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BATTLE OF THE BIG BLUE.
Gen. Deitzler moved from Independence to the west bank of the Big Blue on the morning of the 21st, to forward preparations for the defense of the position. Gen. Blunt, with his troops, readied the place during the night, and on the morning of the 22d the entire force of Gen. Curtis was in line of battle along the banks of that stream, the principal positions being occupied as follows:
Main crossing on the Independence and Kansas City road - Col. Blair, with Nineteenth Regiment, Sixth Regiment, Kansas State Militia, Ninth Wisconsin Battery, and a section of Second Kansas Battery supported by Fifth Regiment Kansas State Militia, Col. Colton; and Lieut. Col. Eves' battalion from Bourbon County. This force was north of the road. South of the road was McLain's Colorado Battery, with the Fourth Brigade, Col. Ford, and Twelfth Regiment Kansas State Militia, Col. Treat, for support.
Simmons' Ford, two miles south - Col. Moonlight, with Eleventh Kansas, Tenth Regiment Kansas State Militia, Col. William Pennock, and section of Second Kansas Battery.
Byrom's Ford, three miles above Simmons' (main point of attack) - Col. Jennison, with First Brigade and Fourth Regiment Kansas State Militia, Col. McCain.
Russell's or Hickman's Mills crossing (above Byrom's) was occupied on the night of the 21st, by the Second Kansas State Militia, Col. Veale; and Twenty-first Kansas State Militia, Col. Lowe. This force consisted of the cavalry of the Second and Third Regiments, consolidated under Col. Veale numbering about seven hundred men; the Twenty-first cavalry regiment, numbering about five hundred; and a twenty-four pounder brass howitzer belonging to Company A, Second Regiment, under Capt. Ross Burnes. On the morning of the 22d, Col. Veale received a dispatch from Gen. Grant, his commanding officer, stating his inability to join him early with balance of brigade, and directing him to move in the direction of Westport, so as to support the forces at Byrom's Ford; which order Col. Veale obeyed.
In the forenoon it became evident that the main attack of the rebels would be at Byrom's Ford, and Col. Moonlight, with the Second Brigade, and the Sixteenth Kansas, Lieut., Col. Walker, were sent to re-enforce Col. Jennison, but failed to reach him before the attack.
On the approach of Shelby's division, Col. Jennison, who had already fortified the west bank of the stream, placed his howitzers in the road commanding the east bank, and with their aid held his position until he was flanked by the rebels crossing above and below at cattle fords. He then fell back toward Westport, at which point our troops were now concentrating to prevent the enemy from entering the State.
When the First Brigade (Col. Jennison) reached the open prairie below Westport, it was joined by Col. Moonlight with the Eleventh Kansas Cavalry, the Twelfth Regiment Kansas State Militia, two Parrott guns and four howitzers. Maj. Hunt also joined the force and assumed command of the skirmish line. Col. Jennison formed on the right and Col. Moonlight on the left, and the troops moved forward to meet Shelby, who was then almost at the State line. The fight resulted in our forces driving Shelby back to the Big Blue, where he encamped the night of the 22d.
While the engagement near Westport resulted in the rebels being driven back to the Big Blue, a serious disaster had befallen the Shawnee County Militia a few miles away. The story is best told in the simple words of Col. Veale in his official report, which is given in full, as this was the only engagement on the border in which the militia suffered very serious loss:
HEADQUARTERS SECOND REGIMENT, K. S. M.,
The following is the list of killed, wounded and prisoners of the second Regiment, K. S. M. (Shawnee County), at the battle of the Big Blue, October 22, 1864:
Lieut. Col. H. M. Greer, severely wounded in hip and shoulder.
Company B (Topeka) - Killed, Privates H. C. Covill, Harvey G. Young, J. B. Alverson. Wounded, Privates John P. Greer, John A. Ward, Dr. Neely, Brock Crawford. Prisoners, G. H. Woods, Frank Dawson, C. G. Howard, William Flanders, Oscar McConnel, F. M. Fletcher, Nelson Young, Simon Shaefer, J. S. Stansfield, E. B. Williams, Levi Williams, James Warren.
Company C (Tecumseh) - Killed, Privates Albert Chapman, Elias Roberts. Wounded, John Keiser. Prisoners, Lieut., Hiram Ward (died from effects of ill-treatment while prisoner), Privates John Reed, Osborn Naylor, J. T. Gage, Alfred Quiet, John Keiser, R. B. Hoeback, William Marx, James B. Taylor, A. G. Miller, G. B. McKee.
Company D (Indianola) - Killed, Privates Robert McKown, Dennis Ray, Moses Banks (colored). Wounded, Capt. S. B. Miles, Private Isaac Bickel. Prisoners, Privates John Kempt, Robert Kempt, S. J. Reader, J. W. Clark, Eph. Johnson, John P. Majors, Isaac Bickel, David Vaughn, James Hudgins, T. Fleshman.
Company F (Big Springs) - Killed, Privates David Rake, James Eagle, Robert Campbell. Wounded, John Prater. Prisoners, Second Lieut. P. H. Gilland, Sergt. George Duncan, Corp. Jonathan H. Glenn. Privates George Fix, Henry Fix, Wallace True.
Company G (Auburn) - Killed, Privates W. P. Roberts, Samuel Allen. Wounded, Capt. H. E. Bush, Lieut. William A. De Long (afterward died of wounds), Privates Peter Fleck, Allen Blandon, John Thompson. Prisoners, Lieut. John W. Brown, Privates H. Cunningham, L T Cook, Samuel Blandon, Granger Wood, David Stevens, Jerome Stahl, Eli Snyder, James Russell, Baxter Ingrund, W. S. Hibbard, H. M. Deming, John Robinson, John S. Markham.
Company I (Monmouth) - Killed, William Wann, Robert Rolls, David Fults. Wounded, H. M. Howard, Martin Dreck, James Norris. Prisoners, Samuel Kosier, Horace Linn, Elias Williams.
Topeka Battery - Killed, Corporal George Ginnold; Privates Daniel Handley, Nicholas Brown, D. M. Race, McClure Martin, C. H. Budd, Lear Selkin, Ben Hughes (colored). Wounded, Capt. Ross Burnes; Privates William T. Thompson, John Branner, John Ward. Prisoners, Privates G. G. Gage, C. G. Fallansbie, John Link, R. Fitzgerald, Fred Mackey, James Anderson, A. H. Holman, E. Pope, Jacob Klein.
When Col. Veale with his command fell back to the Big Blue, he there met Col. Lowe, and another stand was made by the militia. This position was held, the rebels withdrawing after about half an hour's fighting.
Among the prisoners taken in this engagement on the 22d were twenty men of the Fourth Regiment, and some belonging to the Nineteenth and Twenty-third. No official list is given of the names. Portions of the trains of the Nineteenth and Twenty-third were captured, and the Brigade Quartermaster, Lieut. Marsh, of Leavenworth, was taken prisoner.
While the right wing of our army was thus engaged with Shelby's men, the left and center had, by order of Gen. Blunt, fallen back to Kansas City, where the militia were placed in the intrenchments, the guns placed in position, and everything made ready for the threatened attack on the city. The Second Kansas Battery commanded the Independence road; the Ninth Wisconsin, the roads to the north and east; and McLain's the Westport road. The cavalry remained at Westport, the Sixteenth Kansas holding the picket-lines News was received, before the troops reached Kansas City, of Gen. Pleasanton's victory at Independence.
BATTLE OF WESTPORT, OCTOBER 23.
On the morning of October 23, the advance of Gen. Curtis' army, comprising the First, Second and Fourth Brigades, under Gen. Blunt, was at Westport; the main body of the militia at Kansas City; Gen. Pleasanton, with three brigades of cavalry, on the road from Independence to Byrom's Ford, and Gen. McNeil with one brigade on the road to Hickman's Mill.
The rebel army was encamped on the west bank of the Big Blue, their line extending southwest from Byrom's Ford.
Early in the morning the brigade of Col. Blair, consisting of the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Tenth and Nineteenth Regiments K. S. M. (cavalry), with the Ninth Wisconsin Battery, a section belonging to the Colored Battery under Lieut. Minor, and McLain's Battery moved from Kansas City to Westport.
About 5 o'clock in the morning, the First, Second and Fourth Brigades, with McLain's Battery, moved out from Westport to meet the enemy, the line, when formed, consisting of the First Brigade on the right, the Second Colored and Sixteenth Kansas on the left resting on the road, McLain's Battery at the edge of the timber, half a mile to the rear. The Second Brigade was soon brought up on the right. Col. Jennison describes the progress of the battle, in his official report, thus:
"Our skirmish lines soon encountered the enemy swarming through the corn-fields and in the timber southwest of Warnell's, and the battle of Westport was speedily opened. Meanwhile the thunders of artillery to the left told that our lines were engaged along the entire front. After a contest of varying fortunes for some minutes on our right, the First Brigade was withdrawn to the timber, in the rear of Bent's house, perhaps an eighth of a mile from its former position, while the Second Brigade took the road to the right leading to Shawnee Mission, and passed down through Kansas on the rebel flank. After this our entire line was pressed back to the north bank of Brush Creek, while the whole available force was rallied for a general advance. Pushing forward rapidly through the valley, we soon regained our original position, driving the rebels at all points, until our entire line was fairly out of the timber and occupied the open country, our skirmishers swarming along the fences and stone walls, with which the position was so thickly intersected. In spite of the determined resistance of the enemy, our forces moved steadily forward until, about a mile to the east and south, a heavy body of cavalry was visible emerging from the timber, when a general charge was ordered. Swinging into a trot and then a gallop, six companies of the Fifteenth, under Lieut. Col. Hoyt, took the left of the road and myself the right, with the Third Wisconsin Battalion, two companies of the Second Colorado and one of the Fifteenth. The Fourth Brigade, under Col. Ford, was also led by 'fighting Jim' in a dashing charge well up to the front. Then, when both armies were in plain sight upon the prairie, the rebels broke, and in thorough disorder began a precipitous retreat, which was hastened by the well-served artillery and dashing onsets of Pleasanton's forces, on their right and rear. This, briefly told, is how the battle of Westport was fought and won."
Gens. Pleasanton and Blunt, with the other principal officers of the army, followed the retreating rebels down the State line road as far as Indian Creek. The pursuit was maintained by Col. Jennison, with the First Brigade, and a battalion of the Second Colorado, Capt. Green, to the crossing of the Blue, four miles below Little Santa Fe, where they were confronted by Gen. Fagan's division and the pursuit was discontinued.
At Indian Creek the following order was issued:
HEADQUARTERS IN THE FIELD ON INDIAN CREEK.
Under this order, the militia of Northern Kansas were relieved, returning to Kansas City, and thence home.
The brigade of militia from Southern Kansas under Gen. Fishbeck and Col. Blair, continued with the pursuing army.
PURSUIT OF PRICE.
The force employed in the pursuit of Price's army down the State line consisted of the First Division, under Gen. Blunt, comprising the First, Third and Fourth Brigades; the Second Division, under Gen. Pleasanton, comprising four brigades, under Gens. McNeil, Sanborn and Brown and Lieut. Col. Benteen; and the brigade of Col. Moonlight, which was marching down the Kansas border. This force numbered about 10,000 men (all cavalry), with 3 field batteries and 2 mountain howitzers. The First division took the advance, the rear of the rebel army being about eight or ten miles ahead. All through the day the two armies marched through the desolate border of Missouri, the Union troops halting at sun down, at Westport, on the State line, and about forty miles north of Fort Scott.
Near Westport the rebels left the State Line road, and passed west into Linn County, Kan., encamping the night of the 24th, at the trading post on the Marais des Cygnes, a small village about two miles west of the line, on the south bank of the river. In the vicinity of this little hamlet, the most dreadful atrocities were committed by the retreating army. Old, and unarmed men were murdered. Women, and even children, were robbed of food and clothing, everything valuable taken away, and what was not taken was rendered worthless.
Early on the morning of the 25th, the rebels were dislodged from their position at the trading post and driven over the ford, leaving behind them their sick and wounded. At this crossing, Gen. Curtis was joined by Gen. Blunt, Col. S. J. Crawford, and Col. C. W. Blair, their anxiety bringing them to the front in advance of their commands.
On the north bank of Mine Creek, the rebels formed another line of battle, the two divisions of Fagan and Marmaduke, some 15,000 strong, forming the two wings, the whole under the personal command of Gen. Price. Ten pieces of artillery were stationed to the left of their line. Beyond the stream could be seen the long rebel train extending for miles, moving in the direction of Fort Scott, and accompanied by Shelby's and Tyler's divisions.
The victory of the Union forces at Mine Creek was overwhelming. Cols. Benteen and Phillips on the left; Cols. Crawford and Cloud in the center; Col. Blair with Majs. Weed and Hunt on the right, swept forward with their brave men, and the field was won. The rebels fell back in wild disorder, to the south of the creek, re-forming, only to be again driven to the south.
Among the prisoners taken at the crossing of Mine Creek, were Maj. Gen. Marmaduke and Brig. Gens. Cabell, Slemmon and Graham, besides a large number of other field officers and about 800 soldiers. Nine guns were captured. The Federal loss was about 150 men killed.
In the engagement at the crossing of the Osage, which was another triumph to the Federal arms, Gen. McNeil had the advance, and with about 2,000 troopers put the enemy to flight, who now, for the first time, turned the direction of his march toward the east, showing his desire to escape from the State, and relieving the anxiety felt for the safety of Fort Scott.
In the march from the Osage toward the Marmaton, and at the approach to the crossing of the latter river, Gen. McNeil still held the advance, and with the aid of Col. Benteen's brigade which came up to his assistance, forced the enemy buck and held the crossing.
The remainder of the army passed on to Fort Scott for rest and food.
The pursuit was re-commenced on the morning of the 28th, Gen. Curtis, with the brigade of Col. Moonlight, and Gen. Blunt, with the brigades of Cols. Jennison and Ford, leaving Fort Scott at an early hour. The Colorado and Ninth Wisconsin Batteries accompanied the commands. Gen. McNeil effected a junction with Gen. Curtis at Shanghai in the evening. At this point, Gen. Lane, Col. Crawford, Col. Cloud, Col. Ritchie and others were relieved and returned to Kansas. Col. Blair had resumed command at Fort Scott.
On the 28th, the army of Price was encountered at Newtonia, Mo., where he had halted and gone into camp, believing the pursuit ended.
Gen. Blunt, with Ford's and Jennison's brigades, arrived at Newtonia at 3 o'clock P. M., after marching all of the previous day and night. On discovering the advance of Gen. Blunt, Price formed one line of battle in the edge of the timber and another on the prairie, his force being about 10,000 men. Blunt attacked him vigorously, and after several hours' hard fighting the rebels retreated on the Cassville road. Gen. Blunt says, this was the "warmest contested field we have had in the campaign." He had only the two brigades until about sundown, when Gen. Sanborn arrived to his support. On the following day an order arrived from Gen. Rosecrans for all the forces of Gen. Pleasanton to abandon the pursuit and return to their respective headquarters. At Neosho, Mo., to which place Gen. Curtis removed for rest and forage, 100 of the Shawnee County Militia came into camp paroled. An order was received from Lieut. Gen. Grant on the morning of the 30th, desiring the pursuit of Price to be continued to the Arkansas River, or until he encountered Gen. Steele or Gen. Reynolds, acting on which Gen. Curtis immediately issued orders for a continuance of the march, sending dispatches to the officers of Gen. Pleasanton's command, ordering their return.
The pursuit was accordingly followed until the army of Price was driven to the south of the Arkansas, being abandoned on the 8th of November, 1864.
On the morning of the 9th the return march was commenced.
Gen. Curtis, with his staff, escort and the Second Colorado marched to Fort Gibson and thence to Fort Scott, arriving on the 15th.
Gen. Blunt, with the brigade of Col. Moonlight, moved to Fort Smith, and thence, via Fort Gibson, to Fort Scott, Col. Moonlight returning from Neosho to Cabin Creek as escort to a supply train on its way to Fort Gibson.
Col. Jennison, with the First Brigade, and the brigade of Col. Benteen, moved north, by way of Cane Hill, Fayetteville and Bentonville.
With the return of these troops the famous Price campaign was closed.