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the other hand, the news of the rebel victory strength-
ened the cause of the secessionists, and made many of
those who had hitherto been quiet and undemonstrative,
assume attitudes of boldness and defiance towards the Gov-
ernment. The reinforcements which the Federal general
was expecting, were sent from St. Louis to other threatened
points ; the rebel generals were concentrating their avail-
able forces at Cassville, fifty-five miles southwest of Spring-
field, and preparing to attack him in a few days, and the
prospects of the immediate future were gloomy enough.



78 THE CIVIL WAR ON THE BORDER.

General Lyon, having obtained reliable information
that Generals Price and McCulloch had planned as soon
as their forces formed a junction to move against him in
two columns, one under McCulloch to advance upon the
Cassville road from the southwest, and the other under
Price upon the Neosho and Springfield road from the
west, determined not to await the combined attack of
the rebel forces, but to march at once against the stronger
column under McCulloch, advancing on the Cassville
road, and strike it about twenty-five miles southwest of
Springfield ; and if successful in routing it, turn and attack
the force advancing from the west under Price. He knew
that Price' and McCulloch had upwards of eight thousand
mounted troops, and he was averse to the idea of being
surrounded by them, as they could cut off such subsist-
ence supplies and forage as he had been getting from the
surrounding country, and upon which his army was
almost entirely dependent.

His scouts having reported that the main column of
the rebel army was advancing upon the Cassville road,
General Lyon ordered that every thing be put in readi-
ness for battle, and marched out of Springfield on the
morning of the first of August, with all the troops that
could be spared from that point, and encamped that
evening on Wilson Creek, ten miles southwest of Spring-
field on the Cassville road, where he was joined by Major
Sturgis' brigade, which had been occupying a position
near Little York, about four miles west of the crossing
of Wilson Creek, for some ten days. He also ordered
the detachments which had been sent to Greenfield for
flour, and to support Captain Wright's command, to join
him at the earliest practicable moment. On the 2d he
marched about six miles southwest on the Cassville road.
His advance was composed of four companies of Regular
infantry, under Captain Frederick Steele, Second infantry,
and Captain Totten's battery. His command marched



BATTLE OF WILSON CREEK. 79

along leisurely until nine o'clock, when his advance guard
met a detachment of the enemy's cavalry, which had been
thrown forward by General Rains, whose position was
about three miles back, at McCulla's store, where there
was an excellent spring and good grounds for camping
purposes. Captain Steele immediately deployed two
companies of his battalion as skirmishers, one to the left
of the road and one to the right, while a section of Tot-
ten's battery came into position in the road and threw a
shell towards the rebel cavalry, after which they rapidly
fell back on the main road. Captain Steele's skirmishers
were called in, and the Federal forces moved forward
again a distance of about two miles, when the rebel
scouts fired several shots at the Federal cavalry flankers
on the left of the road. General Lyon directed Captain
Steele to again deploy two companies of his battalion
to the right and left of the road as skirmishers and
flankers as before. It was now deemed advisable to
move cautiously, as it was not known but that the rebel
generals were endeavoring to draw the Federal com-
mander into an ambuscade. The rough and broken con-
dition of the country seemed to favor such a scheme.
A forward movement of the Federal column was again
ordered, and after advancing about a mile and a half the
rebel cavalry in considerable force were discovered some
distance in front, where the road ascended the hill, and it
was evident that they intended to contest the further
advance of the Federal army. At the point now reached
by the Federal advance, and for nearly a mile beyond,
the road passed through a narrow valley, the low hills on
the south side of which, instead of being continuous,
were broken, forming a succession of spurs, which were
clothed with a meagre growth of scrubby oaks with
heavy foliage. A company of Regular infantry was de-
ployed as skirmishers along the ridge of the spur nearest
the enemy's position. In the rear of this company, and



80 THE CIVIL WAR ON THE BORDER,

on the next spur behind the foremost one occupied, was
posted another company of infantry to act as a reserve.
To the right of the road a company of mounted rifles
was deployed to skirmish through a cornfield, with a
company of infantry posted a short distance in the rear
as a reserve.

A troop of Regular cavalry under Captain D. S.
Stanley was also formed on the right of the road some
forty yards in the rear of the reserve. Captain Steele
was directed to hold his position, if practicable, until the
intentions of the enemy were more fully developed. In
the event, however, of being too hotly pressed, he was
ordered to retire, keeping the enemy in check. It was
now getting late in the afternoon, and General Lyon,
with the remainder of his army, fell back about one mile
and a half to Hayden's farm, so as to encamp near water.
General Rains, who commanded the advance division of
Price's wing of the rebel army, as soon as he received
information of the Federal advance, moved out with
six hundred cavalry to meet it. Shortly after arriving
at the front he reconnoitred the Federal position, and,
observing the retrograde movement of the main body of
General Lyon's troops, concluded that they were retreat-
ing. He therefore dismounted part of his command to
act as sharp-shooters, and about five o'clock commenced
an attack on the left of Captain Steele's position above
described. His force was repulsed in the first attack
upon the Federal left, but strengthening his right and
centre he advanced again to the attack, and with such
vigor that the Federal skirmishers, occupying the ridge of
the spur nearest his position, were obliged to retreat upon
the reserve, after which skirmishers and reserve fell back
into the road, where Captain Steele came to their sup-
port with two companies of Regular infantry. Captain
Stanley, who had up to this time occupied a position on
the right of the road, was now directed to move his



BATTLE OF WILSON CREEK. 8 1

troop of cavalry to a position on a commanding spur on
the Federal left and front, to prevent the enemy from
turning Captain Steele's left flank. Captain Steele,
having formed his infantry in line, advanced upon and
drove back the enemy, while Captain Stanley charged
down from the heights on the left with his cavalry, and
cut through the rebel lines. The conflict at this point
was quite severe and exciting, and for a few moments
hand to hand, when the rebels were forced to retreat,
leaving about two hundred horses tied in a ravine. Just
as Captain Steele was on the point of bringing away
these horses he received an order from General Lyon to
retire. Supposing that a strong force of the enemy were
concealed from his view by heavy foliage and an interven-
ing ridge, and were threatening to cut him off, the order
to retire was immediately obeyed, thus yielding up a
trophy which had been fairly won.

General Rains, having rallied his men, and observing
the retreat of Captain Steele, followed him up with a
brigade of cavalry to within a quarter of a mile of
General Lyon's line of battle. Captain Totten's battery
was quickly brought forward, and opened fire upon them
with shells, and after a few rounds dispersed them.
When the shells came tearing through their ranks, and
exploding in rapid succession, the greater portion of
General Rains' force became panic-stricken, and fled in
the greatest confusion, and continued their flight until
they came near the outposts of the main army encamped
on Crane Creek, some ten miles back. This ended the
skirmish known as Dug Springs, and as the enemy
retreated out of sight, General Lyon went into camp for
the night, taking the precaution to post strong picket-
guards on all the roads and paths leading to his camp.

The casualties on the Federal side were four killed and
six wounded. On the Confederate side the losses were
reported to be somewhat greater.

Vol 1—6



82 THE CIVIL WAR ON THE BORDER.

On the next day, August 3d, General Lyon advanced
to McCulla's store, where General Rains had had his
headquarters on the 2d. This place is twenty-four miles
southwest of Springfield, on the Cassville road, in a
rather narrow hollow in the midst of thick timber.
Captain Samuel McCulla, one of the owners of the
property, was an officer in the Union Home Guards with
General Lyon, and knew every by-road and path in that
section. General Lyon was now within six or seven
miles of McCulloch's division, encamped on Crane Creek.
Knowing the nearness of General Lyon, and supposing
that he intended to attack the rebel army at Crane Creek,
the rebel generals immediately commenced to concentrate
their troops and artillery at that point. For convenience
of camping and obtaining subsistence and forage, the
several divisions of the rebel army were encamped within
ten to fifteen miles of each other when the concentration
commenced.

On the 3d of August the combined forces from Mis-
souri, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Texas were concentrated
near Crane Creek, under Generals Price, McCulloch, and
Pearce, and preparations made to advance at once against
General Lyon. General McCulloch did not impress the
Missouri generals as being very zealous in his co-opera-
tion. It was thought by them that his actions suggested
a bid for supreme command of the combined forces. He
was a brigadier-general in the Confederate service, while
Price was a major-general of the Missouri State forces,
an older man of wider experience. Price was a brigadier-
general in the Mexican war, when McCulloch was only a
captain. But, that there might be no conflict of authori-
ty, or want of co-operation between the different forces,
General Price, on Sunday, August 4th, on his own motion,
turned over the Missouri forces, for the time being, to
General McCulloch, who at once assumed command of
the combined armies, and issued an order of march.



BATTLE OF WILSON CREEK. 83

General Lyon remained at McCulla's farm until the 4th,
when, after a council of the principal officers of his com-
mand, in which the situation was fully discussed, he
decided to return to Springfield with his army. It was
deemed impracticable to advance further for want of
supplies ; besides, by doing so, he thought that he would
expose the small force left at Springfield to capture by
the enemy, who were at that moment throwing forward
a mounted force on the Neosho and Springfield road, a
few miles to the north of him, and threatening to cut him
off. An order was therefore given to fall back, and on
the evening of the 5th the troops arrived at Springfield,
except a force of about two thousand men under Major
Sturgis, commanding First Brigade, and Lieutenant-
Colonel Andrews, First Missouri Volunteers, which en-
camped four miles southwest of the city.

The rebel generals, having made preparations to attack
General Lyon at McCulla's farm, did not throw forward
their cavalry to annoy him in his retreat, as was antici-
pated. But, the day after his arrival at Springfield, the
advance guard of the rebel cavalry encamped at Wilson
Creek, and, the day following, the main army, consisting
of infantry and artillery, came up. General Lyon made
some preparations to attack this advance cavalry divi-
sion the first night after its arrival at Wilson Creek, and
orders were issued for the advance of a portion of the
troops under Major Sturgis and Colonel Andrews, which
were still encamped four miles southwest of the city, but
owing to the difficulty of getting definite and reliable
information in regard to the strength and position of the
enemy until the night was far spent, the order was coun-
termanded, and Major Sturgis and Colonel Andrews were
directed to march their commands to Springfield next
day and take position in the line of defences. The com-
bined rebel armies were now at Wilson Creek, only ten
miles distant ; General Lyon knew that he was on the



84 THE CIVIL WAR ON THE BORDER,

verge cf a great conflict, and he did not take a very hope-
ful view of the situation. His appeals for assistance had
not been responded to. He thought, however, that he
might extricate his little army by retreating towards
Rolla. But the thought pressed upon his mind : should
he give up the Southwest without a desperate struggle ?
Hundreds of Union people, fleeing before the rebel army,
were daily arriving in Springfield, greatly excited, and
bringing along their household effects, cattle, horses, etc.
These people gave exciting accounts of the vastness of
the rebel army. Some of those who had seen the
Southern troops pass certain points, declared that it took
them nearly all day, and that they claimed to have from
thirty to forty thousand men. The Southern soldiers, as
they marched along, probably with the view of producing
an overawing effect, gave to the citizens an exaggerated
account of the strength of the combined Southern forces.
The time had now arrived when General Lyon saw
that he must either fight or retreat at once, and, if he
decided to fight, the further question was presented to
him : should he await the attack of the enemy, or should
he march out and attack the enemy in their position ?
After debating the matter in his mind, with some con-
flicting thoughts, he determined to march against the
enemy. But on the evening of the 8th of August, before
issuing orders for the movement of his troops, he called
a council of war, composed of the principal officers of his
command, and in the presence of the council he said :
" Gentlemen, there is no prospect of our being reinforced
at this point ; our supply of provisions is running short ;
there is a superior force of the enemy in front, and it is
reported that Hardee is marching with nine thousand
men to cut our line of communication. It is evident
that we must retreat. The question arises, what is the
best method of doing it ? Shall we endeavor to retreat
without giving the enemy battle beforehand, and running



BATTLE OF WILSON CREEK. 85

the risk of having to fight every inch along our line of
retreat? Or, shall we attack him in his position and
endeavor to hurt him so that he cannot follow? I am
decidedly in favor of the latter plan. I propose to march
this evening with all our available force, leaving only a
small guard to protect the property which will be left
behind, and, marching by the Fayetteville road, throw
our whole force upon him at once, and endeavor to rout
him before he recovers from his surprise." None of the
officers present offered any objections to this plan, though
its execution was deferred until the night of the 9th, on
account of a large portion of his troops who had just
returned from a reconnoissance on the Little York road,
and who had been without food since morning, being too
much exhausted to march immediately. Even the troops
who remained at their stations about the city obtained
but little rest, having been kept upon their arms during
the day by the frequent reports that the enemy were
advancing, and that an attack was looked for at any
moment. A supply train having just arrived from Rolla,
that night and the next day were spent in issuing shoes
and clothing to his troops, of which many stood in great
need, and in making preparations for the impending
conflict. Detachments of Regular cavalry and Mounted
Home Guards were kept out in the direction of the
enemy's position to watch his movements, and to guard
against surprise. But, as the enemy made no demonstra-
tion in force during the day, by evening the Federal troops
were well rested and in good condition to go into battle.
The rebel generals allowed their troops also to remain
in camp on the 9th for the purpose of resting and recruit-
ing their strength. They had brought forward their
infantry from Cassville and Crane Creek on a forced
march, and as the weather was very warm, and the roads
very dusty, the infantry had suffered much from fatigue
and heat.



CHAPTER VIII.

BATTLE OF WILSON CREEK. — CONCLUDED.

On the morning of the 9th, General Lyon and Colonel
Sigel had a conference in regard to the plan of attack
upon the enemy in his position at Wilson Creek. The
conference had the effect of causing the General to
change his original plan of throwing his whole force
against the enemy, to dividing his command into two
columns, which should be in position, and commence the
attack at two points simultaneously at daylight the next
morning.

On marching out of Springfield on the evening of
the 9th, the Federal army was organized into four bri-
gades. The First Brigade, commanded by Major S. D.
Sturgis, consisted of one battalion of four companies
of Regular infantry, under Captain J. B. Plummer; a
battalion of two companies Second Missouri Volunteers,
under Major P. J. Osterhaus ; Captain Wood's mounted
company, Second Kansas Volunteers ; one company of
Regular cavalry, under Lieutenant Canfield ; and Captain
James Totten's light battery of six pieces, Second United
States Artillery.

The Second Brigade, commanded by Lieutenant-Colo-
nel George L. Andrews, was composed of his own regi-
ment, the First Missouri Volunteers ; one battalion of
four companies of Regular infantry, under Captain Fred-
erick Steele ; and one light battery of four guns under
Lieutenant John V. DuBois.

86




■ HILLIPS. ENG.




* / ^ I/ fy J<A tyftoAAAA



BATTLE OF WILSON CREEK. $J

The Third Brigade, commanded by Colonel George W.
Deitzler, was composed of his own regiment, the First
Kansas Volunteers ; Colonel Robert B. Mitchell's Second
Kansas Volunteers ; and the First Iowa Volunteers, under
Lieutenant-Colonel William H. Merritt.

And the Fourth Brigade, commanded by Colonel F.
Sigel, was composed of his own regiment, the Third Mis-
souri Volunteers ; Colonel C. E. Salomon's Fifth Missouri
Volunteers ; two companies of Regular cavalry, under
Captain E. A. Carr and Lieutenant Charles E. Farrand ;
and one battery of six guns under Lieutenant Shaffer.

A force of two hundred and fifty Home Guards was
left at Springfield, with two pieces of artillery, to guard
the trains and public property. The column under
Colonel Sigel left camp, on the south side of Spring-
field, at half-past six o'clock in the evening, and
moved down on the left or south of the Cassville road,
and arrived at daybreak on the ioth within about a mile
of the extreme right and rear of the enemy's camp. The
Colonel now advanced slowly towards their camp, and
with the two companies of Regular cavalry, cut off and
captured about forty rebel soldiers who claimed that they
were out searching for food. Having cut off all stragglers
and parties coming from the Confederate camp, Colonel
Sigel then advanced unperceived to a position within sight
of the rebel tents, formed his line of battle, and waited
for the signal, which was to be the firing from General
Lyon's column before opening fire upon the enemy.

General Lyon, with the First, Second, and Third
Brigades, amounting to four thousand men, and about
two hundred and fifty mounted Home Guards, under
Major Clark Wright, left Springfield at the same
hour in the evening as Colonel Sigel's column, and
marched out on the Little York road about six miles ;
then taking a road that led him nearly due south,
advanced until the head of his column came in sight of



88 THE CIVIL WAR ON THE BORDER,

the enemy's camp-fires. It was now about one o'clock in
the morning, and the command was halted and the
troops rested on their arms until early dawn, when they
were wakened from their dewy slumbers with as little
noise as possible, and resumed the march southward.
The column moved only a short distance, when the
advance came upon the enemy's pickets, who at once
fled towards the rebel camp, and gave the alarm of the
near approach of the Federal troops. General Lyon at
once directed Captain Plummer to take his battalion of
Regular infantry, which had formed the advance of the
army during the night, and deploy them to the left as
skirmishers. And Major Osterhaus, commanding a bat-
talion of the Second Missouri Infantry, who had marched
next to Captain Plummer, was directed to deploy to the
right and form a skirmish line. Colonel Andrews next
brought forward his regiment, the First Missouri Volun-
teers, in columns of companies to support Captain
Totten's battery, and then the column advanced about a
mile and a half, when the skirmish lines of the opposing
armies became warmly engaged. It was now five o'clock.
The Southern troops having rested on their arms
during the night were quickly brought into position
after the point from which the attack was being made
was ascertained. From the position now reached by
Totten's battery, which was immediately in the rear of
the centre of the line of skirmishers, the enemy could be
seen in considerable force formed in line of battle on the
crest of a high ridge running nearly parallel to the
Federal line of march, and also to the valley of Wilson
Creek. General Lyon now commenced to form his line
of battle. Colonel Andrews was directed to form his
regiment, the First Missouri, to the right, which he did,
and deploying one company as skirmishers, advanced up
the hill in column of companies. At ten minutes past
five o'clock, just as his skirmishers were nearing the sum-



BATTLE OF WILSON CREEK. 89

mit of the hill, they came in plain view of and opened a
well-directed fire upon the enemy, consisting of two
brigades of General Rains' division of Missourians, who
were only a short distance in front. Riding forward a few
yards, and seeing the enemy in force, Colonel Andrews
immediately reinforced his line of skirmishers and ordered
his regiment forward into line of battle. He had just
formed it in line when a heavy fire was opened upon his
left flank by a hitherto unobserved force of the enemy
from a thick undergrowth of woods. The regiment, the
First Missouri, promptly and effectively returned the fire,
and the companies which had been deployed as skirmishers
assembled on the right to prevent his flank being turned.
The battle had now fairly opened, and the firing along
Colonel Andrews' front was very severe for a short time,
after which the enemy retired to rally and re-form their
line. The First Kansas Volunteers, under Colonel Dietzler,
which had also been ordered into line on the left of the
First Missouri, and which was separated from that regi-
ment by an interval of about sixty yards on account of
a ravine, moved forward at a double-quick, engaged the
enemy, and after a sharp conflict of about twenty
minutes, compelled them to retire. The First Mis-
souri and First Kansas Volunteers, having gained the
summit of the hill, Captain Totten, who had assisted with
his battery in driving the enemy from the first position,
brought forward his guns in the centre. Captain Plum-
mer's battalion of Regular infantry and Captain Clark
Wright's mounted Home Guards were still operating on
General Lyon's extreme left, while Major Osterhaus'
battalion, Second Missouri Volunteers, occupied a position
on the extreme right flank, with his right resting on a
ravine, which turned abruptly to the right of the Federal
rear. The First Iowa and Second Kansas Regiments,
and Captain Steele's battalion of Regular infantry, Gen-
eral Lyon held as a reserve.



90 THE CIVIL WAR ON THE BORDER.

After the Confederates were driven from their first posi-
tions along his front and the firing had slackened and
almost ceased, General Lyon looked over the field to his
front, and left and right flanks, and had just commenced
to make some slight changes in the disposition of his
troops and batteries for the purpose of vigorously renew-
ing the attack, when the enemy, whom General Price had
rallied under Generals Rains, Slack, McBride, Parsons,
and Clark, were observed advancing from the foot of the
slope against his centre, and left and right wings, and the
moment they came within range, opened a heavy fire
against his entire front. The First Missouri and First
Kansas Regiments replied vigorously, and the next mo-



Online LibraryWiley BrittonThe civil war on the border; (Volume 1) → online text (page 8 of 39)