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Price to Polk, Dec. 23,
to fill his army with recruits. “The most populous CHAP. V. and truest counties of the State," he wrote, “lie upon or north of the Missouri River.
I sent a detachment of 1100 men to Lexington, which after remaining only a part of one day gathered together about 2500 recruits, and escorted them in safety 1861. W.R. to me at Osceola.” His statement was partly cor- pp. 729, 736. rect, but other causes contributed both to this partial success and the partial defeat which immediately followed. Just at the time this expedition went to Lexington, the various Federal detachments north of the Missouri River were engaged in driving a number of secession guerrilla bands southward across that stream. Halleck was directing the combined movements of the Union troops, and had stationed detachments of Pope's forces south of the Missouri River with the design of intercepting and capturing the fugitive bands. The failure of some of the reports to reach him disconcerted and partly frustrated his design. The earlier guerrilla parties which crossed at and near Lexington escaped and made their way to Price, but the later ones were intercepted and captured as Halleck had planned. “Colonel Davis came upon the enemy near Milford late this afternoon,” reported Pope, December 19, "and, having driven in his pickets, assaulted him in force. A brisk skirmish ensued, when the enemy, finding himself surrounded and cut off, surrendered at discretion. One thousand three hundred prisoners, including three colonels and seventeen captains, 1000 stands of arms, 1000 horses, 65 wagons, tents, baggage, and supplies have fallen into our to Panteck, hands. Our loss is two killed and eight wounded.” 1861.ow.'R. On the next day he found his capture was still
CHAP. V. larger, and he telegraphed from Sedalia, “Just to Halleck, arrived here. Troops much embarrassed with nearly 1861.C W.R. 2000 prisoners and great quantity of captured
In anticipation of the capture or dispersion of these Northwestern detachments of rebels, Halleck had directed the collection of an army at and about Rolla with a view to move in force against Price. On December 25, Brigadier-General Samuel R.
Curtis was assigned to the command of the Union 1861. W.R. troops to operate in the Southwestern District of
Missouri. Some ten thousand men were gathered to form his column, and the possibility of a short and successful campaign was before him had he known Price's actual condition. But the situation was one of difficulty. The railroad ended at Rolla; Springfield, the supposed location of Price's camp, was a hundred and twenty miles further to the Southwest, by bad roads through a mountainous country. Rebel sympathy was strong throughout the whole region, and the favoring surroundings enabled Price to conceal his designs and magnify his numbers. Rumors came that he intended to fight at Springfield, and the estimates of his strength varied from 20,000 to 40,000.
The greatest obstacle to pursuit was the severity of the winter weather; nevertheless, the Union soldiers bore their privations with admirable patience and fortitude, and Halleck urged a continuance of the movement through every hindrance and discouragement. “I have ordered General Curtis to move forward,” he wrote to McClellan, January 14th," with all his infantry and artillery. His force will not be less than 12,000. The enemy
Curtis to Kelton, Jan. 5, 1862.
W. R. Vol. VIII.,
is reported to have between thirty-five and forty CHAP. V. guns. General Curtis has only twenty-four, but I send him six pieces to-morrow, and will send six more in a few days. I also propose placing a strong reserve at Rolla, which can be sent forward if necessary. The weather is intensely cold, and the troops, supplied as they are with very inferior clothing, blankets, and tents, must suffer greatly in a winter campaign, and yet I see no way of avoiding it. Unless Price is driven from the State insurrections will continually occur in all the Halleck to central and northern counties, so as to prevent 1862. W.R. the withdrawal of our troops.” A few days later (January 18, 1862), Halleck wrote to Curtis that he was about to reënforce him with an entire division from Pope's army, increasing his strength to fifteen thousand; that he would send him mittens for his soldiers; “get as many hand-mills as you can for grinding corn. Take the bull by the horns. I will back you in such forced requisitions when they become necessary for supplying the forces. We must have no failure in this move- 1862. W.R. ment against Price. It must be the last.” And once more, on January 27, he repeated his urgent admonition: “ There is a strong pressure on us for troops, and all that are not absolutely necessary here must go elsewhere. Pope's command is entirely broken up; 4000 in Davis's reserve and 6000 ordered to Cairo. Push on as rapidly as possible, and end the matter with Price."
This trying winter campaign, led by General Curtis, though successful in the end, did not terminate so quickly as General Halleck had hoped. Leaving the heroic Western soldiers camping and
Ibid., Jan. 27, 1862. W. R. Vol. VIII.,
CHAP. V. scouting in the snows and cutting winds of the
Missouri hills and prairies, we must call attention to other events of the Western Department. While Halleck was gratifying the Government and the Northern public by the ability and vigor of his measures, one point of his administration had excited vehement criticism. His military instinct and method were so thorough that they caused him to treat too lightly the political aspects of the great conflict of which he was directing so large a share. Frémont's treatment of the slavery question had been too radical; Halleck's now became too conservative. It is not probable that this grew out of his mere wish to avoid the error of his
predecessor, but out of his own personal conviction that the issue must be entirely eliminated from the military problem. He had noted the difficulties and discussions growing out of the dealings of the army with fugitive slaves, and, hoping to rid himself of a continual dilemma, one of his first acts after assuming command was to issue his famous General Order No. 3 (November 20, 1861), the first paragraph of which ran as follows: “It has been represented that important information respecting the numbers and condition of our forces is conveyed to the enemy by means of fugitive slaves who are admitted within our lines. In order to remedy this evil, it is directed that no such persons be hereafter permitted to enter the lines of any camp or of any forces on the
march, and that any now within such lines be Vol. 870..., immediately excluded therefrom.”
This language brought upon him the indignant protest of the combined antislavery sentiment of
the North. He was beated in newspapers and denounced in Congress, an! the violence of public condemnation threatened seriously to impair his military usefulness. He had indeed gone too far. The country felt, and the army knew, that so far from being generally true that negroes carried valuable information to the enemy, the very reverse was the rule, and that the “contrabands” in reality constituted one of the most important and trustworthy sources of knowledge to Union commanders--a medium of communication which, later in the war, came to be jocosely designated the Hallook to
grape-vine telegraph.” Halleck soon found him. Dec. 8, 1861. self put on the defensive, and wrote an explanatory Raymond, letter which was printed in the newspapers. A little later he took occasion to define officially his intention: “ The object of these orders is to prevent any person in the army from acting in the capacity of negro-catcher or negro-stealer. The relation between the slave and his master, or pretended master, is not a matter to be determined by military officers, except in the single case provided for by Congress. This matter in all other cases must be decided by the civil authorities. One object in keeping fugitive slaves out of our camp is to keep clear of all such questions. Orders No.3 do not apply to the authorized private servants of officers nor the negroes employed by proper authority in the camps. It applies only to fugitive slaves. The prohibition to admit them within our lines does not prevent the exercise of all proper offices of humanity, in giving them food and clothing outside, where such offices are necessary to prevent suffering."
Asboth, Dec. 26, 1861. W.R. Vol. VIII.,