Prairie De Ann, a circular body of land embracing some twenty-five or thirty square miles, lies in the northern part of Nevada County, a hundred miles southwest of Little Rock. The Forests that once surrounded it have largely disappeared, and, except by local people, its name is almost forgotten. Located in the central section of the prairie is the city of Prescott, the county seat, with a population of approximately four thousand. The rest of the prairie, for the most part, is taken up by farms and ranches. Through the prairie and the city passes the Missouri Pacific and the Prescott and Northwestern Railroads, and paved Highways 67, 371, and 19.
In the days of the Civil War, Prairie De Ann was far different from what it is today. One soldier, looking upon it for the first time, said that it "stretched away smoothly as a sea of glass." Another said, "Like an oasis lies this beautiful prairie in the midst of dense forests and almost impassable swamps, a relief for the eye of the traveller, who for many days has hardly seen anything but rocks crowned by dark pines or gloomy cypress swamps." The city, the railroads, and the highways had not then been built. Much of the land was unoccupied. Here and there, widely seperated, were a few small farm houses, and the village of Moscow nestled away in the eastern edge. The prairie was a well-known landmark and noted for its singular natural beauty.
In the second week of April, 1864, for four days, this prairie was a scene of conflict between the Union and the Confederate armies. The engagements as a whole are usually referred to as, "The Battle of Prairie De Ann." But more specifically, the fighting on the north side of the prairie, on the first afternoon and night, was, to the Union soldiers, "The Battle of Prairie De Ann." To the Confederates it was "The Battle of the Gum Grove on Prairie De Ann." On the southern and western sides, Fort McKay and other defenses erected by the Confederates to command the road to Washington, after being attacked, on the third day, by the Union forces, were evacuated by the Confederates. On the eastern and southern sides, on the fourth day, was fought the "Battle of Moscow."
Remnants of the "Gum Grove" still stand. Sections of the old entrenchments, now dimly visible and almost forgotten, can still be seen lying along the western edge of the prairie to the north and to the south of Hwy 371. Other sections are said to be overgrown and hidden by the woods. The village of Moscow has long ago merged with the city of Prescott, but an old church and a cemetery mark the sight where the four days of fighting came to an end, and were the Union forces left the prairie on their march to Camden.
The story of the fighting on Prairie De Ann is not well-known in Arkansas history. The number of casualties was relatively small, but the engagements here were significant in that they marked the end of the advance of the Union army toward Red River, as well as the point at which it became evident to the Confederates that the Union army would not attempt to capture Washington, at that time the Confederate Capital of Arkansas, but would proceed to Camden, then the most strongly fortified place in the southern part of the state, and a place that had recently been evacuated by the Confederates in their effort to protect Washington.
On Sunday, April 10, the stage was set for the Union advance onto the prairie. General Frederick Steele was encamped on the Cornelius farm, some four miles to the north. He had arrived here three days earlier, and had waited for the army of General John M. Thayer to join him. Steele had set out from Little Rock on March 23 and Thayer from Fort Smith on the same day. Thayer had been delayed but had finally joined Steele on April 9. The combined forces, now ready to advance, consisted of approximately 13,000 men, 800 wagons, and 12,000 horses and mules, and 30 pieces of artillery.
Soon after noon, Gerneral Steele broke camp and began moving his troops along the road toward the prairie. For about four miles the road led through a pine forest. When the troops reached the edge of the prairie they looked out over the broad expanse of landscape now comprising the Gene Hale Cattle Ranch and the land beyond. They saw "large numbers of the enemy cavalry ... deployed upon the central ridge of the prairie running east and west, while the ridge in front commanding the point where the road enters the prairie was held by the enemy's skirmishers concealed in the dense undergrowth covering the same." From the point at which it intersects Hwy 19, the old road by which they entered the prairie can still be seen losing itself in the woods to the north.
First to arrive on the prairie was the Third Brigade of the Third Division, commanded by Colonel Adolph Engleman, with Battery A, Third Illinois Artillery. These troops deployed to the right of the road, the Fortieth Iowa taking its place to the Battery and the Forty-third Illinois to its left. After a short time the Fortieth and Forty-third were moved forward as skirmishers and the Twenty-seventh Wisconsin was advanced to support the Battery.
As the line advanced, it extended westward from the road for a mile or more and covered the ground between what is now Hwy 19 and Hale's reservoir and club house. At one time the road now connecting Hwy 19 and Hale's club house probably was about the location occupied by these advancing troops.
After the Third Brigade had moved in, the First Brigade, commanded by Brigadier-General Samuel A. Rice, entered and employed to the left of the road. This Brigade consisted of the Fifteenth Indiana, as Twenty-ninth Iowa, the Thirty-third Iowa, and Voegele's Battery, manned by Company F, Ninth Wisconsin Infantry. As this Brigade advanced, for a time, it occupied the area through which now runs Hwy 19 and probably extended from near Hale's cattle barn on Hwy 19 to suburbs of the present city of Prescott.
The Second Brigade, commanded by Colonel William E. McLean came upon the prairie last. This Brigade was charged with guarding the general supply and pontoon trains, but as the skirmishing began the Seventy-seventh Ohio was ordered to advance and occupy a position in line on the right of the road, and the "Thirty-sixth Iowa, which was posted along the train in detachments, was advanced in double quick time a distance over two miles, and was soon posted on the left of the road. These two regiments remained in line under arms all night." The Forty-third Indiana, which was in the rear of the whole train, did not arrive in camp near the prairie until about midnight. The Second Missouri Light Artillery, Battery E. was sent to the extreme right of the Union line where it took part in the artillery duel of the afternoon and evening. General Thayer's troops, who had arrived at the Cornelius farm on the previous day, did not enter the prairie until the next day.
Guarding the northern border of the prairie, immediately in front of where the Union troops entered, and stationed on a ridge covered with brush, as seen by the Union troops, were Confederate troops comprising the Eighteenth, Nineteenth, and Twentieth Arkansas, and the Twelfth Arkansas Battalion of Sharpshooters, commanded by Brigadier-General Thomas P. Dockery. They were at a distance of about half a mile. Further back, on the higher ground, and somewhat further eastward, was the Brigade of Brigadier-General Joseph O. Shelby, composed of the First Missouri Battalion, the Fifth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Missouri Regiments, Hunter's Missouri Regiment, and Collins' Battery. The combined forces of Dockery and Shelby probably numbered about 2,000 men.
Occupying the defenses along the western edge of the prairie was Colonel Colton Greene's Brigade, composed of the Third Missouri, Fourth Missouri, Seventh Missouri, Eighth Missouri, and the Missouri Battery. Cabell's Brigade, composed of the First Arkansas, the Fourth Arkansas, the Seventh Arkansas, Gunter's Arkansas Battalion, and Blocher's Arkansas Battery; and Crawford's Brigade composed of the Second Arkansas Regiment, Crawford's Arkansas Regiment, Wright's Arkansas Regiment, Poe's Arkansas Battalion, and McMurtrey's Arkansas Battalion were stationed on different parts of the prairie along the southern and western sides. The combined forces of Greene, Cabell and Crawford probably amounted to about 4,000 men. Four days earlier, the Confederates had been joined by Gano's Texas Brigade, and Walker's Indian Brigade. These two had a total of about 1,000 men. Thus the Confederate forces were slightly more than half as large as the Union forces. The Confederate troops were mounted but they often fought as infantry, with every fourth man remaining in the rear to hold horses. Major-General Sterling Price, who had recently been placed in command of the District of Arkansas, had arrived from Camden on April 7 and taken charge of all Confederate operations.
As the Union army advanced, the main Confederate line was formed along the highest ridge of the prairie. Just to the rear of this line was the Camden-Washington road and from it a road led away to the south. There were thus three routes along which the Union forces might attempt to advance once they had come upon the prairie. They might follow the road to the left and advance toward Camden. They might continue south across the prairie and on to Red River, or they might turn to the right and try to advance toward Washington.
The Confederates evidently expected them to choose the last of these three routes, because it was on the western and the southern edges of the prairie that they had spent most of their labor in building fortification. General Steele, however, had already decided, even as early as April 7, that he would go to Camden. He so informed General William T. Sherman in a dispatch of that date in which he told Sherman that he had to go there for food and forage.
As the Union troops entered the prairie, firing began and soon an artillery duel was in progress. Skirmishers were sent forward and heavy firing of small arms began between these and Dockery's troops. In a short time Dockery's troops were withdrawn, and were ordered to take position on the left of Shelby's line. The Union troops continued to advance and for about three hours, until dark, the fighting went on. Then Shelby, under Marmaduke's orders, withdrew his forces a mile to the rear, and the Union troops occupied the high ridge where the Confederates had been stationed during the afternoon. Between this ridge and Shelby's new position is the "Gum Grove" from which the battle takes its name.
As to the volume or effectiveness of either the artillery or the small arms fire, it is difficult to form a judgement. The Union troops seem to have had at least three batteries with 18 guns engaged. These were stationed at different points along the line. The Confederates used Collins' battery with Shelby's Brigade, and Harris' battery with Greene's Brigade. They may also have used three other batteries, those commanded by Blocher, Krumbarr, and Hughey. One Union soldier wrote that Shelby's artillery fire did little damage except to trees in the rear of the Union position. Another wrote, "The loss of the enemy in horses killed was ten times our own." Still another wrote, "From 10PM until midnight, Vaughn's battery and the infantry supporting it were subjected to repeated attacks from the enemy. These, however, were successfully repulsed without serious loss. The night was cold, but the troops, without complaining, lay out on the open prairie with no fire to warm or shelter to protect them.
In an account publiched two years after the close of the War, one of Shelby's men wrote of the fighting in the afternoon, "Every horse and seventeen of Collins' men lay dead and wounded among the guns...Two of Collins' guns were withdrawn by hand. One of Shelby's reports stated that, "The artillery duel was terrible and magnificent. The broad prairie stretched away smoothly as a sea of glass. The long lines of cavalry on either side of the Guns, and over all the bursting bombs and the white powder clouds came fast and furious. For three hours the fight went on."
Of the night engagement, one wrote: Darkness came down upon the vast Prairie, yet the battle was not ended. Steele showed signs of advancing and Marmaduke ordered Shelby to attack and check him effectively. Deploying his entire brigade, except Gordon's regiment, as skirmishers, he engaged Steele's whole army. The horizon from east to west was one leaping incessant blaze of about 6,000 muskets lighting up the very sky and making night hideous with the screaming missiles. The batteries, too, joined in the combat and burst like volcanoes from the solid earth, throwing large jets of flame at every discharge. By midnight Steele had made no advance and Shelby withdrew his troops.
Another descripiton of the night battle is given in one of Shelby's reports. He says, " I ordered Collins once more to position on the naked prairie and deployed about 400 men as skirmishers along their entire front, and a real night battle began. For three hours more the fight went on, the whole heavens lit up with bursting bombs and the falling flames of muskets. Their advance was checked for the night, and at 12PM I drew off after eight hours of severe fighting. Nowhere does the record so indicate, but it would seem that other Confederate troops would have been placed in line with those of Dockery and Shelby, along the high land of the prairie, confronting the Union forces.
On Monday, April 11, there was little action until the afternoon. A soldier in the Thirty-third Iowa later recalled that "It was a beautiful day, and the singing of birds in the thicket near us contrasted oddly with the occasional booming of the cannon and the continued skirmishing on some part of the line. As for us, we hunted rabbits, played euchre, read old novels, wrote away at letters, slept, and so on, as though there were no thoughts of battle in the world."
In the afternoon, about 2:30, the entire Union line was drawn up in battle array and a forward movement began. The line of cavalry, infantry and artillery, extending some two or three miles across the prairie, was an imposing sight. Even the Union troops themselves were impressed. The Confederates, too, must have been.
Toward evening the Union line halted for some time on the high prairie. There was considerable skirmishing in front. There was also considerable artillery action. As night came on, the Union troops withdrew and at least a part of them went back to occupy the same camp they had occupied the night before. This was true of the Thirty-third Iowa and probably, to some extent, of the other units as well.
On Monday night the troops commanded by Shelby and Marmaduke left Prairie De Ann and camped on Prairie De Rohan, the present site of the city of Hope, some 12 miles to the south. The same evening Price withdrew most of the other troops from the fortifications on the southwestern side of the prairie to a point eight miles east of Washington. He stated that he did this in order to find a more suitable location for making a successful stand against the Union advance. It is also possible that Price had been influenced to withdraw the Confederates from the prairie by the formidable showing made by the Union troops in their advance on Monday afternoon.
On Tuesday morning about daylight the entire Union army began advancing over the prairie toward the Confederate entrenchments on the western side. Price had left a small force here with orders to withdraw as the Union forces advanced. At times the skirmishing was reported to be "quite lively." The Confederates gradually withdrew. About 9 o'clock the Union troops reached the edge of the woods and entered the Confederate entrenchments which had just been evacuated. They found "nearly a mile of rifle pits with positions for artillery, and nearly a mile of felled timber thrown up as breastworks." It is these entrenchments that can still be seen along the western edge of the prairie, to the north and the south of Hwy 371, in the vicinity of Miller's store.
As the Confederates withdrew, the Union cavalry was sent in pursuit, as if it were Steele's intention to follow Price in the direction of Washington, but the main column, with the wagon train, took the road eastward across the prairie in the direction of Camden. After following the Confederates for several miles, the Union cavalry returned to the prairie and joined the rest of the Union forces in the march eastward. That night, Tuesday, April 12, the head of the Union column encamped on Terre Rouge Creek, several miles to the east of the present city of Prescott. Other Union troops camped along the road in the rear of these, and many, especially Thayer's troops, did not leave the prairie until the next day, Wednesday, April 13.
When General Price discovered that the Union army had changed its course and was moving in the direction of Camden, he decided to return to the prairie and attack its rear as it withdrew. Gano's Texas brigade and Walker's Choctaw Brigade, commanded by General Samuel B. Maxey, together with Dockey's Brigade, now returned, recrossed the prairie and attacked Thayer's troops as they were leaving the prairie in the afternoon about 1 o'clock. For four hours the fighting continued. Thayer deployed his men in the edge of the timber and here he stationed the Second Indiana Battery. During the entrenchment this battery fired more than 200 shots, solid and shell, an average of about one a minute throughout the afternoon. At length the Confederates withdrew, and were pursued back across the prairie for a distance of some four miles. About 5 o'clock the pursuit ended and the fighting ceased. Under cover of the night, Thayer withdrew his troops from the prairie, renewed the march, and "marched all night through a swamp" to the east of Moscow. In this engagement, known as the "Battle of Moscow," Thayer reported a loss of seven killed and twenty-four wounded. The Confederate loss was not reported.
The fighting at Moscow brought to an end the fighting on the prairie. The Union troops moved on to Camden. Here they remained for ten days. While there, one detachment fought the Battle of the Poison Springs, another, the Battle of Marks' Mills. On the way from Camden to Little Rock the entire army was attacked at Jenkins' Ferry on the Saline River. Here both armies suffered considerable loss, but the Union forces managed to escape across the river and get back to Little Rock. The expedition had accomplished nothing. Prairie De Ann had been the turning point in the expedition.
"The Action at Prairie De Ann" was written by J.H. Atkinson, Little Rock, Arkansas. A copy is on file in the Prescott- Nevada County Depot Museum office, Prescott, Arkansas.
AUGUST 29-DECEMBER 2, 1864.
Price's Missouri Expedition.
Report of Brig. Gen. Joseph O. Shelby, C. S. Army,
HEADQUARTERS SHELBY'S DIVISION,
December --, 1864.
Lieut. Col. L. A. MACLEAN,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Army of Missouri.
COLONEL: I have the honor to make the following report, embracing a detailed account of my operations in Missouri during the recent expedition of General Price:
On the 12th of September I moved camp from Sulphur Rock, Ark., toward Pocahontas in anticipation of the arrival of the army, and on the 19th, after having received my instructions, started for Missouri, and encamped in Doniphan. Before arriving there, however, couriers from Lieutenant-Colonel Johnson, of Marmaduke's command, brought information that 100 Federals were in the town and pressing him back. I immediately started forward sufficient re-enforcements, but the enemy fled before reaching them, burning the helpless and ill-fated town. That night I dispatched 150 men under Lieutenant-Colonel Johnson to pursue the vandals. They came upon them early the next morning [20th], attacked, scattered, and killed many of them. I pushed on then rapidly for Patterson, destroying on the way the bloody rendezvous of the notorious Leeper, and on the morning of the 22d I surrounded and charged in upon the town. Its garrison, hearing of my advance, retreated hastily, but not before many were captured and killed, and some supplies taken. All the Government portion of Patterson was destroyed, together with its strong and ugly fort.
By a long and forced march the next day Fredericktown was reached to prevent, if possible, the removal of the goods there; but the news had outstripped our fastest horses, and nothing was left but the shadow. A scouting party from my command, under Captains Johnson and Shaw, dashed into Farmington, surrounded a strong court-house held by thirty Federals, and captured them, with great quantities of goods.
Remaining three days at Fredericktown, I started early on the morning of the 26th for the Iron Mountain Railroad, the heavy clouds over-head dark and portentous with impending destruction, and encamped five miles from the doomed track, the whistle of the familiar locomotives sounding merrily and shrill on the air as if no enemy were watching and waiting for the coming daylight.
Early in the dim morning Col. Benjamin Elliott was sent to Irondale to destroy the bridge there, and Col. B. Frank Gordon to the three bridges over Big River, below, while with the rest of the command I struck the road equidistant between the two points. As my advance came in sight a locomotive thundered by with one car attached loaded with soldiers fleeing from the wrath to come, which was immediately fired upon. Some slight obstructions had been placed upon the track by the advanced scouts, which delayed the train a few moments, but before any force could possibly have been brought up the locomotive went fleeing on, urged by hands that feared the avengers of blood.
Gordon and Elliott did their work well, as they ever do, and Elliott, after destroying the splendid bridge at Irondale and helping himself to what supplies he needed, commenced upon the track. Gordon burnt the first of his three bridges without opposition, but at Mineral Point a brigade of Smith's infantry seemed inclined to oppose him. Going straight at them they made but little fight, and retreated rapidly toward Saint Louis. The fine bridge there was then burned and one still farther down, and now the work of destruction began in earnest. The whole command was deployed in a new line of battle, called the railroad line; that is, each man took position at the end of a tie, the rails were broken at intervals of a thousand yards, and then when the word was given and the united strength of a thousand hands was taxed great masses and flakes of wood and iron were torn from the yielding bed, lifted up on end, and hurled groaning, grinding, and crashing fifty rods sheer away from the parent grade. Thus for miles and miles a terrible plowshare ripped up the labor of years, and the red flames licked up the debris, with tanks, depots, trestle-work, cord-wood and telegraph wire and poles. After spending five hours in this labor of destruction I recalled all my detachments and spurred away for Potosi. One hundred and fifty Federals were in fortifications there. My advance charged them into the court-house, gained the buildings commanding it, held them there until the artillery came up, when five rounds brought the white flag, and all their arms, with much ammunition and supplies, fell into our hands. The same work of devastation was visited upon the Potosi branch, and the fine depot with seven cars were destroyed.
A scouting party sent out under Lieutenant Plattenberg, numbering thirty men, ran into 100 Federals, killed 10, wounded 17, captured 11, 2 caissons, 30 fine artillery horses with harness complete, 7 wagons, and 23 negroes--a most daring and brilliant affair.
After remaining at Potosi until the next morning, and not receiving orders from General Price, nor, in fact, knowing the result of operations at Pilot Knob, I determined to march there with my entire command. At Caledonia I received orders to be in readiness in an hour to march with General Marmaduke in pursuit of General Ewing. All that night the chase went on, and early the next day Ewing's rear was gained and General Marmaduke, who was in advance, fought him until an hour before sunset, when my command, taking the lead, continued the fight until dark, making a heavy charge all along the line just as darkness shut out all vestiges of daylight. Night alone saved Ewing from capture, and we bivouacked upon the field of Leasburg supperless and rationless. The enemy spent their time in throwing up heavy fortifications, and it was considered best next morning not to renew the attack. September 30 I made a detour round Leasburg and marched hard for the southwest branch, which was reached at Sullivan's Station. Here the depot was destroyed, the track torn up as usual, vast quantities of lumber and cord-wood burned, with 3 passenger and 5 box cars.
October 1, 2, 3, and 4 I moved with my division on through Saint Clair, Union, Mount Sterling, and Linn, capturing at the latter place 100 prisoners and as many arms. A scout sent out here under Captain Redd, my aide-de-camp, was very successful and brought in some prisoners, arms, horses, and valuable information. Through this and other sections of the country traversed by the army the wise and just policy of General Price was fruitful of the most happy results. The German element, largely preponderating, had been taught that Confederate soldiers killed, burned, and destroyed with vengeance swift as it was merciless, sparing neither age nor sex, and exacting a dark retribution of blood from the citizens and non-combatants. His first acts were to parole and liberate the militia caught at home, place guards over private property, respect the ties of politics and religion, and very soon they went abroad like some vast epidemic, until old men and boys came into his camp in crowds to bless their protector and take the oath of neutrality. On the 5th I marched upon Westphalia in a cold and heavy rain, where it was reported a Federal regiment Was encamped. None were found, however, and that night I ordered Colonel Shanks to take his brigade, with a section of artillery, and destroy the Osage bridge, a very large and important structure, which was done at the charge, and 40 prisoners surprised and captured in a block-house on this side of the river. The brigade rejoined me in time to participate in forcing the passage of the Osage, six miles below Castle Rock, early in the day of the 6th. Positive information told me that all the fords were guarded, and the advancing force would suffer not only the disadvantages of crossing a wide and deep stream under fire, but also from a perfect ignorance of the enemy's numbers. I therefore sent Colonel Gordon to make a vigorous demonstration at Castle Rock while I massed the remaining portion of the division and forced a passage six miles below. Gordon found the enemy stubborn and unyielding, and commenced a heavy fire upon him, his advance, under Capt. William M. Moorman, striking a Federal scout on this side of thirty men and pushing them so hard that they, like the swine possessed of the devil, ran over a steep place and thirteen of them drowned. The rest were captured and killed.
I reconnoitered the ford warily, showing no force whatever, and found about one regiment drawn up to dispute farther progress, while movements in the rear told that more were coming up. I dismounted Shanks' and Smith's regiments, deployed them along the bank, sheltered by heavy timber; held Elliott and Williams well in hand for a dash, and stationed my battery at splendid range. When all these arrangements were completed, a terrible fire of infantry and artillery swept the other bank, swept the opposing squadrons, swept the face of the bluff beyond, and drove everything for shelter to the woods. Now Elliott and Williams dashed away at the charge; the infantry waded after. The swift and beautiful water was torn into foam-flakes that hurried and danced away to the sea, while the ringing shout of a thousand voices told that the ford was won.
I immediately pushed forward Colonel Shanks with orders to press the retiring enemy hard and heavily. The Federals, re.enforced, came back upon him with great vigor, and the battle raged evenly there. Mounting Smith's and Shanks' old regiment, I sent them to his assistance. He ordered a charge along his entire line, and led it with his hat off and the light of battle on his face. That charge was glorious. The enemy, though outnumbering him, fled rapidly, and pressing on far ahead of his best and bravest, he fell in the arms of victory--a bullet through and through his dauntless breast.
I cannot refrain from laying aside for a moment the cold and formal language of a report and paying a just tribute to the absent and wounded hero. Brave, chivalrous, devoted friend of all who needed friend; a lion in battle; "fleet-foot on the correi, sage counsel in cumber;" the Murat of my command. When he left us a star went out, a giant was gone. Whether upon the march or the bivouac, the cold and weary advance or the dark and pitiless retreat, where death is fleet as the wave of its sable banner, he was always the same heroic soldier, ready at all times and under all circumstances.
The scythe of the reaper
Takes the ears that are hoary;
But the voice of the weeper
Wails manhood in glory.
After Colonel Shanks fell, Colonel Smith assumed command, and the enemy were pushed until dark, when my tired and weary division bivouacked seven miles from Jefferson City. Colonel Gordon after severe fighting forced a passage at Castle Rock and pushed out on the Jefferson road. At Dixon's plantation, seven miles from the ford, he again encountered the enemy after dark, when after a severe engagement of ten minutes' duration the Federals fled in great confusion. Gordon opened communication with me and then bivouacked for the night also. After General Fagan had driven in the enemy's outposts on the next day, I marched round the city and invested it on the west and northwest and sent 100 picked men under Major McDaniel, of Elliott's regiment, to the Pacific Railroad. He returned the next morning, having-cut telegraph communication and picked up several prisoners.
The next morning after the march had been commenced away from Jefferson, Lieutenant-Colonel Schnable, placed on picket near the fortifications on the south, was furiously attacked by a superior force. The gallant colonel repulsed the first charge, but they came back re-enforced, and Schnable whipped them again, but the third time he charged them first, drove them 500 yards, when he met another line which pressed him so heavily that he was forced to retire with 4 killed and 14 wounded.
Striking California early on the morning of the 8th [9th], I found Colonel Smith already ahead of me, whom I had sent the night before on a visit of destruction to the Pacific Railroad, which visit will be long remembered for riven track, bridges, and everything else that would break or burn. Not halting a moment in California, I left the rear guard in charge of Brig. Gen. M. Jeff. Thompson, who had been assigned by General Price to command my old brigade, and pushed on with my advance for Boonville, where rumor located from 100 to 800 Federals. About an hour before sunset I came upon their outlying pickets three miles from town, which Captains McCoy and Williams charged furiously, driving in their heavy reserves, and followed them pell-mell into Boonville and to within thirty feet of a heavy and strong fortification. Here the Federals were held at bay until the artillery could come up, for I am unwilling at all times to sacrifice life when nothing is to be gained by it; but in the meantime I threw Elliott's battalion toward the river below and Williams' above, thus rendering all attempts to cross the river by the ferry-boat abortive. While waiting for the battery a deputation of the oldest and most respected citizens came to me with information that inside of the fortification was one company of Southern men and boys, impressed into service by the iron hand of despotism. I was then very unwilling to open fire upon the fort, and departed so far from my usual habit in such cases that I sent them a flag for a conference. This interview ended with an unconditional surrender, and with a guaranty on my part of that protection accorded to prisoners of war. Yet, in spite of this and of the reflection it would cast upon me as a soldier and officer of honor, the guards were charged by some persons in nothing save the name of Confederates, and Captain Shumaker taken from them and executed. That he deserved death no one denies; that he met it thus every good soldier must lament and deplore.
The bright hours of pleasure and enjoyment were rudely broken in upon on the 11th by a heavy force of Federals attacking General Fagan. My division was soon ready for the field, and I received orders if possible to fall upon the enemy's flank. Fearing trouble on the Georgetown road, I sent Colonel Jackman there with orders to attack the enemy wherever found, and fight him in front, flank or rear, as he deemed advisable. I then moved out on the Tipton and Boonville road seven miles, but learning that the enemy had retired I returned to camp, at the same time ordering Colonel Jackman to leave a force of observation where he was and change position from the Georgetown road to the Tipton and Boonville road, advance in the direction of the retiring Federals, and attack them upon first sight. Having no guide, and being in a broken and uneven country, Colonel Jackman did not overtake them until dark, when he attacked and drove him rapidly across the Tête Saline, resting there for the night, making beautiful dispositions to renew the fight on the morrow. About daylight the Federals opened upon Lieutenant-Colonel Nichols, commanding the covering regiment, and forced him slowly back after half an hour's hard fight-rag. When Colonel Jackman had drawn them to his position he suddenly turned upon them with great fury and drove them, after two hours of hard fighting, over the ground lost, over the Tête Saline, and two miles beyond, inflicting heavy loss. This brilliant fight stamped him a fine cavalry officer, brave and skillful in action, with everything requisite to make him a dashing commander. The enemy soon retreated, and Colonel Jackman, by order from General Fagan, returned with his command to camp.
Moving from Boonville on the 12th and marching rapidly west, encamped on Blackwater on the evening of the 13th, where orders were received for Colonel Jackman with 500 men to report to General Clark for services in North Missouri, and on the 14th these orders were carried out. On the same day I was notified to be in readiness as early as practicable with my entire division, remaining for a combined attack on Glasgow and Sedalia. General M. Jeff. Thompson with a portion of the division and two pieces of artillery moved on the latter, and I, with the remainder and the other section of Collins' battery, moved on the former. Traveling hard all night Glasgow was reached an hour before daylight, and just as the distant east gave token of the coming day I opened with infantry and artillery upon the sleeping Federals, the silent town, and the rough and rugged fort. The surprise at first was complete, but the enemy, taking breath and courage, opened a merciless fire of sharpshooters upon the battery and upon the infantry drawn up along the shore. Yet Captain Collins, who never seems at home save in the rage and roar of battle, by the splendid aim of his guns and the rapidity of their serving, drove the enemy from his hiding-places, and there was a lull in the tempest of lead. It was expected that General Clark's attack would be simultaneous with mine, and that the object of my movement should be to cover the real assault; but he did not arrive until two hours after I commenced the fight. My ammunition was considerably expended. Yet, when his guns were heard from the north I again returned to the work with renewed energy, sending at the same time to you for re-enforcements and ammunition, intending to cross the river myself if there should be any failure from the other side. With this view I called for volunteers to cross to the other side in a yawl and get up steam in a large boat lying opposite, which was responded to by Captain McCoy and Captain Carrington, of my staff. They crossed in plain view of the enemy, found the boat in serviceable condition, and came back to report, the bullets plowing and hissing in the water all around them. This was a most gallant exploit, and one which is deserving of the highest praise. Before, however, additional help arrived the town surrendered to General Clark. Colonel Jackman, acting in conjunction with him, displayed his usual courage and made a most brilliant and successful charge, driving everything before him.
General Thompson with great rapidity and dash hurled himself upon Sedalia, opened his guns at point-blank range, sent forward Colonel Elliott at the charge, and captured town, fort, Federals, and all to the number of 200. Very soon great masses of the enemy came looming up to see what bold intruder had broken in upon their quiet sleep of years, but the wary Thompson, true to his well-won sobriquet, fell back fighting before them in splendid style after destroying everything owned by the United States Government.
Before the Sedalia attack I sent Lieut. James Wood, Elliott's battalion, to the large and magnificent bridge over the La Mine River, on the Pacific Railroad. True to the memory of the same feat a year ago, he charged upon it in the dim dawn of a dusky morning and woke the tardy sun by a mingled mass of flame and smoke, and crackling and splintered timbers, and crumbling arch and abutment. His work was complete. The destruction of 1863 was re-enacted in 1864, and the same old river swept on to the sea, telling great tales of how the gray jackets came over the border.
Still moving west on the 17th and 18th, and leading the advance on the 19th, I encountered a heavy force of Federals under General Blunt five miles from Lexington, on the Salt Pond road. Immediate battle was given. The enemy were stubborn at first and handled their artillery well, but Thompson gave them no breathing time, and with Gordon and Elliott in front pushed them hard past Lexington and well on the road toward Independence. This was the first real indication of the immediate presence of a concentrated force in our front, and I knew now there would be heavy work for us all in the future. On the morning of the 21st rapid and continuous firing in my front warned me that Marmaduke, who was in my advance, was hotly engaging the enemy. Closing up my command well and passing a command in front, I arrived in time to receive General Price's order to support General Marmaduke immediately. I dismounted my entire command, except Lieutenant-Colonel Nichols' regiment, of Jackman's brigade, and crossed Little Blue by wading. Finding General Marmaduke hard pressed and greatly outnumbered, I threw forward Thompson's brigade swiftly on the left, Jackman's supporting, and the fight opened fast and furious. The enemy held a strong position behind hastily constructed works of logs and earth, stone fences, and deep hollows and ravines. My division fought splendidly. From stand to stand the Federals were driven, and soon began to waver and retreat. After great difficulty and hard work my artillery got over the stream and opened a heavy fire from a beautiful position. Sending the cavalry regiment of Lieutenant-Colonel Nichols upon their left flank, which made a brilliant and desperate charge, and pressing forward immediately in front, the enemy was driven clearly from the field; and now taking the advance, I pushed him in a stubborn running fight beyond Independence, where a large hospital was filled with his wounded and dying. That evening Captain Williams, of my advance, who had been sent north of the Missouri River to recruit, returned with 600 men after having captured Carrollton with a garrison of about 300 and arming his entire command.
Bivouacking at Independence to rest my tired division, for they had followed the chase all the long day on foot, I ordered Colonel Jackman on the morning of the 22d to move out on the Kansas City road and engage the enemy skirmishing with my pickets; then crossing the Big Blue and facing the enemy on the right, engaged them to cover the crossing and passing of the train. Sending General Thompson with his entire brigade, except Gordon's regiment, to force the Federals back to Westport, I held Gordon to watch the left, now being demonstrated upon, until Jackman came up. Thompson drove everything before him on the right within sight of the domes and spires of Westport, and then the Federals got stubborn and re-enforced on him, holding a heavy skirt of timber that fringed the lower edge of a large field. Gordon also soon became engaged with forces outnumbering him three to one, but fought them manfully until Jackman came up, when the Federals unlimbered a battery at close range and poured in a merciless fire. I determined to charge it and take it if possible. Gordon and Jackman dashed away at the word, rode down the cannoneers, broke the infantry supports, and captured and held one beautiful 24-pounder howitzer (brass), with caisson and ammunition, and several wagons and teams. Jackman followed the demoralized foe for several miles, inflicting severe injury upon them, and returned in time to meet a large force coming from the direction of Westport. Now commenced a severe and heavy fight. The train had all safely passed, and I sent orders to Thompson to hurry to my assistance. The enemy, furious at the loss of-their gun, tried hard to take it back, but the ground was held against them, and darkness and the arrival of General Thompson put an end to a very hard day's fighting.
The 23d of October dawned upon us clear, cold, and full of promise. My division moved squarely against the enemy about 8 o'clock in the direction of Westport, and very soon became fiercely engaged, as usual. The enemy had regained all the strong positions taken from them the day before by General Thompson, and it became imperatively necessary to force that flank of the enemy back. Inch by inch and foot by foot they gave way before my steady onset. Regiment met regiment, and opposing batteries draped the scene in clouds of dense and sable smoke. While the engagement was at its height Collins burst one of his Parrotts, but fought on with his three guns as if nothing had happened. Again were the Federals driven within sight of Westport, and here I halted to reform my lines, naturally broken and irregular by the country passed over, intending to make a direct attack upon the town. About 12 o'clock I sent Jackman's brigade back to the road taken by the train, for it was reported that General Marmaduke had fallen back before the enemy--although he had never notified me of the fact, or I never saw his couriers, which I learned afterward were sent-and thus my whole right flank and rear were exposed. Jackman had scarcely reached the point indicated when he met an order from General Fagan to hasten to his help at a gallop, for the entire prairie in his front was dark with Federals. Jackman dismounted his men in the broad and open plain and formed them in one long, thin line before the huge wave that threatened to engulf them. Collins with one gun hurried forward to help Jackman, and opened furiously upon the advancing enemy.
On and on, their great line overlapping Jackman by one-half, they came to within eighty yards. Down went that line of gray, and a steady stream of bullets struck them fairly in the face, until they reeled, scattered, and fled; but the wing that extended beyond and around Jack-man's left rode on to retrieve the disaster of their comrades, and came within thirty paces at full speed. Again a merciless fire swept their front; again Collins poured in double charges of grape and canister, and they, too, were routed and driven back, when General Fagan thanked Colonel Jackman on the " field of his fame, fresh and gory." It was a high and heroic action and one which shines out in our dark days of retreat like a " cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night." There on an open prairie, no help or succor near, no friendly reserves to cover and protect a retreat, Jackman dismounted with almost the forlorn determination of Cortez, who burnt his ships, resolved to conquer or die. Fresh lines of Federals forced Jackman to mount his horses, and he fell back after the train, fighting hard.
Now my entire rear was in possession of the enemy, and the news was brought when Thompson was fighting for dear life at Westport. Withdrawing him as soon as possible, and with much difficulty, for he was hard pressed, I fell back as rapidly as I could after the retiring army, the force I had been fighting at Westport coming up just behind, when, reaching the road, the prairie in my rear was covered almost by a long line of troops, which at first I supposed to be our own men. This illusion was soon dispelled, and the two great waves uniting, came down upon one little brigade and Colonel Slayback's regiment. The prospect was dark and desperate. Not a tree or bush was to be seen for weary miles and miles, and no helping army could be seen anywhere. I knew the only salvation was to charge the nearest line, break it if possible, and then retreat rapidly, fighting the other. The order was given. Thompson and Slayback fell upon them with great fury, mixed in mêlée, and unclasped from the deadly embrace weak and staggering. In attempting to reform my lines (which after breaking through and through the Federals were much scattered) an enfilading battery of six guns swept the whole line, and another in front opened with terrific effect. At the same time the column which followed me from Westport came down at the charge, and nothing was left but to run for it, which was now commenced. The Federals seeing the confusion pressed on furiously, yelling, shouting, and shooting, and my own men fighting, every one on his own hook, would turn and fire and then gallop away again. Up from the green sward of the waving grass two miles off a string of stone fences grew up and groped along the plain--a shelter and protection. The men reached it. Some are over; others are coming up, and Slayback and Gordon and Blackwell and Elliott are rallying the men, who make a stand here and turn like lions at bay. The fences are lines of fire, and the bullets sputter and rain thicker upon the charging enemy. They halt, face about, and withdraw out of range. My command was saved, and we moved off after the army, traveling all night.
Day and night the retreat was continued until the evening of the 25th, when my division, marching leisurely in front of the train, was ordered hastily to the rear to protect it, while flying rumors came up constantly that Marmaduke and Cabell were captured with all their artillery. Leaving Colonel Jackman with his brigade to watch well my left flank and guard the train, I hastened forward with Thompson's brigade and Slayback's regiment to the scene of action. I soon met beyond the Osage River the advancing Federals, flushed with success and clamorous for more victims. I knew from the beginning that I could do nothing but resist their advance, delay them as much as possible, and depend on energy and night for the rest.
The first stand was made one mile north of the Osage River, where the enemy was worsted; again upon the river-bank, and again I got away in good condition. Then taking position on a high hill one mile south of the river, I halted for a desperate struggle. The enemy advanced in overwhelming numbers and with renewed confidence at the sight of the small force in front of them, for Captains Langhorne and Adams and Lieutenant-Colonel Nichols with their commands were ahead of the train on duty. The fight lasted nearly an hour, but I was at last forced to fall back.
Elliott, Gordon, Slayback, Hooper, Smith, Blackwell, Williams, and a host of other officers seemed to rise higher and higher as the danger increased, and were always where the tide of battle rolled deepest and darkest. It was an evening to try the hearts of my best and bravest, and rallying around me they even surpassed all former days of high and heroic bearing.
Pressed furiously, and having to cross a deep and treacherous stream, I did not offer battle again until gaining a large hill in front of the entire arms, formed in line of battle, where I sent orders for Colonel Jackman to join me immediately. It was a fearful hour. The long and weary days of marching and fighting were culminating, and the narrow issue of life or death stood out all dark and barren as a rainy sea. The fight was to be made now, and General Price, with the pilot's wary eye, saw the storm-cloud sweep down, growing larger and larger and darker and darker. They came upon me steadily and calm. I waited until they came close enough and gave them volley for volley, shot for shot. For fifteen minutes both lines stood the pelting of the leaden hail without flinching, and the incessant roar of musketry rang out wildly and shrill, all separate sounds blending in a universal crash. The fate of the army hung upon the result, and our very existence tottered and tossed in the smoke of the strife. The red sun looked down upon the scene, and the redder clouds floated away with angry, sullen glare. Slowly, slowly my old brigade was melting away. The high-toned and chivalric Dobbin, formed on my right, stood by me in all that fiery storm, and Elliott's and Gordon's voices sounded high above the rage of the conflict: " My merry men, fight on."
All that men could do had been done. For five days and nights Thompson's and Slayback's commands had fought and marched and marched and fought, and now, under concentrated and accumulated fire of heavy odds, the left of General Thompson's brigade reeled back over the prairie, the Federals following with furious yells; but the right, under Colonel Elliott, met the advancing wave and broke their front line in every direction by charging furiously the rear of the enemy pressing hard after the left of Thompson's brigade.
Now Colonel Jackman, who had done his duty well in another part of the field, came rushing up to avenge his fallen comrades. Going into line at a gallop, and opening ranks to let the retreating brigade through, he charged down upon the rushing enemy like a thunderbolt, driving them back and scattering their front line badly. This charge saved us, and the day's work was done. The Federals halted, reformed their lines, brought up artillery, and fired away at long range. Very slowly the army moved away without molestation, and darkness came down alike upon the dying and the dead, and the stars came out, and a weird and dreary silence hushed the air to stillness and repose.
On the night of the 24th [25th], on the Marmiton River, Colonel Jack-man, by order, burned that portion of the train devoted to the sacrifice, and brought up the rear all that day and night to Carthage, where we encamped on the night of the 25th [26th]. On the evening of the 28th, while comfortably resting a few miles south of Newtonia, a large Federal force drove in our outlying pickets quite briskly and came charging on with their usual vitality. Dismounting every man of my division, I formed my line of battle just in time to meet the onset. Jackman held the right and protected two pieces of Collins' artillery, which opened immediately with good effect. Thompson and Slayback were on the left, and I sent a good detachment under Major Gordon to watch well my extreme left flank, and then moved steadily forward with a loud and ringing cheer. The men never hesitated from the first, but drove the enemy all the time before them and advanced two miles into the prairie, exposed to a heavy artillery fire from the first, and if I had had a mounted regiment of my own command I could have charged and taken their splendid battery. Two detached companies of Thompson's brigade (Captains Langhorne's and Adams') did excellent service on the extreme right.
Night closed the contest, and another beautiful victory had crowned the Confederate arms. This success was of eminent advantage to our army, fought as it was when some were urging the old and horrible cry of demoralization, re-enforcements, and no ammunition. That night about 12 o'clock I withdrew, leaving Lieutenant-Colonel Erwin to watch well the enemy's movements until the next day. He left at 8 o'clock the following morning, and our retreat was continued to Cane Hill unmolested and undisturbed. At Cane Hill, in the midst of a pelting snow-storm, I furnished a detail of 500 men, under Colonel Elliott, and Collins' battery, to report to General Fagan for an attack upon Fayetteville. He complimented them for their gallantry and courage, and they rejoined me the next day after making the fight.
With as much rapidity and comfort as possible the march was continued to the Arkansas River. I would here state, however, that all danger was over, by permission of General Price I sent Colonels Hunter, Schnable, Nichols, and Slayback with their commands to Northwestern Arkansas to recruit both men and horses and gather up what recruits had been left when the expedition to Missouri commenced. After crossing the Arkansas River provisions were scarce, flour a myth, and salt numbered with the things that were. Yet we got along as well as could be expected, and only when actually suffering did I ask of General Price permission to return to the Canadian and kill and jerk beef. After losing many valuable horses and resorting to almost every expedient to get my battery through, I arrived at Boggy Depot with my command tired, weary, and very hungry. Here cattle were procured, and the question of getting the guns along no longer disturbed the quartermaster. I feel proud that not a gun of my battery was lost except the rifled piece that burst in action, and I can safely say that no battery ever contained a more gallant or daring captain--one that would go farther and stay longer and fight harder than the one commanded by Capt. R. A. Collins.
To mention all who showed high and noble courage on the field would exceed the limits of even a lengthy report, but Colonels Jackman, Gordon, Elliott, Hunter, Nichols, Schnable, Smith, Hooper, Blackwell, Cravens, and Erwin; Majors Gordon, McDaniel, Vivien, and Yontz (who was killed); Captains Langhorne, Adams, McCoy, Wood, Franklin, Lea, and Lieutenants Plattenberg, Gill, and many others showed qualities which stamp them as soldiers, heroes, and Confederates. Colonel Schnable, whose voice sounds like a raging lion, is brave, cool, and will charge from 100 men to 10,000. Colonel Hunter is always cool, always ready to fight, and his judgment never at fault. Col. Benjamin Elliott, the grim Massena of the conflict, never quits a post until all hope it gone and death stares him in the face. Colonel Smith and Lieutenant-Colonel Hooper (both wounded) are men the Confederate Army may well be proud of. Captain Williams, of my advance, than whom there are no braver or better, and the young Captain Maurice Langhorne, of my escort, deserve promotion for gallantry on the field. Brig. Gen. M. Jeff. Thompson needs nothing here to establish a reputation already known over the United States. He was always with his brigade, and that was always where the firing was heaviest, Col. A. W. Slayback won for himself a name and reputation for daring and gallantry that has no superior. Lieutenant-Colonel Blackwell, the scarred veteran of fifty battles, maintained his high reputation. Lieutenant-Colonel Erwin, always calm and cool, exhibited eminent abilities on the field. Capts. C. G. Jones, Heber Pricey Toney, Elliott, Neale, Shindler, Ferrell, and many others displayed distinguished gallantry.
But why mention a few names when all acted so well? Amid all the trying hours of our perilous expedition my command never failed to rally and to form whenever and wherever ordered.
Although the expedition was full of hardships and suffering in some respects, necessary upon such a long and protracted march, yet General Price accomplished touchy and stamped his expedition as one of the most brilliant of the war. Large numbers of Federals were withdrawn from Sherman; large numbers kept from going to him; vast quantities of Government supplies used and destroyed; five splendid railroads visited with almost irreparable damage; large levies of recruits made; many prisoners captured; a beacon-light of hope and help reared in the dark night of despotism and oppression; the Southern heart stimulated and encouraged; the weakness of Federal dominion tested, defied, and thrown down; the wrongs of accumulated years avenged, and a great thrill of electric hope, pride, strength, and resistance sent coursing through every vein and artery of the South.
General Price had elements in his command so weak, so helpless, so incongruous that no human hand could control them, and these elements were fastened upon him by the very nature of the expedition, growing and springing directly from it. Time will vindicate the greatness of the scheme, history crown it with the laurel wreath of fame.
I am, colonel, very respectfully,
JO. O. SHELBY,
Brigadier-General, Commanding Division.
Owing to the unfortunate accident of having all my books and papers destroyed of this expedition, there may be inaccuracies in the names of places and the dates of events, but in the whole is generally correct.
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