Chapter 24:

Another great battle has been fought between the forces of General Grant and General Bragg, at Lookout Mountain, above the clouds, near Chattanooga, Tennessee, resulting in a grand victory for the Union arms. After the temporary check to the advance of our army under General Rosecrans, on the 19th and 20th of September, the rebel leaders determined to prevent General Grant from reinforcing it, and to use every means in their power to crush it. Jeff. Davis is [443] reported to have stated recently, that Rosecrans' army in Northern Georgia, must be crushed, if it took all the resources of the Confederacy to do it. But the rebel leaders should begin to see by this time, that when General Grant takes command of any grand division of our army in any section, it is sure to win. His presence on the field inspires the troops with confidence of victory. This confidence enables men to brave dangers, endure hardships, and to perform heroic actions, which they could not endure or perform under depressed states of their nervous systems. If a man feels that he is going to get knocked down every time he meets his antagonist in a contest, he is not likely to come to the “scratch” each succeeding round, after the second or third, with much alacrity and buoyancy. So with the enemy. They have been knocked down so many times during the last year, that they are beginning to come to the “scratch” with faltering steps. In the battleat Lookout Mountain or Chattanooga, the other day, according to the despatches, they lost six thousand prisoners and thirty pieces of artillery, and about four thousand men killed and wounded.

The great battles fought in the East and in Tennessee, send a thrill of joy and gladness, or grief and disappointment, according as they have been favorable or unfavorable to our arms, through thousands of loyal hearts even at this great distance from the scenes of operation. Smaller battles affect us in minor degrees, until the smallest do not cause even a ripple upon consciousness. [444]

A large sutler's train arrived on the 2d of December from Fort Smith, via Fort Gibson, loaded principally with cotton, alleged to have been purchased and captured from the enemy during General McNeil's expedition towards Red River. It is whispered that there is some crookedness in regard to the manner in which certain speculators came into possession of this cotton. Speculators following the army and purchasing cotton of pretended loyal owners, or disloyal owners, may find their titles contested by Government agents, who are commissioned to look after such matters. Sharks following the army, like sharks following a ship, should be watched, and not permitted to appropriate our valuable trophies. And in the present case, there should perhaps be an investigation to determine whether or not this cotton has been purchased in a legal manner. It would be more just that its proceeds should be distributed to the soldiers, who captured it, as prize money, than that it should go into the pockets of sharpers. If rebel planters have left their plantations, and their cotton has fallen into our hands as contraband property, the Government should get the market price for it, and speculators not allowed to pick it up for merely nominal sums, as they are reported in some cases to have been doing. As our armies are now getting into the cotton-raising regions, the revenues of the Government during the year, from the sales of contraband cotton, should, if carefully, intelligently and honestly looked after, amount to several millions of dollars. It would be easy enough for our [445] supply trains, that come up empty every month, to bring up contraband cotton, for shipment to Leavenworth and Saint Louis, where there would be a market for it. It is possible, however, that the Arkansas River will soon be open to navigation, then it can be shipped by steamboat t3 Saint Louis, and thence by rail to New York and Eastern manufacturing cities. It can be used to good advantage as breastworks on the boats, to protect the troops and crews from the fire of guerillas at different points along the river.

The peaceful condition of things which has existed for several weeks past along the border has been slightly disturbed by the appearance of guerrilla bands in Southwest Missouri on the 3d instant. But they will probably soon find it an uncomfortable section to operate in, as most of the militia have returned to their stations since Shelby's raid, and are ready to take the field against them. At the different posts in Missouri, the horses of the State troops are generally in good condition, as they are rarely or never short of forage. I mentioned last spring, from my own observations, how the people manage to raise the necessaries of life, even in localities where the men are all absent, in either the Union or rebel army. The people have clung to their homes with wonderful tenacity, and when the army has burned a portion of the rails around their farms, they have generally taken those left to inclose smaller tracts of their lands for cultivation. And while the acreage of nearly every [446] family has thus been contracted, the means of cultivation have also been contracted in about the same ratio. Instead of each family having from one to a dozen fine horses and mules to put into their fields, as in antebellum times, it is a rare occurrence now to find a family with more than two or three horses or mules, which are generally either old or blind. Families sometimes try to keep their horses concealed in the woods, but this is not very successful as a general thing. The great temptation to keep good, vigorous animals, it has been suggested, has in a number of instances, led to the putting out of the eyes of desirable horses or mules. It is a cruel charge to insinuate were there no extenuating circumstances. But a mother with half a dozen children around her, and her husband away in either the Union or Rebel army, might, rather than take the chances of being reduced to the extremity of seeing them suffer, permit a young son, overflowing with a desire to do something heroic, to destroy the sight of “Charley,” the good, reliable family horse. Besides being needed to cultivate and gather the crop, a horse is quite indispensable to take the grain, wheat or corn, to the mill, and to fetch back the flour or meal. In view of what I have seen of the straits to which families in Missouri and Arkansas are reduced to get along, I cannot find it in my heart to condemn an act like the above, which, in peaceful times, would justly be regarded as cruel and barbarous.

It appears by the latest dispatches from Washington, that there is to be a temporary suspension of the [447] exchanging of prisoners of war between the Federal and Rebel authorities. At this distance, it is hardly safe to form a very pronounced opinion as to the wisdom of the Government in adopting such a course, unless the rebel authorities are unwilling to exchange on equal terms. It is surely cause for deep regret and even indignation, to constantly hear of the great sufferings of our soldiers in rebel prisons, while rebel soldiers in our prisons are provided with full rations and all the comforts that our soldiers in the field have. It is also announced that the rebel Government refuses to exchange colored soldiers held as prisoners of war for rebel prisoners that we hold. It is, perhaps, an unlooked — for humiliation, that it has come to pass that the life of a rebel soldier is worth no more than the life of a plantation negro. But if they regard a rebel soldier that we hold as worth more to their cause than the colored prisoner they have captured from us, they should, to be consistent, be extremely anxious to exchange. They would not hesitate to exchange an old and inferior musket for one of our best new patterns. If they can afford to weaken their own cause by pride, we surely need not regret it. They are too blind to see that they are fluttering around the lamp of their own destruction.

A dispatch from Springfield, Missouri, of the 6th instant, states that General Marmaduke, with a force of about two thousand men and several pieces of artillery, was, on the 3d instant, encamped on White River in Arkansas, near the southern line of Missouri. It [448] is believed that he either intends to make a raid on Springfield, or to endeavor to capture our supply trains en route between that place and Fort Smith. There are, probably, nearly three thousand State troops in southwest Missouri, and should he invade the State, they will likely soon to be able to check his movements, and put him to flight. The energy with which they pressed General Shelby last October, and their success in capturing his artillery, has given them great confidence in their ability to meet an invading force on the field.

General Blunt is still at Fort Smith, but apparently without a command, much to the regret of his friends. He is, however, attending to some business in connection with the recruiting and organizing of the Eleventh U. S. colored regiment. A colored regiment ought to be raised in that section in a few weeks. It is not likely, however, that he cares to assume command of the troops there at present, as there is no organized force of the enemy in that section that he could hope to bring to an engagement very soon, though Price's army occasionally assumes a threatening attitude.

The supply train for Fort Smith moved out on the morning of December 13th, under command of Colonel W. R. Judson, Sixth Kansas cavalry. He will have as an escort, including the six companies of the Twelfth Kansas infantry under Lieut.-Colonel Hays, about eight hundred men. He will go down through the border counties of Missouri and Arkansas, instead of through the Nation via Fort Blunt. This will [449] probably be the last train from this place to Fort Smith, as it is thought that Little Rock will immediately be made a base of supplies for the army in Arkansas. The distance from Little Rock to Fort Smith is not so great as the distance from Fort Smith to this post. And it is probable, too, that in a month or so, light draft steamers can run on the Arkansas River, and .thus save overland transportation of supplies to the Army of the Frontier. Colonel Phillips' Indian division at Fort Gibson, however, will perhaps continue to be supplied from this place, at any rate until the spring rise in the Arkansas River will enable boats to pass Webber's Falls. As no large force of the enemy can cross to the north side of the Arkansas River without our commanding officers at Forts Smith and Gibson knowing it; and as his trains will pass over a route little infested with guerrillas, they will not require very large escorts and batteries of light artillery, as last spring, to conduct them through safely. This post will henceforward be of less importance in a military point of view. Still, the immense quantities of ordnance, quartermaster and commissary stores kept here, will make it of sufficient importance to keep a force here adequate to its protection.

A dispatch from Kansas City states that General Ewing recently ordered the seizure of the cotton which passed through this place on the 2d instant for Leavenworth. It is also reported that agents of the Government are on the lookout for more contraband cotton. This action of General Ewing is highly [450] commendable, and may have a wholesome effect on the army vultures who are always on hand to gorge themselves on the hard-earned prizes of our soldiers.

The morning of the 20th the ground was covered with four or five inches of snow, and the jingling of sleigh-bells reminded us that we were approaching our Kansas mid-winter. From the statements of those who have lived in this vicinity for upwards of twenty years, it seems that we are having a little severer season than usual. The river had scarcely got clear of ice from the cold wave of the tenth of November, when it was frozen over again on the 18th instant. As a general thing the winters are so mild here that the ice does not form on the river two inches in thickness, and ice-dealers are unable to put up enough to satisfy the demands of consumers. Altogether our climate may be regarded as desirable; for during the summer months our southwest breezes are pure and exhilarating, reaching us always after having passed through the cool strata of the atmosphere over the high plateaus of Mexico and the Rocky Mountains. There are here none of those debilitating effects produced by a humid atmosphere in low marshy regions. Though the bracing winds blowing over our vast undulating prairies may have no perceptible effect on the energies of our people in a year or so, I think they will unquestionably in the course of a few generations. They will probably tend to make them wiry and muscular, instead of pulpy and clumsy, like the people of a region where the air is saturated with moisture. [451]

There is a strong probability that the agitation for the removal of General Schofield from the command of this department will be successful in a short time. He has not been popular, and is perhaps not the best officer that could have been placed at the head of this military department, but that he should have been able to give satisfaction to the factions in Missouri and the factions in Kansas, is more than any intelligent person should expect. That President Lincoln should have all along had confidence in him is surely a good deal in his favor, though it does not necessarily make him a competent commanding general.

A detachment of about fifteen men arrived at this post on the 24th from Fort Gibson, and they report that the enemy are again showing some activity in that vicinity and along the Arkansas line. They also state that Quantrell's force is believed, to be en route to Jackson county, Missouri, where he will commence his diabolical business again. A force, reported to be his and Standwaitie's, had a lively fight with a portion of Colonel Phillips' command near Fort Gibson about a week ago, and were defeated and scattered in every direction. As the engagement took place on the north side of the Arkansas River, it is thought their broken detachments have moved northward.

A dispatch just received from Fort Smith, Arkansas, states that General Price is collecting his forces together and threatening to attack that place. It does not seem probable, however, that he will be able to organize, out of the Trans-Mississippi rebel forces, an [452] army sufficiently strong to drive our troops from western Arkansas, if General McNeil handles them skillfully. Including Colonel Phillips' Indian division, we have an army of about eight thousand men in that section, well supplied with artillery. The army under General Steele, at Little Rock, is also within co-operating distance, should the rebel generals concentrate all their troops in Arkansas, to attack General McNeil at Fort Smith. Though the enemy may make a bold demonstration, since he is holding no particular place in Arkansas, yet it is not generally thought, from a survey of the field of operations, that he will at present risk a general engagement with our victorious troops. It is not therefore probable that General Price will be able to fulfill his promise in regard to treating his soldiers with a Christmas dinner from Federal rations at Fort Smith. His troops, instead of being the victorious legions of a hundred battles, have been so often defeated that it is not easy to conceive with what new hope they can be inspired to undertake a vigorous campaign against our soldiers, flushed with a continuous series of successes.

An attempt was made on the night of the 28th, by an emissary of the enemy to spike one of the.Twenty-four pounder seige guns mounted at Lunette “C. W. Blair.” The party was probably disturbed by the guard on his beat walking to and fro, as he left a rattail file and hammer on the gun, before completing his work to render it useless. Nothing has been found which would identify the party engaged in this bold [453] adventure. Colonel Blair has the four seige guns in the Forts here carefully inspected every day that they may be in perfect order in case of an emergency. The hundreds of tons of hay put up in long ricks, the thousands of bushels of corn in cribs, and the large quantities of ammunition and arms, of quartermaster and commissary supplies here, are great temptations for the enemy to attempt a raid on this post for the destruction of this property. And it will require great vigilance on the part of the post commander to prevent its destruction by secret rebel emissaries. This post having been the chief center of our military operations west of Saint Louis since the war, and the Government having kept a considerable force stationed here, have prevented any serious inroads of the enemy into southern Kansas. Our people in this and adjoining counties have therefore pursued their usual avocations as in times of profound peace. Nor have guerrilla bands been so troublesome in Vernon county, Missouri, directly east of us. as in the counties north and south of it.

It is now known that Quantrell's force, after it was attacked and dispersed by Colonel Phillips' troops some ten days ago, continued to move northeast. In a few days after this, however, he collected together his scattered detachments, and about the 24th instant came in contact with a considerable force of the Missouri militia cavalry, near the Arkansas line, and was again badly beaten and vigorously pursued. But his force soon broke up into small detachments again, and [454] it is believed to be their intention to rally at some point in this vicinity, with the view of attacking this place. He is after big game. If he could capture and destroy this place, he knows that it would add to his notoriety as much as the Lawrence massacre. Colonel Blair has sent out detachments of cavalry to the south and southeast of this post, so that we shall soon know whether he is intending to attack us here, or is making preparations for a raid into Southern Kansas. It is reported that Quantrell has threatened to visit this State before he goes south again, and to leave a track more bloody than Lawrence, and the section he passes over as desolate as the naked prairies. He seems to glory in his savage cruelty, and of being a terror to the loyal people of the border, just like an uncivilized Indian who is proud of the number of scalps he carries. That a man born and brought up in the great State of Maryland, one of our oldest States, as Quantrell was, with fair advantages, should head a band of fiends, is quite unaccountable to many. But that he should get followers in western Missouri is not so strange,. since it is well known to those who have lived in the West that, for nearly twenty years, the extensive freighting business from Independence and Kansas City, to New Mexico and other Western Territories, has attracted to the two former places adventurers and desperate characters from all parts of the country.

Three bushwhackers are reported to have been killed on December 28th, near Humboldt, on the Neosho River, forty miles west of this post. They belonged [455] to the party which were in that section about a month ago, committing depredations on the property of loyal people. In different sections of this State there still may be found a few of those who were connected with the pro-slavery movement, and who came here under the Territorial regime, to make Kansas a slave State. Nearly all the old pro-slavery element is of course disloyal, and the men belonging to it who have not actually gone South, sympathize with and shield their friends, when they return home or come into this State. A company of cavalry will be stationed at Humboldt during the rest of the winter, and it will keep detachments patrolling the country along the Neosho River below that place, extending to the southern line of the State.

Colonel Blair received information on the night of the 30th, that a force of the enemy, about fifteen hundred strong, under Colonel Coffey, was encamped on Cowskin prairie, in the southwest corner of McDonald County, Missouri, a few days ago. It is not thought, however, that they will be able to march up the border counties of Missouri, as the militia are in considerable force in the counties east and northeast of McDonald County, and have probably moved against them already. The party of rebels that were in the vicinity of Humboldt recently, it is now supposed belonged to Coffey's command. After passing Dry Wood, twelve miles south of this post, we have no other troops stationed in Southern Kansas, and the pressure from Missouri having pushed the enemy into the Cherokee [456] Nation, several small detachments were able to march up the Neosho River, fifty to sixty miles, without resistance. The main body of Quantrell's men is reported to be with Coffey, though some detachments of them are supposed to have passed near here several days ago, on their way to Cass and Jackson Counties. It is not likely, however, that they will find that section very congenial during a severe winter; besides the headquarters of General Ewing, the commanding officer.of the District of the Border, is at Kansas City, adjacent to the region in which Quantrell has been operating since the war. We may therefore hope that they will be speedily driven south again.

The old year is now drawing to a close. The border counties of Missouri and Kansas are comparatively free of guerrillas; and the forces of Coffey and Quantrell are now doubtless sullenly retiring beyond the mountains in Arkansas or the Indian Country. Our armies have been victorious upon almost every important field, and though I have been obliged to note some domestic dissensions, I am fully convinced that the national feeling and love and attachment for the old flag of our fathers has grown stronger. But the Goddess of Liberty may weep, since a sea of blood and tears have been shed in her defense. I have endeavored to faithfully chronicle the most important events connected with the operations of our army along the border during the year. I hope that I have not given, in a single case, an extravagant and sensational account of the number of the enemy killed and wounded in a [457] certain engagement; or of the crimes and cruelties of guerrillas. I was early put on my guard in respect to making exaggerated statements about various matters connected with that division of the army to which I belonged. I am perfectly aware that a work filled with highly-colored statements is more greedily read by a large class of the public, than one containing plain solid facts; yet I do not regret the course that I have followed; for I do not fear to appeal to the common sense and honesty of those with whom I have served in this great struggle, to bear me out in my statements. There are no doubt instances in which I have not done full justice to officers and troops. I regret it even more than the injustice which was done to me.

This attempt to commemorate the actions of our brave, honest and simple-hearted soldiers, in this central part of our great country, geographically speaking, has been to me a source of considerable satisfaction; for I believe that the great contest in which we are engaged will be more worthy the study of future generations than all the wars of the past. And then the thought comes into my mind, will not the millions of people who will inhabit these western prairies, plains, and fertile valleys, during coming generations, wish to know something of the fierce storms that raged along our borders during the great rebellion of the slave-owning section of our country? The history of the world does not furnish another instance of a million of men in arms fighting for a great principle — a principle, [458] too, involving the right of each to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” It is surely a grand thought to contemplate their heroic actions, for, unless the conception of justice changes, future generations can point to their achievements and say “those men fought for a principle, the triumph of which has secured to us the blessings we enjoy.” I cannot bid farewell to the expiring year without my thoughts turning with sadness to the thousands of brave and patriotic soldiers who, during this contest, have devoted their lives to their country and to posterity; and to other thousands who lie at this moment upon beds of pain and anguish, with their flesh torn and mangled by shot and shell and small arms; and to still other thousands whose hearts are torn and bleeding on account of the loss of those in the war who were dearest to them on earth.

But firmly believing that we are near the dawn of a brighter day, when the noble sacrifices of our soldiers will be universally acknowledged not to have been in vain, I can simply say, old year, I bid you farewell!

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.
Quantrell (9)
William A. Phillips (5)
Sterling Price (4)
Grant (4)
Thomas Ewing (4)
Coffey (4)
C. W. Blair (4)
John McNeil (3)
Shelby (2)
John M. Schofield (2)
Rosecrans (2)
Marmaduke (2)
Bragg (2)
Wood (1)
Washington (1)
Steele (1)
Standwaitie (1)
Lincoln (1)
William R. Judson (1)
Hays (1)
Jefferson Davis (1)
James G. Blunt (1)
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.
3rd (2)
December 28th (1)
December 25th (1)
December 13th (1)
December 2nd (1)
November 10th (1)
October (1)
September 20th (1)
September 19th (1)
30th (1)
28th (1)
24th (1)
18th (1)
6th (1)
2nd (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: