History of Greene County, Missouri

R. I. Holcombe, Editing Historian

Chapter 12
History of the County in 1863—Battle of Springfield

Part 1
Miscellaneous County Court Proceedings — Deaths of Prominent Citizens — The Battle of Springfield — The Situation Described — A Fat Prize for the Confederates — Gen. Marmaduke Discovers It, and Prepares to Gobble It — "The Rebels are Coming!" — The Federal Garrison Prepare to Defend the Town — Disposition of the Troops — The "Quinine Brigade" — The Morning of the 8th of January, Anniversary of Gen. Jackson's Battle of New Orleans — Marmaduke's March — Bad Luck! —Change in the Programme — McDonald Cleans up the Post at Beaver — Capture of Ozark — On to Springfield — A Line of Battle Formed — Marmaduke's Marvelous Mistake — Gen. Brown's Preparations for Defense — The Ball Opens — The Confederate Charge on the Right Repulsed — Maneuvering — Gen. Brown Wounded — Col. Crabb Assumes Command — The Main Fight of the Day — The 72d E.M.M "Retires." — Temporary Confederate Success — The 72d Rallies — Shelby vs. Sheppard — Capture of the Iowa Cannon — The Hardest Fight of the Day — The Confederates are Driven Back — The Night After the Battle


At the January session of the county court, Woodson Howard took his seat as one of the judges, in the room of Judge Joseph Rountree. Judge Gray was made the presiding justice. January 21, Wm. P. Davis was appointed county clerk in the place of Maj. A. C. Graves, killed in the battle of Springfield.

April 7, A. M. Julian was appointed county collector; hitherto the sheriffs had been, by virtue of their office, the collectors of the revenue. Henry Matlock, the ex-officio collector for 1859-60 made a settlement in full and was credited with $31,167.63. [428]

July 6, Col. John M. Richardson was appointed the county's agent to prosecute a claim against the United States for rent and damage of the court-house, and to obtain possession of that building for the use of the county authorities. The court-house had been in the almost continuous possession of the military since Curtis' army entered. August (the 5th) Josiah Leedy, the old contractor for the building of the new court-house (the present one), not having completed his contract by reason of "circumstances over which he had no control," the matter was compromised by himself and Greene county.


January 10, Judge Littleberry Hendrick died at Springfield of fever aggravated by the excitement incident to the battle of the 8th. The same evening Maj. A. C. Graves died from his wound received in the battle. Maj. Graves was an old Greene county newspaper man, and at the time of his death was one of the editors of the Journal. He was also county clerk at the time of his death, and serving on Gen. Holland s staff with the rank of Major and commissary. January 16, the old Whig politician, former Representative, Hon. Wm. McFarland, died, age—.

This year also died John Fulbright, in Laclede county, Mo., and Hon. Thos. Tiller, at Litchfield, Illinois. Fulbright was the second treasurer of the county, and served in 1833, and Tiller was an ex-county assessor.


The year 1863 opened on Greene county with the stars and stripes waving fair and free over all her soil, and with the Federal troops in undisputed possession of all the military stations, and no vexatious "rebels" near to molest them or make them afraid. But this altogether pleasant state of affairs for the men and the cause of Uncle Sam was not long to continue. There was a mustering of the Confederate clans across the border in Arkansas that boded no good to the men in blue. [429]

Springfield was now the great military depot for the Federal "Army of the Frontier," which, under Gens. Schofield, Herron, and Blunt, was down in northwestern Arkansas resting, on the laurels won at Prairie Grove. There were forts and cannon and muskets and powder and shot and shells and provisions and quartermasters' stores and hospital supplies in great abundance, but few soldiers. Nearly all the available troops had gone to the front, and a detachment of eight companies of the 18th Iowa Infantry under Lieut. Col. Cook, was the only regular garrison in the place. The 3d M. S. M., under Col. Walter King, 10 companies, 500 strong, were temporarily here. There were about 1,200 sick and wounded in the hospitals in charge of Surgeon S. H. Melcher, formerly the assistant surgeon of Salomon's old 5th Missouri, and there were also perhaps 300 furloughed men and convaleseents in a camp in the north part of town awaiting transportation, pay, etc., while down at Ozark and out at other points were detachments of the Missouri State Militia, which might be called in if a reasonable time were given. Col. Boyd's and Col. Sheppard's regiments of the Enrolled Militia were lying around loose at their homes throughout Greene, Lawrence and other counties. The district of Southwest Missouri was under the command of Gen. Egbert B. Brown, of the E. M. M., and under him was Col. Benj. Crabb, of the 19th Iowa Infantry, who was in command of the post.

About the 1st of January it came to be known to the Confederate General John S. Marmaduke, down in Arkansas, at Louisburg and Pocahontas, that there was a big, fat prize up in Missouri, and in Greene county, to be had for the taking—namely, the goodly town of Springfield, with all of its military stores and other "loot," and with all of its mules and wagons to transport the captures into Dixie. The weakness of the garrison and the exact condition of the place were described to the Confederate commander with great exactness. If a sudden concentration of forces could be effected and a swift march made, the capture of Springfield was certain—with all that the term implied. The base of supplies for Schofield's army would be broken, Gen. Blunt would be forced to let go his hold on the Arkansas river, and both Herron and Blunt would be compelled to abandon northwest Arkansas, and fall back, running the risk of fighting a battle en route under all disadvantages; heavy reinforcements would have to be sent to this quarter, and it would take months of time and millions of treasure to repair the damage inflicted by this raid, if it were successful,—and why should it not be? [430]

Gen. Marmaduke divided his little army into two columns. One, under Col. Joseph C. Porter, was to move from Pocahontas, Ark., and coming via Hartville and Marshfield, was to be in the neighborhood of Springfield on the east by the evening of January 10th. Porter's forces consisted of the cavalry regiments of Colton Green and Burbridge and a battalion or two besides—800 men.

The main column under the immediate command of Marmaduke himself consisted of Col. Jo. Shelby's brigade, composed of Shelby's old regiment, then led by Lt. Col. Gordon, of Lafayette county; Col. Gideon Thompson's regiment, Col. Jeans' regiment, Col. Ben Elliott's battalion, Col. Emmett McDonald's battalion, or regiment, and Capt. R. A. Collins' battery of two pieces, the entire brigade numbering not far from 2,000 men.2 All of the forces, including Porter's, were mounted. Shelby's brigade was to leave Louisburg, Ark., come north into Missouri through Taney county, swoop down upon the isolated Federal posts at Forsyth and Ozark, gobble them up, and be on the south of Springfield by the 10th and join forces with Jo. Porter.

1 The battle of Wilson's Creek was at the time and is yet frequently called the battle of Springfield. The battle of Wilson's Creek (or Oak Hills) was fought Aug. 10, 1861; the battle of Springfield, January 8, 1863.
2 Edwards' "Shelby and His Men," page 140, fourth line from the bottom, says Shelby's brigade numbered 1,800; McDonald's battalion 200 more.


On the evening of the 7th there came clattering into Springfield from the south a scouting party composed of detachments of the 14th Missouri State militia and of the 73d E. M. M., all under comniand of Capt. Milton Burch, of the 14th M. S. M., and reported to Gen. Brown that a large force of Confederates, numbering all the way from 2,000 to 6,000 had come upon Lawrence Mill, Taney county, from Dubuque, Arkansas, and was on its way to Springfield, as fast as it could travel, to capture the place and play the mischief with the Federal cause generally! The alarm was given and Gen. Brown notified.

That officer immediately sent out swift messengers who skurried over the county calling up the enrolled militia of Col. Johnson's 26th regiment, Col. Sheppard's 72d, and Col. Marcus Boyd's 74th, ordering them to concentrate immediately at Springfield. Word was also sent to detached companies in Webster, Lawrence and Dade counties, and to Mt. Vernon and Cassville. [431]

All possible preparation was made in Springfield. Every soldier that could shoot a gun was called out, and all of the citizens belonging to the militia were mustered. The sick and wounded soldiers in the hospitals who were able crawled out from their bunks, were organized into companies by Surgeon Melcher, and were given muskets by him. "The quinine brigade," as these men were sometimes called afterwards, did heroic and valuable service. The transient soldiers were organized under Capt. C. B. McAfee, of the 3d M. S. M., and others.


Fort No. 4, on South street, was without artillery. Early in the evening Surgeon S. H. Melcher, in charge of the post hospital, and Col. B. O. Carr, chief quartermaster of the Army of the Frontier, called on Gen. Brown and from him first learned of the danger. After some solicitation Gen. Brown consented that Col. Carr and Dr. Melcher should assist in the defense. Dr. Melcher suggested that it was very important that Fort No. 4 should be supplied with artillery. Gen. Brown said he had none available. Dr. Melcher replied: "There are three old iron guns, two 12-pounders and a 6-pounder, lying on the ground down by the Presbyterian church. They can be rigged up and shot off once apiece, anyhow, and that will help scare, if nothing more!"

Gen. Brown at last gave permission to "rig up" the cannon. At about 10 o'clock that night Dr. Melcher went through his hospital and found Lieut. Joseph Hoffman, of Backoff's battery, 1st Missouri artillery, and also a sergeant and seven privates of the same regiment. The nine artillery men readily volunteered to take charge of the guns, and to do their best, in their sick, enfeebled condition. Col. Carr furnished the front wheels of three army wagons for gun-carriages. With chains and other devices the cannons were fastened to the axles. Some carpenters made trail-pieces and prepared blocks and wedges as substitutes for elevating screws, and before morning the three guns, well mounted, were in position in Fort No. 4, supplied with plenty of ammunition, and manned by the nine gunners of the 1st Missouri, and some other volunteers. Sergt. Christian Mindener, of Battery L, 1st Mo. Artillery, had charge of one of the guns, and says he was "awakened from a peaceful slumber by Dr. Melcher, who put me in charge," etc. [432]

A considerable detachment of the 18th Iowa occupied Fort No. 1; another detachment was in Fort No. 2. The detachments of the 4th M. S. M., the 14th M. S. M., and the 3d M. S. M., were stationed west, east and south of town watching, the roads. It was hardly expected to make a successful defense of the place, since it was almost wholly unprotected on the east along and on both sides of the St. Louis road, and it was believed that the Confederates knew the vulnerable points, and would come rattling down the little Wilson's creek valley from the east and be upon the public square in fifteen minutes after the firing of the first shot—and then the town would be lost.

Gen. Brown at first wanted to retreat. Other officers, among whom were Cols. Sheppard and Boyd, thought it might be necessary to surrender the town, but they did not wish to do so without first making a fight. Col. Crabb and Lieut. Col. Cook declared that if it came to the worst all should repair to Fort No. 1 and behind its strong walls keep up the fight until reinforcements came. Gen. Brown, never a very efficient and determined officer, was on this occasion especially flustered and irresolute, and throughout the night was in a very perturbed state of mind, declaring one minute that he would retreat, and the next that he would fight. Sheppard and Boyd, whose homes were here, were determined not to retreat or yield without first having tried the metal of Marmaduke's merry men.

Meantime Surgeon Melcher had gone through the hospitals calling for volunteers to defend the town. The hospitals then consisted of the court-house (the present) with some forty tents, the Lyon hotel, (now the Southern) with forty tents, the buildings at the Berry place, and some private residences. About 300 men were obtained who were able to walk about and were willing to fight, and they were organized into companies of 50 each and placed under the command of nurses and stewards, and disabled commissioned officers. Then they were marched down to the arsenal and furnished with muskets and ammunition. Dr. Meleher at once set his cooks to work preparing cooked rations, and in the morning, with their "grub" in their haversacks, their quinine, calomel, and jalap in their pockets, and patriotic pluck in their hearts, the members of the "quinine brigade" marched totteringly but bravely out to the skirmish line.

As to the character and importance of the service rendered at the battle of Springfield by Dr. Melcher and his "quinine brigade," Gen. E. B. Brown, under oath, June 6, 1874, before Rufus Campion, notary public of St. Louis, the following being an extract from his testimony: [433]

During the attack of Gen. Marmaduke, he, the said Melcher, organized the convalescents under his control into military companies, who, acting under his (Melcher's) direction, did very efficient duty in the battle and greatly assisted in the defense of said post, and thereby saved several millions of dollars to the government of the United States in military stores deposited at that point for the use of the Army of the Frontier, then in northwest Arkansas. I have always been and am still of the opinion that, as my command was composed entirely of irregular troops and militia, without the aid and assistance of said Melcher, as aforesaid, I could not have successfully defended said post.

All through the night and in the early morning the members of the enrolled militia kept coming in. During the night, too, confirmation of the advance of the Confederates was received from squads that came in from toward Forsyth. The people of the town were greatly excited. Many of the Unionists were seriously alarmed. It was said that the town would be taken, and then woe to the Yankee sympathizers and their property!

The Confederate sympathizers did not seem cast down with a great burden of sorrow, or plunged into an ocean of grief at the prospect of a speedy occupation of the town by their friends, and a sight, brief though it might be, of the bonnie stars and bars. From lip to lip the message had run that Marmaduke was coming, and with him were some of the Greene county boys that were wearing the gray, whom it would be an extra delight to welcome when they should enter with the gush of victory on their brows. The ladies at that day were almost universally violent partisans for one side or the other, and they were especially demonstrative at this time in expressing their glee or their dissatisfaction at the prospective coming of the "rebels."

Some of the citizens "packed their traps" and betook themselves to the houses of relatives and friends in the country; others fled from exposed situations to Fort No. 1 and to the public square; still others went to their cellars; all hid their money and valuables. It was a night of excitement, alarm, and terror, to be sure.


At daylight on the morning of the 8th there came galloping into town the detachment of the 14th M. S. M., which had been stationed at Ozark, and reported that Marmaduke, Shelby, Emmett McDonald, and other chieftains of equal and lower degree had attacked them at their post at about 10 o'clock the night before, had driven them out, and were now upon their heels. They added that the Confederates had destroyed their fort by giving it to the flames, and burning everything inflammable. They had ridden all night, they said, and had carefully noted the movements of their pursuers, and knew that Springfield was the objective point. [434]

Immediately Gen. Brown began to prepare in dead earnest for the fight. Capt. Green B. Phillips' company of Col. Boyd's regiment of militia, was thrown into Fort No. 4, as were a number of the convalescents from the hospitals and the volunteer runners under Lieut. Hoffman, who were to work the pieces of artillery in the fort. To the west of the old graveyard, on Campbell street, and between Campbell and Market, near Grand avenue, stood a two-story brick college building, enclosed on three sides with a stout palisade, which had been used by the garrison as a military prison. The prisoners, about 50 Confederates, were now taken out of this prison and carried to the jail, and the building was ordered by Gen. Brown to be filled with. soldiers; but by some over-sight this was not done. On the left of Brown's line, to the southeast of town, the cavalry were stationed, under Lt. Col. Walter King, of the 3d M. S. M. To the right of the cavalry and to the left of the fort was a detachment of the "quinine brigade." What of Boyd's regiment (the 74th) that had got into town,—with the exception of Co. C,—Phillips' company,—was over in Fort No. 1, where also the greater portion of the 18th Iowa was. In Fort No. 2 were about 100 men belonging to the 18th Iowa and the "quinine brigade." Col. Sheppard's 72d regiment, to the number of 238 men, were in the public square, awaiting orders.

Capt. McAfee organized a number of men from the convalescent camp and some citizens, armed them, and, reporting to Gen. Brown for orders, was assigned to the arsenal, the church building of the M. E. South, which is still standing on South street, and was then piled full of tons of ammunition of all kinds, cartridges, shot and shell, and hundreds of stands of arms. Gen. Brown ordered Capt. McAfee to prepare oil, turpentine, shavings and other inflammables, and be ready to set fire to and blow up the arsenal and magazine, when ordered or when it became evident that the town had fallen.

Only one battalion of the 4th M. S. M. was present, commanded by Col. Geo. H. Hall, of St. Joseph, and under him was Maj. Douglass Dale.

Dr. Melcher states that just as the last company of the convalescents was being armed, the next morning, the skirmishing began. Just then a company of citizens, forty-two in number, came running up and asked to be furnished with arms and ammunition. They were supplied, joined the "quinine brigade," and Dr. Melcher says fought bravely throughout the day. [435]

The convalescents and citizens were distributed in Fort No. 4, and in houses and along the line in that vicinity, except the detachment stationed at the arsenal.


Leaving Louisburg, Ark., Marmaduke crossed White river at Dubuque, and so far all was well. The march was to be made in silence and the Federals were to be surprised. Porter was to come in from the eastward and brush away the small Federal garrisons at Hartville and elsewhere, and prevent their forming in the rear, and, as this would take a little time, Marmaduke, with Shelby's brigade, was to move leisurely and give the other column plenty of time to get up to Springfield before the fight should come off. Bad luck! Near Dubuque a little scouting party was encountered, and, instead of running away, stood its ground and made a "nasty little fight " with the advance of Shelby's brigade, Elliott's' battalion, and found out the size and character of the Confederate force and its probable destination, and then hurried away to give the alarm, turning about and watching from time to time, but keeping swift messengers on the way to Springfield, and these rode without drawing bridle rein, save to exchange an exhausted horse for a fresh one.

No leisure now! The march was to be a rush, and Springfield reached within 24 hours if men and horses could do it. Messengers dashed eastwardly across the country to Porter to inform him of the change in the programme rendered necessary by circumstances which could not be foreseen, and to order him to turn squarely across the country by the first road that ran westward, and be at Springfield by the evening of the 8th at the latest. But either because they missed their way and became entangled and bewildered amid the rocky roads—no better than sheep paths that led through the mountains and hills and woods of the country, or else because Porter had passed by when they struck his trail—these messengers failed to find Porter, and that officer passed on with his force, unconscious that anything had occurred to change the original plan.

A detachment of the 14th M. S. M., under Capt. Birch, went down from Ozark to ascertain if the reported invasion was a fact. Not far from White river this detachment came upon a Confederate lieutenant and two men, who had been left sick in a house by the roadside. From them it was learned that in truth, and in dangerous numbers, the Confederates were on the war path, with such bold leaders as Marmaduke, Shelby, and the long-haired Emmett McDonald at their head.

Striking northward, Capt. Birch made for the Federal post at Lawrence Mills, on Beaver creek, in the northwestern part of Taney county, where Maj. Turner, of the 73d E. M. M., had about 75 Douglas and Taney county men in garrison in a little block-house and fort. Reaching the fort in good time Birch warned Maj. Turner of his danger and advised him to evacuate the post and go on to Ozark. But Turner was an old man, had been long in the service, and had heard a great deal more of the Confederates than he had ever seen of them, and was incredulous about there being any more of them then in the country than a squad of bushwhackers.

Scarcely had Maj. Turner delivered himself of his opinions, when "spat—spat—spat—" the pistol shots of the Confederate advance firing on his pickets were heard! A few moments later and Emmett McDonald, with 500 cavalry, dashed up and assaulted the block house and the men in it and around it, cheering and shouting and making more noise than a charivari party at a country wedding! The fight was soon over. The 14th M. S. M. scampered away towards Ozark; Maj. Turner was wounded; four or five of his men were killed, and very soon nearly the whole outfit were prisoners of war, had been paroled, and McDonald was clattering across the country to join the main body under Marmaduke.

Gen. Marmaduke had come on the main Yellville road, leaving Forsyth to the left and west, and striking straight for Ozark and Springfield. McDonald had been detached to "cleanup" the post at Beaver or Lawrence Mills, and not allow it to form and follow in the rear, and right well did he do his work. Three days later his work was done forever.

In the evening of the 7th, Shelby's brigade was near Ozark, and stopped an hour or so to eat a hasty supper and give the horses a bundle of fodder and a few ears of corn. Near midnight a gallop was made by the advance into Ozark, where the 14th M. S. M. had abandoned the post in haste, and gone on to Springfield. The fort and block house were burned, and then, after a few prisoners had been made, the command, Shelby and Marmaduke at the head, with Elliott's battalion, struck out for Springfield on the main road, with the polar star to steer by should they miss the way. En route a few prisoners were picked up, mainly members of the militia, and a few citizens of Union proclivities. [437]

By daylight the advance reached Phelps' farm, and, after some discussion as to the propriety of waiting for Porter, keeping the town closely invested in the meanwhile, a line of fight was formed between 9 and 10 o'clock. Some skirmishers from the militia, advancing through some high weeds, were discovered, fired on, and brought down severely wounded. Preparations were at first made to feel of the Federals at the southeast corner of their position, on the St. Louis road, and a regiment (Thompson's) was swung around to the right.

Two miles from the public square, in the edge of the timber, Marmaduke formed his line for the attack. Gid. Thompson's regiment held the right; Shelby's regiment, commanded by Lieut. Col. Gordon, held the left; Jeans' regiment, commanded by Lieut. Col. Chas. Gilkey, and Collins' battery were in the center. These troops were dismounted. Elliott's and McDonald's battalions continued to operate as cavalry, Elliott to the right, and McDonald to the left. The lines were formed in the open prairie, under fire.

Here Gen. Marmaduke made a fatal blunder. The Federals had been of the opinion that his force numbered something near 5,000 or 6,000 men, and were consequently much in fear of him. Now, he came fairly up in sight of them, displayed his whole force almost so plainly that every man could be counted, and gave away his weakness showing that he had but a few hundred men more than they had, and then Gen. Brown, hitherto a little undecided, determined to fight to the last.


Early in the morning, after it had become apparent that the Confederate attack was to come from the south and southeast, Gen. Brown ordered to be burned a number of houses that obstructed the range and sweep of the guns of Fort No. 4, on South street. Perhaps ten or a dozen buildings were thus destroyed, half of which belonged to Mrs. J. A. Stephens, widow of the Union citizen killed by accident by Zagonyi's men. Another house destroyed belonged to W. P. Davis, a Union man, in the Federal service at the time. The expediency of this action has been called in question, but no doubt Gen. Brown thought it necessary to prevent a lodgment of the enemy in his immediate front, and the severe, if not fatal, harassment of his best position. Perhaps the destruction of these houses was a "military necessity," made so by the exigency of the occasion, but in that event the government ought long ago to have paid their loyal owners full value for them, which at this date it has not done. [438]

The burning of the houses added not only fuel to the general flame, but distraction to the already intense excitement among the citizens, numbers of whom began leaving with their lares and penates for the sheltering walls of Fort No. 1, and continued to tramp back and forth from that fortification during the day.


On St. Louis street was Walter King's 3d M. S. M. (which regiment, a month later, was broken up and distributed among the 6th and 7th M. S. M.) and the 14th M. S. M., numbering at least 600 men, and they were to the north and south of the street. Near the public square a huge steam boiler and some other obstructions were placed across the street.

Upon the front of King's regiment hovered a force of Confederate cavalry, Elliott's battalion sent to feel the way and to learn if the route into the city by St. Louis street and down the valley of Wilson's, creek were practicable. A sharp skirmish ensued. The Confederate force was small and it fell back. Then King's regiment charged and drove the force well back on the prairie, but did not follow for fearful of being cut off. Returning to their original position the Federals with their carbines at somewhat long range upon such of the Confederates as showed themselves, and at least one more successful charge was made, the forces not coming to close quarters, however, and doing but little injury to each other in the matter of wounds and casualties.

Here Marmaduke made another serious mistake. Had he concentrated his entire force upon the southeast and east and made one grand rushing charge, he would have broken King's line easily and been into town upon the public square in ten minutes after his bugles had sounded the advance. The force he sent was by far too small to effect anything, like success. The Federals fought well and made a display of all their force in that quarter, and did a deal of marching up and counter-marching to the rear, which had the effect to make the Confederates believe that there was a very powerful force in their front, and it was known that it was too strong for the force which had been sent to develop it. The entire Confederate force then was formed well to the southeast, and the men sat upon their horses waiting and wondering what was to be done next. [439]


The attack on Springfield was begun by the Confederates without a demand for surrender, and now the bombardment of the town was commenced without notification to remove the women and children, a circumstance unfavorably commented upon by the Federals. Moving up the two guns belonging to his brigade, Col. Shelby ordered their commander, Capt. R. A. Collins, to open on the town and Fort No. 4. Collins unlimbered and soon was banging away, his balls falling about the fort and into and near the square in quite rapid succession, and with very uncomfortable precision. One shot pierced the Lyon house, (now the Southern Hotel) on South street; two others, struck the church building of the M. E. South, then occupied as an arsenal, and guarded by Capt. McAfee's convalescents.


The iron guns in Fort No. 4 now began to reply to the two guns of Shelby's and for a time there was quite a free interchange of metallic compliments between Lieut. Hoffman and Dick Collins. Capt. Phillips' company of Marcus Boyd's regiment of militia and the convalescents in the fort tried the range of their muskets too, and quite a din arose. Hoffman threw shell, as he had howitzers, and Collins threw solid shot. (It is not certain that Hoffman did not open the fight, by shelling Marmaduke's advance.)


The fighting now slackened for a time. It was about half-past 11. Marmaduke conferred with his officers, who examined the field in front as well as they were able with their field-glasses, and after a great deal of riding about and consulting, it was finally agreed to assault the Federal position from the south and southwest. Gen. Marmaduke himself, being very near-sighted, could tell nothing about the position of his enemy, but approved the plan of attack, which was begun at once.

The troops had been drawn up in line and dismounted; they might as well have been disarmed. Shelby's men were never themselves save when upon their horses. Right cheerfully would they have formed in columns "by fours" and charged up South street, letting the firing of the fort and its supporters go for what it was worth, but very reluctantly did they abandoned their trusty steeds, and take to their "trotters" for it, just as the "web feet," as they called the infantry, fought. [440]

The Federals were maneuvering too. Some of King's men and the 4th M. S. M. were moved out upon the Fayetteville road, and then to the north of that thoroughfare, in the southwest quarter of town. The 72d regiment of militia was also moved up from the public square to the Fayetteville road, for it was evident to Gen. Brown that an attack was to be made in that quarter. There was a lot of galloping about on the part of the officers, and a great deal of "double-quicking" on the part of the men as they hurried from one part of town to the other. The route from town to Fort No. 1 was also well thronged, with fugitives tramping back and forth from their homes carrying over their most valuable articles for safe keeping.

Many Union citizens, not already organized by Dr. Melcher, were willing to fight to defend the town, and asked for arms. Lietut. Creighton was the officer in charge of the arsenal proper and he issued muskets to those having orders for them and made every man that received a gun sign a receipt for it. This proceeding required so much time that Capt. McAfee says he summarily interfered, drove Creighton away, and then gave gains to those who asked for them as fast as he could hand them out. There was no time for red-tape proceedings then, with an enemy thundering at the gates of the city and the people clamoring to be allowed to defend them.


At about 3 p.m. Gen. Brown was severely wounded in the arm. He had ridden out South street to the corner of State, to encourage the men, and while here with some of his staff, was shot from his horse. He went to the rear and by written order turned over the command of the troops engaged in defending the city to Col. Crabb. His arm bone above the elbow was broken, and afterwards a piece was taken out. He did not leave the service, however, until several months later, and commanded the forces sent against Shelby in his raid the ensuing fall, Gen. Brown's arm was dressed and saved from amputation by Surgeon Melcher.3 The operation was counted one of the most skillful in the surgical annals of the war. [441]

3 The Confederates, unlike some of the Federals, gave Gen. Brown great credit for courage and good conduct at the battle of Springfield. Maj. Edwards, in his account of the battle ("Shelby and His Men," p. 139) says: "Gen. Brown made a splendid fight for his town, and exhibited conspicuous courage and ability. He rode the entire length of Shelby's brigade, under a severe fire, clad in bold regimentals, elegantly mounted and ahead of all, so that the fire might be concentrated on him. It was reckless bravado, but Gen. Brown gained by one bold dash the admiration and respect of Shelby's soldiers. * * * As he rode along the front of the brigade, two hundred voices were heard above the crashing muskets, 'Cease firing— don't shoot that man—let him go—let him go.' I take pleasure in paying this tribute to a brave and generous officer."


At about 2 in the afternoon the Confederates dismounted, began moving around toward the southwest part of town.

One of the nuns of Collins', battery was also sent around and took up a position a little to the west of Market street and opened on the 72d in its front with grape and canister. Previously Lieut. Col. Jones, of the 72d, had made a reconnaissance down in the brush on the Fayetteville road and found no enemy. Presently Collins' second gun followed the first.

Sometime between two and three o'clock the fight began in earnest. The Confederates advanced from the south towards the north and northwest, coming up the little valley at the foot of South and Campbell streets, and sweeping over the ground to the westward. On they came, through "Dutchtown," as a collection of houses at the foot of Campbell street was called, taking the houses and their outbuildings for shelter as they advanced—forward to the stockaded college building, which had been left unguarded, and captured it without losing a man—beating down and driving backward the 72d, pushing on, on, step by step, from house to house, from street to street, until the 72d was back upon College street and they were along West Walnut.

In front of No. 4 was a portion of Jeans' regiment of Confederates under Gilkey, and some of Gordon's men, meaning to storm the fort when there was a good opportunity, but Hoffman's gunners served their old iron pieces so vigorously, and the members of the "quinine battalion" popped away with their muskets so rapidly, pausing occasionally to take a powder or a pill, and both cannoneers and quinineers worked so effectively that Gordon and Gilkey gave up for a bad job all attempts at assault, and the Confederates drifted westward and over about the graveyard.

Some of the sharpest and hardest fighting of the day was done in and about this graveyard, amid the tombstones and the cold "hic jacets" of the dead. Back and forth through the aisles and across the graves of the silent sleepers ran blue coats and gray jackets, and through the trees, where nothing but birds had sun and soft breezes had blown aforetime, now whistled the cannon shot and shrieked the bombshell. [442]


An incessant fire upon the Confederate line was kept up from Fort No. 4 and by its supports, and the 72d regiment, under Sheppard and Jones, came gallantly "to the right about," and advanced against the enemy driving the enemy back across and a little to the south of Mt. Vernon street. A number of volunteers from among the convalescents at the arsenal double-quicked across to the corner of Market and Mt. Vernon and took possession of the dwelling house then occupied by Mrs. Toney, and from this point of vantage opened on the Confederates in front, first driving away Mrs. Toney, who made a sudden appearance from her cellar, and refused to leave until the soldiers, in language more forcible than elegant, and inexcusable under any other circumstances, commanded her to depart, when she ran away, with the Confederate bullets singing about her ears quite lively. When the fight was over nine of the convalescents lay weltering in their blood about this house and the building itself was riddled with bullet holes, the marks of which are plainly visible at this day. On the vacant lot just east of Mrs. Toney's house known now as "the show ground," men in blue and men in gray lay scattered about, some moaning and groaning, and others silent and pulseless and cold in death.


For an hour or more lively skirmishing was kept up between the Confederates of Gordon's and Thompson's regiments and Sheppard's 72d and the convalescents. A little after 4 o'clock five companies of the 18th Iowa came up from toward Fort No. 1 and went into position along the Fayetteville road, opening a galling fire on the enemy in sight. On two or three occasions some of Shelby's men, who were working themselves around to the right or west of the Federal line, were charged and driven back by the cavalry on that flank stationed there to prevent the turning of the Federal right. The Confederates in the stockade made it lively for every bluecoat in range, and an attempt to drive them out was abandoned before it was fairly begun.


There were two six-pound brass field pieces over in Fort No. 1. Some time before the Confederates advanced on their grand charge, one of these guns, manned and supported by detachments from the 18th Iowa, under Capts. John A. Landis, Wm. R. Blue, and Joseph Van Meter, had been run over to strengthen the Federal right. A minute or two before the charge was made, this gun came into position on State street, a little east of Campbell, and to the east and south of the cemetery, and opened on Shelby's brigade with canister. [443]

Immediately a battalion of Gilkey's men under Maj. John Bowman, and some of Gordon's regiment under Capt. Titsworth, sprang away for this gun, and after a short hard fight captured it and hauled it away in triumph, after driving back the supports to the fort, and to the left and into and beyond the graveyard. The hardest fight of the engagement was had here.

Maj. Bowman dashed up and called out to the Iowans, "Surrender! Surrender!" Capt. Landis replied, "We were here first; you surrender!" Bowman instantly fired, the ball taking off Landis' shoulder strap. Almost at the same moment a shot from the Iowan's revolver struck Maj. Bowman just below the heart. In the fierce 'fight that followed Captains Blue and Van Meter were mortally wounded, two or three of their men were killed, and Capt. Landis and a dozen more of the Hawkeyes were severely wounded, while the Confederates lost Capt. Titsworth, Lieut. Buffington, and Lieut. McCoy, and four or five men killed, and perhaps twenty (including Lieut. Maurice Langhorne, now of Independence) wounded.

The gunner with the primers of the piece in his possession ran to the rear, and the Confederates were not able to profit much just then by their capture, and so it was hauled off to the rear by hand. Before the Confederates had fairly started on the charge, some of the Iowans said, "Let us get away from here, or they will capture us sure." Capts. Blue and Van Meter drew their pistols and threatened to shoot the first men who offered to retreat, and so saved their reputation for bravery, but lost their gun and their lives'. It is said that Capt. Blue shot down three of the Confederates before he himself fell. Capt. Van Meter also fought well, and it is claimed that had not every officer of the Iowans been stretched upon the ground with fearful bullet wounds, the Confederates would have been driven back.

Capt. Blue died on the 12th, and Capt. Van Meter died on the 14th, after the fight. The remains of both are buried in the National Cemetery. The gallant Confederate, Maj. John Bowman, died a day or two after the fight. Dr. Melcher writes:

"The next morning after the fight I found Maj. Bowman at a small house, half a mile east of the Phelps homestead, and examined his wound. He was past surgical aid—in fact, was dying. Two of his men had remained, and were tenderly but hopelessly caring for him."

The particulars of the fight for the gun have been obtained from actual participants on both sides. [444]

Late in the evening, at about 5 o'clock, or thereabouts, the Confederates, under the leadership of Shelby himself, made a charge on, or rather towards, Fort No. 4. Jeans' regiment and Elliott's battalion advanced under cover of the houses and the fences and the hedges to within 100 yards of the fort, and then, opening fire, made a brave attempt to fight their way in. But Capt. Phillips' company of militia, the detachments of the 18th Iowa, and the convalescents, opened such a rapid and deadly fire of small arms that the Confederates were driven back, and the attempt to take the fort was not only a signal failure, but a disastrous one.

About sundown and until dark Collins' battery thundered away spitefully and recklessly at the town, and several shot and shell fell into the midst of the city, doing no serious damage, however. One shot passed through the Missourian newspaper office, on South street, scattering plaster all over the room, and knocking into "pi" half a column of advertisements on a "galley." Other buildings were struck, among which were some private houses, but, as the occupants had skedaddled and were safe over in Fort No. 1, and as there were no soldiers in that quarter, nobody was hurt, and Capt. Collins' balls served no other purpose than to furnish relic-hunters with rare treasures.

There was some charging and counter-charging, and a great deal of shooting and skirmishing as long as it was daylight, and after dark there was desultory firing until midnight. About 8 o'clock and at intervals through the night, Lieut. Hoffman, with his gun in No. 4, practiced on the stockade and different portions of the Confederate line until late at night, using shell.


When darkness had settled down, there was an occasional boom of cannon, a pop of a musket and crack of a revolver, but no serious fighting. Some Union women made coffee and sent it out to the skirmishers who had fought so well for the town, and were even yet keeping watch and ward over it.

The lines of the two forces after nightfall seem to have been as follows: The Confederates were in two wings, which formed a very obtuse angle or letter V, with the arms much extended. The point of this angle rested on the stockade, and the right arm (or the Confederate left), extended in a southwesterly direction along the Fayetteville road. The left arm (the Confederate right), ran in a south-easterly course across State street, through "Dutchtown," and past a blacksmith shop, out into the open prairie. [445]


Here Marmaduke resolved to wait until daylight, hoping and trusting that Porter would come up or be heard from some time during the night. Along toward midnight, the skirmishing ceased, the Confederate line fell back or was withdrawn to the prairie, and at 1 o'clock on the morning of the 9th a venturesome party of Federals found the stockade abandoned., and they speedily took possession. Some of Sheppard's regiment also advanced about midnight some distance to the southward of Mt. Vernon street, finding no enemy. Details worked all night gathering up the dead and wounded, and bearing the latter to the hospitals. [446]

Next Part | Table of Contents | Keyword Search

History of Greene County Home | Local History Home

Springfield-Greene County Library