When on his march southward, in October, 1861, General Fremont
sent the combined cavalry forces of Zagonyi
, a Hungarian commanding his guard, and Major White
to reconnoitre the position of the Confederates
at Springfield, Mo.
They were led by the former, who was instructed to attempt the capture of Springfield
if circumstances should promise success.
The whole force did not exceed 300 men. As they approached the place (Oct. 24), they were informed that the Confederates
in the town were fully 2,000 strong.
determined to attack them.
Apprised of his coming, the Confederates
prepared for his reception.
He addressed his own little band, saying: “The enemy is 2,000 strong, and we are but 150.
It is possible that no man will come back.
If any of you would turn back, you can do so now.”
Not a man moved.
“I will lead you!”
He gave the order, “Quick trot—march!”
and away they dashed down a narrow lane fringed with concealed sharp-shooters, while there was a terrible fire from the Confederate infantry in front.
On an eminence stood the Confederate cavalry.
On their centre a lieutenant, with thirty men, dashed madly, breaking their line and scattering the whole body in confusion over the neighboring cornfields.
The remainder of Zagonyi
's men charged, and at the same moment fifty Irish dragoons of White
's command, led by Major McNaughton
, fell upon the foe, and the Confederate cavalry and infantry fled in terror, pursued by a portion of Zagonyi
Through the streets of Springfield
they were chased, while the Union
women cheered on the victors.
The Confederates were utterly routed.
When the fight ended, of the 150 of the guard, eighty-four were dead or wounded.
The action had lasted an hour and a half, and in the dim twilight the Union flag waved in triumph.