Volume 2, Number 9, Fall 1966
Continued from Spring Issue of Quarterly
Sat., Dec. 21, 1861
In St. Louis he began a diary because he would have an opportunity to send it home to his wife, Melissa.
Tuesday, Feb. 5
Our route most of the way was up the Valley of Flat River or Creek. The Valley was broad and the soil rich and in many places good farms were in cultivation. There too, the flying secesh had been hurried by a few loud words from some mountain howitzers. We reached Cassville, the county seat of Barry County, about two oclock. Lt. Col. Holland of Phelps, Missouri Regiment, is in command and he has about 100 men, a rather weak garrison in my opinion, to hold so important a post. The mill at Cassville had been set to work grinding for our army and was doing a good business. I had the pleasure of meeting friend Harrison here who has charge of mess and commissary store.
Another mill at Gadfly, is 13 miles west, has been occupied and set to work by the army. Col. Holland told me of an expedition on foot to Newtonia, twenty-five miles west of Cassville in Newton County, where he has learned a large quantity of fodder was in store for Prices army and that in his hurry to get away he had left, and he wished me to stop and take charge of the expedition. He had that day ordered Lt. Moore with a portion of the force at Gadfly to go to Newtonia or neighborhood and ascertain the facts of the case. I concluded to go on the expedition, and accordingly left the train which now moved on eight miles to a little town called Keetsville and encamped. Here Capt. Montgomery was stationed with company of 80 or 90 men. I was most fatigued with the long march from Rolla.
At midnight Col. Holland waked us and whispered that the train had been captured at Keetsville and an attack threatened on the town. We were up and armed in a short meter and about 40 men mustered into line, and marched to the outskirts of the town and formed a line of battle on both sides of the road to give the enemy a warm reception in case they came up on us. We each examined our arms and with an almost breathless silence, listened for any sound of the approaching enemy. Soon we caught the clatter of a wagon, which came more near, and finally with horses in a gallop drove into town, and then another and another, until the court house was completely surrounded with wagons, horses and mules. In about an hour the whole train, but one wagon, had arrived and been corralled around the Court House. Soon after came a squad of Montgomerys men, then Montgomery himself. Then another squad, and still another, mostly on foot and some minus hats and shoes; and it was not until after sunrise that the last came in.
All was excitement and noise and fear of an immediate attack prevented sleep to the citizens
and soldiers of Cassville that night. Each had his story of daring and miraculous escape to tell and it was with difficulty that I could get at the truth of the matter.
It appears that Capt. Montgomery had no intimation or fears of an attack and consequently neglected to post proper guards around: the town had no protection whatever. His men had gone to sleep in the empty houses about them, when suddenly they were surrounded and fired upon by 500 secesh, who had been lurking in the hills to cut off the trains carrying provisions to the army. Before the men could dress and arm themselves, volley after volley w a s fired crushing through the windows and into t h e buildings. Finally their fire began to be returned and two or three of their members shot dead. They began then seizing what horses they could and put into the brush.
Some of our men at the outset were badly (?) scared, without hats, coats, or shoes, broke for the woods. And in their attempt to escape, two were killed, one wounded. Two of the enemy were found dead and it is presumed that others were shot.
Montgomery lost 71 horses. This surprise is keenly felt by the Capt., and he swears a terrible revenge. The train was camped a mile from the town and at the first alarm the teams were harnessed a n d pushed through to Cassville, on double quick. One wagon was broke down on the road and was left, but recovered again in the morning. There was much anxiety felt at Cassville until the safety of the train was assured. This is not the only instance of cowardly bushwacking in the vicinity. Last Sunday one soldier and three home guards were returning from the Gadfly mill when they were fired upon from the west and in one instance killed. The others were all wounded, one quite severely. The mother of the slaughtered home guard, when she saw her son still and cold in death, raised her tearful eyes to Heaven and thanked her God that he died so glorious a death, in defense of the flag of our country. She had before lost a husband who was hanged for his devotion to his country and her only remaining son is a soldier in the army.
How many firesides and hearts are made desolate by the cruel and fratricide war begun without cause by the demagogues and plunderers of the South.
Wednesday, Feb. 26
Yesterday morning on the strength of information brought here, that a large quantity of flour belonging to Prices army was in store at Newtonia, Col. Holland sent a detachment of 60 men under Lt. Moore, to ascertain the truth of the report and if so take possession of it for our army and hold it until teams could be sent to bring it away. A message came in the evening confirming the report a n d this morning ten wagons and an escort of 25 men was placed under my command with orders to push on to Newtonia as soon as possible, load the flour and return as soon as possible.
It was thought by some to be impractical to send so many men away when the force at Cassville was so small and the danger of an attack so imminent. But in danger of an attack, the detachment at Newtonia was needed, an order for their return could just as easily bring the flour as to leave it. Accordingly I set out with my wagons and escort about 10 a. m. Most of the way was among hills, thickly covered with brush and in a neighborhood notoriously disloyal. We drove briskly on, reaching Gadfly at 1 p. m. But few knew our destination and were surprised that a halt was not ordered at Gadfly. We kept a sharp lookout until we reached the prairies about 7 miles from Newtonia and then pushed on our way more leisurely, reaching Newtonia before sundown, loading the wagons for an early start.
Newtonia is situated in the midst of a beautiful prairies and, though small, is a neat and flourishing little village. A large grist mill belonging to Judge Ritchie has been pressed into service and kept in operation by Price and a large quantity of flour was in store for his army, but his departure from the county was so hurried that he had no time to attend it.
Threats had been made during the day that we could not hold the place during the night, so a good guard was kept on the lookout. A high stone wall surrounding the barn yard, within which were our teams, wagons and camp, was a good protection against attack. A dozen other teams were pressed into service in the neighborhood, and in daylight the whole comprising a train of 30 wagons, was loaded and underway to Cassville, which was reached in safety by most of the teams before night. A few of the wagons and horses, rather heavily loaded, had remained in Gadfly and will come on tomorrow. I am pleased with the success of my first command and first expedition. We also made the discovery of a large quantity of salt and bacon, also in store for the rebels. We had not force enough to bring it away.
Friday, Feb. 28
The result of our Newtonia expedition is 451 sacks of flour and 2100 pounds of salt and the discovery of nearly that much more.
Today that portion of Phelps regiment here was mustered for pay. A suttler (note: the suttler was the forerunner of the commissary department.
He was permitted to sell to the soldiers) passing down to the army sold a large quantity of liquor to the soldiers and a general drunk was the consequence. Citizens were insulted and in some instances, men were dragged from their houses and threatened to be shot or hung, but Col. Holland soon put a quietus on this and guarded most of the houses. If the suttler was mobbed and his goods destroyed. I would say "Amen."
It is amusing to see the home guards. Most of them are long, gaunt, six-footers, mounted on the smallest kind of ponies, scarcely tall enough to keep their riders feet from the ground. Their long rifles when shouldered, look like liberty poles. It is not uncommon to see one with a short stub of a gun, that when carried as a support, will scarcely reach to the top of the seeded and dilapidated stove pipe worn in place of a hat. Some hats are brimless and some almost crownless. Again will be seen a 200 or 300-pounder seated on a little filly that reels under the burden of mans flesh. Then a boy or a pigmy will be found perched on the back of a large raw-bone horse. Falstaffs army of ragamuffins is not to be compared with them, when scouring through the country with seedy butternut coats, long hair and blankets streaming in the wind, tis enough to make a horse laugh.
Monday, March 3
The train did not get away from Cassville until 8 a. in., and its progress was not rapid, making only about 20 miles to Sugar Creek. Here General Daviss Division was encamped and the sight of a large body of men and tents and the Sound of drum and fife recalled scenes about Rolla in December. We passed through Keitsville, the scene of the fight a few nights ago; the houses, particularly where most of the men were quartered, was completely riddled w it h balls; some even passed through 3 or 4 ceilings. It was suggested to use it as a pepper box. Country broken and rocky. The night found me several miles into Arkansas or Dixie. I found Quartermaster at Sugar Creek. Slept out doors in open air end got hair and blankets wet from a slight fall of rain.
Tuesday, March 4
Fred Edwards and I walked to Cross Hollow 12 miles from Sugar Creek which place was reached at 12 a. m. Passed along the place where a skirmish with Price occurred a few days ago. The road was strewed with dead horses. In all about 20 or 30, mostly our own. Our loss was 19 men killed and 7 wounded. Among our wounded was Major Bowen and Capt. Switzler. The secesh, after a few rounds, fled. Col. Dodge signed my voucher for extra pay. I stayed with him during the afternoon and day. Col. Dodge is a gentleman and a man.
Wednesday, March 5
In the morning I took the Colonels compass and located the Camp of the Iowa 4th to agree with the meridian. The Colonel went to General Curtiss and gave me an introduction and a recommendation to be detailed as topographical engineer. That was done with the condition, however, that I might go to the Regt. and pass a couple of days. And in accordance with this agreement I made preparation for going to the 35th. The General advised me to wait a day or two, because they would be at Sugar Creek and the country in that direction was more secure than about Bentonville. But scouting the idea of danger, Edwards and myself set out for the trip on foot and unaccompanied by others.
I think Cross Hollows by nature is strongly fortified, a deep ravine intersects the Fayetteville road at right angles and several branches run out this ravine from both sides. And there are other smaller ravines enlarging these branches so that the whole country is but a succession of deep, narrow, rocky and crooked ravines and ridges between them. A single cannon at the head of the ravine would do terrible execution among an advancing foe..... If Price had the force reported, I cannot see why he did not make a stand here.
The road to Bentonville was crooked and blind through the woods with scarce a house on the thicket route. We saw scarcely any on the road except here and there a butter-nut and his own cabin. Osage Spring, where Siegel was two days before, is a fine camping ground with plenty of wood and several fine springs. At Bentonville we tried at several houses to get something to eat, but everyone said they had nothing for themselves, that between the two armies they were eaten out of everything they had..... Many of the best houses in Bentonville had been turned by our own men (the Benton Hussars) ... War is but a system of atrocities and barbarities.. found camp of 36th at 4 p.m.
Sat Mar. 8
About 3 a.m. we left our position in the cornfield and after various meanderings through the woods, around the hills and ravines we found the main body of our army encamped on a small stream, preparing something to eat for the coming day. The muddy rivulet was eagerly sought by our thirsty men and never did water taste more good . . . our fine meal, pancakes.... while sitting around the fire, the sudden roar of a cannon burst upon our ears, like the bursting of a thunder bolt and so near to seem just upon
us. Then explosion after explosion followed in quick succession. Making the very earth tremble... one ball struck in the fire around where a score of men were sitting. Not long did the enemys guns monopolize the thunder of the hour, for our guns were brought into position. Our line was quickly formed and the field of sulphurous fire quickly reached. Seigels batteries were added to those in operation and our line formed on the left for their support.. Other regiments arrived upon the field and our whole line belched smoke and flame.
The enemys guns were not idle or poorly managed, for while we lay upon our faces hugging the earth, a storm of iron was rained in our very midst.... In the meantime the enemys fire began to slacken and Company B was sent to reconnoiter a small clump of timber. It was found to be filled with secesh and our guns hurled death and destruction among them. A rocky and almost inaccesible hill, three-fourths of a mile in our front, was seen to be black with the enemy. Again our artillery searched them out and shells were distinctly seen to burst right in their midst, tearing up the earth and rocks in a fearful manner. For a while they were not disposed to give up their elevated and advantageous position and spitefully fired their rifles and shot guns into our skirmishers . Not long, however, could they stand the storm of shell hurled among them and rapidly vacated the premises sharp lookout was kept upon the hills for flying secesh and whenever a butternut squadron was discovered hurrying away, a few shells would give impetus to their flight. And it was amusing to see them widely scatter upon receipt of a message from our guns. I am told by prisoners that at the time two of our shells killed 60 of their number..., as we advanced our right was hit by a scattering of fire . . then ceased . . . the 36th marched to the rocky hill directly in front, expecting to receive a warm reception from some concealed foe. The base of the hill is reached and not a secesh appeared or a shot exchanged .. its precipitous sides present an impassible barrier, but a detour to the left discloses a passage. Summit reached. Great God, what a scene is presented. The mangled trunks of men are thickly scattered around from each tree or sheltering rock, the groans of the wounded arise. Muskets, saddle horses, blankets and clothes hang on every bush or on gory men strewing the ground. And now in the valley to the right, 1000 vile cheers proclaim the victory ours. Dead horses, dead men, and dismounted guns are strewn over the blood drenched field. And as some gun is taken or trophy secured, renewed cheers and shouts of gladness ring out upon the air. As we move down the side of the hill, burning camp fires, half-eaten breakfasts, sacks of flour, sides of bacon, scattered in profusion as well as confusion, all around not one regret did I hear that we had interrupted their morning repast. Our hungry boys siezed on every thing eatable.... the right and left wings met up on Spr. road. Siegel has a more nervous, but joyous twinkle than the day before... It is good to see the stalwart soldier giving water from his canteen to the wounded and thirsty Southerners, who but now were penting for each others life. They're enemies no more.
We camped but a mile from Keetsville, in Missouri, without supper or a means of getting one. I found the head of a hog that had been but recently killed and obtained a few scraps of meat from its jaw.. after roasting them at a fire was glad to eat it without salt or bread. Heaven grant the speedy restoration of peace and deliverance from such scenes again.
Sunday March 9.
Arrived in Keetsville. . Halt ordered. I talked with prisoners. One was Thomas Price; had been prisoner before and if I have not forgotten, took oath of allegiance, so death will be the fate.... Then another had been candidate for Congress against Coe Phelps. They were taken to Springfield .. . a slight rain occured before noon.. marched back to valley and halted during severe rain storm . . after storm subsided marched on .... I could get but little to eat, but each morsel was worth so much gold..
Monday Mar. 10
Loss by 36th . . 7 killed and 40 wounded.. 24 taken prisoners. These included both battles of Bentonville and Rose Hill.
More than a week after March 11
Bobbs Knob McDonald County, Missouri.
General Curtiss was about to move his camp on Sugar Creek towards Bentonville ... the first duty assigned to me was to survey the valley down the creek, accompanying a foraging expedition. A mile below the camp the creek entirely disappears, the water sinking into the ground and no appearance of water is again visable for four or five miles, and then it came out again. Valley is very rocky and wild and few who live here, and these look as if they were banished from civilized society for their evil deeds. We went along for about 15 miles before anything in shape of forage found., here bluffs or mountains receded from creek forming basin of ampitheatre 3 or 4 miles. In here were some good farms and we found corn, oats, and hay sufficient to load wagons ... in the center was an isolated peak which could be seen for several miles it is called Bobbs Knob.
The men comprising the expedition behaved
more like a set of desperados than anything else. Horses, chickens, guns, and pigs were taken and even smoke houses were robbed of their last vestige of meat. They wanted me to take a horse, but I have not yet so far debased my self as to become a horse thief... stayed all night... In the morning every ravine was a roaring cataract. It was night when the camp was reached.
Thursday March 20.
Heron and Chandler, who were wounded and taken prisoners, returned today and were exchanged. They confirm death of McCulloh and Mcintosh, Clarkson and Slack. Eighteen prisoners were brought in from about 25 miles distant. They sought to meddle with our foraging.
Thursday March 27, 1862
Platted most of the day. In the afternoon rode 3 or 4 miles over the country which refreshed me much. Purchased some chickens for our mess from a dirty-faced barefooted, Missouri girl about 16 or 17 years old. O, what a country, for tangled hair girls and tumble-down log houses. I should like to know how much longer we are to stay in our present camp.
This evening the darkies are giving a sort of theatrical entertainment, a fiddle is constantly being sawed by one. The other join in the dance, and the way they hoe it down is a caution. I never saw better dancing and all can get it about alike. They are a happy set of mortals.
Friday April 1, closed diary.
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