Account of the Battle of the Osage or Mine Creek – Part 3

This is the conclusion of part 1 & 2 and provides reports given by Major General Samuel Curtis’ subordinates Col. W.F. Cloud, Major Weed and Major S.S. Curtis during the events at Mine Creek. It gives accounts of Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Benteen’s brigade, who would later gain fame with George A. Custer at the Battle of Little Big Horn.

Colonel W. F. Cloud’s Report

Colonel W. F. Cloud, acting on my staff, with a small detachment of his own regiment (Second Kansas), reports these battles as follows:

Accompanied by a small detachment of Kansas Cavalry (the Second), commanded by Sergeant Peck, I moved forward in the space between our extreme right and the left, giving such orders and encouragement to our forces as seemed necessary. In this order we came to a rebel battery, the men of which had ceased to fight from fear, at which a rebel colonel (Jeffers) surrendered to me, claiming protection for himself and men. Giving such directions as seemed proper for guarding the prisoners, I moved to another part of the field, assisting in arresting prisoners and securing several pieces of artillery abandoned by the rebels in their retreat through the brush and creek.

Seeing General Pleasanton upon the field near to a section of artillery, I moved forward and reported facts as directed, and then observing that he was directing the fire of our artillery upon a detachment of our own troops I so informed him, but was rebuked. Still persisting in my statements, I had them confirmed by an officer from the detachment under fire, whose assurances were united with my own and prevailed upon the general to give the order to cease firing, saying at the same time, “You should carry your colors upon the battle-field.”

At the order of General Sanborn the Second Kansas Cavalry was moved forward as skirmishers, come mounted, some dismounted, and drove the enemy out of the woods and across the river. Here the enemy had another line formed, and our troops were ordered forward, the Second Kansas remaining in its position on the right, and in this order, pressing forward, we reached from right to left in the form of a crescent, which placed us in the advance of the center. When the rebels retreated from our steadily advancing army, my command had the advance from the advantageous formation of the ground, and leading in this manner pursued the enemy for the distance of three miles in a continuous charge until compelled to halt from sheer exhaustion of the horses, many of them falling under their riders.

Colonel Cloud was very active during the campaign, and his immediate connection with the capture of Colonel Jeffers and the battery of rebel guns at Mine Creek and leading the skirmishers at the Osage, are distinguished achievements which ought to secure his promotion.

Major Weed’s Report and LTC Benteen

Major Weed, of my staff, additional aide-de-camp and commissary of musters of my department, also participated in this day’s fight, and reports his detached services as follows:

I remained with the major-general commanding until Philips’ brigade had crossed the stream at Trading Post, when I was ordered over with a message to General Pleasanton, and after delivering it proceeded to the front with Colonel Blair and Major R. H. Hunt. Three miles south of Trading Post, with Mine Creek in their rear, we found the entire fighting force of the enemy (Shelby’s division excepted) drawn up in line of battle. As only one brigade of our own troops had come up, I rode a short distance back on a road running parallel with and to the left of the one on which Philips’ brigade had marched, and very soon met Lieutenant-Colonel Benteen at the head of his brigade, and informed him of the position of the enemy. He pushed rapidly forward, and on coming in sight of the rebel line at once formed his brigade for a charge. I then started to return to the troops already on the field, to urge upon the commanding officer a charge at the same moment with that of Benteen.

Before reaching the command, however, I was accosted by an officer who pointed to the right center regiment of Philips’ brigade, and asked me to take that regiment into action, and to tell the men their colonel would soon be with them. He then rode off at a rapid pace in a northwesterly direction, probably on some urgent mission. I at once rode to the head of the regiment indicated, gave the message to all the officers, and to lessen as much as possible the depressing effect of the commanding officer’s absence upon the men, charged with and in advance of them. As they came near enough to the enemy’s line to open fire I crossed their front and took position in the line on the right, where, in conjunction with Major R. H. Hunt, I did what I could to encourage and urge it forward. After the enemy’s line had been broken and his whole force put to flight, I rode to the left of our line and assisted in gathering together and sending to the rear a large number of prisoners who had been captured with the artillery taken by Benteen’s brigade. While engaged in this duty I heard of the capture of General Marmaduke, and some twenty minutes later, meeting General Pleasanton, who was just coming to the field, I informed him of the fact, also telling him that Marmaduke had already been sent to the rear. I then, at his request, took several squads of our men who had been separated from their commands during the charge and proceeded to pick up prisoners, who were scattered over every part of the battle-ground, some under guard and many making their way to the rear without guards and no guides except their own fears.

After having performed this duty, I reported to the commanding general (who had already crossed Mine Creek) and was directed to proceed to the rear and urge forward the division of Major-General Blunt and the brigade of General McNeil with all possible speed. These troops had been delayed by the breaking down of some transportation wagons at the most difficult point of crossing, and some time elapsed before the road could be opened. I returned to the front with General McNeil and Major Charlot, and on arriving there reported to and remained with the commanding general until nearly sundown.

Major S. S. Curtis’ Report

Major S. S. Curtis, Second Colorado, and an aide-de-camp on staff, after the close of the fight at the Marais des Cygnes, went forward with General Pleasanton, and reports as follows concerning matters at the battle of Osage:

I overtook General Pleasanton and rode with him for some distance. When about three miles from Marais des Cygnes we commenced to hear firing at the front, and General Pleasanton sent orders back for McNeil and Sanborn to hurry forward with all practicable dispatch, while we pushed forward at a trot and canter. When we first heard the firing Benteen’s brigade was on a parallel road to the one we were on and to our right. He immediately put his command on the gallop and well fell to the rear of his column, as the roads soon came together.

Benteen’s brigade broke into regimental columns as they approached the battle-field, and as they came up on the left of Philips’ brigade went forward into line and right on into the charge. The enemy was cannonading Philips’ brigade when we came into sight, but the musketry firing had nearly ceased. General Pleasanton requested me to take his escort company and support a section of a battery which just then came up. General Pleasanton went forward, and I directed the lieutenant to post his guns on a small elevation and shell the enemy’s right where the artillery was posted. But two shots were fired when I heard the yells raised by Benteen’s brigade and saw the enemy’s line breaking. I immediately ordered the guns forward to a better position, and had just got them in position when General Sanborn rode up and directed the lieutenant to fire upon some troops on the south side of Mine Creek, and on our extreme left. I felt doubtful as to whether they were rebels or our own troops, but a second thought made me conclude they were rebels. Four shots were fired at them when I saw by their falling back to our lines that they must be our own men. I rode forward to the guns to stop their firing, when Generals Sanborn and Pleasanton both rode up and ordered them to cease.

At this time the enemy’s cannonading on our right had not yet ceased. The enemy by this time being in full retreat, with the exception of their extreme left, which could scarcely be reached with artillery from where we were without danger to our command, and directly in front of us, our troops were immediately on the heels of the retreating rebels. I told the lieutenant in charge of two guns to follow as fast as he could, while I, with the escort company, pushed forward to rejoin General Pleasanton. A short distance before reaching the creek I found Major Weed, who told me of the capture of General Marmaduke. I pushed on and told General Pleasanton, and just as I did so General Cabell was brought up a prisoner. At this time we could see a second rebel line forming on top of the hill ahead of us, and our troops being scattered in pursuit General Pleasanton sent orders for them to halt and reform. I assisted in reforming the line and sending prisoners to the rear until General Pleasanton again ordered an advance, when I advanced with him. I waited on the hill until General Curtis came up and rode with him to the banks of the next stream, when I rode up to the summit of the hill to the right of the road to obtain, if possible, a view of the charge being made by McNeill’s brigade, which had taken the advance through the timber on Little Osage.

General Pleasanton, as commander of the advance division, acted with great coolness and propriety throughout this battle of the Osage, and if our battery fired on a portion of Colonel Benteen’s troops after they crossed the creek my son, Major Curtis, clearly exonerates General Pleasanton from directing the matter, which was one of those incidents of battle which often occur. Colonel Benteen and his brigade evidently took the lead in the movement which captured the prisoners and guns at Mine Creek and deserves the greatest applause for personal gallantry.

Brigadier-General McNeil concluded the matter on the height beyond the Osage with great success and courage. Nearly all these troops being of General Pleasanton’s division and under his general supervision, he also deserves the gratitude of the country. General Blunt’s division, crowding forward and augmenting the power and force which overcame the enemy, is equally deserving of the honor of the day. We were everywhere successful, and the following officers of my staff, although some of them have been already named, deserve special commendation for their unceasing toil and extraordinary gallantry at this battle of the Osage: Honorable J. H. Lane, Colonel C. W. Blair, Colonel W. F. Cloud, Colonel S. J. Crawford, Major T. I. McKenny, Major C. S. Charlot, Major R. H. Hunt, and Major S. S. Curtis. Captain Hinton, and others of General Blunt’s staff, also took an active part. The reports of Major McKenny and Major Hunt are especially interesting, but the extracts here made seem to cover the entire field and facts, and I refer to theirs and others here submitted as well deserving of general perpetuity.

 

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