GENERAL PRICE'S BOLD PLAN - THE FIGHT ON THE LITTLE BLUE - SITUATION BEFORE THE BIG BATTLE - THE DASH FOR KANSAS - THE CROSSING AT BYROM'S FORD - COLONEL VEALE'S HEROIC STAND - AS A PARTICIPANT SAW IT - THE REBEL YELL - FIGHTING TO THE DEATH - THE TOPEKA BATTERY'S LOSS - AS GENERAL DEITZLER TOLD IT.
It seems fitting that the region about Kansas City and Westport, Wyandotte, Shawnee Mission and Independence, wherein were enacted those scenes of border strife that finally precipitated the Civil war, should, in the fall of 1864, furnish the setting for the great contest between the Federal and Confederate armies that had much to do with hastening the final victory for the cause of the Union. The Battle of the Blue, as it is known in history, is overshadowed by many of those great battles that distinguished the Civil war of the United States as the bloodiest conflict that ever was known among civilized men in the annals of war. Yet the Battle of the Blue was a momentous struggle that is well worth telling in detail, since it is a part of the history of Kansas and Missouri and of the region about the great city that has been builded on a part of the battlefield.
The preparation, the march, the disastrous victory so dearly bought, the capture, the captivity that was filled with experiences made grotesque by useless cruelty, the escape of a few, the final parole of others, the hardships that resulted in a lingering death to many; - all this may be included in the history of about eleven days; from October 14 to 25, 1864.
By the time the great war had reached the year in which the Battle of the Blue occurred we were almost a nation of soldiers; trained and hardy veterans whose serried blue lines had been thinned a hundred times, who had won or lost innumerable fields historic as the bloodiest in modern history. These men were extraordinary in being merely citizens. They were called out in a sudden emergency. They were untrained, not uniformed; had with them none of the vast and complicated machinery which clothes, feeds and nurses a modern army in the field. They were fresh from home. Wives and children and peaceful occupations were vivid in their minds. They did not know how to camp and march and fight. They knew that they were unknown; a straggling band of citizens to whom was lacking even the corps-badge they might make renowned. They saw no regimental colors flaunting from the midst of a stalwart line, a rallying-point and leader above the purple smoke. They were woefully unequal even in numbers to the foe they went to meet; and they knew that too.
So it occurs that those who went out at last to meet the host under General Price were as a remnant. The call to arms included every able-bodied man. The intention was that a defenseless people in Kansas City and Wyandotte, who lay between the Confederate army and the stores at Fort Leavenworth, should be easily overrun. Resistance would be impossible.
The history preceding the raid of the rebel lieutenant general, Sterling Price, is embodied in official reports and numerous books. It was a bold conception, made possible by a series of reverses to our arms in the southwest. Bank's Red River expedition had failed. Two months later a conjoint movement under General Steele was ended with equal disaster. Then the Price raid was planned, and finally lacked little of successful execution. The high-water mark of this great raid was reached on October 22, 1864, on the banks of the Big Blue, in western Missouri, about eight miles east of the Kansas line. Up to this date the direction of the raiding column, an army of at least thirty thousand men of all arms, and all grades from the veteran Confederate to the homesick country conscript and the border bushwhacker, had been northward. From that date it was turned south, waging that running fight with pursuing enemies down the state line which is so well remembered by surviving prisoners. Around this little point, diminutive on the map of Missouri, the interest of this present narrative centers.
The movements of the strong rebel force near the town of Westport, Missouri, and near the eastern line of Kansas, were, on October 20 and 21, 1864, very extensive. Many pages of tersely written descriptions fail to convey to any but the closest student more than a confused idea of them. Let us attempt to condense, in plain terms, the story of the events that led to this final check by a handful of men.
The famous battle, or defence, of Lexington was fought by Colonel Mulligan, of Illinois, in 1861. The last battle, the battle of Lexington of the campaign of the Price raid, was fought by Blunt. So far as known it was also the last personal fight of the celebrated James H. Lane, who here took a carbine and stood in the skirmish-line with the Jayhawkers of the Second Brigade. It was a fight only to check and hinder, without hope of a decisive victory, and represented the hardest possible military service. Backward along the Independence road successive lines of battle were formed, and the retreating fight continued briskly for more than six miles. Some characteristic Jayhawkers were there. One of them, Jack Curtis, distinguished himself by cutting his company out and rejoining his command after having been completely outflanked and cut off in the retreat. No one had known until now precisely where or how strong Price's army was, or which way he was marching. An army of twenty-eight thousand men was held in check for twenty-four hours by a cavalry force of two thousand. It was this check that reunited the militia on the Kansas line and the banks of the Blue by giving them facts, and letting that army of independent citizens know what they were there for, to a certainty. Nevertheless the militia declined to be moved too far forward, the line of the Little Blue was not occupied by them in force, and the larger stream to the west of it known as the Big Blue was chosen instead. Military men long discussed this choice and its consequences, to no avail.
Blunt's retreat from Lexington to Independence was accomplished on the 20th of October. On the way Moonlight was left at the Little Blue with about six hundred men and four light howitzers. There is not space to enter now into the details of his battle. The fight of the Little Blue was known to be a certainty and accordingly began early on the morning of October 21st. As soon as it opened, troops began to be forwarded to the west bank of the Big Blue, and General Deitzler was placed in command there. It will thus be seen how operations came to be transferred to this stream. It was a good line of defense. The stream was larger and deeper than the other, with wooded banks and steep slopes on the western side. The Judgment of the militia approved it, and under the circumstances they were right. It is difficult to get artillery across a sizable stream under fire, and Price was known to have some guns that had once been ours.
But after the battle of the Little Blue began, Colonel Moonlight was re-inforced until the command, now in the hands of General Curtis, with Blunt in immediate command, numbered about two thousand five hundred men, mostly veterans. While the battle was progressing, the enemy being in heavy force, General Curtis superintended the evacuation of Independence and the transfer of the militia force, supplies, etc., to the line of defense on the Big Blue.
It will not answer to underrate the magnitude and importance of Moonlight's engagement. It lasted eight hours. For three of these the confederates were held back by six hundred men. It was most skillfully fought, and employed before it was over three divisions of Price's army, outnumbering the Union forces ten to one. The last line of battle was formed in the outskirts of Independence. The loss of the Confederates was about two to one of the Union soldiers. Night came and the battle ended, and meantime, in the delay caused by it, Pleasanton's forces were coming nearer and nearer, his cavalry was almost within striking distance, and the militia were being rapidly organized. This was the situation on the evening of October 21st. Meantime it must be remembered that Rosecrans was in the rear of Price's army. On the night after the morning that the retreat of Blunt from Lexington was begun General McNeil, with a cavalry column of Rosecrans' army, was within ten miles of that place. On the morning of the 22nd this same force was at the crossing of the Little Blue, where Moonlight's battle in retreat began the day before. They built a bridge to cross the artillery, the same having been burned the previous day, and were soon after engaged with the enemy in the streets of Independence and driving him southwest toward the eastern banks of the Big Blue, on the western side of which the Kansas men and some volunteers were posted, covering a distance of about fifteen miles. They had camped in position there on the night of Friday, October 21, 1864.
There has so far been an attempt to place before the reader, withcut elaborate details or a prolonged history of complicated military movements, the situation that led to that battle of the Blue, with which this story has to do. The heads of this situation may be now stated, thus: The Price raid was a military movement of magnitude, with a purpose almost as ambitious as Sherman's march to the sea. There were included in its divisions about thirty thousand men.
These men were mainly trained and hardened veterans. No more formidable body of cavalry, perhaps, ever existed than Shelby's division, and their commander was a splendid soldier, entitled to rank as such regardless of his uniform. This formidable body of men, known to us as Price's army, was burdened, not helped, by a horde of conscripts gathered on the march. The regiments of guerrillas, "Border Ruffians," are not to be classed among these, but they were hard riders and keen fighters.
The course of the great raid through Missouri was, as directly as circumstances would permit, toward Leavenworth, and the immense accumulations of war material in the fort immediately above the city.
Major General Rosecrans, commanding the Department of Missouri, did not know as definitely as he should have known about Price, his course, his force, his intentions or his destination. These were not discovered until Blunt's demonstration at Lexington, and the masterly retreat therefrom. This want of information, the indefiniteness of rumors and the conflict of news, disheartened the militia upon whom the chief defense of Kansas was finally to devolve. The essential difference between the citizen soldier and the veteran is that the former insists upon thinking for himself, and arrives at conclusions on his own account. When he has done so, he will act independently. It is a habit of his entire previous life.
The first turning point in Price's raid was at Independence, on the night of October 21st. Thence he turned nearly south to the east bank of the Big Blue. The enemy, once there, and now pressed behind, tried to still turn westward and get into Kansas. He did not know, could not have known, what was in front of him beyond what he had fought between Lexington and Independence. The rest was guesswork and risk. He had an immense wagon train - his burden and his pride. No one will ever know precisely what he intended to do after the check at Independence, but he did not then know the actual situation of the Confederacy, and may have intended to establish the Confederate supremacy over an immense area in the west, including at least Missouri and all Kansas and the southwest. There was undoubtedly a vague idea, in the beginning, of diverting forces from the east and weakening the armies there engaged. The situation of Kansas, had he succeeded in the attempt of the afternoon of the 22nd, may be left to the imagination.
The second check, that turned him southward definitely and forever, was given him near Byrom's Ford, on the Big Blue, late in the afternoon of October 22, 1864. This check was given by a handful of men from Shawnee county; the Topeka Battery of Captain Ross Burns, one gun, and the mounted portion of the Second Regiment, Kansas State Militia, all under command of Colonel George W. Veale. The detachment, or battalion, numbered possibly three hundred men. The rebels were not routed; on the contrary, they were seemingly victorious; but their little victory was most dearly bought, and they were decidedly checked. They were given the idea that there was a company of fighting men ahead of them even, of whose existence and quality they had not been definitely informed. They paused. It was late in the day. Night fell and they went into bivouac. All day they had been trying to cross the Blue. They had flanked the left of the line, up toward the Missouri river, and had again fallen back under the fire of the Kansas Sixteenth Cavalry and of a battalion of militia cavalry under Lieutenant Colonel Murdock, and the small command of Colonel Ford.
Colonel Jennison's command held Byrom's Ford. They commenced the attack on this point in the forenoon and did not succeed in crossing until 3 o'clock p. m. Jennison's force then fell back toward Westport, fighting. During the day the head of Shelby's division came near entering Kansas just south of Westport, and there occurred a hot little battle in which the enemy again retired behind the Blue. It must be understood that during the day of the 22nd there were a series of complicated movements by different columns of the enemy, each one resulting in a sharp fight. The enemy tried the main fords, such as the one between Independence and Kansas City, and Byrom's, defended by Jennison's little brigade, several miles below. Whenever they succeeded in crossing they met with strong resistance and again retired. They crossed at cattle-fords, on no road, unknown to the militia and unguarded. There were not half men enough to cover affectively that long fifteen miles of the broken banks of the Big Blue. These repeated skirmishes, grouped into a single event, would properly be called the Battle of the Big Blue.
On the general desultory engagement of that day the heroic struggle of the detachment under Colonel Veale was the most conspicuous event. It occurred suddenly, on the outskirts of the then extreme right, almost alone, late in the afternoon. It came about through a final strong effort of the Confederates to cross the stream that day. The incentive to this effort was not a caprice or a mere angry determination not to be beaten. There was no extra time then in the possession of General Price. Pleasanton, McNeil and Sanborn were close behind him; Rosecrans and A. J. Smith were at Lexington. Already, on that same day, though the enemy did not know it, a man named Daniel W. Boutwell, a resident of Topeka and a Volunteer soldier, had crept down the Missouri in a skiff, waded and floundered in the night across the Blue, circumvented the rebel pickets in the woods, and carried the message which was meant to hasten his movements from Deitzler, commanding the militia, to Pleasanton in the rear. A way must immediately be made to the westward or the raid must turn and with hastened steps go back almost the way it came, a failure.
The story of that famous stand is told by Mr. G. G. Gage, a member of the Topeka battery, from his own experiences. Mr. Gage says: "The land on the west side of the Big Blue is rolling. The enemy had succeeded in crossing at Byrom's Ford. Jennison's, Moonlight's, and other commands fell back toward the Kansas line, thus giving them a clear road. We of the battery were guarding Russell's Ford, on the Hickman Mills road. A messenger came to this point and ordered us to go to Westport. Colonel Veale was at this time scouting with the remainder of the Shawnee county mounted men to the south and east, on the other side of the Blue. The messenger gave us orders to get to Westport as fast as possible, as the enemy was crossing the Blue behind our retiring forces. We instantly obeyed these orders, starting on the retreat with the battery and men only; our regiment not being at hand, as stated.
"We had gone about a mile, and were passing through a lane at what was called Mockabee farm. On the left hand of this lane there was a locust grove and an orchard. We had so far seen no enemy, but suddenly out of this grove they opened fire on us. Captain Burns instantly turned back to the gun and ordered us to unlimber and double-canister, which was done very quickly. He sighted the gun himself and we gave them this, and repeated the same dose without losing a moment. Both charges were sent into the locust grove at short range. By this time the enemy had all fallen back over the rise, or knoll, on which the grove stood, out of sight. We loaded again and by this time Colonel Veale had come up with his men and formed on our right, in the field outside of the lane, the companies of Captains Huntoon and Bush crossing over and occupying the grove. Everything was still for a few moments, and we waited.
Then we heard the peculiar yell, or scream, of the rebels when they begin a charge. They came over the knoll and about six abreast down the lane upon the gun, closely massed; a cavalry charge by the men of Jackman's brigade, of Shelby's division, as we knew afterwards; veterans who had done the same thing many times before. Our support, Colonel Veale's men, began firing as soon as they came in range. We waited with the gun until they came within a hundred yards and then opened on them. When the smoke cleared away they had again fallen back over the knoll, and the lane in front of us was strewed thick with dead and wounded men and horses.
"We then began shelling them on the other side of the hill where they were, and kept this up for several minutes. I think there is a ravine there, and finally Captain Burns ordered us to double-canister again and wait for them to come and see us. It was not long. The yell was heard again, and I think when they came the second time they were within a hundred yards of us before the captain gave the order to fire. They went back again over the hill, this time also. Two charges had been repulsed and the lane looked worse than it did before. I remember the scene vividly and distinctly, and I think that I have never read or heard of a greater slaughter of men in battle than I saw before me in that narrow lane. Our chances were desperate, but I believe that I would rather have been with that gun in the lane than a cavalryman on the charging side.
"After this second charge and repulse we began shelling them again, and kept it up until the final charge which closed in on our front and flanks. We could not get out, and could do nothing more. Many had by this time been killed or wounded. The remainder tried to escape, but could not get through and were taken prisoners. It is now known that Captain Burns stayed with his gun as the last man, using his revolver when he could do nothing more, and that he was beaten over the head with a carbine and captured where he stood. Some say that he was not shot because the balls seemed to miss him, as has often been the case with men in battle where the firing was heavy; others that the rebels did not want to kill him, and finally beat him, as stated, for the purpose of disabling him. At any rate, he kept his head until this occurred, for it has since transpired that he carried away the sight of the gun to keep them from using it after its capture, and that through all his adventures in their hands he somehow kept it, and his family have it now.
The following are the names of the persons belonging to the battery who were in the fight; twenty-two in all.
"The killed: George Ginnold, Daniel Handley, Nicholas Brown, M. D. Race, McClure Martin, Ben Hughes, Lear Selkin, C. H. Budd.
"The wounded: Captain Ross Burns, John Branner, William P. Thompson and John Ward.
"Remaining men engaged: G. G. Gage, R. Fitzgerald, J. E. Follansbee, John Links, Fred Mackey, James Anderson, A. H. Holman, Ed Pape, Jacob Kline and John Armstrong.
"Fourteen widows and thirty-seven orphans were made by these casualties. The men of the battery all lived in Topeka, near neighbors to each other. The ten who were unhurt were all taken prisoners. John Armstrong escaped the first night. The remainder shared the march to the southward with Price's retreating army, having experiences which I have been asked to relate. In doing so I can speak positively only of myself and my immediate companions.
"After the battle they gathered us prisoners together, and about that time General Shelby himself appeared in great haste, and ordered a guard from his veterans to take us to a little hill near by. The act was very significant of the danger we were in. Soon after that they marched us about two miles down the Blue to Price's headquarters; a place they called Boston Adam's. They had established their hospital there, and were bringing in the wounded from the battlefield we had just left. There was a yard with a high stone wall around it - a stone corral - and there the prisoners were guarded. Through this yard they had to pass to carry in their wounded and take out their dead. Our wounded they left in the yard. In the course of the evening Captain Burns was brought in. There was no comfort there and I held him on my knees until about two o'clock the following morning, when some one came out of the hospital and wanted to know where the captain of that gun was, and when Burns had been found they took him in. I did not see him again until I met him in Topeka, as one might say, 'after the war.'
The rest of the story of the battle of the Blue is told in the official report of General Deitzler.
HEADQUARTERS KANSAS STATE MILITIA.
TOPEKA, December 15, 1864.
Major: - In compliance with general field orders from your headquarters, dated Camp Arkansas, November 8, 1864, I have the honor to report the part taken by the troops under my command in the recent campaign against the rebel army under Major General Price.
On the 9th day of October, 1864, in pursuance of instructions from His Excellency the Governor of Kansas, I issued orders to the militia to prepare themselves for active service for thirty days, and to concentrate immediately at the points indicated in said order, a copy of which is herewith enclosed.
So prompt were the militia in responding to this call, and such was the alacrity and enthusiam manifested in concentrating at the points indicated, that upon my arrival at Olathe on the evening of the 12th, I found several regiments in camp there.
On the morning of the 13th, having received verbal instructions from Major General Curtis to order all troops to concentrate at Olathe to move to Shawneetown, I proceeded to that point, formed an encampment, and gave directions to thoroughly arm and equip the troops. During the three succeeding days, the First, Second, Third, Fourth, Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Twentieth Regiments of militia arrived in camp at Shawneetown. The regiments of Kansas State Militia, which had been ordered to rendezvous at the city of Wyandotte and Kansas City.
Orders from your headquarters, designating the troops in the field as the "Army of the Border" and dividing it into two wings, the right under Major General Blunt, and assigning me to the command of the left, required several regiments of the militia of southern Kansas to report to General Blunt, who will doubtless include their action in his report.
The fact that the citizen soldiery of Kansas, who responded as promptly to the call of the governor, were compelled to leave their homes and business to the care of women, the old and the decrepit, thereby incurring heavy losses and great inconvenience, caused much anxiety and great uneasiness, and a strong desire to end the campaign as soon as possible. This feeling was largely increased by the mystery surrounding the movements of the enemy, and the uncertain and conflicting information furnished by the officers belonging to the army of General Rosecrans in search of Price.
The impression became general that the rebel forces had moved south through General Rosecrans's lines, and we were puzzled prodigiously to account for, or to understand how, a hostile army of twenty thousand could remain in Boonville and the vicinity "foraging wide" for some two weeks, "pursued by General Sanborn's Cavalry with all possible dispatch," without molestation.
No satisfactory explanation has yet been given of this singular effort to find Price and to "draw him into a trap."
In my judgment it was one of the most extraordinary circumstances in the history of campaigning, and it created so great a distrust among the militia that many became discouraged and returned to their homes.
The first development of the rebel army was made by Major General Blunt, who discovered them at Lexington, Missouri, on the 19th of October, and being overpowered by superior numbers was obliged to retreat to Independence. Several days prior to this I had, by direction of Major General Curtis, sent to Independence two regiments of the Kansas State Militia - the Twelfth and Nineteenth - and on the 19th repaired thither in person.
On the morning of the 21st, in obedience to orders, I moved with the Nineteenth Regiment to the Big Blue, and began to fortify the several crossings of that stream.
At this place I found Colonel Blair in command of the Fifth, Sixth and Tenth Regiments, K. S. M., and Captain McClain's Colorado Battery. I immediately gave the necessary orders to erect fortifications and place the troops in position, and also ordered Brigadier General M. S. Grant, who was left in charge of the troops at Shawneetown, to proceed with two regiments of cavalry and two pieces of artillery to Hickman Mills, with instructions to fortify and defend the crossings of the Blue at that point, and to open communication with our forces on the left.
The remainder of the cavalry and infantry were ordered from Shawneetown to the crossing of the Big Blue on the Independence road, to which place the troops under General Blunt also retreated during the night of the 21st.
The entire Army of the Border was now in position on and along the west side of the Big Blue, occupying every possible crossing of that stream from its mouth to Hickman Mills, a distance of about fifteen miles, and presenting a formidable appearance.
Price's army entered Independence on the 20th, and on the morning of the 21st his cavalry made demonstration at several points in front of my position (the left wing), in several instances driving the pickets in under cover of our artillery.
About noon, having received reliable information that a heavy column of the enemy was moving against the right of our line, I ordered Lieutenant Colonel Walker, commanding the Sixteenth Kansas Volunteer Cavalry, with two pieces of artillery, to re-enforce that position. Subsequently the Twelfth K. S. M. and Captain McClain's Battery were also withdrawn from my line to re-enforce the right and General Blunt.
The enemy having forced a passage of the Blue at Byrom's Ford about 3 o'clock P. M., and my position being threatened from the rear, I quietly withdrew my command in perfect order and retreated to Kansas City, in obedience to instructions from Major General Curtis.
Just as the troops commenced moving from our works on the Blue a detachment of rebel cavalry made a furious dash upon the left center to my line, occupied by the Nineteenth Regiment, K. S. M., under Colonel Hogan, who received the charge with the greatest coolness and gallantry, completely routing the enemy, killing twelve and capturing ten, without loss to our side.
If my information is correct, Price commenced moving his train south from Independence about ten o'clock on the night of the 21st, under a strong escort, and on the morning of the 22nd he moved with his cavalry and some artillery towards Westport, crossing the Blue at Byrom's Ford, with the avowed intention of going into Kansas. He drove Colonel Jennison's command to the edge of the timber about two miles from Westport, when he (Jennison) was re-enforced by a portion of the militia which had become detached from General Grant's command at Hickman Mills.
A strong detachment of the enemy moved up the Blue under cover of the timber and attacked General Grant, throwing his command into some confusion, killing thirty-six, wounding forty-three, taking about one hundred prisoners, capturing one piece of artillery, and compelling General Grant to retire to Olathe. The loss of the enemy in this engagement is not known, but it must have been considerable.
General Grant speaks in the highest terms of the militia under his command, and expresses the opinion that he could have succeeded in repulsing the enemy had it not been for the disgraceful conduct of Major Laing.
In the report of the affair near Hickman Mills, General Grant says: "Major Laing, Fifteenth Kansas Volunteer Cavalry, with four squadrons of his regiment, was but a short distance in my rear when the fight commenced. I expected he would support me, and sent him word to do so, but he would not, and did not, although urged to do so by every officer in his command. He withdrew his command from the field, which had the effect of destroying the courage of the men under Colonel Lowe (Twenty-first K. S. M.), who also failed to support me. Major Laing is responsible for most of my loss, and showed cowardice in the face of the enemy."
The enemy having forced Brigadier General Grant to retire during the night to Olathe, and the commands of Colonels Moonlight and Jennison, with several detachments of militia, to Westport, encamped on the night of the 22nd on the south side of Brush creek, about two miles from Westport; his line extending into Kansas near the Shawnee Mission.
On the morning of the 23rd I received instructions from the Commanding General to remain in Kansas City, and to place the artillery and infantry in proper position in the entrenchments, and to hurry to the front all the mounted men.
About nine o'clock A. M. I directed Brigadier General Sherry, K. S. M., to assume command of the works in Kansas City, and proceeded to Westport. There had been severe fighting all morning in the vicinity of Westport, and some brilliant charges of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Regiments of Kansas Volunteer Cavalry which were resisted with great stubbornness and resulted in heavy loss to the enemy, but no ground was gained by our side.
The enemy's left, in attempting to advance into Kansas, had been successfully turned and driven back by the brigades under the gallant Colonels Moonlight and Jennison, who occupied a position near the Shawnee Mission. When I arrived at the front the firing had ceased. I found the forces forming on the bluffs on the north side of Brush creek, the left resting on the road leading from Westport to Hickman Mills, and the enemy on the south side of said creek beyond the woods. The Kansas Militia were dismounted and the horses sent to the rear, and as soon as the formation was complete, our forces were ordered by Major General Curtis to advance, with General Blunt on the left and myself on the right.
The personal presence of Major General Curtis inspired the men with confidence and the whole command moved forward in perfect order through the densest underbrush, and, as they emerged from the woods, on the south side of Brush creek, they encountered the enemy in strong force, and after a severe struggle, in which our troops showed the greatest bravery, drove him from his chosen position. Taking advantage of the confusion which occurred in the enemy's ranks at this time, our victorious forces advanced rapidly into the open field, firing volley after volley into the flying rebels, killing and wounding large numbers, who were left in our hands.
Both armies were now in full view of each other on the open prairie, presenting one of the most magnificent spectacles in nature.
The enemy made several attempts to stand, but such was the dashing bravery of our troops that they never succeeded in rallying and forming their men to offer any considerable resistance.
A running fight was then kept up for about four miles, the enemy slowly retreating in a southerly direction parallel with and about a mile from the state line, in Missouri, when General Rosecrans's advance, under Major General Pleasanton, made its appearance some distance from the right of the enemy, and opened upon them with artillery. At this point the retreat became a perfect rout, and the enemy running in great confusion southward were soon out of sight. Their course was indicated by dense volumes of smoke from burning prairie, hay and grain stacks, etc.
I accompanied the pursuit a short distance beyond the Blue, where we were joined by Major General Pleasanton and staff. After consultation with that officer it was decided that the United States forces under Generals Curtis and Pleasanton were sufficient to follow the rebel horde and drive them beyond the state of Missouri and Kansas, whereupon I requested and obtained leave from the General Commanding to order the militia to their several counties, except the Fifth, Sixth and Tenth Regiments, all from southern Kansas, who continued the pursuit to Fort Scott, whence they were sent to their homes.
Not having received reports from the several brigade commanders, I am not prepared to make accurate statements respecting the number of the militia in the field, of men killed, wounded and taken prisoners, nor of the particular acts of gallantry and daring of the members, of the militia which deserve honorable mention. In my report to the governor of Kansas I will endeavor to do full justice to all. Suffice it to say here that our casualties were comparatively slight, and that the conduct and bravery of both officers and men were highly satisfactory, reflecting great credit and honor upon themselves and the state, and entitling them to the thanks of the whole country.
I cannot close my report without expressing in behalf of the people of Kansas my grateful acknowledgments for the distinguished services rendered in the campaign against Price's plundering and murdering army by that noble patriot and gallant chieftain, Major General S. R. Curtis. Always at his post and ever watchful of the interests entrusted to his care, he saw the threatened danger even before the invaders appeared at Pilot Knob, and was the first to sound the tocsin of alarm. With characteristic energy he made every possible preparation to meet the enemy, and entered the field in person at an early day, he remained, scarcely leaving his saddle until he saw the rebel horde driven beyond the limits of the department, and only gave up the chase when both his men and horses were completely exhausted. Turning a deaf ear to the schemes of politicians and office seekers who followed the army, he manifested a singleness of purpose and a devotion to duty rarely witnessed.
To the knowledge and ripe experience in military affairs, the vigilance and energy, of Major General Curtis and his kind co-operation in furnishing arms and ammunition and the necessary supplies to the militia, Kansas owes in a great measure her preservation from the devastating hands of a ruthless foe, and to him we tender our sincere thanks.
I have the honor to be, Major,
Very respectfully your obedient servant,
GEORGE W. DEITZLER,
Major General, K. S. M.
MAJOR C. S. CHARLOT,
Assistant Adjutant General Department of Kansas.
The eight soldiers of the celebrated Topeka battery who were killed were buried in a trench near Westport. Their bodies, however, were taken up and buried in Huron Cemetery in Wyandotte, and later they were again disinterred and buried in the Topeka cemetery. So it came about that these eight brave Kansas soldiers had three graves. A beautiful monument to them now stands in Topeka cemetery.
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