Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

pendence, declaring Missouri out of the Union and in the Confed eracy, though the people of the State had declared to the contrary. An alliance was made with the Richmond usurpation by which a representation in the rebel Congress was secured.

The gloom was to be deepened. The forces of Lyon left Springfield on the 1st of August and encountered a rebel detachment, and by strategem drew them into an engagement and routed them. Movements of the rebel force compelled Lyon to retrace his steps to Springfield. The troops of McCulloch and Price were combined and held a strong position at Oak Hill, or Wilson's Creek. Here they were attacked by Lyon, and a desperate engagement followed, in which the Union troops fought with unsurpassed bravery, but they fought a foe outnumbering them by far, and yet more than once they seemed to, nay they did, snatch victory from the multitude of enemies. Bravely leading a charge Lyon fell—an irreparable loss, and one that threw the land into mourning. General Sigel brought off the troops with marked ability. Says a rebel authority: "The battle lasted full seven hours and our loss of two thousand killed and wounded shows the desperation of this fierce struggle. Our trophies consisted merely of two dismounted cannon and some hundred muskets. The enemy lost in General Lyon a brave defender of the State of Missouri and a good patriot He fell, whilst encouraging his men by word and deed; two bullets penetrated hia heart at the same moment, causing immediate death."

As the troops of this State had no share in these engagements the record of them is necessarily a brief one. The defeat, so-called, at Wilson's Creek, and the death of Lyon gave new boldness to secessionists and added despondency to Unionists.

As Lyon moved his force toward Springfield, telegrams came in swift succession to General Fremont asking aid from various quar* ters. Marsh was threatened at Cape Girardeau. Col. Stevenson telegraphed on the 27th of July for at least an additional regiment that he might leave a garrison at Booneville and disperse a rebel force at Warsaw, estimated at ten thousand and an encampment at Glasgow of about two thousand. Gen. Prentiss telegraphed on the 28th that Tennessee rebels were concentrating in strong force at New Madrid to move on Bird's Point, or possibly on Cape GirarFremont's Statement. 161

deau; adding, "Col. Marsh has no battery. I have none to spare." On the first of August, Col. Marsh telegraphed concerning Pillow's force at £Tew Madrid, stating that it was eleven thousand strong and nine thousand moving to reinforce. On the 4th he telegraphed a force of eight to ten thousand at Bloomfield, with a thousand at two other points. The same day he sent information that Thompson was within sixteen miles of him, and asking reinforcements and ammunition. A similar dispatch was sent the next day from Gen. Prentiss, and another on the sixth.

General Fremont thus states the circumstances surrounding him, in his testimony before the Committee on the Conduct of the War:

"A glance at the map will make it apparent that Cairo was the point which first demanded attention. The force under Gen. Lyon could retreat but the position at Cairo could not be abandoned; the question of holding Cairo was one which involved the safety of the whole Northwest. Had the taking of St. Louis followed the defeat of Manassas, the defeat might have been irretrievable; while the loss of Springfield, should our army be compelled to fall back upon Rolla, would only carry with it the loss of a part of Missouri—a loss greatly to be regretted, but not irretrievable.

"Having reinforced Cape Girardeau and Ironton, by the utmost exertion I succeeded in getting together and embarking with a force of 3,800 men five days after my arrival in St. Louis.

"From St. Louis to Cairo was an easy day's journey by water, and transportation abundant. To Springfield was a week's march; and before I could have reached it, Cairo would have been taken, and with it, I believe, St. Louis.

"On my arrival at Cairo, I found the force under Gen. Prentiss reduced to 1,200 men, consisting mainly of a regiment which had agreed to await my arrival. A few miles below, at New Madrid, Gen. Pillow had landed a force estimated at 20,000, which subsequent events showed was not exaggerated.

"Our force, greatly increased to the enemy by rumor, drove him to a hasty retreat, and permanently secured the position. * # '#

"I returned to St. Louis on the fourth, having, in the meantime, ordered Col. Stephenson's regiment at Booneville, and Col. Montgomery from Kansas, to march to the relief of Gen, Lyon. Immediately upon my arrival from Cairo, I set myself at work, amid incessant demands upon my time from every quarter, principally to provide reinforcements for Gen. Lyon.

"I do not accept Springfield as a disaster belonging to my administration. Causes, wholly out of my jurisdiction, had already prepared the defeat of Gen. Lyon before my arrival at St. Louis."

The administration of Gen. Fremont and his claim to military distinction belong rather to the general historian than to the annalist who writes the records of a single state included in his Department. But simple justice demands the statement that few of our ieaders have been environed with graver difficulties. He had a strong foe and but few men with which to oppose him, and on his right hand and on his left were able and influential opponents. He doubtless committed mistakes, but he moved with energy, and few read the history of the Missouri campaign without saying, "Perhaps the history would have been different, had not Gen. Fremont been removed just at that critical juncture." As to the General's plans Mr. Abbott says: "On the 8th of September Gen. Fremont sent a private note to President Lincoln, communicating his plan for the commencement of the Mississippi River campaign. He had already taken possession of Fort Holt and Paducah, Kentucky, by which movements he was enabled to command the Tennessee River, and thus to prepare the way for the movement down that River, which was afterwards successfully accomplished, at a much later period, by his successor. He proposed also to occupy Smithland, at the mouth of the Cumberland River, and Hopkinsville, a town connected by railroad with Henderson, on the Ohio River, and twenty or twenty-five miles northeast of Fort Donelson; at the same time sending Gen. Nelson with a force of five thousand men to occupy Bowling Green, in southern Kentucky, and Gen. Grant to occupy New Madrid and the western shore of the Mississippi River, opposite Cairo. He then proposed a combined attack on Columbus and Hickman, and an advance from Bowling Green and Hopkinsville on Nashville, with which point they were connected by railroad. These suggestions, which subsequently proved to be so sagacious, were not, however, adopted. The rebels were permitted to occupy Bowling Green, fortify the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers, and take possession of New Madrid. Months afterward Gen. Fremont's plan was followed to the letter, and the same results which, had he been then sustained, could have been accomplished without a battle, unless probably one at Columbus, were accomplished only after a long delay, and at the expense of millions of treasure and many sanguinary conflicts. The bombardment of Ft. Henry, the terrible battle of Ft. Donelson, the bloody engagement of New Madrid, and the tedious siege of Island No. Ten were among the results of this rejection of Gen. Fremont's

EMANCIPATION ORDER. 163

strategic plans. To all this we must add the long unmolested occupation of Bowling Green by the rebel army, a source of terror to all Kentucky, of real danger to Louisville and a rallying point for all secessionists in the State."

On the 31st of August he issued his celebrated General Order, which so aroused the Northwest, and brought the question, "What shall be done with the negro?" more directly before the nation. True, the President revoked so much as related to freeing slaves of rebels, but only himself to repeat it in substance at a later day and with a wider scope.

Price was marching northward toward the Missouri River, it was believed, to attack Jefferson City, the Capital, and re-establish Gov. Jackson in authority. He had already reached the Upper Osage with fifteen thousand men, and Fremont was pressing to completion the organization of a force at Jefferson City and Holla to circumvent or destroy Price, but could not do so as rapidly as he desired for want of transportation, arms and money.

Price moved forward in spite of an effort by Gen. Lane, of Kansas, with a small force to stop him at Dry Wood, occupied, with a detachment of his army, Port Scott,on the Kansas border. Thence north by east at pleasure, and on the 11th of September sat down before Lexington, a young city of some five thousand inhabitants, situated on the north bank of the Missouri, two hundred and forty miles west of St. Louis. The place was held by Col. Mulligan, of the "Irish brigade," or 23d regiment, Illinois Volunteers. His force consisted of his own regiment, 800; Home Guards, Col. White, 500; 13thMo., Col. Peabody, 840; 1st Illinois cavalry, Col. Marshall, 500.* The "Home Guards," Col. Mulligan subsequently said, were only too many. He found them, as in other cases—" In peace invincible; in war invisible." The attacking force was far superior in numbers and artillery, of which the Federal commander had but five small brass pieces and two howitzers, the latter contemptible little affairs. The round-shot were a few rough-hewn specimens from a neighboring foundery, manufactured by Capt. McNulty, of the cavalry, and the scanty supply of shells were unfilled, and if filled, there was no one who could manufacture fuzes. The assaulting force, was, by the rebel account, composed of the "elite of the Confederate army," with Generals Price, Rains, Slack, Parsons, Harris, Green and Hardee, beside a multitude of Colonels. Such defences were thrown up as the emergency would permit. Says the St. Louis Democrat: "The fight really commenced on Monday the 11th, at which time an advance force of three thousand men, under Gen. Harris, advanced upon Lexington from the South. * * * Col. Marshall's cavalry and the 13th Missouri were ordered out to meet them. A sharp, decisive action occurred Wednesday evening at a point some two miles south of the city, and near the Fair Ground, which resulted in considerable loss to the Confederates, owing to their having fallen into an ambuscade prepared for them by the 13th Missouri. The Federal loss was small, only four being killed and a small proportionate number being wounded." A mistaken order to fall back, given by Lt.-Col. Hatcher, prevented the full advantages of this movement. After this, there was little of moment until the 18th; each party anxiously watching for reinforcements, and Col. Mulligan making his position as strong as possible.

* Lieut. McClure thus states the number: uOf our Brigade (Irish) that are fit for duty, eight hundred and sixty men; Home Guards, six hundred and seventy; artillerymen, seventy; Illinois cavalry (1st), eight hundred; Home Guard cavalry, three hundred men;—making about two thousand seven hundred men all told, to hold one of the most important posts in Missouri."

"Tuesday evening (the 17th) the aspect of affairs was changed. On the morning of Wednesday, the 18th, the pickets of the Federals were driven in by the overwhelming forces of the enemy, and a battery of two pieces was planted by the Confederates at a distance of six or eight hundred yards, on the street running south from the College grounds, another battery was placed to the southwest across an immense ravine that separates the grounds from the city, another was planted in the northwest, and a fourth on the north, and then at a given signal from Gen. Price, the whole thirteen opened their fiery throats upon the Federals. The latter had one four, one twelve, and three six-pounder pieces,* and getting into position, they too joined the chorus that went thundering over the country."

The great evil apprehended by the garrison was the cutting off of the supply of water, and unfortunately the strong forces of the

* Col. Mulligan says, "we had five six-pounders."

« AnteriorContinuar »