previous next

A tribute to the gallant dead.

To the Editors of the Dispatch:

The following well-written account of the life and services of General Slack, of Missouri, is from the pen of Thomas B. Graham, Esq., who is now Judge Advocate of the Fourth Division, (late Slack's,) Missouri State Guard. Colonel Graham entered the Missouri State service, from Chillicothe, Missouri, in June last, and was elected a Lieutenant in Captain Dye's company, Colonel Hughes's regiment of Slack's Division, and was with his beloved commander (who had placed him on his staff) through the bloody battles of Carthage, Oak Hills, Lexington, and Elkhorn, besides many others of minor importance, and he pays a handsome and graceful tribute to the departed hero in the following brief account. I send it to you that you may publish it. The hardships and courage of the Missouri volunteers are briefly and graphically delineated in this sketch of one of the bravest of our soldiers:

General Slack, of Missouri.

Brigadier-General William Yonely Slack was born in Kentucky. When three years of age, his father emigrated to Boone county, Missouri, and settled near Columbia. Here he learned the tanner's trade, which he soon relinquished, and studied law. When a young man he went to Livingston county, Missouri, and commenced practicing law at Chillicothe. Soon after, he married the daughter of Major Woodward, of Richmond, in Ray country, Missouri, with whom he lived happily until her death, which occurred in January, 1856. The issue of this marriage was six children, only two of whom are living; a daughter and a son, but seventeen years of age, who has been in the service as a private since the commencement of the war, and who has done his duty as a soldier. On the 2d of December, 1857, Gen. Slack was again married to a daughter of Hon. Gustavus Bower, of Paris, Missouri, by whom he had one child, which, being born after the second retreat from Lexington, he was not permitted to see.

As Captain of a company of cavalry, Gen. Slack served with distinction in the Mexican war, under Col. Sterling Price, who then commanded a regiment of Missourian with as much ability, courage, and success as he now leads armies to battle and victory. At the well-contested battles of Cartada, Samboda, and Taos, where the enemy numbered three to one, all who saw him agree in saying, that none conducted themselves with greater coolness, courage, and gallantry, than Gen. Slack. He remained in this service about fourteen months, having volunteered for twelve. When his country no longer needed his services he resumed the practice of law at Chillicothe, which he continued to pursue until he received from Gov. Jackson the appointment of Brigadier-General of the 4th Military District, when he turned his attention to the organization of troops according to the military law of the State of Missouri. He had mustered in but a few companies, and these far apart, at different points in the district, when eight hundred Federals were landed from the cars, on the night of the 14th of June, 1861. at Chillicothe; and he was forced to leave his home and family, to which he was destined never to return.

From this time until his death he was constantly in the field, using every effort and energy in the cause of Southern independence. During the fatiguing and harassing marches of the State Guard, he was always at his post, and shared the fare, the dangers and the hardships of his men. He participated and contributed largely to the success of the battles of Carthage and Oak Hills. At the latter he was dangerously wounded in the hip, which at first was thought to be mortal; but by the strict attention of Dr. Keith, his family physician, and the careful nursing of his faithful and affectionate wife, who encountered every danger and came to him, he at last recovered, and again took command of his division the 11th of October following.

When the troops belonging to the Missouri State Guard were being mustered into the Confederate States service last winter, Gen. Slack used every effort to induce the men under his command to join it nearly all of whom took his advice and are still in the service.

A short time before the commencement of the retreat from Springfield, Gen. Slack was appointed by General Price to command the second brigade of Missouri Confederates, a body consisting of companies which had not been organized into regiments or battalions — in all about fifteen hundred men. It was with these men, and the fourth division Missouri State Guard, that Gen. Van-Darn, in his report of the battle of Elkhorn, speaks of Gen. Slack as ‘"gallantly maintaining a continued and successful attack."’ At this battle, about noon, on March 7th, Gen. Slack was mortally wounded, the ball entering an inch above the old wound he received at Oak Hill, ranging downwards, and which, wounding the sacral plexus of nerves, produced paralysis of the urinary organs, which resulted in inflammation and gangrene. He was caught by Colonel Scott, his aide-de-camp, when about to fall from his horse, and, with the assistance of others, carefully conveyed in an ambulance to a house in Sugar Hollow used for a hospital, where his wound was skillfully dressed by Dr. Austin, the division surgeon. The next day, when the order was given to fall back, he was placed in an ambulance and conveyed to Andrew Rallers, eight miles east of the battle ground, accompanied by Col. Cravens and Dr. Keith, of the 4th division, and Sergeant Street, of the 2d brigade. Here he remained until the 16th, and seemed to be doing well, when, becoming apprehensive of being captured by the Federals, he desired his attendants to take him further away. They accordingly removed him seven miles further, to Moses's Mills, where he rapidly grew worse, and on Thursday, March 20th, at a quarter past 3 o'clock A. M., quietly breathed his last. The next morning he was buried eight miles east of the battle ground by his faithful friends and companions, all of whom after wards returned safely to the army. When told his and was approaching, he expressed no regrets, nor gave any evidence of alarm, but calmly awaited its arrival. His request to Dr. Keith to give his watch to his daughter, if he ever had an opportunity, was the only mention he made of his family or property.

None familiar with his capacities of General Slack, will deny that he possessed many of the qualifications requisite to constitute an efficient commander of volunteers. Temperate and abstemious in his habits; impetuous, daring, and courageous, yet prudent, wary, and cautious, he was well calculated for skirmishing, or as a leader in a charge. But these are not the qualities which alone distinguished him. His mind was bold, clear, and vigorous, and altogether practical; which, added to a sound and penetrating judgment, gave his opinions no ordinary weight in council; while his business and orderly habits enabled him to conduct with ease and accuracy the affairs of his command. He was affable and courteous in his manners, generous and unselfish in his disposition, and kind and indulgent in his nature. His age was about forty five years.

But that which most distinguished him was his earnest devotion to the cause in which he fell. It was for this he gave up his beautiful home, its enjoyments and associations; it was for this he encountered, with the fortitude of a soldier and patriot, the frosts and snows of winter, and the heat and dust of summer; it was for this he endured the hardships, toils and privations of one of the longest, most active and bloodiest campaigns recorded, or to be recorded, on the pages of history; it was for this he suffered long and painfully; it was for this he looked death in the face in many shapes and forms; it was for this he died! Many others of the great and noble of our land did the same, but none endured all more patiently, suffered all more gladly, or gave up their lives more freely. And of all the offerings yet laid upon the altar of State sovereignty and constitutional liberty, there is none purer or nobler than that offered by General W. Y. Slack. Tempz

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
William Yonely Slack (14)
Keith (3)
Sterling Price (2)
Thomas B. Graham (2)
Woodward (1)
Van (1)
Taos (1)
Street (1)
John Scott (1)
Andrew Rallers (1)
T. J. Jackson (1)
John H. Hughes (1)
Dye (1)
Cravens (1)
Gustavus Bower (1)
Austin (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
July, 3 AD (1)
June 14th, 1861 AD (1)
December 2nd, 1857 AD (1)
January, 1856 AD (1)
November, 10 AD (1)
June (1)
March 20th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: