- The battle of Wilson's Creek or Oak Hills -- Schofield's report -- description of the battlefield -- Colonel Snead's account -- reports of Generals McCulloch and Pearce -- other Confederate reports -- losses of Arkansas commands.
In endeavoring to give an adequate account of the famous battle of Wilson's Creek or Oak Hills, August 10, 1861, it will be interesting to present a view of the situation from the opposing side, as well as from our own, bearing in mind that either party very naturally gives to his own side the most favorable aspect which it will bear. The report of Maj. J. M. Schofield, as assistant adjutant-general, army of the West, was as follows:
During the forenoon of that day, the 9th of August, General Lyon and Colonel Sigel held a consultation, the result of which was the plan of attack upon the enemy's position at Wilson's creek, which led to the battle of the 10th. I was not present at the conference, having spent the morning in going the rounds of the camp to see if any improvements could be made in our dispositions for defense, thinking all intention of making an attack had been abandoned. Upon my return, General Lyon informed me of his intention to make the attack the next morning, and gave me the general features of the plan, but owing to press of business did not go much into detail. Colonel Sigel was to move with his brigade, consisting of the Third and Fifth regiments of Missouri troops, six pieces of artillery and two companies of cavalry (regular), to the left of the main Cassville road and leading to the right of the enemy's position, while General Lyon with the remainder of his force, consisting of the First Missouri, First Iowa, First and Second Kansas, two companies of the Second Missouri, a company of  riflemen, eight companies of regular infantry and rifle recruits, ten pieces of artillery and two companies of cavalry, amounting to about 4,000 men, besides about 250 mounted home guards, was to move down the road toward Little York to a point nearly opposite the enemy's advanced pickets on Wilson's creek, and thence across the prairie and attack his left flank. Colonel Sigel was to make the attack as soon as he heard that of General Lyon. The column under General Lyon reached the point where the enemy's most advanced picket was expected to be found, at about 1 o'clock at night. The picket not having been found, the column halted and the men lay on their arms till early dawn, when the march was resumed, Captain Plummer's battalion of regular infantry in advance, Major Osterhaus' battalion of Missouri volunteers following with Captain Totten's battery. At about 4 o'clock a. m. the enemy's picket was reached, and fled upon our approach. Major Osterhaus' battalion was then sent on the right as skirmishers, Captain Plummer being on the left, and the First regiment Missouri volunteers, under Lieutenant-Colonel Andrews, brought forward to the support of Totten's battery. With this disposition, the column moved forward about one and a half mile, when at about 5 o'clock a brisk skirmish was opened along our entire front. The enemy was now discovered in considerable force, occupying the crest of a ridge running nearly perpendicularly to our line of march, and also to the valley of Wilson's creek, and lying between us and his main camp. The First Missouri volunteers was now sent forward and deployed in line of battle, at once advancing upon the ridge under a brisk fire and driving the enemy from his position on our right, while the First Kansas came forward and engaged the enemy on our left, causing him to retire. Captain Totten's battery meanwhile moved forward in the center and reached the crest of the ridge. The enemy now rallied in large force near the foot of the slope, and under considerable cover opposite our left wing, and along the slope in front, and on our right toward the crest of the main ridge running parallel to the creek. During this time, Captain Plummer, with his four companies of infantry, had moved down a ridge about 500 yards to our left, and separated from us by a  deep ravine, and reached its abrupt terminus, where he found his farther progress arrested by a large force of infantry occupying a cornfield in the valley in his front. At this moment an artillery fire was opened from a high point about two miles nearly in our front, from which Colonel Sigel was to have commenced his attack. This fire was answered from the opposite side of the valley, and at a little greater distance from us, the line of fire of the two batteries being nearly perpendicular to our own. After about ten or twelve shots on either side, the firing ceased, and we neither heard nor saw anything more of Colonel Sigel's brigade till about 8:30 o'clock, when a brisk cannonading was heard for a few minutes about a mile to the right of that heard before, and from two to three miles distant. This was the last during the battle. Our whole line now advanced with much energy upon the enemy's position, the firing, which had been spirited for the last half hour, now increasing to a continuous roar. During this time Captain Totten's battery came into action by section and by piece, as the nature of the ground would permit (it being wooded with much undergrowth), and played upon the enemy's lines with great effect. After a fierce engagement, lasting perhaps half an hour, and in which our troops retired two or three times in more or less of disorder, but never more than a few yards, again to rally and press forward with increased vigor, the enemy gave way in the utmost confusion, and left us in possession of the position. Meanwhile Captain Plummer was ordered to move forward on our left, but meeting with overpowering resistance from the large mass of infantry in the cornfield in his front and in the woods beyond, was compelled to fall back; but at this moment Lieutenant Du Bois' battery, which had taken position on our left flank, supported by Major Osterhaus' battalion, opened upon the enemy in the cornfield a fire of shells with such marked effect as to drive him in the utmost disorder from the field. There was now a momentary cessation of firing along nearly the whole line, except the extreme right, where the First Missouri was still hotly engaged with a superior force of the enemy attempting to turn our right. The general, having been informed of this movement, sent the Second Kansas regiment to the support of the First Missouri. It came up in time to prevent the Missourians  from being destroyed by the overwhelming force against which they were unflinchingly holding their position. The battalion of regular infantry under Captain Steele, which had been detailed to the support of Lieutenant Du Bois' battery, was during this time brought forward to the support of Captain Totten's battery. Scarcely had these dispositions been made when the enemy again appeared in very large force along our entire front and moving toward each flank. The engagement at once became general, and almost inconceivably fierce along the entire line, the enemy appearing in front often in three or four ranks, lying down, kneeling and standing, the lines often approaching to within 30 or 40 yards, as the enemy would charge upon Captain Totten's battery, and be driven back. Early in this engagement, the First Iowa regiment came into line and relieved the First Kansas, which had been thrown into some disorder and compelled to retire. Every available battalion was now brought into action, and the battle raged with unabated fury for more than an hour, the scale seeming all the time nearly equally balanced, our troops sometimes gaining a little ground, and again giving way a few yards, to rally again. Early in this engagement, while General Lyon was leading his horse along the line on the left of Captain Totten's battery and endeavoring to rally our troops, which were at this time in considerable disorder, his horse was killed, and he received a wound in the leg and one in the head. He walked slowly a few paces to the rear and said, ‘I fear the day is lost.’ But upon being encouraged that our troops could again be rallied, that the disorder was only temporary, he passed over to the right of the center where our line seemed to be giving way, obtained another horse, and, swinging his hat in the air, led forward the troops, who promptly rallied round him. A few moments later he was carried from the field, dead. His death was known at the time to but very few, and those few seemed to fight with redoubled vigor. Meanwhile our disordered line on the left was again rallied, and pressed the enemy with great vigor. . . . This hot encounter lasted perhaps half an hour after General Lyon's death, when the enemy fled, and left the field clear as far as we could see, and almost total silence reigned for twenty-five or thirty minutes. [Major Sturgis  now assumed command and the chief officers were called in council.] The question was a very perplexing one. Nothing had been heard from Colonel Sigel for a long time. No one could tell where he was or what he was doing. Should we move forward in pursuit of the enemy without knowing whether we should receive any support from Sigel, should we make a detour to the left and attempt to join him, or should we withdraw from the field? At this time a considerable force of infantry was seen to move around the right of the position from which Sigel's cannonading had been seen some time before, and advance in column toward the front of our left wing. These troops wore a dress resembling extremely that of Colonel Sigel's men, and carried the American flag. The opinion was general that this was Sigel's brigade, and preparations were commenced to move to the left and front and join him. Meanwhile the column in front moved down the hill within easy reach of our artillery, but was permitted to march on unmolested until it had reached the covered position at the foot of the ridge on which we were posted, and from which we had been so fiercely assailed before. But suddenly a battery was planted on the hill in our front, and began to pour upon us shrapnel and canister, species of shot which had not been fired by the enemy before. At this moment the enemy showed his true colors, and at once commenced along our entire line the fiercest and most bloody engagement of the day. . . . Captain Totten's battery in the center, supported by the First Iowa and regulars, was the main point of attack. The enemy could frequently be seen within 20 or 30 feet of his guns, and the smoke of the opposing lines was often so confounded as to seem but one. Now, for the first time during the day, our entire line maintained its position with perfect firmness. Not the slightest disposition to give way was manifested at any point, till finally the enemy gave way and fled from the field. . . . Thus closed, at about 11:30 o'clock, an almost uninterrupted conflict of nearly six hours. The order to retire was given immediately after the enemy gave way from our front and center, and Lieutenant Du Bois' battery at once took position with its supports on a hill in our rear. Captain Totten's battery, as soon as his disabled horses  could be replaced, retired slowly with the main body of the infantry, while