Account of the Battle of the Osage or Mine Creek – Part 2

This is a continuation of part 1 and provides reports given by Major General Samuel Curtis’ subordinates during the events at Mine Creek, to include the capture of Confederate General John Marmaduke.

 

I present extracts from the reports of my comrades who mingled bravely in the great panorama, showing some of the details of this eventful struggle.

Colonel Blair’s Report

Colonel Blair, now acting on my staff, after detailing his movements at or near Marais des Cygnes, [says]:

I here fell in with Major Seed, of your staff, and Surgeon Walgamott, and we advanced in front of the left of our line. On an eminence in rear of where their last line of battle was formed we came across an abandoned wagon, the first I had seen since the burning ones south of their camp. Finking a lot of books, letters, and papers of various kinds in the wagon we stopped a few minutes to make a hasty examination of the contents, and on resuming our forward movement I observed that the brigade on our right was some distance past us although we were still in advance of the one on our end of the line. Arriving on the table-land, which forms the summit level between the Marais des Cygnes and Osage, we again saw the enemy’s line, and at this time it was evident he was in full force, although his whole line was not visible, his right being behind the brow of a hill which descended into Mine Creek.

Meanwhile the gallant brigade on our right was steadily advancing, with skirmishers well out, though brought to a check, apparently unsupported, in the face of this overwhelming force. The artillery was playing with great rapidity and considerable effect. I looked at the enemy’s line, close, serried, and vomiting fire; I looked at the dauntless little brigade which was unflinching and steadfast in its front, and then turned to the rear, and it seemed a fearful distance to the head of the supporting column. I called Major Weed’s attention to the situation, and he galloped to the rear to hurry forward re-enforcements, as it was evident here the battle was to be fought and the desperate issue joined on which the fate of the south tier of Kansas at least depended. Advancing alone to see if possible how far the right extended behind the cover of the hill, the bursting in the air and the tearing up of the earth soon satisfied me that they were firing canister at an enemy that they supposed was advancing on their right and hidden from view by the acclivity immediately in their front. This conviction on their part, I am satisfied, saved the brigade on our right, as a rapid and vigorous advance at that time would either have overwhelmed or utterly put it to rout. I moved to the right to get out of the sweep of the canister and then advanced till their extreme right was developed to view, and then rode rapidly to the rear with a tolerably full understanding of the situation.

Meeting Colonel Crawford but a short distance back I explained matters to him very hastily, told him they had commenced canister-firing, and urged him to go back and hurry up the troops, as he was acquainted with most of the brigade officers of General Pleasanton’s division and I had no acquaintance whatever with any of them. He agreed to do so and again started to the rear. I then moved off to the brigade on our right, and when I arrived there found it engaged at long range and halted for our other troops to come up in line. The enemy’s artillery was playing on this line with fearful effect and we had nothing but musketry to reply, but the men were steady and self-possessed and perfectly easy under the fire. I don’t know how long it was before the other brigade came up. to me it seemed a long time, and I had ridden from this brigade back toward the enemy’s right once or twice before it came up. When it did come on line the whole command advanced to short range, and for a time the fire was incessant and terrific. Both lines seemed like walls of adamant-one could not advance; the other would not recede. The crash of musketry, the scream of shell, the hissing sound of canister and balls, mingled with the shouts of the soldiers and the cries of the wounded, set off, too, by the walls of fire in front and girdles of steel behind, which marked both lines, formed a scene more easily remembered than described. During this terrible conflict I passed along the whole line and met your gallant staff officers everywhere, counseling, encouraging, exhorting, and commanding, and the tenor of the whole was “Charge!” It was evident that our only safety was in a successful charge by which we might capture the guns.

Capture of General Marmaduke

At length the movement commenced, slowly at first but increasing in velocity until it swept on resistless as an avalanche. A rush, a scramble, and all was over. The guns were captured, the enemy broken and flying to the rear, while our victorious squadrons were in almost breathless pursuit. So rapidly was this accomplished that when our left pushed forward into a field on the south side of the ravine the shell from our own artillery was crashing right into their midst. I was to the right of this, but so close that I could see this result, and also see Captain Hinton, of General Blunt’s staff, in the midst of our victorious line. Pushing rapidly forward I witnessed the capture of Major-General Marmaduke by Corpl. James Dunlavy, of Company D, Third Iowa Cavalry. Marmaduke was endeavoring to rally his men and Dunlavy was galloping toward him, occasionally firing at him. Marmaduke evidently mistook him for one of his own men and started toward him, reproving him for firing on his friends. At least I so judged from what I could see and hear, and so the boy afterward told me. The boy stopped and coolly waited until Marmaduke got within twenty or thirty rods of him, then covered him with his carbine and ordered him to dismount and surrender or he would fire. Marmaduke dismounted and his horse galloped off. Seeing that I was an officer the boy proposed to turn him over to me, but I declined being bothered with a prisoner. General Marmaduke then said: “Sir, you are an officer. i claim protection at your hands. I am a general officer – General Marmaduke.”

I then took charge of him and informed him that I would protect him until delivered to you as a prisoner of war, at which he seemed very much relieved. The boy then spoke up and said, “Colonel, remember If took him prisoner; I am James Dunlavy, corporal of company D, Third Iowa Cavalry.” I told the boy (who was severely wounded in the right forearm, but who still grasped his pistol with vigor and energy) to come along also, and he should have the honor of being introduced to you as the captor of Marmaduke. On the way General Marmaduke complained of being dismounted, and Dunlavy promptly apologized, saying, “If I had known you were a general officer I should have allowed you to remain on horseback.” Marmaduke then informed me that he was very faint and weak and could not walk much farther. meeting a soldier with a led horse I took charge of him and mounted my prisoner. Soon after this I met Major McKenny, of your staff, and proffered to turn the prisoner over to him, but he was too intent on getting to the front to be troubled with him. On my way back I saw one or two general officers, but preferred delivering my prisoner to the commanding general of the Army of the Border, and you will remember that I accordingly placed him in your own hands, at the same time introducing him captor, giving his full name, company, and regiment. This is the true, unvarnished story of the capture of Marmaduke, about which there has been so much misrepresentation in the newspapers.

Having rid myself of this responsibility, I again hurried to the front. When I overtook the advance I found it halted at the foot of the precipitous mounds descending into the Osage Valley. Leaving colonel Cloud, of your staff, here, Captain Hinton and myself pushed forward on to the skirmish line, away in the advance, almost as far as we could see over the smooth prairie, and on arriving there we could plainly see the rebel column moving straight in the direction of fort Scott. At the same time a smaller column was effecting a junction with it and came from a point to our right higher up the Osage, and which was most probably the force engaged by Colonel Moonlight near Fort Lincoln. The column in our front moved off and disappeared from sight, while our own line still remained stationary in our rear. I picked up an orderly from the skirmish line, who belonged to the Second Kansas Cavalry, and sent him back with a message to Colonel cloud, requesting him to get General Pleasanton to move forward, as I feared for Fort Scott, and at the same time got a citizen who had come forward with us to make a detour to the right and try to reach Fort Scott with a verbal message for the commanding officer to hold out to the last if the enemy struck him, as we were immediately upon his rear. Minutes passed and still our line did not move. I grew impatient and sent another man of the Second Kansas with a second message to Colonel Cloud, requesting him to see you and tell you that the enemy was moving in a direct line toward Fort Scott, and that to save it something must be done immediately. I feared that someone unacquainted with the topography of the country had led you to believe that the enemy was diverging to the east, as I knew at that time he was not. At length my suspense was ended, and the line began to move, and from this on there was no unnecessary delay.

Simultaneously the skirmish line also advanced. I waited until General Pleasanton came up (he being with the advance), explained to him the topography of the country, the direction the enemy had taken, my fears for Fort Scott, its situation, amount of stores, and then hurried forward again to the skirmish line.

It is proper to say here that the delay at the mound spoken of and subsequently on the summit was only sufficient for General McNeil’s brigade to come up and take the advance, which seemed absolutely necessary to relieve the weary troops that had before acted in front. Fort Scott was Colonel Blair’s home and his regular post, and a few moments seemed to him a long period, besides Colonel Cloud was then in the advance by my orders, leading the skirmishers, and could not have received Colonel Blair’s reports.

The movement was then rapid and continuous till the skirmish line was checked near the verge of the Osage timber. The woods seemed alive with rebel soldiers but in rapid motion. The skirmishers kept up occasional firing at them until the advance brigade came up and we all charged rapidly down into the timber, but the enemy disappeared before our arrival. Colonel Cloud was in the charge, with about sixty veterans of the Second Kansas Cavalry. He halted in the timber to rest his horses for a few minutes and I passed on with the advance brigade, which I think was Brigadier-General McNeil’s. At all events it was commanded by a general officer.

We followed down the stream some distance, crossed at the ford, and just as we were emerging from the timber on the south side the head of the column was fired on by the enemy’s skirmishers. We soon dislodged them, however, and pushed on toward a corn-field on the left of the road. The head of the column was here checked by a heavy fire from the field, and it was evident another battle was to be fought. Accordingly the general (McNeil) formed his brigade in close column of companies, and made them a little speech while forming to the effect that it made no difference whether there was 1,000 or 10,000 men in that field, he wanted them to ride right over them. The men responded with a yell, the dismounted skirmishers tore down the fence in the face of a galling fire, and the column swept through it like a tornado. In the rear of the corn-field another line was formed on the prairie, the right resting on a skirt of timber fringing a small stream, while the advance of the brigade, rapidly deploying into line, charged and broke them at the first onset. A third line of battle was formed still farther to the rear, in a low basin, where there had been an evident intention to encamp, which was surrounded by a semicircle of hills, where they held us at bay under a severe fire for about twenty minutes or more, and until the whole brigade formed in line and charged. Before this impetuous charge they were again broken, and as I passed through their temporary halting place there was abundant evidence of the haste they were in, in the broken wagons, dismounted forges, fragmentary mess-chests, and smashed crockery with which the ground was strewn.

The chase this time continued about a mile to the top of the hill south of the valley of the Osage, and on getting view of the enemy from the summit of the hill I was gratified to observe that he was bearing very palpably to the east, thus giving me my first reasonable hope that Fort Scott might be spared. I noticed, too, with increased satisfaction, that we were at least a mile east of the wire road and that for the first time the enemy’s direction was turned from this place. Satisfied that I could render no further service, I determined to come directly here (Fort Scott) to see to a certainty whether the post which was my special care was safe or not, and to satisfy those cravings of hunger which, though persistently ignored for three days and nights, would still, despite of resolutions, occasionally become clamorous.

I refrain from adding the glowing compliments properly bestowed on others of my staff by Colonel Blair, although he and they deserve all he has written, for undoubtedly much of the success of this day’s operations is due to their unceasing and extraordinary efforts.

Part 3 continues HERE

 

 

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