Clarke County and the Civil War

Thanks to Jim Miller for submitting this.

Published in the Osceola Sentinel, 31 January 1863:

Letter from Captain Duncan to Mrs. Duncan


Springfield, Jan. 10 1863


My Dear Mary: - As you will doubtless hear of the Battle that has been fought in this place before this reaches you, you must be uneasy about me: I thought that I would write and let you know that I am still alive and well, although I, with my company, was under a heavy fire for a long time. I never received a scratch. On the 7th inst. We were informed that the rebels were advancing on Sgringfield [sic], 8,000 strong. Every thing was in excitement, and all eager for a fight. Strong guards were thrown out; all the others were under arms all right; but the rebels did not make their appearance before the town until about 12 o'clock [p.]m., when the cannonading commenced on both sides, and in a short time skirmishing commenced on both sides. At one o'clock the engagement became general, our forces gradually falling back; contesting every inch of ground. Our forces then under cover of some houses they had taken possession of, checked the rebels, and held them at bay. Then is when there was warm work. It was not uncommon for the Union men to have possession of one side of a house and the secesh the other. This was the condition of thing until just before dark, when we dislodged them and drove them back on the field again. We lay on our arms all night expecting to renew the engagement at early dawn in the morning. At daylight we found the enemy had during the night fallen back three miles, and was not anxious to renew the attack. Our forces went out to feel for them and skirmished all day. When night came the enemy was 6 or 7 miles away under full retreat, leaving their dead and wounded in our possession. From the best information that I can get their loss must be from 60 to 100 killed and 300 wounded. I went over the Battle field myself the day after the fight, and counted 20 dead rebels and there is two large pits where the Rebels buried their dead, but I could not tell how many.

There is three hospitals full of their wounded - 80 in one and in the other two [illegible] learn how many. Our loss was 17 [illegible: presumably killed] and about one hundred wounded, among them was Gen. Brown who was wounded in the left shoulder, and had his arm taken off at the shoulder joint. The loss of our Regt. Was [illegible] killed and 47 wounded. Capt. Vanmetre of Co. H, and Capt. Blue of Co. C are both wounded severely, and I fear mortally. Vanmetre was shot in the thigh joint and is mangled dreadfully. Cap. Blue was shot through the left lung. Both in Critical condition; al[so] Capt. Leandis, of Co. D was wounded in the leg and side. He had command of one piece of artillery, which unfortunately he lost: he ran into an ambuscade and was completely surprised and the piece captured.

The Rebels lost a number of officers, one Col., one Maj., and I cannot tell how many Capts. And Lieuts. Our whole force was not over 1,200 and theirs is estimated at about 5,000. Our men fought well and have the praise of their officers.

The Rebels left here on the Rollin road, and I hear this morning that they have taken Lebanon. But report says their retreat is cut off and they are, or will be all taken today; I hope this is true. The Rebels say that they must winter in Missouri, if they have to disband to do so; for there is nothing for them or their horses to live on south of the Boston Mountains and the prisoners say (two of which are Lieuts.) that it was nothing but starvation forced them off this time. They have neither tents nor blankets, and have scarcely any clothes. The prisoners say that they were badly disappointed. They heard that Springfield was only guarded by 500 men and the most of them sick, in the hospital, and that none but State Militia were here, and they did not fear double their number of that kind of troops. But as soon as they found that there was one Reg. of Iowa troops here, they gave up all hopes of taking the town, and looked for the best way to make their escape. They dread the Iowa boys. They say that they had rather fight soldiers from any state than from Iowa, for they never will be whipped, and that Iowa officers never learn their men to retreat, and consequently they do not know there is such a military movement in our Tactics. Not withstanding we lost and had disabled a considerable amount of men, our regt. Is in better fighting order than it was before the fight. The men know they can fight, and as they have received the universal praise of both citizens and officers, they feel their dignity. All admit, if it had not been for the 18th. Springfield would have been taken, without a struggle, or any resistance whatever. As it was we had to burn a portion of the town to get it out of the way of our guns, and to keep it from sheltering the enemy; and a great many of the houses in that portion of the town is badly injured by the shot.

I must close by saying that I do not mind the whizzing and buzzing of the Rifle and musket balls, although I know they are more dangerous than any other. But I do despise the awful howling and sickening hissing of those abominable Shells when they go tearing by your ears making more noise than forty devils on horseback, bursting now and then, filling your face and eyes full of dirt, splinter, gravel and everything that is mean.

Capt. W. M. Duncan



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