previous next

Chapter 5:

  • The Author at Neosho, Missouri, for a few days
  • -- Ante-bellum times and reminiscences -- Description of the town- -- the Grand Falls and water-power mills in the country -- fertility of the soil on the river bottoms -- Fencing which enclosed most of the farms destroyed -- about half the people loyal -- indiscriminate destruction of property condemned -- a double sacrifice put upon Missouri loyalists -- a picture of desolated homes -- guerrilla warfare and Federal losses in the State -- the Militia occupying Newtonia and fortifying it -- their efficiency -- mostly State troops that opposed. General Marmaduke at the battle of Springfield on the 9th -- Flag raising at Neosho -- the National Flag scornfully regarded by rebels -- guerrillas at Granby -- the rich lead mines there, but no longer worked -- Author informed of the death of his brother at Fayetteville -- a mother's picture of a united family.

We arrived at Neosho on the morning of the 23d, having marched forty-five miles in twelve hours. Our route was through a thickly wooded region all the way. It continued cloudy and was intensely dark, and there was a drizzling rain nearly all night. We had to trust to our horses keeping on the path, as they see better in the darkness than men. It frequently occurred that we could not tell whether we were on the road or not, for we could not distinguish a white handkerchief an arms length in front of us. Immediately [108] on our arrival at Neosho I delivered the dispatches and mail to Major John A Foreman, commanding officer of the post, who at once sent them by another detachment on to Springfield.

I breakfasted at home with father and mother and the family, the first time for nearly two years. Mother was nearly wild with delight to see me, so many exciting events have taken place in this section since the last time she saw me. Though we were within twelve miles of here last September at the battle of Newtonia, I did not have an opportunity of coming home. She heard the booming of artillery all that day, and knowing that my brother and I were with our troops, felt great anxiety until she heard that we were all right.

When we came in sight of the place, I could hardly bring my mind, I regret to say, into a condition to greet it with much warmth of feeling. It is easy to imagine an instance in which, when one person purposely or carelessly offends another, and afterwards without having made any apology or explanation, offers his hand, and of the offended party hesitating whether to take it or not. Such were my feelings. I could hardly make up my mind to give the place the right hand of fellowship, even if the place had welcomed my return. Since the Kansas troubles a large majority of the people of this place have displayed such a spirit of intolerance and want of respect towards those who differed with them in regard to political issues, that the sight of the town fails to arouse [109] the slightest thrill of affection and reverence. There were a few abolitionists who resided here before the war, and they were frequently engaged in warm discussions in regard to the slavery question. They could talk with some pro-slavery men with moderation, but others to whom they talked, became passionate and even violent, declaring that no abolitionist should be permitted to live in this section and inculcate his pernicious doctrine. I have always noticed that those who cling tenaciously to principles which they cannot defend, get out of patience if you press them too hard with their illogicalities or inconsistencies. But though the abolitionists were frequently insulted and threatened, they persisted in expressing their convictions to those who desired to know them. Though less than a dozen in the county, they did not deny or make any efforts to conceal the fact that they were abolitionists. There were quite a number of men who were about half in sympathy with them, that is, whose political convictions were gradually undergoing a change, and they were not very decided in their expressions either way. Some people had such peculiar notions about abolitionists that the word was used in a good many families to frighten children. And there were also people quite grown up who regarded an abolitionist as a kind of monster in human form, so one-sided had their education been respecting the views of abolitionists.

I saw to-day several of the men who, in the early part of the war, had so little patience with Union men that they wanted them all killed and their property [110] confiscated for the benefit of the Confederate Government. They were in favor of hanging those who went to Kansas and joined the Kansas Jayhawkers, as the Kansas soldiers were called. The name Jayhawker was first given to an organization of Free State men in Southern Kansas who, under the Territorial regime made retaliatory incursions into Missouri. The name is growing into a nickname for all Kansas people in the same sense as “Hoosier” is applied to Indianians. But several of the men I saw, who were recently thirsting for the blood of the Kansas Jayhawkers, when they looked and knew me, cast their eyes towards the ground, and their countenances changed. They were captured a few weeks ago, having been connected with a band of guerrillas whose operations extended over this county. But they have taken the oath of allegiance to the United States, and given bonds for the faithful performance of their promises. Now that they have escaped the edges of our swords and seem to show a disposition to submit to the authority of the Government, I presume no one feels inclined to disturb them, or to cast them into any deeper humiliation. When the rebel army under General McCulloch first came into this section, these men were painstaking in pointing out loyal families that they might be plundered of their property. The war is teaching the intolerant some grand lessons in toleration, and those of one-sided views to study the nature of their opponents' arguments. Men who recently could scarcely tolerate the existence of a neighbor who held opinions on certain [111] subjects different from their own, are now at the mercy of this neighbor. And it is certainly commendable of those who were recently in the minority here, that they do not display a spirit of revenge.

It was at this place in November, 1861, while General Price's army were encamped in the vicinity, that Governor Jackson convened the Rump Legislature, which went through the farce of ratifying the ordinance of Secession. The event was celebrated by the booming of artillery; and great speeches were made to the enthusiastic multitude by the principal leaders.

Their prospects were brighter then than now, and they doubtless thought that Missouri would form one of the stars in the Constellation of the Confederate States.

The town contained about one thousand inhabitants before the war; but the population now is much less, probably not more than half that number independent of the Indian refugees temporarily stopping here. When this section was occupied by the rebel troops, nearly all the loyal families removed to Springfield and Kansas, or to some point within our lines; and since we drove the enemy out, and established posts at nearly all the towns, many of the rebel families have moved south.

A small garrison here could make no sort of defense against an enemy playing upon it with artillery, for there are heights all around the town, except narrow openings to the southeast and north. The brick Court House, however, which stands isolated on the Court [112] House Square, will hold between two and three hundred men, who might for several days, hold out against a superior force not armed with artillery. Our troops have had several sharp contests with the enemy here. About the 2d of July, 1861, some eighty men of General Sigel's Command, under Captain Conrad of the Third Missouri infantry, were surrounded in the Court House and captured by the rebel army under Generals Price and McCulloch, then marching up from Camp Walker to join Generals Rains and Parsons. And early last spring several companies of the Seventh Missouri cavalry were surprised by the enemy and defeated with some loss in killed, wounded and prisoners. But since the Kansas Division came into this section, we have chased the enemy through the town several times, making the dust fly. We also killed two or three leaders of local rebel organizations, who were much feared by the loyal people.

The Indian soldiers now stationed here, are quartered in the Court House, and have made a number of port holes for their rifles, to be used in the event of an attack. Throughout the State the Militia are using the Court Houses for quarters and for means of defense.

One of the desirable features of this place is the Big Spring in the western part of the town. It is one of the finest springs in this section, and would afford a sufficient quantity of the purest water for a city of considerable size. It has a fall of about ten feet in less than [113] half a dozen yards, and of course runs out of the bluff like a mill tail. When peace shall spread her beneficent influences over our entire country again, northern enterprise and capital will probably utilize this valuable water-power for manufacturing purposes, and perhaps also contrive some means of conveying a portion of the water to the houses of those who shall make this place their home. With a system of pipes it could easily be done without very heavy expense. Shoal Creek, nearly two miles north of here, is a large stream, and discharges a large volume of water the year round, and in regard to water-power facilities, probably has few equals in the country. At the Grand Falls, sixteen miles northwest of Neosho, it pours over a perpendicular precipice about eighteen feet high. Fine carding and flouring mills at that and a number of other points on this stream, have been in operation for many years. Fortunately, up to the present, nearly all the mills in this section have escaped destruction by the contending armies. It is hoped that no necessity will arise justifying their destruction in any locality.

The country is somewhat broken in this vicinity, and the hillsides are covered with a variety of kinds of what we call “flints.” The prairies are quite fertile, but not equal to the creek bottoms, which are scarcely equalled in fertility in any country. My father thinks that his farm of two hundred and sixty acres, which lies four miles north of this place on Shoal Creek, has not its equal in the alluvial plain of the Mississippi [114] valley in point of productiveness. But since the war commenced, the fences have nearly all been destroyed by the rebel armies camping upon it, and only a small portion of it was cultivated last year by a tenant. The first year of the war the Rebels drove away all our live stock, and some of our neighbors who sided with the enemy, even had a discussion among themselves as to what our farm and timbered lands would bring when sold as confiscated property for the benefit of the Confederate treasury, as they were determined to have them.

In regard to the destruction of fences, I may say that as far as my own observation goes, few of those enclosing farms on the public highways have escaped. When we encamped fifteen miles north-east of here last autumn, just before the battle of Newtonia in this county, we burned thousands of rails for fuel, and if we bivouacked on the field at night, we made numerous fires along the roadside. It is almost impossible for a large army to pass through the country in which it is operating without causing more or less injury to the property of friend as well as foe. I have noted, with feelings of deep regret, that the loyal people of this State frequently sustain losses at the hands of our troops because they happen to be in bad company; that is, because they live in communities where the rebel sentiment predominates. Though there were few men in this section at the beginning of the war who were willing to acknowledge that they were abolitionists, yet when it came to choosing between the [115] Union and rebellion, nearly half of the people chose the Union, and elected to cast their fortunes with it. A good many of the wealthiest and most prominent men in south-west Missouri were strong and pronounced Unionists from the very beginning, and worked tooth and nail for our success, though they knew that they took their lives in their hands to do it. Colonel Harvey Ritchie, of Newtonia, who was State senator at the breaking out of the war, issued a public address to the people of south-west Missouri, urging them, in the most eloquent language, to stand firm by the Union and not be led into any secession movement. This address went into the hands of thousands of citizens, and no doubt had great influence in keeping many steadfast for the Union, and in opening the eyes of others to the follies and rashness of secession. It is therefore painful to hear officers and soldiers who know very little about the politics of this State, characterizing all the people alike as rebels, and as entitled to the same sympathy. These thoughtless officers and men sometimes ask, if anyone ventures to speak a word on behalf of the loyal men of this section, where are the men? But if they would look around intelligently, they would easily see that of all the deserted homes, and homes in which there is no one left but women and children, that the men are not in every case in the rebel army. Those who were with us last fall when we were encamped on Pea Ridge battle field, must have seen from the headboards placed over the graves of the Federal soldiers [116] that fell on that field, that Missouri troops suffered as severe losses as the troops from Iowa, Illinois and Indiana. The principal body of our troops that were engaged at the battle of Wilson Creek under Generals Lyon and Sigel were also Missouri troops. The First regiment of Missouri artillery alone, lost in that battle killed, officers 1; enlisted men 66; wounded officers 2; enlisted men 210; missing officers 2; enlisted men 6, or a total of casualties of 292 men. Let those who are blind to these facts, read of the great battles of Fort Donelson and Pittsburg Landing, and see if Missouri did not sustain her pro rata of losses in killed and wounded for the Union cause. Probably some of those who are so careless in their remarks in regard to all the people of this State being rebels, would not like to acknowledge that Missouri, after furnishing all the men she has for the rebel army, has also furnished more men for the Union army than either of the great States, Iowa or Massachusetts. If this is not the exact truth, it is very near it. If we include the troops called out for active service in this State, there is not a reasonable doubt of it. This State has sins enough to answer for without having to answer for any for which she is not justly chargeable. And I deeply sympathize with those families whose desolated homes lie before them, and whose male members lie on some distant field, or are even now, this very moment, at the front, nobly performing their duties in defense of the old flag and the Union. I have a right to feel touched in this [117] matter, for all the male members of our family, except the two little boys, have been away from home nearly a year and a half. And until our troops came into this section, mother had to endure many hardships in providing food and clothing for the children, for rebel marauders repeatedly robbed us of the best articles of clothing, bed-clothing, etc. I have seen men from the loyal States, whose families were doubtless resting in perfect security, and enjoying the property and good things with which honest labor has rewarded them, who yet appeared blind to the fact that a double sacrifice is put upon the Union soldiers of this State.

The soldier in the field from this State is constantly tortured with the thought that his wife, mother, daughter or sister, is being robbed, insulted or burned out of her home, with no one to look to for protection, and assistance and advice. No doubt, on the tented field, or wherever sweet sleep sits upon his eyelids, he is often awakened by horrible dreams of seeing his house in flames climbing to the sky, and his wife and little children gathered around her near it, with sad expressions, wondering what they shall do for food and shelter and clothing. The picture is not overdrawn and wholly imaginary, as some may suppose who are not familiar with what they would perhaps call unimportant incidents of the war in Missouri; but is an actuality of no unusual occurrence, whether many of the soldiers from this State have such dreams or not. In fact it would be difficult to overdraw a picture [118] representing the hardships and privation that many of the loyal families of this State have had to endure since the war commenced. But under all these extraordinary trials and difficulties, of desolation and ruin, they have remained firm in their devotion and loyalty to the Government. Their ears, therefore, should never hear unpleasant and reproachful words in wholly unjustifiable connections from those who should be their friends. As far as I am personally concerned, I do not wish to make even rebel families feel uncomfortable on account of the position they have taken in regard to the war. But when they become, as we sometimes hear, unnecessarily insolent and troublesome, I think it might be well to send them south of our lines. They should always, however, have fair warning before we resort to such severe measures. The greatest trouble we have with rebel families is in the country, where they harbor bushwhackers. This guerrilla warfare is so detestable to all honorable minded men, that those engaged in it cannot justly complain if we adopt extreme measures to suppress it. Our losses in this State by this mode of warfare, during the past year, would probably foot up, if we could get correct figures, several hundred soldiers killed, besides perhaps nearly as many Union citizens.

Since we drove the enemy out of Newtonia last October, the place has been occupied by the State Militia. They are throwing up fortifications and preparing to build a block house there, which when completed, ought to enable them to hold the place against [119] a large force of the enemy. A number of rebel citizens who have recently taken the oath of allegiance, have been compelled to furnish teams and labor towards constructing these fortifications, of which they bitterly complain. But if they desire the protection of the Government, they should do something. in a generous spirit to assist it.

As the Militia are well mounted and furnished with arms and equipments by the general Government, they should be able to keep this section free of guerrillas. Though the Militia force, which now numbers ten or twelve thousand men, are not obliged to go out of the State, yet they are kept in active service, and their service is scarcely less arduous than that of the Volunteer Cavalry in the field. The force under General Brown that fought General Marmaduke at the battle of Springfield, on the 8th instant, as already stated, consisted chiefly of State Militia. And in the engagement, they stood as firm as veterans until the enemy were driven from the field.

To-day, February 2d, Major Foreman had erected on the Court House Square, Neosho, a high flagstaff, and run up our National Flag, and its folds floated to the breeze for the first time since a detachment of General Sigel's men were captured in the Court House here on the 3d July, 1861. Expressions from some of the rebel families in town show that they regard it scornfully, and would, if they dared, trail it in the dust. But as we are just beginning to develop our strength, while the enemy is unquestionably beginning to show signs [120] of weakness, we will hardly withdraw our troops from this section again. Those who do not like the sight of our National Flag, should therefore move south, and join their friends who carry the Confederate Flag. As we have occupied all the towns of any consequence in Southwest Missouri, and as we have about ten thousand men in the field along the southern border of the State, I think that nothing short of annihilation of this army, or withdrawal of it to co-operate with some other army in another section, can endanger our position here, nor indeed any of our posts west of Springfield.

Yesterday (2d) a party of guerrillas were seen near Granby, eight miles northeast of this place. It is supposed that they were after a quantity of concealed lead to make into balls to replenish their cartridge boxes. Whether there is any hidden lead there, we have no means of knowing at this moment. Granby, at the breaking out of the war, contained a population of six or seven thousand people, nearly all of whom were connected with the mining business, and many large smelting furnaces were in operation. It was probably one of the richest lead mines in this country. The mining operations continued there until about a year ago, and of course were of immense importance to the enemy in the way of furnishing balls for their small arms. But the eyes of the furnaces have been blown out, and some of the buildings destroyed, so that no one has ventured to invest money in the business again. It is thought by experienced miners that most [121] of this country is rich in galena ore. When, therefore, peace shall have come to the country, mining operations will no doubt be resumed in this section, and whatever mineral resources it possesses developed.

Last night (3d) a detachment of ten men, with the mail and despatches, arrived here from the First Division, Army of the Frontier, now encamped in the vicinity of Springfield. Several of the men belonged to that part of my regiment which left us at Elm Springs, and they informed me that they had just heard from Fayetteville, Arkansas, before leaving camp, that my brother James died in hospital there on the 26th or 27th of January. As the information came through reliable parties, men whom I have known since the regiment was organized, I at once conveyed the sad intelligence to his wife and to father and mother. We were all greatly distressed, and that which increased the burden of our grief was the thought that he should have died from home in hospital, with none of us near him; nor perhaps even of any of the comrades of his own regiment. Father and mother, just before I came here on this few days' leave, had it under consideration to go after him to bring him home, but were told that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to get permission to remove him. Such a task, anyway, in midwinter, would have been attended with much suffering and danger to the patient.

He has breathed out his noble life, very dear to us all, that coming generations may enjoy the blessings [122] which we hope his sufferings and death will help to secure. Just one year and six months before he died, I came from Kansas, traveling at night and on by-roads, and passing hard by the enemy's guards, and guided him and father back there. I little thought then that I should be called upon so soon to mourn his death. Yet when we enlisted into the Army I knew that we should have to take the risk of being stricken down by the enemy's bullets the same as other soldiers in time of war. Enlisting into the volunteer force of a State whose people have just cause for not feeling very friendly towards the people of this State in general, we had no influential friends to look to for any favors, even if we had desired them. Offering our services to the Government in a land of strangers, easy, honorable and lucrative positions, or positions comparatively free from dangers and hardships of the war, did not seek us. We were in earnest for the Government, and waited for no special inducements to enlist. Had he been of a disposition to want to shirk the duties of a true soldier, he could easily enough have gone to the hospital immediately after having received the fatal wound in the shoulder at the battle of Coon Creek, on the 22d of last August. Though he knew that the ball had not been found by the surgeons who made a partial diagnosis of the wound, and knowing too that the ball, wherever it had lodged, had had the effect of producing at different times, queer sensations of dizziness and numbness of certain muscles, yet with all these serious premonitions of his approaching end, he preferred to [123] remain with his company as long as he could stand upon his feet. He fell paralyzed at the battle of Cane Hill, at a place where his company was required to dismount and scale the mountain on foot, in order to dislodge the enemy from a certain position. I am perfectly conscious that if these few simple words referred to the sufferings and death of some general officer instead of a private soldier, they would be read by many with greater eagerness, and touch deeper their sympathetic emotions. But he was my brother, and I would be recreant to my conscience, were I not, in passing, to mention that noble devotion to duty which hastened his death. And in speaking of him I speak of thousands of other noble men who have recently laid down their lives in defense of their country.

Only a few days ago, referring to the dangers and hardships of the war, and the intense anxiety she felt for us when in the field, mother said that she looked forward to the time when the war would be over with the profoundest interest, so that she might have all her sons home to sit down together with her at the same table. But alas! her picture of a united family after the war, in whatever manner it may terminate, can now never be realized Why should I refer to these expressions of grief in our home? Thousands of mothers over this land are this day mourning for their husbands and sons who will never return home from the war, Nor do we see the end of these sacrifices yet, of the noblest and best of our country. And there are doubtless [124] hundreds of families from whom more than one son has been sacrificed in the cause of the Union. We have only a faint realization of the horrors of war until some calamity like this comes to our own doors and invades our family.

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.
Sigel (3)
Sterling Price (2)
McCulloch (2)
Marmaduke (2)
Unionists (1)
Harvey Ritchie (1)
Rains (1)
Parsons (1)
Lyon (1)
John (1)
Jackson (1)
John A. Foreman (1)
Conrad (1)
John Brown (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.
November, 1861 AD (1)
July 3rd, 1861 AD (1)
July 2nd, 1861 AD (1)
October (1)
September (1)
August (1)
February 2nd (1)
January 27th (1)
January 26th (1)
23rd (1)
22nd (1)
8th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: