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Doc. 21. battles of Pilot Knob and Leesburg, Missouri.

General Ewing's official report.

headquarters St. Louis District, St. Louis, Missouri, October 20, 1864.
Colonel J. V. Du Bois, Chief of Staff, Headquarters Department of the Missouri:
sir: I have the honor to report that on the night of the twenty-fourth September, the Major-General commanding, having learned that Price's army had entered the Department by way of Poplar Bluffs and Bloomfield, ordered me to take a brigade of the Second division, Sixteenth army corps, which was then at Jefferson Barracks, and patrol and garrison the Iron Mountain railroad--reporting to Major-General A. J. Smith, who was to follow next day with the other brigade of the division.

At De Soto, leaving the rest of the brigade to await further orders from General Smith, I went on with the Fourteenth Iowa infantry, strengthening the garrisons at all the bridges, and making temporary headquarters at Mineral Point. From each station where there was cavalry, I sent scouting parties east and west, which returned by Monday morning, reporting no enemy north of Fredericktown. They brought, however, apparently credible rumors that Price was at Fredericktown with all his army.

At ten, Monda morning, I took companies B, C, D, E, and H, Fourteenth Iowa infantry, under Captain Campbell, and went to Pilot Knob. Major James Wilson, Third Missouri State militia cavalry, then commanded the Third sub-district of this district, with headquarters at that post. He had, under orders, withdrawn his outposts from Patterson, Centreville, Fredericktown, and Farmington, and collected at Pilot Knob all the available force of his sub-district except brigade guards. The force there present consisted of companies A, F, E, G, H, and I, Forty-seventh Missouri infantry, Captain Lindsay's company, Fiftieth Missouri infantry, which were raw troops, with an aggregate of four hundred and eighty-nine officers and men for duty; and companies A, C, D, H, I,and K, Third Missouri State Militia cavalry; company L, Second Missouri State Militia cavalry; company G, First Missouri State Militia infantry, and Captain Montgomery's battery, which, with the detachment of the Fourteenth Iowa, made an aggregate of old troops for duty of five hundred. The entire command was one thousand and fifty-one volunteers, and one hundred and fifty citizens — enough to man the fort. My instructions from Major-General Rosecrans were to have Major Wilson endeavor to hold Pilot Knob against any mere detachment of the enemy, but to evacuate if Price's main army should move against it.

The village of Pilot Knob, which is the terminus of the railroad, and the Depot for supply of the lower outposts, is eighty-six miles south of St. Louis. It lies in a plain of about three hundred acres, encircled by Cedar and Rock Mountain on the North, Pilot Knob on the east, and Shepherd Mountain stretching around the valley on the south and west. Each hill is from five hundred to six hundred feet in height, and rises abruptly from the valley, with the sides towards it covered with rocks, gnarled oaks, and undergrowth. The southern and western slopes of Shepherd Mountain are accessible, and several roads lead over them to “the coalings” on its summit. Stout's Creek flows along the base of Shepherd's Mountain, and through a [136] gap between it and Pilot Knob, into a larger valley of several thousand acres, encircled by a chain of hills, in the northern end of which, and about a mile from the town of Pilot Knob, is the village of Ironton. Through this gap runs the road from Pilot Knob to Frederickton, passing out of the larger valley by “the Shutin,” a gap four miles south-east of Pilot Knob. The two valleys are called “Arcadia.”

Fort Davidson is a hexagonal work mounting four thirty-two pounder siege guns, and three twenty-four pounder howitzers en barbette. It lies on the plain south of the village of Pilot Knob, about three hundred yards from the base of Shepherd Mountain, six hundred from the base of Pilot Knob and one thousand from the gap. From the Fort to the remotest summit of these hills visible from it, it is not over twelve hundred yards; while all parts of the hillsides towards the Fort, except the west end of Shepherd Mountain, are in musket range. The Fort was always conceded to be indefensible against any large army having serviceable artillery. Early last summer I sent competent engineers to select another site; but such are the difficulties of the position, no practicable place could be found any more defensible. I therefore had the roads leading up the hills obstructed, cleared the nearest hill-sides of timber, and put the fort in a thorough state of defence by deepening the ditches, strengthening the parapet, and adding two rifle-pits, leading north and south, commanding the best approaches.

On reaching Pilot Knob at noon of Monday, September twenty-sixth, I found scouting parties had been sent the night before on all the main roads, but that the party sent towards Fredericktown had returned after going but six or eight miles. I forthwith sent two companies to make a thorough reconnoissance towards Fredericktown, and a small scouting party, under Captain Bowers, to cross the roads leading from the south to that place, and learn of the loyal people on them as much as possible as to the force of the enemy. Both commands met Price's advance in Arcadia Valley, near Shut — in Gap, and were forced back into the town of Ironton, where, with Captain Dinger's company, Forty-seventh Missouri volunteers, then on duty there, they made a stand. I reinforced them with the detatchment of the Fourteenth Iowa, under Captain Campbell, a section of Montgomery's battery, Lieutenant Simonton commanding, and all my available cavalry, placing the whole under command of Major Wilson, with orders to drive the enemy, if possible, through Shut — in Gap. He drove them to the Gap, but was unable to hold them there, and was being forced back gradually, when night and a rain-storm suspended the engagement.

By midnight it was evident the enemy were in strong force, as their column could be heard coming into the valley in steady procession, and their encampment grew extensive. We still did not know positively that Price's main army was there, though all our information was decidedly to that effect. But the advantages of delaying the enemy two or three days in his march northward, and of making a stubborn fight before retreating, were so great, even though the defense should be unsuccessful and much of the garrison be lost, that I resolved to stand fast and take the chances. I immediately forwarded up the railroad all the Quartermaster and Commissary stores not needed in the fort, and all the rolling stock, and started the Quartermaster's wagons empty. Details were set at work constructing in the fort six platformed barbettes for the field artillery, four pieces of which were taken into it. Lieutenant David Murphy, Forty-seventh Missouri Volunteers, a most gallant officer and experienced artillerist, was assigned to duty on my staff as Aide-de-Camp, and given general control of the artillery. Major-General Smith, whose immediate command was at De Soto and Mineral Point, was kept filly advised by telegraph of my information, movements, and purposes, until eleven o'clock Tuesday forenoon, when the line went down.

At daylight (Tuesday) the enemy pushed Wilson back through Arcadia Valley to the gap between Shepherd Mountain and Pilot Knob. While they were trying to force the gap, I ordered the detachment of the Fourteenth Iowa to take position on the east end of Shepherd Mountain, and ordered Wilson to fall back with his cavalry along the side of Pilot Knob, thus commanding the gap from both sides, and opening a clear range from the fort. Wilson soon sent me word that the enemy were displaying a flag of truce. I knew it was a trick to effect a safe passage of the gap while partying about a surrender, and therefore ordered him to renew the fight at once. A long and obstinate struggle ensued, in which the enemy lost considerably in an unsuccessful effort to pass the defile. During an hour of comparative quiet which followed, they threw a force around Shepherd Mountain and approached from the west, but that approach was too greatly exposed, and they were driven from it by our artillery, aided by two companies of skirmishers. An hour more, and my troops were summarily ejected from the points commanding the gap, the enemy following them along the hill-sides in strong force. When they had well advanced, we opened on them with all our guns and drove them back in disorder with heavy loss. We retook the gap — were again forced from it — and again with artillery drove them from the hillsides. They got two pieces in position on the east side of Shepherd Mountain, commanding a part of the side of Pilot Knob, which, being equally commanded by the fort, became neutral ground. We still held, with skirmishers, the sides of Shepherd Mountain, except next the gap, and the side of Pilot Knob not raked by their artillery.

After an hour of lull, lines of the enemy were seen at exposed points on the summits of the two hills, moving down, and almost before we could open fire on them, another white flag [137] was raised on a rock near the summit of Shepherd Mountain, where a group of officers had been taking observations under shelter. With the opening of a brisk cannonade on the group the flag was hauled down. The design was plainly to suspend the firing, so that their forces might approach to the assault in safety. I now ordered into the fort the section of artillery operating outside, but the horses stampeded and could not be got in. The section remained under cover of our fire, however, and was brought in before dark. Here the enemy opened on us with two guns from the Summit of Shepherd Mountain, at about seven hundred yards, and two from the side, at a less distance. The guns were well covered, and we could silence only one of them, the two nearest getting and keeping our range exactly.

The division on Shepherd Mountain was Marmaduke's, which, on the withdrawal of the white flag, and the opening of their artillery, moved rapidly down to the assault, his lines greatly broken by the rugged and steep descent, and by our fire, which told with marked effect upon them. On reaching the plain, the most of the assaulting force took cover in the deep bed of the creek, from which they opened and kept up an incessant fire. About one hundred ventured on to the assault, but fell, or were driven back before they reached the ditch.

Almost simultaneously with the movement of Marmaduke's division, that of General Fagan marched over Pilot Knob in stronger force, and less disturbed by our fire, sweeping back in disorder, or cutting off our companies which held the town and part of the mountain sides. His lines were greatly broken by the houses and fences of the skirt of the town, but were hastily re-formed by him, and by General Cabell, who led the assault, and swept upon the plain in handsome style, yelling, and on the double-quick. We opened on them when at four hundred yards from the fort, with musketry from the ramparts, and from the long line of the north rifle-pit, and with grape and canister from seven pieces of artillery. They rushed on most gallantly, but were broken, confused, and swept down by our rapid and well-directed fire, until the advance reached the ditch, when the attacking forces fled in dismay, leaving apparently almost half their comrades dead or wounded on the plain. Pending the assaults, the enemy threw a large cavalry force around the west end of Shepherd Mountain, to occupy the road north of us to Mineral Point. As they moved along the base of Cedar Mountain, just after the last assault was repulsed, a sortie was made from the north ditch, by which they were routed and lost considerably. A half hour of ineffective musketry and artillery firing ended the engagement with the approach of night.

An examination of prisoners that evening convinced me that Price was there, with about twelve thousand men and ten pieces of artillery — Shelby's division, with eight pieces, having gone from Fredericktown to Farmington. I had found myself unable, with my force intact, to hold the mountain sides so as to prevent his planting artillery there. My command was now reduced one-fourth in effective strength, as I had lost seventy-five killed and wounded, and more than double that number missing. I knew that next morning the enemy, having possession of the mountain top and sides, would place all his artillery in position to command the fort, which would make it certainly untenable. That morning, at the time when telegraphic communication ended, two regiments of Major-General Smith's command were at Mineral Point, twenty-three miles north of us, and four miles east of Potosi. I thought they were probably there still, and that by getting a good start we could effect a junction with them, and fall back or stand, as the movement and force of the enemy might permit. I therefore determined to evacuate that night. The chief danger, was that the preparations for the retreat might be observed, and the garrison cut to pieces or captured, in the confusion incident to the exit. The works of the Iron Company, at the north base of Pilot Knob had been fired by the enemy, and the immense pile of charcoal glowed and flamed all night, making the valley as light as noonday. Moreover, I learned Colonel Slayback's command held the Mineral Point road just north of the town, leaving the Potosi road the only exit not certainly in the possession of the enemy. But, with all its dangers, the policy of retreat was clearly best; and preparations for it began at midnight. I had Colonel Fletcher arrange for having the magazine, (which was large and filled with every variety of ammunition) blown up two hours after we left, or as soon as our exit should be discovered by the enemy. We took possession of the town and valley, and drove thence, all straggling rebels. The garrison was then aroused, knapsacks packed, haversacks and cartridge-boxes well supplied, and everything destructible, which we could not take away, and the enemy might use, placed near or on the magazine. At three o'clock Colonel Fletcher silently led the infantry out of the sally-port, around the ditch and through the north rifle-pit, forming them under the cover of a deep shadow at the end of the pit. The drawbridge was then covered with tents to muffle the sound, and the cavalry and battery, marching out, formed column with the infantry, and took a by-way to the Potosi road. We left Slayback's camp on our right, and another rebel camp near the road on our left, both unapprised of our movement. The body of the rebel army was at Ironton; and, thinking us sufficiently hemmed in, were busy making fascines and scaling ladders, for an assault in the morning. They even failed to take the hint when the magazine, an hour before daylight, shook the hills with its explosion.

At sunrise, I started Captain Hills, Tenth Kansas, Acting Aide-de-Camp, with twelve men, to Mineral Point, to acquaint the command there of my approach, and request it to march to join me. [138] On starting, they fell upon about twenty rebels in the town of Caledonia, and routed them, killing one. We there learned that our forces had fallen back from Mineral Point, and that Shelby had taken Potosi the evening before; and I therefore at once left the Potosi road and took that through Webster towards Rolla. I afterwards learned that, after his repulse Tuesday, Price ordered Shelby's division down from Potosi to Pilot Knob, to take part in a second attack, and that the squad we routed at Caledonia was Shelby's advance. He waited several hours with his division, to give us battle two miles north of Caledonia, thus giving us a good start on the Webster road before pursuing. Marmaduke's division left Pilot Knob at eight that morning to overtake us, and joining Shelby in the pursuit at Caledonia.

At sundown, we reached Webster, thirty-one miles from Pilot Knob, and rested until midnight. From information received there, I determined to go to Harrison (Leesburg), on the south-west branch of the Pacific railroad, because part of Colonel Warmuth's militia regiment was there, but especially because the road to Rolla was one on which we could be easily surrounded by a superior cavalry force,while that to Harrison led nearly all the way along a sharp spur of the Ozark range, separating the waters of the Huzza and the Courtois, and through the gorge of the Huzza, walled in with untraversable cliffs. To Rolla was fifty-five miles, to Harrison thirty-five. I here sent Captain Hills with ten men in advance to Franklin, with instructions to telegraph to the Major-General commanding at St. Louis, and to General McNeil, at Rolla, of our movements, and to arrange means for securing our safe and speedy withdrawal from Harrison to Rolla or St. Louis.

The night was intensely dark and stormy; and we groped our way with great effort and little progress. We had just reached the ridge at eight o'clock Thursday morning, when the enemy charged upon our rear guard and drove it upon the column. I placed the detachment of the Fourteenth Iowa infantry, company H, Forty-seventh Missouri, companies C, D and K, Third Missouri, State Militia cavalry, and Lieutenant Smiley's section of artillery, in the rear, all under command of Major Williams, Tenth Kansas, acting Aide-de-Camp, and with occasional halts to rake the woods with shell and canister, we made a good and successful march, the enemy almost constantly engaged with our rear guard, but unable to break through or flank it, until within four miles of Harrison. There the road debouches on a high sweep of gently rolling woodland, and from that we fought hard for every step we gained. The refugees, men, women and children, white and black, who clung to the command, nearly sacrificed it by their panics. I had to throw out the available fighting force, infantry and cavalry, as advance and rear guards and flankers, leaving in the body of the column the affrighted non-combatants and two sections of artillery, not often brought into action on the retreat. Repeated and stubborn efforts were made to bring us to a stand, and could they have forced a halt of an hour, they would have enveloped and taken us; but our halts, though frequent, were brief, and were only to unlimber the artillery, stagger the pursuers with a few rounds, and move on. We reached Harrison just after dark, having made the march of sixty-six miles in thirty-nine hours. We found Warmuth's militia gone.

The station is thirty-five miles from Rolla, forty-five from Franklin, and eighty-two from St. Louis. The position is naturally strong, being on the crest of a ridge, with no timber to obstruct the range for two hundred yards on either side. A cut for the railroad track gave shelter for the horses; a large number of ties were there, of which the militia had made breastworks, and the adjacent buildings were well situated for purposes of defence. My command had just time to form and the artillery to unlimber; when an assault was made; but, aided by darkness and our rude defences, we repulsed it. Just then the eastern train arrived with military stores for Rolla, and cars enough to move my troops. We got the command aboard,and were about to start for St. Louis, with the cavalry moving on a parallel road, when the nearest stations north and south of us were seen in flames. The command was at once taken off the cars, and the night spent in fortifying.

At daybreak, Friday, the enemy appeared in force and prepared apparently for an assault. They kept up a demonstration throughout the day, accompanied with a heavy fire of skirmishers, which was well replied to from our defenses. Having less than thirty rounds to the gun we used our artillery but little, reserving it for the moment of assault, or the emergencies of a further retreat. The day passed in instant expectation of an attack in force and in unremitting labor on the defenses, which were extended and strengthened so they grew formidable. Friday night another assault was repulsed, and the night passed in snatches of rest amid hourly and most harassing alarms. Hearing nothing of reinforcements, I at midnight dispatched a citizen messenger to Rolla, to ask help from there; and Lieutenant-Colonel Maupin to Franklin to advise the Major-General commanding of my condition, and endeavor to bring some mounted militia from Franklin county to my aid, if nothing better could be done — my now total want of serviceable cavalry, and the exhausted condition of the infantry, having made a further retreat extremely hazardous. The citizen got to Rolla, but Lieutenant-Colonel Maupin and Captain Schenck and Lieutenant Fletcher, who accompanied him, could not accomplish their errand, and barely escaped capture.

Saturday morning the enemy appeared in increased force, thoroughly reconnoitred our position and made every preparation to take us. But the forenoon passed like the day before; in an incessant fire with their skirmishers, and constant expectation of an assault. I think our [139] thorough readiness and plain purpose to fight it out made General Shelby, who was in command, feel that we would cost more than our worth. He drew off at two P. M., and at four P. M., Lieutenant-Colonel Beveridge, Seventeenth Illinois cavalry, with five hundred men of his command, came to our rescue from General McNeil, at Rolla. Strong cavalry pickets were at once posted on four roads occupied by the enemy north of our encampment, and were pushed out more than a mile. At midnight, leaving an hundred men to occupy Harrison and reinforce the pickets if necessary, and to destroy the few stores left in the train unissued, I withdrew my command and marched for Rolla. On arriving at St. James, twelve miles from Rolla, at noon Sunday, the infantry were sent to that post by railroad. Next day I turned over my infantry and cavalry, worn out with toil and watching, to General McNeil, to garrison Rolla — where-upon he marched with his cavalry and that of General Sanborn, and my battery, to the defense of Jefferson City. Tuesday I got an escort of forty men, and passing in the rear of the enemy, reached St. Louis, with the members of my staff, Wednesday night.

Our loss at Pilot Knob was about two hundred, killed, wounded, and missing; and in the several engagements on the retreat to Rolla, about one hundred and fifty more. Of the missing, the most were cut off in detachments, and escaped capture, so that our whole actual loss was about one hundred and fifty killed and wounded, and fifty captured and paroled.

Among our severely wounded were, Lieutenant Smith Thompson, Fourteenth Iowa, and Lieutenant John Fessler, First infantry, Missouri State Militia, and Lieutenant John Braden, Fourteenth Iowa, since dead. Major Wilson, Third Cavalry, Missouri State Militia, after being wounded, was captured on Pilot Knob, and subsequently, with six of his gallant men, was brutally murdered by order of General Price's Field Officer of the day.

The rebel loss at Pilot Knob, killed and wounded, exceeded fifteen hundred, as is shown by the enclosed letter of Surgeon T. W. Johnson, who was left there in charge of our hospital, and also by corroborating testimony gathered since our re-occupation of the post. In the hospital at Ironton, on the twelfth instant, there fell into our hands Colonel Thomas, Chief of General Fagan's staff, three Majors, seven Captains, twelve Lieutenants, and two hundred and four enlisted men (representing seventeen regiments and four batteries), all dangerously and nearly all mortally wounded. The rest of the rebel wounded who were not able to follow the army, were sent south by General Price, under escort of Colonel Rain's regiment. As to the loss of the enemy in the pursuit and at Harrison, I have no information.

To the officers commanding the several detachments, to wit: Colonel Thomas C. Fletcher, Forty-seventh Missouri infantry; Captain Win. J. Campbell, Fourteenth Iowa infantry; Captain Wm. C. Montgomery, Second Missouri artillery; Lieutenant John Fessler, First infantry, Missouri State Militia; Captain Robert L. Lindsay, Thirtieth Missouri infantry; Captain A. P. Wright, Second cavalry, Missouri State Militia, and also Major H. H. Williams, Tenth Kansas; Captain Charles S. Hills, Tenth Kansas; Captain H. B. Milks, Third cavalry, Missouri State Militia; Lieutenant David Murphy, Forty-seventh Missouri infantry, and Surgeon S. D. Carpenter, of my staff, and to Sergeant Daniel Flood, Third Missouri State Militia, who fired the magazine, I am indebted for an intelligent and thorough discharge of duty which contributed largely to our success. The-officers and men of the old troops, without known exception, and those of the new, with rare exceptions, behaved with splendid gallantry, and showed extraordinary will and power of endurance. Nearly an hundred citizens of Pilot Knob and Ironton (among whom were General McCormick, Colonel Lindsay, Captain Leper, Major Emerson, and other well-known gentlemen), organized and commanded by Captain P. F. Lonergan, First infantry, Missouri State Militia, fought and worked well. A colored man, named Charles Thurston, organized and commanded a company of negroes, who also eagerly bore a large share of labor and danger. Before concluding my report, I owe it to the cherished memory of Major James Wilson to make honorable mention of his name, not only because of the nerve and skill with which for two days preceding the assault he embarrassed and delayed the overwhelming forces of the enemy, but also because of his long and useful service in the district, unblemished by a fault.

I have the honor to be,

Very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

Thomas Ewing, Jr., Brigadier-General.

A National account.

St. Louis, October 6.
Your correspondent is enabled to lay before the readers of the Gazette a full and authentic account of the operations of Brigadier-General Tom Ewing, Jr., since he left the city on Saturday night, September twenty-fourth, until he returned last evening with the news of victory sparkling on his laurels. These operations embrace a reconnoissance in force, a successful battle with overwhelming numbers, and a retreat which for masterly accomplishment stands unrivalled, save and except by the great retreat of Sigel in this State, in 1861. These, together with a constant succession of skirmishes, ambuscades, and forced marches, distinguished this brief but brilliant campaign, and make it what it must ever be, one of the most remarkable and eventful of the war. By it Ohio, “the bright particular star” of the West achieves fresh honors at the hands of another of her brave and skillful sons. [140]

When the rebels demonstrated three weeks ago on Bloomfield, Fredericktown, and Centreville, General Ewing inferred that their intention was to move upon St. Louis, destroy its military stores, release the prisoners, and inflict whatever carnage they could, making just such a dash as they did at Memphis. General Rosecrans held the same opinion, and he ordered Ewing to Pilot Knob, with a brigade of A. J. Smith's command, but for some reason not apparent now, these troops were detained at Mineral Point on the Iron Mountain railroad, and Ewing pushed on to the Knob with a hundred and thirty men. When he got there he found his entire command to number very little over a thousand men, viz.: Captain Montgomery's battery--six Rodman ten-pounders--one company of the First Missouri State Militia infantry, three companies Fourteenth Iow infantry, six companies Third Missouri cavalry, and six companies Forty-seventh Missouri (St. Louis Guards, raw), and commanded by the Union candidate for Governor, Colonel Tom Fletcher, a brave man, good soldier, and true patriot. In a previous letter, you were acquainted with the operations up to the time Ewing was compelled to defend himself at Fort Davidson. That affair was one of those desperate ventures which a brave man only will make rather than surrender. During the reconnoissance towards the Knob on Sunday, and the skirmishes of Monday and Tuesday, prisoners and rebel wounded all spoke of Price being in command, and told wonderful stories of his strength and numbers. This determined General Ewing to hold his advance in check to the last possible moment, and made him defend the Valley of Arcadia, which lies between Shepherd's, Iron, and three other mountains, which rise abruptly to elevations of from four hundred to five hundred and fifty feet. Fort Davidson lies in the centre of the valley, which is longitudinal east and west. It has a range of one thousand yards only on the only practicable ground for the enemy except he reached the apex of the mountains, which he did not, in the haste of his advance, either think of or attempt until too late. Ewing contended every inch of the valley before entering the fort, and he was reduced to the last extremity before adopting that plan. The rebels pressed him closely from the east inlet to the valley, but when at last lie gathered up his little army and took them inside the fort, he gave the rebel advance such a salute as drove them back flying. This was on Tuesday, the twenty-seventh of September. The assault was kept up all day — Fagan's forces operating on Iron Mountain, and Marmaduke's on Shepherd Mountain. The former is east of the fort, the latter south of it. On the afternoon of Wednesday the enemy was seen in force immediately west of the fort, having got around Shepherd Mountain, and they commenced a simultaneous attack on the three sides named. Ewing changed his guns and his men, and gave the rebels the best he had. They yielded first on the west, and he followed up his advantage by turning all his guns in that direction for a short time. The rebels did not try their luck in the west again. Towards nightfall they succeeded in planting two guns on the east face of Shepherd Mountain, and they had just got the most admirable range on the fort when night saved it from being made a perfect slaughter-pen. Ewing is in a dilemma. It is unmilitary to evacuate — to retreat; but better take any risk than remain there to either surrender or be annihilated. He decided upon retreat; but as the devil would have it, the rebels set fire to the iron furnace on Iron Mountain, and one may readily imagine the pyrotechnic effect of one hundred thousand bushels of coal a-fire. The valley and mountains were lit up as at full noon — magnificent — beautiful to behold, but terrible to contemplate; for the flames flickered and flashed and cast their blood-red light upon the writhing forms of the wounded and the rigid ones of the rebel dead lying in full sight of the fort.

General Ewing held a council with his officers, but Colonel Tom Fletcher alone decided with him to take the terrible chances of retreat. The rebels were swarming, literally, on three sides of the fort, and they had already discovered that its drawbridge was down and could be crossed by the sacrifice of a hundred men. They had full command at musket range of the little garrison with whatever artillery they had, and nothing was left but to run over in the morning and put it to the sword. General Ewing commenced his preparations at midnight; he filled his limbers with ammunition, piled his caissons on the magazine, laid a train to it, threw down an enormous pile of tents on the drawbridge to muffle the sound of his artillery, and causing his men to glide over the sides of the fort to the west side found himself at the head of his little column safely in the shadowy west outlet of the valley. Then Tom Fletcher and he looked back at Fort Davidson and — laughed. The column headed for Potosi, confident that the force of A. J. Smith was still at Mineral Point, but this turned out incorrect, for as soon as Ewing reached Caledonia he encountered Shelby's advance, and a little fight ensued, in which the rebels were driven back and Ewing concluded that the road above must be in the hands of the rebels. This was correct, and he struck for Rolla.

Previous to the evacuation of Fort Davidson, Mrs. Marion, a Union lady of Pilot Knob, whom Colonel Slayback of Price's staff, released on condition that she would communicate with General Ewing, arrived bearing a message to the latter from General Price, that if he would surrender the fort and garrison, the latter would be permitted to go unmolested, officers would be permitted to carry side-arms, and all the personal property of the command would be unmolested, but if he persistently held out, and fired upon flags of truce as he had been doing, an overwhelming force would be sent to carry the work, and every inmate be put to the sword. This proposition and bloody threat was alike unheeded [141] by General Ewing, for he had already commenced evacuation and retreat, and of course made no reply. There is no doubt whatever of the purpose of Price to carry his intention into effect, for after the repulse of Tuesday, and his manifest design to march his army through the valley, together with his proposition, he could not do otherwise if it cost him thousands of lives.

General Ewing marched for Rolla by way of Webster and Osage, and was hotly pursued by Shelby, whose advance he encountered at Caledonia. Marmaduke soon discovered Ewing's evacuation, for the magazine blew up at three o'clock that Wednesday morning, telling the tale in such thunder-tones as roused the rebel hosts to a man, and awoke the echoes of the valley for twenty miles around. It is to be remarked here that Shelby was to have made the attack on Fort Davidson Wednesday morning; for Price desired to make Shelby's tatterdemalions, guerrillas, and Indians stand the brunt of that assault, which Ewing's evacuation saved them from, much to their cowardly content, no doubt; for it may be observed that had Shelby's cut-throats had a spark of soldierly ability, they could at any time during Ewing's retreat have swallowed up his brave little band. But because they were brave, and had everything that a just cause and true patriotism can inspire men with, they held their sneaking, savage foe at bay, and cutting through his line, reached at last safety and rest.

The night of Wednesday was pitch dark — a circumstance which, while it delayed the retreat, allowed the poor wearied soldiers to snatch a very brief repose. They were trammelled by refugees, affrighted men, wretched women, and helpless children. God pitied them and shielded them with his protecting Providence, which in darkest hours of the march still inspired the fainting band with hope. The soldiers and their heroic leader felt indeed, with Richmond, that

True hope is swift, and mounts with swallow wings:
Kings it makes gods, and meaner creatures kings.

At three o'clock on Thursday morning the march was resumed, the column turning off from the main road, and taking an unfrequented one to Leesburg (or Harrison), on the Southwest branch of the Pacific Railroad, hoping to go by rail the rest of the way to Rolla. The unfrequented road was taken because it led to the crest of a sharp ridge dividing the waters of Dry Creek and Huzza, and affording a favorable line for defense and retreat.

On reaching the ridge, at about ten o'clock Thursday morning, Shelby overtook and attacked the rear with great vigor, and from that place to Leesburg, a distance of some miles, the devoted band, nearly surrounded by cavalry, were compelled to keep a strong skirmish line thrown out, or keep in line of battle front and rear. Still they pushed on. When a favorable point was reached the artillery was unlimbered and placed in position. The enemy either had none or did not use it, and that was favorable to the retreat. On two or three occasions the attacks on flank and rear were in such force as to drive in the lines and throw the little command into disorder, which was frightfully augmented by the refugees; but General Ewing, by his indomitable coolness, courage, and skill, soon restored order, and by his own defiance of danger and death, infused renewed life and determination into his little band. Leesburg was reached at last, and just in time to receive the train from St. Louis, ten cars loaded with military stores. These were speedily unloaded and the command put aboard; but just as the train was ready to start, the stations above and below were observed to be in flames. This was the worst dilemma of the entire retreat. Cut off by rail, surrounded on all sides, a terrible struggle with overwhelming numbers — overwhelming? yes, a thousand against every hundred of the command — and nothing stared them in the face but total destruction and death. This they chose, rather than at the heels of such success as they had, yield to the scalping-knife of savages.

Ewing immediately seized everything available for defence. Railroad ties, barrels, boxes, bales of hay, everything and anything to turn a bullet, was used, and by the time night again overtook the busy and anxious throng, they found themselves besieged, but in a tolerable state of defence.

Friday morning came, and with it a storm of bullets from all sides. The little army was completely surrounded; not a single outlet could be found, even for a single messenger, and the situation was really desperate. Coolness and courage still was theirs, and they awaited each attack of the enemy with undaunted spirits. The rebels charged upon the defences again and again, but recoiled, carrying back their dead and wounded. The slaughter of their horses was large, and they became more careful and economical in future. On Friday night the rebels menaced the little camp, and conducted an Indian-like warfare against it. They would make a demonstration on one side, and then send a few treacherous shots from an opposite direction, which did more damage than any others. On Saturday the rebels massed for assault, and appeared four or five thousand strong, but the day passed without other action on their part than firing at long range. So much for Ewing's artillery.

On Sunday they prepared again for assault, and at three o'clock P. M., were really about to charge, when a most unlooked — for circumstance occurred and changed the entire aspect of affairs. A body of the Union cavalry appeared in the direction of Rolla, and dashing through the enemy's lines, galloped into the charmed circle of the little garrison. Such a shout went up as rent the air and “made the welkin ring.” It seemed as though the “God of battles” had sent them, and there and then the thankful soldiers fell upon their knees and devoutly thanked [142] Him. Colonel Beveridge, of the Seventeenth Illinois cavalry, hearing through citizen refugees of General Ewing's critical situation, started promptly from Rolla, with five hundred men, and arrived in the very nick of time. The cavalry soon cleared the lines, except immediately in front of the camp where the enemy's main force was massed, and at a distance of three miles to the northeast. This left the southwest clear, and on Sunday night Ewing pushed out a heavy picket force on each road and drove the rebel pickets in. While this was being done, the garrison struck out at midnight, and before the enemy discovered the real intent, the command was nigh Rolla, and nearer safety than it had been for many weary days. They marched thirty miles that night, and reached St. James' station, whence they took the cars for Rolla, where the light of Monday morning's sun found them as we must leave them, rejoicing in their success, while we brush away a tear for the poor fellows who were left behind, hushed in the silence of death.

The garrison at Rolla was relieved and immediately started for Jefferson City with Generals McNeil and Sanborn at its head. They have no doubt reached that point in safety ere this; if not, they have given Price a touch of their quality, which he will not forget, more than he will forget Rosecrans at Corinth, or Ewing in Arcadia Valley.

General Ewing saved the stores at Pilot Knob, and sent them to St. Louis in safety; he saved the stores at Leesburg, and all his artillery, and reached Rolla with a total loss of only about three hundred men. His entire command, as before stated, was little over a thousand, and when all the facts are gathered, it will be found that his killed and wounded will not exceed two hundred. His glory and his danger were shared with Colonel Tom Fletcher, whom the rebels would have given anything almost, to hang, and both are entitled to the warmest gratitude, not only of this State but of the country. Indeed, too much praise cannot be given the officers and men alike, of that brave thousand who resisted the repeated assaults of five times their number, and by throwing themselves into the desperate gap, which, gained by the rebels, would have lost St. Louis to us, successfully held them at bay until other operations, under the more immediate direction of the General Commanding, rendered this city safe, and foiled the purposes of Price to pillage and destroy it.

General Rosecrans' order.

headquarters Department of the Missouri, St. Louis, Missouri, October 6, 1864.
With pride and pleasure the Commanding General notices the gallant conduct of Brigadier-General Thomas Ewing, Jr., and his command in the defence of Pilot Knob, and in the subsequent retreat to Rolla. With scarcely one thousand effective men they repulsed the attacks of Price's invading army, and successfully retreated with their battery a distance of one hundred miles, in the face of a pursuing and assailing cavalry force of five times their number. Such conduct deserves imitation, particularly when contrasted with the cowardly conduct of the troops at Osage Bridge. The General Commanding presents his hearty thanks and congratulations to

Colonel Thomas C. Fletcher, Forty-seventh Missouri volunteers.

Major James Wilson, Third cavalry, Missouri State Militia.

Captain Robert L. Lindsay, Fiftieth Missouri volunteers.

Captain William J. Campbell, company K, Fourteenth Iowa volunteers.

Captain W. C. Montgomery, Second Missouri artillery.

Captain A. P. Wright, Second cavalry, Missouri State Militia.

Lieutenant John Fessler, First infantry, Missouri State Militia.

And the officers and men under their command.

They have deserved well of their country. The General Commanding desires, also, publicly to recognize the courage and efficiency of Lieutenant-Colonel John W. Maupin, Forty-seventh Missouri volunteers; Major H. H. Williams, Tenth Kansas volunteers; Captain Charles S. Hills, Tenth Kansas volunteers; Captain H. B. Milks, Third cavalry, Missouri State Militia; Captain P. F. Lonergan, First infantry, Missouri State Militia; and First Lieutenant David Murphy, Adjutant Forty-seventh Missouri volunteers. Under such commanders Federal troops should always march to victory.

By command of Major-General Rosecrans.

Frank Eno, Assistant Adjutant-General

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