Missouri had a star on the Confederate flag and a lot of people nowadays believe that Missouri was strongly Confederate state. But was it really or is it just a myth?

If you look at the election results from 1860, the answer is a resounding “No!” Three candidates were running that were pro-Union. Bell was a Southerner and believed slavery should not expand to other states, but also that it was protected by the Constitution. For that reason, he was denounced as a traitor by Southern politicians. Only after Fort Sumter was fired upon did Bell side with Tennessee and the south. Breckenridge was decidedly Southern rights. Adding the results of the three pro-Union ones together, we find that only 24% of Missourians voted for the Southern candidate.

1860 Election Results in Missouri

Abraham Lincoln – Republican Party 17,028

John Bell – Constitution Union Party 58,372

Stephen Douglas – Democratic Party 58,801

Total For Union Supporters 134,201

John Breckenridge – Southern Democrat 31,362

A lot of people will argue that Missouri gave fairly equal amounts of soldiers to both the south and north. The numbers, however, are again very lop-sided, in favor of the north. 110,000 Missouri men became Union soldiers while 40,000 signed up for service with the rebels. Thirty six percent of Missouri’s Civil War soldiers were Confederates or in Missouri’s militia under Missouri State Guard General M. Jeff Thompson. While much more than the 24% of the population who first voted with the south prior to the war, it still doesn’t equal the number of Missourians in blue. Again, Missouri was a Union state.

Even after the war, the answer was still negative. Only 79 United Confederate Veterans camps were established in Missouri. 594 Grand Army of the Republic Camps (Union soldiers only) were established.

So Missouri was not so much a divided state as it was a state with a sliver of the pie cut out of it!

 

General William Tecumseh Sherman is one of the best known Union generals of the Civil War. His famous “March to the Sea” was the death knell for the Confederate States. His services prior to the war were as the superintendent of the Alexandria Military Academy in Louisiana. With the pending secession of Louisiana, Sherman submitted his request to be relieved of command of the academy on the grounds that if “Louisiana withdraw from the Federal Union, I prefer to maintain my allegiance to the Constitution as long as a fragment of it survives; and my longer stay here would be wrong in every sense of the word.”

He then moved his family to Lancaster Ohio and had an occasion to the meet President Abraham Lincoln with his politician brother John Sherman. He came away adamant on staying out of the hostilities that were coming, instead preferring to dedicate himself strictly to his family. He relates in his memoirs that,

I was sadly disappointed, and remember that I broke out on John, damning the politicians generally, saying, “You have got things in a hell of a fig, and you may get them out as you best can,” adding that the country was sleeping on a volcano that might burst forth at any minute, but that I was going to St. Louis to take care of my family, and would have no more to do with it. John begged me to be more patient, but I said I would not; that I had no time to wait, that I was off for St. Louis; and off I went.

Sherman resided in St. Louis on Locust Street between Tenth and Eleventh streets at the time South Carolina seceded in 1861 and was employed by the St Louis Railroad Company. After the bombardment of Ft Sumter, he was offered the position of chief clerkship of the War Department, which he declined, stating that,

Hon. M. Blair, Washington, D. C. I received, about nine o’clock Saturday night, your telegraph dispatch, which I have this moment answered, “I cannot accept.”

I have quite a large family, and when I resigned my place in Louisiana, on account of secession, I had no time to lose; and, therefore, after my hasty visit to Washington, where I saw no chance of employment, I came to St. Louis, have accepted a place in this company, have rented a house, and incurred other obligations, so that I am not at liberty to change.

I thank you for the compliment contained in your offer, and assure you that I wish the Administration all success in its almost impossible task of governing this distracted and anarchical people.

Yours truly, W.T. SHERMAN

The letter, Sherman tells, was told that it gave offense and that the President’s cabinet felt Sherman would “prove false to the country.” Even his friends were a bit skeptical of Sherman’s political position, so Sherman addressed a letter to the War Department, showing his allegiance to the Union, but only to a certain extent:

Office of the St. Louis Railroad Company, May 8,1861.

Hon. S. Cameron, Secretary of War, Washington, D. C.

Dear Sir: I hold myself now, as always, prepared to serve my country in the capacity for which I was trained. I did not and will not volunteer for three months, because I cannot throw my family on the cold charity of the world. But for the three-years call, made by the President, an officer can prepare his command and do good service.

I will not volunteer as a soldier, because rightfully or wrongfully I feel unwilling to take a mere private’s place, and, having for many years lived in California and Louisiana, the men are not well enough acquainted with me to elect me to my appropriate place.

Should my services be needed, the records of the War Department will enable you to designate the station in which I can render most service.

Yours truly, W. T. SHERMAN.

However, he was present and witnessed the events at Camp Jackson and the discontent the people held for the Union, hurrahing Jeff Davis, and eventually shots being fired. He realized that he could no longer hold back his desire to avoid getting involved. He received a dispatch from Washington telling him he had been appointed Colonel of the Thirteenth Regular Infantry. He had originally believed he would come back to St. Louis to raise his own regiment at Jefferson Barracks, however, he notes in his memoirs that “the Government was trying to rise to a level with the occasion. Mr. Lincoln had, without the sanction of law, authorized the raising of ten new regiments of regulars, each infantry regiment to be composed of three battalions of eight companies each; and had called for seventy-five thousand State volunteers.”

His stay in St. Louis of two months ended. He stated that

…satisfied that I would not be permitted to return to St. Louis, I instructed Mrs. Sherman to pack up, return to Lancaster, and trust to the fate of war. I also resigned my place as president of the Fifth Street Railroad, to take effect at the end of May, so that in fact I received pay from that road for only two months’ service, and then began my new army career.

When the war ended Sherman remained in the military, rising to General in Chief of the Army from 1869 to 1883. During that time, he moved his headquarters back to St. Louis. When he retired from the Army he moved to New York City and died on February 14, 1891 at the age of 71. At his request, Sherman was transported back to St Louis and buried in Calvary Cemetery.

Brigadier General Egbert Benson Brown, military leader in Missouri during the Civil war, was born in Brownville, New York, October 24, 1816. He later moved with his family to Tecumseh, Michigan. In his youth Brown went to Toledo, Ohio, where he was elected mayor when he was 33 years old. Later he went to the West coast, entered service on a whaling ship, and spent 4 years on the Pacific Ocean.

By the beginning of the Civil war, Brown had become superintendent of a railroad and was living in St. Louis. A Unionist, he raised a regiment of infantry in St. Louis. November 29, 1862, Brown was made a brigadier general of the Missouri volunteers, having earlier received command of the southwest division with headquarters at Springfield. Brown had the responsibility of defending Springfield and the southwestern border of the State. Two of the most threatening raids that he repulsed were those of General John S. Marmaduke, General Joseph O. Shelby and others against Springfield, January 8, 1863, and of Shelby at Marshall and Sedalia during October 10-26, 1863.

The combined Union forces in Springfield numbered between 800 and 2000 in January, the latter number including reinforcements that came during the battle. The Confederates had about 5000 men. In spite of his smaller force Brown successfully defended Springfield, losing only one of the 4 forts built in a square for the town’s defense. By night Marmaduke had had enough.

When Brown began his campaign against Shelby later that year, his forces were scattered over a territory 120 miles square. In 7 days he concentrated a force of around 1820 men, marched more than 300 miles, killed and wounded about 400 of the enemy, captured nearly 100 prisoners and a wagon train of small arms and ammunition. He carried on an almost continuous fight through 100 miles of thickly wooded country.

At the October 23, 1864 Battle of Westport, Missouri, while commanding a brigade of cavalry, he ran afoul with division commander Major General Alfred Pleasonton, who had him arrested and relieved of his duties for allegedly failing to obey General Pleasonton’s attack order. he sat without a command until January 1865, when he was appointed commander of the District of Rolla. He served through the end of the war, and left the Army with one shoulder totally disabled and a bullet in his hip in November 1865.

Brown’s life after the war

After the close of the war Brown was appointed pension agent in St. Louis, and in 1869 he retired and moved to a farm near Hastings, Illinois. From 1881 to 1884 he served on the Illinois State board of equalization.

Brown outlived his wife and children and died February 11, 1902 at the age of 87 at his granddaughters home in West Plains, Missouri and is buried next to his wife Mary in Kinder Cemetery in Cuba, Missouri.

In the area of south-central Missouri in Phelps, Pulaski and Texas counties, there were so many engagements between bushwackers and Union troops that it was impossible to capture every single event. However, engagements such as the following show that the activity in this area during the war was not only frequent, but intense.

This report is by Lieutenant Colonel Joseph A. Eppstein to his commander, Colonel Albert Sigel of the Thirteenth Missouri Cavalry. The adversary and leader of the rebels in the area was CSA Colonel William O. Coleman.

Another interesting detail of this report is the closeness of the engagement. That is, the simple fact that Eppstein decided to charge bayonets rather than waste ammunition. This personal fighting was fairly typical in this area of Missouri as the militia indeed had to conserve ammunition. It once again shows the brutality of the the events in Missouri during the war.

JULY 6-8, 1862.-Scout from Waynesville to the Big Piney, Mo.

Report of Lieutenant Colonel Joseph A. Eppstein, Thirteenth Missouri Cavalry (Militia).
HDQRS. THIRTEENTH CAVALRY MO. STATE MILITIA,
Waynesville, Mo., July 9, 1862.

COLONEL: In pursuance of Special Orders, Numbers 12, from these headquarters, dated Waynesville, July 6, 1862, I started with 30 men of Companies B and F, under Lieutenants Ellington and Brown, to Wayman’s Mill, on Spring Creek, 12 miles from here, where I was informed that a company of Coleman’s men were encamped, about 20 miles from that place on the Big Piney. I immediately left in that direction, and on my way learned that Coleman had taken possession of Houston the day before and was running north toward the Springfield road, a statement which I disbelieved.

Reports of the whereabouts and strength (from 100 to 400) of the company above mentioned was so contradictory, that I did not know how to operate until I came to Johnston’s Mill, about 30 miles from this place, on the Big Piney, where I succeeded in arresting one of Coleman’s men, who told me that he had left camp an hour previous and was on his way home. His farther, who is also a rebel and belongs to the same gang, lives about 10 miles farther on. I compelled him by threats to go with me as guide to the camp, which I certainly could not have found without his assistance.

I started from Johnston’s Mill at sundown on the 7th instant, and at 8.30 p. m. arrived at another mill, where I ordered my men to dismount, leaving the horses in charge of 10 men as guards. From that lace I marched with the balance of my force (20 men, with officers) about a quarter of a mile up the road, thence through a dry creek, following the same for about 300 yards. Half an hour was lost in trying to ascertain the exact whereabouts of the camp, until I suddenly was hailed to halt. I made no reply to their sentinel, but pushed slowly forward until I found myself obstructed by a deep, stagnant creek, which could not be forded. I ordered my men to follow me around until I came to a shallower place; we crossed.

On climbing up the rock on the other side we found the enemy alarmed and formed in line 12 yards in front of us. I ordered them to surrender, but was greeted by several volleys of musketry. It was only then that my men commenced firing, having previously been instructed by me to save their ammunition, and after a few rounds I ordered them to “Charge bayonets,” which was immediately and gallantly executed. The enemy could not stand the charge, and broke in every direction in their shirt-tails, leaving behind them coats, pants, boots, and hats. Owing to the darkness of the night and the thickness of the brush I could not pursue them, and hearing of the proximity of another force of Coleman’s men, was apprehensive of the safety of my little force, and returned after having reconnoitered the ground. I found 4 dead bodies, 1 wounded man, several horses killed, and a lot of clothing and camp equipage strewn in every direction. Considering the proximity of our firing, I judge that many more rebels were wounded, but succeeded in escaping.

Bradford, the prisoner and guide, tried to escape during our charge, but was run through with a bayonet. He was left wounded on the field, but I ordered a neighbor to his assistance. But one of our men was slightly wounded by a buck-shot, as the volleys of the enemy went over our heads.
I captured 3 prisoners, 10 horses, 8 saddles, and 5 guns. The camp equipage was destroyed, as we had no means to take it along. The names of the prisoners are William Hamilton, George Logan, and James Ormsby, all of Company A, Coleman’s battalion.
One of the prisoners stated that Coleman had left Arkansas with about 600 men, but that he had recruited his force since that time to about 800 to 900 men in the adjoining counties; a statement which I fully believe.

Very respectfully, yours,
JOSEPH A. EPPSTEIN,
Lieutenant Colonel, Thirteenth Cavalry, Missouri State Militia.

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.

 

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

 

 

The following is a multi-part and first-hand account of the Battle of Mine Creek also known as the Battle of the Osage. This account is presented from the Official Records and provides multiple accounts from various officers under the command of Union Major General Samuel R. Curtis

Mine Creek, a branch of the Osage, and the Osage at this point, are small streams several miles apart, both skirted with timber and surrounded by open prairie country. After the affair of Trading Post, considerable delay and consequent separation of troops had occurred at the crossing of the Marais des Cygnes. While General Sanborn halted to breakfast his brigade General Pleasanton led the advance, consisting mainly of colonels Benteen’s and Philips’ brigades, in rapid farther pursuit of the enemy. About three miles from Trading Post the enemy formed on the north side of Mine Creek and made stubborn resistance. The brigade of Colonel Philips, composed of Missouri troops, came into line of battle and commenced firing at long range, his men displaying good discipline and great gallantry. Colonel Benteen, whose brigade comprised Iowa, Indiana, and other troops, came up on the left of this line. Meantime the heavy roar of cannon induced me to hurry forward my own escort, with two little howitzers and other artillery, at the utmost speed.

Colonel Benteen met some of my staff officers on his arrival at the left, who suggested an immediate cavalry charge. The colonel had already resolved on this movement, and only waited for the same order to be communicated to Colonel Philips. Major Weed conveyed the order to Colonel Philips. Colonel Benteen’s brigade came into line in a moment and dashed against the enemy’s right, outflanking and surrounding it, gaining position on and beyond the creek. Colonel Philips also, with his brigade, moved quickly upon the enemy, so as to surround or overpower a large detachment of them, who immediately surrendered as prisoners of war (among them were two rebel generals, Marmaduke and Cabell), killing another (General Graham), and many colonels and other officers, and taking altogether 500 or 600 men. General Pleasanton, being in command of the advance, had directed the general movement and took an active part in the field. General Lane, Colonel Blair, Colonel Crawford, Colonel Roberts, Major Weed, Major McKenny, Major Hunt, and Major Curtis, of my volunteer and regular staff, and Captain Hinton and others of General Blunt’s staff, were also very active in the field on this occasion, which occupied perhaps thirty minutes.

I directed Colonel Blair, who presented General Marmaduke to me as a prisoner of war, to turn him over to Lieutenant-Colonel Sears, Eighteenth U. S. Colored Troops, whom I directed to act as provost-marshal and take charge of the prisoners. I also detailed a regiment of Missouri troops to take charge of them, soon after informing General Sanborn and General Pleasanton of the detail. All this transpired as we moved forward, crossing Mine Creek, and while the advance was still skirmishing with the enemy. The rear brigades were also coming up at full speed and the enemy again forming on a hill about a mile in front. This point he soon abandoned, and we halted to form and close up our extended lines.

After our rear brigades came near the whole force advanced with caution in two lines, our skirmishers pressing the enemy beyond the ridge which divides Mine Creek and Osage. He now formed on the Osage, and the rear of our troops still being far behind, although I had repeatedly sent orders to hurry them up, I mentioned the matter to General Pleasanton as somewhat remarkable. He told me General McNeil seemed insubordinate or neglectful of his orders and did not come forward as directed. His brigade being in front of General Blunt’s division any delay by General McNeil also delayed all the Kansas troops. i then sent my adjutant, Major Charlot, with a special order, which brought forward the brigade of General McNeil at the utmost speed of his horses. On reporting to me the general said his delay was no fault of his, and it was evident General Pleasanton’s orders had never reached him, which caused some misunderstanding. And he further assured me that I would find him ready to obey all orders as promptly as possible. I directed him to deploy as quick as possible and take the advance, which he did with great success. I also told him to continue to report to General Pleasanton, who commanded the division. Before this occurred, the skirmish line reporting to me as broken down from fatigue, General Sanborn, at my instance, had changed them by placing Colonel Cloud, of my staff, with some of the Second Kansas Volunteers, on this duty. Entering fields and forests Colonel Cloud continued the skirmishing to the valley of the Osage and beyond the stream.

Meantime General McNeil, with his brigade, soon broke the lines of the rebels that had extended for miles on the heights beyond the Osage, and after about an hour’s fighting in corn-fields and timber, where our troops manifested great gallantry in repeated charges, the enemy again broke in great disorder, scattering arms, utensils, wagons, and all kinds of equipments over the field. General Blunt’s division came up rapidly about the close of this battle of the Osage and began to deploy, but the flight’ of the enemy was so rapid I could not get all the troops in line before it was necessary to resume the march in column. all this conflict between Mine Creek and Osage, and including the fighting at both streams, occupied some two hours or more, and as the accompanying map* will show you, extended over several miles of onward march.

Being mostly a prairie country the troops of both armies were in full view and the rapid onward movement of the whole force presented the most extensive, beautiful, and animated view of hostile armies I have ever witnessed. Spread over vast prairies, some moving at full speed in column, some in double lines, and others as skirmishers, groups striving in utmost efforts, and shifting as occasion required, while the great clouds of living masses moved steadily southward, presented a picture of prairie scenery such as neither man nor pencil can delineate.

Part 2 continues HERE

The following is a report given by Union Major General Samuel R. Curtis that details the events of the Battle of Marais Des Cygnes, which was a portion of the Battle of Mine Creek in Kansas.

OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, vol. 41, Part 1 – Pgs. 493-495

GRAND RIVER, October 25, 1864-2 p. m.

Major-General CURTIS, Commanding

The enemy had gone into camp in the timber skirting the Marais des Cygnes near the town of Trading Post, making fires and other extensive arrangements for rest and refreshments. My day and night’s march brought my advance close upon them about 12 m. of the 25th, and at 3 o’clock Major Hunt led three companies of the Second Colorado to attack and take a mound which commands the valley of the stream. This was gallantly executed. I had sent a special order to General Sanborn, who commanded the advance brigade, by Major Weed, to push forward artillery and open at long range. This was retarded by the darkness, but the artillery fire commenced about 4 a. m.

As daylight approached our troops deployed, moving in line against the enemy, who still occupied one of the gills and the timber skirting the stream. As our lines rose steadily on the side hill the enemy’s force on the summit melted away, till finally our forces had secured all the commanding positions with very little loss. Skirmishers moved into the timber, when the rebel camp was deserted in great confusion. A stand was made at river crossing, where the enemy was felling trees and firing cannon, but our advance was so close upon them they left their guns and the ford, retreating in disorder. Cattle, camp equipment, negroes, provisions partly cooked, and stolen goods were scattered over miles of the forest camp, and along the lines of the retreat. Few were killed on either side as the night and early morn attack created a general fright in the rebel lines and only random shots on either side. General Sanborn’s brigade, being in advance, and the Colorado squadrons, assisted by my escort, which came up early in the skirmish, did most of the work. After following in hot pursuit for a mile General Sanborn halted his brigade for breakfast, while General Pleasonton led the advance with the remainder of his division.

This battle of Marais des Cygnes was a gallant affair, commenced in a dark rainy night and consummated at early dawn after a day and night march, to the surprise and horror of Price’s forces. They burned a public store-house formerly used by our pickets and fired many haystacks in the vicinity, but their loss of two guns, many cattle, sheep, and thousands of little necessaries for sleeping and carrying supplies, were serious losses to the enemy. General Sanborn being afterward separated with General Pleasonton from my command reported to General Rosecrans, so that I cannot give his version of this and other events of this day’s transactions.

Major Weed, additional aide-de-camp, of my staff, reports concerning his detached duties as follows. After reporting the matter of a proposed movement to the left by General Pleasonton, which I rejected as likely to separate us on the march of the 24th, he says:

The pursuit was continued regularly until 8 p. m., at which hour we reached. West Point, when the division of General Pleasonton was placed in the advance for a night march, and at midnight reached the vicinity of Trading Post, a small settlement at the crossing of Marais des Cygnes, and halted. I immediately proceeded to the front, in company with Major McKenny, to ascertain the cause of the halt, and learned from Brigadier-General Sanborn that his advance had struck the enemy’s column on a high mound half a mile north of the town, and that owing to the darkness of the night and want of knowledge of the country he could not and would not assume the responsibility of moving any farther until daylight.

On making these facts known to the commanding general, he ordered the artillery of General Sanborn’s brigade forward to open at once on the enemy’s line.

At 4 a. m. on the 25th, no firing having been heard, I was directed to go to the front and ascertain why the artillery had not been opened as directed some hours previous. On arriving there I found the battery just going into position about half a mile from the position occupied by the enemy during the night, and four guns were very soon opened on the crest of this mound. After a few shots had been fired Major R. H. Hunt rode up from our skirmish line and begged them to cease firing from that point, as their shells were falling in the midst of our own men, who had already driven the enemy from their position. I then learned from Major Hunt that three companies of the Second Colorado Cavalry, who had been in advance during the day and night previous, had, in the darkness and rain, pushed forward without support and gained possession of this commanding point.

On returning to report to the commanding general I met Brigadier-General Sanborn, who had just left his quarters, and informed him of the facts above stated. 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 Pleasonton, and after delivering it proceeded to the front with Colonel Blair and Major R. H. Hunt.

Major Hunt, my chief of artillery, who commenced this contest at the Trading Post or Marais des Cygnes, says, after speaking of our march on the 24th:

The commanding general insisted on the troops keeping on the shortest line. Marched all day and night; distance, probably fifty miles. Before daylight on the morning of the 25th I directed Captain Kingsbury, who commanded three squadrons of the Colorado troops, to take the hill on the left of the road, which he did in connection with Colonel Gravely, who commanded this picket-line, driving the enemy across the Marais des Cygnes, where they had felled trees to obstruct our passage. Quite a spirited engagement occurred during the passage of the creek. Our forces crossed and resumed the pursuit on a run. The enemy opened with a number of guns, one of which was captured.

Major T. I. McKenny, aide-de-camp and my inspector-general, thus reports concerning the night and morning operations of the 24th and 25th:

The command was halted by order of the major-general commanding about nightfall to cook some beef at a small place called West point. At 8 p. m. and order came from the major-general commanding directing General Blunt to remain in present position, that General Pleasonton would take the advance, proceeded until 3 o’clock at night, it being exceedingly dark and raining. When the column halted I was ordered forward to ascertain the cause. Found General McNeil, who said he had his instructions from General Sanborn, in advance, to halt and build fires to dry. At this time an order came from the front to extinguish fires. I reported these facts, when I was again ordered to the front to ascertain from General Sanborn the cause of the halt. Found general Sanborn in bed some two miles in advance, and about three miles from Trading post. He told me he had ascertained to his satisfaction that the enemy was in full force, perhaps 10,000 strong, immediately on the high hills in his front, and that he thought it unsafe to proceed farther. These facts being communicated we bivouacked for the night.

October 25, General Pleasonton in the advance skirmished with the enemy across the Marais des Cygnes.

During that night Generals Pleasonton, Lane, and myself traveled most of the time between the divisions, but at early dawn we went forward and saw most of the conflict, especially the advance of our troops on the plain and the taking of the mounds. We also joined the advance movement in the timber, while our troops were skirmishing with the foe and driving him from the crossing.

Brigadier-General Sanborn and the troops of his brigade, Major Weed, Major Hunt, and Major McKenny, of my staff, deserve special commendation for their efforts in this battle of the Marais des Cygnes.

John Armstrong was the closest free-stater living north of Albert Stokes on the northwest quarter of Section 28, also located on Washington Creek. John was born at Oxford, Canada West, on June 8, 1824, the son of Thomas and Sarah Dodge Armstrong. He was an avid abolitionist and always acted with the Abolition party before he came to Kansas. He voted for Martin Van Buren when the latter was the anti-slavery candidate for President. He well remembered the excitement in New York State and New England when the Kansas-Nebraska Bill passed, and he resolved that he would come to Kansas and help make it a free state. Leaving western New York on November 1, 1854, he arrived at Kansas City on approximately the 17th or 18th of November.

We found at Kansas City on the levee, one Hotel, one barn and six warerooms, and where now the market square is located was a horse mill. We went to Westport where there was quite a village and from there traveled west into Kansas.

At Kansas City, John met the notorious Sam Wood, and after ascertaining the latter’s anti-slavery sentiments made arrangements with him to carry his baggage and trunks. There were five in this party which arrived in Lawrence on the night of November 20. Armstrong established his claim on Washington Creek and immediately became involved in the Underground Railroad.

A proslavery family named Bowen lived on an adjoining claim, which was traversed by a trail from McGee’s Crossing (the main trail crossing the Wakarusa). This family had brought with them from Kentucky a family of slaves, including a father, mother and eight children, the eldest a boy about twenty. According to John’s reminiscences, his sister, Sarah, taught these children their letters. They came to the Armstrong house on Sunday for this purpose, unbeknownst to their master. There were other slaves in the neighborhood (a few grown ones), but this was the largest slave family.

There were a few slaves who lived up on the head of Washington creek, in the proslavery settlement, where about sixty proslavery men lived. The Negroes told us that Bowen was afraid of our Sharps rifles. He though they would shoot a mile.

Bowen’s colored people built his log house and did general farm work. He brought them there in the spring of 1855, as early as April. He brought his own family at that time too. There might have been 3 or 4 in his family. His son-in-law was a part of the family. The negroes built a little cabin out about ten rods from the house. All of the buildings were of logs. The house was what is called a double-log house, two rooms and an open space between.

John states that the proslavery people would get drunk and come and threaten him. He told the Lawrence boys about it, and one night Capt. Randlet and a party of free-state men in Lawrence came out to his place on Washington Creek. From there they went over to Bowen’s, cleaned out his whiskey and gave him three days to leave.

The Armstrong and Bowen cabins were only a quarter of a mile apart. The eldest colored boy came to John’s house that night with the rest of the children and cried, “Master Armstrong! Some men have

come to Master Bowen’s, and I am afraid they are going to kill us.” John let them all in – the whole colored family – and asked them who was in the crowd, but the children did not know if the men they were free-state or proslavery men; they just wanted John to run them off. Armstrong had previously talked to them about leaving their master. But a Lawrence Journal World article states that ” . . . the slave family wanted Miss Armstrong’s brother (John) to start them on the way to Canada, but the risk was too great and he did not do so.” They (the Bowens) took the slaves with them to Westport, Mo.

John Armstrong credited himself with persuading Jim Lane to come to Kansas. He had met Lane in the spring of 1855 on a boat on the Missouri River the morning after leaving St. Louis. John had been in Kansas since 1854 and had explored with Governor Robinson as far up as the Blue River. He recounted his meeting with Lane at an Old Settlers’ Meeting in 1879

Lane was on his way to Kansas, and when he found out that I had been in the Territory, he wanted to learn all about the country . . . I gave them a general description of the country from the mouth of the Kaw River up to where Manhattan now stands, and of all the country. The location of Lawrence and the Kansas bottom pleased my eyes better than any where else, and I gave them a glowing description of it, and told them that I believed that Lawrence was the place where we should eventually build up a great city. I know I did prevail upon Lane to come to Lawrence, for three days after I got here he came up here with his family. *emphasis author’s”

Later, in an 1896 interview when he was seventy-two, Armstrong further elaborated on his this meeting:

If Jim Lane was the greatest man Kansas ever produced – and a good many people think he was – then John Armstrong deserves the credit of discovering the greatest man and starting him in the proper channel. Mr. Armstrong says he came to Kansas to make it a free state, and he didn’t content himself with settling down in the Topeka town site, but he joined Stubbs’ company at Lawrence, received his Sharps’ rifle and marched and practiced with the boys. His meeting with Jim Lane is thus recounted by him: ” I had shipped a large nursery stock to Kansas which I started in 1851 and I expected it to arrive in Kansas City as soon as I returned from up the country, but it only reached St. Louis that fall. I had to go to St. Louis to look after it and in the early spring of 1855 I shipped it to Kansas. The morning I left St. Louis the clerk of the boat came to me and said, ‘Colonel Lane from Indiana and Thomas Shoemaker want to see you and have a talk about Kansas.’ I went down to the ladies’ cabin and was introduced to Colonel Lane and to Mr. Shoemaker, who had been appointed land receiver of the Kickapoo district. I had a pleasant talk with them, and from that time until we arrived in Kansas City we had frequent talks about Kansas. I became satisfied in my own mind that Lane’s object was to organize a Democratic party in Kansas and be its leader. He wanted to settle in the biggest place in the territory and asked me particularly about what I thought would be the best place to go. I gave him the best information I could, and a couple of days after I arrived in Lawrence, Colonel Lane came there with his family. “I introduced him to the boys and we vied with one another in doing what we could for him in running out lines and building a cabin. The willingness of the free-state people to help him, and the willingness of the proslavery party to carry out the Douglas squatter sovereignty bill to the territory, the driving away of true settlers from the polls and the frequent raids of the border ruffians, was what, I think, made such men as James H. Lane and hundreds of others as radical as any of us.”

Lane soon began to come over to the free-state side and became one of the great leaders for the cause; John became one of his lieutenants.

I also started an Underground Railroad in 1857 from Topeka to Civil Bend, Iowa. I hired a closed carriage and span of mules. I lived in Topeka then. I took up a subscription to start the thing, and amongst the number that gave me money was Dr. Charles Robinson, who was at Topeka at the time. He gave me ten dollars. I think Sam Wood gave five dollars and Maj. J. B. Abbott five. They were attending the Legislature. I don’t remember all that helped start the first train on the Underground Railroad and I helped establish the depots from Topeka to Civil Bend, Iowa.

In Reminiscences of Slave Days in Kansas, John tells how he encountered his first “passenger” on the “Topeka line” of the Underground Railroad.

The first slave I took out of Kansas was a woman. She got away from her masters, and came up to Howard’s, who lived about 2 miles s.e. of Topeka, staied [sic] there about five or six weeks, when some proslavery men from Deer Creek found that she was there and took her back to Lecompton for the reward. One or two of Edward’s boys was with the party that returned her. They lived on the Shunganunga near Frank Dawson’s … Howard had no chance to get the woman onto the Underground Railway. Her name was Ann Clarke. [. . . ] When they got her back to Lecompton it was about evening. They sent out in the country for Clarke to come in and pay the reward. Ann went out in the kitchen to clean herself up. By this time it was pretty dark, and she was studying how to get away. They had given her some cakes to eat, and she put some of these in her budget (a small bag or pouch). The men were in a frolic, had been drinking some. The women only were watching her, but she kept on the watch herself for a chance to escape and finally seizing an opportunity when they were off guard, ran out of the kitchen and up a ravine which was situated near where the foundations of the Territorial Capital State House is in Lecompton.

It was a very brushy ravine. She hid in a thick place in the brush, and hid there until most morning. They came out and hunted for her, coming very near her. When it became light enough she followed the ravine up s.e. and came up out onto the top of the hill on the edge of the prairie. Being now daybreak, she could see all about and took her bearings. She finally saw a man coming along the road s.w. of Lecompton and running east towards Lawrence. He had a book under his arm. She thot [sic] a man with a book must be free-state, and went out to talk to him. It was Dr. Barker, the father of Senator Barker of Douglas County. She asked him who lived in the different houses. Finally she found that he was Dr. Barker, a neighbor of G. W. Clarke who owned her (jointly with Col. Titus). He lived east of Lecompton and was credited with the murder of Thomas Barber in 1855. He was a former Indian agent and a prominent border ruffian. He had been out to see a sick woman, and was returning home. She [the slave woman, Ann] asked him to take her to his house and help her get free. He told her to go farther south, to walk down the ravine and come up back of his house. He kept her at his house a day or two, hitched up his team, put in several comforts, covered her over and took her down towards Lawrence, to the house of the father-in-law of George Earle, who brot [sic] her up to me at Topeka, to the residence of Mrs. Scales . . . Mrs. Scales kept her hid for a week before Mr. Scales found it out. Capt. Henry came in on her one morning when she was helping Mrs. Scales wash dishes. He was a strong proslavery man, and was boarding at the house. Mrs. Scales said, “You can keep a secret?” He did and never gave us away . . . We kept her there for about six weeks at our house, while I made arrangements to take her to Iowa.

Much has been written about this house – the residence of Mrs. Scales – at 429 Quincy Street in Topeka. There is some discrepancy as to who actually built it. Armstrong, in his Reminiscences, states that

Mrs. Scales, when he built the house placed a sugar hogshead, (a cask capable of containing large amounts of liquid), which he had shipped things from the east in, down in the cellar. When Ann came, we put some straw, clothes, and blankets into the hogshead, and had her stay in it. Mrs. Scales kept boarders, and during the day, while they were out, Ann used to come up in the kitchen and do a great deal of housework.

A newspaper article from 1913 also states that “*t+he stone house at 429 Quincy Street was erected by a Mrs. Scales, who emigrated from New York.” But the Topeka Mail & Kansas Breeze article from 1896 states that at the time of that interview, John Armstrong was still living in “the little stone house at 429 Quincy in Topeka, where he had lived ever since coming there in the early 1850’s,” and a 1910 newspaper article states that the house was built by John Armstrong himself. A 1929 newspaper article corroborates this, stating that “. . . it was constructed in 1856 by John Armstrong, a pioneer in Topeka, when the town had scarcely two dozen houses to break the nakedness of the plains.”

Whether built by him or not, the house eventually came into John Armstrong’s stewardship – if not ownership – when, after the sudden death of their younger daughter, “the Scales family moved from the house and returned east, leaving Armstrong in possession of the place.” And there can be no doubt as to its usage in Armstrong’s hands. “From this time on the place was the center of a very flood of anti-slavery sentiment. And at this time came the hogshead from New Orleans, and the disappearances of many slaves from the homes of their masters.”

“I suppose I have kept three hundred slaves in the house at 429 Quincy St., all told,” Armstrong is quoted as saying in the 1910 newspaper article, “and every one of them was taken north and eventually reached Canada.”

Many newspaper articles over the years have recounted the legend of the little stone house in Topeka. From the Topeka Daily Capital of April 21, 1929:

[I]n the basement was placed an immense hogshead, big enough to hold a score of persons comfortably. The hogshead originally had contained sugar, and was shipped up the Mississippi River to St. Louis, up the Missouri to Westport Landing, thence up the Kaw to Topeka. Emptied, it was put in the basement before the joists for the building were laid. At the time Armstrong obtained it, he thought that it would make an admirable hiding place for fleeing slaves . . . Armstrong was the first Topekan to have a station on the Underground Railroad. He received the blacks at night, placed them in the cellar and held them until it was safe for them to continue their journey.

Southern soldiers, in pursuit of the escaping Negroes, often halted in Topeka. Pitched battles, in which deaths sometimes occurred, took place in this vicinity. The Old Topeka House, situated where the post office now stands, was thought to be the hiding place of the slaves. This frequently was searched, but the fugitives never were found.

No suspicion was attached to the little stone building, just back of the Topeka House. It was so small and innocent appearing, and there seemed no places in it where anyone could be concealed. But had the pursuing soldiers only known it, on many occasions there were a dozen or more slaves concealed in the hogshead at the time they were futilely searching the Topeka House.

From the Topeka Daily Capital of Tuesday, July 5, 1938:

“Old ‘ Undergound Railway’ Cabin in Topeka on Block”

Slaves were hidden in the basement, which was entered by a long passage that originally reached to the Shunganunga Creek draw near what is now Fifteenth Street. The entrance to this passage still remains in the basement of the house.

The house contains three rooms, one large room on the main floor and two smaller rooms in the basement.

Cottonwood was used in the frame of the structure, but it is the walnut siding that gives the house its principal claim to architectural distinction.

The little stone house and the activities that took place there are perhaps best described in an earlier Topeka Daily Capital article, which states:

Slaves were hidden in the cellar . . . there were oftimes as many as a dozen runaway slaves taken care of by Mr. Armstrong and other anti-slavery people . . . The old stone house, which was the refuge of so many runaway slaves, has never been remodeled except for a new roof some years ago and is now the home of a colored family who probably do not know the same roof which shelters them, sheltered people of their own race over fifty years ago who were trying to escape the bonds of slavery.

For the runaway slaves, the stay at the Scales/Armstrong house at 429 Quincy St. in Topeka was only the beginning of what could turn into a harrowing Slaves were hidden in the cellar . . . there were oftimes as many as a dozen runaway slaves taken care of by Mr. Armstrong and other anti-slavery people . . . The old stone house, which was the refuge of so many runaway slaves, has never journey to freedom. In the 1910 Topeka Daily Capital article, Armstrong related that

. . . [w]e used to ford the Kaw River about where the bridge now stands always traveling by night and lying under cover during the day. Holton was the first station north and from there we went to Nebraska City and crossed the Missouri River at that point. After reaching Silver Bend, Iowa, we turned the slaves over to the Quakers and from that point it was an easy matter to place them on Canadian soil . . . I sometimes rode a pony on my trips, but unless I had some women in the party I usually walked and slept on the ground.

I took up one other woman. I don’t remember how she came to me. A Mr. Mills, a Topeka man, went with me all the way thru and returned with me . . . The road was about this way: We went first to Rochester, to Bowker’s in the night. The next stopping place would be Holton, at Smith’s or at Reynold’s, who lived a mile west of Holton, on the Creek. Another place was five miles north of Holton, where Brown was caught at the Battle of the Spurs. In crossing that creek, I got stuck, and had to get the woman out of the buggy. This was on the Jim Lane road. On my way up that first time I followed the track of Kagi [John Brown’s right-hand man who later died in the raid on Harper’s Ferry], who had started out three weeks before me to visit his father . . . We afterwards sent several women up. Some came from Missouri, some from Kansas.

Armstrong and Mills took the slaves from Topeka north over the Lane Trail. They were covered in a wagon, which was closed. The wagon had a false bottom to be used in cases of emergency; over this false bottom were spread hay and straw. The first stopping place north of Topeka was the farm of William Bowker. William Owens lived next door to Bowker, and sometimes his house also was used as a station on the Underground Railroad.

On his first trip with the slave Ann Clarke, Armstrong recounts, “We started in the very last days of February 1857, and I was gone three weeks. We went to Civil Bend, Iowa, to Dr. Blanchard. From there we sent her on the Chicago. The trip was without incident as far as Nebraska City. Approaching there, Armstrong concealed the Negroes beneath the false bottom in the wagon bed. Border ruffians halted him and looked in his wagon for slaves, but did not find them. That night Armstrong drove to Civil Bend, several miles up the Missouri. Kagi had been sent ahead of this first consignment over the underground, and was waiting for Armstrong at Nebraska City. He conducted the cargo of slaves to the ferry at Civil Bend, where he aided Armstrong to cross the Missouri River. The crossing was a dangerous matter, as ice was running in large pieces. The ferryman had to be persuaded with a Colt’s navy (revolver) before he would undertake the passage. The boat was carried down the river half a mile by the ice but finally made the east shore safely. The slaves were delivered to Dr. Ira D. Blanchard, who lived near Civil Bend on the Lane Trail, and a few miles from Tabor, Iowa. Kagi’s father lived at the time in Nebraska City and he also aided Armstrong to escape from the town with the slaves. The Underground Railroad over the Lane Trail was in operation as long as it was necessary for slaves to leave Kansas for Canada.

John Brown himself left Kansas forever over the Lane Trail in late January 1859. On his last exit from Kansas, while delivering slaves, he ran into trouble north of Holton, Kansas. He sent a farmer named Wasson, whose anti-slavery sentiments were well-known, back to Topeka to tell Colonel John Richie that John Brown was surrounded in a cabin (Fuller’s) on Straight Creek. It was Sunday morning when Wasson reached Topeka, and Richie and his family were part of a congregation gathered at a schoolhouse which stood at Fifth and Harrison and served as the meeting place for Congregationalists. A commotion was heard at the rear of the building causing people to turn toward the door. John Armstrong walked immediately to Richie’s seat and whispered in his ear. They both left the church and after hastily collecting a few men, hurried to the aid of the “Old Puritan”. They helped disperse the enemy at the crossing on Straight Creek near the Fuller cabin, in the Battle of the Spurs.

This battle, which occurred on January 31, 1859, received its name from Richard J. Hinton, an eastern correspondent who had come to Kansas. “As spurs were the most effective weapon used, the title is not altogether inappropriate. Not a shot was fired on either side.

A different explanation for the battle’s odd name was written by G. M. Seaman:

Some (of the men) had gotten their horses and some were afoot, but as they got out of the woods those that were afoot grabbed hold of the tails of the horses of those who were mounted and away they went sailing over the prairie, hence it was dubbed the “Battle of the Spurs.”

John Armstrong went on to live a long life. As stated above, he was still living in the stone house in 1896. The 1910 Topeka Capital article states that Armstrong, then 86, was living at Keith’s Hospital. He died less than a year later, on Dec. 19, 1911. His obituary appeared in the Topeka State Journal for December 20, 1911:

Anti Slavery Fighter Dies

John Armstrong, 87 years old, and the last survivor of the handful of pioneers which selected the location for a city where a town site company a fortnight later founded Topeka in December 1854, died last evening at St. Patrick’s Hospital and will be buried in Rochester Cemetery, where he already has had his monument erected and inscribed with the exception of the date of his death* . . . He was active in making Kansas a free state and established an underground railroad north from Topeka. He was with both Lane and Brown in their border warfare. He never married, remaining true to Eunice Scales, a young woman he met shortly after coming to Topeka, but who died of smallpox before their wedding could be arranged.

The above sad account may hold a key to the fervor with which John Armstrong approached his Underground Railroad activities.

The peculiar recklessness and energy for excitement that possessed John Armstrong might be hinged on a pathetic romance that filled his life during the first two years in Kansas. Mrs. Scales brought with her two daughters when she came to Kansas and old-timers who know the facts state beyond a doubt that the Scales home was a popular place in the eyes of the young men of Topeka. But above all suitors for the younger of the two daughters stood John Armstrong. He had followed the family from New York to Kansas and in this Far Western State stopped with them and continued the avowal of his loyalty.

All went well with the pioneer lovers and the affair was settled in the minds of Topekans. Then Miss Scales died with a contagious disease after a sickness of but a few days. After the funeral John Armstrong walked the streets for many days, seemingly without energy.

Was it John Armstrong’s abolitionist fervor that brought him to Kansas, or did he follow his heart here and turn to anti-slavery zeal only after his heart was broken? One thing is for certain; it has been 145 years since John Armstrong set foot on Kansas soil, but his footprints left an indelible imprint on the struggle to make Kansas free.

 

After the victory at Wilson’s Creek in August of 1861, southern forces in Missouri under the command of Missouri Militia General Sterling Price and Confederate Brigadier General Benjamin McCulloch found a new sense of purpose in Missouri. Southern sympathizing Missourians found a renewed spirit and hope for their cause in Missouri. This lead to the Militia making it’s way northward through Missouri and ended in the town of Lexington along the Missouri River. “The Battle of the Hemp Bales” as it was also called was a temporary victory for Price and his Militia, however General McCulloch opted to not follow his southern sympathizing bretheren and held to the soutwestern portion of Missouri. By November, McCulloch had secured that portion of the state. In a dispatch to Confederate General Samuel Cooper, the rift between McCulloch and Price was ever apparent:

HEADQUARTERS DIVISION, Springfield, Mo.,
November 19, 1861.

General S. COOPER,
Adjt. and Isp. General, C. S. Army, Richmond, Va.:

GENERAL: I have the honor to report that on the night of the 15th instant I received information at my headquarters, 72 miles from here, that the Federal troops had started back toward Saint Louis from this place. On the 16th I started with all my available mounted troops, without wagons, and after a rapid march arrived near here last night. I was in hopes before arriving that I might be able to overtake some of the trains of the enemy, but on my arrival I found that they were too far to attempt even a pursuit, they being at least 100 miles ahead.

From all the information I can obtain the enemy’s strength was at least 30,000, with an abundance of artillery. There was evidently considerable disaffection in their ranks, and on leaving here Lane, with his Kansas troops, carried off 500 or 600 negroes, belonging to Union men as well as secessionists. From what I can learn they intend to fortify Rolla, Sedalia, and Jefferson City, and to garrison each of those places.

The Union men have nearly all fled with the Federal troops, leaving this place almost deserted. From all the information I can get of General Price’s movements he seems to be making his way in the direction of the Missouri River. An attempt of the kind, in my opinion, can only terminate as did his previous expedition to that country. Considering it inexpedient to attempt a winter campaign in this country, I shall return to the borders of Arkansas, and put my command in winter quarters by the 15th of December. As there will be much to do to make the many arrangements necessary for an early spring campaign, I respectfully request the authority of the Department for me to visit Richmond for that purpose. As soon as the troops are in winter quarters my presence here could be dispensed with for a few weeks.

Hoping my views may meet the approval of the Department, I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

BEN. McCULLOCH, Brigadier-General, Commanding.

McCulloch also wrote to CSA Secretery of War J. P. Benjamin on the same day with the following account:

HEADQUARTERS, Springfield, Mo.,
November 19, 1861.

Honorable J. P. BENJAMIN,
Secretary of War:

SIR: I shall return to Arkansas, put my troops in winter quarters soon, and ask permission to come immediately to Richmond, so as to give the administration correct information regarding affairs in this region before it acts on matters here.

The Federals left eighth days since with 30,000 men, quarreled among themselves, and greatly injured their cause by taking negroes belonging to Union men. General Lane went to Kansas, General Hunter to Sedalia, and General Sigel to Rolla.

I have the honor to be, with respect, your obedient servant,

BEN. McCULLOCH,
Brigadier-General, Commanding.

It’s obvious that McCulloch did not agree with Price’s actions and began preparations to move his command out of Missouri to be used elsewhere for the Confederacy. With the rift turning into rivalry, the overall command of the Trans-Mississippi district was turned over to Major General Earl Van Dorn. Price was commissioned a Major General in the Confederate Army and combined Price’s militia and McCulloch’s soldiers tow for the Army of the West and would engage Union General Samuel Curtis at the Battle of Pea Ridge in Arkansas.

With regular and most of the pro-southern militia pulled out of Missouri, the pro-southern cause was left in the hands of guerillas like William Clarke Quantrill, William “Bloody Bill” Anderson, George Todd, Dave Poole, Cole Younger, William Gregg and John McCorkle to defend the southern and Missouri cause