Major General James G. Blunt
Two biographies located on Maj. Gen. Blunt. Slight differences so both are included here.
This illustrious General was born in Hancock County, in the State of Maine, July 21, 1826. Until the age of fourteen, he remained at home, where he received a good common school education. With a naturally energetic and restless disposition, he soon tired of the restraints and routine of his every-day life, and while still young, ran away and went to sea, shipping at first before the mast and remaining as a sailor, serving in various capacities, for four years. In December, 1845, he abandoned the sea and emigrated to Ohio, where he studied medicine with Dr. Rufus Gillpatrick. Was married in the same State to Nancy G. Putnam, January 15, 1850, and resided and practiced his profession at New Madison, Ohio, until December, 1856. He then immigrated to Kansas, and settled near Greeley, in Anderson County, where he continued to practice as a physician until the outbreak of the rebellion, having in the meantime served the county as its delegate in the Wyandotte Constitutional convention. At the commencement of the war, Dr. Blunt enlisted as a private, but was made Lieutenant Colonel of the Third Kansas Volunteers at its organization, James Montgomery being the commanding officer. He was appointed Brigadier General in April, 1862, and soon after was ordered to the command of the Department of Kansas. During the year, under his personal command, the First Division of the Army of the Frontier, after driving Coffee, Jackman and other rebel leaders out of Missouri, and south of the Arkansas, fought and won at the battles of Cane Hill, Old Fort Wayne and Prairie Grove, driving the enemy beyond Van Buren, Ark., and virtually ending the war north of the Arkansas River. Gen. Blunt was promoted to the rank of Major General in 1863; being the only officer of that rank from Kansas. At the close of the war, he located at Leavenworth, and afterward removed to Washington, D. C., where he died, insane, in 1881.
James Gillpatrick Blunt was born July 21, 1828 in Trenton, Hancock county, Maine. At the age of fifteen he went to sea for five years. Subsequently he studied medicine and in 1849 a degree was granted him from Starling Medical College, Columbus, Ohio. Afterward he practiced in New Madison, Ohio. He was married there to Nancy Carson Putnam.
In 1858 he moved to Kansas and settled at Greeley as a physician. His strong antipathy toward slavery soon drew him actively into politics. As a constitutional delegate from Anderson county Blunt attended the convention held at Wyandotte, July 5, 1859, and helped write the constitution of Kansas. He served as chairman of the committee on militia. At the first call to arms in the Civil War he volunteered for service, and later became Kansas' first major general.
After the war General Blunt settled in Leavenworth, where he resumed the practice of medicine. About 1889 he removed to Washington, D. C., and for twelve years solicited claims before the federal departments. On April 9, 1873, Bunt and others were charged by the Department of Justice with conspiracy to defraud the government and a body of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina, but the case was dismissed two years later.
Toward the end of his life Blunt became ill with what was diagnosed as softening of the brain. On February 12, 1879 he was admitted as a patient to St. Elizabeth's, a government hospital for the insane. He died there July 26, 1881.
LETTERS AND REPORTS
O. R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME X XII/1 [S# 32]
DECEMBER 7, 1862.--Battle of Prairie Grove, Fayetteville, or Illinois Creek, Ark.
No. 2.--Reports of Brig. Gen. James G. Blunt, U.S. Army, commanding Army of the Frontier, with congratulations from General Curtis.
PRAIRIE GROVE, ARK.,
December 9, 1862.
The enemy did not stop in their flight until they had crossed the Boston Mountains, and are probably, ere this, across the Arkansas River. I shall move my advance today to Cane Hill. I shall establish a general hospital at Fayetteville. Shall I not extend the telegraph to that place? The enemy's killed and wounded between 1,500 and 2,000; a large proportion of them killed, One hundred of their wounded have died since the battle, and a large proportion of others are wounded mortally, showing the terrible effect of my artillery. My casualties will be about 200 killed and 500 wounded. Most of the wounded will recover. The enemy have left their wounded on my hands, and most of their dead uncared for. They are being buried by my command. Hindman admitted his force to be 28,000. Major Hubbard, who was a prisoner with them all day of the fight, counted twenty regiments of infantry and twenty pieces of artillery. They had no train with them, and muffled the wheels of their artillery in making their retreat. Four caissons, filled with ammunition, were taken from the enemy. The Twentieth Regiment Wisconsin Volunteers, in addition to those mentioned yesterday, suffered severely in charging one of the enemy's batteries, which they took, but were unable to hold.
JAS. G. BLUNT,
JULY 17, 1863.--Engagement at Elk Creek, near Honey Springs,
Report of Maj. Gen. James G. Blunt, U. S. Army, commanding District of the Frontier.
HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF THE FRONTIER,
In the Field, Fort Blunt, C. N., July 26, 1863.
GENERAL: I have the honor to report that, on my arrival here on the 11th instant, I found the Arkansas River swollen, and at once commenced the construction of boats to cross my troops.
The rebels, under General Cooper (6,000), were posted on Elk Creek, 25 miles south of the Arkansas, on the Texas road, with strong outposts guarding every crossing of the river from behind rifle-pits. General Cabell, with 3,000 men, was expected to join him on the 17th, when they proposed attacking this place. I could not muster 3,000 effective men for a fight, but determined, if I could effect a crossing, to give them battle on the other side of the river.
At midnight of the 15th, I took 250 cavalry and four pieces of light artillery, and marched up the Arkansas about 13 miles, drove their pickets from the opposite bank, and forded the river, taking the ammunition chests over in a flat-boat. I then passed down on the south side, expecting to get in the rear of their pickets at the mouth of Grand River, opposite this post, and capture them, but they had learned of my approach and had fled. I immediately commenced crossing my forces at the mouth of Grand River in boats, and, by 10 p.m. of the 16th, commenced moving south, with less than 3,000 men, mostly Indians and negroes, and twelve pieces of artillery. At daylight I came upon the enemy's advance about 6 miles from Elk Creek, and with my cavalry drove them in rapidly upon their main force, which was formed on the south side of the timber of Elk Creek, their line extending 1½ miles, the main road running through their center.
While the column was closing up, I went forward with a small party to examine the enemy's position, and discovered that they were concealed under cover of the brush awaiting my attack. I could not discover the location of their artillery, as it was masked in the brush. While engaged in this reconnaissance, one of my escort was shot.
As my men came up wearied and exhausted, I directed them halted behind a little ridge, about one half mile from the enemy's line, to rest and eat a lunch from their haversacks. After two hours' rest, and at about 10 a.m., I formed them in two columns, one on the right of the road, under Colonel [William R.] Judson, the other on the left, under Colonel [William A.] Phillips. The infantry was in column by companies, the cavalry by platoons and artillery by sections, and all closed in mass so as to deceive the enemy in regard to the strength of my force. In this order I moved up rapidly to within one-fourth of a mile of their line, when both columns were suddenly deployed to the right and left, and in less than five minutes my whole force was in line of battle, covering the enemy's entire front. Without halting, I moved them forward in line of battle, throwing out skirmishers in advance, and soon drew their fire, which revealed the location of their artillery. The cavalry, which was on the two flanks, was dismounted, and fought on foot with their carbines. In a few moments the entire force was engaged. My men steadily advanced into the edge of the timber, and the fighting was unremitting and terrific for two hours, when the center of the rebel lines, where they had massed their heaviest force, became broken, and they commenced a retreat. In their rout I pushed them vigorously, they making several determined stands, especially at the bridge over Elk Creek, but were each time repulsed. In their retreat they set fire to their commissary buildings, which were 2 miles south of where the battle commenced, destroying all their supplies. I pursued them about 3 miles to the prairie south of Elk Creek, where my artillery horses could draw the guns no farther, and the cavalry horses and infantry were completely exhausted from fatigue. The enemy's cavalry still hovered in my front, and about 4 p.m. General Cabell came in sight with 3,000 re-enforcements. My ammunition was nearly exhausted, yet I determined to bivouac on the field, and risk a battle in the morning if they desired it, but the morning revealed the fact that during the night they had retreated south of the Canadian River.
The enemy's loss was as follows: Killed upon the field and buried by my men, 150; wounded, 400; and 77 prisoners taken, 1 piece of artillery, 1 stand of colors, 200 stand of arms, and 15 wagons, which I burned. My loss is 17 killed, 60 wounded, most of them slightly.(*)
My forces engaged were the First, Second, and Third Indian, First Kansas (colored), detachments of the Second Colorado, Sixth Kansas, and Third Wisconsin Cavalry, Hopkins' battery of four guns, two sections of Second Kansas Battery, under Capt. E. A. Smith, and four howitzers attached to the cavalry.
Much credit is due to all of them for their gallantry. The First Kansas (colored) particularly distinguished itself; they fought like veterans, and preserved their line unbroken throughout the engagement. Their coolness and bravery I have never seen surpassed; they were in the hottest of the fight, and opposed to Texas troops twice their number, whom they completely routed. One Texas regiment (the Twentieth Cavalry) that fought against them went into the fight with 300 men and came out with only 60. It would be invidious to make particular mention of any one where all did their duty so well.
I am indebted to Col. Thomas Moonlight, chief of staff; Capt. H. G. Loring, acting assistant adjutant-general, and Captains Cox and Kinter, of the Fourth and Fifth Indian Regiments, acting aides-de-camp, for valuable aid rendered during the engagement.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant.
JAS. G. BLUNT,
Maj. Gen. JOHN M. SCHOFIELD,
Commanding Department of the Missouri.
P. S.--I have designated this engagement as the "Battle of Honey Springs," that being the headquarters of General Cooper, on Elk Creek, in the immediate vicinity of the battle-field.>
New York Times, October 18, 1863
QUANTRELL IN KANSAS
The Massacre of Gen. Blunt's Escort
A Thrilling and Heartrending Narrative
Descriptive Letter of General Blunt
From Our Special Correspondent
Monday, October 12, 1863
The telegraph has already given you the fact of an attack by Quantrell upon Gen, Blunt, and the slaughter of his staff and escort. Let it be my task to give you the details of the sad affair. As no blame can attach to the General or any of his officers, except that portion of his escort who behaved cowardly, it is very necessary that the facts be known. On the face of it there seems to have been recklessness of negligence. The details will justify neither censure.
As you are aware, Gen. Blunt returned from Fort Smith to Fort Scott about fifteen days since. It was his intention to move headquarters on the 15th inst., from Fort Scott to Fort Smith, and return to that point with his train. His health mended slowly after moving North.
It is not to be disguised that great anxiety was felt at Headquarters, lest Price, whom the falling back of Gen. Steele with his army corps to Helena, after the brilliant affair at Little Rock, left unmolested at Arkadelphia, with nearly 20,000 men, further strengthened by the remains of the rebel forces driven out of the Indian Territory by Blunt, should swing round to the west and attack the small force under Gen. Blunt, necessarily scattered at the salient points where garrisons were essential. That anxiety was increased when it was known that Gen. Schofield had ordered the Second Colorado battalion of infantry to march to Springfield, Mo. This left Gen. Blunt with but one regiment of infantry (white,) with the three depleted Indian regiments, holding Fort Blunt, with Fork Town, Scullyville and Webber's Falls, in the Territory, and a portion of the Second and Sixth Kansas, and Third Wisconsin cavalry, numbering in all about 1,000 men, for scouting and escort duty. Col. Cloud, commanding in Western Arkansas, had only the First regiment Kansas (colored,) and the Thirteenth Kansas (white) infantry for garrison, at Fort Smith and Van Buren. He had a large number of recruits, unarmed and equipped, except the weapons they had carried with them into the mountains. Three thousand men would cover his available force. It is certainly true, that if to be left entirely unsupported was the policy of the Department commander, Gen. Blunt's lines are too far advanced. As a bitter difference of opinion has existed between Gens. Blunt and Schofield on this point, it looks as though the falling back of Gen. Steele to Helena was admirably adapted to prove Gen. Schofield's policy the correct one. It only need be said that Gen. Blunt, at the head of such a force as Steele had, would not have stopped short of disorganizing and destroying Price's army.
On the 3d or 4th inst. Gen. Blunt received advices from Lieut. Jenks, A. A. A. General to Col. Cloud, that Marmaduke was moving from Arkadelphia against Fort Smith, with a cavalry force of from three to five thousand. It since appears that this force was in reality Col. Joe Shelby's brigade, which lately entered Missouri at Pineville, and is now devastating Southwest Missouri.
Acting on this information with the promptness and energy which are his preeminent characteristics, Gen. Blunt took a small escort of 100 men, consisting of portions of Company I, Third Wisconsin cavalry and Company A, Fourteenth Kansas cavalry, under Capt. Larimer and Second Lieut. R. Pierce. The latter men were all raw recruits, the Wisconsin boys being veterans of two years' experience. Major H. Z. Curtis, A. A. G., (a son of Major Gen. Curtis,) Lieut. Far, Third Wisconsin, Judge Advocate on the Division staff, Major Benning, Third Wisconsin, District Provost-Marshall, and Lieut. John C. Tappan, Second Colorado infantry, A. D. C., accompanied the General, with the division band and headquarters' retinue of clerk, orderlies, teamsters, &c., numbering about forty persons. Among those who accompanied the General was James O'Neill, Esq., of this city, who was connected with Frank Leslie's establishment as artist and correspondent. Mr. O'Neill was a young man of genius, versatility and generosity. He possessed brilliant power, and as an artist, musician, orator and actor, bid fair to make himself a proud reputation. Brave and adventurous, he attached himself to the Army of the Frontier to gratify those feelings by the pursuit of his profession. He was murdered at the Baxter's Springs slaughter.
But to return to the movement of the General. With the force spoken of he left Fort Scott on Sunday afternoon, the 4th inst. His information did not lead him to anticipate difficulty till he got south of Baxter's Spring, sixty-three miles from Scott, where Company A, Second Colored infantry, and two companies of Third Wisconsin cavalry, under Lieut. Pond, were stationed. This post is an important position, commanding the military roads to Forts Blunt and Smith, which cross Spring River at this point. The camp is located near the timber. A rude earthwork for rifle-pits defends the camp and was of great value in repulsing Quantrell. Pond had seen sufficient bushwhacking tracks to know that a considerable guerilla force was in the densely wooded country to the east of him, hence he was under the necessity of sending out heavy scouts and foraging parties. His cavalry were all out the morning of the attack, foraging. Gen. Blunt reached the neighborhood on Tuesday noon. The following extracts from private letters to members of his Staff, will tell the events that followed better than I can:
Baxter's Springs, Kansas, Wednesday,
Oct. 7, 1863 - 10 P.M.
Capts. Tholen and Loring:
Everything in the staff wagons is lost. The wagons were burned with most of their contents. We have just found the body of Major Curtis. When I wrote Major Blair last night it was supposed he was a prisoner, as we had searched the ground over near where his horse fell last evening, and could not find him. Moreover, Quantrell's Adjutant, or a person representing himself as such, who came into Lieut. Pond's camp with a flag of truce, said they had my A. A. G. a prisoner. To-day he was found near where he was thrown from his horse, shot through the head, evidently murdered after being taken prisoner. I shall start his body with that of Lieut. Farr to Fort Scott this evening.
You will probably have heard some of the particulars of the affair here yesterday before you receive this. The escort, Company I, Third Wisconsin cavalry, and Company A, Fourteenth Kansas cavalry, behaved disgracefully, and stampeded like a drove of frightened cattle. I did not anticipate any difficulty until we got below this point. We arrived near this camp about 12 M., and halted on the hill almost in sight of the camp, and not more than four hundred yards distant, to wait for escort and wagons to close up.
The escort came up and dismounted to wait for the wagons, which were but a short distance behind. At this time my attention was called to a body of men,--about one hundred,--advancing in line from the timber of Spring River, on the left, which you will recollect is not more than three hundred or four hundred yards from the road. The left of their line was not more than two hundred yards from Lieut. Pond's camp at the Spring.
They being nearly all dressed in Federal uniforms, I supposed them at first to be Lieut. Pond's cavalry, (two companies,) on drill. At the same time my suspicions were aroused by some of their movements. I ordered the wagons, which had just come up, to the rear, formed the escort in line with their carbines unslung, while I advanced alone toward the party fronting us, to ascertain if they were rebels. I had advanced a short distance when they opened fire; at the same time firing was heard down in Pond's camp. Turning round to give the order to the escort to fire, I discovered them all broken up and going over the prairies to the west at full speed. They did not even discharge the loaded carbines they had in their hands, except in a few cases. Had the escort stood their ground as soldiers should have done, they would have driven the enemy in ten minutes. I endeavored in vain, with the assistance of Maj. Curtis, to halt and form a portion of them. When the escort stampeded, the enemy, on discovering it rushed on with a yell, followed by another line of about 200 that emerged from the edge of the timber. Being better mounted than our men they soon closed in on them. The men of the escort were much scattered and with them it was a race for life.
After going a mile, I succeeded in halting fifteen men, including Lieut. Pierce, of Company A, Fourteenth Kansas, who has done his duty well and nobly throughout. As soon as I got them in line and commenced advancing upon the enemy they fled and fell back to the road, when the whole command (600) formed in line of battle. The balance of the escort that had escaped were all out of sight in the advance. Maj. Curtis had been seen to fall from his horse, which was wounded, and stumbled in crossing a ditch.
About one o'clock I sent Lieut. Tappan, (who had kept with me all the time,) with four men, to Fort Scott, while with the other nine I determined to remain until the fate of those who had fallen should be ascertained. As they fell back to the road I followed them up over the ground we had come, to look for the wounded, but all with two or three exceptions, (which had escaped accidentally) were killed--shot through the head. All the wounded had been murdered. I kept close to them and witnessed their plundering the wagons. At one time they made a dash at me with about 100 men, endeavoring to surround me, but failed in this purpose.
As they moved off on the road leading south I went down to the spring, and found them all O. K. Lieut. Pond, of the Third Wisconsin, and his command, are entitled to great credit for the manner they repelled the enemy and defended the post. The colored soldiers fought with great gallantry.
The band wagon was captured, and all of the boys shot in this way, after they were prisoners. The same was the case with the teamsters, and Mart. O'Neill, my driver, was killed with the band boys. All of the office clerks, except one, were killed. Lieut. Farr is among the killed; also my Orderly, Ely. Maj. Henning is with me. But few of the escort who escaped have come in. I suppose they have gone to Fort Scott. The dead are not all buried, but the number will not fall short of 75.
The enemy numbered six hundred--Quantrell's and Coffey's commands. They are evidently intending to go south to the Arkansas. I have scouts on their trail. Two have just come in, and report coming up with them at the crossing of the Neosho River. Others are still following them up. Whether they will go directly south, on the Fort Gibson Road, or cross Grand River to Cowskin Prairie, I cannot yet determine. When they came in they crossed Spring River, close by Baxter. I have sent messengers to the Arkansas River, and if they succeed in getting through safe, our forces there will be put on the alert, and may intercept them.
I am now awaiting the arrival of troops from Fort Scott. If I get them, which is doubtful, as the Fourteenth is not armed, I will follow the hounds through the entire Southern Confederacy, as long as there is a prospect of overtaking them. And I will have it well understood, that any man of this command who again breaks from the line and deserts his post, shall be shot on the spot, and there shall be no quarter to the motley crew of murderers. * * *
I was fortunate in escaping, as in my efforts to half and rally the men I frequently got in the rear, and got considerably mixed up with the rebels, who did not fail to pay me their compliments. Revolver bullets flew around my head thick as hail, but not a scratch. I believe I am not to be killed by a rebel bullet.
Yours truly, JAMES G. BLUNT
The attack was made on the camp at Baxter simultaneously with that on the General's escort. The entire force numbered 600 to 800 men, and were under the command of Quantrell, Todd, Gordon, and Hunter. It appears they were moving South out of Missouri, and proposed to signal their departure by the annihilation of the command at Baxter's Spring. They emerged from the timber of Spring River and dashed into the camp while the negroes were at dinner, completely surprising them. Eight men were pistolled as they stood, ere the negroes obtained their arms, to which they immediately flew, driving them out of camp in splendid style. One wretch pointed a pistol at the head of Mrs. Pond; another shot a babe, the child of a refugee and his own cousin, and he knew it. A negro who saw the hellish crime shot the wretch through the heart. Several charges were made by the rebels on the rifle pits, but the cool courage and discipline of the negroes drove them back. Their only officer, First Lieut. Cook, was killed in the fight. Lieut. Pond, during its progress, got on the outside of the works, to a small mountain howitzer, which he had received the day before, and, unaided, brought it to bear on the enemy, loaded and fired it three times with canister, making the rebs leave hastily into the timber and behind the hill, where the attack on Blunt had been made. Hence the whole force assembled at the plundering and burning of the Staff train. The band, orderlies, etc., were all murdered, and many of their bodies burnt with the wagons. The members of the band fought with great gallantry, but were, of course, overpowered. Lieut. Farr (who was formerly a law partner of Gen. Butler) was wounded in several places, and after capture shot through the head. His clothes were stripped from his person. Major Henning and Capt. Tought, the scout, fought with gallantry, as did Lieut. Tappan. The most marvelous escape was that of the General himself. His transcendent courage was never so brilliantly displayed. Had the escort stood their ground there is little doubt the enemy would have been defeated. The total number of our dead is seventy-eight of the escort, and nine at the camp, including Lieut. Cook. The cool audacity of Gen. Blunt was never more apparent than in his deliberately following the enemy as they moved South. As they moved by the valley road, he kept the high grounds. They were impressed with the conviction that he must have a large force in the vicinity, and so desisted from attempts to take him in.
NOTE: Thomas Leach, a Fairwater enlistee, was killed during the attack on the wagons. G. M. West, editor of the Brandon Times, described the event as follows in his 1867 publication, Metomen, Springvale, Alto and Waupun, During the War: Thomas P. Leach enlisted at Fairwater, February 22, 1862, under J. B. Pond, who was recruiting for Captain Stephens Company of Kingston, which was mustered in as Company C, 3d W. C. He was with the Regiment in all of the campaigns and engagements, part of the time acting as teamster. He was killed while driving his team near Baxters springs, C. N., in the assault made by the notorious Quantrell on that place on October 6, 1863. He surrendered when surrounded by the rebels, but they gave no quarter, but murdered him in cold blood and burned his wagon. He was buried near Baxters Springs.
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE FRONTIER,
Rhea's Mills, Ark., December 20, 1862.
GENERAL: I have the honor to report that, on the 2d instant, and four days subsequent to the battle of Cane Hill, or Boston Mountains, of November 28, I obtained reliable information that the entire force of infantry and artillery of General Hindman's army had crossed the Arkansas River and joined General Marmaduke at Lee's Creek, 15 miles north of Van Buren, to which point the latter had retreated after the battle of the 28th ultimo. I further learned that the united forces under General Hindman's command numbered between 25,000 and 30,000 men, and that he designed advancing upon me in case I did not attack him south of the mountains.
Determined to hold my position at Cane Hill, unless driven from it by a superior force, I immediately telegraphed to the Second and Third Divisions to come to my support by forced marches. I may here mention that I had no knowledge of the whereabouts of these two divisions, except from rumor, and had not been apprised of their movements or locality for a period of over two weeks. My telegraphic dispatch reached General Herron, commanding the Second and Third Divisions, on the 3d, who promptly responded to my order, keeping me advised, by telegraph from Elkhorn, of his progress. The Second and Third Brigades of the First Division, with my headquarters, were at Cane Hill; the First Brigade at Rhea's Mills, 8 miles north, where a large supply train, just arrived from Fort Scott, was halted. My pickets were advanced 6 miles beyond Cane Hill, on the road leading to Van Buren, and a strong outpost of the Second Kansas established where that road intersects the Cove Creek road, running from Fayetteville to Van Buren, and which road passes about 6 miles east of Cane Hill.
On the morning of the 5th instant, this outpost was attacked by a large force of rebel cavalry, but they were repulsed and driven back some 6 miles through the mountains. Expecting that the same demonstration would be repeated on the next morning, I directed Colonel [W. F.] Cloud, commanding the Third Brigade, to strengthen this post by the addition of 100 cavalry and two howitzers, to be at the outpost at daybreak. In consequence of this order not being promptly carried out, and the support not arriving at the time directed, the pickets, on being attacked about daylight by a superior force, were compelled to retire some 3 miles, when, support having reached them, they held the ground during the day, with continual skirmishing, in which several of my men were wounded and a number of the enemy killed.
The enemy had now got possession of the Cove Creek and Fayetteville road, and I learned about 8 p.m. that a force of about 10,000 had advanced beyond the junction of the Cove Creek road with the Cane Hill and Van Buren road, and were massed upon the mountain in front of my outpost, while the remainder of the rebel army was below the junction of the roads just named, about 3 miles in rear of their advance. The Third Brigade, under Colonel Cloud, was ordered to bivouac for the night on their arms upon the ground south of the town that I had selected to make a stand upon in case I was attacked in front.
It was now evident that a general engagement must take place next day, and my apprehensions were that with their superior numbers they would make a feint in front, while with their main force they would make a flank movement on my left, by the Cove Creek road, to intercept General Herron before he could reach me from Fayetteville, which point he was expected to reach by daylight on the morning of the 7th.
About 9 p.m. of the 6th, I received a note from Colonel [M. La Rue] Harrison, of the First Arkansas Cavalry, who had been ordered down from Elkhorn at the same time that General Herron started from Wilson's Creek, informing me that he had arrived at Illinois Creek, 8 miles north of Cane Hill, with 500 men, and that his horses and men were so tired that he did not think he could move farther until Monday, the 8th. Whether his regard for the Sabbath or the fear of getting into a fight prompted him to make such a report to me, I am unable to say; but, judging from his movements that he was not a man upon whom to place much reliance on the battle-field, I ordered him to proceed by daybreak to Rhea's Mills, to guard the transportation and supply trains at that point, the First Brigade having been ordered to join me at Cane Hill. Had he, instead of making unnecessary delay, promptly obeyed that order, he would not have had a portion of his command and transportation captured by General Marmaduke's advance, as occurred on the morning of the 7th.
At about 10 p.m. of the 6th, Colonel [D.] Wickersham, with about 1,600 cavalry, of the Second Wisconsin, First Iowa, Tenth Illinois, and Eighth Missouri Regiments, who, at my request, had been sent forward by General Herron, arrived at Cane Hill. I had, as I have before remarked, considerable apprehension that a flank movement would be attempted on my left during the night. I therefore determined to send a cavalry force across on a road called the Hog-eye road, running from the north part of Cane Hill east to the Telegraph road, and crossing the Cove Creek and Fayetteville road about 4 miles north of the junction of the latter with that running from Cane Hill to Van Buren, already referred to, and from which my outpost had been driven in the morning.
A Colonel [J.M.] Richardson, of the Fourteenth Missouri State Militia, who had arrives during the day with about 150 men, importuned me to be detailed for this service, recommending himself as a brave man, eager for a fight. Committing the folly of taking him upon his own recommendation, I furnished him 100 additional men, making his force 250. Endeavoring to impress upon him the importance of the trust with which he was confided, and stating that I expected the enemy would advance up the Cove Creek road during the night, I directed him to proceed east on the Hog-eye road to the crossing of the Cove Creek and Fayetteville road, to select the best position for defense, sending his pickets down the road toward the enemy, and, if their column approached in that direction, to resist their advance to the last extremity, and notify me promptly of their movements. How I was deceived in sending the wrong man on so important a service, the sequel will show.
At daylight on Sunday morning, I had the transportation of the Second and Third Brigades, of the First Division, hitched up, ready to move to Rhea's Mills, should circumstances render it necessary, and the Second Brigade was ordered to the front, south of the town, where the Third Brigade had bivouacked during the night, the First Brigade and Colonel Wickersham's brigade of cavalry being stationed about 1 miles in the rear, on the north side of the town, where the Hog-eye road intersects that between Cane Hill and Fayetteville, and where it was possible the enemy might attempt to come in upon my rear.
About 7 o'clock, with my staff, I proceeded to the front. On arriving there, I learned that the enemy were still in considerable force upon the mountain, and so soon as it became sufficiently light they threw several shots from their artillery at my advance outpost, which was replied to by two of my 12-pounder mountain howitzers, without any damage to either party. I directed Colonel [W. F.] Cloud to withdraw his troops on the outposts, with the view of drawing them out and ascertaining their force and design. Upon my advance falling back, the rebels came forward a short distance and formed in line of battle, their right resting on the mountain, their left extending down the valley, and presenting a front of half a mile. It now became evident that their demonstration in front was only a feint, and that their main force had gone by the Cove Creek road, for the purpose of intercepting communication between General Herron and myself, and, notwithstanding that I had received no intelligence from Colonel Richardson, upon whom I had relied to watch this movement, I determined to act accordingly. I immediately ordered the transportation to Rhea's Mills, by a road leading directly north over the mountain, guarded by the Third Indian Regiment (Colonel Phillips), keeping the bottom road on the right, leading to the same point, and also the Fayetteville road, open for the movement of troops. I ordered Colonel Wickersham, with his cavalry, to move rapidly in the direction of Fayetteville and form a junction with General Herron. He was followed by General [Frederick] Salomon's brigade, and the Second and Third Brigades were withdrawn from the front and directed to move rapidly on the Fayetteville road.
As soon as I determined on this disposition of the forces under me, I sent two messenger parties with dispatches to General Herron, apprising him of my movements, and what I believed to be those of the enemy, and urged him to press forward as rapidly as possible, that we might form a junction of our forces before Hindman could get between us, and also directing him to send his train to Rhea's Mills. Neither of these dispatches reached him, the messengers being cut off by Marmaduke's advance.
At about 10 a.m., and after the whole of the First Division was in motion toward Fayetteville, I received the first intelligence from Colonel Richardson, who coolly informed me that the rebel forces had been moving up the Cove Creek and Fayetteville road since midnight, and he judged, from the noise, that several batteries of artillery had passed. I afterward learned that Colonel Richardson, instead of obeying my orders, had only gone to within 2 miles of the Cove Creek road, sending a light picket to the crossing, which was driven back by the advance of the rebel column to where the remainder of the party had halted, and where the valiant colonel was content to remain until 9 o'clock the next morning, listening to the tramp of the rebel army, and not even notifying me of the fact until the rear of their column had passed. The con-duet of Colonel Richardson in this instance, upon whose vigilance and strict compliance with orders depended the safety and success of my command, is, to say the least, deserving of the severest censure.
On learning that Hindman's forces had passed north, I ordered Colonel Judson, with his regiment (cavalry) and two 12-pounder mountain howitzers, to proceed rapidly on the same road by which I had sent Colonel Richardson the previous night, and to attack and harass them in the rear, which order he executed with promptness and gallantry, attacking them in the rear with his howitzers and following them 2 or 3 miles, until they made a stand in such force as to compel him to withdraw his command.
Moving with my staff in advance of the First Division, on reaching a point some 3 miles north of Cane Hill, where a road to the left leads to Rhea's Mills, I learned that Colonel Wickersham, who was in the advance with the cavalry, and had been instructed to proceed directly on the Fayetteville road, and furnished with a guide, instead of doing so had taken the left-hand road to the mills. Not deeming it prudent, under all the circumstances, to separate my command, I was compelled to follow the same road, in order to get my forces concentrated. On coming up with Colonel Wickersham, I ordered him to proceed in the direction of Fayetteville with all of his cavalry, and endeavor to open communication with General Herron. I also sent forward Major [E. A.] Calkins, with the Third Wisconsin Cavalry, for the same purpose. But a few minutes elapsed after Colonel Wickersham had started with his command, when I heard the discharge of artillery in a northeast direction, and immediately moved rapidly, with the Second and Third Brigades, in the direction of the firing, leaving the First Brigade (General Salomon's) to guard the trains at Rhea's Mills. It was now between 12 and 1 o'clock. The distance to where the firing was heard was about 5 miles, by an obscure road, leading through a valley, with strips of prairie and brush alternating across it. The firing between General Herron's command and the rebel forces was confined to artillery, which, as I approached the field, became more rapid.
At 1.45 o'clock I came upon the field, in advance of the First Division, when a hasty reconnaissance discovered the enemy in superior force, strongly posted upon elevated ground, behind timber, with the Fayetteville road (on which he had advanced) running through it northeast and southwest. On the north and in front of the enemy's lines was an open valley, divided into large fields, a portion of them cultivated in corn. At the east end of this valley General Herron, with the Second and Third Divisions, was engaged with the enemy, having met their advance early in the day and driven them back to that position.
For the details of the engagement between the rebels and the Second and Third Divisions, under General Herron, up to the time when I came upon the field, I refer you to the report of that gallant officer.
The road on which my column was advancing entered the valley at its western extremity and in front of the left wing of the enemy. They had no intimation of my approach on that road, until a large force of their infantry, which, for the purpose of flanking General Herron's division and overwhelming it by superior numbers, had been massed upon their left, was suddenly confronted by the troops of the First Division, when the engagement soon became general along their entire line.
At about 2 o'clock the fire from the artillery of the First Division was commenced by Rabb's battery, which opened a cross-fire upon two rebel batteries and a heavy body of infantry that were fronting and engaged with General Herron's division. A few moments later and Tenney's battery of Parrott guns came into position on the right and Hopkins' battery on the left of Captain [J. W.] Rabb's. The fire from all three of these batteries was first directed to the enemy's right, where two batteries of the rebels and a heavy body of their infantry were engaged with the Second and Third Divisions. Shell and case-shot from these eighteen pieces were hurled upon the enemy's right with terrible effect. The rebel artillery and infantry, being driven from this position under cover of the wood, the three batteries above named ceased firing, when the infantry of the Second and Third Divisions advanced upon the enemy's right, and the fire of musketry was opened on both sides with great vigor. The Twentieth Wisconsin and Nineteenth Iowa gallantly charged the rebel batteries and drove the enemy from their guns, but were unable to hold them, in consequence of being overwhelmed by a superior force. The Twenty-sixth Indiana and Thirty-seventh Illinois subsequently charged the same batteries with the same result.
Observing that the enemy had now thrown a large force upon my center and right, I directed the infantry of the First Division to enter the wood and engage them, which order was executed with promptness, Colonel [William] Weer leading the Tenth and Thirteenth Kansas Regiments of his brigade upon the right; a portion of the Second Kansas (dismounted), under command of Capt. S. J. Crawford; the right wing of the Eleventh Kansas, under Colonel [Thomas] Ewing, jr., and the First Indian, under Colonel [S. H.] Wattles, upon the left; the Twentieth Iowa Regiment advancing upon the left of the Indians, the left wing of the Eleventh Kansas, under Lieutenant Colonel [T.] Moonlight, supporting Rabb's and [H] Hopkins' batteries. The First Iowa, Tenth Illinois, Eighth Missouri, and the First Battalion of the Second Wisconsin Cavalry, under Colonel Wickersham, and the Third Wisconsin Cavalry, under Major Calkins, were directed to proceed to my extreme right to watch any flank movement of the enemy that might be attempted in that direction, and also to guard the road leading to Rhea's Mills, and prevent communication being cut off with the First Brigade (General Salomon's).
The contest by this time (about 3 p.m.) had become vigorous and determined. The entire infantry of the three divisions, and also a portion of the Second Kansas (dismounted), were engaged in the wood with the rebel infantry, three times their number. The rattling of musketry, uninterrupted for fully three hours, was terrific, The contending armies swayed to and fro, each alternately advancing and retiring. Some rebel sharpshooters, firing from the windows of a house situated in the edge of the wood and a little to my left, were evidently directing their compliments specially to myself and staff. I directed Captain Rabb to open upon it with shell, and in a few moments the house was in flames.
While the infantry was vigorously contesting every inch of ground, I directed Lieutenant [E S.] Stover, with two 12-pounder mountain howitzers, to advance into the wood, which he promptly did, taking position on a little knoll on the right of the Eleventh Kansas, and directing his guns across a small field, where a heavy force of rebels were massed. He poured into them his canister and shell until his ammunition was exhausted and his horses shot down, being compelled to bring away his guns by hand. I then directed Lieutenant [M.D.] Tenney to advance his battery to the edge of the wood, on the left of the Eleventh Kansas, taking position about 200 yards in front of the rebel ranks. From his six 10-pounder Parrott guns he opened on them with terrible effect, driving them back with great slaughter.
Learning that a heavy force was massing on my right with a view of turning my flank, I immediately withdrew Tenney's battery, and proceeded with it to an open field on the right, at the same time directing the infantry to withdraw from the wood, in order to draw the enemy from under cover and within range of my artillery. On reaching the open field on their right, just alluded to, I discovered the entire division of General Frost advanced to the edge of the timber, and about 200 yards distant. They opened upon us a fierce fire from Enfield rifles, and were in the act of throwing down the fence to make an assault on the battery, which had no support except my own staff and body guard; but Lieutenant Tenney, with commendable promptness, wheeled his guns into position, when their destructive fire of canister and shell soon sent the rebel hordes back under cover of the wood. At the same time a fire from the two mountain howitzers, attached to the Third Wisconsin Cavalry, were directed upon them, farther on my right, with good effect. It was here that the rebel General Steen fell. A few minutes after this last repulse of the enemy by Lieutenant Tenney, a rebel battery of ten guns, supported by a heavy body of infantry, opened from their extreme left, when, bringing his guns to bear in that direction, he, in less than ten minutes, silenced their battery, dismounting two of their guns and driving them from the position with a severe loss. While this attempt was being made to charge my artillery on the right, the same demonstration was made upon Rabb's and Hopkins' batteries, the enemy following up my infantry as they retired from the wood, and with a wild shout rushed out from under cover of the trees, when the two batteries, supported by the infantry of the Eleventh Regiment, belched forth a perfect storm of canister, producing immense slaughter in their ranks and compelling them again to retire. As darkness approached, the fire, which from both artillery and musketry had been terrific and uninterrupted for over three hours, gradually ceased along the whole line, and my command bivouacked upon their arms, ready to renew the conflict at early dawn.
I could not tell with any certainty the extent of the damage done the enemy, but knowing that they had a force greatly superior to mine in numbers, I felt assured that they would give us battle again in the morning, and made my arrangements accordingly.
My wounded were all cared for during the night, the transportation and supply trains of the whole army sent to Fayetteville, and General Salomon's brigade, which had been left at Rhea's Mills, ordered to the field; ammunition was brought up and distributed, some refreshments obtained for the men, and everything was in readiness to renew the battle at the first dawn of day; but daylight revealed the fact that the enemy had availed themselves of the night to retreat across the Boston Mountains. Their transportation had been left south of the mountains, and their retreat thereby made unincumbered and stealthily. I am assured by my men who were prisoners with them, as well as by deserters from their ranks, that they tore up the blankets of their men to muffle the wheels of their artillery.
Just before daylight I received a note from General Hindman, under a flag of truce, requesting a personal interview, to make provision for caring for his dead and wounded. On meeting him, I soon became satisfied that no other force was there, except his staff and escort and a party left to take care of the wounded, and that his forces had commenced retreating early the previous night.
On looking over the battle-field in the morning, it soon became evident that the enemy had been most roughly handled, and that our artillery had made fearful slaughter in their ranks. Though many had been already carried away, their dead lay strewn over its whole extent.
The entire Federal loss is: Killed, 167; wounded, 798; missing, 183; total, 1,148.(*) Of the missing, the greater portion were taken prisoners, and have been since exchanged. The enemy's loss in killed and wounded cannot fall short of 3,000, and will probably much exceed that number, as many of them, not severely wounded, were taken to Van Buren. Their loss in killed upon the ground will reach 1,000, the greater number of whom have been buried by my command. The entire force of Federal troops engaged did not exceed 7,000, about 3,000 cavalry not <ar32_77> having been brought into action. The enemy's force, according to their own admission, was 28,000, and all well armed, mostly with the Enfield rifle.
Many instances of individual gallantry and daring occurred during the day, for an account of which I refer you to the reports of regimental, brigade, and division commanders. As the immediate commander of the First Division, I deem it but justice to say of Col. William Weer, commanding the Second Brigade, that he behaved throughout with great gallantry, leading his men into the thickest of the fight. The same is true of Colonel [T. M.] Bowen and Maj. H. H. Williams, commanding regiments in the same brigade. Capt. S. J. Crawford, of the Second Kansas Cavalry, who commanded a battalion of that regiment that fought on foot, displayed great gallantry, as did also the lamented Capt. A. P. Russell, who fell, mortally wounded. Col. Thomas Ewing, Lieutenant Colonel Moonlight, and Major Plumb, of the Eleventh Kansas, gave evidence of their high qualities as gallant officers. To Captains Rabb and Hopkins and Lieutenants Tenney and Stover, who served their artillery with such terrible and destructive effect upon the enemy's ranks, too much praise cannot be awarded. All did their duty well and nobly. Men of Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana mingled their blood upon the same field, and for the same worthy cause. For their deeds of valor upon the field of Prairie Grove, their native States may well be proud of them.
I cannot close this report without availing myself of the occasion to express my thanks to Brig. Gen. F. J. Herron for the promptness with which he responded to my order to re-enforce me, as also for the gallantry displayed by him upon the field. His conduct is worthy of emulation and deserving of the highest praise.
To the members of my staff, Maj. V. P. Van Antwerp, inspector-general; Capt. Oliver Barber, chief commissary; Capt. Lyman Scott, jr., acting assistant adjutant-general, and Lieuts. J. Fin. Hill, H. G. Loring, G. M. Waugh, D. Whittaker, and C. H. Haynes, aides-de-camp, who were in the saddle, and with me constantly from before daylight in the morning until the close of the action after dark, I am indebted for efficient and valuable services on the field. Made a special target by the rebel troops, in obedience to the notorious address of their commander (General Hindman), issued on the eve of battle, and a printed copy of which, over his signature, each of them carried upon his person, "to shoot down my mounted officers," they were saluted wherever they rode by a perfect storm of balls from the enemy's guns.
I have the honor to be, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JAS. G. BLUNT,
Maj. Gen. SAMUEL R. CURTIS,
Commanding Department of the Missouri.