him instantly. The Iowas delivered their fire and the enemy retired, so there was no need of charging bayonets. Gen. Lyon's body was carefully picked up and conveyed lifeless toward the ambulances by two of his body guard. In his death, as in his life, he was the same devoted, patriotic soldier, regarding his own life of no value if he could but rescue his country. His body has been brought hither and embalmed, for conveyance to his friends in Connecticut. There was no feeling of depression on the part of the troops at the unexpected calamity, but rather a feeling of quiet determination to revenge his death.

On the Tuesday night previous he had arranged for a night attack upon the enemy, but singularly found himself delayed two hours behind the proper time for starting, by rumors of a skirmish on the prairie west of the town, and the attack was postponed. Wednesday he said to me: “Well I begin to believe our term of soldiering is about completed. I have tried earnestly to discharge my whole duty to the Government, and appealed to them for reinforcements and supplies; but, alas, they do not come, and the enemy is getting advantage of us.” He then called a council of war, at which there was nearly an unanimous voice for evacuating Springfield. Gen. Sweeney pleaded eloquently against such a course, declared it would be the ruin of the Union cause in that quarter of the State, and urged a battle as soon as the enemy were within striking distance. He also pointed out the loss of reputation both to the General and his officers which would follow such a step. This counsel decided the course to be pursued, and Thursday, when the brigade quartermaster inquired when we were to leave Springfield, Gen. Lyon replied, “Not before we are whipped.” This was the proper course to pursue. If he retreated without a battle he would certainly have been pursued by a boastful and unpunished enemy, and very likely have his retreat entirely cut off. After being wounded, he exclaimed to Major Schofield, “The day is lost,” but the Major said, “No, General, let us try once more.” So they tried, and the General fell.

It was now a little after nine o'clock, and the battle had raged with a fierceness seldom if ever equalled for over three hours. The smoke hung like a storm cloud over the valley, a fit emblem of mourning for the departed hero.

He sleeps his last sleep, he has fought his last battle,
No sound shall awake him to glory again.

The battle raged for two hours more, the command devolving upon Major Sturgis. The enemy made repeated attempts to retake the heights from which they had been driven, but were gallantly repulsed each time. The Kansas regiments behaved with a bravery seldom or never equalled, forming ambuscades for the benefit of the rebels by laying fiat on the ground until the enemy cane near enough for them to see their eyebrows, when they would pour a deadly volley into their opponents and again remain in possession of the field. The last repulse of the enemy was the most glorious of all, and Was participated in by the members of every regiment on the field. The enemy came fresh and deceived our men by bearing a Union flag, causing them to believe Siegel was about making a junction with our forces. Discovering the ruse just in time, our gallant boys rushed upon the enemy, who, with four cannon belching forth loud-mouthed thunder, were on the point of having their efforts crowned with success, and again drove them with great loss down the slope on the south side of the hill.

Captain Totten's ammunition was now nearly exhausted, and placing Dubois' battery upon the hill at the north end of the valley, Major Sturgis ordered the ambulances to move toward town. The infantry and Totten's full battery followed in good order and were not pursued by the enemy, who was evidently glad to be let alone. Among the prisoners taken was a surgeon living in St. Charles County. He was immediately released, and Dr. Melcher accompanied him to the rebel Generals, arranging for the return of our wagons to bring in our wounded and dead. Lieutenant-Colonel Horace H. Brand, of the First regiment, Sixth Division, who commanded the rebel force at Booneville,

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
N. Lyon (10)
James Totten (6)
S. D. Sturgis (4)
Edward Sweeney (2)
F. Siegel (2)
J. M. Schofield (2)
Purcell (2)
A. B. Porter (2)
William H. Merritt (2)
Melcher (2)
James M. Mason (2)
Neale Green (2)
John V. DuBois (2)
Horace H. Brand (2)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: