William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas


[TOC] [part 17] [part 15] [Cutler's History]


In the early part of September, 1864, Gen. Sterling Price commenced the famous march through Arkansas and Missouri, which eventuated a month later in his attempted invasion of Kansas, his defeat on the border by the United States forces, aided by the Kansas State Militia, and his final retreat with his disorganized and demoralized army to the south of the Arkansas.

At the time Gen. Price started on his northward march, Maj. Gen. Samuel R. Curtis commanded the Department of Kansas, comprising Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado and the Indian Territory. His force amounted to about 4,500 men, consisting of portions of Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsin regiments (all employed in protecting the frontier Kansas and Colorado settlements and the overland mail routes), the Eleventh Kansas Cavalry, Col. Thomas Moonlight; Fifteenth Kansas Cavalry, Col. C. R. Jennison; a battalion of the Third Wisconsin Cavalry with a section of the Second Kansas Battery at Fort Scott; Fourteenth Kansas Cavalry, Sixteenth Kansas Cavalry, Seventeenth Kansas Infantry, McLain's Independent Colorado Battery, and Capt. Dodge's Ninth Wisconsin Battery.

Gen. Curtis, at the time mentioned, was on the plains, in the vicinity of Fort Kearney, operating against the Cheyennes and Arapahoes; Gen. Blunt was out beyond Fort Larned, also fighting Indians; and Gen. Sykes was in command of the district of Southern Kansas, with headquarters at Lawrence. This district was divided into three subdistricts, under command of Cols. Jennison, Moonlight and Blair.

On the receipt of the dispatch from Gen. Rosecrans, announcing the northward movement of Price's army, Gen. Curtis was recalled from the plains, returning on the 17th of September. On the 21st, Gen. Sykes telegraphed the report of 3,000 rebels marching on Fort Scott, and advising that Gov. Carney call out the militia in the border counties, and concentrate the companies of the Fifteenth Kansas Cavalry at Fort Scott. The border militia was called into service, and two companies of the Seventeenth Regiment were stationed at Paola, under Lieut. Col. Drake.

September 24, Gen. Curtis notified Gov. Carney of the approach of Gen. Price through Missouri, and requested him to have the militia in readiness to co-operate with the United States troops for the defense of the State.

George W. Deitzler, at this time, was Major General of the State militia, with the following staff: John T. Norton, Assistant Adjutant General; R. A. Randlett, Assistant Quartermaster; Samuel S. Atwood, Assistant Quartermaster; Charles Chadwick, George T. Robinson, Lewis T. Wilmarth, John J. Ingalls, Thomas White, Elisha G. Moore, H. Stein and John A. Leffker, Majors.

Contradictory telegrams were received from day to day, in regard to the movements of Price, even after he had advanced to within ninety miles of St. Louis, and was ready to attack Pilot Knob.

This point was stoutly defended by Gen. Ewing, the battle commencing at daylight on the 27th of September and continuing all day. Fort Davidson, where the defense was made, was on the plain south of the village, and some 600 yards from the Knob. Gen. Ewing had there a force of about 1,000 men, 4 thirty-two pounder siege guns, 8 twenty-four pounder howitzers, and six pieces of field artillery.

Two divisions of Price's army were engaged in the attack at this point, which was defended until night, when Gen. Ewing determined to evacuate the works, as he found himself unable to hold the lines of retreat. Before daybreak, his command was moving north on the Potosi road. Finding the enemy in possession of this road, Gen. Ewing turned to the west and marched toward Harrison via Webster. On the morning of the 29th, the command was overtaken by the enemy, the remainder of the retreat to Harrison being covered by the troops of Maj. Williams of the Tenth Kansas. Harrison was reached about dark, and the night was spent in fortifying the position. The rebels remained in force before the place until the afternoon of the 1st of October, making every effort to capture the command, but finally withdrew, thwarted at every point. The delay of the northward march of Gen. Price, caused by the gallant defense of Pilot Knob and Harrison, enabled the military commanders in Missouri and Kansas to make preparations for still further arresting and foiling his movements.

On the 2d of October, Gen. Curtis received information by telegram from Gen. Rosecrans that the rebel army was seventy miles west of St. Louis, having reached the Missouri River at Washington, and being now between the forces concentrated at St. Louis and the capital of the State. Federal troops were concentrated in Jefferson City as speedily as possible, and placed in command of Brig. Gen. Clinton B. Fisk, his force on the 6th of October numbering 6,000, of which 4,000 was cavalry.

In the meantime Gen. Curtis, who was in constant communication with Gen. Fisk at Jefferson City, was making preparations for the defense of Kansas.

On the 4th of October, a written demand was made on the Governor for the calling out of the State militia, and the same day an order was issued forbidding the transit of boats below Kansas City. When Gen. Curtis found the rebels were not checked in their westward march at the Gasconade or Osage Rivers, and that there was little hope of their being immediately overtaken by any Union force in their rear, he decided that action must be taken at once in Kansas. His letters to Gov. Carney on the urgency of the crisis called forth on the 8th, a proclamation commencing thus:

TOPEKA, October 8, 1864.

The state is in peril! Price and his rebel hosts threaten it with invasion. Kansas must be ready to hurl them back at any cost.

The necessity is urgent. The extent of that necessity the subjoined communication from Maj. Gen. Curtis to me will establish.

Letters of Gen. Curtis were subjoined, stating the steady advance of Price's army westward, the burning of Syracuse, La Mine and Otterville depots, the cutting of telegraph wires west of Sedalia, the prospect of a fight at that point, and calling earnestly on the Governor for the immediate calling out of "the entire militia force, with their best arms and ammunition, for a period of thirty days." The force to be assembled on the border - mainly at Olathe.

The Governor concludes his proclamation thus:

N. B. - Maj. Gen. Deitzler will lead the brave men of Kansas, and issue the necessary orders. Commanding officers of brigades and battalions will see that their respective commands are in readiness for immediate service.

The next day, October 9, the following order from George W. Deitzler, Major General of Kansas State Militia, was issued.

TOPEKA, KAN., October 9, 1864. )

In pursuance of the order of the Commander-in-Chief of the 8th inst., the militia of Kansas will turn out and rendezvous immediately at the points indicated below:

Doniphan, Brown, Nemaha and Marshall Counties, at Atchison, under Brig. Gen. Byron Sherry.

Atchison, Leavenworth, Jefferson, Jackson, Pottawatomie, Riley, Davis, Wabaunsee, Shawnee, Douglas and Johnson Counties, at Olathe, under Brig. Gen. M. S. Grant.

Wyandotte, at Wyandotte, under Maj. E. S. Hubbard.

Miami, Franklin, Osage, Morris and Lyon Counties, at Paola, under Brig. Gen. S. N. Wood.

Bourbon, Allen and Woodson Counties at Fort Scott.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Until further orders, the headquarters of the militia will be at Olathe, to which point all returns and communications will be sent.

Under date of October 9, the following dispatch was sent to Gen. Sykes and all commanding officers in the State:

The Governor has called out the entire militia of the State. I want this given the widest circulation and the most prompt action.
S. R. CURTIS, Major General.

On the 10th, Maj. Gen. Blunt, who had been re-called from the plains, was placed in charge of the District of Southern Kansas, relieving Gen. Sykes.

On the same day the work of fortifying Leavenworth was commenced, a telegram from Gen. Rosecrans being received that day, stating that Price had avowed his intention to strike that point.

In regard to the response of the militia to the call of the Governor, Col. C. K. Holliday, State Adjutant General, says in his report:

Never was appeal for help answered so promptly. In most instances on the next day, or the second after the receipt of the proclamation at regimental headquarters, the regiment itself, in full force, was on the march for the rendezvous designated by the commanding general, and it was only in exceptional cases - where the regimental district embraces several counties in extent - that the third or fourth day was required before the command could take up its line of march.

The following regiments reported for active services at the places designated:

Olathe, command of Brig. Gen. M. S. Grant - First Regiment, Col. C. H. Robinson, Leavenworth, 503 men; Second Regiment, Col. G. W. Veale, Shawnee, 561 men; Third Regiment, Col. Charles Williamson Douglas, 643 men; Fourth Regiment, Col. W. D. McCain, Jefferson, 777 men; Seventh Regiment, Col. Peter McFarland, Leavenworth, 705 men; Twelfth Regiment, Col. L. S. Treat, Atchison, 460 men; Thirteenth Regiment, Col. J. A. Keeler, Johnson, 400 men; Fourteenth Regiment, Col. J. M. Harvey, Riley and Wabaunsee, 560 men; Eighteenth Regiment, Col. Matthew Quigg, Atchison, 400 men; Nineteenth Regiment, Col. A. C. Hogan, Leavenworth, 548 men; Twentieth Regiment, Col. J. B. Hubbell, Jackson, 340 men; Twenty-first Regiment, Col. Sandy Lowe, Douglas, 519 men.

The Fifteenth Regiment, Col. J. T. Price, Davis, Dickinson and Saline Counties, militia, was, by order of Col. Holliday, retained at Fort Riley to guard against Indian raids on the frontier.

Atchison, command of Brig. Gen. Sherry - Ninth Regiment, Col. Frank M. Tracy, Doniphan, 554 men; Twenty-second Regiment, Col. James P. Taylor, Nemaha, 400 men; Independent Battalion, Col. J. A. Pope, Brown, 200 men.

The Seventeenth Regiment, Col. E. C. Manning, Marshall, Washington, Republic and Clay Counties, remained at home to guard its own exposed border counties.

Paola and Mound City, command of Brig. Gen. Fishbeck - Fifth Regiment, Col. G. A. Colton, Miami, 471 men; Tenth Regiment, Col. William Pennock, Franklin and Anderson, 751 men; Eleventh Regiment, Col. A. J. Mitchell, Lyon, 300 men; Independent Battalion, Lieut. Col. M. M. Murdock, Osage, 250 men; Sixth Regiment, Lieut. Col. J. L. Snoddy, Linn, 530 men; Sixteenth Regiment, Col. F. W. Potter, Coffey and Woodson, 560 men.

Fort Scott, command of Brig. Gen. J. B. Scott - Twenty-fourth Regiment, Col. J. Stadden, Bourbon, 500 men; Battalion, Lieut. Col. Eves, Bourbon, 350 men; Battalion, Col. C. P. Twiss, Allen, 200 men.

The Twenty-third Regiment (Wyandotte County), Col. William Weer, rendezvoused at Wyandotte City.

The total number of militia enrolled was 12,622, of which about 10,000 were concentrated south of the Kansas River, in the section of the State most exposed to danger of invasion. Of the remainder of the force, portions were detailed for special duty at important points in the State.

From the 11th until the 16th, the forces gathered rapidly at the appointed rendezvous, and were organized and equipped. A depot for ordnance, subsistence and quartermaster's stores was established at Wyandotte, Maj. Hubbard in command of the post, which was garrisoned by the Twenty-third Regiment under Col. William Weer. Gen. Curtis, with Gen. J. H. Lane, his Aide, and the other members of his staff, was at Olathe, and, as the command was moved farther east, at Shawneetown, directing the movements and assignments of the troops. Gen. Deitzler and Gen. Blunt were at their respective posts, trying to bring order and system out of the earnest and courageous but inexperienced and undisciplined body of men around them.

The staff of Gen. Deitzler was composed as follows: Chief, Lieut. Col. O. E. Leonard; Chief of Cav'y., Lieut. Col. A. W. Spicer; Adjutant, Maj. John T. Morton; Quartermaster, Lieut. Col. William Rosenthal; Engineer, Maj. L. E. Wilmarth; Judge Advocate, Maj. John J. Ingalls; Paymaster, Maj. Charles Chadwick; Aides, Lieut. Col. William Crawford, Majs. E. G. Moore, A. R. Banks and A. S. Hughes.

The force assembled on the border was arranged by Gen. Curtis in two divisions - the volunteer cavalry and southern border militia under Maj. Gen. Blunt, constituting the right wing or First Division, and the main body of the militia, under Maj. Gen. Deitzler, constituting the left wing, or Second Division.

On the 14th, Gen. Blunt moved with his command to Hickman's Mills in Missouri, and on the following day organized it into three brigades, of which the First was under command of Col. C. R. Jennison; the Second, of Col. Thomas Moonlight; the Third, of Col. C. W. Blair.

On the 16th, Gen. Blunt, with the First and Second Brigades, 2,000 men (all cavalry), with eight howitzers, moved toward Lexington, to meet Price. Col. Blair, with the Third Brigade, moved to the west side of the Big Blue, and encamped. Col. Ford and Maj. Pritchard, of the Second Colorado, were in command, respectively, of the posts of Independence and Kansas City. Lieut. Col. Drake, Seventeenth Kansas, with a small force, garrisoned Paola; Capt. Greer, Fifteenth Kansas, was in command at Mound City; and Capt. Viltum, Third Wisconsin Cavalry, at Fort Scott.

Gen. Blunt, with the First and Second Brigades, moved from Hickman's Mills, by the Warrensburg road, toward Lexington. On the 18th, Gen. Curtis received dispatches at Kansas City, announcing his arrival at that point, and on the 20th, the tidings of his engagement with Price and his falling back toward Independence.


When Gen. Blunt arrived at Lexington, he found that Price was near Waverly, twenty-two miles east, concentrating his army to resist the approach of Rosecrans from the east. On the morning of the 19th, Gen. Blunt, assisted by his Aides, Hon. J. H. Lane and Lieut. Col. Burris, disposed the troops so as best to meet the enemy, reported as advancing in three columns by the Dover, Camden & Warrensburg roads. Line of battle was formed to the southeast of the city with open country in front, and the Independence road as line of retreat, in the rear. The small command of Gen. Blunt succeeded, by persistent resistance, falling back inch by inch, in obstructing and retarding the advance of Price, for some twenty-four hours, and in obtaining accurate and reliable information of his strength and location. The command fell back in good order on the Independence road, the movement being covered by the Eleventh Kansas Cavalry, Col. Moonlight, with 500 men and 4 howitzers. This small force fought and fell back for over six miles, forming four successive lines of battle: The command bivouacked a few miles from the Little Blue, on the night of the 19th, and the following morning moved to Independence, leaving Col. Moonlight with a part of the Eleventh Kansas, and 4 twelve-pounder howitzers to guard the bridge crossing the Little Blue on the Lexington road.

Col. Moonlight stationed Maj. Anderson, with two companies, at the bridge, with orders to burn it when he could hold it no longer; Capt. Green, with Company I, at a ford two miles south of the bridge, and Capt. Huntoon, with Company H, at a ford four miles distant.

The advance division of the rebels, under Gen. Shelby, appeared on the Lexington road about 7 in the morning.

They soon forced our troops from the positions held on the Little Blue, the rebel cavalry finding no difficulty in fording the shallow stream. They succeeded also in extinguishing the fire at the bridge, so as to move over it a portion of their artillery.

At 10 o'clock, Col. Moonlight had been forced back two miles on the Independence road, fighting bravely with his little force against the tremendous odds.

At about 10 o'clock, Gen. Blunt arrived from Independence, with fresh troops, and assumed command. In the new line of battle, Col. Jennison, with the Sixteenth Kansas, was assigned the right; Col. Moonlight, with the Eleventh, the left; McLain's Battery, with the Second Colorado, Third Wisconsin and Fifteenth Kansas, the center. Maj. R. H. Hunt had command of the battery, which was placed in position to check the rebel advance across a deep ravine to the front, Gen. Curtis, Gen. Lane, and other prominent officers were on the field.

The whole line was soon engaged, the men fighting on foot. Every position was gallantly defended, but the rebel force outnumbered the small command of Gen. Blunt, ten to one, and he was obliged to fall back, fighting as he went, and taking advantage of every commanding position to make a fresh stand and resist the advance of the rebel division. Throughout the engagement, Maj. Hunt, with his battery, was at the front, holding back the enemy from pressing too closely on our troops, the last position taken being within two miles of Independence. From this point the Fourth Brigade, Col. Ford, covered the retreat, allowing the battery and the other troops to pass to the rear and form again on the outskirts of the town, protected by walls and buildings. In the meantime, everything in the shape of military supplies, was, by order of Gen. Curtis, withdrawn from Independence, toward the Big Blue, where another stand was to be made, and, as the rebels suspended operations for a time, the troops also were withdrawn through the town, save the Sixteenth, Eleventh and Second Colorado, which covered the retreat through Independence. In this engagement, which lasted eight hours - the fighting being continuous from the time the rebels gained the bridge at the Little Blue, until that pursuit was ended for the night at Independence - the Union loss in killed, wounded and missing, was about 200, of which the Second Brigade lost one-half. The Fourth lost about 60. Fifteen horses of Maj. Hunt's battery were killed. The loss of the enemy was reported at 500.

[TOC] [part 17] [part 15] [Cutler's History]