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Chapter 10:

  • The Trans
  • -- Mississippi department open to Federal Occupation -- Hindman Takes command -- Shelby Goes into Missouri to raise a regiment -- battle of Lone Jack -- three regiments organized at Newtonia -- a brigade formed with Shelby commanding -- the fight at Newtonia -- Hindman Superseded -- Holmes orders troops out of Missouri -- the desperate fight at Cane Hill

When Generals Van Dorn and Price, under orders from Richmond, moved their troops east of the river to reinforce General Beauregard at Corinth, they left the Trans-Mississippi department stripped of soldiers and at the mercy of the Federals. Not only were the organized Confederate troops taken, but most of the State troops. West of the river there was but little of the feeling that existed east of it in regard to State troops serving only in the States to which they belonged. The States, as well as the troops, took a broader view of the situation. The men were willing to serve where their services were most needed, and the State authorities and the people endorsed them in so doing. Consequently, after Van Dorn and Price left with their commands, there was for some months a steady stream of organized and unorganized regiments and companies moving across the river and falling into line wherever ordered.

Nothing but imbecility prevented the Federals, after the battle of Pea Ridge, from moving southward and taking possession of the country to the Arkansas river or to the Red river, or, for that matter, to the Gulf of Mexico. But Curtis was in command, and he was an exceedingly conservative soldier. After Pea Ridge he acted [96] more like a commander of a beaten army, anxious to avoid the enemy, than a commander who had fought and won a great battle and was eager to secure the fruits of his victory. He clamored incessantly for reinforcements when there was no enemy to oppose him, and not until the first of June did he get things to warrant him, in his own mind, in taking the offensive. Then he was supported by an ironclad fleet on White river, and a cooperating force, 7,000 or 8,000 strong, was moving down from Fort Scott, in Kansas, prepared to invade Arkansas from the northwest. But Curtis had waited too long. His eminent conservatism had caused him to lose the golden opportunity.

Before that time Gen. Thomas C. Hindman had been assigned to the command of the Trans-Mississippi department. He was wounded at Shiloh, but as soon as he recovered sufficiently to be able to travel he came West, accompanied only by his staff. He was admirably fitted for the peculiar duties that devolved upon him—which were to defend an unarmed country and make an army out of nothing. He was fertile in resource; prompt, aggressive, and regardless of the forms of law when they conflicted with the accomplishment of the purpose he had in view. He began the work of making an army by stopping, en route for Corinth, a force of more than a thousand Texas cavalry, and using them to deceive and frighten Curtis, as well as making them the nucleus of the army he was about to organize. He created the belief that he was receiving heavy reinforcements from southern Arkansas and Louisiana and Texas, and an abundant supply of arms and munitions of war from east of the Mississippi, and caused information to that effect to reach Curtis. With his cavalry he hovered around him, drove in his pickets, and at every favorable opportunity attacked him in flank and rear. These maneuvers and deceptions had their effect, for in a short time Curtis became alarmed and retired with his army of 15,000 men [97] from Bayou Des Arc to the cover of his ironclads on White river, and then to Helena.

In the meantime officers and soldiers of the Missouri State Guard who had crossed the river with General Price were returning, individually and by companies, to renew the fight for the protection of Arkansas and the States further south, and to recover possession of their own State. All of them were actively engaged recruiting or preparing to recruit in Missouri. General Parsons, as has been said, returned from Tupelo with the remnants of the State Guard. Col. John T. Hughes returned from the same place with a brigadier-general's commission. Col. John Q. Burbridge resigned the command of the Second infantry and returned to raise a new regiment. Capt. Jo O. Shelby brought back his company with him and authority from the war department to raise a regiment. Others came with like authority for the same purpose.

Shelby's men marched across the State on foot and went into camp near Van Buren, preparatory to going into Missouri, where there was a garrison in nearly every town, and the roads were patrolled daily and sometimes nightly. Anything in the shape of a horse that could travel was in demand. The trappings made less difference: If a saddle could not be had a blanket would do. If a bridle were lacking one could be made of rope and rawhide. Every man had a good Mississippi rifle and 140 rounds of ammunition. When the time came for starting, those who did not have a horse or a mule joined the column on foot. Not until the command got into Newton county was it really in the country of the enemy. By that time the dismounted men had got horses. Shelby's plan was to attack the enemy's troops wherever he met them. If he could not whip them, the pause that followed the attack gave him time to get away. Thus marching and fighting he made his way to Lafayette county—his home county—and there commenced the active work of raising a regiment. [98]

Accompanying him was Col. Vard Cockrell, who turned aside when near the Missouri river and went into Jackson county. Shortly before, Gen. John T. Hughes and Col. Gideon W. Thompson had raised a considerable body of men and defeated a Federal force at Independence, in Jackson county, but General Hughes was killed just as the enemy gave way. He was a brave and intelligent officer, full of zeal and enthusiasm, and his death was a great loss to the cause. Col. John T. Coffee and Col. Upton Hays were also recruiting in the same section of country. At the small town of Lone Jack, in the southeastern part of Jackson county, there was a considerable Federal force, estimated at 1,000 men with two pieces of artillery, under the command of Maj. Emery Foster, and Colonels Cockrell, Hays and Coffee determined to attack it with their combined force and that of Colonel Thompson, who had been wounded at Independence, amounting to about 800 men. The attack was made just at daylight on the morning of August 16, 1862. It was intended to be a surprise, but the premature discharge of a gun alarmed the Federals before the Confederates got in line. The advantages of arms, position and ammunition were with the Federals. For six hours the fight raged. First one side and then the other was forced back. The section of artillery was taken and retaken twice. In fact, the main fight was around and over the guns. The Federals believed themselves attacked by Quantrell and his men, and fought with desperation. The Confederates were in sight of their ruined homes and considered that the hour of vengeance had come. At last the Federals retreated, leaving half their number killed and wounded, with their artillery and their commander, supposed to be mortally wounded, though he afterwards recovered.

This fight at Lone Jack was of no great importance as far as the general result of the war was concerned, but it was as fiercely contested and bloody a fight for the number [99] of men engaged in it as occurred anywhere, and shows the conditions under which recruiting was carried on in Missouri. Its immediate effect was to arouse the Fed. eral authorities in the State to greater activity, and cause thousands of troops to be sent to that immediate district to run the recruiting officers out. Hays and Thompson and Coffee and Cockrell and Shelby hastily gathered their men together and started southward. They had neither the organization nor the ammunition to make a stand where they were. It was a race—a contest of physical endurance and pluck—to reach the Ozark mountain country. The Confederates won, as they had to win. Those who gave out and fell behind, died as surely as they were captured. Near Newtonia the different commands encamped and set about the work of organization in earnest. There were enough recruits to make three regiments, composed of as good soldierly material as could be found anywhere. Jo O. Shelby was chosen colonel of the Lafayette county regiment; B. F. Gordon, lieutenant-colonel; and George Kirtley, major. The Jackson county regiment elected Upton Hays, colonel; Beal G. Jeans, lieutenant-colonel; and Charles Gilkey, major. The southwest regiment elected John T. Coffee, colonel; John C. Hooper, lieutenant-colonel; and George W. Nichols, major. General Hindman sent a staff officer to organize the three regiments into a Missouri cavalry brigade, of which Col. Jo O. Shelby was given the command.

Other regiments were also raised in other parts of the State for both the infantry and cavalry service. Col. John Q. Burbridge raised a fine cavalry regiment, composed mostly of recruits from north of the Missouri river. Wm. L. Jeffers raised another cavalry regiment in southeastern Missouri, composed of the best material. Col. Colton Greene raised another, just as good in every respect. Lieut.-Col. Merritt Young raised a battalion, composed largely of men from northwest Missouri. [100] These commands were afterward formed into a brigade of which Gen. John S. Marmaduke was given the command. After the affair at Booneville, Marmaduke had joined Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston in Kentucky, commanded a brigade and highly distinguished himself at the battle of Shiloh. At Hindman's request he was sent west of the river and given command of a cavalry division, composed of his own and Shelby's brigades. Marmaduke's brigade was commanded by its senior colonel, sometimes Colonel Burbridge and sometimes Colonel Greene being in command of it. Shelby's was the first cavalry brigade organized, however. The Missouri infantry regiments were made up largely of companies and squads recruited in Missouri which made their way inside the Confederate lines.

Not long after the formation of Shelby's brigade, and while it was still encamped near Newtonia, Col. Upton Hays was killed in a skirmish with the outpost of a large body of Federals. He was a gallant soldier and one of the most promising officers in the service. He had already made a fine reputation, and had he lived would have made a brilliant one. The death of Colonel Hays made Lieut.-Col. Beal G. Jeans, colonel; Maj. Charles Gilkey, lieutenant-colonel; and Capt. David Shanks, major of the regiment.

Shelby's restless energy and ambition, and the circumstances by which he was surrounded, did not admit of long dallying in camp. A considerable body of Pin Indians—the name given to those Indians who affiliated with the Federals—and vagabond negroes were pillaging and levying blackmail on the farmers in the vicinity of Carthage. Capt. Ben Elliott, of Gordon's regiment, was sent with his own company and detachments from several other companies, aggregating nearly 200 men, to kill, capture or disperse them. Captain Elliott was a skillful as well as a dashing officer. He surrounded the camp of renegades and surprised them at daylight [101] on the morning of the 14th of September, by charging them from all sides at once. The rout was instantaneous and complete. Of the 250 a few escaped to the brush and the rest were killed. The spoils of the expedition were 200 new minie rifles, lately issued to them at Fort Scott.

Gen. James S. Rains was in command of the unorganized infantry, and with about 2,500 of them was encamped on the Pea Ridge battlefield, protecting the transportation of lead from the Granby mines to Little Rock. To stop this supply of a prime necessity of war to the Confederates, the Federals occupied Granby with a force 500 strong. Maj. David Shanks was sent by Shelby with five companies of his regiment to drive them out, which he did on the morning of the 23d by charging their pickets with his whole force and going into the town with them. The Federals were surprised and fled, losing 27 killed and wounded and 43 prisoners. All the lead that had been accumulated under the supervision of the Federals was loaded in wagons and sent to Rains' camp.

But these were mostly forays, and served no purpose but to attract attention to the brigade. General Schofield had quietly collected an army 20,000 strong at St. Louis, and observing the trouble in the southwest and that Shelby persistently remained in the State, moved his whole force down to the scene of disturbance. On the other hand, Col. Douglas H. Cooper came from the Cherokee Nation with a mixed force of Texans, Indians and half-breeds, about 4,000 strong, to Shelby's assistance. Cooper was the ranking officer, and on the junction of the forces, took command, and threw Colonel Hawpe, with a battalion of Texas cavalry, forward to Newtonia. Shelby had a considerable force there, supported by two pieces of artillery from Capt. Joe Bledsoe's battery. Colonel Salomon, who had served under Sigel in the Wilson's Creek campaign, was sent by Schofield. [102] with a strong brigade of Germans, to attack the town. Salomon advanced slowly and cautiously, driving the pickets in before him. On the morning of September 30th, having got within easy artillery range, his two six-gun batteries opened fire. Bledsoe's two guns replied, and the Federal fire was at once concentrated on him. For an hour the unequal artillery fire continued. Then Bledsoe's guns ceased firing from lack of ammunition. Salomon then deployed his infantry and advanced, and the Confederates were forced back to the outskirts of the town.

Colonel Cooper had taken command on the field at the beginning of the action, leaving Shelby in command of the two camps. He now sent to Shelby for a regiment, and Shelby sent him Gordon's. Gordon came at a gallop, and struck the enemy in flank, and drove the flank in on the center. Gordon was forced back and into the town, but the Confederates regained what they had lost. Cooper's whole command was then ordered up, with his battery and another regiment of Shelby's. Thus strengthened, the fight was renewed and in a short time the Federal line gave way and was driven twelve miles, the fleeing soldiers abandoning their guns, wagons, blankets and provisions. The Confederate loss was considerable, but not nearly as large as that of the Federals, which was estimated at 1,000 in killed, wounded, captured and missing. To avenge this defeat Schofield advanced the next day with his whole force, but Colonel Cooper declined to accept the proffer of battle and retired from the town, fighting as he went.

The result of these operations was that every organized Confederate force was driven out of Missouri. Gen. T. H. Holmes had relieved General Hindman in command of the department, and one of his first acts was to order Hindman to fall back into Arkansas and assume the defensive. Hindman protested against the order, and it was repeated in a more peremptory form. He [103] had no alternative but to obey, though to do so cost him the result of his labors while in command of the department. His design was to mass from 25,000 to 30,000 infantry in northwest Arkansas and southwest Missouri behind 5,000 or 10,000 cavalry, which were to drive the Federals back as far at least as Springfield; then, by a rapid movement of cavalry and infantry—the first north and the last south of Springfield—to force the enemy to fight at a disadvantage or surrender, the only practical line of retreat being held by his cavalry. In other words, he intended to do what McCulloch might have done, but did not do, after the battle of Wilson's Creek. Most of the infantry required for the expedition were in camp at Little Rock and on White and Black rivers, and reinforcements were constantly arriving from southern Arkansas and Texas; and besides these, General Rains had 3,000 or 4,000 men of the old Missouri State Guard in his command, which hovered about the southern border of Missouri. Shelby's cavalry brigade had already been organized, and another was in process of formation. In any event, Hindman's purpose was to pass the winter in the Missouri river country and raise an army in Missouri capable of making a strong fight for the possession of the State. But in an order ten lines long General Holmes shattered the campaign, and did not then, nor at any time afterward, propose another.

Shelby's brigade took position at Cross Hollows in Arkansas, and came as near not doing anything as at any time during its existence. There was nothing for it to do except to scout well to the front and keep informed of the enemy's movements. About this time General Hindman issued an order directing Brig.-Gen. John S. Marmaduke to take command of all the cavalry in the district of northern Arkansas, and to go at once to the front. By another order from General Hindman, Col. John T. Coffee was relieved of the command of his regiment and Col. Gideon W. Thompson ordered to take [104] command of it. Shelby was ordered by Marmaduke to report to him near Van Buren. But if the Confederates, acting in accordance with the letter and spirit of General Holmes' orders, were inclined to stay on the south side of the State line and keep the peace, the Federals on the north side of the line were not so kindly disposed.

General Schofield had withdrawn his army to Springfield and gone into winter quarters. But General Blunt, of Kansas, a rugged soldier and fighter, had concentrated a heavy force at Fayetteville with the view of crossing the Boston mountains and disturbing the repose of the Confederates in the Arkansas valley. Marmaduke was ordered to oppose him, and on the 17th of November moved out from his camp near Van Buren, with Shelby's brigade, reinforced with Arthur Carroll's brigade of Arkansas cavalry. Cane Hill was his objective point. Lieut. Arthur McCoy, with a force of fifty picked men, surprised and routed a body of Pin Indians the day Cane Hill was reached. The next day Shelby received information that the enemy was advancing to attack him, and made preparations accordingly. The Federals avoided his pickets and attempted to surprise him by making their way, dismounted, through a large cornfield. When within point-blank range, they were received with a heavy fire of artillery and musketry, and fled. Carroll was ordered to make pursuit, but did it so hesitatingly and feebly that the enemy escaped.

But these were merely preliminary skirmishes. Blunt's command as a whole had not been engaged. He had been reinforced until he had probably 7,000 men. On the 3d of December he advanced on Cane Hill slowly and cautiously. Marmaduke had sent everything likely to impede his movements across the Boston mountains, and was ready and waiting for the attack. All the day of the 4th the men were in line of battle, but the enemy did not appear. The next morning, however, at sunrise, he came in force. Shelby's battery, advantageously posted, [105] opened fire. Blunt rapidly brought his artillery into action, and his guns were served with admirable coolness and precision. Under cover of the artillery fire Blunt's infantry advanced to the attack, but were repulsed and three times renewed the assault. Shelby's brigade had done the fighting, Carroll's being held in reserve. After the failure of their third assault on Shelby's lines, Blunt threw out a column to the right and left, determined to flank the position he could not take by direct assault. Marmaduke fell back in good order before this new movement, Shelby carrying off with him his dead and wounded. Then Blunt massed his cavalry in solid column, determined by main force to crush everything in front of him. He led his column in person.

But Marmaduke was wary and fell back by successive formations on alternate sides of the road, always presenting an armed front to his adversary. At the same time every hill and rocky eminence was made a rallying-point and a point of defense. But Blunt was determined and led his cavalry on, wave after wave, to the assault. At length, just as night fell, Marmaduke made a stand on a rugged hill a hundred feet or more in height, brought his artillery again into action and baffled every attempt of Blunt to dislodge him. In the last charge Blunt made, Lieutenant-Colonel Jewell, of the Sixth Kansas cavalry, was killed at the head of his regiment. He was a gallant soldier and a favorite officer with Blunt, and a flag of truce was sent in asking for his body and permission to bury the Federal dead and remove the wounded. Permission was granted and General Blunt and General Marmaduke and Colonel Shelby met and had a talk on neutral ground.

Carroll's brigade was not in the fight. It fled at the first fire, or rather followed its commander in his flight. It not only left the field, but continued its flight after it was far beyond the point of danger, telling of defeat and disaster as it went. The brigade afterward became [106] a fine body of fighting men under General Cabell, and Carroll disappeared from sight as a military figure. Two officers, Lieutenants Huey and Sharp, of a small battery attached to the brigade, remained, however, and after Carroll fled reported to Marmaduke for duty. The day after the battle Marmaduke withdrew without molesta-tion to Dripping Springs, to rest and await orders from General Hindman. [107]

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