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Doc. 177.-the Marmaduke raid into South-east Missouri.

Editors Missouri Democrat:
I wish to furnish you a brief sketch of the Marmaduke raid into South-East Missouri, and the memorable retreat of his ten thousand confederates from Cape Girardeau into Arkansas, having been an eye-witness of every move made, for and against, from Saturday, April twenty-fifth, to Saturday, May second, when Marmaduke was driven into Arkansas, at Chalk Bluff, on the St. Francois River. I do this to vindicate the “truth of history,” that thus far has not received full justice by the reports that have been put in circulation.

On Monday, the twentieth of April, General McNeil with one thousand two hundred men and six pieces of artillery, was at Bloomfield, Stoddard County, and found that Missouri had been invaded by Marmaduke, with four brigades, being the First army corps Trans-Mississippi department, C. S. A.

At nine o'clock P. M., Monday, he received orders to move from Bloomfield on Fredericktown. Tuesday, twenty-first, at four o'clock A. M., marched, and with his little band camped four miles north of the Cape Girardeau road--thirty miles march — crossing one swamp, in which his train was stuck for the night. Part of the command, First Wisconsin, was sent on to occupy Dallas, and make reconnoissance in three different directions, under Colonel La Grange, Major Torrey, and Captain Paine. Wednesday succeeded in getting train through the swamp, and reached Dallas Wednesday night; found that Captain Paine had encountered a vidette of the enemy; rode over them and captured seven prisoners. Major Torrey had captured the Sergeant-Major of Colonel Jeffries's regiment. By separate examination of these prisoners it was clearly established that the enemy in force had taken possession of Fredericktown and were preparing for additional offensive operations. Becoming apprehensive that if he advanced on Fredericktown it would be to find the enemy gone and on their way to seize the important post of Cape Girardeau, General McNeil instantly turned his column toward the Cape, resolving to beat the rebels in reaching the town. Subsequent events demonstrated that the General's judgment was singularly correct. Thursday, marched to Jackson, twenty-three miles, and the General pushed to the Cape that night, twelve miles further. On Friday he established communications with St. Louis via Jonesboro, Illinois, and brought the whole force into town. The garrison now stood as follows: A part of First Nebraska infantry under Lieutenant-Colonel Baumer, Commandant of the post; a few men of the Second Missouri artillery, under Captain Meisner--in all five hundred men, which, with McNeil's force, brought the total up to one thousand seven hundred men. Colonel Baumer, expecting an attack, had already prepared his plan of defence, which McNeil, on examination, pronounced unimprovable, and adopted it without alteration; simply furnishing more men to aid in carrying out the plan of the gallant Baumer, and by so doing manifested an abnegation of self that is singularly at variance with the general rule and practice of generals. But McNeil appears to have a holy horror of “red tape,” and to be guided by but two rules of action--one, to help the country; the other, to damage the rebels as far as possible; and he has infused those points into every officer and soldier of his little command.

Saturday morning the enemy advanced in force on the Cape. The Honorable W. R. Strachan, of Shelby, arrived and assumed position as Chief-of-Staff. Pickets five miles out of town were firing on the advance of the enemy. At eleven o'clock A. M. General McNeil, Colonel Huston--Seventh Missouri cavalry, acting as mustering officer — and Col. Strachan made a complete examination of the place. The so-called forts, A, B, C, and D, were earthworks of the most simple form, being so slight in defence that cavalry could ride over and through them without ever pulling rein — mounting in all ten guns, twenty-four and thirty-two-pounders. Colonel Huston took command of fort B, mounting four guns. Welfley's battery of twelve-pound howitzers was planted on a ridge commanding the approach via Bloomfield; this battery was supported by two companies of the First Nebraska and the First Wisconsin cavalry--a portion of whom afterward did valuable service as sharp-shooters. The section of mountain howitzers attached to the Second regiment M. S. M. was to the right of Welfley on a ridge still further out of town and commanding the approach by way of Jackson — this section under Captain McClanahan did admirable service, dismounting one of the enemy's pieces and doing fearful execution to his ranks. A section of rifled cannon, long twelves, under charge of Lieutenant Stauber, were on the right of fort B, forming the right of the line of defence, while fort D was the extreme left, commanding approach to the town from the south; this was the weak point of the line, but fortunately was never attacked by the enemy. In the afternoon it became evident that Marmaduke with his whole force of ten thousand men, divided into four brigades under Colonels Carter, Burbage, Shelby, and Green, had masked their forces for an attempt to storm the place. The continuous fire kept up by our artillery, which had been advanced to within four hundred yards of their line, and which was most admirably served by Lieutenants Jacoby, Stauber, and Captain Callahan, excellently supported as they were by the First Nebraska, First Wisconsin, and a battalion of the Thirty-second Iowa as sharp-shooters, held the enemy in check — their officers could plainly be seen urging their men to the onset, but they could not be forced to face the music. Their loss in officers was severe. Major Blackwell, of Lafayette, wounded, and a prisoner in the hospital, informed me that his regiment alone, (Colonel Colton Green's,) lost [562] five field and line-officers alone. The enemy retired at two o'clock and thirty minutes, simultaneously with the arrival of reenforcements, who doubtless were seen by them descending the river.

General McNeil having determined to maintain the post to the last extremity, and fearing that the overwhelming force of the rebels might force him to his last resort, that is, retiring his whole force into Fort C, and battering the town down about their ears, the several steamboats arriving were seized and the large amount of public stores, teams, wagons, etc., were carried over to Illinois, so that if the town fell, its loss should be as harmless to the Government as possible. The women and children were also removed, and the little garrison then seemed as one man, resolved to do or die. All that caused any apprehension in the minds of the leading officers for the result, was the weakness of our left, and many a fervent prayer went up for the arrival of a gunboat to strengthen that point.

At ten o'clock Saturday night, our pickets reported the arrival at their post of a flag of truce. General McNeil despatched Colonel William R. Strachan with instructions to act for him in the premises. Accompanying the flag of truce were Colonel Watson, three majors and two captains, with an escort. They were not allowed to come nearer town than three miles, and were the bearers of the following letter:

headquarters Fourth division, near Cape Girardeau, April 25, 1863.
To the Officer Commanding U. S. Forces in and around Cape Girardeau:
Sir: By order Major-General Sterling Price, commanding, I formally demand of you the immediate surrender, unconditionally, of the troops in Cape Girardeau and the adjoining forts, together with all the ammunition, stores and other property, belonging to the United States, in the same. If the surrender is made, I pledge myself to treat the troops as prisoners of war, and to parole and exchange them as soon as practicable. I shall scrupulously protect private property; no difference will be made in this particular between parties, whether Union or Southern sentiment. One half-hour is allowed for your decision.

Colonel Watson, commanding Second Texas cavalry brigade, who bears the flag of truce, will present this demand and wait for your reply.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

G. W. Carter, Colonel Commanding Fourth Division, First Army Corps, Trans-Mississippi Department.

On reading this interesting demand, Colonel Strachan requested Watson to tell Carter he must credit General McNeil with twenty-nine minutes, as one was sufficient for reply, and at once wrote the following:

To G. W. Carter, Colonel Commanding, First Army Corps, Trans-Mississippi Department:
Sir: I am instructed by General John McNeil to decline your demand for a surrender of the post of Cape Girardeau. He thinks himself able to maintain its possession.

I have the honor to be, etc.,

William R. Strachan, Colonel and Chief of Staff.

That night the little garrison lay on their arms, and the next morning, Sunday, twenty-sixth April, the enemy opened fire from two batteries, one posted on the Jackson road, the other near the Bloomfield road, at ten o'clock and fifteen minutes. Shortly after the engagement had commenced, another flag of truce was announced, and the following was brought in:

headquarters confederate States forces, District of South-east Missouri, April 26, 1863.
General: I have this moment arrived and learn that Colonel Carter has demanded the surrender of the forces in Cape Girardeau — the fortifications and Government property, which demand you have declined. With my combined forces now surrounding Cape Girardeau, I deem it an easy task to storm and capture the town, and I therefore reiterate the demand, that you immediately surrender to me unconditionally your command.

In case the demand is not immediately complied with, I request that you will inform all non-combatants in the town to provide for their safety, as I will immediately proceed to attack your position and storm the works. Major Henry Ewing, Adjutant-General, is intrusted as the bearer of this flag of truce.

I am, General, very respectfully,

J. Marmaduke, Brigadier-General Commanding. Brigadier-General McNeil, Commanding U. S. Forces in Cape Girardeau.

General McNeil, to this insulting demand after the first answer, simply informed the rebel General that he had taken the precaution to remove the women and children, and so far from surrendering the place, he should defend it to the last extremity.

Pending this flag of truce the firing was not discontinued, the General being determined that the rebels should not, under the palpable hypocrisy of a flag of truce, steal a march on him. Major Henry Ewing appeared somewhat disconcerted at not being allowed to see the preparations for Sir Marmaduke's reception, and remonstrated against the non-cessation of hostilities, pending the reception of his contemptible mission. The General coolly told him he was not engaged just then in exchanging compliments or cultivating the amenities of war. The rebels had his answer last night, and further discussion was superfluous. So the rebel Major had perforce to retire to his command, amid the thunder of artillery and the sharp rattle of musketry. At two o'clock and thirty minutes, Marmaduke realized the empty arrogance of his boast of taking the town by storm, ceased firing and withdrew his troops with heavy loss.

A proud day it was for the brave and determined McNeil. The gratitude of hundreds of citizens was freely poured out; they recognized [563] that against heavy odds he had saved their houses from pillage, their homes from desolation, and their town from destruction. The reenforcements that arrived never fired a gun, the gunboats never discharged a shot, but to General McNeil and his little band of one thousand seven hundred heroes belong exclusively the honors of the day. Amongst those officers particularly active were Colonel Huston, of the Seventh Missouri volunteers, Lieutenant-Colonel Baumer, of the First Nebraska, Captain Meisner, of the artillery. Adjutants Poole and Cramer were at all points of attack, and displayed a zeal and courage that aided much toward the good fortunes of the day. Colonel Strachan was constantly employed in carrying orders and bringing up supports to the points menaced. The First Nebraska infantry proved that officers and men could be fully relied on in any emergency, and no one who witnessed or participated in the attempted storming of Cape Girardeau but will cheerfully award to them the highest praise. On Monday, at two o'clock P. M., General McNeil, without taking any rest — for Sunday night all hands were kept on the alert, expecting a night attack — started in pursuit of the retreating foe. That afternoon his wearied men marched sixteen miles to Whitewater, found the bridge destroyed, that General Vendever had made eight miles that day, engaged the enemy, and that part of one company of the Third Iowa had been gobbled up by them. The column from Cape Girardeau was not allowed to push on, prudential reasons ruling the order of advance next morning General McNeil, with the invaluable assistance of the First Wisconsin, under Colonel La Grange, rebuilt the bridge in three hours, and the column pressed on. Colonel Benjamin of the Second M. S. M., having the advance, they rushed on some ten miles, when orders were received from General Vandever to stop the advance. They had captured two of, the enemy who were finishing the destruction of a bridge, and who told them if they had come up ten minutes sooner they could have had the rear-guard of some fifty men, who destroyed the bridge, and had just disappeared. The advance under Benjamin pushed on until we were within a mile of the enemy, who were in force, when up rides an orderly from General Vandever, some ten miles in our rear, calling on them to halt. Orders were obeyed, although it gave the enemy additional time to shove ahead and rest their jaded animals.

Finally, the column was allowed to push on — got within three miles of the Castor, captured Lieutenant Bast and a few others, who admitted they had no knowledge of the rapidity of our march, and supposed the Whitewater had effectually stopped us. On the east side of the Castor was Carter's division, numbering over three thousand effective men; also Shelby's division. Both brigades should have been captured at the Castor. Prisoners have frankly admitted that they expected they would be forced to surrender.

Four times had McNeil's column been halted by General Vandever, who was several miles in the rear, and that several times when we were within a mile and a half of the main force of the retreating foe, having driven their rear-guard in upon their column. We got within three miles of the Castor a little after dark. Here Lieutenant Bast, son of G. Y. Bast, was taking supper at a farmer's. The farmer said that about five minutes before a squadron galloped by, hailed the Lieutenant, told him the Yankees had rebuilt the bridge and were close at hand. The Lieutenant could not believe them, and went back to supper; but Lieutenant Poole, with some five of our boys from the advance, charged by, Lieutenant Poole killing two of the Texans as he passed, and returning took the Lieutenant in, who was so bewildered that he had not presence of mind enough to make his escape. The same farmer informed us the enemy were at the Castor, and could not cross, the river being up. Guns were pushed on, and position taken to sweep the Castor Bottom so soon as day should dawn; but alas! the enemy succeeded in crossing during the night, and their sharp-shooters were posted in the woods on the opposite bank to dispute our crossing, while the main column should have time to get out of our way. A sharp skirmish ensued, the First Wisconsin succeeded in driving them, aided by artillery, and we had undisputed control of the fords, when, instead of crossing, it was understood that orders had been received from General Vandever abandoning the crossing and giving up further pursuit. So waited we for several hours, when General Vandever changed his mind and allowed us to move on once more. The delay prevented our getting over in time to occupy Bloomfield that right. We shoved on to Bloomfield next day, having sharp skirmishing in front, which at one time seemed like advancing toward a general engagement.

But falling back was the ruling order among the rebels. On arriving in Bloomfield, several citizens informed us that we were but two hours behind.

Again did joy illuminate the faces of the brave and resolute men of McNeil's column, but alas! its fitful flash soon (lied away, we remaining in town to give the enemy a good start again, when it was well known that forty miles would land him in Arkansas, across the St. Francis, and he could then laugh at us with impunity. Finally General Vandever gave to General McNeil two brigades, first under command of Colonel J. M. Glover, Third Missouri volunteer cavalry, and second under Colonel La Grange, First Wisconsin cavalry. Vandever asked McNeil when he could move. “In half an hour,” replied McNeil. “I will march at four in the morning,” said Vandever. General McNeil marched all night without rations or feed, the men never murmuring, so anxious were they to make up the criminal delay at the Castor and Bloomfield. At five o'clock A. M., Colonel Glover became engaged with the enemy, forced them from their position, (although it was a strong one,) and backed by their artillery. About four miles further the enemy made another stand. The artillery was hurried up, skirmishers went to work, and soon Colonel [564] Glover forced them again to retire. Here a few of us fell heir to an ample breakfast that had been prepared for the officers of the retreating rebel column. It suffered not by passing down loyal instead of disloyal throats. General McNeil, desirous of seizing their batteries, which were annoying us, constantly proposed to Colonel Glover that he should order a charge from a battalion of his regiment, at the next stand made by the foe. In a few minutes the time arrived, the gallant Lieutenant-Colonel Carrick with several companies of the chivalrous Third Missouri cavalry and led by Colonel Glover himself, made a dashing charge. The First Iowa had been ordered to hurry up and sustain the Third Missouri, but they from misapprehension or some other cause went haltingly on and failed to give the support that would have made the charge a complete success. The Third Missouri went through and through the enemy, strewing the points and the road with rebel dead. Colonel Glover was unhorsed; Lieutenant-Colonel Carrick wounded in the shoulder. The brave Captain Mitchell received a serious wound, and other noble and daring spirits were killed and wounded. After cutting their way through the enemy for a mile and a half, the. main force of Texas cavalry came at them and forced them back — no support arriving, General McNeil making frantic but vain efforts to hurry the artillery up. We lost the advantages that would have resulted from this most brilliant charge. For twenty miles the enemy were driven with loss, and every one rejoiced at the supposed prospect of cutting them off at the St. Francis, but again delayed, the enemy made good their escape. Next morning a sharp engagement ensued between McNeil on this side and the rebels on the other side, in which General McNeil, and his and Lieutenant Ankony, volunteer, both had their horses shot from under them. A terrific artillery fire served as a de joie for the final safety of the rebel force. The First Nebraska infantry again clothed themselves with immortal honor — leaving the Cape some twelve hours behind the Thirty-seventh Illinois--then passed them and marched eighty miles in two days; made the night march from Bloomfield and participated in the twenty miles fight, as though not a man was fatigued. In obedience to orders, General McNeil fell back on Bloomfield, and resumed march to Cape Girardeau, followed by a host of movers, who dared not remain at home after the Federal forces had been withdrawn. Thus closed the Sir Marmaduke raid into South-East Missouri. The enemy defeated at every point — demoralized yet allowed to carry off their fourteen pieces of artillery, with full as many prisoners as graced our columns, and the balance of killed and wounded being largely in our favor. Too much praise cannot be given Captain Dawson and his company A, of Second M. S. M., for their invaluable services in crossing the Castor, and making a floating bridge on which artillery and wagons were successfully crossed.


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