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Chapter 22:

General Blunt and Staff, his fine band, and everything pertaining to the Headquarters District of the Frontier, left this post the evening of the 4th inst., for Fort Smith via Fort Gibson. His escort is made up of detachments from the Fourteenth Kansas cavalry and one Company Third Wisconsin cavalry, and his band all belongs to the latter regiment. The soldiers belonging to the-escort, the members of the band, and the officers of his Staff, altogether number [414] about one hundred and fifty men. The papers and records pertaining to Headquarters, were mostly carefully packed in boxes a few days ago, under the eye of Major H. Z. Curtis, Assistant Adjutant General. Major Curtis' wife, a beautiful and accomplished lady, who has been here with her husband several months, also left the same day for her home in Iowa. The Band for half an hour before the General took leave of his friends, played some very fine selections while sitting in their seats in the Band wagon in front of Colonel Blair's residence, on the north side of the plazza. To me the music seemed unusually sweet. I think that each member must have taken special pains to perform his part well. A band wagon has been fitted up for their special purpose, and is drawn by four fine horses. The horses looked as if they were proud of the service required of them. At five o'clock General Blunt and some of his Staff got into his carriage, the bugle sounded the march and the escort filed out, with its silken guidon gayly flying at the head of the column. He intended to march fifteen to twenty miles that night, and then stop a few hours to refresh his men and animals with food and rest. At the rate he usually travels, he will reach Baxter Springs on the evening of the 5th, and Fort Gibson two days later.

Two soldiers of the Fourteenth Kansas cavalry, who were permitted to return home in Vernon County, Missouri, to see their families before starting south with their regiment shortly, were killed on the night of the 4th inst. It is reported that there were upwards [415] of a hundred of the enemy in the party who killed these men. The young lady, a daughter or relative of one of the murdered men, who brought in the information, did not, in the excitement caused by the shooting, ascertain the name of the commanding officer under whom the rebels were acting. No loyal man in the Border.Counties of Missouri can stop at his home a single night without great danger. It is folly to attempt it. From such facts as I have collected, however, I am satisfied that they have very recently entered the State, and are perhaps an advance detachment from the invading force mentioned several days ago. Though I can get no definite information as to whether the enemy are about to invade Missouri in force, I think that I have learned enough to justify me in saying that the rumbling sound of the distant thunder may be heard, and that the storm is beyond doubt coming, and may be upon us in a few days.

Colonel Blair for several days has been busy in putting everything in fighting order, in the event of the enemy making an attack on this post. There was an alarm in town on the night of the 4th, and the troops were under arms in a few moments. A considerable force of the enemy endeavored to make a dash on this place, or to capture or kill our pickets near the State line. Our picket guard at the outer station, as soon as they discovered the movements of the enemy, fired a signal, and then rode into this post as swiftly as possible, so that everything might be in readiness to receive the rebels should they have decided to make an [416] attack. Immediately after the troops were aroused and under arms, Colonel Blair sent out detachments of cavalry on all the roads leading in here from Missouri, to discover, if practicable, the intentions of the enemy. The cavalry, however, returned the next morning, and the officers reported that they found no signs of the enemy having appeared nearer here than the outer picket station, and that their trail indicated that they then marched off in a northeast direction. It is supposed that when they found their scheme was discovered by our pickets and the alarm given, that they gave up the idea of making an attack on the post. Had they attempted to come in, we would really have had the advantage, for we could have ambushed them at half a dozen points, Information brought in by our scouts on the 5th, and information from other sources, made it almost certain that the several detachments of the enemy which have passed so near us the last two days, are a part of the invading force of General Shelby.

The 7th was a day of great excitement at this post. Colonel Blair received a dispatch about one o'clock in the morning from Baxter Springs, stating that General Blunt's escort had been attacked near that place by a force under Quantrell, about live hundred strong, and that nearly all his men and most of his staff were killed and captured. The alarm was again sounded, and all the troops called out under arms. Colonel Blair immediately took most of the cavalry and started to the relief of General Blunt. He left instructions, [417] however, looking to the safety of this post. Later in the day, two men who were with General Blunt in the engagement of Monday evening, and three men who were with Lieutenant Pond, commanding the station at Baxter Springs, arrived here and furnished additional particulars.

Between four and five o'clock Monday, 5th instant, Quantrell with three hundred men, and an officer belonging to Shelby's command, with about two hundred men, attacked the station at Baxter Springs. But as the companies there under Lieutenant Pond have rifle pits thrown up around a block house furnished with port-holes for small arms, the enemy, after repeated charges, could not dislodge them. While they continued the attack they soon saw that the casualties were likely to be all on their side. Lieutenant Pond had also one howitzer, which was effectually used, for when the enemy came near enough he poured grape and canister into their ranks with good effect. But they took the precaution to put a guard out on the military road leading from Fort Scott, about a mile north of Baxter Springs. Along towards five o'clock the guard discovered General Blunt's escort coming in sight, perhaps nearly two miles distant on the prairie. Quantrell was quickly informed, and immediately abandoned the attack on Baxter, and marched to meet General Blunt. The General's escort had just emerged from the strip of timber on Brush Creek, when the advance saw coming over a ridge in the prairie from towards Baxter, about [418] two hundred yards off, a large force dressed in Federal uniform.

The officer in command of the escort supposed that they were the troops from Baxter Springs. As soon as Quantrell was informed of the approach of General Blunt's escort, he posted several men in a position to observe it pass over a ridge in the prairie on the north side of Brush Creek, a mile or so distant, and to estimate the approximate number of men by the length of the column. With a good spy-glass the number of men in the escort could easily have been counted while passing over the ridge. Quantrell therefore knew that there was less than two companies in the escort, and marched forward to attack it without stopping to halt. The commanding officer of the escort made no effort to form his men in line until the enemy had come within fifty yards and opened fire. General Blunt, and several of his staff, quickly got out of his carriage and commenced to direct the movements of his men. But as the enemy had approached nearer, and were keeping up a steady fire, the escort fell back in some disorder. General Blunt endeavored to rally his men, but as the enemy were closing around him on all sides, it was impossible to keep them firm under the galling fire. In less than half an hour the entire escort and wagons were surrounded by the enemy. General Blunt and fifteen to twenty men cut their way through and escaped, but not without bullet holes through their clothing. A.11 the rest of the escort, members of the band, and teamsters, were [419] killed or wounded, and lay on the field within the radius of half a mile. The wounded who escaped death were supposed to have been killed, for every wounded man the enemy saw showing signs of life, they shot through the head or heart. A few of our soldiers fell into the hands of Shelby's men, who participated in the engagement, and were protected and treated as prisoners of war, but not without expressions of dissatisfaction on the part of Quantrell's men. Our loss in the affair already foots up eighty-five killed and about twenty wounded. Some of the wounded will die, and perhaps a few more of those who were wounded and died on the prairie in the vicinity of the field of the disaster, will be found, so that our total loss is not likely to fall short of ninety-five men. General Blunt had about a dozen wagons with him, and had he ordered them corraled immediately after the enemy opened fire, he could probably have resisted the attack. He may, however, have been pressed too closely to have had time to corral his wagons. Nearly all the members of the band were shot through the head, the band wagon set on fire, and their bodies burned in it. Their scorched and charred remains presented a horrible sight. Nearly all the band were Germans, and several of the ruffians are reported to have exclaimed: “This shall be the fate of the lopped-eared Dutch of Lincoln's hirelings” Major Curtis' horse was shot under him, and he was shot and killed after having become dismounted. The bodies of Major Curtis, Lieutenant Farr, General Blunt's Judge Advocate, [420] and two soldiers, will arrive here on the 8th, to be sent north.

The losses of the enemy in the engagements with Lieutenant Pond and General Blunt, are estimated at about thirteen killed. About a dozen of their men have been found on the field, and they are known to have carried away some of their killed and wounded. Their heaviest loss, however, was in the attack on the block-house, and they could not have taken it without artillery. General Blunt thought that they had captured Lieutenant Pond's force, or he would have made an effort to fight his way to it. Or had Lieutenant Pond known of the approach of General Blunt, and that the enemy had marched away to attack him, he could and it would have been his duty to have attacked him in the rear.

Quantrell took General Blunt's carriage with him, and marched south in the direction of Fort Gibson, and Shelby's men marched northward, and were, perhaps, the force that fired into our pickets again on the night of the 7th.

General Blunt and Colonel Blair arrived on the morning of the 12th, from Baxter Springs. As General Blunt now has definite information that Shelby, Gordon and Hunter have invaded Missouri, with a force of about two thousand men and three pieces of light artillery, and are marching northward, he will probably remain here a week or so, to make such disposition of his troops as will best protect the border counties of Kansas. This being a large depot of army [421] supplies, and only a few miles from the State line, it is thought that Shelby may turn aside and attack us here in a few days. But we have one battery, beside four twenty-four pound siege guns, and troops enough to hold the place several days against an enemy of two thousand men. The heights to the east of us, should the enemy get possession of them, would give him positions from which he could throw shells into the town.

General Blunt has sent orders for the troops stationed at Webber's Falls and Skullyville to move into Fort Smith, and all the Indian troops stationed at different points in the Nation to concentrate at Fort Gibson. If Colonel Phillips has returned to take command of the Indian division, we need have no fears of the enemy capturing Fort Gibson. It is reported that General Shelby, with the assistance of his artillery, has been able to capture one or two posts in southwest Missouri. The militia, not being aware that the enemy had artillery with them, undertook to defend their stations, and were surrounded and attacked with it at short range, and compelled to surrender. Their losses, however, by capture have been quite light. Shelby has moved through Missouri very rapidly, having met with no serious opposition at first. But he had marched only a few days through the State when he ran into a hornet's nest. General Brown, commanding the State militia in Central Missouri, attacked him at Marshall a small town in Saline county, on the 13th instant, and after two hours hard fighting, captured all his artillery, [422] and dispersed his men in every direction. The enemy lost twenty men killed and a large number wounded, and a few prisoners. Nearly all the militia in southwest Missouri have joined the chase. General Ewing, commanding District of the Border, including border counties of Missouri, has taken the field in person, and is determined to press the enemy vigorously until they are driven from the State.

Lieutenant R. J. Lewis, of the Sixth Kansas cavalry, and Judge Advocate on the Staff of General Ewing, arrived here the night of the 16th, direct from the troops in the field, for the purpose of having requisitions for ammunition, quartermaster and commissary supplies, filled and sent forward at the earliest practicable moment. After the engagement at Marshall, most of Shelby's force retreated in a westward direction, and soon came in contact with General Ewing's forces. The State troops under General Brown did not stop the pursuit after the fight at Marshall, but are co-operating with General Ewing with hope of capturing Shelby's entire force. While our troops will not likely capture a very large proportion of the raiding force, they will prevent it from taking much property from the State. From the turn affairs have taken, it is thought that Shelby will be disappointed in regard to increasing his army of invasion. He is losing by desertions, and by those who have had enough of the rebellion and are surrendering to our authorities, fully as many men as he is gaining by rebel sympathizers joining him from the localities through which he passes. [423] We shall not complain if he takes from the State every bushwhacker and rebel sympathizer in it. Several couriers who have just arrived from Fort Gibson state that Quantrell's force crossed the Arkansas River about a week ago, a few miles above that post. They surprised and killed six Indian soldiers and two or three negroes near the mouth of the Verdigris River. One of the negroes which they captured they intended to take with them to Texas. He escaped one night, however, and reached Fort Gibson after several day's wandering in the Nation. He states that he heard them say that they were on their way to Texas, and would not return to Missouri until towards spring. They regarded General Blunt's carriage as quite a trophy, and intend to exhibit it to their friends and admirers in Texas.

A messenger came in from the Osage Mission, October 20th, and reported that there was a small rebel force in the vicinity of that place on the night of the 18th, under Cy Gordon. They committed some petty depredations and then left.

On the 18th instant General Ewing's forces overtook and had a skirmish with Shelby's rear guard at Carthage, Jasper county, Missouri, and captured thirty prisoners, including one Major. No better officer could be sent against the enemy in the field than General Ewing. Some stragglers are also being daily picked up. The rebels are said to be much exhausted from constant marching and fighting since they invaded the State. It is difficult to capture a cavalry force [424] or compel it to fight, when its commanding officer does not wish to risk an engagement with his adversary, In his dispatches General Ewing states that he will continue the pursuit of the enemy to the southern line of Missouri. And if they do not keep dwindling in numbers until there is only a corporal's guard to pursue, he will perhaps continue to follow them far into Arkansas.

There is some talk now that General John McNeil, who has for several months been in command of the district of Southwest Missouri, will soon relieve General Blunt of the command of the troops at Fort Smith. It is not thought by a good many that General Blunt should be relieved just at this time. The Baxter Springs disaster, should not, his friends say, be deemed a sufficient cause for his removal. It was more of an accident than a blunder. He is a brave officer, and has never before met with defeat. He is popular with the Army of the Frontier, and it is not generally thought that the recent disaster would lessen the confidence of the soldiers in him. He will go down with the supply train in a few days at any rate, though it may be for the purpose of turning over his command. If, however, he desires to keep his command, Senator Lane will doubtless use his influence in his behalf.

General Thomas Ewing has been assigned to the command of the District of Kansas, with headquarters at this post. The border tier of counties of Missouri, as far south as Barton county, will be included in his district, He is expected to assume command of his [425] new district in a few days, or just as soon as he returns from the expedition in pursuit of Shelby's raiders.

Major W. C. Ransom, of the Sixth Kansas Cavalry, arrived here on the 23d, with about four hundred men, direct from General Ewing's command, which he left at Neosho, Missouri. He has come up for ammunition and other supplies for the troops with General Ewing. He reports our men short of almost everything, and much worn from constant marching and skirmishing with the enemy for the last two weeks, He is one of the most experienced and efficient officers on duty along the border, and no better one could have been selected to perform an important service like that which has been intrusted to him. In recognition of his well-known abilities, General Lyon, in July, 1861, authorized him to raise the regiment to which he belongs. He worked more industriously and persistently in organizing and drilling his regiment than any other officer in it. Kansas may well be proud of him.

Senator Lane made a big speech from the balcony of the Wilder House on the evening of the 24th, to a large audience. He discussed the political issues of tile day, the prospect of the early collapse of the Confederacy, and was particularly severe, and in my opinion justly, on the Copperheads of the North, or those who are opposing and embarrassing the Government in its efforts to crush the rebellion. He has apparently abandoned, and I think very sensibly, the scheme of his crusade into Missouri, as he did not refer to it directly. It would be difficult to see how [426] he could advocate it in the light of recent events-that is, in the face of the heroic bravery displayed by the Missouri State troops in capturing the enemy's artillery, and dispersing his forces. General Blunt was also called out, and made a short and neat little speech. He is not much of a speaker, and it is not likely that he is in the proper frame of mind to display his eloquence, even if he were an orator. There is little doubt but that he is still very sensitive in regard to the Baxter Springs misfortune, and probably feels that the eyes of the public are severely upon him. He knows that an officer whom the Government trusts with the lives of thousands of men, is expected to see to it that their lives shall not be wantonly or stupidly sacrificed by placing them in positions where they must contend with the foe under extraordinary disadvantages.

General Ewing--and Staff and Escort arrived here October 27th, from Neosho, Missouri, having chased Shelby's flying columns beyond Cassville, and within a few miles of the Arkansas line. The enemy kept breaking up into so many small detachments, that there was not much of a force to pursue towards the last. The troops are all returning, and will go to their regular stations, since the storm that has swept over southwest and central Missouri has now nearly subsided. A retrospect of the recent military operations in Missouri shows that the enemy have lost more by the invasion than they gained.

The supply train started on the 28th instant for [427] Fort Smith; General Blunt accompanies it. The escort is composed of the Second Kansas colored infantry, two companies of the Fourteenth Kansas cavalry, Captain Smith's battery of light artillery of four rifled guns, one battalion of the Twelfth Kansas infantry, and General Blunt's escort. General McNeil and Colonel Cloud left Springfield about three days ago, for Fort Smith, and will not likely leave undisturbed any considerable force of the enemy that might be in northwestern Arkansas. On account of the rain and snow-storm which has prevailed in this section for several days past, the roads are heavy, and the progress of the train will be slower than usual. And the infantry, too, will find it disagreeable marching. A few days' march, however, will bring them into a region where the roads are firmer. Some of the troops going down now will have seen their first service in the field. But they have had sufficient instruction to become acquainted with their duties, and no doubt will make good soldiers.

It appears from dispatches received from Fort Smith that the scattered forces of Generals Cooper, Marmaduke and Shelby are reorganizing, and making preparations to march against that place with about nine thousand men and eighteen pieces of field artillery. But when we take into account the badly demoralized condition of Cooper's and Shelby's forces, we may conclude that such an army cannot be called into existence in a few days, nor even in a few weeks. While; the rebel Generals in Arkansas and the Indian Territory [428] may be able shortly to collect together a sufficient number of troops to make a demonstration against Fort Smith, it is not at all probable that they can organize an army very soon of such strength as will enable them to make a successful assault, assuming of course that all our troops in the vicinity of that place have been concentrated there, and would be handled to the best possible advantage. We have got a firm footing at Fort Smith, and will be able to hold western Arkansas and the Indian country, unless our officers make some unpardonable blunder. It is not likely that General Marmaduke will be permitted to occupy the country north of the Arkansas River much longer. Should he endeavor to confine his operations to the central or eastern portion of the State, north of the river, General Steele, commanding an army at Little Rock, should be able to send a force against him and compel him to leave that section. Or if he should move into northwestern Arkansas, Generals Blunt and McNiel will look after him very closely, and it is not thought that he or General Shelby will attempt to make another raid through Missouri at present.

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