Volume 36 , Number 2 , Fall 1996


A Confederate Diary

(August 1, 1861--January 9, 1862) Part I

by Dr. R.A. Byrd?

 


Editor’s Note: The authorship of this extremely rare diary by a Confederate surgeon is uncertain. Part of its significance lies in the author’s presence at Wilson’s Creek, Springfield, Mo., and other Ozark places as well as the author’s extreme hatred for the Dutch. Additional interest lies in the connection to the Layton and Foster families.

A transcription is in the Missouri State Archives, deposited in the Adjutant General Collection c. 1961 by Missouri National Guard Capt. Orval Henderson, Jr., who also provided commentary in the notes. We have left most of the original spellings and abbreviations. The original diary was in the possession of Missouri Adjutant General Albert D. Sheppard (1951-1965) of Doniphan, Mo.

Currently, Civil War historian, Jerry Ponder of Mason, Texas, offers the best analysis for authorship. Jerry has presented strong circumstantial evidence for Dr. R. A. Byrd, then of Iron County, Missouri, and later of Randolph County, Arkansas. The Quarterly welcomes any additional information that may conclusively determine the authorship.

Camp Look Out, Barry Co. MO August 1st 1861

Just six weeks since I left home.1 Camped a week in Reynolds Co. Mo. on Black River. Was elected 1st Lt. of a Company, got tired of them and left. Went on to Doniphan. Found the Ripley Co. Bn. under Col. Jeff Thompson. Joined up in a small Co. of Rangers under Major White, Texas Rangers. Stayed a week, visiting Pocahontas, in the mean time, learning Genl. McBrides Div. was at West Plains in Howell Co and being sent for by a friend, Col. of the 2nd Regt, I struck out for that camp.

Rode hard for three days overtook them in Arkansas. I was appointed assistant surgeon of that Regt. Brigade of 2000 men. We traveled on into Arkansas in the direction of Camp Walkin. Heard quarles of Gov. Jackson and Genl. McCullocks and Prices Price past through there several little towns Yellville, Carrollton, Berryville, etc. and at last arrived here, 5 days since, and found some 20 or 30 thousand troops from Missouri, Arkansas and Texas. Splendid looking Regts that will fight like hell, when the time comes. Recd. appointment asst surgeon 2nd Regt. Dr. Wooten.

Today we start for Springfield 60 miles N of here, where the Missourians under Lyon are said to be fortifying. I think and hope it may be another Mannassas.2 Staff officers expect hard fighting but who can doubt our success. Our Brigade is poorly armed, but make up for it in strong hearts. There can be no such word as fail with such brave men.

August 2nd 1861. This was a long tedious march on yesterday. The road thronged with troops for 20 miles. Dust was knee deep where we went. The men were much fatigued, but in good spirits and eager to get at the Yankees. We left our sick at Cassville, Mo. in the Courthouse, which we converted into a hospital, for the present. Some were very sick but no deaths yet.

August 3rd 1861. Cave Creek. Arrived here about 2 P. M. yesterday Our pickets came rushing in scared nearly to death having been attacked by the enemy 7 or 8 miles in the advance, in the direction of Springfield. Several killed on both sides, which caused much excitement.

The troops were called to arms and seemed to be anxious for a fight, which did not come off. Though awful dusty and disagreeable hot as can be. Such times as Missouri men had. Troops coming in all the time expecting all the time the commencement of a big fight. And God grant to be with us

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that we may succeed in driving them from the earth.

Aug 4th 1861. Cave Creek in Camp yesterday another exciting time. News came in that the enemy was in 2 Mi of us. Troops all called out to meet them marched a short distance out to meet the Scouts (Enemy) and learned they had retreated in the direction of Springfield. Quite a disappointment for our men who are spoiling for a fight. Troops holding themselves in readiness for a fight all the time expecting all the time to march into them. Weather still hot dry and dusty and disagreeable. Water miserable & hard to get, all hands are as dirty as can be, Lord what a time! But fight we will and fight we must, and that before long. Today looked gloomy for a while in consequence of disagreement among the Generals. No one in particular having charge.

At last Gen McCullock was given supreme command of all the forces and gave orders for a march at Midnight to night the enemy encampment 26 miles from here so we could attack at day break. This order gave general satisfaction and preparation began at once.

August 5th 1861. We left Cave Creek at 12 last night but found that the enemy had flown we came on in hot pursuit. He was just half day in advance. We camped at Big Spring found their camp fires sill burning. 12 miles to Springfield. Had little to eat and all hands pretty well broke down. Consequently we decided to remain here all night. The enemy is laying everything waste as he goes. Thousands on thousands of bushells of corn being burned up. Oats wheat and corn all the same.

Aug 6th 1861. Traveled about a mile & laid up expect to follow up the enemy tomorrow at dawn, if not tonight. It seems he is badly scared and is running fast. Hope we may overtake him soon and give him Hell. The Texas Rangers this evening captured 2 loads of lead and powder and 4 prisoners. We are not to move tonight.

Aug 7th 1861. Order today are to cook 3 days rations & it is likely we will move on Springfield tonight where the enemy is said to be fortifying. Our forces now consist of One Louisians Regt., Seven Arkansas Regiments, 1100 Texas Rangers with some 10,000 Missourians many of whom are unarmed & a warm time is expected. This evening the orders for a move are countermanded, and we will remain here till morning and perhaps longer.

It is really sickening just to think of only 10 miles between us and the enemy and the men all keen to advance and give him battle, and the Commanders holding back in this way. Too bad. Too bad. Ten Generals, and all together would not make one good commander. I believe they are afraid to attack. This is my opinion privately expressed by the by.

Aug 8th 1861. Breakfast over & no orders about moving. Hell and Damnation what do they mean. Suspense is killing us all. If we do not move today something will be done. Hell to such damn one horse commanders. God’s moments are flowing and I fear the time has already passed for a successful movement.

Aug 9th. Still in camp without any hopes of an order. Much grumbling in consequence. The Yankees it is reported are about leaving Springfield, they are reported to have robbed the banks of all the specie and sent it to St. Louis. Oh for a chance at them before they leave, and here we lie down trodden wherein all probability if we had done so we could have captured them all very easy if we had tried, but it seems the time has passed.

August 10 1861. Last night the orders were to move at nine o’clock, all ready when it commenced raining, and the orders were countermanded. This morning still cloudy but has rained but little. I wish we could go. Provisions are scarce, everything used up, everybody anxious to attack the enemy. The plan of attack is drawn up and if we can get there must be successful -night - I had scarcely written the above before it was reported that the enemy was, and sure enough the firing commenced and we found we were entirely surrounded. It seems that the picket line had been called in or had not been sent out as usual. We being lulled into security, but the hard fighting and the greatest of bravery we won the day.

There is no telling how many of the Yankees were killed. I counted by riding thru the woods over 80 dead. Our loss is more of wounded than killed. I do not think there were a great many killed. The great Gen. Lyon is among the dead, this is the best of all. I never heard bullets whiz so in all my life, they shot sometimes into our Hospital Camp. Wounded

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Dr. Small3 in the neck. Killed Dr. Wootens horse. We broke for a while but rallied again and did the best we could under the circumstances. My esteemed friend4 I regret most of all was brought in badly wounded by a grape shot in the leg. I hope however it will not be serious. Many of the poor fellows they stood it well. In the morning we will have several amputations to make. I suppose it will not be long till we move on Springfield.

Col Jno A. Foster

Though it seems they have fled from here by this time, we took most all of their artillery with much small arms. They should in my opinion have been followed up and cut to pieces. They had every advantage over us 10 or 15000 men. Our men fought like Devils. A few more such licks and Missouri will be free.

What a pitiful sight to ride through the brush & see so many dying in the scorching sun. They have come in with a flag and begged leave to care for the wounded and bury their dead which was granted.

August 11 1861. Yesterday one of the hardest battles on record was fought. It is estimated that the enemy lost over 2000. How it is I cannot tell. Only that the slaughter was great. So far as I can learn from 150 to 200 of our men were killed. Our Brigade suffered more than any other. There are 60 or 70 wounded tho no dead. I cannot tell tho we hear today that the Dutch have fled in the direction of St. Louis. We are following along after him today but he has a days march advantage of us. We are so fond of holding back. It is uncertain about overtaking him. I am still at the Hospital having participated in may operations today After all many of our wounded are likely to die. Poor fellows. They stand it well. Several of the enemy’s wounded are here. I understand we got 600 prisoners. I shall follow on after the army this evening leaving several Sgts. here with the men. Many of the citizens of Springfield came out today to see us. It being the first chance they have had. The Dutch kept them in strings. They the Dutch report as usual all the glory on their side. Dam him I hope we may overtake him and use him up.

August 12 1861. Stayed at the Camp with the wounded last night, and overhauled the army this morning 5 miles from the Battle field. Cannot learn what the plans of our Commanders are. They seem to have given up the pursuit of the enemy. Unfortunately we are without General Officers at least competent ones. There is no telling what our next movement will be - I left the field covered with dead horrible sight. No one to bury them. Many of the wounded are lying where they fell in the blazing sun unable to get water and aid of any kind. Blow flies swarm over the living and the dead alike. I saw men not yet dead their eyes nose & mouth full [ofi maggots. And this is the end of the third day after the Battle & McCullock is camped within an hour of a victorious field. A fine commentary on the humanity of our country -- Our dead have all been buried and our wounded are being moved into Springfield to comfortable quarters.

I visited this celebrated town today for the first time. It was crowded with soldiers and citizens. The flag of the Confederacy was raised amidst the wildest enthusiasm by all the people. Everyone seemed wild with joy except a few sad faced Dutch who had been left behind by their army. They looked as if they thought their last day had come --Gen McCullock issued a proclamation which should give much satisfaction to all.

August 13th 1861. Today we moved to a new camp nearer to the town where forage and provisions are plenty. The fair sex, God bless them are doing all they can in the way of cooking, serving, mending, nursing and for the sick and wounded. Where our next movement will take us nobody knows. I hope to God it will be forward on the trail of the cowardly Dutch --Visited Springfield today much excitement in town. Had a good dinner today which went well after having lived on roastingears for several days.

I got a correct statement of the number of armed men in our army today. Those employed in the late fight 11548 men in arms 16000 in all. So it seems they not only out numbered us in battle but had every other advantage. Position fortification & still we killed 5 of them to their 1 of us and routed them from the field. Historians say it is the bloodiest battle on the record listing only 6 hours & a half.

August 14 1861. Haydius [Hayden’s ?] Spring 4 miles from Springfield, (East) no sign yet of a forward movement. Hear the Dutch are still flying in the direc-

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tion of Rolla, burning their camp equipment as they go to lighten their load and speed their flight. Saw yesterday a specimen of the Amazonian5 type dressed in mens clothes. She was captured in uniform & armed & fighting the same as the balance of them.

August 15 1861. Still in camp. Cold nights and warm days very much sickness as a result. Keeps me busy all the time I being the Surgeon in Camp. Many sick apply for discharges to go home and get well, disgusted on account of the incompetence of the General Officers. Some have deserted. I hope we may leave here soon.

August 16 1861. Moved camp today into the suburbs of Springfield. Went in & visited the hospitals, the town is full of wounded men of both armies. Helped take off a leg today this was the 7th. Called to see my friend Col. Foster badly wounded in the leg. Improving slowly. Noticed in the reported killed Col. P. P. Brickey6 late of Potosi. Poor fellow he was in fine spirits a few days before the fight when I saw him last.

Called on some old Virginians in town today. Got a good dinner and some fine old whiskey. Whiskey of that quality so wonderfully scarce out here.

August 17th 1861. In camp today. A man came to my tent today with a congestive chill. He died in a short time after. He had been sick sometime. Several of our wounded have also died. Weather is hot and dry, have had no rain for sometime (weeks) we will probably be here some days yet and there’s something else. I would like very much to hear from home but cannot.

August 18 1861. Sunday so they say altho all days look alike to me. Was called on today by an old friend Tom Layton who took me home with him, to dinner. He has a nice lovable family & gave me a fine dinner and some good old restfull spirits.

August 19 1861. Today Gov. Jackson put out his proclamation making Missouri an Independent State. It gave great satisfaction to us all. We are now drilling & firing up for a big campaign. We will beat them again if we can only come up with them. We are told they are fortifying Rolla. Which is likely to afford us a big fight if we ever catch up with him.

August 20 1861. Today it rained hard all day. We have had news of another fight in Virginia. Southerns victorious as usual. Nothing of importance here. Good deal of sickness in camp and of course plenty for me to do.

August 21st 1861. Nothing of importance Transpired today, but the general monotony of camp life. I am kept so close that I have no time to look at the country. Which as far as I have been near town is a very beautiful and fertile one. Crops are excellent what little there is left by the Dutch.

August 22 1861. Last night was a light one for us all. It commenced raining early in the night & by midnight our tent was overflowed & we had to move into a house some distance away. We have orders to be ready to move in the morning but where I do not know. Part of the Brigade will remain here but most of us will move somewhere. Quite cool today fine for ague & like ailments but thank God we are to move somewhere.

Left Springfield today at 12. We marched 12 miles in a N W direction, where we are bound is still a mystery. In the direction of Kansas at present. Came through some beautiful country prairie as far as the eye could reach. Left most of the army near Springfield. Weather cool and pleasant. Appointed Surgeon of the 2nd Regiment today in place of Dr. Wooten who has been promoted to Staff Surgeon in place of Dr. Headler resigned.

August 24 1861. Moved about 12 miles today still in the dark as to where we are going. Pass many beautiful residences. Some of them Union Men away from Home. Crops are fine, any amount of fruit, mellons & c along the road.

August 25th 1861. Came about 20 miles today we are now near Stockton in Cedar Co., Mo. Heard from Genl Raines7 Camped at that place. Who sent word that he expected an attack that night from the Kansas Jayhawkers who are said to be infesting the country. Kept a strict Guard out all night in case of surprise. The supposition in camp now is that we are moving on Ft Scott, Kansas which is said to be well fortified by the Dutch.

August 26th 1861. Marched 4 mi today and camped at Stockton, Co[unty] Seat of Cedar Co. Quite a pretty little town, can’t say how long we will stay here. I hope not

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long. Measles getting bad in camp.

August 27 1861. Still in Stockton no talk of a move. Hot as Hell. Much sickness. Inactivity would worry the patience of Job. I hear nothing more of the enemy. I suppose they are all gone to K. C.

August 28 1861. Last night I went to town and found a dance in progress at the Court House. Looked on a while saw some very pretty girls tapping to the light fantastic toe.

Today several divisions of the army camp in swelling the numbers here considerable. Some important movement is on hand evidently, but is still kept a secret,

but I suppose we will find out by waiting. I hope we may have an opportunity soon of giving them another bit of Wilson Creek.

August 29 1861. All hands off today to again marched about 5 miles westward none but Missouri troops along. Undoubtedly Fort Scott, Kansas is our destination some 50 mi from here.

August 30 1861. Traveled today nearly 35 mi, hot and dry. Still enroute for Kansas. We will soon be there and then we will see what kind of a stand the Dutch will make.

August 31st 1861. Going again passed thru Nevada, Co. seat of Vernon Co., Mo. which was a short time ago completely sacked by Jim Lane’s Jayhawkers. Vernon joins the Kansas line and has suffered much from them. Only one family now in Nevada. Said to be several thousand troops in Fort Scott. And it is likely they will stand fire.

To be continued.

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