« AnteriorContinuar »
A REBEL ON THE SUEEEOTEE. 165
rebels were so disposed on the 17th as to accomplish it. Our brave men were cut off from the river. Providentially a heavy rain fell at intervals, and the soldiers spread their blankets until saturated, and then wrung them in their camp-dishes, and continued to fight, and, with the exception of some of the Home Guards made no murmur or gave no sign of shrinking.
But brave men as they were, they could not contend forever against overwhelming superiority of numbers, with their relentless allies, hunger and thirst, especially when these were aided by the defection of the Home Guards. All could have been borne and the post held but for the demon of thirst. They surrendered at 3 o'clock A. M., the 20th.
Says Col. Estvan, of the rebel service: "Cut off from all help, short of provisions, opposed to a force more than three times* its number, even the bravest might feel discouraged. But Col. Mulligan met our attacks with undaunted bravery, and when we approached too near, he sallied forth and drove us back. It was only after fifty-two hours of uninterrupted fighting, when all its means were exhausted that Mulligan, finding his small garrison worn out by exertions and without a chance of relief, resolved, after holding a council of war, to hoist a white flag as a sign of capitulation. Gen. Price at once ordered the firing to cease, and sent two of his officers to settle the condition of surrender. The stipulations were soon made. The garrison, with their commander, were to lay down their arms, and remain prisoners of war of the Missouri troops, commanded by Major-Gen. Price.
"This surrender does not cast the slightest discredit on Col. Mulligan, his officers and men. After having exhausted all their means against the enemy, of three times their strength, they had no choice left but capitulation. The booty was considerable. In addition to arms, clothing, and ammunition, we took more than a million of dollars in hard cash. These dollars nearly rendered our fellows frantic, for this was the object which had induced the majority of them to take up arms against their former Government.f Gen. Price received Col. Mulligan's sword, which he returned to him with a compliment. 'I should be sorry,' he said, 'to see so brave an officer deprived of his sword.' He offered to place Col. Mulligan on parole, but the Colonel declined;" Declined because he w ould not recognize the right of the Missouri troops to act as lawful belligerents.
* Nearer six times.
f A striking commentary upon the disinterested patriotism of Southern Cavaliers, enlisting, if we may believe rebel papers and speeches, from no motives but love of freedom and fame, leaving to Yankee mudsills all care for dollars! Vive humbug!
The Confederate army had scarcely occupied Lexington when the looked-for reinforcements came, and Col. Sturgis was seen on the opposite side of the river.
The surrender of Mulligan caused a storm to break out against Fremont. Illinois was indignant. Mulligan and Marshall, both wounded, were prisoners. The gallant Col. "White was mortally wounded and died, and Missouri asked why was he sacrificed? The daring Capt. Gleeson was badly wounded in the brillant sortie of the 12th, and graves were made for brave private soldiers who died for the right. Why were not reinforcements sent?
On the 14th Hon. Schuyler Colfax was in St. Louis and saw Gen. Fremont and told him that the public were clamoring because troops were not sent to interrupt and destroy the army of Price, then supposed to be closing on Mulligan.
"Mr, Colfax," said the General, "I will tell you confidentially how many men we have in St. Louis, though I would not have it published on the streets for my life. The opinion in the city is that we have twenty thousand men here, and this gives us strength. If it were known what is the actual number, our enemies would be promptly informed. But I will show you how many there are." The muster-rolls were brought in and gave an aggregate for the city, including Home Guards, of but eight thousand men. There were but two full regiments, the rest being fragments. He had just received orders from Secretary Cameron and Gen. Scott to detach 5,000 infantry from his command and send them without a moment's delay to Washington. The "anaconda" demanded another gorge. He sent two regiments in response, and succeeded, though too late to save Lexington, in securing permission to retain the three regiments. He telegraphed Col. Jeff. C. Davis to send two regiments to Lexington. He telegraphed Sturgis to proceed thither with his entire force, and take command. He ordered Gen. Lane to co-operPRICE CROSSING THE OSAGE. 167
ate with Sturgis. On the 16th he received a telegram from Gen. Pope that two regiments of infantry, four pieces of artillery, and one hundred and fifty cavalry would arrive at Lexington, and by the day following additional reinforcements, amounting to four thousand men. He had a right to suppose Mulligan would be relieved and that the Federal forces would be sufficient to assume the offensive against Price.
Gen. Fremont left St. Louis on the 27th for Jefferson city, expecting to confront Price at some point on the Missouri River, but his crafty foe moved southward and southwestward the same day. With his superior cavalry force he made offensive feints, and succeeded in crossing the Osage. Pollard, a Confederate authority, says, "in two days he put over it 15,000 men in two flat boats." "In the southwestern part of the State," says Estvan, "the Confederate Generals sustained a series of defeats. Generals Pillow, Hardee and McCulloch were driven out of the field." Price was hated by McCulloch, and seeing the Federal troops too cautious in their movements, he would not venture to undertake anything until the three divisions had approached closer to each other. Taking advantage of the slowness of the enemy, Gen. Price made a rapid movement southward, leaving orders for his cavalry to follow him and cover his retreat. He reached the Osage without any obstruction, and crossed that river in boats with his infantry, the cavalry swimming across; without any loss either in time or men, he reached the other bank in safety. In military annals, this passage of a river by 13,000 men will figure conspicuously, as it was performed without pontoons, or any other facilities. * * * Gen. Price
allowed his men a respite to recover themselves from the fatigue they had undergone and remained here fourteen days, when he resumed his march toward Pineville, in McDonald county, there to reorganize his men.
"Meantime Generals Sigel and Fremont concentrated their troops at Springfield, with the intention of putting an end to the war in Missouri. Sigel having proceeded from thence with the advanced guard to "Wilson Creek, Gen. Price ordered our troops to retire on the appearance of the enemy; but whilst about to carry out this order, our rear was attacked by Fremont's body-guard, under the command of Major Zagonyi, formerly in the Hungarian service, doing us a good deal of damage, and compelling us to accelerate our retreafc. On reaching Pineville, Gen. Price made arrangements to await Gen. Fremont's attack, and then to leave Missouri without once more trying the chances of a battle. He well knew how to inspire his men with confidence in his plans.
"And now Gen. Fremont had caught us, as it were in a net, what saved us? A battle? ISTo; the Government at Washington, at this juncture, deprived Fremont of his command. This caused a complete change in the enemy's plans, and allowed our Generals full scope to alter their position. The Federal army was now compelled to beat a retreat, abandoning the rich district of Springfield to Gen. Price. The latter at once took possession of it, and settled himself down comfortably for a time in the position abandoned by our enemies."
That Gen. Fremont erred in some things may be conceded, for he was surrounded by fearful difficulties. But it is impossible not to regret his removal at that juncture. Mr. Greeley well says in his "American Conflict:" "But none of his errors, if errors they were, can compare in magnitude with that which dictated a second abandonment of Springfield and retreat to Rolla by our army five days after Hunter had assumed command. No doubt, this was ordered from Washington; but that order was most mistaken and disastrous. We had already once abandoned southwestern Missouri, and, even then, Lyon had wisely and nobly decided that it was better to risk a probable defeat than to give up a Union loving people to the mercies of their enemies without making a determined effort to save them. But now there was no such exigency. We were too strong to be beaten, and might have routed Price near Pineville, chasing the wreck of his army into Arkansas, thus insuring a dispersion of large numbers of the defeated Missourians to their homes; and then 5,000 men, well intrenched, could have held Springfield against all gainsayers, until the next spring. But our second retreat, so clearly wanton and unnecessary, disheartened the Unionists and elated the secessionists of all southern Missouri. It made our predominance in any part of the State appear exotic and casual, not natural and permanent. It revived all the elements of turbulence, anarchy, and rapine which
FREMONT REMOVED. 169
the uncontested supremacy of our cause, under Fremont, had temporarily stilled.
"The secessionists along and even above the Missouri River were galvanized into fresh activity in guerrilla outrages and murders, by the unexpected tidings that we had abandoned southern Missouri without a blow, and were sneaking back to our fastnesses along the lines of completed railroads, and within striking distance of St. Louis."
During Fremont's administration occurred some minor engagements in which troops from Illinois bore a conspicuous part. Col. R. F. Smith, of the 16th Regiment, was in charge of the Camp near Monroe Station, thirty miles west of Hannibal, Mo., having under him, in addition to a detachment of his own regiment, one from the Towa Third, with about 100 of the Hannibal Home Guards, in all about 600 men. Hearing that Gen. Harris, with a Confederate force, was encamped at Florida, he took 500 men and went forward to disperse them. Passing Florida, when a short distance north of one of the fords of the Salt River, he was suddenly fired upon from an ambush, and Capt. McAllister, of his own regiment, was mortally wounded. The fire was returned, and the Federals fell back. There was a skirmish on the way, but Col. Smith reached Monroe in safety and threw his entire force into an academy. Harris' command, numbering 2,500,* surrounded it and fired at, rather than upon it. Reinforcements under ex-Governor Wood arrived from Quincy and falling upon the enemy's rear, completely routed them, capturing seventy prisoners, one gun, and a large number of horses.
On the 15th of July, Brigadier-General Hurlbut issued a stirring proclamation to the people of Northeastern Missouri, assuring them that the time for treating treason with leniency had passed away and that sterner measures would be adopted.
On the 31st of July, Brigadier-General Pope issued a special order assigning Brigadier-General Hurlbut to the command of the IT. S. forces along the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad; Col. Grant to command at Mexico, on the North Missouri road; Col. Ross to occupy Mounton, and Col. Palmer to post his regiment at Renick and Sturgeon with head-quarters at Renick.
* Another statement says 1,200.