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Doc. 88. burning of the Big River Bridge. October 15, 1861.

The St. Louis Democrat, of October 17, contains the following circumstantial account of the destruction of the Big River bridge:
Mr. Fred. Kling, United States Mail Agent on the Iron Mountain Railroad, who reached this city from below yesterday morning about three o'clock, gives us the following particulars of the burning of Big River bridge, and the condition of affairs at Pilot Knob and along the railroad. Mr. Kling left Pilot Knob on Tuesday morning, on the regular train, at nine o'clock, the regular time of departure. On reaching Mineral Point, a station a few miles above Potosi, they got news of the attack upon the guard at the Big River bridge, and the burning of the bridge by a large force of rebels under Jeff. Thompson. The news was brought to Mineral Point station by a number of wounded soldiers belonging to the force of forty or fifty men which had been stationed at Lawson's, a few miles above, and which, on hearing the firing that morning, had rushed up the road to the rescue of the force at the bridge, but reaching there too late, were driven back by the rebels. Mr. Kling states that as soon as the train arrived at Mineral Point, the major in command there, belonging either to the Thirty-third or Thirty-eighth Illinois regiment, ordered the train back to Potosi, three miles off, for reinforcements. In a short time the reinforcements, consisting of three companies, came along on the train, and were about to push on up the road, when a council of war was called and it was decided to go down to Pilot Knob for more troops, for it was ascertained that the rebels were in large force. The train was sent back by Colonel Carlin, in command at the Knob, who, instead of forwarding troops, despatched the cars back to Mineral Point, with [194] orders for the whole force there to report at once to him, as he was seriously threatened from the direction of Farmington. The train before going down ran up the road from Mineral Point to Blackwell's station, just at the bridge, in order to pick up the wounded and secure such baggage as the enemy had left. Mr. Kling says he found the bridge entirely destroyed, the timbers burning, the railroad track torn up for a short distance, and three telegraph poles cut down and the wires clipped. There were no persons remaining on the ground but the wounded, four of whom were rebels and six Federals. From .these he gathered the following account of the fight: The enemy were discovered approaching the bridge on Tuesday morning, about seven o'clock, by a German picket, who gave the alarm. Our troops, numbering about fifty, were immediately prepared for fight, and though the force against them was overwhelming, numbering from six hundred to eight hundred, under the personal lead of Jeff. Thompson, they stubbornly stood their ground, and from wood-ricks and stone-piles did good execution with their guns. Being completely surrounded, they were finally obliged to surrender. Their loss is one killed (the orderly sergeant) and six wounded. The rebel loss is five killed and four wounded.

Immediately after the capture the Federal prisoners were sworn by Jeff. Thompson himself not to take up arms against the Southern Confederacy, and were set at liberty. The rebels then proceeded to destroy the bridge, and having done so speedily retired.

Mr. Kling states that he and the express messenger forded Big River a short distance below the site of the bridge, and walked to De Soto, a distance of nine miles, where they found a transportation train on which they proceeded to this city. They left at De Soto the five companies of the Eighth Wisconsin regiment, which were sent down the road Tuesday afternoon.

When Mr. Kling left Pilot Knob Tuesday morning, an attack from the rebels was momentarily expected. Colonel Carlin was making every preparation in his power to give them a warm reception. His force consisted of the Twenty-first, Thirty-third, and Thirty-eighth Illinois, and a detachment of Indiana Cavalry. One company of the latter he had sent out toward Farmington, to ascertain the whereabouts and force of the rebels. There were rumors that Jeff. Thompson's force consisted of not less than ten thousand men, and one report came in just before Mr. Kling left, that they were but six miles off. Mr. Kling states that all of the bridges, from Mineral Point to De Soto, were deserted, the troops having been called on to Pilot Knob, and that it is in the power of the enemy to do the road an incalculable amount of injury. Jeff. Thompson approached the bridge from the North, showing that he had made a wide circuit of country to avoid detection. The destruction of the most important bridge on the road gives strong color to the probability of a design upon Pilot Knob, and, with a vastly superior force against him and no chance of immediate reinforcements, Colonel Carlin will find himself in an uncomfortable position. Mr. Kling states that an attack was fully expected last night.

later Partioulars-list of killed and wounded.--Captain Isaac H. Elliot, of the Normal regiment, who was in command of the company which was attacked at the bridge, arrived in our city late on Tuesday night. He states that he had but thirty-five of his men in the fight, the rest of the company of about one hundred being scattered up and. down the road for a distance of fifteen miles. He says the men fought bravely and inflicted the severest punishment on the enemy. Jeff. Thompson himself admitted twenty killed. In the rebel force was a gang of Indians, or persons disguised as such, who, during the fight, kept up a great shouting. The sick and wounded of Captain Elliot's company were brought up to the city with him, and have a short leave of absence. The remainder of his company, fifty-two in number, are at Victoria.

The following is the list of killed and wounded:--Killed, George G. Foster, Orderly Sergeant of Company E, from Galesburg, Ill., shot in the head, and killed instantly. Wounded, Captain I. H. Elliot, Company E, from Princeton, Ill., shot in the arm; Thomas Royce, Company E, from Lamoille, shot in the shoulder; W. Evans, Company E, from Polo, shot in the leg; David Kitchen, Company E. from Abington, shot in the hip; Prince G. Rigsley, Company E, from Abington, shot in the side and through the hip; Albert Kaufman, Company E, from Princeton, shot with buckshot in the head, breast, and arm; A. C. Miller, Company K, from Abington, shot through the arm, and escaped back to Pilot Knob.

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Frederick Kling (9)
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