previous next

Doc. 70.-the battle of Carthage, Mo. Fought July 5, 1861.

The following detailed description of the battle which occurred near Carthage, is given by a correspondent in the St. Louis Republican, to whom it was communicated by Lieut. M. Tosk, an officer who acted as Adjutant to Col. Siegel during the engagement:

On the morning of the 5th, at 5 o'clock, a scouting party, sent out by Col. Siegel, encountered, about two miles distant from Carthage, a picket guard of the State troops, who were attacked and three taken prisoners. With all despatch, Col. Siegel prepared to go forward, expecting to meet the State troops some distance west of Carthage. About 9 1/2 o'clock the meeting took place in an open prairie, seven miles beyond Carthage. Lieut. Tosk estimates the numbers of the opposing army at five thousand, chiefly cavalry, but supplied with a battery of five cannon--four six-pounders and one twelve-pounder — while Col. Siegel's command consisted of his own regiment of two battalions, and Col. Salomon's detached regiment, with several pieces of artillery under command of Major Backof. Col. Siegel's regiment had six hundred men, and Col. Salomon's five hundred. The State troops were commanded by Generals Parsons and Rains. Maj. Backof, under the direction of Col. Siegel, opened the fire, which continued briskly for nearly two hours. In less than an hour the twelve-pounder of the State troops was dismounted, and soon afterwards the whole battery was silenced. The superior arms of the Federals enabled them to maintain a situation of comparatively little danger. The State troops, whom for convenience we shall call Jackson's men, twice broke their ranks, but were rallied and held their position very well, considering the destructive discharges against them, until their guns gave out, when their column was again broken.

At this juncture about 1,500 of the cavalry started back with the intention of cutting off Siegel's transportation train, seeing which movement a retreat was ordered, and word sent immediately for the wagons to advance as rapidly as possible. By keeping up the fire with the infantry, and bringing the artillery in range whenever practicable, Col. Siegel managed to retard the progress of Jackson's cavalry, and eventually to fall back almost unobstructed to the baggage train, which was some 3 1/2 miles from the scene of the first engagement.

By a skilful movement the wagons were placed in the centre of the column in such a manner that there were artillery and infantry forces both in front and rear. Jackson's troops then retreated and endeavored to surround the entire column by taking a position upon some high bluffs or hills overlooking a creek. There was but one road leading across this stream, and to progress at all without further retreating in the direction of Carthage it was necessary to cross the elevation where the cavalry were mainly posted.

Major Backof ordered two of the artillery pieces in front to oblique to the left and two to the right, and at the same time a similar movement was made from Col. Siegel's battalions. This was a manoeuvre to induce Jackson's men to believe that Siegel was seeking to pass out on the extremes of their lines, and to outflank the cavalry. It was followed by a closing up to the right and to the left by the forces on the bluffs, when, on reaching a point 350 yards from the cavalry, the four pieces were ordered to a transverse oblique, and immediately a heavy cross-fire was opened with canister. At the same time the infantry charged in double-quick, and in ten minutes the State troops were scattered in every direction. Ten rounds of canister were fired from each of the cannon, together with several rounds by the infantry.

This was at about 5 o'clock in the evening, and the engagement, with the manoeuvring, had occupied in the neighborhood of two hours. Jackson's cavalry were poorly mounted, being armed chiefly with shot-guns and common rifles. They had no cannon on the bluff or hills, and were consequently able to make little or no resistance to the attacks of Col. Siegel. Forty-five men and eighty horses were taken, belonging to Jackson's troops, and there were also captured sixty double-barrelled shot-guns, and some revolvers and bowie-knives. Our informant states that one of the prisoners, on being asked how many had been killed on his side, estimated the loss at from two hundred and fifty to three hundred. [247]

Lieut. Tosk says that it is undeniable that the officers of Jackson's troops displayed great ability in their manoeuvres, showing much strategic skill, but the men were raw and undisciplined, their inexperience in the art of war leading them continually into danger.

Notwithstanding their losses, the State troops still held their position so far as to cut off Siegel's advance over the creek, and that officer was compelled to retreat in the direction of Carthage, Jackson's men following and surrounding the column on three sides. During the retreat, firing by the infantry was kept up, and in this way the cavalry was kept at some distance. Siegel's command got back to Carthage at 6 1/2 o'clock, and at once undertook to enter the woods about a mile distant. This movement was strongly and desperately resisted, Jackson's men feeling that once in the timber they could do nothing, being on horseback. An effort to rally the cavalry to a charge was made, which brought the whole of the infantry into action. After some hard fighting, Col. Siegel got his men into the woods, and so covered his retreat as to force the State troops to relinquish the further prosecution of the fight for the night. The latter returned to Carthage with the evident purpose of renewing the battle in the morning. Lieut. Tosk, without any positive information on the subject, thinks that in this last engagement near Carthage, Jackson's men must have suffered a loss of not less than two hundred killed. He says that during the whole day the loss on the National side was but eight killed and forty-five wounded, though we understand that the despatches of Col. Siegel to Col. Harding, at the Arsenal, place the number of killed at twenty-four. The report that Lieut.-Col. Wolff was killed is erroneous, the only officer even wounded being Captain Stoudtman, of Siegel's regiment.

Col. Siegel, notwithstanding the great fatigue of the day — his men being in action nearly twelve hours, and suffering severely from the heat and from lack of water — ordered his men to press on in retreat from Carthage. A forced march was made to Sarcoxie, in the south-east corner of Jasper County, (Carthage being the county seat,) a distance of twelve or fourteen miles. There they went into camp at 3 o'clock Saturday morning. In the afternoon of the next day the retreat was continued to Mount Vernon, in Lawrence County, sixteen or eighteen miles east of Sarcoxie, where Siegel took a stand, and where his Headquarters were located when Lieut. Tosk left, which was at 4 o'clock on the evening of the 7th.

We should have stated that our informant says that the cannon of the State troops was only provided with round balls, and was worked by very poor artillerists.

Lieut. Tosk met Gen. Sweeny with his force five miles from Mount Vernon, and Col. Brown 16 miles from there, so that the army under Col. Siegel had been largely augmented, and we may soon hear more exciting news from the Southwest.

The Union troops in the battle.

The troops engaged under Colonel Siegel, were composed of the whole of the Third Regiment and a battalion of the Fifth Regiment of Missouri Union Volunteers, as follows:

Third regiment of Missouri Union Volunteers.

Colonel commanding expedition, Franz Siegel.

First battalion.--First Artillery Company, designated as Company A--Capt. Backoff; Company A--Capt. Henry Bishop; Company B--Capt. D. Conrath; Company C--Capt. Cramer; Company D--Capt. Zais.

Second battalion.--Second Artillery Company, designated as Company E--Capt. Wilkins; Company F--Capt. Hartmann; Company G-Capt. Hackmann; Company H--Capt. J. E. Stroudtmann; Company I--Capt. F. E. Schreiner.

regimental staff.--Adjutant. C. Heinricks; Quartermaster, C. E. Stark; Ordnance Officer, F. Koerner.

Fifth regiment of Missouri Union Volunteers.

Colonel, C. E. Salomon; Lieutenant-Colonel, C. D. Wolff.

(As Colonel Salomon was in command at Springfield at last advices, doubtless the battalion was under the charge of Lieutenant-Colonel Wolff, who has since been reported killed.)

Company A--Capt. N. Cole; Company B--Capt. L. G. Gottschalk; Company C-Capt. J. Nemett; Company D-Capt. C. Mehl; Company E-Capt. Richardson; Company F--Capt. Arnaud, M. D.; Company G--Capt. C. E. Stark, M. D.; Company H--Capt. W. J. Hawkins; Company I--Capt. C. Meisner; Company K--Capt. S. Flagg.

The balance of the men was composed of regulars, a small body of which bad joined the command previous to the departure from Springfield.

New York world's narrative.

St. Louis, July 10.
Lieut. Tosk, of Col. Siegel's artillery, a veteran soldier, who has seen active service in the Hungarian war, and in the Crimea, arrived here with despatches for Col. Harding, at the arsenal. He was in the engagement at Carthage, and gives the following interesting account of the fight:

Shortly after the arrival of Colonel Siegel at Springfield, on the 23d ult., hearing that the rebel troops, under Jackson, were making their way southwardly through Cedar County, he proceeded with his command, numbering something over a thousand men, and a small field battery, towards Mount Vernon, for the purpose of intercepting him. Arrived at that point, he learned that Gen. Price, in command of twelve hundred State troops, was encamped at Neosho, the county seat of Newton County, [248] and situated in the southwest corner of the State. His object there was to prevent Jackson going south, or Price going north. He appears to have decided to move southwardly and capture Price if possible, and afterwards attend to the recreant Governor.

As he neared Neosho, on the 30th, the reports began to come in of the strength of Price, until his force was swelled to thirty-five hundred men, including Arkansas volunteers. The inhabitants expressed their welcome for Col. Siegel, and detailed the most pitiable accounts of the oppression of the rebel soldiers. They had seized horses, corn, provisions, and merchandise, without in many cases giving even the worthless orders on the State treasury; considerable apprehension was felt on the approach to Neosho for the success of the little band. But on the 1st instant the whole force entered the town without opposition, the valiant chivalry having hastily retreated upon hearing of the approach of the Federals. As they were principally mounted on stolen steeds, Col. Siegel relinquished the pursuit further south, for obvious reasons, and encamped in Neosho. On the 2d he learned that the forces of Price, Rains, and Jackson had united at Dry Fork Creek, eight miles north of Carthage. He communicated with Brig.-Gen. Sweeny--who had arrived at Springfield in the meantime — who directed him to proceed at once to attack the rebel camp. Accordingly he took up his line of march on the 4th, and on the morning of the 6th came upon the enemy in great force.

Our command was about 1,200 strong, including a part of Colonel Salomon's regiment. We met the enemy in camp, in an open prairie, three miles beyond Dry Fork. We could not discover many infantry, but numbers of cavalry. Approaching within 800 yards, we took our position. The artillery was placed in front; we had on our left two 6-pounders; in our centre, two 6-pounders and two 12-pounders; and two 6-pounders on our right. The enemy, who occupied the highest ground in the prairie, had in position one 6-pounder on the right and left, and in his centre one 12 and two 6-pounders. The fight commenced at half-past 9, when large bodies of infantry began to appear. The firing of the enemy was wretched. I have seen much artillery practice, but never saw such bad gunnery before. Their balls and shells went over us, and exploded in the open prairie. At 11 o'clock we had silenced their 12-pounder and broken their centre so much that disorder was apparent. After the first five shots the two Secession flags which they carried were not shown. They displayed the State flag, which we did not fire at. At about 2 o'clock the cavalry attempted to outflank us, on both right and left. As we had left our baggage trains three miles in the rear, not anticipating a serious engagement, it was necessary to fall back to prevent their capture. Colonel Siegel then ordered two 6-pounders to the rear, and changed his front, two 6-pounders on the flanks, and the 12 and 6-pounders in the rear, and commenced falling back in a steady and orderly manner, firing as we went. We proceeded, with hardly a word to be heard except the orders of the officers, until we reached our baggage wagons, which had approached with the two companies left in reserve. They were formed (fifty wagons) into a solid square, and surrounded by the infantry and artillery, as before. The retreat was without serious casualty until we approached the Dry Fork Creek, where the road passes between bluffs on either side. The cavalry of the enemy, 800 strong, had concentrated on the opposite side of the creek, to cut us off. Colonel Siegel ordered two more cannon to the right and left oblique in front, and then by a concentrated cross-fire poured in upon them a brisk fire of canister and shrapnell shell. The confusion which ensued was terrific. Horses, both with and without riders, were galloping and neighing about the plain, and the riders in a perfect panic. We took here two or three prisoners, who, upon being questioned, said their force numbered about 5.500, and expressed their astonishment at the manner in which our troops behaved.

We proceeded, after capturing about 35 horses, toward Carthage. Just before entering the town, at about 6 o'clock, we brought up at Buck Creek, where three companies of infantry conspicuously posted themselves on the bank, while the rest, in two columns, made a small circuit around the town, which is situated near the creek. The artillery then poured in a well-directed fire upon the village. The horsemen started out in affright, and our soldiers brought them down with fearful effect. This was the heaviest charge of the whole day. No regular volley of musketry had been ordered until this time, and the Minie rifles carried their leaden messengers through man and horse with damaging effect. The enemy must have lost fully two hundred men in this skirmish. Night was approaching as we passed through Carthage. The remnant of the horsemen of the rebels were scattered in all directions; their forces were coming up in our rear, and we concluded to make for the woods on the Mount Vernon road. We could not have captured the entire force without some loss; and as we were acting without orders, thought it prudent to withdraw with our advantage.

We took in all forty-five prisoners, some of them officers; those taken at the Dry Creek at 5 o'clock reported about 200 killed, and as the heaviest fighting was done afterwards, I estimate their loss at near 500. Our loss up to the time I left, was eight killed and missing, and forty-five wounded. As we brought off our wounded and dead, it is probable this may reduce the mortality list.

The rebels halted at Carthage, and hoisted the Secession rag, when our artillery wheeled, and in a few minutes were in position, and firing. Shot and shell were whistling over their heads when the flag disappeared from our view. We [249] then kept on our way to Mount Vernon, where we were ordered to rendezvous, expecting to meet Gen. Sweeny.

The mounted rebels were armed principally with shot-guns, of which we have taken several. Their firing was bad, and their shots fell short of us, as much as their shells went over us. Major Birkhoff, Col.----, and myself had horses shot under us. I had a ball through the hat. Our wounded are not very dangerous, which is likely to be different with the other side, for the Minie balls make an ugly wound. The State forces were under the command of Gens. Parson and Rains. Jackson was not present, nor was Price. Their whereabouts is not known. We were sorry when night came; we could have worried them out without any sacrifice on our part. We fired from our guns 95 rounds of shot and shell. There was very little firing from the musketry, as we could not get near their main body. Our men acted with the most perfect discipline. I have seen some of the best regiments in Europe in action; they cannot excel the coolness and intrepidity of our volunteers while surrounded with a superior force. I left Mount Vernon on the 7th, the second day after the battle. I carried despatches to Springfield on the 6th and returned, and on the Sunday left for St. Louis. I made the trip to Rolla, 154 miles from Mount Vernon, in twenty-nine hours. Met Gen. Sweeny three miles this side of Mount Vernon and Col. Brown thirty miles; the former with 500 men and the latter about 800.

New York times' narrative.

St. Louis, Wednesday, July 10, 1861.
Our city was thrown into a state of feverish excitement to-day, by the news of a great battle which was reported to have been fought in the vicinity of Carthage, between the United States forces, under Col. Siegel, and the rebel trooPs, under Gens. Price and Rains. The most contradictory statements were afloat and published by the several newspapers, the State Journal affirming the total rout and destruction of Col. Siegel's corps d'armee, while, on the other side, it was maintained that our troops had achieved the most glorious victory which had yet shed lustre on the Star-Spangled Banner in the present campaign. The great numerical superiority of the enemy, whose forces were known to outnumber 7,000, while Col. Siegel's whole command did not reach 4,000, led us, at first, to doubt a real victory, and it was not until late in the evening that all doubts were dispelled, by the arrival of a messenger direct from Col. Siegel, with despatches to the commander of the Arsenal. This messenger, Lieut. M. Tosk, of the artillery attached to Col. Siegel's regiment, came by the evening train of the Pacific Railroad, and brought a full account of the glorious victory.

After having made further endeavors to meet the enemy on the 4th, early on the morning of the 5th, Col. Siegel was advised that the enemy had been seen a few miles north of Carthage, Jasper County. Col. Siegel immediately ordered all troops under arms, and after a short march, had the good fortune to find the report confirmed, by meeting the enemy on an open prairie, about ten miles north of Carthage. Col. Siegel's command consisted of eight companies of his own (Third) regiment, under Lieutenant-Colonel Hassendeubel; seven companies of the Fifth Regiment, Colonel Salomon, and two batteries of artillery, consisting of eight field-pieces, under Major Backof. The forces of the enemy numbered five thousand five hundred, at least three thousand of which were mounted, and a battery of artillery-four six-pounders and one twelve-pounder. Generals Price and Rains commanded the State troops in person.

The position of the State troops was well chosen and gave them a great advantage, which was more than balanced, however, by our superior artillery. Three flags floated over their ranks, two Secession flags, which our splendid artillerists soon made to lick the dust, and in the centre the State flag of Missouri.

At half-past 10 o'clock the attack commenced by our artillery opening a strong fire against the centre of the enemy. The aim was so effective that in less than one hour the enemy's twelve-pounder was dismounted, and by noon the whole battery of the State troops was silenced. Repeatedly the columns of the enemy gave way under the heavy fire, but rallied again, until our infantry, which had heretofore remained in security behind the batteries, were ordered to advance, when the centre of the enemy at once was broken. To remedy this disaster, about seventeen hundred of the enemy's cavalry were ordered to fall back, and by a side movement try to get possession of Col. Siegel's baggage train, which had been left some three miles behind on the road, and thus encircle and cut him off from retreat. But this manoeuvre did not succeed. The moment that Col. Siegel saw what was intended, he ordered his men to retreat, which was done in the greatest order, at the same time giving word to the baggage train to advance. Before the enemy's design could be carried out, Col. Siegel had his baggage train in safety. The wagons were placed in the centre of his column, protected in the front by Major Backof's artillery and Col. Salomon's battalion, and in the rear by Col. Siegel's eight companies.

By this time it was 4 o'clock P. M. Our troops had suffered a loss of only about twenty killed and forty wounded, while the enemy's loss was stated by some of their officers, who had been taken prisoners, to amount at least to two or three hundred. This difference in the list of killed is mainly due to the efficient use of our artillery, which mowed down the enemy, while our troops were scarcely hurt by the fire from the miserable battery on the other side.

Having thus placed his baggage train in a sure position, Col. Siegel followed the enemy, [250] who had now taken position on the bluffs on the south side of a creek, cutting through the only road leading to Carthage. Here Gen. Price thought his State troops could cut off all further progress of Siegel's forces, and at the first show of a retreat fall on their rear with his cavalry and cut them to pieces. To Col. Siegel it was absolutely necessary to pass the creek and clear the road to Carthage, as he could not run the risk of being surrounded by an army of such a numerical superiority by remaining where he was, or of retreating. To dupe the enemy, he ordered his artillery to oblique, two pieces to the right and two to the left, following the movement with part of his force.

The enemy, supposing it to be Siegel's intention to escape them by cutting a road at their extreme sides, immediately left the road leading over the bluffs, south of the creek, to Carthage, and advanced to the right and left, to prevent Siegel's forces from crossing their line. But scarcely had they advanced within four hundred yards of our troops, when our artillery suddenly wheeled round, and poured a most terrific volley of canister on the rebel cavalry, from both sides. Simultaneously our infantry was ordered to advance at doublequick step across the bridge, and in a few minutes the whole body of State troops were flying in all directions. Not a show of resistance was made. Eighty-one horses, sixty-five double shot-guns, and some revolvers fell into the hands of our troops. Some fifty prisoners were taken, and from them the number of killed was ascertained to amount to nearly three hundred. Very few on our side were lost.

After this splendid achievement, Col. Siegel proceeded to move toward Carthage, the road to which place was now open. But all along the road, squads of the State troops kept at the side of our forces, though not daring to attack, and were occasionally saluted by a discharge from the rifles of our infantry. Arriving at Carthage, Col. Siegel found it in possession of the enemy; a Secession flag, waving from the top of the court-house, was quickly shot down by our troops.

Col. Siegel now found it necessary to retire to Sarcoxie, eight miles southwest of Carthage, as his ammunition was beginning to give out, and it was necessary to connect again with the balance of our South-western army, concentrated at Mount Vernon and Springfield. The road to Sarcoxie passes around Carthage, and is covered by heavy woods, which it was Col. Siegel's object to gain, since the State troops at Carthage, almost altogether cavalry, could not follow him there.

Fully aware of this, the enemy had taken his position on the road leading into the woods, prepared to dispute Col. Siegel's advance to the last. The most desperate conflict now commenced; the infantry on both sides engaging for the first time. Our troops fought splendidly, and for the first time the rebel troops screwed up some courage. But their arms were very inefficient, and their cavalry could be of little use. The battle raged for over two hours, from quarter-past six to half-past 8 o'clock, and was altogether the most hotly contested encounter of the day. Over two hundred of the rebels bit the dust; our loss was eight killed, and some twenty wounded. One officer, Capt. Strodtmann, was wounded. Our cannon fired 95 rounds. When the enemy retreated to Carthage, about a mile from the place of the engagement, Col. Siegel had got his troops into the wood, where they were secure from any further attack.

Although exhausted from ten hours severe fighting in the heat, and suffering intensely from thirst, Col. Siegel ordered his forces to press on towards Sarcoxie, where they arrived on Saturday morning. On Sunday afternoon the retreat was continued to Mount Vernon, Lawrence County, where he has since been reinforced by Col. Brown's regiment of Home Guards, and Gen. Sweeeny, with another detachment or Home Guards.

Thus the first serious conflict between the United States troops and the rebels has been fought in Missouri, by our brave German Missouri volunteers, resulting in a brilliant victory. Gen. Lyon will perhaps repent that he delayed so long at Boonville, and was thereby prevented from being present and sharing the honors of this glorious victory with Col. Siegel.

That Col. Siegel would fight, and when fighting be victorious, none who knew him ever doubted. He is, perhaps, the best educated tactician we have in Missouri, and has gained a valuable experience in actual warfare, in Schleswig-Holstein and Baden, during the revolutionary period of 1848. His soldiers love and admire him, and his regiment is the best drilled of all our volunteer regiments. When he fights, hoe means fight, and is not so very humane as to confine himself to taking prisoners, merely for the pleasure of letting them run again. His appointment to the rank of Brigadier-General has long been urged by his friends, though his own modesty would prevent him from aspiring to a higher rank than he now holds. Perhaps none of our officers deserve a promotion more than Col. Siegel, and in his case everybody would know that a promotion was not given on account of nationality, but by reason of merit.

The State troops seem to have behaved better than usual in these engagements, and would undoubtedly have met with better success, if they had not been so miserably armed. Besides, their cavalry was altogether disproportionate to their infantry, and was rather a hindrance than otherwise. The artillery did the fighting, and as the enemy's battery was silenced two hours after the commencement of the battle, it was all on one side. This accounts for the heavy loss on the enemy's side, over seven hundred, and the small loss on ours, amounting only to twenty-eight.

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)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
5th (2)
4th (2)
July 10th, 1861 AD (1)
July 5th, 1861 AD (1)
1848 AD (1)
July 10th (1)
30th (1)
23rd (1)
7th (1)
2nd (1)
1st (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: