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

When you think of names of Civil War generals who had a profound influence before, during and after the Civil War, the name Major General Thomas Ewing Jr. usually does not pop-up. However, his role during the war had a huge impact on how some of the events unfolded. His life after the war was noteworthy.

Born 7 August 1829 in Lancaster, Ohio, Thomas Ewing Jr. was the third son of influential Ohio Senator Thomas Ewing Sr. and brother-in-law to General William Tecumseh Sherman. He studied law in Cincinnati and moved to Leavenworth, Kansas to practice law and became highly involved in the free-soil movement. When Kansas was admitted to the Union, Ewing became the state’s first chief justice.

When the Civil War began, Ewing raised the 11th Kansas Regiment to fight for the Union and was elected Colonel of the regiment and served with the regiment at the battles of Cain Hill and Prairie grove. His real distinction begins when, as a Brigadier General, he is placed in command of the highly volatile Border District.

Since the days of Bleeding Kansas in the 1850s, tensions between pro-slavery Missouri and the now free-state of Kansas ran high. Missouri bushwhackers and Kansas Jayhawkers and Red Legs were constantly at each other’s throats, and when William Quantrill and his band of guerrillas arrived in Lawrence, Kansas at five o’clock in the morning on 21 August 1863 and completely ravaged the town, killing 150 men and boys, and robbing, looting and burning the town, Thomas Ewing had to do something about the guerrilla hostilities.

His answer (with some prodding from fire-brand Senator and Jayhawker James H. Lane) was to draw up the infamous “Order No. 11.” With its harsh treatment of the civilian population, it was what Ewing believed the only solution to curtail guerrilla activity in the region. However, the methods used to enact the order (mainly, his use of Kansas troops that were mostly made up of Red Legs) and the resulted slaughter and desolation of four Missouri counties left a permanent stain on Ewing’s resume.

General Ewing and Order No. 11

Order No. 11 had indeed put a quiet over Kansas and in March, 1864, Ewing was ordered to St. Louis as a member of the staff of Union Major General William Rosecrans. It was during this period that Ewing would pull off one of the most incredible stands of the Civil War that has sometimes even been called the “Thermopylae of the West.”

Confederate Major General Sterling Price had begun his march into Missouri to attempt to seize St. Louis and its supplies, rally the citizens to the Confederacy, and put in place Thomas Reynolds as governor. On September 26th, 1864, Ewing was dispatched with the veteran 14th Iowa Infantry to ascertain the forces operating in southeast Missouri, and to hold Fort Davidson in Pilot Knob against what was considered a detachment of Price’s army. Prices army numbered well over 12,000 soldiers against a little over 1,000 men. However, lack of reliable information and the strong spirit of the Union defenders, would see Price’s army cut down as they attempted to take the tiny Fort. Ewing, aware of his reputation in regards to Order No. 11 was demanded to surrender, in which he replied, “They shall play no Fort Pillow game on me” and resolved to hold the fort. The ensuing and repeated attacks on the fort by the superior numbered Confederates and the tenacity and will of the Union defenders to not give it up is its reference to the famed battle at Thermopylae. The Union defenders lost about 29 men with 44 wounded, the Confederates however, saw over 1,500 of their troops killed or wounded by this small detachment of soldiers.

As night fell however, it was apparent that come morning, Price would once again press a full frontal assault on the fort, complete with artillery, and there would be no saving themselves or the fort. Ewing chose to evacuate the fort under cover of darkness, blow up the powder magazine and attempt to retreat to the safety of Rolla, Missouri. The Union soldiers made it to Leasburg, just outside of Rolla, and held defense there against the pursuit of Confederate Generals John S. Marmaduke and J.O. Shelby, who by the morning of October 1st, had rode off to join Price in Jefferson City, believing the attack on this new position would be too costly.

The time wasted on this futile pursuit, the huge loss of life at Pilot Knob now altered the original plans of Price’s raid, and the conflict and stand by Ewing and his troops at Pilot Knob, in effect, ended the raid as it begun. Price would attempt to cross Missouri and by the end of October, his army was defeated and shut down at Westport and then at Mine Creek in KS. Price’s infamous raid of 1864 was over and it had been by the brave and wise action of General Ewing.

In February 1865, Ewing resigned his commission in the Army to his good friend the President, Abraham Lincoln, and went back to public life. A month later, Lincoln was dead. Ironically, Ewing agreed to represent three of the conspirators in Lincoln’s assassination, Dr. Samuel Mudd, Samuel Arnold and Edmund Spangler. His efforts, in effect, kept those three men from meeting the same fate as the other conspirators and they were sentenced to prison at Fort Jefferson in Florida. Ewing also successfully obtained a pardon for Dr. Mudd at the end of President Johnson’s term of office.

Last years of life

Ewing practiced law in Washington D.C. from 1865 until 1870 when he moved back to his home in Lancaster, Ohio to practice law and became a Congressman for his state. In 1880 he ran for Governor of Ohio and narrowly lost the election. IN 1881 he moved to New York to again practice law and ended his career in public office. Thomas Ewing Jr. died after he was struck by a New York City omnibus in 1896 and is buried in Yonkers, NY.

One might think that the title of this column is a contradiction of words, but it is not. During the Civil War there was a certain civility in the correspondence that described the “barbarous warfare” that was conducted by both the Union and Confederate forces. This and the command of the English language were especially evident in the letters between the Union and Confederate “generals.”

The following letter from “Union” Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck to Confederate Gen. Sterling Price, although very civil in nature, clearly states exactly what Gen. Halleck will do and why he is doing it.

The letter is located in Series I, Volume 8 of the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion on pages 514 and 515.

“St. Louis, Mo., Jan. 22, 1862.

Gen. Sterling Price, Commanding:

General: Your letter, dated Springfield, Jan. 12, is received. The troops of which you complain on the Kansas frontier and at Fort Leavenworth are not under my command. In regard to them, I respectfully refer you to Maj. Gen. David Hunter, commanding the Department of Kansas, headquarters at Fort Leavenworth.

You also complain that “individuals and parties of men specially appointed and instructed by you to destroy railroads, culverts and bridges, by tearing them up and burning, and have been arrested and subjected to a general court-martial for alleged crimes.”

This statement is, in the main, correct. When “individuals and parties of men” violate the “laws of war,” they will be tried, and if found guilty, will certainly be punished, whether acting under your “special appointment and instructions” or not. You must be aware, general, that no orders of yours can save you from punishment spies, marauders, robbers, incendiaries, guerrilla bands and those who violate the “laws of war.”

You cannot give immunity to crime. But let us fully understand each other on this point.

If you send armed forces, wearing the garb (uniforms) of soldiers and duly organized and enrolled as legitimate belligerents to destroy railroads and bridges as a military act, we shall kill them, if possible, in open warefare, or if we capture them, we shall treat them as prisoners of war.

But it is well understood that you have sent numbers of your adherents, in the garb (clothes) of peaceful citizens and under false pretenses, through our lines into northern Missouri to rob and destroy the property of “Union” men and to burn and destroy railroad bridges, thus endangering the lives of thousands and this, too, without any military necessity or possible military advantage.

Moreover, peaceful citizens of Missouri, quietly working on their farms, have been instigated by your emissaries to take up arms as insurgents and to rob and plunder and to commit arson and murder. They do not even act under the garb of soldiers but under false pretenses and in the guise of peaceful citizens.

You certainly will not pretend that men guilty of such crimes, although “specially appointed and instructed by you,” are entitled to the rights and immunities of ordinary prisoners of war. If you do, will you refer me to a single authority on the laws of war which recognizes such a claim?

You may rest assured, general, that all prisoners of war not guilty of a crime will be treated with proper consideration and kindness. With the exception of being properly confined, they will be lodged and fed and, where necessary, clothed, the same as our own troops.

I am sorry to say that our prisoners who have come from your camps do not report such treatment on your part. They say that you gave them no rations, no clothing, no blankets, but left them to perish with want and cold. Moreover, it is believed that you subsist your troops by robbing and plundering the non-combatant “Union” inhabitants of the southwestern counties of this state. Thousands of poor families have fled to us for protection and support. They say that your troops robbed them of their provisions and clothing, carrying away their shoes and bedding and even cutting cloth from their looms, and that you have driven women and children from their homes to starve and perish in the cold.

I have not retaliated with such conduct upon your adherents here, as I have no intention of waging such a “barbarous warfare;” but I shall, whenever I can, punish such crimes, by whomsoever they may be committed.

I am daily expecting instructions respecting an exchange of prisoners of war. I will communicate with you on that subject as soon as they are received.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

H.W. Halleck

Maj. Gen., Commanding the Department of the Missouri.

Now then, did Gen. Price ever respond to Gen. Halleck’s letter? If he did, it did not survive the passage of time or has not been discovered to date. Did this letter change the “barbarous warfare” that was conducted in Missouri and eastern Kansas for the duration of the war to a more civilized way of waging war? Of course, it did not; and, of course, the war went on!

 

During the American Civil War, the paths of a northern-born, pro-Southern Confederate officer and a German born Union officer had briefly met in the south-central Missouri area of Waynesville in Pulaski County. Both of these men would never become famous names in the war, but both men survived the war and were each fascinating in their own way.

Missouri German Joseph A. Eppstein

Colonel Joseph A. Eppstein made a record as a citizen and soldier, which any American can read with pride and satisfaction. He was born in Germany, Jan. 1, 1824, and was 14 years of age when the family came to America. In 1843, he went to St. Louis and was employed in a store in that city until 1847. In February of that year, he enlisted in Company C, 3rd Missouri Mounted Rifles, in which he was made sergeant, and served for nearly two years, until October 1848.

After the expiration of his war service that led him to Mexico City with General Winfield Scott’s conquering forces, he returned to St. Louis and in August 1849, was given charge of a store, which he conducted until 1850, and then returned to Boonville. He engaged in the mercantile business with his brother Viet Eppstein until 1860, when he purchased his brother’s interest.

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, he at once organized a company of 135, every one of whom with a single exception was of German birth or ancestry. This company was known as the “Boonville Corps”. He then organized a battalion and a company of cavalry, but these were only for local service. He later organized the 6th Battalion Missouri State Guards, and after that a number of companies, both cavalry and infantry.

From March 24, 1862 to January 1863, by a special law of Congress, passed because of a general dissatisfaction among the home guards all over the state, Lieutenant-Colonel Eppstein’s battalion was reorganized, and became part of the Missouri State Militia forming the 13th Regiment MSM Cavalry under the command of Colonel Albert Sigel, brother of Union General Franz Sigel. Further consolidation of troops into four companies’ occurred which designated the 13th Regiment into the 5th Regiment MSM Cavalry, which was then ordered to Waynesville, MO. in the Rolla District.

William Osborne Coleman, Northern Southerner

William Osborne Coleman was born on January 12, 1837 around Elmira, New York. He ran away from home at age 10 and stole aboard a ship bound for Vera Cruz and the Mexican War where was wounded at Churubusco. In 1855, he moved to Kansas and participated in the border wars along the Missouri-Kansas border, siding with the pro-slavery factions.

Coleman eventually moved to Rolla Missouri where he married and with the outbreak of the Civil War, commanded a company of Missouri State Guard, which was scattered when Union Colonel Franz Sigel occupied Rolla. He joined with the Seventh Division Missouri State Guard and elected First Lieutenant. Coleman fought at many of the early battles in Missouri such as Wilson’s Creek (August 10, 1861) and the First Battle of Lexington (September 20, 1861). CSA General Sterling Price gave a commission to Coleman and he was tasked with raising a cavalry regiment in central Missouri.

Coleman was appointed Colonel by CSA Brigadier General Thomas C. Hindman on June 18, 1862 Coleman’s command was assigned to James H. McBride’s District of North Arkansas, which he did not want. A Rift occurred over the summer between McBride and Coleman. General Hindman ordered Coleman to report to McBride and dismount his regiment. Coleman refused and he was arrested on July 31, 1862 and deprived of command.

Coleman returned to Missouri and organized guerrilla bands against Federal forces until January 1, 1864 when General E. Kirby Smith released him from arrest and Coleman organized the Forty-sixth Arkansas Mounted Infantry Regiment, but quickly relinquished command and returned to Missouri where his regiment joined Sterling Price’s 1864 Missouri Raid.

The following report was given by Colonel Eppstein in 1862 while Coleman was operating with the Fourth Cavalry Regiment conducting partisan actions against Union forces in Missouri around Waynesville.

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 father, 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 place, 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 shirttails, 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.

Both men survived the war and went on to lead normal, everyday lives, but early on in the war, fate brought these two soldiers together in a way they would have never imagined.

Joseph Eppstein eventually became the commander of the Missouri State Militia and served until the close of the war. He followed merchandising after the war until 1878, when he was appointed postmaster of Boonville and served until his death in 1885. He died on March 4, 1886 in Cooper County MO. and is buried in St Peter and Paul Cemetery in Boonville, MO.

When the war ended in 1865, William Coleman was paroled in Jacksonport AR. He moved to Texas but eventually settled in Detroit, Dade County Florida where he died on June 30, 1921 and is buried in City Cemetery, Miami FL.

Winter during the Civil War was particularly trying and monotonous for the armies. The winter months presented impassable, muddy roads and harsh weather which precluded active operations. Disease ran rampant during the winter months, killing more men than battles. But with all of its hardships winter also allowed soldiers an opportunity to bond, have a bit of fun, and enjoy their more permanent camps. Through these bleak months all soldiers, Union and Confederate, had to keep warm and busy in order to survive. However, in the winter of 1862-1863, the “Union” Army of the Southwest, commanded by Maj. Gen. Samuel Ryan Curtis, was on the march and campaigning in Northwest Arkansas. As part of that army, the 3rd Wisconsin Cavalry Regiment was far away from its former headquarters in Fort Scott and 1st Sergeant, soon-to-be 2nd Lt. Charles W. Porter recorded the following entries in his journal. His original journal is owned by the Wisconsin State Historical Society and a transcribed copy is located in the manuscript collection of Fort Scott National Historic Site and an edited version has been published by the Bushwhacker Museum in Nevada, Mo.

Dec. 31, 1862

At daylight we were again on the road. We had a cold and uncomfortable night and but little sleep as we had no tents with us. The ground was frozen enough to bear a horse and rider. Our march today was by the Boston Mountains and across the same streams we met with on our march to Van Buren. We did not see the sun until 10 o’ clock a.m. on account of the mountain heights. These mountains are in many respects sublime in appearance. They are quite rocky, some of the rocks have a perpendicular height of 100 feet or more, while many are shelving and ragged, covered with pine and cedar besides other kinds of trees.

Fred A. Copeland of our company lost his horse and was obliged to appropriate a donkey for his use. The only way he could keep the lazy beast up with the company was to put an ear of corn on the end of a cane stalk and hold it in front of the animal, when he would hasten to overtake it. The boys gave Fred the name of “Barlarn,” a name he did not fancy and in order to get rid of the accursed name he disposed of the beast on arriving at camp. After a march of 30 miles today, we arrived at our old camp at Rheas Mills at a little before sunset.

Thursday, Jan. 1, 1863

A new year has dawned upon us and with it the war is still in progress. I set about to enjoy the day as my limited means would admit. I took a few drinks of brandy to stimulate my exertions. I procured some canned peaches and oysters at the sutlers (a portable “civilian general store” that traveled with the army in a privately owned wagon or wagons) and soon surprised the vacancies of the inner man. During the day, I received my commission as 2nd Lieutenant of Co. F, 3rd Regt. Wisconsin Cavalry and the consequence was I was elected to do some treating. Many of the boys in and about our Regiment partook freely of “Coffin Varnish” (homemade whiskey) and many rows occurred during the day. I was with my companions until a late hour and a jolly carouse we had. The day was cloudy, windy and with some sleet. At dark we had marching orders for the morrow.

Friday, Jan. 2, 1863

It rained nearly all night. Early this morning, the reveille called us forth to our morning duties and prepare for another move. Our company was detailed to take charge of a herd of government cattle and proceed to Fayetteville, the county seat of Washington County, Ark. At 10 o’clock a.m., we started and passed over some nice country and saw some good farms. After marching 18 miles, we arrived at Fayetteville at 8 o’clock p.m. The place has the appearance of once being in a flourishing and quite prosperous condition. But, war had done its work of devastation in the business portion, as Confederate Gen. McCulloch had burnt it. Orderly Sgt. E.M. Cooper and myself fortunately found a place of comfort for the night with a family. We had a good, warm supper and a nice bed on the floor before the fire. Today was pleasant.

Saturday, Jan. 3, 1863.

I was up quite early this morning, after a good sound sleep. Our hostess provided us with a good breakfast. At 10 o’clock a.m., we were ordered to take our stock (cattle) to Elm Springs and we immediately moved forward in a northerly course through some beautiful farm country and good timber. After marching 12 miles, we arrived at Elm Springs an hour before sunset and camped. This place has but few buildings and a large flour mill. Our entire force camped here tonight. Today was pleasant.

Sunday, Jan. 4, 1863

I assisted Stephen Wheeler to make out our company payrolls today as the last rolls we made out were not correct. It was therefore necessary to make out new ones. Today was clear and chilly.

Monday, Jan. 5, 1863

I did not feel well today so I did not do any duty. Brother Walworth was sick in bed today and unfit for duty. Nothing unusual in camp. Today was cloudy and chilly.

Tuesday Jan. 6, 1863

I was confined in my tent with sore eyes today. Brother Walworth is better. There is no exciting news with us today. All quiet in and about us at this time. Today was very cool.

Wednesday, Jan. 7, 1863

This forenoon, our forces here were preparing for a review in the afternoon when we passed in review by Maj. Gen. Schofield, our department commander. Infantry, Artillery and Cavalry, in order, marched in a continual line until sunset, when the last column passed the general’s notice. Tonight, the officers had a grand dance and superb supper in honor of our Gen. Schofield. During the early part of the evening, some drunken soldiers stoned the building where the dancing was. Gen. Schofield was hit on the head disqualifying him somewhat from enjoying the entertainment. I learn that the perpetrators of this foul act were of a Kansas Regiment. There were a number of others hit at the time, but no one was seriously hurt. I was ordered with my Company to guard the locality against further assault.

At supper, I was provided with plenty of green peas, hot biscuits and butter, cakes and pie. Well, I soon struck a business-like attitude and these fine rations soon vanished from the dishes that were provided for their reception to a place long since deprived of these luxuries. Today was very cool. I was on duty all night.

Thursday, Jan. 8, 1863

I took a little sleep this morning and got up for breakfast. My eyes continue to be very sore, so I did not do much duty today. Orderly (Sgt.) Cooper had cause to tie James G. Winter s of our company to a fence with his hands tied behind him, drunkenness and disorderly conduct was the cause. Today was pleasant but cool.

Friday, Jan. 9, 1863

There was nothing unusual with us today. Tonight some troops left camp. I did not learn where they were going. We had orders to be ready to march in the morning. Today was cool, but pleasant.

Saturday, Jan. 10, 1863

The order of last evening was countermanded (canceled), so we remain in camp. A large (wagon) train with refugees and a large number of Negroes left camp this morning for Fort Scott, Kan. Men, women and children, white and black, made up the freight of the train. Today was pleasant.”

Now then, 2nd Lt. Porter, his company and the balance of the 3rd Wisconsin Cavalry remained on campaign until they returned to Fort Scott in the spring of 1863. As these journal entries indicate “campaigning” did not always include combat. Although a variety of happenings indicate that this campaign was not dull for 1st Sgt. Porter, who received his promotion to 2nd Lieutenant and eventually reached the rank of captain as the war went on.

To persons living east of the Mississippi River during the Civil War, Kansas was “that new state out west,” where land cost little and men’s lives even less. For one intrepid young settler from Illinois, his new home became the source of inspiration for a revealing collection of diaries and artwork that comprise a treasure trove for Civil War historians.

Samuel J. Reader, of Indianola, Kan., was born in Illinois in 1836. He trekked to the new territory with his aunt and her husband in 1855, and kept a running chronicle of the events in “Bleeding Kansas” in a series of annual diaries. Along with written comments about that turbulent time, Reader also included some paintings. In one of his diaries, he painted himself staking his own Kansas claim. During the Civil War, Reader carried his diary while serving as a member of the local militia. His words and art, discovered after his death in 1914, became a unique record of the war.

Shortly after his arrival at Indianola, Reader wrote that the town would never amount to much. In 1862, he complained to his family back in Illinois that “instead of laying it out on the prairie the Mo. [Missouri] proprietors laid it out mostly in timber and bushes.”

The Kansas town–named after Indianola, Texas, by its Southern-sympathizing founders–was the subject of many Reader paintings. He depicted all the usual frontier establishments–a sawmill, a blacksmith, two or three stores, two hotels and a couple of billiard saloons or “whiskey dens.” At the height of the town’s prosperity, lots sold for $250 or $300, with one going as high as $500. Reader commented that “intemperance is the special vice of this neighborhood” and dubbed Indianola “Whiskeytown.” He also associated the town’s saloons with the secessionist movement, all of them being owned by pro-slavery sympathizers.

Young Sam’s opinion of supporters of slavery developed after he settled in Kansas Territory. He wrote: “Rich cheap farm land was the principal incentive that lured me on from my Illinois home. I had heard and read much concerning the political troubles in the territory; but the question of a free or a slave state was a secondary consideration with me at the time. In fact, I had given little thought to the subject; viewing the ‘Peculiar Institution’ as a great wrong, but leaving its adjustment to older and wiser heads.”

The largely Southern population of Indianola inevitably brought the town into conflict with its Free State neighbors. Recalling a raid by Topeka pioneers, Reader wrote: “Our neighborhood was badly stirred up. … A party of Free-State men … took from the most rabid pro-slavery citizens, their arms and military stores; together with Sundry articles, claimed to be contraband of war. The whiskey was emptied in the street. I had no hand in it; and whether the act was justifiable or not, is not for me to say. It was called a reprisal; but two wrongs do not always make one right! … But it was reported that our ruthless enemies [Missouri border ruffians] did far worse. Besides plundering, they added, ‘fire and sword’ and numberless outrages, on Free-State men!”  

Reader, Free-Staters and the Grim Chieftan

When Reader learned that Southern-sympathizing border ruffians were about to attack the town of Grasshopper Falls–present-day Valley Falls–in the next county to the east, he joined other Free Staters under Colonel James H. Lane as they rushed to confront the raiders at a place called Hickory Point. Lane’s ragtag militia crossed the Kansas River by ferry on Friday morning, September 12, 1856. The date was recorded forever in a watercolor depiction of the momentous crossing in Reader’s diary.

After an early morning skirmish that Sunday, Reader dashed off some lines in his diary, noting that the Free Staters had arrived at Hickory Point, a short distance east of Grasshopper Falls, at about 11 in the morning. “Fired some,” and then “retreated to O[zawkie],” he noted in his diary. Reader also claimed that his side had only lost three horses and one man wounded, compared to “Several B.Rs. [border ruffians] killed.” Actually, only one Southern sympathizer died in the skirmish. With that brief triumph behind them, young Reader and his companions in the Free State company ate some watermelons and in the evening started home, “sleepy and tired but full of glory.”

But there was little glory to be found in Kansas in 1856. This was the period of “Bleeding Kansas,” which featured the fanaticism of John Brown and the death and destruction sowed by contending bands of pro-slave and Free State partisans. During that one year in Reader’s Kansas county, three houses were ruined, 46 horses were stolen, and 67 head of cattle were rustled. But the federal government, from whom the people sought relief, never compensated the victims of either side, Reader recorded, and the claims passed into history and myth.

A number of Lane’s Free State militiamen involved in the raids were arrested that fall and imprisoned in the territorial capital, Lecompton, and the small neighboring town of Tecumseh–both Southern strongholds. Most were acquitted. At one time the jail in Tecumseh housed some 47 prisoners. About 10 o’clock on the night of November 21, 1856, about 30 of them escaped “by pegging a hole in the wall and crawling out like rats,” recounted the proSouth publication Lecompton Union on December 11. Officers caught one fellow halfway out and towed him back in. His excuse, “I am following the rest.”

Shortly after Kansas Territory became a state, its citizens experienced the myriad trials of civil war. The war, which broke out at Fort Sumter, S.C., three months after Kansas entered the Union, took a heavy toll on Union-loving volunteers. Reader wrote that “a great many farms are not cultivated in this section for want of working men.” Such a severe shortage of manpower existed in the entire state by the middle of the war that Governor Thomas Carney felt it necessary to caution recruiting officers to go more slowly in their efforts.  

Reader himself did not immediately enlist in one of the Kansas volunteer regiments. Instead, he served in the Union militia, which had formed during the territorial period, and subsequently took part in the bloodless “Battle of Indianola” and another confrontation at Hickory Point.

On the home front, Reader became an astute social observer in his letters and diaries. For example, in a letter dated January 19, 1862, he wrote to his brother that he had recently been in Topeka, where he “saw quite a number of negroes employed by its citizens. They looked intelligent and happy. I believe they have 15 or 20 there but none have come over on this side of the [Kansas] river, yet, that is.”

His social observations were sometimes tinged with martial language: One day, when a prostitute quarreled with the more respectable ladies of Indianola, the outraged reaction provided Reader with the opportunity to exercise his wit in his diary. The “fancy lady, to use no harsher term … established her headquarters in Billy P[russeit]’s shoemaker shop,” he observed. Five of the town’s womenfolk, “after holding a council of war determined on a vigorous policy, and forth-with set out for little Bill’s house. … The attacking force filed through the gate and by a skillful maneuver gained possession of the backdoor without the loss of a man (or woman rather).”

Immediately following the sack of Lawrence by William Clarke Quantrill, the citizens of many Kansas towns understandably feared a similar fate, and they organized Union militia companies to protect themselves. Elizabeth Reader, a resident of Indianola and relative of Samuel, wrote that the militia members continued to meet and drill until the fall of 1864. In that “Secesh” town, even some of the former pro-slavery men joined with the Unionist militiamen to make up Company D of the Shawnee County regiment.

The Shawnee County unit was designated the 2nd Regiment, Kansas State Militia, with Colonel George W. Veale commanding. The 2nd Kansas was brigaded later with the Lawrence unit, men who had suffered at the hands of Rebel guerrillas. A log stockade was erected in the center of Topeka as a refuge to which Shawnee County residents might flee if guerrillas appeared. And since Topeka had become the state capital, the city’s residents were sure it was a prime bushwhacker target.

Sterling Price’s Great Raid of 1864

Confederate Maj. Gen. Sterling Price invaded Missouri in September 1864. As he led three divisions of cavalry across the state where he had once been governor, Kansans watched anxiously to see if he would turn east toward St. Louis and the Mississippi River or west to capture Fort Leavenworth and plunder Kansas.  

Reader continued making entries into his diary that month as Governor Carney called out the militia. A lieutenant and quartermaster of the regiment, Reader reported on equipping the 2nd Kansas. Reader’s unit was ordered to assemble at Olathe on the Kansas-Missouri border, along with 10 other militia regiments. Each outfit had to provide its own transportation and rations. Members of each regiment were supplied with “two blankets, a tin cup, knife and fork, and a haversack,” Reader noted. In addition, Reader participated in the distribution of new Enfield rifles in place of the old and nearly worthless carbines that had been issued directly following the Lawrence raid.

Two days after the militia was called out, martial law was declared and every man between the ages of 18 and 60 was ordered to arms. On the morning of October 12, the 2nd Kansas moved out for Missouri. Reader took his diary along on the march, illustrating much of the campaign with charcoal and pencils–sketches he would later flesh out with watercolors. One such painting was called 2nd K.S.M. Invading Missouri. Many of the untrained, inexperienced militiamen refused to cross the state border to meet the Confederate invasion. The Shawnee County regiment was one of the exceptions, and the men from Topeka and vicinity proved their worth during the ensuing Battle of Westport.

Another painting, Night Before Battle, depicts the campsite of Kansans on October 21, 1864, the evening before the second day of fighting at Westport. The next day, the 2nd Kansas saw combat. The regiment waited at a shallow crossing of the Big Blue River through most of the day. Late in the afternoon, Brig. Gen. Jo Shelby’s “Iron Brigade” of Missouri cavalry broke through Union lines while attempting a flanking movement. Shelby’s Missourians ran headlong into the 2nd Kansas. The regiment held its ground without aid against vastly superior numbers for nearly an hour in what became known as the Battle of the Blue.

Reader fought among the embattled Kansans and later would commemorate in words and pictures the brave stand that repulsed the Confederate advance into Kansas. The 2nd Kansas counted 24 killed, 20 wounded and 88 taken prisoner.

Further confrontations along the border sent Price scurrying back toward the safety of Arkansas with a cache of captured arms and prisoners. Reader was one of the captured Federals. After a three-day forced march through southern Missouri, which he illustrated with a drawing he called Double-Quick, You Yankee, the 28-year-old Reader managed to escape and found shelter with a Kansas farmer. He eventually turned himself over to a company of Federal cavalry, using his diary to prove his identity. He was one of the fortunate ones–many of his fellow prisoners died of exposure and pneumonia. Years later, Reader spent time honing his artistic talent. Although he is best known as a diarist, he was also a natural artist whose work illustrated his words. In addition to the diaries he kept faithfully from age 13 until his death, he also wrote and illustrated his autobiography. The watercolors in the latter work are now considered a valuable record of the Civil War in Kansas and Missouri.

Reader used pigment ground in gum and applied with brush and water to produce some of the best Kansas art depicting the war. Most of his work was primitive, but his action scenes of the Battle of the Blue at Westport, now held by the Kansas State Historical Society, are the equal of any combat painting of the Civil War.

Reader’s reminiscences, eternized with both pen and brush, have only been partially tapped. His story of the border warfare in the state, in both pictures and words, is an invaluable glimpse into Kansas’ Civil War heritage.

The name “Red Legs” is often confused with the name “Jayhawkers” that describes the Kansas men who supported the Free-State cause in the border wars along the Missouri-Kansas border prior to the American Civil War.

Red Legs were a paramilitary group that was supported by Union generals such as Thomas Ewing Jr., James Blunt, and Senator James H. Lane. It was financed officially by the Kansas governor, Thomas Carney, and saw its first muster under the command of Charles R. “Doc” Jennison and Captain George H. Hoyt, a Massachusetts lawyer who defended John Brown at his trial after the Harpers Ferry Raid. These men were ardent abolitionists, but were equally as vicious as the bushwhackers in Missouri. Buffalo Bill Cody was a Red Leg and admitted that “We were the biggest thieves on record.”

Historian Albert Castel points out that,

Kansas jayhawkers and Red Legs made devastating raids into Missouri during which they plundered and murdered, burned farmhouses and crops, and liberated hundreds of slaves. These forays in turn caused pro-Southern guerrilla bands to retaliate against Kansas. Led by Quantrill, the Missouri bushwhackers sacked Kansas border settlements and shot down unarmed civilians “like so many hogs.” At the same time they waged a deadly partisan warfare against Federal troops and Union adherents in Missouri itself.

This consistent fighting along the border, and the incursions by the pro-southern Missourians into Kansas seeking retribution, led to General Thomas Ewing to issue the infamous General Order No. 11 on August 25, 1863. This depopulation of the Missouri counties of Jackson, Bates, Cass and parts of Vernon, left Missourians with an even stronger hate for their Kansas neighbors, which led to more incursions by bushwhackers and more violence.

In a compilation of letters from the era of the war put together in 1920, there is this account by Sam P. Gott;

About the first of January, 1864, a band of Kansas Red Leg soldiers same into the northwestern part of Johnson county, Missouri, and robbed, burned and murdered in that part of the country for two or three days. An old man named Shafer was killed and the house and barn were burned. An eyewitness told the writer that he saw the smoke going up from twenty-seven houses and barns at one time.

These murderers, claiming to be Jennison’s soldiers, under the command of Jim Lane, returned to Kansas City with their booty and remained there until the first of April, 1864. They then came back into southwestern Lafayette County, apparently to complete the work of devastation in that part of the country. It was on Sunday afternoon that they came into the neighborhood of Chapel Hill (I think it was at this time they burned Chapel Hill College). They hung an old man nearly eighty years old in a barn belonging to a man named William Harris. Old Uncle Joe Johnson was the man who was hung. That night they camped on the farm of Mr. Alph Cobb, about three miles east of Chapel Hill. Early the next morning they went to Washington Martin’s and took away about fifteen head of good mules and horses, besides whatever other valuables they could load into wagons and haul away.

Near Lone Jack in southeast Jackson County, an expedition led by Colonel Charles S. Clark of the Ninth Kansas Cavalry provides an example of how events involving any Red Leg imbedded with the Union troops often turned out.

Martin Rice was a loyal Unionist, but was forced from his home and land. He had obtained the required papers showing his loyalty to the Union but on his five mile journey to his new home in Johnson County, along with a number of his neighbors he was met by the Ninth Kansas Cavalry and arrested. After being questioned by the arresting officer, Captain Charles F. Coleman, Rice was instructed to ‘”Travel!”’ and set back out on his journey. He then heard shots fired and turned around to find that his neighbors and travelling companions all had been accused of assisting a group of guerillas the night before and therefore all had been shot and killed.

Historian Bruce Nichols points out that this event “was purely and act of cruelty or the result of wrong assumptions, it certainly was a case of “shoot first and ask questions later” which typified many of the actions of Union troops in this region during this period…”

Another example of how these Union soldiers went against what Order No. 11 stated was in how they destroyed property and land. Daniel B. Holmes wrote that he and his fellow members of the Seventh Kansas Cavalry lived quite well

Not from what we draw from the commissary but what we jayhawked. When we are traveling through secesh country we come to the home of some leading secesh, or of some man in the secesh army, then we take his horses and property, burn his house, or as we say, clean them out, well, in the operation we generally get a young hog … some turkeys, chickens, once in a while a crock of honey, then don’t we live.

By the end of the war the Red Leg’s faded from the scene afterwards as guerilla war diminished along the border, and “Doc” Jennison was court martialed and dismissed from service in June 1865. Even after 150 years, though, the deeds of the Red Legs are not forgotten on either side of the state line.

Cole Camp Missouri is in the rolling hills and plains of west-central Missouri south of the Missouri River. The events at Cole Camp are a prime example of how hot passions, prejudices, and the brutal nature of unconventional warfare defined the entire state during the American Civil War. As one of the early battles, it proved without a doubt that the brutality witnessed during the battle, would be the harbinger of that which would take place over the next four years.

However, many people, even those who study the conflict in Missouri know little if anything at all about the events in Cole Camp. There are many possible reasons. According to Robert L. Owens, “The most logical explanation is that the two forces involved were hastily thrown-together, rag-tag outfits with no regular officers or forces involved so there were no reports or details.”

This would also tie in with an eyewitness to the event at Cole Camp, Friedrich Schnake, who stated that he believed that Union Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon took no measure to pursue the retreating Confederates and that he “remained quietly with his men in Camp Cameron, near Boonville, until 3 July, as if nothing happened.” His reasoning for this was that he believed Lyon, as a Know-Nothing, hated Germans, who made up 95% of the Benton County Home Guards, Missouri Volunteers, and therefore did not concern himself with the event and even more likely, did not even make an official report of the event. While this seems to be very legitimate reasoning, due to a very brief and vague account in the Official Records (O.R.), however, the event was carried a week later in a New York paper with specific details of KIA and even including names.

In 1861 Cole Camp was situated at the crossroads of four major roads and any information, travel or troop movements across the state would eventually wind up passing through it. Benton, Pettis and Morgan Counties were split between southern-sympathizing residents and the German immigrants, who favored abolition and the Union. Suspicion and hostilities were ever-present and the rosters for the Home Guards and the State Guards would reflect this division. As the breakdown in negations at the Planters Hotel in St. Louis ended and Governor Claiborne Fox Jackson and Major General Sterling Price were on the run towards the southwestern portion of Missouri, General Lyon authorized loyal communities to organize Home Guards for protection. In Benton County, Abel H.W. Cook was commissioned to enlist men for the Home Guard and held rallies on June 11 and 12 where he enlisted over 900 Benton county men, mostly Germans, and then setup “Camp Lyon” on the north-south ridge between the adjacent farms of John Heisterberg and Harm Harms. The barns were their shelters and they drilled in the area between them. However, since the volunteers elected their own officers, most out of popularity rather than for their experience, a host of problems arose that would most certainly play into the forthcoming engagement. The men were over-confident, poorly trained, discipline was almost nonexistent, weapons had not arrived from St. Louis leaving half of the recruits unarmed and to top things off whiskey was in abundance. Just six days later these ill-prepared men would meet a foe they were scarcely ready for.

About 20 miles south of Cole Camp, the southern sympathizing town of Warsaw had raised two State Guard companies with a force of about 350 infantry and 100 cavalry. Led by Walter S. O’Kane, with the scouting information of Benton County Sheriff B.W. Keown, the State Guard skillfully planned their march to clear the way for their retreating governor and in the process, attack the hated “Dutch.” Their plan was simple – through intelligence gained by the Sheriff, they were aware of the deficiencies of their Union foes and chose to make their advance under cover of darkness. In addition, they carried a Union flag to deceive the pickets and the very green soldiers they were going to encounter. On June 19th around 1:00am, as they marched up the Butterfield Trail from Warsaw, they encountered a slave-holding, but loyal Unionist John Tyree who had witnessed the State Guards approach to Cole Camp and reported it to Abel Cook, who mostly disregarded Tyree’s report. Tyree was questioned and then shot, becoming the first causality of the battle.

Back in the Union camp, Cook not having taken Tyree’s report seriously sent for half his force he had furloughed and let the others sleep. This effectively left him with about 400 men in camp, 125 asleep in the two barns, muskets left outside to make room. To make matters worse, fifty more of them were asleep just north of the Heisterberg barn and none of these soldiers were aware of any danger or the attack that was to come.

Around 3:00am the State Guard arrived at Camp Lyon. The cavalry was sent to attack from the southwest as the infantry unfurled a Union flag and continued on, confusing the Union guards, who were then bayoneted before they could sound the alarm or even fire a single shot. The rebels then rushed the Heisterberg barn, shouted, “No mercy for the Dutch!” firing into the barn and killing anywhere from 15 to 20 sleeping Home Guard soldiers and wounding many more. At the sound of gunfire, the sleeping soldiers began to fire into the Southerners flank, pushing them back in retreat until they again regrouped and once again attacked the barn, now empty except for dead and wounded. The Union soldiers however, were now out of ammunition and retreated into the woods. As the soldiers who were asleep in the open formed ranks and prepared to make a defense the State Guard cavalry flanked them and chased them as well into the woods, however, the heavy undergrowth prevented the cavalry from penetrating too deep and the Home Guardsmen were able to take a defensive stand.

Back south at the Harms barn, the Home Guard were forming when they again saw the approaching Union flag in the darkness and before they knew what was happening, the Southerners fired a volley into them and killed quite a few and caused the green Germans to flee in confusion. As the Home Guard fell into total disarray and retreated into the night, they had abandoned almost every single weapon, 362 of 400, which fell into the hands of the State Guard. In 30 minutes it was over. It was the bloodiest battle the Civil War had seen to date, and it allowed Governor Jackson and General Price and their entourage to pass unscathed through Cole Camp as they headed to the southwest portion of the state. At dawn, drunken State Guard troops harassed prisoners, one German named Tomforte was shot because he stated he was a cook, not a soldier, and in their drunken state they believed him to be the Home Guard commander, Able Cook. Wounded men were tended to by women from nearby farms, some exchanged under a flag of truce and the rest as prisoners were taken back to Warsaw.

The numbers have varied but according to muster rolls 600 Union men are listed, however, an Adjutant Generals report dated 31 December 1865 listed only 526 and listed:

“2 officers and 22 men killed, 3 died later of wounds, 2 died of disease.”
 “18 officers, 456 men honorably discharged, 23 discharged for disability.”

Reports of the time stated that nearly a third of the German’s were casualties, somewhere around 35 to 40 dead, 60 wounded and 25 to 30 had been captured. In contrast, the State Guard six or seven killed and about 25 wounded.

The question remains as to why the Battle of Cole Camp has fallen into obscurity? Why has it never received the attention that other battles have, with equal or less casualties? Official reports seem to be non-existent. General Lyon was more concerned with Boonville and Warsaw than he was with Cole Camp where he dictated the following to General George B. McClellan,

BOONEVILLE, MO., June 20, 1861.

General McClellan: I have notice that Missouri is assigned to your command. This (Booneville) is an important point, and should have at least a whole regiment, with an advance post at Warsaw, which is a nest of rebels, who have massacred at Cole Camp Union men. These will permit the Second Missouri Volunteer Regiment to concentrate at Jefferson City. I would have you send a regiment here, with a large supply of stores.

N. LYON.

This seems to lend validity to the view of Friedrich Schnake who believed that Lyon had no concern for the Germans. But as Lyon was about to meet his fate at Wilson’s Creek, his battle plan partner was the native German Col. Franz Sigel. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle of this view and the fact that larger battles were beginning to take place, overshadowing the events at Cole Camp and sending it into the dusty memory of those fighting a war that was just beginning and would see more lives lost than all the wars prior combined. The other possibility is that the Union was soundly defeated by a better prepared and determined State Guard rather than the boastful Home Guard and this was an embarrassment that needed to be swept under the carpet. Even to this day, Cole Camp is not listed as one of the battles for the state of Missouri by the National Park Services CWSAC Battle Summaries.

The Battle of Cole Camp was significant in that it showed the brutality of war, the division that existed in small, rural communities, and a glimpse of what the next four years would hold in store for the rest of the country.

Early in the morning hours of 25 October, 1864, Confederate Major General Sterling Price was retreating as fast as he could to more friendly territory to his base in Arkansas after what many consider the final blow to his Rebel army at the Battle of Westport just two days before. In pursuit were the Union forces under the command of Major General Alfred Pleasonton. Three conflicts took place as the southerners retreated. These conflicts were all Union victories and would ultimately be the final straw in the great Missouri Raid of 1864. Price had intended on securing Missouri for the Confederacy, gaining southern sympathizing supporters, take pressure off the losses in the eastern theater and to install a southern governor at the capital in Jefferson City. None of these happened and his raid in turn had exactly the opposite effect it had intended.

The Battle of Marais des Cygnes was the first of three battles that took place on 25 October 1864. Sterling Price’s rear guard was covering the retreat of the Confederates as they crossed the Marais des Cygnes River. It was an extremely dark night, with considerable rain. According to C.S.A. Lieutenant Colonel L. A. MacLean, Assistant Adjutant-General of Price’s Army,

Before I had gone a mile from the encampment (on the Marais des Cygnes) of the night before, I received an order from General Marmaduke to form my brigade in line of battle, as the enemy had again appeared in our rear. I remained in that position until 10 o’clock; no engagement with small-arms; retiring from that position in line of battle. The enemy, 800 or 900 yards distant in line of battle, followed us. We were now well out on a prairie that seemed almost boundless. At the distance of a mile General Marmaduke directed me to halt, which we did. The enemy coming on with a steady advance approached very near in largely superior force. We retired at a trot, the enemy in close pursuit. We continued this was, each holding about the same position, across a flat prairie some four miles, when we came suddenly upon the trains halted, the delay occasioned by a deep ravine, the enemy not more than 500 yards in our rear. There was no time to make any but the most rapid dispositions for battle.

The relentless push by the Federals finally forced the Confederate rear guard to stop and fight. Major General Samuel Curtis related later that in a communique to his commanding officer that between the hours of 0000 and 0300, they had met the enemy, but had not exchanged fire as they pursued the rebels. However, things changed at 0300 when Curtis sent Major Hunt and three companies of the Second Colorado to attack and by 0400 had a message sent to General Sanborn, who leading the advance party to open with artillery. Major R.H. Hunt rode up from the skirmish lines and begged them to cease firing from that point as the shells were falling on their own men, who had already been driven from their positions in a disorganized retreat.

Daylight began to approach and the rebels deserted their camp and began taking down trees but the Federal push was so strong that the rebels, in disarray, fled in disorder leaving “cattle, camp equipment, negroes, provisions partly cooked, and stolen goods.. scattered over miles of the forest camp.” According to General Curtis’ report, “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.”

The battle at Marais des Cygnes ended and the Union forces continued to pursue the Confederates unabated. About three miles north of Mine Creek, a branch of the Osage River, the Confederates again formed up as they were once again stopped by river to cross. Pleasonton’s advance brigade, consisting of Colonel’s Frederick Benteen (commanding the Iowa, Indiana and other troops) and John Philips (commanding the Missouri troops), moved forward, and Benteen, made dash to the rebels right flank, surrounding them and in the process captured two Confederate Generals, John Marmaduke and William Caball and killed Confederate General Graham. They also captured and killed many other officers and soldiers. The Federals continued to push and as the number of Price’s men began to dwindle they crossed Mine Creek and skirmished between the creek and the Osage, according to Curtis’ report, another two hours in a line that extended for several miles. Mass confusion reigned on the battlefield, as many of Price’s men had donned captured Union uniforms, making it harder to distinguish between them and real Union soldiers. General Curtis made it a point to explain the terrain they were fighting on as 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.

The speed and ferocity of the Federal attack, even though they were numerically outnumbered, completely took the retreating rebels by surprise and threw them into a mass of disarray. While the southerners who fought did so with valor, many chose to flee. General Price briefly returned but was now in quick haste to attempt to get to Fort Scott.

As the afternoon wore on the Confederates once again found a river blocking their escape route. Once again, Price and the Confederates had to make a stand. Brigadier General John McNeil headed the Union attack against rebels that were rallied by Price and his officers. Many of these men were even unarmed but began their assault on the Federals. McNeil not knowing the actual size did not mount a full assault and after two hours of skirmishing could not at this point effectively pursue what was left of Price’s army. According to General Curtis’ report,

The distance traveled during the day and the frequent conflicts in which we had been engaged during the four previous days and nights had indeed exhausted men and horses; still it was my earnest desire to rest on the field, sending to Fort Scott for food and forage. But ammunition and other supplies were also necessary, and the erroneous statement of the distance to Fort Scott irresistibly carried my main forces to that place of abundant supply. The enemy burned a vast number of his wagons and destroyed much of his heavy ammunition, so as to materially accommodate his farther retreat. Thus all our troops, some on the field of battle at Charlot and the remainder at Fort Scott, rested a few hours of the night of the 25th and 26th.

With no more pursuers and really nothing left of his Army, Price limped back to Arkansas. His grand plan to claim Missouri for the Confederacy not only ended in failure but came with a great loss of life. The plan was doomed from the beginning as they marched on Fort Davidson in southeast Missouri and finally, almost exactly one month later was laid to rest in southeastern Kansas.

During the Civil War in Missouri and eastern Kansas, in addition to killing prisoners, both the Jayhawkers of Kansas and the Bushwhackers of Missouri murdered and robbed civilians as well as soldiers which was and is commonplace in any guerrilla war. The following correspondence describes a “Guerrilla” attack on Lamar, Mo., and the “Union” response from Fort Scott. Both documents are located on Pages 348 and 352-354 in Series I, Vol. 13 of the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion.

“Lamar, Mo., November 6, 1862.

Sir: I have the honor to report that I was attacked last night by a band of rebels, numbering 200 or 300. I fought them some two and a half hours from houses and every way. The rebels rushed in and burned about one third of the town. They killed three of my men and wounded three mortally, I think. We held the town and still hold it. We killed five or six of the rebels. I shall stay here until I hear from you. We would like to have some men in this part of the country. Three squads have passed through this country within the past week, numbering in all about 1,000. They are going south. If I had 150 more men here, I think I could capture the squads that are passing through this country. I am not strong enough to organize the militia in Jasper County.

Yours with respect,

M. BREEDEN,Captain.”


“Headquarters, Fort Scott, Kan., Nov. 11, 1862.

General: I have the honor to report that on the morning of the instant I received a dispatch from Capt. Breeden, dated Lamar, at 9 p.m. the night before stating that he had been attacked by about an hour before by 400 men under Quantrill that they were still fighting and asking for assistance. I immediately sent Capt. Conkey with 80 men and Capt. Coleman with 30 men; they leaving here at 4 o’clock a.m. Thursday morning.

At 9 o’clock I learned that Captain Morton’s (wagon) train was at Carthage the same night and being fearful that he would run right into the enemy I dispatched a messenger to Capt. Conkey, stating these facts and directing him to follow on and if necessary to fight his way through to the train.

Capt. Conkey did follow on and got after the enemy and killed one of them and learned that the train had passed west in safety. On the night following, the train arrived here, having made a forced march.

The next morning about 3 a.m., a messenger reached me stating that (Confederate guerrilla) Livingston with 100 men was on the Dry Wood about two miles above Redfield murdering and robbing and that he was working up stream. I immediately ordered Capt. Mefford to take about 75 men and make a crossing at Morris Mill, but owing to his men being very tired and his scouts worn down, he did not get started until about 6 o’clock and in the mean time messengers continued to arrive with information of Livingston’s movements, passing up stream above Morris Mill and the military crossing at Endicott’s, so that by the time Mefford was ready he made direct for Cato and there struck his trail about one hour behind him and pursued him about 25 miles to Cow Creek and overtook him, making a running fight and wounding one of Livingston’s men and recovering some prisoners. As his stock (horses) was badly used up and the enemy well mounted and scattered Captain Mefford returned to this post and I am glad to say he did as well as he could considering the condition of his horses.

In the meantime, I had dispatched a messenger to Capts. Conkey and Coleman, who had encamped at Morris’ Mill, on the direct road to Carthage to make for Sherwood (Mo.) and to intercept them there. The messenger reached them in good time and they started for Sherwood, but as it grew dark before they reached that place and having no one with them familiar with the country, they were obliged to encamp until next morning.

The command then separated, Capt. Coleman on the south side of Spring River and Capt. Conkey on the north side and worked down toward Sherwood and Capt. Coleman being in the advance came upon the enemy and charged them, killing four or five and taking four prisoners, including the notorious Capt. Baker, who was taken by Capt. Coleman himself.

Take it all in all, I think the pursuit a decided success and that the enemy will be more cautious hereafter. If I had a respectable number of well-mounted men I would punish their impudence. On the night of the 10th instant I sent Lieutenant Cavert of the third Wisconsin with 16 men to Lamar, with dispatches for Capt. Breeden and they reached there at a.m. yesterday the 11th instant and found that Quantrill had left just after burning most of the town that had been spared by him before. I am satisfied that Quantrill is waiting for a train and I shall be compelled to send all of my cavalry with it which will weaken the post so much that he may feel like making an attack upon us. There is, as I learn from proper officers about $2,000,000 worth of government property at this post and vicinity and it does seem to me as if our force is hardly sufficient. I learn also that the trains passing from Springfield have a very strong guard most of the time a full regiment and it certainly is not as dangerous as our route.

If you are inclined to send a large cavalry force it would please me to have Capts. Earle and Coleman of the Ninth Kansas with their companies if it would suit your pleasure.

The whole transportation belonging to this post is engaged in carrying commissary stores to the command, but we are expecting 100 more teams from Fort Leavenworth the coming week. After this train shall start, the enemy can approach very near and laugh at us, as I shall have no cavalry to send after them at any time since I have been here and the only way that I have been able to keep them from doing more mischief is by having small scouting parties on the move in their country all the while and that has told on our horses.

In these expeditions, my men have been very successful losing none and having only a few wounded and have killed quite a number of the enemy and frightened them awfully. I have just learned that the citizens on Dry Wood are leaving with their families after asking for a force which I could not give them and Squire Redfield has also asked for a force in his vicinity as the inhabitants are very much frightened.

I am General, very respectfully, you obedient servant,

B.S. HENNING,
Major, Third Wisconsin Cavalry, Commanding Post.”

It appears by this letter that Maj. Henning was very concerned, as he should have been, about the minimal numbers of troops stationed at Fort Scott to protect the post and provide protection for the transient wagon trains and the citizens of the area. This was a problem that plagued all of the Union commanders at Fort Scott throughout the war, but it did not stop them from sending relief columns to the towns in the surrounding area, including towns in Missouri such as Lamar when they were threatened or attacked, and of course, the war went on!