Volume 33, Number 1 - Fall 1993

Brays Settlement and Civil War (Part II)
by Robert Bray

As the war dragged on, bushwhackers in Missouri were causing no end of grief and suffering. Missouri’s Provisional governor, Hamilton Gamble, put forth a plan to register all eligible males, hoping to secure their alliance with the Union. It was called the Enrolled Militia.

Three companies were organized in Christian County. Although that effort was abandoned in 1863, there were soon formed Provisional Regiments; a step closer to formal inclusion in the army. Two companies of Christian County men were organized as part of the Sixth Provisional Regiment. On June 1, 1864, the two companies were officially transferred to the 16th Missouri Volunteer Cavalry. Since Taylor and William were past 19 in 1864, and since their service records show they joined Company H, 16th Missouri Cavalry Regiment on the same day, September 1,1864, there is little doubt they both were members of one of the companies that were connected with the 6th Provisional Regiment. Thus, it seems probable they knew months ahead of time that they would be joining combat units.

Those times were uncertain and stressful. It was nearly impossible for young men to remain neutral. Even if they managed to avoid military service, they were, nevertheless, expected to commit and to demonstrate that commitment by word and deed to one side or the other. Which side was chosen often depended not so much on conviction as on the prevailing sentiments in one’s home territory. If a man went against those sentiments his well being, even his life, was in jeopardy. Furthermore, if he was so unwise to commit to the wrong side, his family was subject to reprisals by the other. By late 1864, in Missouri, the Union was the side to favor.

Why Taylor and William failed to enter upon active service until the early autumn of 1864, may have been related to their efforts to plant, care for and harvest crops during the preceding season. Their father, Mark, was 67 years old, their older brothers were away in the war and the one remaining brother at home was not yet a grown man. Mid-December was about the time of year when corn gathering would have been completed and it was the latest of several common crops to be harvested. September was too early for picking corn but, perhaps, they cut and shocked the corn to be used as both grain and fodder. That, possibly, could have been completed by September 1.

I remember only two things that my dad ever told me about his father’s war experiences. One was, "neither side had any monopoly on cruelty." The other recounted an incident in the "Second Battle of Boonville." He was detailed to hold horses of three


skirmishers plus his own and, while carrying out that duty, a ball tore through his trouser leg near the ankle.

Grandfather’s diary did survive and is now in the possession of a great granddaughter. The diary was published in 1964 in the White River Valley Historical Quarterly. Unfortunately it is quite deficient in detail. The first entry was on September 27, 1864, 26 days after he joined the army at Ozark. He recorded, "With General Sanbern (Sanborn) left Springfield at4 o’clock and got to Lebanon at 12 p.m."

General Sanborn was in command of the Third Brigade of a provisional cavalry division organized by General Alfred Pleasonton at Jefferson City immediately prior to grandfather’s enlistment. The force was part of the Army of the Department of the Missouri under overall command of General W. S. Rosecrans. Its role would prove to be hot pursuit of General Price’s Confederate army westward from the Jefferson City area, closing with it whenever possible, all the way to the climactic Battle of Westport in present-day Kansas City.

Grandfather was among those recruits who were moving to join Pleasonton’s force of some 4100 horse soldiers at Jefferson City. He organized the force into three provisional brigades. General Sanborn commanded the Third Brigade.

Grandfather’s first contact with the enemy was along the Moreau River south of Jefferson City. He described it as a "considable skermish." His second contact was on October 9 east of Russellville. That, also, was a "considable skermish." On October 11 and 12, grandfather recorded "a hard fight" near California, Missouri. The context of the remark makes it appear that he was referring to the alleged "Second Battle of Boonville." However, there was no such battle by that name because the Confederates had evacuated the town prior to arrival of the Federals. I don’t know, then, just where that hard fight occurred but it was supposed to have been the one in which grandfather had his close call with the rifle ball that tore through his trouser leg.

Pleasonton’s army traveled on westward and northward never far from the Confederates’ rear guards. They came through Georgetown, northeast of Sedalia, then marched and countermarched between an area 20 miles north of Sedalia and the town of Lexington. On October 21, they arrived in the outskirts of Independence. It was not until the Federals reached the Little Blue River east of Independence that grand-father’s "hard fight" terminology becomes readily relatable to the historical record.

Independence was occupied by Confederates and it became the duty of the Second Brigade to take up the vanguard of the attack. Soon outgunned on the outskirts of Independence, the Third Brigade was thrown into the battle to reinforce the Second. The action was described as "rough and bitter." However, it was brief as the Confederates retreated. The First and Fourth Brigades pursued while the Second and Third were left to bury the dead, care for the wounded and to clean up the town.

The night of October 22-23 witnessed final preparations for an attack on Confederate General Marmaduke’s force that was positioned on the west side of Byrum’s Ford on the Big Blue River southwest of Independence. The First and Fourth Brigades were to lead the attack and the second and third were to lend support.

The next morning all four brigades forced the crossing amid resistance by Marmaduke’s force on the west bank. Cavalry led the attack and the Third Brigade was again assigned a supporting role. Marmaduke retreated toward Westport and the Third Brigade was called to pursue. They were almost to the town when they were met by a Confederate cavalry charge that soon broke into "savage hand to hand combat." Colonel Frederick W. Benteen (who 12 years later would play a central role in the Battle of the Little Big Horn) joined the fray with the Fourth Brigade and the Confederates retreated to join the main body of Confederates which was already retreating southward from the heavy engagements at Westport.

Immediately after the Federal victory at Westport, the commanding officers met and decided that General Pleasonton’s Provisional Cavalry Division would take up pursuit of the retreating Confederates.

At dawn on October 25, the First and Fourth Brigades caught up with the Rebels under General Marmaduke, at Mine Creek. The battle was sharp and fierce. Generals Marmaduke and Cabell, along with 500 of their men and two artillery pieces were surrounded and captured. The rest fled in panic and were not able to reorganize until ready to move forward toward the Osage River.

General Shelby and his cavalry then placed themselves in the path of the Federal troops. General


McNeil’s Second Brigade joined the Fourth Brigade of Frederick Benteen and, together, they engaged Shelby. It was recorded "the fighting was constant and severe and it was "vigorous and intense." The Federals pushed Shelby back toward the north bank of the Marmaton River which Shelby held until darkness stopped the battle. The First and Third Brigades would undoubtedly have been thrown into that battle but General Pleasonton, convinced that the pursuit of the Rebels had gone far enough, had already taken the First and Third Brigades toward Fort Scott, ostensibly to obtain forage for his horses but actually to get a message to General Rosecrans in an effort to gain support for his idea to break off the pursuit.

After a plea of illness by Pleasonton, General Curtis took over his command and continued pursuit of the Rebels. They caught them again just south of Newtonia, Missouri. It was another severe fight and this time, grandfather’s Third Brigade was engaged with the enemy which was the Iron Brigade of General J. 0. Shelby.

Following that battle and renewed flight of the Rebels, General Rosecrans ordered all troops of his overall command to cease their pursuit and to return to their home bases. Although the order caused confusion and misunderstanding, grandfather’s Third Brigade landed in Cassville where they were encamped for some time. The Rosecrans order effectively ended the series of sharp engagements along the western border of Missouri following the Battle of Westport.

Later, grandfather recorded in his diary that his unit moved through the town of Marionville (presumably on the way to their home base at Rolla) where "I and some of the other boys came on home." Home was about 30 miles to the southeast. He was at home until November 26, when he and his fellow troopers (whom he did not name) left to rejoin their brigade which was, by then, in Lebanon. It appears that he and brother William were together.

Perhaps, grandfather saw no more battle but spent the remainder of the war engaged in various duties including guard, wood hauling, maintaining tools and equipment, escorting supply trains to Waynesville and escorting a paymaster to Springfield.

At the time of his discharge from the army, he was allowed to retain one .44 caliber Remington revolver, a belt holster, a waist belt and plate and one cap pouch. Since February 1865, no enlisted man had been allowed to own and to use his own horse in his military duties. The government bought all privately owned horses if they were suitable for cavalry. Perhaps grandfather walked home from Springfield or maybe he got another horse of his own. His brother William’s service record reads much the same. The probability is they returned home together carrying the same equipment.


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