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.

I recently saw a piece on CBS Sunday Morning about a teacher in North Carolina, Eric Marshall, who for the past 15 years has held a Civil War Camp at the school he teaches at. After watching this, I realized that THIS is what history is about.

I have been in contact with Mr Marshall and should note that this project is not a one-man show. He has a LOT of volunteers, support from his school, local history groups and those willing to help fund the project.

In my emails with him, he said something that I believe is spot on – “The Civil War needs to be examined more closely, in my opinion and we are all losing much to cover it lightly.” How right he is. The Civil War is a hard subject to cover and when done properly and historically, forces the student to look at the government, the citizens and the laws that bind them with serious concern both then and now. It’s a hard thing to do, and unfortunately, as Marshall pointed out to me, most people just want the war packaged neatly and almost forgotten.” It’s easier, convenient and fits into the modern, politically correct viewpoint. It is sanitized and doesn’t require any hard looks at our past. We don’t learn anything other than an event took place.

There is no excitement from the educators. They are regurgitating prepackaged, dull history and the kids could care less. Eric Marshall is shifting the paradigm. Younger kids WANT to be in his class. Older kids remember his classes and what was taught. Not just because of the camp, but because of his belief in the kids and that they need to understand and get intimate with their historical roots.

When you watch the video, there is a section where one of the participants, a little girl named Kloe Tucker, who after a mock battle of Gettysburg (where students are picked to lay down as the fallen soldiers) looks back at her classmates laying on the ground, and with a reflective look says, “It hit me. If it was real, I’d see my best friend fall on the ground and not get back up.”

The CBS piece goes on to state that “Most history teachers work a lifetime hoping for a fraction of that connection.” We should ALL strive for that type of connection. That little girl is not only going to understand the Civil War, she is going to understand the sacrifice that soldiers make, then and now, the importance of this crossroads in the life of America and maybe ways to not repeat it in the future, and what real patriotism is.

After viewing the CBS piece and another piece at Our State North Carolina, I have realized how important teaching our kids about the Civil War and getting them involved in history, is one of the main reasons I am involved in the SUVCW, Kansas Civil War Society, and other Civil War historical organizations.

Many believe that history is just that – history. It belongs in the past and that is it. I disagree. The past is where we learn who and what we are and where we get lessons i n life that we should take stock of and not forget, lest they are repeated.

Links to the two pieces I mentioned are below:

CBS Sunday Morning Piece
Our State North Carolina Article