Jonathan Fairbanks and Clyde Edwin Tuck

Past and Present of Greene County, Missouri

Early and Recent History and Genealogical Records
of Many of the Representative Citizens


Chapter 11
Military History
Approved by Judge J. J. Gideon and Capt. George M. Jones

Part 3
Federal Account of the Battle of Wilson's Creek


Upon the return of General Lyon to Springfield from Dug Springs, he scattered his forces along the various roads leading into the city at a distance of from three to five miles. Twenty-five hundred of his force, under Major Sturgis were stationed on the Fayetteville road, five miles out. All avenues of approach were well guarded and every precaution taken against surprise and attack. General Lyon's private room and personal headquarters were in a house on North Jefferson street, not far from the public square. The building was at that time the property of Mrs. Boren and later owned by Mrs. Timmons. His general headquarters were on the north side of College street, a little west of Main, in a house then owned by John S. Phelps, but which had been recently occupied by Major Dorn. In this same house his body lay after it was borne from the ill-fated field of Wilson's Creek. The house was burned by Curtis' Federals in February, 1862, and the lot remained vacant thereafter for a quarter of a century or more.

General Lyon had no sooner returned to Springfield from his brief expedition in the Dug Springs country, than he sent a courier again to General Fremont in St. Louis importuning him for reinforcements. About the time John S. Phelps was returning to Washington, D. C., for the purpose of attending the special session of Congress, which President Lincoln had called and on his way Mr. Phelps stopped in St. Louis and urged Fremont to send aid to Lyon at once, pointing out to him every detail of the grave situation in the southwestern part of the state. Not only men but supplies, both of which were in the Mound City in abundance, were needed. Following is copy of the note written by General Lyon to General Fremont, under date of July 27, 1861, which Mr. Phelps delivered:

 "Memorandum for Col. Phelps.—See Fremont about troops and stores for this place. Our men have not been paid and are rather dispirited; they are badly off for clothing and the want of shoes unfits them for marching. Some staff officers are badly needed, and the interests of the government suffer badly for the want of them. The time of the three months' volunteers is nearly out, and on their returning home my command will be reduced too low for effective operations. Troops must at once be forwarded to supply their place. The safety of the state is hazarded. Orders from Gen. Scott strip the entire West of regular forces and increase the chances of sacrificing it. The public press is full of reports that troops from other states are moving toward the northern border of Arkansas for the purpose of invading Missouri."

General Fremont ignored all these entreaties, saying that he did believe General Lyon was in anything like desperate straits; that McCulloch and Price could have nothing but an inconsiderable force since the country in Southwestern Missouri was too poor to support a force of any formidable strength; that: in his opinion, Lyon could take care of himself; and finally, that he had no troops to spare him anyway, as he had received information through Gov. O. P. Morton, of Indiana, that a large Confederate force a flotilla of gunboats, under command of General Pillow, were coming up th Mississippi river to attack Cairo, Bird's Point, and if successful in their destruction would come on and destroy St. Louis and that he had need of every available man to guard those threatened points. But General Lyon was a man not given to leaving any gaps down and knowing the situation perfectly, he consulted not only with his officers but, with the leading Union men of Springfield and gained information on every phase of the situation and his efficient scouts brought him all details of conditions within the enemy's lines. He was impatient to give battle to the armies of McCulloch and Price in his front, but his caution made him desire additional troops for this purpose to enable him to have a reasonable chance of success. Nearly every day he sent messages for assistance and he visited his outposts every day. Sometimes he would lose his temper and violently indulge in profanity. Two prominent Union men were with him one day when he received a message from Fremont stating that no more troops could or would be sent for the present, whereat General Lyon roundly cursed his superior officer and declared that Fremont was a worse enemy to him and the Union cause than Price, McCulloch and the whole tribe of rebels in this part of state. [258]

"GRIM VISAGED WAR."

The people of Greene county had been told of the horrors of civil war by Benton, Phelps, Orr, Rollins, Richardson, Boyd and Hendricks, but could not fully grasp its significance. Finally they were brought to a full realization. A marked change had taken place. The peaceful citizens and neighbors of yesterday were at last arrayed against each other, with arms in their hands. Military camps dotted the quiet fields, dwelling houses were turned into hospitals, plow horses were drawing cannon carriages, wagons of ammunition or bearing cavalrymen on their backs. Bands of badly disciplined volunteers in both armies were overrunning the country, committing all kinds of depredations, plundering granaries, smoke-houses, killing live stock, devastating gardens, terrifying the inhabitants and appropriating whatever property they desired. And everybody realized that a great and bloody battle was soon to be fought on Greene county soil. The conduct of those earnest but misguided men who would do nothing to prevent civil war but, everything to precipitate it, was bearing bitter fruits, and the end no one could see.

Major Sturgis' force of two thousand and five hundred men, comprising about one-third of Lyon's army, which he had stationed on the Fayetteville road, a few miles out of Springfield, on August 5, was ordered to be ready to move at a moment's notice and late the following afternoon they were in the ranks, everything in readiness to march and attack the advancing enemy. Soon thereafter General Lyon received a number of messages to the effect that Captain Stockton, of the First Kansas, and two companies of Home Guards had clashed with Price's cavalry on the prairie west of town. The two companies were ordered to the relief of Captain Stockton. Eight companies of the First Kansas Infantry, a part of the Second Kansas and Major Osterhaus' battalion of the Second Missouri were ordered to a certain point in town to await the arrival of General Lyon, who was too deeply engrossed to leave his headquarters until midnight and he proceeded to Camp Hunter, having already ordered Major Sturgis to drive in the enemy's pickets, if within two miles of his own. A company of cavalry under Captain Fred Steele, who afterwards became major-general in charge of Federal troops in Arkansas, was dispatched on this errand shortly after midnight and General Lyon with the troops above mentioned arrived at three o'clock in the morning. Until now he had failed to consult his watch and found the time to be two hours later than he had supposed. He at once called his principal officers together and advised them of his embarrassing position and taking their advice, withdrew the entire force to Springfield. It had been his intention, after his retreat from Dug Springs to suddenly turn upon reaching Springfield and march back and face the Confederates, who, he felt sure, would follow him up. It was his plan to fall upon them when they least expected it, believing his chances to defeat them would be fairly good. On arriving at Springfield, there was evidence that the enemy was approaching from the west and this caused him to wait a few hours. He obtained information on the night of the 6th that Price and McCulloch were only seven miles away from Sturgis' camp, and he advised to attack them at daylight. Upon his return to town, General Lyon remarked to Major Schofield, of Colonel Blair's regiment, the First Missouri, that he had a premonition that a night attack would prove disastrous and yet he had felt impelled to try it once and perhaps should do so again, "for my only hope of success is in a surprise," he added. It was daylight before the Federals reached Springfield. An ambush was formed in the timber southwest of town in case of pursuit. All during Wednesday continued alarms were afloat in Springfield, many of the citizens being panic stricken, some packing up their household belongings and preparing to flee to places of supposed safety. The troops were under arms in every quarter, and several times it was reported that fighting had actually commenced. However toward night the panic in a measure subsided, but many of the people who had remained did not retire and make any attempt to sleep. Col. Marcus Boyd, commanding Phelps' regiment of Home Guards, kept his men in readiness all night. A council of war was held by the leading Union officers at Lyon's headquarters which lasted until midnight. One of the principal matters discussed was the evacuation of Springfield and the abandonment of southwest Missouri to the Confederates. Looking at the situation from a military point of view, there was no doubt of the propriety and even the necessity of such a step, and General Lyon and the majority of his officers counseled such a movement. Some favored a retreat to Ft. Scott, Kansas, while others advocated going to Rolla, a point easier reached, notwithstanding the rugged country intervening. However, General Sweeney was strongly opposed to a retreat without a fight. With his naturally florid face flushed to a livid red and excitedly waving his one arm, he vehemently protested, pointing out the disastrous results which must ensue from a retreat without a battle; how the rebels would boast of an easy conquest, how they would harass, terrorize and persecute the unprotected Unionists if given undisputed possession of the country, how the Union sympathizers themselves would become discouraged, and declared himself of holding on to the last minute, and of giving battle to Price and McCulloch as soon as they would offer it. "Let us eat the last bit of mule flesh and fire the last cartridge before we think of retreating," he said. Some of the other officers, including General Lyon, finally shared the views of General Sweeney and it was decided to remain, save the reputation of the little army, hope against hope for re-inforcements, and not evacuate Springfield and Greene county until compelled to. The following day when Colonel Sigel's brigade quartermaster, Maj. Alexis Mudd, inquired of General Lyon when the army would leave Springfield, the latter replied: "Not until we are whipped out."
[259-260]

A false-alarm on Thursday morning had it that the Confederates were actually advancing on Springfield and Lyon quickly drew up his troops in line of battle, the baggage wagons were all sent to the center of the town and in this position they remained during nearly the entire day. Price and McCulloch had advanced, but only about two miles and gone into camp in the southern part of the county, just this side the Christian county line, their tents being on either side of Wilson's creek, in sections 25 and 26, township 28, range 23. The camp extended a mile or two east and south of the Fayetteville road. That evening the Federals were ready for marching orders, but a portion of the Kansas troops had been on duty all night of Wednesday and were unfit for service, so the night attack was again deferred, all the troops, except those on guard being ordered to retire to rest. The Home Guards were on duty at this time in the city. To scores of Lyon's army this proved to be the last night's sleep they were to take on earth, and soon all was quiet, only the sound of the pickets' challenges, as they hailed the chief guard or arrested the steps of some belated wanderer. Side by side slept the sturdy farmer boys from Greene and adjoining counties, the men who had left peaceful homes in Kansas and Iowa, and Germans from St. Louis. And only a few miles away were they who had come from their homes in the Ozarks, from the rolling plains of Texas, the mountains of Arkansas and the savannahs of Louisiana, under a new banner, to do battle for the cause they believed was right, to drive out those they considered invaders of their country and the despoilers of their homes.

The profound quiet that prevailed in Springfield on Friday 9th was only the calm that preceded the storm. The alarmists had practically all slunk away, enlistment in the Union army continued rapidly and a feeling of security prevailed among the residents. During the afternoon Captain Wood's company of Kansas cavalry and Captain Stanley's company of regulars had a skirmish with a scouting party of Price's cavalry on the prairie about five miles west of town, defeating them, wounding two and capturing six or eight prisoners. From the latter it was learned that the Confederates were badly provisioned and that it was necessary for them to forage extensively in the surrounding country. About noon General Lyon received another message from Gen. John C. Fremont from St. Louis informing the former that his situation was not considered critical, that he had doubtless overestimated the force in his front, that he ought not to fall back without good cause and again assured him that no re-inforcements would be sent, but that he must report his future movements as promptly as possible and do the best he could. Lyon was an able general and he knew the situation perfectly. He had to face a force three times larger than his own and much more efficient, in a country especially adapted to the use of the movements of cavalry, with the terms of enlistment of half of his best men expired and with but a few thousand of experienced troops under his command at the best—there was little hope for him. But he was a man of courage, honor forbade him to retreat; if he fought a defensive battle there was danger of utter annihilation, and if he attacked he invited defeat and destruction. He did not know why Fremont refused, him aid, for he knew that there were thousands of soldiers at St. Louis, Ironton and other places to aid him, and who were apparently not needed for other purposes. But he quietly accepted the situation, like the brave, trained soldier that he was, and set about obeying the orders of his superior officer. With Fremont's message before him on the little table in his headquarters he penned the following reply with his own hand, the last letter he ever wrote:

Springfield, Mo., Aug. 9, 1861. General—I have just received your note of the 6th inst., by special messenger. I retired to this place, as I have before informed you, reaching here on the 5th . The enemy followed to within ten miles of here. He has taken strong position and is recruiting his supplies of horses, mules and provisions by forages into the surrounding country. His large force of mounted men enables him to do this without much annoyance from me.

I find my position extremely embarrassing, and am at present unable to determine whether I shall be able to maintain my ground or be forced to retire. I shall hold my ground as long as possible, though I may without knowing how far, endanger the safety of my entire force with its valuable material, being induced, by the important considerations involved, to take this step. The enemy yesterday made a show of force about five miles distant and has doubtless a full purpose of making an attack on me. Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
N. Lyon, Brig.-Gen. Vols,, Commanding.

To Major-Gen. T. C. Fremont, Commanding Western Department, St. Louis, Mo.
It will be observed that he made no word of complaint and no murmur, but with the expressed knowledge that he was to be attacked, and with. a premonition of being defeated, he courageously announced his determination to hold his ground as "long as possible." [261-262]

MOVEMENTS OF THE CONFEDERATES.

After spending a night at Moody's Spring, Generals Price and McCulloch moved their troops forward on Tuesday to the site on Wilson's creek, on the line between Greene and Christian counties, going into camp there on the 6th. They at once sent out scouting parties, principally for the purpose of discovering the Federal position, but with little success, while foraging parties scoured the country in every direction and also failed to obtain any information of value. The combined-forces were at once put in position to advance on Springfield, and only waited the decision of General McCulloch to begin the move, Price being impatient for a forward march. The former was irresolute and undecided for several days. From the information he possessed as to the strength and character of Lyon's forces and his knowledge of his own, he was fearful of the result of an engagement at that time. As before stated he had but little confidence in Price and his Missourians, these being somewhat undisciplined and inexperienced and at one time he characterized them as "Splendid roasting-ear foragers, but poor soldiers." He at one time decided to retreat to Arkansas; but General Price, who knew that Lyon's force was inferior, and that the Southerners had little to risk in offering battle, urged an attack at once for he believed that Lyon would in all probability be reinforced and it were best to attack him before he could be joined by additional regiments. Lyon's force was called by Price's men "the Yankee Dutch," and he believed the pluck of his men in fighting a detested foe on Missouri soil would more than make up for the fact that his soldiers were none too well armed and equipped and for their lack of discipline and experience. In his report to the Confederate secretary of war, General McCulloch said:

"I asked of the Missourians, owing to their knowledge of the country, some reliable information of the strength and position of the enemy. This they repeatedly promised, but totally failed to furnish, though to urge them to it I then and at subsequent periods declared I would order the whole army back to Cassville rather than bring on an engagement with an unknown enemy. It had no effect, as we remained four days within ten miles of Springfield and never learned whether the streets were barricaded, or if any kind of works of defense had been erected by the enemy. He even slung a rifle over his shoulder and mounting his horse, reconnoitered in person, but all to no purpose. He could not even ascertain whether the Federals had thrown up breastworks in front of their position. According to Gen. N. B. Pearce, the first information concerning General Lyon's condition was given by two women who secured a pass through Lyon's lines and came to Pond Spring, where they told the Southern leaders the desired information. At last General Price lost all patience and at sunrise on Friday, August 9th , sent Colonel Snead over to McCulloch to say to him that if he did not give orders for an immediate advance that he (Price) would resume command of the Missouri State Guard and advance alone, be the consequences what they might. This led to a conference of the general officers at Price's headquarters that afternoon, which resulted in an order for an advance on Springfield that very night, the movement to begin at nine o'clock. [263]

GENERAL LYON MARCHES OUT TO GIVE BATTLE.

General Lyon after being finally assured by Fremont that no troops would be sent him, determined to attack the Confederates, surprising them while in camp on Wilson's creek and trust to the fierce fighting of his troops together with the confusion a surprise would cause in the enemy's ranks to gain the day for him. He knew that his situation would not improve with time, and also being informed of the intended attack upon him, within four hours after it had been decided upon, receiving his information from one of his spies who was actually a commissioned officer in the Missouri State Guards. He did not like the idea of fighting a defensive battle at Springfield, with a town full of women and children behind him and an open country in front, well adapted to the movements of cavalry of which he had but a handful and of which his enemy's force largely consisted. Accordingly late on Friday afternoon, the 9th , word was sent to the subordinate commanders that after nightfall another movement against the Confederates would be made. Generals Lyon and Sweeney, Colonel Sigel and Major Sturgis soon agreed upon a plan of attack. The army was to be divided into two columns. The first column, under Lyon, was to consist of three small brigades; the second, under Sigel, was to consist of one small brigade composed of two regiments, two companies of cavalry and six pieces of artillery. The First Brigade of Lyon's column was composed of three companies of the First United States Regular Infantry, as follows: Company B—Captain Gilbert; Company C—Captain Plummer; Company D—Captain Huston; a company of regular rifle recruits under Lieutenant Wood, the four companies being commanded by Captain Plummer of Company C. Then there were two companies of the Second Missouri Volunteers under Maj. P. J. Osterhaus; Captain Wood's mounted company of the Second Kansas Volunteers; Company B—First United States Regular Cavalry, under Lieutenant Canfield, and a light battery of six pieces, commanded by Capt. James Totten. The First Brigade was commanded by Major Sturgis. The Second Brigade was commanded by Lieut.-Col. George L. Andrews, of Blair's regiment of the First Missouri Volunteers and was composed of the First Missouri Infantry Companies B and E—Second United States Regular Infantry, under Capt. Fred Steele; one company of regular recruits under Lieutenant Lothrop; one company or squad of mounted troops under Sergeant Moraine and Lieutenant Dubois' light battery of four pieces, one a twelve-pounder. The Third Brigade was commanded by General Sweeney and was composed of the First Iowa Volunteers under Lieutenant-colonel Merritt, the colonel, J. F. Bates, being sick in Springfield; the First Kansas, under Col. George W. Deitzler; the Second Kansas, under Colonel Mitchell, and about two hundred mounted Dade county Home Guards, under Capt. Clark Wright and Capt. T. A. Switzler. Colonel Sigel's command consisted of eight companies of the Third Missouri Volunteers (his own regiment), which during the battle was commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Albert; nine companies of the Fifth Missouri, under Colonel Salomon; one company, First Regular Cavalry, under Captain Carr; one company, C, of the Second United States Dragoons, under Lieutenant Farrand, and six pieces of light artillery, manned by details from the infantry recruits under Lieutenants Schaeffer and Schuetzenbach. [264-265]

THE LINE OF MARCH.

General Lyon set his troops in motion about six o'clock Friday evening, the 9th , the column moving westward on the Mt. Vernon road, Captain Gilbert's company of regular infantry in the van. Night came on but the column did not halt. There was a great deal of noise made on this march, though it was expected to be a silent one and the enemy was to be surprised. The Kansas and Iowa troops were especially hilarious, singing camp songs and giving vent to boisterous laughter all the way. Lyon, however, succeeded in somewhat quieting his army toward midnight. The army continued westward about five miles, then turned south near Little York, and the next six miles over rough roads was somewhat difficult, but Federals came in due course of time within striking distance of Price's command, the center of whose camp was about six miles west and seven miles south of the public square of Springfield. Among Lyon's guides were Pleasant Hart and Parker Cox. The advance first discovered the camp-fires of the enemy about one o'clock in the morning. The marching troops were halted and the ground reconnoitered as well as possible in the darkness; when daybreak came Lyon again moved forward and formed in line of battle, moving a little southeast so as to strike the extreme northern point of the enemy's camp.

It was after six o'clock the previous evening when Colonel Sigel broke camp just south of Springfield and took the old "wire trail," the road leading toward Cassville and Fayetteville, along which the telegraph wire ran. About four miles west of town the command left the road which led directly through McCulloch's camp, and bore south, and then along a road parallel with the Cassville road, and in the same general direction until below the Christian county line. Colonel Sigel's guides were John Steele, Andrew Adams, C. B. Owen, Sam Carthal, and L. A. D. Crenshaw. Sigel's column marched about fifteen miles, passing entirely around the extreme southeastern camp of the enemy, and arriving at daylight within a mile of the main camp. Taking forward the two cavalry companies of Carr and Farrand, Colonel Sigel contrived to cut off about forty men of McCulloch's army, who had gone out early for forage and were engaged in digging potatoes, picking roasting-ears, gathering tomatoes and procuring other supplies for their individual commissary departments. The prisoners were taken quietly and no news of the Federal advance from this quarter reached the camp of Southerners. Still observing the utmost caution, Sigel planted four pieces of artillery on a hill, in plain view of the enemy's tents, which spread out to his front and right. The two companies of infantry advanced so as to command the Fayetteville road at the point where it crosses Wilson's creek, while the two companies of cavalry guarded the flanks. In this position the command rested, awaiting the sound of Lyons' guns as a signal to open a general engagement. The prisoners were left in charge of Captain Flagg, who commanded Company K, of the Fifth Missouri Infantry. It had been agreed by the Federals that Sigel should block the Fayetteville road, preventing the Confederates from retreating by that highway. Later officers of both armies claimed that Sigel carried out his part of the plan too well, that if an avenue of retreat had been left open the results of the battle might have been different. Lyon had left in Springfield the Home Guards of Green and Christian counties, with instructions that the Fayetteville road should be watched below where Sigel turned off, and send word to him immediately if any troops of the enemy should be seen approaching from that quarter, as he believed the enemy planned a night attack upon him. The citizens of Springfield were fully ready for a retreat, wagons were loaded, the funds of the bank were secured for transfer and were being guarded by the reserve troops. [266]

THE BATTLE IN DETAIL.

In view of the fact that the battle of Wilson's Creek was the second greatest battle during the first year of the Civil war, was the greatest event in all the history of Greene county, that such a large number of citizens of this locality participated in the engagement that it was of such momentous importance and is still a frequent topic of conversation with our people, it is deemed advisable to here give an account of the battle in detail, every effort having been made to secure accuracy. The most reliable Federal accounts, are those which were furnished by Major Sturgis, who assumed command of Lyon's column after the battle; Maj. J. M. Schofield, then of the First Missouri; Lieutenant-Colonel Blair and Major Cloud, of the Second Kansas; Lieutenant-Colonel Merritt, of the First Iowa; Captain Totten and Lieutenant Dubois, of the artillery, and Captain Steele, of the regulars, Captain Wright, of the Home Guards, all of Lyon's column; and General Sigel, Dr. S. H. Melcher, the guides, and Captain Carr, of Sigel's column. The most reliable Confederate accounts are the official reports of Generals Price, McCulloch, Pearce, Clark, Rains, McBride and Parsons; reports of Col. John R. Graves, of Rains' division, and Col. John T. Hughes, of Slack's division; Col. Thomas J. Snead, assistant adjutant general of Price, and Lieut. W. P. Barlow, of Guibor's battery; Col. T. J. Churchill, First Arkansas Mounted Riflemen; Col. James McIntosh and Lieut.-Col. B. T. Embry, Second Arkansas Mounted Riflemen; Lieut.-Col. D. McRae, of Rae's Battalion, Arkansas Volunteers; Col. Lewis Herbert, Lieut.-Col. S. M. Hyams and Maj. W. F. Tunnard, Third Louisiana Volunteers; Col. E. Greer, South Kansas-Texas Regiment Cavalry; Capt. J. G. Reid, of Reid's Arkansas Battery; Col. John R. Gratiot, Third Arkansas Infantry; Col. De Rosey Carroll, First Arkansas Cavalry; Col. J. D. Walker, Fourth Arkansas Infantry; and Col. T. P. Dockery, Fifth Arkansas Infantry. There have been a great many sensational, improbable and overdrawn accounts of this memorable contest, but these have been discarded as of no value to the historian, who aims at telling the uncolored and unbiased truth.

General Lyon formed, his battle line at daylight, Saturday August 10th, the infantry in front, closely followed by Totten's battery, which was supported by a reserve. In this order the line advanced a few hundred yards, but found no outposts, the Southern pickets having been called in. Firing was begun immediately on the advance of Rains' division. The Confederate camp extended in a general direction from north to south along Wilson's creek, and Lyon attacked the extreme southern end from the west and northwest, while Sigel was stationed at the southern end, over a mile away. When Rains' troops were encountered the Federal column halted, and Captain Plummer's battalion of regulars, with the Dade County Home Guards on his left, was sent to the rear across the creek, and ordered to move toward the front, keeping pace with the Federal advance on the left. The main line then swept forward, and after crossing a ravine and ascending a high ridge, a full view of Rains' skirmish line was obtained. Major Osterhaus' two companies of the Second Missouri, and two companies of the First Missouri, under Captains Yates and John S. Cavender, were deployed to the left, all as skirmishers. A severe fire was soon going on between the two skirmish lines, and Totten's battery, which had just taken a good position on the ridge, soon made the hills and ravines roar in the stillness of the early morning with shrieking bombs and bursting shells, causing much excitement in Confederate camp, where preparations were being made for breakfast, none dreaming that they were to be thrown into battle before sunrise. Supported by Totten's battery, the First Missouri, under Colonel Andrews, and the First Kansas, under Colonel Dietzler, hurried to the front, the Second Kansas, under Colonel Mitchell, Steele's Battalion, and Dubois' Battery being held in reserve; The First Missouri took its position in front, upon the crest of a low plateau, the Second Kansas taking position just to the left, while Totten's battery was placed opposite the interval between the two regiments. Osterhaus' two companies occupied the extreme right, with their resting on a ravine, which turned abruptly to the right and rear. Dubois' battery, supported by Steele's battalion, was placed seventy-five yards to the left and rear of Totten's guns, so as to bear upon a well-served Confederate battery, probably Captain Woodruffs Pulaski Artillery of Arkansas, which had come into position to the left and front on the opposite side of the creek, and was sweeping with canister the entire plateau upon which the Federals had taken position. The Missourians were rallying in considerable, force under cover at the foot of the slope and along it in front and opposite the Federal right, toward the crest of the main ridge running parallel to the creek. Plummer's battalion had advanced along the ridge about five hundred yards to the left of the main Federal position, and reached the terminus of this ridge, when he found his further progress rested by a force of McCulloch's infantry, which was occupying Ray's cornfield in the valley. At this time a cannon boomed a mile to the south, where Sigel was supposed to be posted. This fire was apparently answered from the opposite side of the valley at a still greater distance, the fire of the two batteries being apparently east and west, and nearly perpendicular to Totten's and Dubois' batteries. But after about a dozen shots this firing ceased and nothing more was heard of Sigel until about eight-thirty o'clock, when a brisk cannonading opened again for a few moments, about a mile to the right of that heard at first, and still farther to the rear. Early in the engagement the First Iowa had been brought up from the reserve to the front and immediately became fiercely engaged, doing good fighting and winning General Lyon's praise. During the march he had said that he did not believe these men would prove very valuable in a battle owing to their apparent dislike of discipline. By this time the entire Federal line was well advanced and putting up a spirited fight, with every prospect of success, after thirty minutes of energetic fighting, the roar now being continuous, and was plainly heard in Springfield, in fact, over adjoining counties. Captain Totten's battery came into action by section and by piece, as the nature of the ground would admit, it being wooded with thick black-jack, undergrowth, and played vigorously upon the Confederate lines with telling effect. The high tide of the battle was now reached, and no more desperate fighting was seen during the entire war between the states. The major portion of these troops were inexperienced in warfare, but they were Westerners, brave, daring, loyal; for more than thirty minutes the rugged ridge before mentioned, later known as "Bloody Hill," was the storm center. It was covered with dead, the trees were wrecked with cannon balls and rifle bullets mowed down the underbrush. The bills shook with the thunder of opposing artillery, the gray-blue smoke drifted up from the ravine on the close, sultry air toward the clouds that partly obscured the sky. It was a battle. The First Kansas gave way and went to the rear; the First Iowa promptly took its place, and the fighting continued. The lines of both armies surged alternately forward and backward over the ridge. At last the Federals were left in possession of the ground for a short time, the Southerners withdrawing to re-form. Then contest was on again as before, each side gaining a few yards to later lose them. All the while the fight raged with considerable loss in Ray's cornfield, where McIntosh's regiment of Arkansas riflemen and Herbert's Third Louisiana regiment met and drove back Plummer's battalion on the Federal left. The Arkansas and Louisiana troops both belonged to McCulloch's army. No doubt they would have annihilated Plummer's men had not Dubois' battery opened on them, the continuous stream of shells making the cornfield untenable for any troops, and the two Southern regiments retreated with some disorder. The battery was supported by Steele's battalion. Plummer was severely wounded.
[268-269]

The advantage so far was with the Federals, and as in most all battles, there was a cessation in the firing for a moment, and it was apparent to the Union officers that a portion of the enemy desired to retreat, but it was soon discovered that the camp of the Confederates had been completely surrounded, at least they could not retreat, the Fayetteville road, which Sigel blocked, being their only outlet, as there was no road to the east or the west. There was nothing to do but surrender or continue the battle. Along the right of the Federal line the First Missouri was still desperately assaulting McBride's division of Missourians and was about to be overpowered, when Lyon hurried the Second Kansas to its relief and saved it. The Federal line was reformed during the temporary lull in the firing, under Lyon's personal direction. Steele's battalion, which had been supporting Dubois' battery, was brought forward to Totten's support, and preparations were made to withstand another attack, which, as could be learned by the shouts of the Southern officers, so close as to be plainly heard, was being organized. And Lyon had scarcely disposed his troops to receive the attack when the Confederates again appeared with a very large force along his entire front and advanced toward his center and both flanks. Firing was at once begun and for several minutes was inconceivably fierce along the entire line. In some places the enemy was in three ranks, the first lying down, the second on their knees and the third standing, and all the lines and every man loading and firing as rapidly as possible. Every available Federal battalion was now brought into action, and for an hour the battle raged with unabated fury, neither side gaining advantage, each side gaining ground now and then only to lose it soon afterwards. The dead lay in windrows, and the ravine ran with blood; the hillsides were plowed up with shells and riderless horses galloped through the woods. The firing was so rapid that gun barrels became too hot to touch them. Officers were killed but the men held their places in the ranks and fought on without orders, their comrades and erstwhile neighbors falling on either side of them. Despite the intense heat of an August morning, the gnawing hunger from many hours without food, and the pangs of thirst, the suffocating dust and pungent odor of gunpowder and sickening sight of blood, they stood their ground with grim determination, many of them, until they died. The fire of the Southerners never slackened, their lines being, constantly increased by reinforcements. When a man fell another stepped promptly in to fill up the gap in the line. The Federal ammunition was giving out. They could not stand in line as targets for the enemy and not fire back, so detachments began to give way. Observing this, Generals Lyon and Sweeney promptly brought them back. Their places were at the front. [269-270]

GENERAL LYON IS KILLED.

General Lyon had been the spirit of the battle from the first. He did not establish headquarters away in the rear, out of danger, as many commanding officers have done—he was at the very front all the while, encouraging his men, setting them examples of bravery, daring, coolness, edurance. Soon after the engagement began he was walking and leading famous white horse along the line on the left of Totten's battery, when he was wounded in both the head and the leg, and his trusted horse was killed. Captain Herron, who subsequently became a major-general and commanded this department, was at that time with the First Iowa Infantry, states that he saw the horse fall, and that the animal sank down as if struck in a vital place, neither rearing nor plunging. Lyon then walked on, waving his sword and shouting his orders, but was limping from his wounded leg. He carried his drab felt hat in his hand, and looked white and dazed. Suddenly blood appeared on the side of his head and began zigzagging down his cheek. He stood still a moment, then turned and walked slowly to the rear. He was wearing his old uniform that of captain in the regular army. When he reached a position a little in the rear he sat down; an officer bound a handkerchief about his wounded head. He remarked despondingly to Major Schofield, of Blair's regiment, one of his staff: "It is as I expected; I am afraid the day is lost." The major replied: "O, no, General; let us try once more." Major Sturgis then dismounted one of his own orderlies and offered the horse to General Lyon, who at first declined the animal, saying: "I do not need a horse." He then arose and ordered Sturgis to rally a portion of the First Iowa Infantry which had broken. In executing this order Sturgis went to some distance from his general. The First Iowa was being ordered forward by a staff officer, when some of the men called out: "We have no leader," "Give us a leader then," and other similar remarks were heard. Hearing the remarks of the Jayhawkers, Lyon immediately asked to be helped on the orderly's horse. As he straightened himself in the saddle the blood ran down his leg and dripped off his heel on the leaves below. General Sweeney then rode up and Lyon said to him: "Sweeney, lead those troops forward," pointing toward the First Iowa, "as we will make one more charge." Then, swinging his hat, Lyon called out to the Second Kansas regiment, "Come on, my brave boys, I will lead you; forward!" He had gone but a few yards when he was shot through the body. One of his orderlies, a private named Edward Lehman, of Company B, First United States Cavalry, caught him in his arms and lowered him to the ground, as he faintly whispered, "Lehman, I'm going," and very soon his spirit was ushered into the unknown Beyond, while the battle raged fiercely about him, the place where he fell afterwards being called "Bloody Point." A cairn of stones, a few feet high, marks the spot to this day, after a lapse of fifty-three years. The body of general was borne to the rear by Lieutenant Schreyer, of Captain Tholen's company of the Second Kansas, assisted by Lehman and another soldier. [270-271]

Major Sturgis had in the meantime rallied the disordered Federal line and re-formed it, the First Iowa taking its place in the front again, where it fought like old veterans, according to Sturgis. Assisted by the Kansans and Missourians they drove the Confederates back, but they came on again with doubled fury, and the situation of the Union forces was now desperate. Confronted by superior numbers, their commander-in-chief killed, with General Sweeney wounded, with Colonel Deitzler of the First Kansas lying with two bullets in his body; with Colonel Mitchell of the Second Kansas, it was, then thought mortally wounded by the same fire that killed Lyon, and as he was being borne from the field he called out to an officer under Major Sturgis' staff, "For God's sake, support my regiment;" Colonel Andrews, of the First Missouri, and Colonel Merritt, of the First Iowa, were both wounded. But notwithstanding the fact that all of the regimental commanders of Lyon's column were wounded, still the battle went on relentlessly.

The Federal officers could not account for lack of news from Colonel Sigel, why he had apparently failed to co-operate with them. They believed that if he should join them at that time with his division of nearly one thousand men, a combined attack on Price's right flank and rear might turn the tide of battle in their favor, but if the enemy made another general attack they doubted their ability to withstand it. They did not know but that Sigel had been defeated and was himself retreating. Major Schofield, General Lyon's chief of staff, informed Major Sturgis that their general was killed and that no news of Sigel's whereabouts could be obtained; also informed him that their ammunition was nearly gone, some of the troops being entirely out. Thereupon Sturgis assumed command and immediately held a consultation with what officers of important rank that were left in the Union army. It was soon decided that if Sigel did not join them at once nothing was left for them to do but retreat, if indeed retreat were possible. Just then a heavy column of infantry was seen advancing from towards the hill where Sigel's battery had been heard early in the morning. These troops carried flags which, drooping about the staffs, much resembled the stars and stripes, and the troops had the appearance of those in Sigel's command. A staff officer who stood some distance in front of where the conference was being held, rode back to his superiors and informed them that it was Sigel's command. Each officer immediately hurried away to his troops to prepare for the expected change in the program, their hearts beating high with hope of turning seeming defeat into victory. Steadily came the advancing column toward Sturgis' front coolly and silently, sweeping down the hill and across the hollow in front and took positions along the front of the ridge occupied by the Federal lines. Now the Kansans and Iowans who were in the front ranks and very near the new column shouted back that the visitors were rebels. Suddenly Guibor's battery, which had just reached a position in front of "Bloody Hill," wheeled about, unlimbered and with incredible swiftness began pouring in shrapnel and canister into the enemy's ranks, and simultaneously the infantry stationed at the foot of the hill began firing and, slowly ascending the hill, and in a few moments the fiercest, bloodiest and most spectacular struggle of that terrible day was on. The fighting of the morning seemed but a skirmish compared to it. The roar of musketry and the big guns on either side was deafening and continuous, a solid sheet of flame leaped from both armies, the distance separating them now being insignificant. The troops from both sides advanced or retreated over the bodies of the dead and dying lying in heaps. Guibor's battery was soon checked by Lieutenant Dubois' battery on the Federal left, supported by Osterhaus' two companies and the rallied fragments of the First Missouri Infantry. Totten's battery, still in the Federal center, supported by the Iowans and regulars, seemed to be the main point of the Confederate attack. The two clouds of battle smoke mingled until they seemed but one. Frequently Price's Missouri State Guard charged within twenty feet of the muzzles of Totten's guns only to be swept backward by the rapid charges of canister, the powder from the big cannons flashing full in their faces. But neither line would give ground. The contending lines, never wavering, never flinching, now stood so close that the muzzles of their muskets almost touched. Captain Steele's battalion, which was a few yards in front, together with the left flanks, was in danger of being overwhelmed and captured, but observing the precarious situation, Captain Granger, of Sturgis staff, hastened to the rear, and brought up as a support, Dubois' battery, Osterhaus' battalion, detachments of the First Missouri and First Kansas, and two companies of the First Iowa, in quick time, and took possession on the left flank, meanwhile pouring in a heavy volley on the Confederates, which was so murderous and destructive that that portion of the line gave way. Capt. Patrick E. Burke, Capt. Madison Miller and Adjutant Hiscock, of the First Missouri, were especially mentioned for gallantry in this assault. The entire Confederate line now fell back a short distance and began reforming. [270-273]

THE FEDERALS RETREAT.

Although it seemed that the Federals were holding their own against the great odds, Major Sturgis knew that without the support of Sigel and with ammunition nearly gone the situation was hopeless, and he took advantage of the temporary lull in the fighting to prepare for retreat. After seeing that Totten's battery and Steele's battalion were entirely safe, for the present, and directing Captain Totten to replace his disabled horses as soon as possible, Sturgis sent Dubois' battery, with its infantry supports, to the rear, to take up a position on the hill in the rear and cover the retreat. The Second Kansas on the extreme right, having been nearly out of ammunition for some time, was ordered to withdraw, which it did, bringing off its wounded. This, however, left the Federal right flank exposed, and about one hundred of the Missouri State Guard at that point at once advanced but were soon driven back by Steele's battalion of regulars. As soon as he was abled to do so, Sturgis gave the order for a general retreat. Fresh horses replaced the wounded and dead ones of Totten's battery and he retreated with the main body of the infantry, while Captain Steele met the feeble demonstrations of a handful of plucky Missouri skirmishers, who were still posing the Federal right flank, not having withdrawn to the rear to reform with the rest of the Confederates. It was not long until the entire Federal column was moving, in fairly good order and entirely unmolested to the rear, striking the open prairie east of Ross' spring, about two miles from the battle ground. The artillery and the ambulances were brought off in safety. After making a short halt on the prairie the retreat was continued to Springfield over practically the same route they had come to the ill-fated field the day previously. The advance was led by the remnants of Plummer's battalion, and came into Springfield with the drums beating, the flag flying, the men in four ranks, as if they had merely been out on a drill.

While Sturgis was debating whether to withdraw entirely from the field to take up a new position, after he had given the command to retreat, Sergeant Froelich, one of Sigel's noncommissioned officers, came up to him on a horse which bore every evidence of having been hard ridden, and reported that Colonel Sigel's brigade had been totally routed, his artillery captured, and the colonel himself either killed or taken prisoner.

When the retreating Federals reached the Little York road Sturgis encountered Lieutenant Farrand, with his company of dragoons, one piece of artillery and a considerable portion of the Third and Fifth Missouri infantry regiments, all of Sigel's command, which had made their way across the country in order to unite with the main army and be saved from entire destruction. Most of these brave men who had "fit mit Sigel," many of whom where Germans from St. Louis, were a sorry looking sight, their clothes torn and faces begrimed with dust and smoke. The march was resumed Springfield was reached at five o'clock in the afternoon, the army having been absent from the city just twenty-four hours. The survivors were worn out from the half day's battle, the march of over twenty miles, loss of sleep, with practically no food, an inadequate supply of water, the intense heat and excitement. The battle lasted from five o'clock in the morning until just before noon, the Federal retreat having begun about eleven-thirty o'clock. [273-274]

COLONEL SIGEL'S PART IN THE BATTLE.

In view of the fact that Col. Franz Sigel fought an independent engagement in the battle at Wilson's Creek, it is proper to give an account of his action in separate paragraphs from those treating of the fight by Lyon's column. As previously stated, Sigel moved entirely around the southern end of the Confederate line of camp, placed his infantry and artillery in position to prevent the Southerners retreating by the Fayetteville road, and quietly awaited the sound of Lyon's guns some two miles to the northward. When the firing of small arms was heard at about five-thirty in the morning, some two miles to the northwest, Sigel opened on McCulloch's camp with four guns under Lieutenants Schuetzenbach and Schaeffer. After a few more rounds the Confederates abandoned their tents and hastily retired toward the northeast and northwest. Both McCulloch's infantry and cavalry, soon began to form in battle line, and Sigel brought his entire line forward into and across the valley, the two companies of cavalry on the right, the artillery in the center and the infantry on the left. When the two columns advanced there was irregular firing for about half an hour, the fighting being carried on Sharp's farm, just across the line in Christian county, the Sharp home standing on the county line. The Confederates retired into the woods and ascended the adjoining hills. The firing toward the northwest was now more distinct, and Sigel was convinced that General Lyon was engaging the enemy along the whole line, so Sigel again advanced, hoping to drive enemy before him and to get in position to co-operate with Lyon, intending to attack McCulloch in the rear. Sigel continued his advance until reaching the Cassville road, making his way through a large herd of cattle and horses, reaching a little hill where the enemy had been slaughtering cattle, near the Sharp residence, at which some prisoners were captured, who were straggling back from the front, unaware of Sigel's presence. After a brief conference with some of his officers, Sigel concluded that Lyon had been successful in driving the Confederate back. He knew that this road was the only way of retreat, and believing that he had a splendid opportunity for blocking up the way and of capturing several thousand secessionists, he accordingly formed his troops across the road, planting his artillery in the center on a plateau and a regiment of infantry and a company of cavalry on, either flank, and awaited the coming of what he believed to be the vanquished foe, large numbers of whom could be seen moving toward the south along the crest of a ridge about a quarter of a mile opposite the right of the Federal right. It was now about half past eight o'clock, and the firing in the northwest, where Lyon's main force was supposed to be, and where he was really fighting, had almost entirely ceased. At this juncture Dr. S. H. Melcher, the assistant surgeon in Salomon's regiment, and some of the skirmishers returned from the front, where desultory firing had been going on, and reported that Lyon's men were coming up the road, for they could plainly distinguish the Iowa troops, who wore gray uniforms. At once Colonel Salomon, of the Fifth Infantry, and Lieutenant-Colonel Albert, of the Third Infantry, ordered their men not to fire on the troops coming up from the northwest, for they were Unionists, and Colonel Sigel himself likewise cautioned the artillery. All were much surprised at this unexpected turn of affairs, and the Germans of Sigel's and Salomon's regiments began jabbering away in their native tongue and in broken English delightedly, and the color-bearers were signalling with their flags to the advancing troops to "come on"— when, without warning, two batteries of artillery, one on the Fayetteville road and one on the hill where it was supposed Lyon's men were in pursuit of the flying Confederates, opened with canister, shrapnel and shell, while the gray-coated troops, that were mistaken for Iowans, advanced from the road and assaulted the Federal right, and a battalion of cavalry made its appearance, ready to charge. The tone of the German jabbering was instantly changed. Consternation seized them and all was confusion in Sigel's ranks, which could hardly realize that they were confronted by a powerful enemy bent on their destruction. They thought someone had blundered, that their own comrades were in the front. The burden of the German shout, translated, was "They are firing against us! They make a mistake!" Some of the American soldiers shouted, "It is Totten's battery!" And, all, making little effort at resistance, began retreating. [274-275]

All the artillerymen were recruits from the infantry, and had seen but little service of any kind, were with difficulty brought forward to serve their pieces, although commanded by Sigel himself; the infantry refused to begin action until it was too late; in fact, they could not be turned in their running retreat and made face the Confederates. Salomon cursed them most roundly, down the old Wire road several miles to the west, turned due north and awaited the main army under Sturgis near Little York, as before stated. Only four pieces of artillery were captured when the hill was stormed, no more being in position at that time, the two others being in the rear. In attempting to get one of them away, a wheel horse was killed, then the drivers spiked the gun as best they could and abandoned it. The gun that was saved was first abandoned on the Fayetteville road, and hauled off at first by hand a short distance, Captain Flagg using the soldiers and prisoners in lieu of artillery horses. The route of retreat taken by Captain Flagg and Lieutenant Farrand, and the fragments of Sigel's command, about four hundred in all, was down the Wire road a short distance then north to the Mt. Vernon road. For three or four hours they were within two or three miles of the main Confederate army and could have been easily captured.

Lieutenant Charles E. Farrand, of the Second regular infantry, commanding the company of cavalry before mentioned, had charge of that portion of Sigel's force which went westward. Upon finding himself alone with his company he retired in a southerly direction and accidentally met Crenshaw, the guide, who had directed the Unionists to the Confederate camp the night previous. He was forcibly detained and after Farrand had collected a number of the troops who were scattered and lost, directed the guide to take them to Springfield by way of Little York. After proceeding a short distance they came upon one of the cannon which had been taken from Sigel's force. The tongue of the limber was broken, one horse was gone and one of the remaining three badly wounded, they succeeded in moving it on. Some distance in advance of this they found a caisson belonging to Sigel's battery, filled with ammunition and it, too, was taken on with the gun. Some of the Germans were prevailed upon to assist in clearing some of the wounded horses from the harness, but they would not stop. But after considerable trouble harness was secured, two more horses and a pair of little mules were hitched to the gun and the party proceeded, but before reaching Springfield, when at the Robinson farm, it became necessary to abandon the caisson in order to hitch the animals to the cannon. This was done after destroying the ammunition it contained. Lieutenants Farrand and Morris, the latter adjutant of Colonel Sigel's command, procured wagons, which they sent back on the road after the wounded. [276-277]

STORY OF AN EYE WITNESS.

Dr. Samuel H. Melcher was with Sigel's command at the battle of Wilson's Creek, as assistant surgeon in the Fifth Missouri Infantry under, Colonel Salomon. He was for a long time identified with Greene county, later a resident of Chicago. He is well remembered by many of our older citizens, and the following account he gives of what he saw during the engagement comports very favorably with the official reports:

General Sigel cautiously took a good position in the gray of dawn, his battery trained on the Confederate camp and waited until he heard General Lyon open the battle to the northwest, then gave the order to fire, which was responded to with rapidity, but our guns being on an elevation and the Confederates being in a field which sloped toward the creek, the shots passed over their heads, creating a stampede, but doing little, if any, damage to life or limb. Myself and others vainly urged the artillerymen to depress the guns. Either from inability to understand English, or, in the excitements thinking it was only necessary to load and fire, they kept banging away until the whole camp was deserted. Later the command moved forward until I reached the Fayetteville road and Sharp's house. While the command was taking position, I, with my orderly, Frank Ackoff, of the Fifth Missouri Infantry, went into an abandoned Arkansas camp, where I found a good breakfast of coffee, biscuit and fried green corn. Most of the tents were open—a musket with fixed bayonets being forced into the ground, butt up, and the flap of the tent held open by being caught in the flint lock. At that time besides a few Confederate sick, there were in the camp Lieut. Charles E. Farrand, in command of the dragoons, and his orderly. Half an hour later some straggling parties from the Third and Fifth Missouri set fire to some wagons and camp equipage. Sigel had four guns in the front, supported by the Third Missouri, with the cavalry and dragoons on the left in the timber. The Fifth Missouri was in reserve, except Company K, under Capt. Samuel A. Flagg, which was farther in the rear, guarding some thirty or forty prisoners. At this juncture I captured Colonel McMurtry, of Warsaw, Benton county, Missouri, an officer in Price's army. I took his Maynard carbine, two pistols and his sword, turning the three latter weapons over to two musicians of the Fifth Missouri, but retained the carbine. Later Colonel McMurtry escaped by representing himself to be a Confederate surgeon. At this time scattering shots were heard at some distance in our front, but no heavy firing. Armed men, mostly mounted, were seen moving on our right, in the edge of the timber. It was smoky, and objects at a distance could not, be seen very distinctly. Being at some distance in front of the command I saw a body of men moving down the valley toward us, from the direction we last heard Lyon's guns. I rode back and reported to Sigel that troops were coming, which had the appearance of the First Missouri, and seemed to be moving in a column. Presently, Sigel could see them. Not seeing their colors I suggested to Sigel that he had better show his, so that if it was our men they might not mistake us. Sigel's brigade, not being in regulation uniform, Colonel Sigel then turned to his color-bearer and ordered him to advance and wave his colors three times. As, this order was obeyed, Lieutenant Farrand, with his orderly, arrived from the Arkansas camp, each bearing a rebel guidon, which they had found, and with which they rode from the right of the lane, near Sharp's house, directly in front of the color-bearer of Sigel's regiment. Then there was music in the air! A battery we could not see opened with grape-shot, making a great deal of noise and the balls struck fence and trees, but not doing much damage, as far as observed, except to scare the men, who hunted for cover like a flock-of young partridges, suddenly disturbed. The confusion was very great, many of the men saying, "It is Totten's battery! It is Totten's battery!" The impression seemed to be general that Totten was firing into us, after seeing the rebel guidons of Farrand, as it was the common understanding that the Confederates had no grape, and these were grape-shot, certainly. It was subsequently learned that it was not Totten's battery, but Reid's Confederate battery, from Fort Smith, Arkansas, and was well supplied with grape from the Little Rock Arsenal. [278-279]

Colonel Sigel now evidently thought of retreat, as the only words I heard from him were, "Where's my guides?" Many instances, of individual cowardice among Sigel's officers could be given. I assisted Lieut. Emile Thomas, the only officer of his company that had the grit to stay, to reform the men. I do not know if we could have succeeded, had not a Confederate cavalry battalion suddenly appeared in our front, on the line of retreat. For a moment the two commands gazed upon each other, and then came a terrible rattle of musketry, and a great hubbub and confusion in the direction of Sigel's command, which was just around a bend in the road to our rear. In a twinkling, men, horses, wagons, guns, all enveloped in a cloud of dust, rushed toward us, and in spite of Lieutenant Thomas' utmost efforts, Company F started with all speed down the Fayetteville road toward the Confederate cavalry. The latter seeming to think they were being charged upon, wheeled and got out of the way very quickly. The bulk of Sigel's command turned to the east and were followed by a Confederate command, that captured one gun at the creek, many prisoners and left a considerable number of killed and wounded along the road. Perhaps one-third of the command went southwest and halted at the next house beyond Sharp's on the Fayetteville road, and here Doctor Smith, who was General Rains' division surgeon, came up with a long train of wagons and coaches, and was captured, but at once released on my intervention. Later I accompanied Doctor Smith to the battlefield, The one gun that was abandoned on the Fayetteville road was really saved by Captain Flagg, whose men drew the gun by hand until they found some horses, and the Confederate prisoners carried the ammunition in their arms. They came into Springfield the same evening by way of Little York.

Doctor Melcher was one of the most efficient and useful surgeons who cared for the wounded after the battle, working assiduously all that sultry afternoon and far into the night.

Colonel Sigel, of course, gave his reasons for his defeat, saying that he tried to obey his orders, which were to attack the enemy in the rear and to cut off his retreat. This he did, but he also cut off his own retreat very nearly, a circumstance he seems not to have counted on. The time of service of one of his two regiments of infantry, the Fifth Missouri, under Colonel Salomon, had expired some days before the battle and the men had insisted that they be discharged so they could return to their homes. On the first of August he had induced them to remain with the army eight days more. This latter term had expired the day before the battle. The men, therefore, under no obligations to fight except that they had marched out to do so, when the time came suddenly remembered that "they did not have to fight." Sigel's own regiment, the Third Missouri, which had fought at Carthage, its time having expired, had been mustered out, and the new regiment was composed of four hundred raw recruits, only a few in the regiment having ever seen any service. The men serving the artillery were utterly unfamiliar with gunnery and the general handling of a battery and were commanded by two lieutenants whose experience as artillerists, had been confined to the Prussian army in time of peace. Only about half the companies were officered by men with commissions, which, according to Sigel, was the fault of the three months' service. But over all it is claimed that Sigel's complete defeat was the result of an attack by vastly superior forces, the flower of McCulloch's army that was permitted to approach fatally near under the mistake that they were friends instead of enemies.

Capt. E. A. Carr, who later became a general, commanding the advanced guard of Sigel's brigade, gave the followings account of the retreat of that wing of the command which turned to the east:

At about nine o'clock I received word that Sigel's infantry was in full flight and that I was to retreat with all haste. After galloping away as best he could for about a mile and a half to the rear, I came upon Sigel at the spring where the army had halted the first night when returning from Dug Springs some days before. After a brief consultation it was it was decided to move South on the Fayetteville road until there was a chance to go out and circle around the pursuing enemy and then strike for Springfield. There were then present at the spring Sigel, Lieutenant-Colonel Albert, myself, with my fifty-six cavalrymen, two hundred of Sigel's badly demoralized infantry, one piece of artillery and two caissons. After retiring rather hastily for a mile or two a body of cavalry was observed in front, and Sigel sent me up to see the condition of affairs and report at once. Arriving at the front I discovered that the Confederate cavalry were coming in from right and forcing across the road to stop the retreating Federals and send them back to the care of McCulloch's division again. Reporting at once to Sigel, he at once directed me to turn off at the first right-hand road, which happened to be near the point where I then stood. Retreating along, this road in a brisk walk Sigel asked me to march slowly so that the footmen could keep up. I replied that unless they hurried forward they would be cut off at the crossing of Wilson's creek, and that the infantry ought to march as fast under the circumstances as a horse could walk. Sigel then said, "Go on, and we will keep up." However, on arriving at the creek, and looking back I saw that the infantry had not kept up but that a large body of Texas and Arkansas cavalry was moving down and would form an unpleasant junction with him in a few seconds. To use a Westernism there was no time for fooling then, and as I had waited long enough on the slow-motioned infantry to water my horses, and they were not yet in sight, I lit out for a place of safety, which I soon reached, and, after waiting another while for Sigel, I went on to Springfield. I was sorry to leave him behind, in the first place, but I supposed all the time he was close to me until I reached the creek, and then it would have done no good for my company to have remained and been cut to pieces also, as were Sigel's men, who were ambuscaded and all broken up, and Sigel himself narrowly escaped.
[280-281]

 


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