History of Greene County, Missouri

R. I. Holcombe, Editing Historian

Chapter 10
From the Battle of Wilson's Creek to the Close of 1861

Part 1
The Southern Army of Occupation — The Bountiful Harvest of 1861 — The Boys in the Gray Jackets — Good-Bye to the Military — Gen. Price Goes to Lexington — Gens. Pearce and McCulloch Go Back to Arkansas — McCulloch Censures the Missourians — "Greene County as Loyal as Boston" — Col. Taylor's Administration —Those Who Cared for the Union Wounded — Life in "Secessia" — Operations in October — Gen. Fremont Comes into the County


Soon after Gens. McCulloch and Price had taken possession of Springfield and Greene county, scouting parties were sent out through the county, and a great deal of forage seized, horses and mules "pressed," and, in some instances, negro slaves forced into service. By and by, notwithstanding McCulloch's proclamation, a number of Union men were made prisoners, brought to Springfield and thrown into jail. Some of these had belonged to Phelps' regiment of Home Guards; others had not been in any sort of service, but were known to be uncompromising Union men.

There was a most abundant harvest reaped in Greene county in 1861. More bountiful crops were raised this season than had ever been known before. Perhaps it was well this was so. Three or four large armies supplied themselves from the fields, the barns, the granaries and the pastures of the county this year, and after they had wasted and destroyed about as much as they had consumed, there was still something left to feed the citizens. Upon the authority of well-informed persons, it may be stated that the products of the farms of Greene county supplied the inhabitants, and, in great part, the armies of Lyon, Sigel, Fremont, Hunter, and Price and McCulloch for a part of two years, and much of the supplies was carried into the third year. It is said that over $3,000,000 of claims for quartermaster's stores and commissary supplies furnished the Union army by the Union people of the county out of the county's supply, had been filed up to 1870. What the Confederates seized and appropriated for the use of their forces, can only be estimated, and some place it at a value of $1,000,000; and what the Union troops took from the "disloyal" citizens has never been taken into account. There are no "rebel claims" on file from Greene county.

The wheat crop had been bountiful, but much of it had not been threshed. Two or three threshing machines, owned by Union men, were known to be in the county. Gen. Price gave orders that the owners of these machines or their employes were not to be arrested, and their horses were not to be "pressed." After the county passed into the undisputed possession of the Southern troops the machines went to work, and following them up came the wagons of the Confederate quartermasters and hauled off the wheat about as fast as it was threshed to the mills to be ground into flour for the use of the troops who were fighting for Southern independence. The proprietors of the machines were wont to stealthily send word to their Union neighbors and brethren not to be in a hurry to have their threshing done, but to wait until a "more convenient season," and it so happened that the farmers of the county who were secession in sentiment had more of their wheat taken by Price's men than had the Union men.


Very many of the people of the county gladly welcomed the Southern troops as their deliverers, and nearly all classes sought to make friends of them. The Louisianians and Texans were great favorites. People came from all parts of the county to visit the camps about Springfield, and all called on the men from Louisiana. Some of the principal Southern officers, Missourians and Confederates both, sent for their families to join them at Springfield, and there were many joyful reunions. The town was almost a vast hospital, and many a mother and father came to nurse a son, many a wife to care for a husband, many a daughter to care for a brother or father. [363-364]

Yet sad as were the scenes in all parts of the town, there were found time, opportunity, and inclination for festivities and jollities, for social pleasures and pastimes, for merry-making and for love- making. Grim-visaged War for a brief season smoothed his wrinkled front, and there was many a sound of revelry by night, and by day as well.

Gen. Price's headquarters, in the Graves house, on Boonville street, well across "Jordan," and McCulloch's headquarters, at the house of the widow of Gen. N. R. Smith, on Boonville street, east side, near the public square, were resorted to by hundreds of both sexes from all parts of the county, anxious to see the two great military chieftains, if for no other reasons.

The troops were camped all about the town. Some of the encampments were on where is now the western part of the city; some across "Jordan," between "Old Town" and North Springfield; some out on Gov. Phelps' farm; some at the Fulbright spring. Here they were visited daily by ladies and others from the city and surrounding country. Pretty soon a large portion of McCulloch's army went into tamp near the Pond Spring, west of town, where McCulloch had his headquarters for a time.


After a season of about three weeks of rest, of refreshment, of binding up of wounds, of recruiting, Gen. Price's army prepared to leave Springfield and Greene county for other fields where battles were to be fought and laurels were to be won. Lane and Montgomery were at Ft. Scott and other points on the border of Kansas, making incursions into Missouri and doing damage to the secessionists and the secession cause. Far up to the northward, across the Missouri river, in different portions of North Missouri, were considerable armies of State Guards eager to cross the river and to come to the help of their secession-brethren under Gen. Price. Gen. Tom Harris and Col. Martin Greene had a rather large and efficient brigade in Northeast Missouri; Cols. Boyd, Saunders, Patton, Childs and Wilfley had regiments, and Capt. Kelly had a battery, all in Northwest Missouri, while smaller detachments were in nearly every county north of the river awaiting the opportunity to rally under the flag of the grizzly bears borne by Gen. Price and the men who had fought under him at Wilson's Creek. [365]

But between the ardent Secessionists of North Missouri and the army of Gen. Price lay the Missouri river, and along the Missouri was stretched a cordon of Federal military posts keeping watch and ward that no troops bearing arms for the Southern cause, might cross. At Kansas City, at Lexington, at Glasgow, at Boonville, at Jefferson City, and so on to the mouth of the river, Federal Garrisons were keeping the fords. To make a demonstration in this direction in order to release these isolated recruits and strengthen his army, and to pay his respects to the jayhawkers along the Kansas border, Gen. Price resolved to move his army to the north.

Accordingly about the 22d of August Gen. Price's army struck its tents in and about Springfield and pointed its colors to the north. The greater portion of the Greene county men were left in Springfield as a garrison. Some of them went along as volunteers and were in the fight at Lexington, and, as everywhere else, gave a good account of themselves. A portion of the troops took the Bolivar road and were at Bolivar, Aug. 26th, but the majority went by way of Mt. Vernon. The objective point was Lexington, but it was not designed to allow the Kansas troops to gather and follow in the rear. Therefore the army moved in a sort of curve toward the West. On the route, at Drywood creek, in Vernon county, and about fifteen miles from the eastern border of Kansas, Rains' division had a skirmish on the 7th of September with some Kansas troops under Lane and Montgomery, brushed them out of the way, and drove them across the line to Ft. Scott, with but small loss on either side. Capt. Bledsoe of the artillery was here wounded. Five days later Price's army invested Col. Mulligan with 2,800 Federals at Lexington. On the 20th Mulligan surrendered.

Within a day or two after the departure of Gen. Price the forces under Gen. McCulloch left the county, going to Cassville, thence (some of them) into the Indian Territory and from thence to Fayetteville; a detachment or two remained in McDonald county. McCulloch's withdrawal was occasioned partly because of the expiration of the term of service of a large number of the Arkansas troops, who demanded to be sent home, and partly pursuant to orders received from Polk and Hardee, who, it is said, received orders from Richmond that no more Confederate help was to be given to Missouri until she should secede. And so away went the gray-coated Louisianians, the long-haired sombrero-crowned Texans, and the "wild and woolly" Arkansans, with McCulloch and McIntosh and Greer and Pearce and all the rest of them. Col. Hindman, with the Arkansas men whose time had expired, left August 21st. [366]

McCulloch was disgusted with the situation in Missouri. August 24, from his headquarters at Pond Spring, he wrote to Gen. Hardee:


* * * I am in no condition to advance, or even to meet an enemy here, having little ammunition or supplies of any kind, will in consequence shorten my lines by falling back to the Arkansas line, near the Indian Territory. * * * We have little to hope or expect from the people of this State. The force now in the field is undisciplined and led by men who are more politicians—not a soldier among them to control and organize this mass of humanity. The Missouri forces are in no condition to meet an organized army, nor will they ever be while under their present leaders. I dare not join them in my present condition, for fear of having my men completely demoralized. We lost at least 300 stand of arms in the battle of the 10th, taken by their straggling camp followers from my killed and wounded, and before the encasement they borrowed of Gen. Pearce 600 more, none of which they would return after the fight was over. They stole the tents my men left at Cassville (to facilitate their march), and brought them after us the next day on the same road. In a word they are not making friends where they go, and from all I can see we had as well be in Boston, as far as the friendly feelings of the inhabitants are concerned.1 [Rebellion Record, Series I, vol. 3, p. 672].

On his departure for Lexington Gen. Price left Col. T. T. Taylor in command at Springfield, with perhaps 500 men under him. Col. Taylor had a great many Union citizens brought before him on charges of giving aid and comfort to the enemy, in various ways, as having belonged to the Union Home Guard, giving information to Lyon and Sigel, having arms about their premises, etc. Col. Taylor was usually very reasonable, and unless a man's Unionism was of a flagrant character, he was pretty apt to get off with a slight reprimand, only a few, comparatively, being put in jail. Meantime scouting and "pressing," went on with reasonable vigor, and the transportation department and its commissariat came to be pretty well supplied.

On the 8th of September Col. Taylor sent a letter to Gen. Fremont at St. Louis asking for an interpretation of the latter's order in his celebrated proclamation of August 30, that "all persons who shall be taken with arms in their hands within these lines shall be tried by court martial and if found guilty will be shot." Taylor wished to know if Fremont really meant what he said, and if his order applied to wounded prisoners as well as to sound ones, adding that he had several hundred wounded Union prisoners under his control in the hospitals at Springfield, and since Fremont's singular proclamation, he was at a loss to know how to treat them! Gen. Fremont replied on the 14th, saying to Taylor, among other things: "You have wholly misapprehended the meaning of the proclamation. * * * I desire it to be clearly understood that the proclamation is intended distinctly to recognize all the usual rights of an open enemy in the field, and to be in all respects strictly conformable to the ordinary usages of war.

It was not prepared with any purpose to ignore the ordinary rights of humanity with respect to wounded men, or to those who are humanely engaged in alleviating their sufferings. The Federal wounded at Springfield were not shot, as indeed they were never intended to be, but it is to be hoped that Fremont was enabled in some degree to understand the ridiculous position in which he had placed himself by his foolish proclamation.

Col. Taylor will ever be gratefully remembered by the wounded Union soldiers left in Springfield after Wilson's Creek. Of his generous conduct toward the stricken prisoners Surgeon S. H. Melcher bears this testimony: "Col. T. T. Taylor, who had command of the post, was very kind to us. He furnished salt to the hospital, when it was impossible to procure it from other sources, greatly to the disgust of some of the members of his command, who thought the Federal prisoners were not 'worth their salt.' Col. Taylor was as gallant and brave an officer as he was chivalrous and generous."


Surgeon Melcher, it will be remembered, was one of the surgeons in charge of the Federal wounded. Speaking of the kindness shown the wounded men under his care by the citizens of Springfield, be says: "The ladies and gentleman of Springfield were very good to our wounded. I cannot remember the names of all of them, but some of them were Mrs. Col. Marcus Boyd and her two daughters, one of whom is now Mrs. Lula Kennedy; Mrs. Mary Phelps; Mrs. Crenshaw, Mrs. Worrell, Mrs. Graves, Mrs. Waddill, Mrs. Beal, Mrs. Jameson, Messrs. Smith, Henslee, and Wm. Massey."

Of a special valuable service rendered by the latter gentleman Dr. Melcher writes: "During the last month of our suffering, before Fremont's army arrived, I was entirely out of funds [the $2,500 left by Sturgis with Dr. Franklin having become exhausted] and had no way to procure food for the 200 wounded from the Wilson's Creek battle, the Confederates, with the single exception of Col. Taylor, having never furnished us anything. William Massey came to me one day, and said that, he and others knew we were in sore need, and that he wanted to help us. I told him I did not know how he would ever be repaid. Mr. Massey said that I could have any money I needed by simply giving him my individual note for the amount, trusting to the government to some time repay him. Well knowing at the time that I had no authority to do so, I accepted his generous offer, and the many hundreds of dollars that Mr. Massey supplied me with from time to time kept the wounded in comparative comfort, so far as rations were concerned. When Fremont arrived, by the aid of Surgeon Joseph K. Barnes (now ex-Surgeon-General Barnes, U. S. A.), I was able to prepare vouchers and repay Mr. Massey, and also Mr. James Vaughan and Mr. Smith, who assisted in burying our dead. This act of Mr. Massey's, kind, liberal, and patriotic, rendered during all the uncertainties of 1861, should be recorded in the History of Greene County."

Of favors rendered by some of the people of Springfield of Confederate sympathies, Dr. Melcher further testifies: "The citizens of Springfield, generally, some of whom strongly sympathized with the Confederates, treated us kindly. Of Dr. Barrett I will say that he was always represented to me as in full sympathy with the rebellion, but never, by word or deed, did I ever know or hear of anything but gentlemanly, courteous conduct toward all—and I saw and heard a good deal of him."


As the month of September passed and the month of October wore away, Greene county settled down to something like its former condition of peace and quietude. The secession flag and the Confederate banner floated over the county unchallenged and undisturbed, and Springfield was quite a recruiting depot for a time, but matters were generally quiet throughout the county, and business began to be carried on as usual. [369]

From time to time detachments of State Guards, or secession troops, appeared and camped in different portions of the county on their way to join Gen. Price, who abandoned Lexington Sept. 30, and retreated southward to the Osage river and from thence still further into Cedar, Vernon, Jasper and Newton counties. Occasionally, too, Union men slipped out of the lines and made their way to Rolla and enlisted either in Phelps' regiment or Col. Boyd's 24th Missouri Infantry, making up at that place. These two regiments were composed largely of Greene county men.


During the period covered by the first half of the month of October, 1861, affairs in Greene county and this portion of the State were in a very disturbed condition. Some unimportant but rather exciting military operations were performed, and the air again began to be full of "rumors of wars."

About the 10th of October occurred the "Shanghai fight," to the northwest of this county, forty miles or more, between a force of Kansas troops, under Montgomery, and a detachment of Price's army. Montgomery fell back on Greenfield. From reports brought by citizens of Springfield to Rolla, and published in certain newspapers of the State shortly afterward, there was a very unhappy condition of affairs in this quarter at that time. It is stated that the secession forces at Springfield were kept in a constant state of alarm for several nights after the "Shanghai fight," in apprehension of an attack from the Kansas "Jayhawkers," known to be roving about the country to the north and northwest.

On one occasion the secession camp at Springfield was alarmed by the report that the Jayhawkers were coming, sure enough, in full force. The baggage train was thereupon rushed to the public square, and placed under a strong guard, while the troops (believed to have been a force under Col. T. T. Taylor) went out to Owens' farm, then a mile and a half north of town, formed in line of battle, resting on their arms all night. One piece of information is to the effect that Col. Taylor took a detachment of his men and went northward some distance, to reconnoiter, but returned upon learning that there was no danger. The people were informed that Fremont's army, which had been reported to be on the march towards Greene county, had retreated to Jefferson City.

Soon after, however, came the news that Price had crossed the Osage river at Papinsville, and was retreating southward. This indicated that the Federal troops were still advancing in formidable force, notwithstanding it was given out that Gen. Price was only falling back to get into a section of country well supplied with provisions. There was much uneasiness among the secessionists at Springfield, and it is said some of them began packing up, preparatory to leaving. [370]

At about this time many Union men of Greene and other counties adjacent found it convenient to leave for Rolla, the nearest Federal military post promising security. Capt. Gallaway, of Taney county, commander of a company formerly of Phelps' regiment of Home Guards, had disbanded his union and they were being chased through the country by detachments of Freeman's State Guards and other secession troops. The captain himself was killed on the 29th of September. A number of men from Douglas county under Capt. Martindale went to Rolla and joined Col. Boyd's 24th Missouri.


The fall of Lexington was a serious blow to the Union cause in Missouri, and, as in the case of Lyon at Wilson's Creek, Gen. Fremont was severely censured for failing to reinforce it. He was assailed with charges of incapacity, extravagance in expenditure, and a penchant for grandiloquent proclamations and much pomp and circumstance.

Feeling very keenly the losses of Lyon, the battle of Wilson's Creek, and Mulligan's men at Lexington,—and feeling also the stinging criticisms upon his conduct made by people all over the country, and apprehensive that Gen. Price would now march on Jefferson City and heaven knew where else, Fremont determined to take the field in person, with the hope of defeating Price before McCulloch, who had retired into Arkansas and had gathered a good- sized army, could come to his assistance. With this in view, on the 27th of September, Gen. Fremont put in motion for Southwest Missouri from Tipton, Jefferson City, and other points in that quarter, an army of more than 20,000 men, including perhaps 5,000 cavalry and 86 pieces of artillery, under Gens. Hunter, Pope, Sigel, McKinstry, and Asboth.

The order of march included the forces of Lane and Sturgis, who were to leave Kansas and join Fremont's forces on the Osage. Springfield was the objective point. Gen. Hunter was to march via Versailles, McKinstry from Syracuse, Pope from near Boonville, and Sigel from Sedalia. The march began in real earnest about the 15th of October. On the 22d the troops crossed the Osage at Warsaw, having been engaged for four or five days in bridge building. From the Osage the route to Springfield was to be by way of Bolivar. Sigel was in the lead; Asboth brought up the rear. [371]

About the 30th of September Gen. Price's army fell back from Lexington, marching south toward Arkansas, by way of Warrensburg, Rose Hill, Clinton, Osceola, and other towns in Johnson, Henry, St. Clair and other counties on and near the border, keeping to the front and west of the Federal forces, and watching their movements very carefully. Gov. Jackson, in a proclamation issued at Lexington Sept. 26, had convened the Legislature of the State to meet at the Masonic Hall in Neosho, October 21, "to determine for the people of Missouri whether it be proper now to dissolve the constitutional bond which binds us to the government of the United States, when all other bonds between us are broken," etc., and toward Neosho, probably to protect the Legislature, went Price and his army. [372]

1 Alluding to the prevailing sentiment of Unionism in this county at the time.
2 Recently deceased.

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