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Doc. 190.-the Baxter Springs massacre.

General Blunt's letter.

Baxter Spring<*>, Sixty-three miles below Fort Scott, October 7, 1863, 10 o'clock P. M.
Captains Tholen and Loring:
. . . . . .

Every thing in the staff wagons is lost; the wagons were burned with most of their contents. . . . . .

We have just found the body of Major Curtis. (Major Curtis's body, as also that of Judge-Advocate Lieutenant Farr, arrived in Leavenworth on the eleventh instant.) When I wrote to Major Blair last night it was supposed he was a prisoner, [553] as we had searched the ground over near where his horse fell, and could not find him. Moreover, Quantrel's Adjutant, or a person representing himself as such, who came into Lieutenant Pond's camp with a flag of truce, said they had my Assistant Adjutant-General a prisoner. Today he was found near where he was thrown from his horse, shot through the head, evidently murdered after being taken prisoner.

I shall start his body, with that of Lieutenant Farr, to Fort Scott this evening. You will probably have heard some of the particulars of the affair here yesterday, before you receive this. The escort, company I, Third Wisconsin, and company A, Fourteenth Kansas, consisting of one hundred men, behaved disgracefully, and stampeded like a drove of frightened cattle. I did not anticipate any difficulty until we got below this point. We arrived near this camp about twelve M., and halted on the hill almost in sight of the camp, and not more than four hundred yards distant, to wait for the escort and wagons to close up. The escort came up and dismounted, to wait for the train, which was but a short distance behind. At this time my attention was called to a body of men, about one hundred, advancing, in line from the timber of Spring River, on the left, which you will recollect is not more than three or four hundred yards from the road. The left of the line was not more than two hundred yards from Lieutenant Pond's camp at the spring. They being nearly all dressed in Federal uniforms, I supposed them at first to be Lieutenant Pond's cavalry, (two companies,) on service. At the same time my suspicions were aroused by some of their movements. I ordered the wagons, which had come up, to the rear, and formed the escort in line, with their carbines unslung, while I advanced alone toward the party fronting us, to ascertain if they were rebels. I had advanced but a short distance when they opened a fire, at the same time firing was heard down in Pond's camp. Turning around to give the order to the escort to fire, I discovered them all broken up, and going over the prairie to the west at full speed. They did not even discharge the loaded carbines they had in their hands, except in a few cases. Had the escort stood their ground, as soldiers should have done, they could have driven the enemy in ten minutes. I endeavored in vain, with the assistance of Major Curtis, to halt and form a portion of them. When the escort stampeded, the enemy discovering it, rushed on with a yell, followed by another line of about two hundred that emerged from the edge of the timber. Being better mounted than our men, they soon closed in on them. The men of the escort were much scattered, and with them it was a run for life.

After going a mile, I succeeded in halting fifteen men, including Lieutenant Pierce, company A, Fourteenth Kansas, who has done his duty well and nobly throughout. As soon as I got them in line and commenced advancing on the pursuing enemy, they fled and fell back to the wo<*>d, when their whole command (six hundred) formed in line of battle. The balance of the escort that had escaped were all out of sight in the advance. Major Curtis had been seen to fall from his horse, which had been wounded and stumbled in crossing a ditch. About one o'clock I sent Lieutenant Tappan (who had kept with me all the time) with four men to Fort Scott, while with the other nine I determined to remain until the fate of those that had fallen could be ascertained, and whether the post at the spring had been captured, which I much feared was the case. As they fell back to the road, I followed them up over the ground we had come, to look for the wounded, but all, with two or three exceptions, (who had escaped accidentally,) were killed — shot through the head. All the wounded had been murdered. I kept close to them and witnessed their plundering the wagons. At one time they made a dash at me with about one hundred men, endeavoring to surround me, but failed in their purpose. As they moved off on the road leading south, I went down to the spring and found them all O. K.

Lieutenant Pond, of the Third Wisconsin, and also his command, are entitled to great credit for the manner they repulsed the enemy and defended the post. The colored soldiers fought with great gallantry. All of the wounded were shot through the head, and thus murdered. The band wagon was captured, and all of the boys shot in the same way after they were prisoners. The same was the case with the teamsters and Mart., my driver. O'Neill (artist to Frank Leslie) was killed with the band-boys. All of the office-clerks, except one, were killed; also my orderly, (Ely.) Major Henning is with me. But few of the escort who escaped have come in. I suppose they have gone to Fort Scott. The dead are not all buried, but the number will not fall short of seventy-five. The enemy numbered six hundred-Quantrel's and Coffey's commands. They are evidently intending to go south of the Arkansas. I have scouts on the trail. Two have just come in, and report coming up with them at the crossing of the Neosho River. Others are still following them up. Whether they will go directly south on the Fort Gibson road, or cross Grand River to Cowski Prairie again, I cannot determine. When they came in they crossed Spring River, close by Baxter. I have sent messengers to the Arkansas River, and, if they succeeded in getting through safe, our forces there will be put on the alert and may intercept them. I am now waiting the arrival of troops from Fort Scott. If I get them, (which is doubtful, as the Fourteenth Kansas is not armed,) I will follow the hounds through the entire Southern Confederacy as long as there is a prospect of overtaking them. And I will have it well understood that any man of this command who again breaks from the line and deserts his post, shall be shot on the spot; and there shall be no quarter to the motley bands of murderers. . . .

I was fortunate in escaping, as in my efforts to halt and rally the men, I frequently got in the rear and became considerably mixed up with the [554] rebels, who did not fail to pay me their compliments. Revolver bullets flew around my head thick as hail-but not a scratch. I believe I am not to be killed by a rebel bullet.

Yours truly,

Baxter Springs, October 7--8 P. M.
Captain: Since I wrote you this morning, the body of Major Curtis has been found, near where he was thrown from his horse. He was shot through the head, and was evidently murdered after he was a prisoner, as were all the rest. His body, with that of Lieutenant Farr's, will leave here to-night for Fort Scott, on their way to their friends. Major Henning will accompany them to Iowa and Wisconsin. Have wooden coffins made by the time they arrive at Fort Scott. At Leavenworth they can be transferred to metallic coffins.

I also send the bodies of two soldiers of the Third Wisconsin, at the request of their wives, who are here, to be buried at Fort Scott. Have coffins ordered for them.

Some of my scouts, who have just come in, have trailed the enemy five miles south of Neosho Crossing, on the Fort Gibson road. There is also a trail leading into the creek below here, which indicates that they have been joined, since leaving here, by another party. I have sent messengers to the Arkansas River, and, if they get through in safety, our forces will be on the alert and may intercept them.

Our loss yesterday in killed, including this command at this post, will not be short of seventy-five. There are but five or six wounded. All the wounded and prisoners that fell into their hands were murdered.

The death of Major Curtis will not only be a severe loss to his wife and other relations, but also to the service.

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H. Z. Curtis (6)
James B. Pond (5)
A. W. Farr (3)
James G. Blunt (3)
Quantrel (2)
B. S. Henning (2)
Tholen (1)
Tappan (1)
Edward L. Pierce (1)
John O'Neill (1)
Benjamin W. Loring (1)
Frank Leslie (1)
Ely (1)
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Chas W. Blair (1)
Richard W. Baxter (1)
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