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Chapter 7:

  • Sigel Retreats to Rolla
  • -- McCulloch and Pearce return to Arkansas -- Federal defeat at Drywood -- Price Invests the Federal works at Lexington -- the moving breastworks -- Mulligan Surrenders -- an affair at Blue Mills -- General Thompson and his operations -- Price compelled to retreat -- the legislature at Neosho Passes an act of secession -- members of the Confederate Congress chosen -- Fremont's bodyguard defeated at Springfield -- Hunter Succeeds Fremont and Retreats -- reorganization of the State troops -- First and Second Confederate brigades.

On reaching Springfield, Maj. S. D. Sturgis, who had taken command of the Federals on the death of Lyon, turned the command over to Sigel, who was supposed to be the ranking officer. Sigel, after consultation with the other officers, determined to retreat to Rolla, and at once moved out with a strong escort and the army train, consisting of 400 heavily laden wagons, a part of their load being $250,000 in gold taken from the branch State bank at Springfield. The remainder of the army moved the same night. The day after the battle General Mc-Culloch withdrew his troops to Arkansas, the Arkansans returned to their own State and General Price, with the State Guard, took possession of Springfield and went to work recruiting, organizing and drilling his army. Some of the men with him had not enlisted. They were organized after a manner of their own into squads and companies. Many of them did not belong to any regiment. None of them were uniformed, and a large number had not been drilled. They had no tents, no equipments of [64] any kind, and there were no depots of subsistence or clothing or ammunition. There were no muster rolls and no reports. The Federals held the Missouri river and it was a block to recruiting in the northern part of the State. Home Guards, armed from the arsenal at St. Louis, swarmed in nearly every county in the southern part. But Price and his officers persevered, and at length the unwieldy mass assumed coherence and form.

In less than a month Price was able to move in the direction of the Missouri river with a force of about 4,500 armed men and seven pieces of artillery. At Drywood, about fifteen miles east of Fort Scott in Kansas, he encountered several thousand Kansas jayhawkers, under Gen. James H. Lane, and routed them. From there he marched in the direction of Lexington, which was held by a brigade of Irishmen, a regiment of Illinois cavalry, several regiments of Home Guards and seven pieces of artillery, under the command of Col. James A. Mulligan. He reached Lexington on the morning of September 12th and drove the Federals into their defenses, which were arranged around the Masonic college building as a center The position was a strong one and was strongly fortified. Price's men were exhausted by five days hard marching, with only such provisions as they could pick up on the roadside as they moved along. Having driven the enemy to cover, Price took possession of the town and camped his troops at the fair grounds. After waiting several days for his ammunition train to come up, he closely invested the stronghold of the enemy. Rains' division occupied an advantageous position to the east and northeast of the works, from which an effective artillery fire was kept up by Bledsoe's and Churchill Clark's batteries. Parsons took position with his division and Guibor's battery southwest of the works. A part of General Steen's and Col. Congreve Jackson's commands was held in reserve. Skirmishers and sharpshooters from the commands first named did effective service harassing [65] the enemy and cutting off their supply of water. Without water it was impossible for Mulligan to hold his position. He lost a number of men going to and returning from the spring upon which he depended. At last a woman was sent or volunteered to go. This was a silent appeal to the chivalry of the Missourians, and it was effective. Not a shot was fired at her, but she was cheered as she filled her canteens and returned with them in safety to her friends. During the day Colonel Rives, with his and Colonel Hughes' regiments, captured the Anderson residence, which was used by Mulligan both as a hospital and a fortification. This brought them within effective rifle range of the enemy. The divisions of McBride and Harris stormed and occupied the bluffs immediately north of the Anderson house. But Mulligan watched his opportunity and by a sudden dash retook the house and heights, but they were directly afterward again taken, and held to the last.

It happened that there was a large number of bales of hemp lying on the wharf, and on the morning of the 20th, General Price, at the suggestion, it is said, of Gen. Thomas A. Harris, determined to try the experiment of using them as movable breastworks. He first had them thoroughly soaked in the river to prevent them taking fire, and then rolled up the steep bank to the plain surrounding Mulligan's position. Men rolled them forward with hooks, while from the cover they afforded riflemen kept up a steady fire which was constantly advancing. The enemy had not reckoned on any such mode of attack, and at two o'clock in the afternoon a white flag was displayed in token of surrender, and the Federal forces laid down their arms and gave themselves up as prisoners of war.

The results of this victory to the Missourians were 3,500 prisoners—among them were Colonels Mulligan, Marshall, Peabody, White, Grover, Major Van Horn and 118 other commissioned officers—five field-pieces, two mortars, more than 3,000 stand of arms, a large number of [66] sabers, pistols, cavalry horses, equipments, wagons, teams, ammunition, commissary and quartermaster stores and other property. In addition to these things, General Price came into possession of the great seal of the State, of public records and nearly a million dollars which had been taken from the bank at Lexington by General Fremont's order. The money was returned to the bank and the State's property well cared for. The loss of the Missourians was about 150 killed and wounded, and that of the Federals about the same. Both sides fought mostly under cover, and the casualties consequently were not great. The officers and men were paroled, except Colonel Mulligan. He refused to accept a parole on the ground that his government did not recognize the Missourians as belligerents, and he and his wife became the guests of General Price and were treated with the greatest courtesy by him and his officers.

After the first day's fight at Lexington, while General Price was camped at the fair grounds awaiting the arrival of his camp and ammunition trains, a spirited affair occurred at Blue Mills, about thirty miles above Lexington. General Price learned that about 2,000 Kansas jayhawkers, under Lane and Montgomery, and a considerable force of regular cavalry were advancing to relieve Mulligan. At the same time a body of some 2,500 Missourians, under command of Colonel Saunders, was advancing to the assistance of Price. Price sent Gen. David R. Atchison, at one time president of the United States Senate, to meet the Missourians and hurry them forward. They reached the river at Blue Mills first, and all but 500 had crossed on the ferryboat. While these 500 were waiting for an opportunity to cross, the enemy came upon them, and there was nothing for them to do but surrender or fight it out where they stood. They chose to fight. The river bottom was heavily timbered, which gave them cover and a chance to use their shotguns and hunting rifles to advantage. For an hour they [67] held the jayhawkers in check, and then, at the command of General Atchison, they charged and drove them until they broke into parties and dispersed. Before the surrender Sturgis and his cavalry appeared on the north side of the river, expecting to find boats to cross and reinforce Mulligan. But all the boats had been captured by Price's men, and Sturgis was chased by General Parsons—whom General Price had sent to operate on the north side of the river and prevent reinforcements reaching Mulligan—and escaped with the loss of his tents and camp equipage.

After the surrender of Mulligan, General Price found his position at Lexington untenable. He was the commander of a victorious army, but a large number of his men—the recruits who had come to him—were unarmed, and his ammunition was nearly exhausted. A supply he had expected from the south did not reach him, because General McCulloch stopped the train en route on the ground that if it attempted to proceed it would almost certainly be captured by the enemy. All the Confederate forces had been withdrawn from the State-those under General McCulloch from the southwest and those under Generals Hardee and Pillow from the southeast. The withdrawal of the latter compelled General Thompson, who had been operating with a considerable force of State Guards in the southeast, to also withdraw. He had annoyed the Federals and kept them in a continual state of alarm, if he had not inflicted much damage on them. His withdrawal left General Price with the only organized Southern force in the State.

Gen. M. Jeff Thompson was a man of ability, but it was not strictly of a military order. He excelled in issuing proclamations and manifestoes. Every document of that sort issued by a Federal officer, from the President of the United States to the colonel of a Home Guard regiment, was sure to bring an answer in kind from him. When he could find no pretext for employment [68] in that way, he reviewed his troops and harangued them. His efforts, whether written or spoken, were characteristic of him—a combination of sense and bombast, of military shrewdness and personal buffoonery. They attracted attention and sometimes accomplished a practical purpose, but gave his campaigns a decided opera bouffe aspect. Later in the war, he was operating with less than 200 men around New Orleans, while General Butler was in command there, and beat that redoubtable manufacturer of manifestoes and bulletins at his own game—and not only that, but made him believe he was threatened by a force of at least 10,000 men. General Thompson was of material assistance to General Price by keeping a considerable Federal force engaged in watching him. A good many times the Federals thought they had him surrounded, but he always outwitted them or broke through their lines, and a few days afterward saluted them with a characteristic proclamation. At Grand River and near Fredericktown he maneuvered a small body of men in the face of a force of the enemy ten times as large as his own so skillfully as to accomplish his purpose and get away scot-free. His shiftiness and success in getting out of tight places gave him the appropriate name of the ‘Swamp Fox.’

General Price found it not only impossible to remain in Lexington, or elsewhere on the Missouri river, but difficult to retreat. General Fremont, who was in command of the department of the West, was moving with a large and thoroughly equipped force, estimated at 40,--000 men, to cut off his line of retreat to the south, while he was threatened by a force equal to his own from the west, consisting of regular troops from Fort Leavenworth and Kansas volunteers, and troops were crossing the Missouri river at every available point to assist in the effort to crush him.

Under these circumstances it was necessary for him to move speedily and rapidly. He dismissed the greater [69] part of his unarmed men, as he had no immediate means of arming them, bidding them not to give up the struggle, but to wait at their homes for a more auspicious time. He began his retreat on the 27th of September. He sent a considerable force of mounted men to make Fremont and Sturgis and Lane believe he was about to attack each of them. The ruse succeeded. Each stopped, and Fremont commenced fortifying in the neighborhood of Georgetown, where he was concentrating his forces. This gave Price time to move his infantry and artillery, aggregating about 8,000 men, unmolested, until he got south of his pursuers. He crossed his command over the Osage river in flat boats, built by his men for the purpose, in one-fourth the time it afterward took Fremont to cross at the same place on his pontoon bridges. He then continued his retreat leisurely to Neosho, where the legislature was assembled.

The legislature passed an act of secession. In every particular it complied with the forms of law. It was called together in extraordinary session by the proclamation of the governor. There was a quorum of each house present. The governor sent to the two houses his message recommending, among other things, the passage of an act ‘dissolving all political connection between the State of Missouri and the United States of America.’ The ordinance was passed strictly in accordance with law and parliamentary usage, was signed by the presiding officers of the two houses, attested by John T. Crisp, secretary of the senate, and Thomas M. Murray, clerk of the house, and approved by Claiborne F. Jackson, governor of the State. The legislature also elected members of the Provisional Congress of the Confederate government, among whom were Gen. John B. Clark, who was succeeded in his military command by Col. Edwin W. Price, a son of Gen. Sterling Price, and Gen. Thomas A. Harris, who was succeeded in his military command by Col. Martin E. Green. [70]

From the time of the battle of Wilson's Creek, General Fremont had been collecting an army at St. Louis for the purpose of retrieving that disaster to the Federal arms, and capturing Price or forcing him and his army to leave the State. The force with which he was now advancing on Springfield was variously estimated at from 40,000 to 50,000 men, splendidly armed and equipped, and supplied with every appliance conducive to their comfort. When Fremont approached Springfield, Price retreated to Cassville and then to Pineville, in the southwestern corner of the State. He was determined to offer Fremont battle with his State Guard forces, notwithstanding the great disparity in the strength of the two armies, but he wanted to draw him as far into the Ozark mountains as possible. Fremont occupied Springfield as soon as Price evacuated it, but his entrance into it was not unaccompanied by disaster. He had two bodyguards. One, his own, was composed of Indians; the other, known as the Jesse Fremont guards, was a picked corps commanded by Major Zagonyi, a Hungarian officer, and was as magnificently armed and equipped as the bodyguard of an empress. The advance in entering Springfield was given to this crack company of the corps daelite. The last of the State Guard to withdraw was a small infantry battalion of McBride's division, under command of Col. T. T. Taylor, a staff officer. Taylor posted his men in a cornfield just in the edge of town, and as Zagonyi and his resplendent command came dashing in, they fired a volley which emptied a third of the saddles and sent the remainder of the command back pell-mell to the main body. There was much spoil for the ragged Missourians in the way of fine arms and black silk velvet uniforms, slashed with gold embroidery, and much disgust in the Fremont household over such barbarous warfare, in which the fierce Hungarian commander of the advance must have participated, for he was never heard of again during the war—at least not in Missouri. [71]

But Price was doomed to disappointment. Fremont, no doubt, would have followed him if the authorities at Washington had not intervened by relieving him of his command. He did not take his removal at all kindly. He knew the order was on the way from Washington, and he surrounded himself with guards instructed to admit no one to his presence without first informing him and getting his consent. This was to prevent the order reaching him in an official form. But by stratagem a messenger finally reached him and delivered the order which terminated his military career in Missouri. It was understood at the time that he contemplated disregarding it, and was only prevented by the refusal of his subordinates, particularly Sigel and Asboth, to uphold him. It is probable, bitterly as Fremont was disappointed, Price's disappointment was more bitter. He had taken Fremont's measure, and if he could have drawn him deep enough into the mountains, would have captured or annihilated him and his army. It is certain that General Hunter, who succeeded him in the command, found the army so demoralized and so unfit for active service, that, with no force threatening him, he retreated precipitately to Rolla. As soon as Hunter left, Price occupied Springfield again, and a little later moved northward to Osceola. The battle of Belmont, which was fought in the extreme southeastern corner of the State, had very little significance of any kind, but closed the military record in Missouri for the year 1861. The Confederates, under General Polk, had occupied Columbus, Ky., and with their batteries controlled the navigation of the Mississippi river. To strengthen their position a Confederate force, under General Pillow, occupied the opposite bank of the river in Missouri. Col. U. S. Grant was sent with a brigade of Illinois troops to dislodge them. At first the Federals gained some advantages, but the Confederates being reinforced Grant was compelled to seek the protection of the guns of his boats, and under their cover reembarked his men and returned to Cairo. [72]

At Osceola the reorganization of the State Guard into the Confederate service was begun. The men, as a general thing, were 10th to make the change. They had become attached to the State organization. They went into it a mob and had been transformed through it into an army of veterans. Without arms, or uniforms, or tents, or transportation, or equipage of any kind, they had made campaigns, fought battles and won victories. They had never been defeated. They had supplied themselves with what they required as soldiers from the abundant resources of the enemy. Commencing with nothing, they were now an army with muskets and bayonets and cartridge boxes, with fifty pieces of artillery and artillery horses and ammunition, with tents and transportation, and they had won them all themselves on the field of battle, fighting always against odds. They had ennobled the name of the organization and made it synonymous with victory. They felt they had been misjudged and treated coldly by the Confederate commanders west of the Mississippi who, though encamped in the State with plenty of men under their command, had seen them lose the fruits of two campaigns—that of Wilson's Creek and that of Lexington—without marching a step or firing a gun to assist them. They had gone in rags, marched barefooted, fed themselves from the cornfields by the wayside, and conquered—thanks to neither Mc-Culloch, Hardee nor Pillow. But they were true to the Southern cause, and when General Price advised them to enlist in the Confederate army they responded favorably, but without much enthusiasm.

On the 2d of December, 1861, General Price issued an order establishing a separate camp for volunteers in the Confederate service, and appointing officers to muster them in. On the 28th of December the First battery of artillery was organized, with William Wade, captain; Samuel Farrington, first lieutenant; Richard Walsh, second lieutenant; Lucien McDowell, surgeon; and [73] John O'Bannon, chaplain. On the 30th of December the First Missouri cavalry was organized, and elected Elijah Gates, colonel; R. Chiles, lieutenant-colonel; R. W. Lawther, major; C. W. Pullins, adjutant; J. Dear, quartermaster and commissary; W. F. Stark, surgeon; D. Kavanaugh, chaplain. January 16th the First infantry was organized, with John Q. Burbridge, colonel; E. B. Hull, lieutenant-colonel; R. D. Dwyer, major; H. McCune, quartermaster; William M. Priest, commissary; J. M. Flanigan, adjutant; E. H. C. Bailey, surgeon; J. W. Vaughn, assistant surgeon; J. S. Howard, chaplain. It was afterward learned that Col. John S. Bowen had organized a regiment at Memphis, which by seniority was entitled to rank as the First Missouri infantry, and Colonel Burbridge's regiment was changed to the Second. Later, on the same day, the Third Missouri infantry was organized, with B. A. Rives, colonel; J. A. Pritchard, lieutenant-colonel; F. L. Hubbell, major; M. Ray, quartermaster and commissary. The same day the Second battery of artillery, with Churchill Clark, captain, was organized. These forces formed the First Missouri brigade, which was placed under the command of Brig.-Gen. Henry Little, up to that time General Price's assistant adjutant-general, who was appointed brigadier-general by the Richmond authorities to command the brigade. General Little's staff was: Wright Schaumborg, assistant adjutant-general; Frank Von Phul, aide-de-camp; W. C. Kennerly, ordnance officer; John S. Mellon, commissary; John Brinker, quartermaster; E. H. C. Bailey, surgeon; E. B. Hull, inspector. In the Pea Ridge campaign the unorganized Confederate battalions under the command respectively of Colonels T. H. Rosser, John T. Hughes, Eugene Erwin, James McCown and R. S. Bevier, with Landis' battery and some other forces, constituted the Second Missouri brigade, under command of Brig.-Gen. William Y. Slack, but after the death of General Slack it was merged into the [74] First brigade. The Second Missouri cavalry was organized with Robert McCulloch, Jr., lieutenant-colonel; Cozzens, major; Charles Quarles, adjutant; James Chandler, sergeant-major. The Third Missouri cavalry was organized with D. Todd Samuels, lieutenant-colonel; T. J. McQuilley, major; W. J. Van Kirk, quartermaster; J. Waite, surgeon. Guibor's battery was organized with Henry Guibor, captain; M. Brown, first lieutenant; W. Corkney, second lieutenant; J. McBride, third lieutenant; C. Hefferman, fourth lieutenant. Landis' battery was organized with J. C. Landis, captain; J. M. Langan, first lieutenant; W. W. Weller, second lieutenant; A. Harris, third lieutenant.

Prior to the battle of Pea Ridge the staff officers of Maj.-Gen. Sterling Price were: Thomas L. Snead, assistant adjutant-general; John Reid, commissary; James Harding, quartermaster; Robert C. Wood, aide-de-camp; R. M. Morrison, aide-de-camp; Clay Taylor, aide-de-camp; T. D. Wooten, medical director; M. M. Pallen, surgeon. Subsequently, and east of the Mississippi river, they were: L. A. Maclean, assistant adjutant-general; J. M. Loughborough, assistant adjutant-general; A. M. Clark, inspector; Thomas H. Price, ordnance officer; Clay Taylor, chief of artillery; J. M. Brinker, quartermaster; E. C. Cabell, paymaster; T. D. Wooten, surgeon; William M. McPheeters, inspector; John Reid, commissary; R. C. Wood, aide-de-camp; R. M. Morri-son, aide-de-camp. [75]

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