Interesting reports of battles in Missouri.
To Col. J. R. Purvis, Assistant Adjutant General, Missouri State Guard:
Headq'rs, first military district, M. S. G., camp Allen, Oct. 28, 1861.General commanding this brigade, to forward you a detailed account of our movements subsequent to the 12th ult. when we broke camp at Spring Hill, Stoddard county. On the above date, about 10 o'clock A. M., the General, accompanied by five hundred mounted riflemen, started in a direct course toward the Iron Mountain railroad, designing to strike it about forty miles south of Saint Louis at Big River Bridge. In the absence of the General, Colonel Andrew Lowe, of the Third Regiment of Infantry, commanded the remaining forces, which consisted mostly of infantry. He was ordered to make his line of march on a direct route from Spring Hill to Fredericktown, moving only short distances each day, so as to keep the men in good condition either for a fight or hasty move, and to halt at that place and await further orders. He was ordered to use every exertion to collect lead and prepare it for immediate shipment. He was successful in shipping 18,000 pounds, which is now safe in New Madrid. The General, with the cavalry, pushed ahead at a rapid rate, arriving at the bridge about daylight of the 14th. He succeeded in surprising, and, after a short struggle, capturing fifty-eight of the enemy, belonging to the Normal Regiment of Illinois, including one Captain (Elliott) and three Lieutenants, who had scarce time enough to run into a low stone fort which they had established, before our men at a full run broke in upon them, with the before detailed results. We have had two killed and two wounded, and the enemy four dead and seven wounded. The bridge was at once fired, and was soon a complete wreck. Our men went to work at once collecting all the stores of the enemy, preparing them for transportation. About this time, a new foe appeared upon the field. Some eighty men from one of the posts above, having heard the firing, came in double haste to the succor of their comrades, and caught our forces in a somewhat scattered condition. For a time the battle was evenly waged, but our men soon collected together and pushed home on them, when they fled in confusion. We here had three killed and six wounded, and killed six of the enemy and wounded quite a number. We captured, among other things, 50 muskets, forty-five overcoats, and a number of blankets. The prisoners were all liberated on taking the oath not to serve during the war, or until exchanged. During the march of the infantry towards Fredericktown, our scouts brought in two Federal soldiers, captured five miles beyond the town, and reported a large party after them. We reached the place on the 17th, and quietly went into camp to await the return of the General. Early on the morning of the 18th, the camp was started by a quick succession of musket shots beyond the St. Francis Bridge, which crosses a river of the same name a quarter of a mile beyond the town. We soon discovered that it proceeded from our picket, which had been driven in by a large force of cavalry. The enemy sustained a severe loss, as the picket, which was under the command of Captain Holmes, consisted of 30 men, who gave them a volley at the short distance of 60 yards, the Captain of the little band, as the enemy came on at a dashing gallop, walked deliberately to the middle of the road, took careful aim at the leading officer, and shot him through the body. They lost five killed and fifteen wounded, while the picket arrived safety to camp. The enemy manœuvred about all the morning, seeking to find out our numbers, but refrained from attacking us. The Colonel commanding our forces did not deem it advisable to assume the offensive, but await the General's coming, he having been advised that the enemy was at hand, and each moment was expected to arrive. About 1 o'clock the General rode into camp; at the sight of him the whole brigade, though ordered not to cheer, broke out in one long continued shout, which, astonishing to say, so appalled the enemy, that they at once commenced a hasty retreat, and from all the reports we can gather from those residing on the road, they seemed in no little confusion. We made hot pursuit, but failed to come up with them; and after following several miles the whole command returned to camp. The balance of the day, and all the following, we were left in quiet. On the morning of the 20th our picket arrested a man, just as day was breaking, while endeavoring to avoid them. They recovered a package which he had thrown away, which, on inspection, proved to be a communication from Colonel Plummer, of Cape Girardeau, to the commandant at Ironton, stating that he was approaching our encampment with a large force, and asked his co-operation. Being thus warned in time, we made all the necessary arrangements to receive the enemy.--The safety of the baggage and lead first engaged the General's attention, for once having secured that, he could fight or not as his pleasure. It was soon on the way to Greenville, the brigade accompanying it, but was halted ten miles south of the town, and here preparations were made to return with all our fighting force, to give battle to the enemy, be their numbers what they might. After a rest of a few hours, we started at four o'clock of the morning of the 21st with but 1,200 men all told, with the expectation of giving fight to three times our number. We found out though, before their fire opened, that there were seven regimental flags in the field. Since then we have received reliable information that there were 10,000 men of the enemy present. We arrived about 11 o'clock within half a mile of town, and were immediately placed in position. Low's third regiment, with Jennings's and Rapley's battalions, were posted on the right of the Greenville road, some 300 yards in advance of the 2d and 4th regiments, which were on the left of the same. Our 12- pounder, commanded by Lt. Harris, was 300 yards in the rear of Low's position, at the edge of a wooded hill. The three 6-pounders were placed on or close adjacent to the road. After driving in their pickets, with some skirmishers, detached for that purpose, at about 12 o'clock they advanced in force, and showed on the brow of a hill, which hid the town from our view. Soon their cannon were placed in position, and sent shot and shell in quick succession among us. Our 12 and little 5's replied merrily, and caused quite a stampede among their cavalry, which had showed incautiously in masses over the hill top. Our 12-pounder several times during the action, by its well-directed discharges of grape, prevented their cavalry from making a charge down our centre upon our guns, (sixes.) During the while a regiment of their infantry advanced down the hill through the cornfield, immediately in front of Lowe's position; he lay concealed behind the fence that enclosed the field. The enemy's advance guard of one company stopped when within sixty yards of our line, when, after particularly cautioning his men to shoot low and take deliberate aim, he gave the order to fire, when at least seventy of them bit the dust.--The balance of their regiment soon took their place, but in a few minutes broke and fled to the rear of the field. Again they returned; but now two flags, denoting two regiments, came to the attack; but again they were compelled to give way before the deliberate and careful firing of our men. In the early part of the action they overshot, and our men assert that they frequently fired at a ‘"ready."’ The nature of the ground somewhat favored our men, the enemy being on the descending ground and our men at the foot of it. It was only when a third regiment was brought in the field against our little band of only 300 all told, that they were able steadily to return our fire. About this time the chivalric Lowe was shot through the head, and sank to the ground without making a sign. Though many of our men by this time were out of powder, they showed no signs of fear, and only when the Lieutenant-Colonel gave the order to fall back to the woods in rear of the 12-pounder, did they move from their places. In crossing the open space in the rear is where we lost most, in all, sixteen killed. These men, with but few exceptions, rallied immediately in the rear of our lines, and in a short time afterwards were again command. In the time short and that the limber was soon broken and the horses so repeatedly wounded that they could not be held to their places, but ran away with both it and the caisson. Every one about the gun had either left or been wounded by this time, except Lieut. Harris and his Sergeant. A few minutes after, the latter was shot through the head while attempting to mount his horse. Harris, all alone, yet fired his gun twice, showering grape among the close ranks of the enemy as they advanced upon him. At last his ammunition gave out, and as he stood resting against a tree, he received orders if he could not bring off his gun, to leave it. At this moment, Brown's battalion, which had been placed in the rear of the gun, came on at a double-quick, to cover the retreat of Low's command. They attempted to take off the gun by hand, and actually did drag it up hill a considerable distance, but were at last forced to leave it to the tender mercies of the enemy, as they received orders to take ground to the rear and place themselves in ambush, while Farmer's 2d and Waugh's 4th were ordered to cover the retreat, which was at this time commenced in good order. Their cavalry attempted only once to charge, but paid so dearly for their temerity that they were not heard from again; for Brown's battalion, in ambush, with one volley mowed them down as with a scythe. Here fell their Major Garett, one captain and four lieutenants, and thirty rank and file. A private of Brown's battalion — Prophet by name — leaped over the fence into the road and captured the Major's sword, but only after he had thrown a number of dead men off his body, the bullets raining round him the while. The enemy at this time had outflanked us on the left, our cavalry having retired too soon. But they did not appear in great numbers, and seemed loath to engage us at close quarters; for our men kept excellent order, and no doubt looked too formidable to be trifled with. They opened on us a desultory fire at a long distance, to which we did not reply, but moved quietly and quickly out of danger.--The enemy is said to have followed us about ten miles, to where our trains had been left, but which, ere the retreat had commenced, were ordered to move on, and was far on the way to Greenville when our little band of heroes passed through, in most excellent humor with themselves and well satisfied with the day's business. Drs. Gaulding and Lambden, who had been left with our killed and wounded, are just in, and report that the enemy acknowledge to having 8,000 infantry and two regiments of cavalry, besides nine guns. Col. Ross was in command. Col. Scofield had the artillery under charge, and Col. Plummer was present with the forces from Cape Girardeau. One of our men, just in from the neighborhood of Cape Girardeau, says that 2,500 men came by the way of that place, and 3,000 landed at St. Genevieve and came by the way of Perryville. The balance of their forces came from Ironton. We lost three men dead, which we brought to camp; the balance--17 killed, 27 wounded, and 15 missing--fell into the enemy's hands. The enemy acknowledge 400 killed and wounded, and are much chagrined at the day's results. They insist that we must have had 4,000 men. The disposition of our forces was such as to lead them into that error. Our doctors were rather roughly handled; they were robbed of all their money and lost their horses. Dr. G. at one time was in arrest as a spy, and remained in durance vile several hours, this was, however, after Col. Ross had left, and Col. Carlin was in command. Eight houses and their contents were burned to the ground. We arrived at our present camp on the 27th, without encountering further trouble, and shall here remain a few days to recruit. Hoping this hasty account of our movements will prove satisfactory, I remain.
J. P. Purvis, Ass't Adj't Gen.