Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Part 11


Baxter Springs- Part II
by R.M. Peck
National Tribune, 29 September 1904
pg. 8, cols 1-4

As Blunt with his handful of men, instead of running away as others had done, kept persistently hovering about the field, Quantrill seemed to have concluded that the General certainly must have a large command near in his rear; and for fear of being overtaken by a superior force, the rebel chief hurriedly collected what animals and plunder he could take with him, and struck out down the military road for Texas, which would take him near Fort Gibson, which is 100 miles south of Baxter Springs; seeing which Blunt determined to send a messenger to Col. Phillips, the commanding officer at that post, informing him of his (Blunt’s) misfortune, and ordering him to try to head off the rebels. This messenger would have to go down the road right behind Quantrill part of the way, and then get past and ahead of him, so as to beat the rebels to Gibson.

Quantrill’s Bravado

With singular backwardness none of Bill Tuft’s brave “Buckskin Scouts” seemed to want this job. Tom Atkins, and independent scout- not one of the beaded and be-fringed gentlemen that ornamented Blunt’s headquarters, but a “for-sure” scout- volunteered to take the message, and without any preparation struck out behind the rebels before they were out of sight, and dodging through them in the following night, succeeded in getting through to Fort Gibson and delivering the message in time; but through someone’s mismanagement Quantrill was allowed to slip by Gibson and go to Sherman, Texas, uninterrupted; where it was said he dressed himself in Blunt’s uniform, that he had captured, and proclaimed that he had killed the General with his own hand.

This is probably a mistake, for Quantrill, being a slim-built man, could not well have worn Blunt’s clothes, as the general was rather corpulent. It is possible, however, that Quantrill may have mistaken Major Curtis, whom he killed, for Blunt, and that he wore the Major’s uniform, as that would have been near a fit for him; but he certainly ought to have been able to distinguish between the uniform of a Major and that of a Major-General.

Some months afterward I met at Fort Gibson a Lieutenant (Miller, I think, was his name), who told me that not long after the Baxter Springs massacre, and when Blunt was in command at Fort Smith, he (the Lieutenant) was captured by two of Quantrill’s men, while he was out with a foraging party near Fort Smith; and when brought into Quantrill’s presence, the guerrilla chief, among other questions, asked him:

“How do the Federals like it, since I killed General Blunt at Baxter Springs?”

To which the Lieutenant replied:

“Kill Blunt? You must be mistaken. He is in command at Fort Smith now. I saw him yesterday, and he was a remarkably lively corpse at that time, any way.”

At this he said Quantrill became very wrathy, calling him a “_____ Yankee liar,” and swearing that he had shot and killed General Blunt, at Baxter Springs, with his own hand. Quantrill then told the two men who had captured the Lieutenant to “take him off to the brush and fix him,” which order they proceeded to execute with cheerful alacrity.

The Lieutenant Gets Away

When they got out into the bushes they began to strip him of his uniform coat, pants and other best clothing, before killing him, to prevent their being shot full of holes or soiled with blood, and in the division of the spoils they found some money in greenbacks in his pocket. While they were quarreling over the money the Lieutenant made a dive into the brush, in his shirt and drawers, and succeeded in getting away, and subsequently rejoined his command at Fort Smith.

Tom Atkins told me afterward that when he reached Rock Creek, seven miles below Baxter, on his way to Fort Gibson with Blunt’s message, he found the bodies of a number of men who Quantrill had just caused to be shot- prisoners whom the rebels had taken with them that far on their retreat- and near where they were lying he found a piece of paper pinned to a tree, on which was written the following:

“Blunt, see the result of your damnable policy. See the vengeance Quantrill takes for the death of one of his men.”

No name was signed to this paper.

I think Tom said there were 11 of the bodies. I have seen it stated in some published accounts of this slaughter that Quantrill got a number of his men killed at Baxter, but those who gathered and buried the dead said that there was but one dead rebel found, while of Blunt’s party there were 123 buried in a huge grave in the edge of the timber, near where Lieutenant Pond’s camp was then located. I lived several years at or near Baxter Springs, after the war, and often saw this big grave. About the year 1869 (I think), these bodies were moved to the National Cemetery, one and a half miles west of the town.

Besides the 123 men whose bodies were found and buried, there must have been several who wandered off wounded to die alone on the prairie; for a few years later, when living on my farm , a few miles west of Baxter, while riding over the prairie one day I found the scattered bones of what had probably been one of Quantrill’s victims, and I heard of other similar finds by the early settlers on the prairie north and west of Baxter Springs, shortly after the war. The bones I found were much scattered, as though done by the wolves, and the prairie had likely been burnt over many times since that fatal day; the fires had destroyed all signs of clothing and everything perishable, but a few of Uncle Sam’s brass buttons and a belt buckle lying there proved that the bones were those of a soldier.

Mrs. Thomas’s Experience

In her escape from the field of slaughter was, for a lady who had never encountered any such danger or hardship, pretty severe. She was quite a young woman- the Captain’s second wife- and this was probably her first sight of rebels.

Compelled by the suddenness of the attack to leave her comfortable carriage at a moment’s notice, without any preparation for such a trip, on the advice of her rescuer, Mr. Bridges, she promptly mounted the horse of a dead soldier which Bridges had brought to her, and, guided by him, hurried away from the scene of disaster. Fortunately they were not noticed by the rebels as they left the field, and alone they made the best time their horses were capable of in the direction of Fort Scott, 60 miles to the north. Getting lost on the big prairie in the following night, they had to halt and make the best camp possible until morning, in order to find the best proper course. Having no means of making a fire, nothing to eat, no bedding, and the night being cold and windy, some of the discomforts of their situation may be faintly imagined. Unsaddling and picketing out their horses, they wrapped themselves in the two saddle-blankets- which was poor enough protection from the chilling winds of the bleak prairie- laid their heads on their saddles and shivered through a seemingly endless night.

The next day they succeeded in reaching Fort Scott, the lady very much exhausted from the nervous strain, hard riding and exposure that she was totally unused to. She immediately dispatched a message to Captain Thomas, at Fort Gibson, to notify him of her safety. Tom Atkins had already told him of her start from the field of the massacre. As may be imagined, the old gentleman was in a fever of anxiety- until he heard of her safe arrival at Fort Scott. Taking the next opportunity going north, the Captain went to Fort Scott to meet her; but she had experienced enough of war and returned to the comfort and safety of her home in Topeka, instead of going on to Fort Gibson with captain Thomas.

As characteristic of my eccentric old boss, I will relate as I afterward heard Colonel “Shorty” tell it, how the Captain imparted to him the news of the direful tragedy at Baxter Springs, before he had heard of her safe arrival at Fort Scott.

Captain Thomas’s Grief

Coming hurriedly into “Shorty’s” quarters at Fort Gibson, soon after Tom Atkins had brought the sad news, taking his quid of tobacco out of his mouth and rolling it between his thumb and fingers (his usual way when worried) he began:

“Mornin’, ‘Shorty,’ and without waiting for a reply, “‘spose you’ve hard of this Blunt affair at Baxter. Sad affair- sad affair! My wife was in that. Left the field while the killin’ was goin’ on, mounted on a dead soldier’s horse, a-straddle of an old McClellan saddle, to ride 60 miles, to Fort Scott, guided by Bridges, of the Fort Scott Monitor. God knows what’s become of  ‘em.”

Although blunt of speech and by no means choice of language, the old Captain was a kind and generous-hearted man, and a real friend to his friends.

On his arrival at Fort Scott, as soon as he had heard from his wife the story of her thrilling escape, the Captain hunted up Bridges to thank him for his manly services. On finding the newspaper man, who modestly declined being made a hero of for so simple an act of duty, the old man grasped him warmly by the hand and exclaimed as his eyes filled with tears of gratitude.

“Bridges, you’re a man! You’re a gentleman! My wife says so, an’ I believe every word of it. Yes, sir, you’re a perfect gentleman, every inch of you- my wife says so.”

Then by way of explanation to a friend who was standing by he continued:

“Instead of skedaddlin’ and savin’ himself, as everybody else was doin’, he thought of the only woman in the outfit- a stranger to him- got a horse an’ brought her away from that field of hell. They had to camp out without food or fire that night- Bridges, you’re a perfect gentleman- my wife says so. An’ Bridges, if it ever happens that old Chester Thomas can do you a favor an’ you don’t let me know it, I’ll be mad at you!”

And the old man fairly hugged Bridges in his overflowing gratitude.

Starting Back for Fort Gibson

In detailing these incidents of the “Blunt affair,” I have drifted away from my own story, and will now return to Fort Scott, where I had arrived from Leavenworth with my little family in a six-mule wagon ready to fall in with the next train going to Fort Gibson.

I found that Blunt and the few survivors of the massacre had returned to Fort Scott, where the General was making up a large train and command to go to Fort Smith, where he was to assume command of the Department of the Frontier; and as Fort Gibson was but a little out of the way, a supply train was also going with him to that post.

At Fort Scott I reported to Captain John G. Haskell, Blunt’s Chief Quartermaster, for rations, forage and other supplies for the trip; after receiving which I was ordered to roll out for Dry Wood Creek, 12 miles south, where the trains and soldiers were to rendezvous before starting. This time we were to go down the west boundary of Missouri and Arkansas, as the foraging is better on that route than along the “Military Road” via Baxter Springs, farther east through the Indian Nation.

On reaching Dry Wood I reported to Jeff Batsford, who was “Chief Mucky-muck” (Brigade Wagon Master) of the whole outfit, and he assigned me to a position with Blunt’s headquarters train on the march, which would be in the lead and would consequently give me more comfortable traveling; but in camping I always selected my own ground and located where I would be off to one side and out of the turmoil of the crowded camp.

A “Bogus” Nigger

I had provided myself with a good tent, and brought along our cooking stove and some other extra conveniences not usually found in a camp outfit, determined to lessen the hardships of camp life as much as possible for my wife and little one; and having the negro boys along to do the rough work and wait on us, the trip was by no means an unpleasant one, though we had some bad weather- cold rains and snows- before we got through. We all had robust health and hearty appetites, and enjoyed our grub amazingly.

Although my wife was a good cook herself, and I much preferred her cooking to any other, to save her the labor I hired a mulatto man at Fort Scott, to cook for us, who boasted that he had formerly been the cook for General Curtis. My teamster and two ex-borders were of the genuine black variety of negroes, while my new cook was of very light color and freckle-faced, and also possessed- what is very rare in one having even a little African blood in his veins- red, though kinky, hair; on account of which peculiarities my black boys spoke of him contemptuously as “that bogus nigger,” from which we all soon got to calling him “Bogus,” and I don’t think I ever knew his other name.

As a prospectively useful accomplishment I occasionally gave my wife lessons in shooting at a mark with a Colt’s navy, when in camp, and at first was perfectly safe to set up my hat (of the broad-rimmed cowboy style) for her to shoot at; but after a little practice I found she improved so rapidly that my hat began to look like a sifter, and I had to find her some other kind of target.

As there were plenty of farms and orchards along this route, I foraged freely for apples, chickens, turkeys, etc., keeping a good supply in our wagon at all times. Walnuts, hickory nuts and persimmons were prime and plenty in the timber; these the boys procured in abundance; and by the aid of my shotgun I was able to add such auxiliaries as wild pigeons, wild ducks, prairie chickens, and squirrels. We lived fine. I don’t think General Blunt’s table could have been much better supplied than mine.

Running the Gauntlet of Bushwhackers

While foraging away from the road, of course, I had to run the risk of being picked off by bushwhackers, who were always skulking along the border, but fortunately I escaped making any intimate acquaintances with these gentry, although some of our foragers didn’t get off so lucky. I was chased and shot at by a party of them on one occasion, which I will relate further on.

For fear that I might fail to get back some day while out foraging I had acquired the habit, when leaving my family on any such trip, to always toss my pocket-book (which was usually well padded with greenbacks) to my wife before leaving, so that she would at least have money enough to last her for a while, and as I often jokingly remarked, “to give her second husband a start.”

She often cautioned me against taking what seemed to be needless risk, but I would try to reassure her and allay her fears with:

“Don’t you worry about me. I’ve been in many a tight place, and, don’t you know, I always wiggle through, somehow?”

“Yes,” she would reply, “but you know the pitcher that goes too often to the well gets broken at last.”

But I had escaped by good fortune so often that I think she had more faith in my good luck than my good sense.

At Maysville, a little town in the north west corner of Arkansas, on the line of the nation, we were joined by my boss, Captain Thomas, who, accompanied by Lieutenant William Galleher, Colonel Phillip’s Adjutant (of the Indian Brigade), and a scout, had come a-horseback from Fort Gibson to meet us.  Following on down the line to Cincinnati, Arkansas, we separated from Blunt’s command at that point, he with the larger part of the outfit going on to Fort Smith; while we, with a portion of the supply train and a small escort, turned west down to Barren Work by way of Park Hill to Fort Gibson. Fort Gibson is about 50 miles from the Arkansas line.

As we neared Park Hill, Captain Thomas, Lieutenant Galleher and I rode on several miles ahead of the train in order to secure some hay for the outfit, which Galleher knew the location of at Park Hill. As we came out of the timber on top of the hill near the Female Seminary building, which overlooks the village of Park Hill, where we expected to camp the train, we noticed a lot of saddled horses tied to the fence in front of Andrew Nave’s house in the town, about a half mile from us; and as it was very desirable to know whether those horses belonged to friend or foes, we halted, while Galleher dismounted, took out his field-glass, and, taking a rest across his saddle, took a look at the men who owned the horses, who were now mounting, as they appeared to have seen us, and were preparing to give us a call.

Chased by Guerrillas

Galleher quickly made them out to be rebels, as they were nearly all dressed in butternut clothes (a sure sign then), and there being about a dozen of them and only three of us we had no hesitation in deciding that “discretion was the better part of valor,” and prepared to take the back track into the timber, and fall back to the train, which we thought was coming on a little way behind us.

Before doing so I borrowed the glass to take a look at the rebs, and noticed that part of them had started to follow the road around a big field of corn that lay between us and the Nave’s house; while the others were coming right across the field toward us, led by a man riding a white horse.

We were so sure that our train and escort must be close in our rear, that we were in no hurry to retreat, but on the near approach of the rebels we mounted and started back along the road we had come, which soon took us into the timber.

Our gait was leisurely at first, but was soon somewhat accelerated on hearing the clatter of hoofs of our pursuers’ horses and a few shots fired at us, through at long range.  I supposed the rebs thought they might be able to cripple some of our riding animals  and thus overhaul us. I being mounted on a rather slow mule (“Old Kate”), and the other two having good horses, I was soon dropping behind, with the Captain and Galleher calling back to me:

“Hurry up there, Peck! They’ll get you sure!”

To make them think that I wasn’t a bit scared, though I was, I answered back indifferently:

“Go ahead, you fellows. Never mind me. I’ll be coming along in the cool of the day.” But I was thinking to myself, “As it seems I can’t outrun the rebs, I guess I’ll have to take to the brush, and try to dodge them that way.” For I knew they would be loathe to crowd into an enemy in cover.

We were all exclaiming occasionally:

“Wonder what the devil’s become of our train and soldiers?” For we didn’t meet them, as expected.

The Captain and Galleher were not going to abandon me to my fate, however, but decided that the only chance to save me was to wait until I came up to them and then have me abandon my mule, mount behind one of them, and then we could outrun the rebels, as they did not seem to be following now at full speed, like they had begun the chase.

By this time we arrived at the place where the road forked- a road branching off to the north going to Tahlequah, three miles away- and here we say by the trail that our train and escort had, by mistake, taken the Tahlequah road. We quickly turned onto their trail, and feeling confident that our pursuers would turn back when they saw the tracks of our command, found it would not be necessary to abandon my mule; and, as we conjectured, the chase ended at the forks of the road.

We soon overtook our outfit and told of our little adventure, and some of the soldiers proposed to go back with us and chase the rebels awhile; but we concluded this would not pay, and as the train by this time was nearly to Tahlequah, we continued on to that place, and then followed the prairie over to Park Hill, three miles southwest, where we camped, the rebels having vamoosed.

In the chase they had given us I think they could easily have overtaken me, or compelled me to take to the brush; but the road being somewhat crooked and in many places having thickets of bushes on each side, our pursuers probably were reluctant to rush onto me, for fear we might ambush them at some sharp turn of the road.

I would not have taken up so much space in relating this incident but for the following sequel, which gives it something more of interest:

Just after the close of the war I was engaged in freighting with a four-mule team of my own, on the road between Forts Scott and Gibson, and on one trip loaded and traveled in company with a man by the name of Jasper Wilkinson, who had a four-horse team. My chance partner was a very pleasant traveling companion, who had been a Captain of a company of Arkansas bushwhackers in the rebel army, and many an hour we whiled away around our camp fires at night telling each other our war experiences.

I was relating to him one night of this chase the rebs gave us near Park Hill, and had got as far as where the party, headed by a man on a white horse, had started across a cornfield after us, when he started across the cornfield after us, when he interrupted me.

“Hold on, pard, let me tell the rest of that story!” And he went ahead and described our party and the chase; telling of my being mounted on a mule, and dropping so far behind the other; and of their following us up to the Tahlequah Road, and there finding from the trail that we had overtaken a stronger party than they cared to meet, they had abandoned the chase, returned to Park Hill, and moved off southward before we got there.

Giving all the minute details as he did proved to me that he was with the party of rebels who chased us that day, and pointing to a white horse, one of his team, he added:

“And there’s the same white horse I was riding that day- the same one I rode most of the time during the war.”

He stated that with a dozen of his men he had gone to Park Hill to try to capture Andrew Nave (a relative of Chief John Ross of the Cherokees), who was staying at home and trying to play neutral, and whom they strongly suspected of giving information to the Federals concerning the movements and whereabouts of the rebels in that part of the country.

They failed to catch Nave, but he was killed at his home by some rebels a few months later, but not my any of Wilkinson’s men.

Next day after we had talked over the Park Hill chase, Wilkinson and I were passing cabin Creek he met two men who had been members of his old company, and introduced me to them as “the feller who was riding the slow mule that we come near catching over at Park Hill in the Fall of ‘63.”

I shook hands with the old bushwhackers over the recollection of old times, and assured them that I was much happier to make their acquaintance now than I would have been then. A few years ago Wilkinson was living on a farm near Carthage, Missouri, and may be there still.

Part 10


Baxter Springs, Part I
by R.M. Peck
National Tribune, 22 September, 1904
pg. 8, cols. 1-4

Corn Harvesting

In August, taking part of my teams and all available teams of the Indian regiments and the 6th Kansas Cavalry, I was ordered to go on a foraging raid over to Okmulgee, on the Council Ground of the Creek nation, on Deep Fork, about 35 miles west of Honey Springs.

Some fields of corn in that vicinity had been reported by our scouts as being about ripe, and for fear that the rebels, who were still at North Fork Town, would get ahead of us, we slipped over there (about 50 miles from Fort Gibson), gathered the corn, loading about 100 wagons, and got back before the rebels knew anything about it.

On this trip the whole outfit of trains was put under my charge, the escort consisting of about 75 Indians and one company of the 6th Kansas Cavalry, the whole under command of Captain Dobbins, of the 4th Kansas.

If the rebs had only known that we were out stealing corn so near them they could have easily played a nice joke on us by cutting us off and taking in the whole outfit.

On our return from this foraging trip we got the news of Quantrill's raid on the city of Lawrence, Kansas, which created quite an excitement among the officers of the Indian Brigade and the soldiers and officers of the Kansas troops who were with us, and many of them were from Lawrence and vicinity.

Quantrill, the rebel guerrilla chief, whose real name was Charles Hart, had lived and taught school in Lawrence previous to the war, and consequently was well acquainted with the place and its people. He seems to have imbibed a bitter hatred for many of the most prominent citizens of Lawrence.

While I was a soldier in the Regular Army in Utah, on the Mormon Expedition in 1858, under command of Brevet Brigadier-General Albert Sidney Johnston, I used frequently to see this young man, Charley Hart, as they called him, who was a hanger-on with the Army at that time, and he was there noted as being one of the most reckless gamblers in our camp. One of his big gambling exploits I saw myself, at Fort Bridger, as I have related in “Rough Riding on the Plains.”

The Lawrence Massacre

I lived in Lawrence after the war, and have often heard the citizens there tell of the raid of Quantrill and his murderous bushwhackers.

Taking advantage of a time when there were a few of our soldiers in Kansas to oppose him, with about 300 of his desperadoes, whom he had gathered in the borders of Missouri for the purpose, he made a dash for Lawrence, 50 miles away. Starting from the Missouri line about sundown, making an all-night ride, they reached the suburbs of Lawrence at daylight on August 21, 1863.

A citizen of Lawrence, who lived in the outskirts of the town, told me afterwards that the rebels halted that morning just in front of his house, and seemed to be hesitating and arguing as to the prudence of advancing into the city, for it was then broad daylight. Some of them seemed to be fearful that the Federal forces might have got wind of their movements, and were probably prepared and waiting to give them a warm reception.

At this juncture Quantrill decided the question by riding out in front of his men and proclaiming, “All cowards can turn back! I’m going into Lawrence. Who’ll follow me?” And without waiting to see how many would go with him he put spurs to his horse and went charging into the town with every one of his miscreants at his heels.

But the citizens of Lawrence had had no warning of their danger, and were completely surprised, many of them being shot down by the murderous rebels before they had time to realize the situation. No resistance was made whatsoever, by the citizens, for they were so astonished at the sudden attack they seemed bewildered; and with no opportunity to get together and organized for defense, opposition was hopeless.

A detachment of the 5th Kansas was camped on the north side of Kaw River, just opposite the town, but was powerless to render any aid, as a squad of the rebels had seized the ferryboat on first entering the place, and prevented their crossing. There were no other soldiers nearer than Leavenworth 35 miles distant, and no railroad communication. At this time I don’t think there was a foot of railroad in Kansas.

The enemy soon had complete possession of the city , and dividing up into squads overran the place, hunting out the most prominent citizens, robbing and murdering them without mercy; compelling the bankers and business men to open their safes, and, after taking their money, shooting them down in the most cruel manner; visiting private residences, shooting down the men if any were found, looting the buildings of all money and jewelry, in many instances outraging the women, and then setting the houses afire, and standing guard over them with pistols in hand till the flames were so far advanced as to make sure of the destruction of the property before leaving. Many of the bushwhackers were provided with a pair of saddlebags each to carry off the money and jewelry captured.

After Senator Lane

When the citizens began to realize the situation many of those who had not come in contact with he enemy escaped by running away or hiding. Among these was Senator Jim Lane. Quantrill sought anxiously for Jim, to kill him, as he, Lane, seemed to be a special favorite of the guerrilla chief’s, but Lane skipped out through a field  of corn back of his house, and escaped. I believe the Senator’s house was burned with all its contents.

Another narrow escape was that of the Reverend H.D. Fisher. He also, it seemed, had been marked for a sacrifice by the rebels. A squad of them, by Quantrill’s direction, surrounded Fisher’s house before he realized the danger, and cut off all chance of his escaping by running away. His wife succeeded in hiding him amongst some old rubbish in one of the closets. The rebels came into the house and searched it thoroughly for Fisher, but could not find him. They then announced to Mrs. Fisher their determination to burn the house. She asked them for permission to take out some of her carpets and furniture. They answered, “Yes, you may save what you can get out of the house while we are starting the fire, but we won’t wait on you.”

As soon as they had gone out of the room she tore up the carpet off the floor, had Fisher lay down on the carpet and be rolled up in the bundle, which she then dragged out into the yard; and to ward off the bushwhackers she left the roll of carpet lying near the door while she returned into the house and threw out some chairs and other light things onto the roll of carpet containing her husband.

By this time the fire and smoke drove her out of the house, when she dragged her precious roll of carpet off to a safe distance and stood and saw the house and contents consumed. While the house was burning the rebels walked around swearing that they “would have liked to get hold of that Abolition preacher, to throw him into the flames and roast him,: and several times stumbled over the roll of carpet, little dreaming that the much-wanted man was rolled up there nearly smothering.

When they were satisfied that the fire had got so far advanced that it could not be put out, they mounted their horses and rode off.

Among the many thrilling incidents that were told me afterward by the citizens of Lawrence I have singled out this one concerning Fisher’s escape, because he had formerly been pastor of a congregation in Leavenworth, one of which my wife was a member, and she was intimately acquainted with him and his family. He had always been a fearless and outspoken advocate of “Abolition” and “Free State” doctrines, and had thereby made himself a conspicuous mark for the vengeance of the Missouri “border ruffians.”

Fruitless Pursuit

The rebels had undisputed possession of the town till about 10 o’clock a.m., murdering citizens, plundering and burning the best houses, both public and private, and having killed 140 helpless, unarmed men and burnt 185 buildings, Quantrill collected his men and withdrew, retreating in a southerly direction as far as the little village of Brooklyn, 12 miles south, where they robbed and burnt some more houses; then bearing off southeast for the Missouri line, escaped and returned to their old range by a different route from that they had followed to Lawrence.

Major Plumb, since a senator from Kansas, in command of the 5th Kansas detachment, and Jim Lane, with a mob of citizens, followed them and skirmished a little with the enemy’s rear-guard near Brooklyn; but the rebs succeeded in getting away with the loss of but a few men.

While in Lawrence, Quantrill had remounted those of his men who se horses were fagged by seizing the best horses to be found in the place, and on their retreat they were well-mounted on good horses, while the pursuers had to follow on such old plugs as the rebels had left.

Back to Fort Scott

In September, shortly after our foraging raid to deep Fork, captain Thomas, my quartermaster, concluded to send our contraband herd to Fort Scott and turn them over to Captain Insley, Quartermaster at that post. As I had been away from my family (wife and yearling boy) for nearly a year, I took advantage of this opportunity to take this herd to Fort Scott, and then go on to Leavenworth to see them.

Leaving my assistant, Simpson, and brother-in-law, Al. Collins, at Fort Gibson to finish up the hay hauling with the balance of the team; taking the lead team and driver of the outfit and a couple of black boys as herders- the rest of my herders to be detailed soldiers furnished by the commander of the escort- I started for Fort Scott with the contraband herd.

There were several empty trains going back to Fort Scott, and a number of refugee families; some with all sorts of teams of their own, and some being transported in the Government wagons. Our escort, consisting of Captain John E. Stewart’s (the “fighting preacher”) company of the 9th Kansas Cavalry.

On this trip to Fort Scott I found time to sport with the wild mustang stallion before mentioned, and accordingly saddled and rode him every day, and by the time I got through I had him reduced to a sufficient degree of gentleness that enabled me to sell him.  He was a natural “racker,” and made a good riding animal when ridden constantly; but, like most of his breed, if given a few days rest, would probably have to be broken again. This is a peculiarity of the wild mustang that when allowed to reach maturity before breaking they are never really trusty, and need to be kept in constant use to keep them in subjection.

Since my last trip over this route to Fort Scott I found that a little garrison had been established at Baxter Springs, consisting of one company of the 3d Wisconsin Cavalry and one of the 1st Kansas Colored Infantry. This little post was commanded by one Lieutenant Pond, of the 3d Wisconsin.

At Rock Creek, seven miles before  reaching Baxter Springs, I took a few soldiers and herders, and crossing the Spring River paid a flying visit to an old apple orchard that I knew of at the old Sam Vallier place, about two miles off the road, where each of us obtained a sack of nice apples, overtaking the train and herd in camp at Baxter Springs.

In foraging this way, away from the train, of course, we had to take the risk of getting bushwhacked, and I think that on this trip we probably missed running into a gang of rebel guerrillas; for on reaching the orchard, near the Vallier house, knowing the place to have been abandoned by the owner’s family some time previous, I was surprised to see  and smell smoke in the vicinity of the house. Leaving my sack with one of the herders to fill with apples for me, I called one of the soldiers to go with me, and drawing our pistols we rode up to the house to reconnoiter. We found a fresh fire burning in the fireplace in the house, and also one in the yard outside, and signs of a very recent cooking and eating; and along the fence we counted where twelve horses had been tied up and fed green corn in the fence corners.

From the freshness of the fires and other signs, the bushwhackers (for it was evidently a party of that persuasion) must have just left before our arrival. Probably  they had heard us crossing the river, and thinking that there was a large number of us (there were only five of six of my party), had been scared off at our approach; but if they had stood their ground they could have easily turned our little picnic into a stampede, and probably have killed or captured our entire party.

I have always felt confident that this was a gang of Quantrill’s men , for it was afterward shown that about that time he was collecting his command, consisting of about 300 cut-throats, in the neighborhood of Baxter Springs, with the intention of making an attack on Lieutenant Pond’s camp.

The third day after passing Baxter Springs we arrived in Fort Scott, on the evening of Sunday, October 4, 1863, and met General Blunt and party, just starting out for Fort Gibson. The General had but a small command, consisting of his staff, a couple of companies, one of the 3d Wisconsin cavalry and one of the 14th Kansas Cavalry as bodyguard and escort, Bill Tuft’s “Buckskin Scouts” (eight or 10 men), and a few civilians, such as clerks and other headquarters attaches. His baggage and supply train numbered about 15 six-mule teams.

The General’s Band Wagon

I took particular notice of a fine, elaborately gotten-up six-mule band wagon, which the General had recently had built, painted and furnished in grand style for his delectation, from which the musicians, in brilliant uniforms, were rendering delightful strains of soul-stirring martial music as Blunt and his gay party marched out of Fort Scott.

Someone pointed out to me a fine-looking young man riding a fine bay pacing horse and told me that was Major Curtis, Blunt’s Adjutant-General, and a son of Major General Curtis.  I was particularly attracted by the fine-looking pacer that Major Curtis rode.  Blunt had also brought along a fine two-horse carriage in which to lounge at his ease when he got tired of riding his horse. I noticed one other carriage in the outfit, which I afterward learned was owned and occupied by Mrs. Thomas, the wife of my boss, Captain Chester Thomas, who was on her way to Fort Gibson to pay the Captain a visit. I remember of thinking and remarking  as I watched this brilliant and stylish party of Blunt’s leaving Fort Scott, “Blunt is putting on a whole lot of airs for a common fourth rate major-general.”

“Pride cometh before a fall.” Three days later, at Baxter Springs, Quantrill, with his 300 murdering miscreants, was charging through the gay cavalcade, slaughtering all they overtook.

On my arrival at Fort Scott, after transferring the contraband herd to Hugh Kirkendall, Captain Insley’s Master of Transportation, I gave my teamster directions as to the road to Leavenworth, and leaving him and the two negro boys to follow on with the team at their leisure, I mounted on my best riding mule and struck out for home, which I reached in two days (120 miles), but it took the team five days.

At this time I was 24 years old, my wife 18 1/2. We had been married nearly two years and had one child, a boy one year old. I had been away from home a great deal of the time since we were married , and as the prospect was that my employment would probably keep me in the vicinity of Fort Gibson for some time to come , my wife decided to go back with men and endure the hardships and dangers of camp life with the army rather than continue to live so far apart, where even mail communication was very irregular and uncertain. I approved of the plan, and we accordingly packed such of our belongings as we could take with us in the six-mule wagon and started back to Fort Scott, in a few days after my arrival at Leavenworth, to be ready to join the next train and escort going to Fort Gibson.

A Rash Venture

As I think of it now it seems very foolish of me to  have taken my little family into that country, where the vicissitudes of war would be likely to overwhelm us with misfortune at any time; for although I knew that after we got to Fort Gibson I could provide them a comfortable place to live, and would be with or near them most of the time, still, they would necessarily suffer many discomforts and privations, and would be in almost constant danger from rebel raids.

I wonder now that I could have been so thoughtless as to expose my wife and child to such a hazardous life; but I was young and reckless, and incapable of realizing the risks I ran. Fortunately no serious evil resulted to my family from this foolhardiness of mine, but it was good luck and not good management that carried us through, and I would not take the same chances again for a mint of money. My wife, in her implicit faith in me, was willing and anxious to go anywhere with me. If she had only known it she was pinning her faith to a mighty shaky dependence, for I can see now that I was then sadly lacking in discretion and foresight.

The Massacre of Baxter Springs

Shortly after my arrival in Leavenworth we had received the distressing intelligence of Quantrill’s attack and slaughter of General Blunt’s party at Baxter Springs. On my return to Fort Scott I got full particulars of the affair from some of those soldiers and citizens who had escaped the massacre and returned to that place, and will relate the incidents here as narrated to me. It was one of those lamentable affairs- entirely too frequent in war- wherein the lives of good men are recklessly sacrificed by the blunders of reckless or incompetent officers.

For some days previous to Quantrill’s attack on Blunt’s party, the guerrilla chief had been collecting his murderous bushwhackers, unknown to the Federal authorities, in the vicinity of Baxter Springs, for the purpose of attacking Lieutenant Pond’s little garrison at that place.  It is estimated that the guerrillas numbered about 300 men. Lieutenant Pond’s force consisted of a company each of the 3d Wisconsin Cavalry and 2nd Kansas Colored Infantry. Blunt’s escort was one company of the 3d Wisconsin Cavalry and one company of the 14th Kansas Cavalry, probably about 100 men.

On the day of the catastrophe Quantrill had made his attack on Pond’s camp, surprising and killing several men who were caught outside their rifle pits, but found the little garrison better prepared for defense than the rebels had expected, and Pond’s men were successfully standing them off. Just at this time (about noon) Quantrill’s men, who were in the timber, near Pond’s camp, spied Blunt’s little command approaching. Seeing that there was only a small party with Blunt, and as they evidently were not aware of the presence of the enemy, Quantrill quickly decided to change his plan and make a sudden dash on Blunt’s command, as promising a better prospect of success than fighting Pond’s men in their entrenchment’s.

Withdrawing his men from the vicinity of Pond’s camp, he fell back into the timber, and keeping out of sight of Blunt’s men, he moved along northward in the edge of the woods till directly opposite the approaching party, which was moving along the road all unsuspicious of danger, in the open prairie between Willow Creek and Baxter Springs, about a quarter of a mile from the line of timber- an old abandoned field with a knocked-down fence intervening between the woods where Quantrill had formed his line and road that Blunt was traveling on.

Up to this time Pond’s command was not aware of Blunt’s approach, and although Blunt’s men had heard some firing in the direction of Pond’s camp, about a half mile ahead of them, they did not seem to suspect that a skirmish with the enemy had been going on there.

Blunt was riding in his fine two-horse carriage, his saddled horse being led by a servant just in the rear. He had ordered his band to the front in the fine, gaudily-painted six-mule band wagon, and was preparing to surprise Pond’s garrison with a sudden burst of martial music as he neared the Springs.

Just at this juncture Blunt’s attention was called to the line of mounted rebels riding out of the timber and moving briskly across the old field toward him. At first it was thought to be Pond’s company of cavalry our on drill; but it was quickly seen that there were too many of them for one company, and they did not have the regulation appearance of drilled soldiers.

Beginning to suspect that they were rebels, Blunt mounted his horse and made an effort to form his two companies to meet the charge, but too late- the yelling devils, with Quantrill himself in the lead, were onto and among the surprised soldiers, shooting down and riding over all they came to. Taken so completely by surprise, and at such a disadvantage, it is no discredit to Blunt’s soldiers that they broke and fled- every fellow for himself- trying to save their lives as best they could. What else could they do under the circumstances?

Few of them escaped the murderous fiends, however, for they killed all they overtook- even those who surrendered being shot down as soon as disarmed. Blunt, with about a dozen officers and men, outran the guerrillas and escaped to the top of a neighboring hill just westward of the field, where, as the rebels returned from following them, they halted and watched the destruction of their outfit.

Mrs. Thomas was riding in her carriage somewhere in the rear, and when the attack on the escort was made a Mr. Bridges (a newspaper man connected with the Fort Scott “Monitor”), who was riding with the command, caught a cavalry horse, whose rider had just been shot off him, and leading it back to Mrs. Thomas’s carriage, hurriedly assisted her to mount, and they both struck out across the prairie toward Fort Scott, and fortunately escaped.

While the rebels were galloping across the field to attack Blunt’s party, Johnny Fry, one of Tuft’s “Buckskin Scouts,” being “drunk as a fool,” galloped out to meet Quantrill and bombastically called out to him, “I order you to withdraw your men from the field, sir, by General Blunt’s command!”

Quantrill merely answered, “Get out of my way!” as he shot Fry off his horse, killing him, and rode on without even slowing up.

Major Curtis, Blunt’s Adjutant General, was overtaken and killed by Quantrill himself, also, as he (Curtis) went pacing along following Blunt’s retreating party.

Lieutenant Farr, of the 3d Wisconsin, was also killed. I don’t remember to have heard the names of the other commissioned officers who lost their lives in this affair.

Sometime afterward I met a big Sergeant of one of the companies of the escort, who was called “Big Jack,” whose face was badly disfigured by scars from Quantrill’s bullets. He told me that Quantrill shot him through the body first, and as he fell off his horse, supposing himself mortally wounded. As he lay on his back the guerrilla chief rode up and stood his horse over him, and reaching his pistol down close to Jack’s face, said to him, as he fired two balls into his face: “When you get to hell tell the devil this is Quantrill’s work.”

The fiend then rode off, supposing that he had finished the big Sergeant, but by good luck none of his wounds proved fatal, and he recovered, but will never look pretty again.

When the soldiers stampeded, the band started to run, also, in their wagon, but were soon overtaken by the bloodthirsty bushwhackers, who surrounded the band wagon and shot the musicians where they sat, only one of them succeeding in getting out before being killed- O’Neil, the bass drummer, who had formerly been an actor in a Leavenworth theater, and also a newspaper correspondent, jumped out and ran a few steps before he was brought down. His body was found where he fell, a few steps from the wagon.

The six-mule teams were overtaken and disposed of in like manner- the teamsters killed, mules taken, and wagons burned. The guerrillas seemed to have killed nearly everyone they caught, teamsters and other non-combatants being shot down the same as if they were armed soldiers. I passed over the ground a few months afterward and saw the irons of the band wagon and trains still lying where they were burned. The rebs also robbed the bodies of their victims of their pistols and all valuables, and in some instances took such articles of clothing as happened to strike their fancy. Before burning the wagons they plundered some of them of their most valuable contents, especially Blunt’s baggage, among which Quantrill is said to have captured the General’s best uniform and considerable money in Blunt’s trunk. 

Part 9


Honey Springs, Part II
by R.M. Peck
National Tribune, 15 September 22, 1904
pg. 8, cols. 1-5

At the commencement of the battle General Blunt had taken possession of the farm house for a hospital. I don’t know what became of the family, but as very little ceremony was used in such matters in war times, I suppose they were given short notice to get out, and “got.”

we soon had the ambulances scampering over the field, picking up the wounded and bringing them in. The attendants were ordered to bring in the wounded only- leaving the dead to be gathered up and buried afterward- our own men first, and the rebel wounded afterward.

I took one ambulance myself and hurried to the ground that had been occupied by Hopkin’s battery, anxious to find what had been the fate of a gallant Sergeant whom I had seen fall while bravely holding the battery’s colors in a perfect shower of shot, as it had seemed to me. From my stand it appeared that one or two other color-bearers had been shot down while holding the flag, for the colors had gone down several times during that melee. I was glad to find the Sergeant still alive, but with a broken leg, and lifting him and several other wounded men into the ambulance, I hurried them off to the hospital, where we unloaded our freight of suffering men and started the ambulance off for more.

At the hospital I found the other ambulances had already delivered several loads of wounded- many of whom were negroes- who were laid in rows, some inside the house, and some outside- wherever shade could be found. In the operating room a long table was standing in the middle of the floor. Several Surgeons were busy cutting off legs and arms, which they unceremoniously tossed out in a heap in front of the door.

The most seriously wounded were picked out and attended to first. Where a limb was to be amputated, a wounded man would be brought in and laid on the table; the Chief Surgeon examined the wound and gave orders for the operation; one would hold a handkerchief saturated with chloroform to the victim’s nose with one hand, until insensibility was produced, while the other was feeling the pulse; two more would bare the limb, apply a ligature above the wound, to check the flow of blood, and while one held it the other would make the forked incisions down to the bone all around the member; an attendant with a sponge wrung out of water stood by to mop away the blood so that the operator could see what he was doing; then the one holding the limb would, with both hands, pull back and hold up the ends of severed flesh- or “flaps,” as the doctors called them- while the operator sawed the bone; the operating  Surgeon then got out a fine steel hook, with which he picked up and drew out the ends of the arteries, which another tied with silk thread to stop the bleeding- all the while the man with the sponge was busy mopping away the blood, so that the operator could see to find the ends of the arteries, which he detects by the little stream of blood spurting from each. The “flaps” were then brought together over the end of the sawed-off bone and sewed to each other; the stump mopped off, bandaged up, the chloroform shut off, and the victim is carried away and laid in a row on the floor with others who had been operated upon.

I stood by and saw several of these amputations performed, and although it is many years since, those scenes were so vividly impressed on my memory that my recollection of them seems quite fresh.

There were quite a number of amputations performed, and I heard it said afterward that nearly every man who had a limb taken off died soon after, from the effects of the operation. This bad result was charitably attributed to the extremely hot weather at the time.

It is lamentable, but every one who witnessed the care- or want of it, rather- that was often bestowed on our wounded soldiers after a battle, must be satisfied that thousands of lives of brave men were wantonly and uselessly sacrificed for want of proper attention. I fully realize the uselessness of “crying over spilt milk;” but I am writing my experience and impressions of the war, and “these are of them.”

Some of the subjects of amputations did not seem to revive from the effects of the chloroform, and probably some never regained consciousness; as, in the rush of surgical work, doctors and assistants had but little time to devote to resuscitating  the patients. They were simply carried away from the table after the chloroform was removed from the nose and laid in a row with others and left to revive or not, according to the vitality of the man.

Some, however, recovered their sensibilities almost as soon as the handkerchief was removed from their noses. This was especially the case with the battery Sergeant, whom I had been so much interested in. After his leg was taken off, the stump done up and the chloroform taken away, he soon opened his eyes and remarked to one of the Surgeons.

“See here, Doc., if you’re goin’ to take that leg off, you’d better be about it- I’m comin’ to.”

When told that his leg was already off and the stump “done up in a rag,” he raised himself up a little on his elbows to look and see if such was really the case, remarking.

“Is it so? I didn’t know a thing about it.” And then asked, “How goes the battle?”

On being told that the rebels’ battery and their flag had been captured, and that the enemy was whipped and retreating he shouted, “Glory to God!” and fell back and was carried away by the attendants.

Growing tired of looking on at this butchery, I mounted my mule and rode over the field, first making for the ground fought over by the negroes and Texans. I saw several bodies of the blacks lying among the sumac bushes as I rode to the cornfield where the Texans had stood, but our wounded had about all been taken in from that part of the field, and as the bushes obscured the view, the dead could only be found by searching among the sumacs. Having finished gathering in our own wounded, the ambulances were now hauling in the wounded rebels.

When I think of them now, they were many unpleasant scenes on that little battlefield- some sad and pathetic, some horrible; but we got so used to such sights those days that we became callused and indifferent, often taking but slight notice of very serious affairs.

In the cornfield the men in gray lay pretty thick, although the fence must have been some protection to them. The corn was mostly cut down by the Texans. An ambulance was loading up some wounded rebels, the dead being left where they lay to be gathered together and buried afterward- the ambulance men merely examining them sufficiently to ascertain that they were past the Surgeon’s help.

For convenience in letter-writing soldiers in those times would frequently carry a small pocket memorandum, with a few envelopes and a pencil inserted. The leaves of the memorandum would just slip into the envelopes. In writing his letter on the pages of the little book, when finished the soldier tore the leaves out, slipped them into an envelope and addressed it with pencil. As it was often an impossibility for the soldier to get postage stamps, both our Government and the rebels passed laws authorizing the Adjutant’s of regiments (who performed the duties of postmasters) to forward all letters from soldiers free, in place of a stamp merely writing the words “Soldier’s Letter.”

A Pathetic Witness

In looking over the dead rebels as they lay in the corn rows, I noticed one of those little memorandum books, with a piece of lead pencil in it, sticking out of a pocket of one, and the manner in which it was placed, half-way in the dead man’s pocket, looked as though he had been writing up his diary, or a letter, and some interruption had caused him to close the book with a piece of pencil in the place where he had left off writing, to be resumed later on.

Withdrawing the little book from his pocket, I opened it at the pencil and found that the man had been writing a letter to his mother and sister, back in Texas, which the beginning of the battle had interrupted, never to be finished.

Accustomed as I was to the rough scenes of war and their cruel results, the reading of that sad, unfinished last message of a son and brother to his loved mother and sister at home, brought tears into my eyes; and, ashamed to let the nearby soldiers, who were picking up the wounded, see my weakness, I put the book in my pocket, and mounting my mule rode off into the timber, where I could finish reading it unobserved.

I cannot remember the exact wording of this letter, but it was very sad, pathetic in the extreme, and foreboding. The writer seemed to have a presentiment that this would be his last fight. He was not afraid to die, as he said, in a good cause; his greatest anxiety being, “Who will care for mother and sister when I am gone;” and saying that in case of the unfortunate result to himself, which he anticipated, he would only commend his loved ones “to the care of that Greatest Friend of the widow and orphan, who never fails to heed their cry of distress.” As for himself, if he was taken away, he would meet his fate like a soldier, saying with becoming resignation, “Thy will be done.”

This was evidently, although wearing the uniform of a private soldier, a man of some intelligence, and far above the average intelligence of Southern soldiers in the ranks. He quoted Scripture to prove their cause was right, and must prevail; but those Southerners were always glib with Scriptural quotes to sustain them. Still, the fact of their always trying to justify themselves in making war against the North was strong evidence to me that they were not so dead sure that they were right after all.

The last paragraph of this man’s letter read about like this: “The Yankees have opened on us with their big guns. Their shot and shells are crashing through the tops of the trees, but doing us little or no harm, as they pass over our heads. We are ordered forward to see what they are doing, I suppose- and at the next halt I will try to finish this letter.” But he never finished it.

As there was no name in the book, I concluded to take it to the Texas prisoners and try if any of them could recognize the book and writing, or, by such description as I was able to give of him, could tell who he was, and would take charge of the message and try to send it to that mother and sister, who would be waiting and watching with aching hearts for a word that loved one who was never to come home to them, and the resting place of whose bones, even, they would never know.

Burning Up the Camp

Just then I noticed a dense smoke rising up on the higher ground where the rebel camp had been, and I galloped across the creek and up the hill to the fire. The rebels had set fire to some buildings containing stores that they had to abandon on retreating. Our soldiers had got there in time to save some of the stuff, but most of it burned. A lot of their tents were still standing, and clothing and other property scattered about showed that they had left us in quite a hurry. No pursuit was made beyond this point, and the enemy was undisturbed in their retreat to North Fork Town, on the Canadian River.

Why was it that military leaders, on both sides during the war so seldom availed themselves of an opportunity to improve a victory by following up the defeated and disheartened foe in retreat, and inflicting further punishment on him? I know that it is generally said in such cases that the victors were not able to follow and fight, being too badly punished themselves. But it does not seem possible that a victorious army is always so badly used up as not to be able to muster still a sufficient force of men who are able to follow and pound the demoralized foe, harassing their rear at least and capturing more prisoners and property, if a strenuous effort was made to do so. I think this could easily have been done at Honey Springs.

In returning to our camp near the hospital I rode through the timber off toward what had been the right of our line. Here, also, were plenty of the familiar signs of the battle- dead men, dead mules, dead horses; scattered clothing, arms and equipments; in several places I saw piles of rolled blankets (the way that soldiers roll and tie them to carry slung around the body on the march), also haversacks, knapsacks, canteens and clothing, where some of the rebel regiments had lightened themselves to go into action, piling their surplus stuff on the ground, and had then probably been moved off to another part of the field, from which they had begun their retreat without having an opportunity to return and recover their luggage. Some of our soldiers were ransacking their baggage and appropriating such as they desired.

On returning to my camp I went again to the hospital, near where the rebel prisoners were being guarded, to inquire among them concerning the identity of the writer of the letter I had found; and was gratified to find some men who said they recognized the little book and writing, and that they knew the man’s mother and sister and would send the message to them together with an account of his death.

I here witnessed some more tearful and heart-wringing scenes among the wounded and dying Texans, who were laid out under the shade of some large trees, where some of their sound comrades were doing what they could to console them and relieve their sufferings.

Humane Enemies

Some of our soldiers- even the “D----d niggers”- forgetting the fierce hatred with which they had met and fought these men a short time ago, were now cheerfully assisting in alleviating the suffering of the wounded Texans so far as it was in their power to do so. It is a redeeming feature of the war to see the magnanimity with which the true American soldier treats his fallen foe. (I don’t include the Indians and rebel bushwhackers in this statement.) As long as the enemy is up in arms each one “does his level best” to kill the other; but when one has fallen and cries “enough,” then the sympathy of the true soldier asserts itself, and the victor, laying aside his recent animosity, extends a helping hand to his prostrate foe, and is ready to divide his hardtack and blankets with him.

But the spirit of generosity seems utterly wanting among the Indians (either rebel or Union), or the rebel bushwhackers. The Indians and Missouri bushwhacker is about on a par in fiendish brutality to helpless prisoners. My personal experience among both classes confirms in me this opinion. Only for the restraint of their white officers, our Indians would have spared none that fell into their hands, and often, like the rebel bushwhackers, did kill the prisoners they took, when their white officers were not present to prevent it. They were almost as cruel and relentless as the wild Indians on the frontier.

Among the severely wounded rebels I noticed a pale-faced boy of about 20, who was evidently nearing the end. An elderly man knelt by him whom the young man called “Uncle,” and between gasps he was giving to the uncle some verbal messages to deliver to the home folks, whom he would never see again in life.

As he seemed to realize that his remaining moments were few, he asked his uncle to pray for him; and as the old man poured forth a homely but fervent appeal for mercy and forgiveness for the soul that was about to ascend to its Maker, the lips of he young man moved as if repeating the words of the uncle; but before the end of the prayer the expression of suffering on the boy’s face relaxed into a peaceful calmness- the spirit had passed out.

As the old uncle pronounced his “Amen” one of our soldiers who was standing by uttered solemnly the words “Mustered out- mustered in!” And then added with what seemed an assumed air of levity as he turned away, “I’ll bet four dollars and a half that rebel slipped into Heaven!” as though he was surprised to think that one of them might possibly get there; but there was a sympathetic tear in his eye that gave the lie to his doubting expression.

Among the other rebel wounded some were praying, some were dictating last messages to loved ones at home, while others who were too far gone to more than groan were being prayed for by comrades who knelt beside them.

As I walked away from this sad scene to hide the tears I could not keep back, the words of a song that was often sung by the soldiers, called “The Soldier of the Legion,” came freely to mind,

“A soldier of the Legion
            Lay dying in Algiers;
There was want of woman’s nursing,
            There was dearth of woman’s tears;
But a comrade knelt beside him,
            While his life blood ebbed away,
And bent with pitying glances
            To hear what he might say.

“The dying soldier faltered
            As his comrade took his hand,
Saying, ‘Alas! I never more shall see
            My own dear, native land;
Bear a message and a token
            To some distant friends of mine;
For I was born in Bingen-
            Calm Bingen on the Rhine.’”

An Irishman’s Love

Going back into the operating room of the hospital I found the Surgeons were now busy amputating limbs for the rebel wounded. One Captain Malloy, of the 27th Texas, a fine-looking young Irishman, was on the table to have his leg taken off. He begged the doctors to spare the limb and let him “die a whole man,” for he said he knew he would die anyway; but they insisted that taking the leg off might save his life, and off it came.

This rebel, Captain Malloy, seemed to take his misfortune hard, and after he was carried from the table and laid on the floor, I walked over and stood by him. He had drawn a tintype from his breast pocket and was contemplating it earnestly, while his eyes filled with tears. Noticing my sympathetic looks he reached the picture to me, saying impulsively.

“Look at her. Ain’t she a beauty? The blamest best girl in Texas! But she’s lost to me now. And that d----d Bass, my Colonel, I mean, - is the cause of it, d--n him! You see, he and I were both courtin’ her, an’ there was no show for him while I was on the string, so I think he concluded today  in the fight that now was a good time to get rid of me; and so he left us in the cornfield when he retreated with the rest of the regiment, without sayin’ a word about retreatin’ at all, knowin’, as he must, that we would be killed or captured. Well, he’s succeeded only too well in puttin’ me out of his way; for even if I should live to get well, the girl would hardly choose a one-legged cripple in preference to a whole man.”

I tried to console him by remarking,

“I wouldn’t be discouraged. If she loved you she’ll surely not go back on you on account of your misfortune.”

“I don’t know about that,” he replied doubtfully. “Bass is a blamed fine-looking fellow himself. Can ride like a Comanche; dead shot with a pistol or rifle; can rope an’ throw a steer with any cowboy; an’ with a nice uniform on, sich a fellow’d be a devil to capture the woman’s heart- at least Texas women. I’m afraid I’d stan’ a poor show- a one-legged cripple hobblin’ about on crutches- ag’in a whole man, an’ a fine-lookin’ fellow like Bass, G-d D--n him! I don’t think it’d be worth me while to go back, if I get over this, for it’s kill me dead entirely to be refused by that girl, an’ see the other fellow walk away with her.”

He was truly a fine-looking young fellow, and in appearance well calculated to win the affections of any girl. I tried to cheer him up by assuring him that if his girl truly loved him she would stick to him even without a leg at all, but he did not seem to feel hopeful. Possibly he had well-founded doubts of his hold on the girl’s affections.

He expressed deep gratitude for the kind treatment and sympathy that he and his comrade had received from our men since their surrender, and shook hands with me at parting. I never saw him again, but was told a few days later on inquiry that he died in the hospital at Fort Gibson shortly after being removed to that place from the effects of the amputation. He was at least saved the humiliation of “being refused by that girl, an’ seein’ the other fellow walk away with her.”

At the end of the day’s work for the surgeons there was quite a little mound of legs and arms in front of the hospital door where they had been tossed out as they were taken off, which I caused to be hauled away and buried the next day.

The rebel wounded, as they were somewhat scattered in the timber and brush and difficult to find, were not all gathered in when night put a stop to the work; and no doubt many a poor fellow moaned out his life all alone before morning for the want of medical assistance.

The Rebels Had All the Advantage

Considering that the rebels had so much the advantage of us in being familiar with the locality, choosing their own ground to fight on, being sheltered by the timber, and having a fair pick at our men as they advanced over open ground, and also having a force about equal to ours- taking all these advantages, which they possessed, into consideration, they made a poor fight. They ought to have been able to whip us, and probably would if they had been well handled; but their Generals- Cooper and Stand Watie- were never successful in a pitched battle- their best hold being raiding and guerrilla war- and seemed to have made up their minds that they were going to get whipped before our men came in sight- probably greatly magnifying our numbers- and prepared to fall back on North Fork Town accordingly.

A message was received here this day (July 17, 1863), by General Blunt, forwarded from Gibson, announcing the glorious victories of our armies, after three days of desperate fighting at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and also the surrender of Vicksburg, Mississippi, where Grant took General Pemberton and 35,000 rebels, after a siege and bombardment of  several months’ duration, both of which important events had been brought to a close on the glorious 4th of July, 1863.

It had taken 13 days for the news to reach us. Such cheering as our men did on receipt of the glad tidings might have been heard a long way down in “Dixie.”

It was confidently predicted in these “crushing defeats” of the rebels would certainly bring the war to a close in a few months- that the “backbone of the rebellion” was surely broken this time, and the Southern Confederacy was dead; but in spite of these prophecies that defunct institution with the disjointed spinal column managed to worry along, and made it mighty interesting for us nearly two years longer.

After the battle of Honey Springs the contemptuous epithet of “D----d niggers,” that had previously been used so freely in speaking of the colored troops, was adopted by them as a title that they seemed rather proud of. It was common to hear the black fellows speak of their regiment as the “1st Kansas Damned Niggers,” etc.

Negroes as Soldiers

The conclusion I arrived at in reference to the fighting qualities of the colored soldiers is that they will probably do as good service as the white troops if officered and led by brave and efficient white officers. The Negro having always been accustomed to look up to the whites as a superior race naturally consider them their masters, and give them prompt obedience. But I noticed that where men of their own color are appointed as officers over them they don’t have the same confidence in these as in the white officers.

I deduce the rule that a brave and efficient white officer will make out of the average freedman a good soldier, and vice versa. The negro soldier is perfectly willing to let his white officer do his (the soldier’s) thinking; but, lacking that self-reliance that the superior intelligence of the white soldier gives him, is more liable to a panic than the white.

The white soldier, on the contrary, in spite of the oft-repeated assertion of his superiors, “You have no right to think- your officers are paid to do your thinking”- which is dinned into him from his enlistment- will persist in running a “thinkery” of his own; and where thrown upon his own resources is by no means helpless, as the darky generally is.

The next day after the battle we spent in burying the dead- our own first and then the rebel dead- and on the day following (the 19th) we moved back to Gibson.

On the return trip we found that both the Arkansas and Grand Rivers had fallen sufficiently so that we could easily ford them and dispense with the ferryboat, which, with a detail of soldiers, I towed back up to its old place in Grand River at Fort Gibson.

As I crossed the river with my train at the ford where the team of the negro regiment had drowned, the wagon and dead mules were visible above the water, and some of the black soldiers swam out to it, and fished out the bodies of the driver (one of whose feet was found to be fastened to the stirrups), and the two darky soldiers who had drowned in the wagon. These were drawn ashore by ropes. The swimmers then attached one end of a stout rope to the team, carried the other end ashore, and a party of men soon pulled the team of dead mules to the edge of the water where the carcasses were stripped of the harness and allowed to float down the river, and the wagon was pulled up onto dry ground, another set of mules put into the harness and the wagon taken away, carrying the bodies of the drowned negroes.

Taking my teams out to the hayfield, I again resumed the hay-hauling. Blunt’s little army was again dispersed, some remaining at Fort Gibson, some going to Fort Smith and other points, the General with an escort having himself to Kansas presumably to enjoy the felicitations and congratulations of his fellow-citizens on his recent victory.

A herd of contraband horses, mules and ponies had been gathered up in the vicinity of the battlefield at Honey Springs, which I had been ordered to take charge of, but as I had no available men to look after them  they were left in care of some soldiers till we got back to Fort Gibson, where what was left of them were turned over to me.

As usual, all the best animals had been sneaked off by officers and soldiers who had opportunities for smuggling them away, and only the scrubs were transferred to me for Uncle Sam. There was one exception, a large, finely-built six-year-old mustang stallion, which I modestly concluded to appropriate to my own use, wondering why the jayhawkers had left so good-looking an animal; but when I threw a rope on him I found out the reason- he was so wild and vicious that no one cared to break him.

As I was very busy about then, and could not well take time to break a wild horse, I offered to pay one of my rough riding negro teamsters $10 to ride him for me, for a few days, but they found him such a devil to fight that, after he had nearly crippled several of the boys, they threw up the job and turned him back into the herd.


Part 8


Honey Springs, Part I
by R.M. Peck
National Tribune, 8 September, 1904
pg. 8, cols. 1-5

As the rebels from the other side of the Arkansas, commanded by Generals Cooper and Stand Watie, had been threatening our communications with Fort Scott- having lately made a raid into the road and captured our mail from the North- it was found advisable to reinforce the escorts sent from Scott with the large supply trains to us; and for that purpose Colonel Phillips usually sent about 500 Indians up the road to meet the trains whenever he was notified of one starting from Fort Scott, of which he was kept informed by messengers. The distance from Fort Scott to Fort Gibson was called 160 miles by the old military road.

One of these trips in the latter part of June 1863, a detachment of the 3d Indian regiment, under command of Major John Foreman, had been sent up the road to meet a train and strengthen its escorts. The rebels had sent a force up the road also, just behind Foreman’s, to lay in wait at Cabin Creek, 150 miles from Gibson, for the train, and take it.

As the big outfit was nearing the enemy’s position, on June 30, a small reconnoitering party of rebels had been sent out beyond Cabin Creek as far as Timbered Hill, about 10 miles to ascertain the force of the train’s escort, the number of wagons, order of travel, time they were making, etc. When the rebel party reached the top of Timbered Hill they saw the long string of wagons, quite near, crawling along through the open prairie on the other side.

Fearing that they had been seen by some of our men, the rebels then rode back down the road towards Cabin Creek till clear of the hills and out of sight of the train men, and then turning off the road took a circuitous route through the prairie grass around to the rear of the Timbered Hill; then dismounted, and leaving their horses in charge of one man, they crept up to the top of the hill overlooking the road, and there, secreted in the timber, they had a, excellent and near view of the train and escort as it moved along the road past, and just below them.

The spies thought themselves so securely hidden, and being anxious to get all the information they could, concluded to remain and watch the train until the entire outfit had passed; and they then intended to cut across to the timber of cabin Creek- only a little way west of them- cross the creek, and, with their valuable information, hurry down the creek to their own command, which was lying in wait in the timber at the further side of the crossing of Cabin Creek where they intended to make the attack.

This party of rebel spies, though composed of half-breed Cherokees, did not display the usual shrewdness of the Indian in concealing their own trail, else they would have kept clear of the road which our men were to travel. I never heard  any explanation or excuse for their utter want of caution. They probably knew better next time. It was a repetition of the old, old story- they saw their blunder when too late.

Major Foreman, with his Indian, was acting as advance guard on the train, and when they came over the hill and saw the tracks of the rebels’ horses, they took up the trail and kept close watch of the tracks, which they knew were made by rebels, on account of the scarcity of horse-shoe nails in the Confederacy, they only used three nails on a side in shoeing, where our horses were always shod with four nails on each side of the shoe.

Outspying the Spy

When Foreman’s advance guard had reached the point where the rebel party had turned out of the road, they were out of the range of observation of the spies, where they were secreted on top of Timbered Hill, watching the train; and therefore the rebels did not see that Foreman halted for a few minutes, detailed a party to drop out of the column and continue following the trail- which was very plain as it turned off the road onto the dewy grass- and then the advance moved on as before.

This party trailed the rebels around to the foot of the hill, just in rear of their snug-looking station, where they had left their horses. The man in charge of the horses, on seeing our Indians approaching, fired a shot to warn his comrades of their danger, and abandoning the horses he was holding, made a run for the cabin Creek timber, and succeeded in making his escape. The spies, on the hill, hearing the alarm, ran toward their horses, but found themselves cut off by our men, and had to surrender themselves.

Major Lipe (he was a private soldier in the rebel service- Major being his Christian name, not his title) was one of these prisoners taken. (He and his wife were afterward next-door neighbors and intimate friends of my wife and me at Fort Gibson.) Mage, as we called him, told me about this affair afterward.

Lieutenant Parsons, of the 3d Indian, who was in command of our Indian party who trailed and captured the rebels, also gave me an account of it, and mentioned the fact that it was with great difficulty that he prevented his men from killing Mage Lipe and the other rebel prisoners, after they had surrendered, although the Cherokees of the two parties were mostly old acquaintances. It seems impossible for one of these Indians to forgive even one of his own people when once they are arrayed on opposite sides in war.

Mage Lipe was shortly afterwards released, but preferred to unite with the Union army rather than go back to the rebels, and therefore took the oath of allegiance to Uncle Sam. Fearing the vindictiveness of the Indians, being a half-breed himself, and knowing well their unforgiving disposition, he prudently declined to trust himself among his own tribesmen, and instead of enlisting in one of the Indian regiments he took service in the 14th Kansas Cavalry, where he served till the end of the war.

After the capture of the party of rebel scouts by Major Foreman’s men, as above stated, the train, on the morning of July 1, 1863, moved on to Cabin Creek, where our men encountered the rebels in the timber at the crossing and after a sharp little fight, in which the rebels were whipped and driven off the train then proceeded on its way to Fort Gibson, which they reached without further trouble. This was called the “first battle of Cabin Creek,” to distinguish it from another engagement (1864) at the same place.

The month of July 1863 was probably one of the liveliest months of the war. We didn’t fool away much time or ammunition shooting off fireworks or blank cartridges, or listening to spread-eagle speeches those 4th of July days during the war, that I remember; though more patriotic men never lived than our boys in blue of that period. Guns that were fired on that day in war times were generally “loaded for b’ar,” and aimed where they would do the most good in knocking out rebels.

I don’t remember that any particular demonstration was made on the 4th of July 1863 at Fort Gibson; but about that day the Army of the Potomac, under General Meade, at Gettysburg, and Grant’s army at Vicksburg were making history; though we at Fort Gibson did not hear of those momentous events till some days later.

About the 1st of July, 1863, Major General James G. Blunt- commanding all the Union troops in our part of the country- came to Fort Gibson from Fort Smith, bringing several regiments of white soldiers and a couple of regiments of negroes.

From the fact of his gathering men and material at Fort Gibson it was evident that he was contemplating a move against the rebels somewhere; and as the enemy’s forces under Generals Cooper and Stand Watie were the only considerable collection of rebels in our vicinity it didn’t take a Down East Yankee to guess which way we would move.

I was still busy hauling hay from the prairie near the Mosely place into Fort Gibson when, on the 15th of July, I received orders to rig up half my train for field service, leaving the other half under my assistant, hauling hay, and report at Captain Thomas’s office on the morning of the 16th, which I did.

Everything was as quiet as usual about General Blunt’s camp, just outside the town of Fort Gibson, and a casual observer would not have suspected than an important expedition was about to begin; but Blunt- or Colonel Tom Moonlight, Blunt’s Chief of Staff, rather- had been quietly making all necessary preparations for some days, and there was no rush or uproar about it.

It was generally well understood by the old members of the Army of the Frontier, that Colonel Moonlight, Blunt’s Chief of Staff- whom I had known when he was a First Sergeant in the 4th U.S. Artillery (Regular Army), before the war- furnished the brains for the Army of the Frontier. Tom Moonlight was a gallant, brave and efficient officer- a little too fond of liquor (in which respect Blunt himself set the pace at his headquarters), but nevertheless a good soldier; and Blunt’s successes and fame were undoubtedly attributable to Moonlight’s management. Blunt was one of those political appointees whose only qualification for the position of a commanding general was his political “pull,” backed by a bulldog pertinacity that would “fight a buzz-saw.” He had no military talents, to begin with, and never seemed to acquire such qualities during the four years of war. Before the war he was a country doctor, living on his “claim” on Pottawatomie Creek in Kansas, and through Senator Jim Lane’s influence, got an appointment as a Brigadier General in the early part of the war; and for his success in dropping in just in the nick of time at the battle of Prairie Grove, Arkansas, and saving General Herron from a probable defeat, Blunt was advanced to the rank of Major-General; though it has been claimed by some military critics that Blunt blundered into that fight and blundered through it, and the fact of the rebel General Hindman taking a scare and withdrawing in the night, after a drawn battle, eventuated in Blunt’s being left in possession of the field.

Preparing for Actual Service

The material that my teams were loaded with- hospital stores and ammunition- gave a hint of the service before us; but not a word was given out from any source of authority as to when or where we were to go. A lot of ambulances were assembled and placed under my charge also. After loading and getting everything ready for a trip somewhere I had the mules unhitched, watered, and tied back to the feed troughs, with the harness on, and fed grain; and thus we stood nearly all day awaiting orders.

About the middle of the afternoon I was ordered to take a detail of Indians and drop down the ferryboat- an open flatboat, pulled back and forth by a rope across the Arkansas just below the mouth of Grand. This was certainly a pointer. Blunt had waited until nearly night to begin the movement, so that any possible rebel spies on the neighboring hills, beyond the Arkansas, would not see what we were doing.

If I had known what a variety of services I was going to be called on to do I would have brought some extra hands along to act as assistants; but as it was I borrowed Hugh Poland, Assistant Wagon Master of the 2d Indian train, to look after the six-mule teams and ambulances, while I took general charge, giving my particular attention to the ferryboat.

A Hard River to Cross

By sundown I had everything ready and the little army began crossing the river. The Arkansas just above the mouth of the Grand River was just barely fordable, but below, where the ferry was, it was too deep. It was found that a narrow and difficult ford on Grand River just above the mouth could be used by the cavalry and some teams, and then an easy ford of the Arkansas above the mouth of Grand would expedite the crossing of both troops and teams.

While crossing at the Grand River ford a team belonging to the 1st Kansas Colored was washed away down into deep water, and the six mules, with wagon, driver and two colored soldiers, who had crept into the wagon, were drowned. The black teamster never left his saddle mule, and as he sunk out of sight was still jerking the lead-line to try to steer his team to the shore. The two men in the wagon were caught like rats in a trap- the cover being tied down all round- and drowned before they found out where they were “at.”

At the ferry I had been carrying over both soldiers and teams as they came, but as the capacity of the boat was only about one company of men or one six-mule team at a trip, it was slow work. After the accident at the ford the balance of the teams were ordered to cross by the ferry, and as it was found practicable for the infantry to ford the rivers on the route where the team had been washed away, it was ordered that they should wade it at that place, so that the boat could be used for the teams.

With all the expedition I could sue at the ferry, and being given a fresh detail of men from each regiment, it was slow work crossing the batteries and mule teams. The boat was an open flat with no railing around it, and some perverse mule would now and then get frightened at the water or something else, and go to backing away from the gunwale on one side and probably crowd some other mule or himself over the opposite gunwale into the water. When a mule once gets his ears full of water he loses heart and will easily drown unless his head is held above water by some one. I and several of the ferrymen were in the water up to our necks frequently during the night saving the contrary brutes- and I will here take occasion to remark that holding the head of a frightened, plunging mule above water in the dark is no fun.

At first we built fires on the banks to make light to see how to work, but as the light seemed to blind both us and the mules, we put the fires out and found it was not so dark but what we could see what we were doing.

We usually took the precaution to unhook the traces of the swing and lead mules as soon as the teams came onto the boat, and if one fell overboard some man would get hold of his bridle and hold his head above water at the gunwale till we reached the shore; but occasionally one would get overboard before we got his traces unhooked, and then we would have a time unhooking him or stripping the harness off in the water to keep him from dragging another mule over.

This work we kept up all night long- ferrying mules and battery horse teams. The batteries were not so much trouble; having a trained driver to each span of horses, they went along all right; but it all took time and much labor. I had crossed my train of six-mule teams and four-mule ambulances early in the evening, and sent them on ahead in charge of Hugh Poland. The regiments and batteries, with their wagons, pulled out on the road south as fast as they crossed.

Daylight was just beginning to appear in the east as I mounted my mule and rode onto the boat with the last team, tired, hungry and wet, but anxious to get to the head of the column, or at least to my train, for my outfit had been shoved ahead so that I knew it would be near the advance of all the teams.

Nearing the Enemy

Leaving a guard to take care of the ferryboat, I struck out as fast as I could travel along the road , which was encumbered with straggling teams and their attendants, and by sunrise had reached prairie outside the river bottom- about four miles from the river.

By 10 o’clock I had overtaken  my train, just in rear of the main column, which was now moving slowly, halting occasionally to give the rear a chance to close up. Shortly after this time we heard a few scattering shots some distance ahead, which proved  to be an exchange of compliments with the enemy’s pickets as they were driven back to their commands.

About noon, July 17, 1863, we had reached a point some two miles from Honey Springs, where the rebels had been permanently camped for some time , but yet there was very little sign to indicate the near presence of an enemy, as the strip of timber along the creek (where, as we afterward found, they were drawn up in line of battle waiting for us) completely hid them from our view. Up to this time we had been in hilly prairie, and the rebels had probably not seen much of our force. Before exposing his command to their view General Blunt- or Colonel Tom Moonlight, rather-decided to pull up behind some hills- previous to coming out into the last stretch of open prairie- and wait for a final closing up of our rear.

Taking advantage of the halt I ordered my teamsters to unrein their teams and let the mules nip a little grass without unhitching; and also to get out any available grub they could, and eat a snack, as I saw the soldiers just in front of us were doing the same, We were all hungry as wolves, and hardtack, raw bacon and branch water tasted fine.

As the rear guard came up the troops who had been guarding the flanks, and rear of the trains moved to the front, and were all massed in a body behind the hills that screened us from the observation of the rebs who were supposed to be waiting for us over behind the timber. So cool and unconcerned did Blunt and his officers take it, and as there was no sign you of the enemy- except an occasional mounted man who would ride out of the timber onto some elevated ground and seem to be taking a look in our direction with a field-glass, and then ride back out of sight- I began to doubt that there was any rebel force of consequence in front of us at all; but I suppose Blunt knew they were there.

Going into Battle

About 1 o’clock p.m., without any bugle calls, orders were quietly passed around by field officers and orderlies to everybody to prepare to move out again.  The cavalry and artillery mounted, the infantry shook themselves together, and in close column the little army of about 7,000 fighting men moved out by the road through a gap between the hills, that brought them out into an open plain of about a mile and a half across, through which they had to advance in face of the enemy, who was yet invisible in the strip of timber along the creek.

As soon as our column began to debouch onto the plain it was adroitly deployed to the right and left into line of battle. So quiet had everything been on the enemy’s side up to this time that I felt sure there could be only a small force before us, if any remained probably on a rear guard left to cover their retreat. I thought- for we knew they had been established here in camp for some time.

I had received no orders to the contrary, and as the troops marched I rolled out with my train, following them closely into the open prairie, but had not advanced far when an excited staff officer came galloping back to me and demanded,

“Where the devil are you going with those teams?”

“Trying to keep up with the command,” I replied.

“Why, confound it, don’t you know that the battle is about to begin? Wasn’t you ordered to stay behind the hills where you were till further orders? Hell’ll be turned loose here directly! Head ‘em about and get back behind them hills as quick as you can send ‘en! First thing you know the rebs’ll be throwin’ shells into your outfit an’ you’ll all be blowed into the middle of next week!”

Without stopping to answer him, I quickly turned my teams and hurried them back to a safe place behind the hills again, where I found the regimental trains had remained. Then cautioning the skinners to stay close to their teams, and be ready to move at a moment’s notice, Hugh and I struck out into the open ground following the advancing line of battle, determined to see the fight.

I knew that our teams were still in range of the enemy’s artillery, but thought it was a safe guess that our line of battle would occupy their attention too closely to allow them time to throw away any shells at random trying to find our trains.

About the middle of the plain that lay between the hills where our command had halted and eaten our snack, and the timber, stood a farm house- the only one in sight. After our line had passed this house some distance it was halted, as the rebs had not opened fire on us yet, and our artillery- which was distributed a battery here and there along our line from right to left- came “into battery” within less than half a mile of the timber, and began shelling the woods, to draw the fire and find the rebel position.

Opening the Fight

When our men halted I had looked for a good location where I could get a clear view of the left center of our line, from the top of which we could overlook most of the field. Riding up to the top of this little hill. Hugh and I sat there on our mules looking on, and although the rebel balls knocked up the dust around us occasionally, the sight was too attractive and exciting to let such little things interfere with so grand an entertainment.

The prairie from where our line stood to the edge of the timber was covered here and there with patches of small sumac bushes from waist to shoulder high. When our batteries opened, the rebels made their presence and location known by responding in like manner.

It was a very hot day, and our soldiers had stripped themselves of everything in the way of clothing and equipments that could be dispensed with, pilling the surplus stuff in heaps in rear of their line. I noticed that the men of a battery near me (Hopkin’s 2d Kansas) had stripped to their undershirts and pants, and the 1st Kansas Colored- Colonel Williams,- about the center of the line, had even taken off their shirts, and their black skins glistened in the sun.

On the extreme left of our line, just over a rise and out of sight from us, was our Indian Brigade, and as usual they kept up an incessant gobbling and warhooping at the enemy, who returned the compliment with like noise.

The battery near me (Hopkin’s) chanced to be placed in line opposite a rebel battery in the edge of the timber, and a very animated fight took place between the two, each seemingly determined to annihilate the other. Hopkin’s battery seemed to be getting the worst of the duel, when some mounted troops (I think these were a part of the 2d Colorado Cavalry) made a charge on the rebel battery and captured it, along with their colors.

This flag, which I saw at Blunt’s headquarters after the battle, was of three stripes- red at top, white in the middle, red at the bottom, with a blue corner covering the ends of the first two stripes, red and white, and containing 11 stars. This was the style of colors adopted by the rebels at the beginning of the war, but, as they found that at a distance they could scarcely tell their colors from our Stars and Stripes, and often mistook one for the other, they adopted  the later style- a square red field with blue stripes running diagonally across from upper to lower corner, like a letter X. The blue stripes were edged with a narrow white border and contained the 11 white stars.

When the fight ended, wounded and dead men and horses, disabled guns and caissons were scattered over the ground.

After the artillery practice had developed the enemy’s position, our line began crawling up slowly onto the rebels in the edge of the woods. I could not see clearly what was going on at our extreme right, on account of the powder smoke in that direction, but noticed a general advance all along the line. Our extreme left (the Indian Brigade) also was out of sight just over a hill, but I could locate them by their gobbling and musketry.

“The Colored Troops Fought Nobly

The 1st Kansas Colored and one other regiment of negroes being near my stand, I was very much interested in watching their part of the fight. This was the first time I had seen any negro soldiers in action, and as I had often heard the white soldiers declare that they would not believe the “niggers would fight” when brought up against the real thing, I was anxious to note how they would behave.

Just after the last advance of our line began, Colonel Williams, of the 1st Kansas Colored, was struck by a musket ball and fell; but knowing that if he left the field it would have a depressing effect on his men, although he could not sit on his horse or stand up, he had some of his men to prop him up on a pile of knapsacks in rear of their position, and from this seat directed their movements.

Although the rebels had all the advantage of position, and made it hot work, I could see that our men were slowly crawling up on the enemy’s position, and it soon became evident that the rebels were falling back in some parts of their line; but, for fear of being drawn into an ambush in the timber, no rush was made by our men- only a gradual creeping up.

I was pleased to notice that the “D----d niggers,” as they were commonly called, stood up to the work as manfully as any troops in our line; and they had a hard fight to make, too, for directly opposite to them, in the rebel line, was a regiment of Texans (27th Texas, Colonel Bass), who, as soon as they discovered that their antagonists were “D----d niggers,” did their level best to wipe that black spot off the field. The rebels were all well sheltered, this Texas regiment being placed partly in timber and part in a field of tall corn; and so intently were these ones engaged in killing negroes that when their Colonel, with the first battalion of their regiment, who were in the timber, withdrew, the other battalion in the corn field did not notice that a retreat had begun; and before they found it out some of our men had got in their rear and cut them off.

Drawing the Color Line

Seeing that they were corralled, and as a great many of them had been killed or wounded, the Texans hoisted a white flag in token of surrender; but when Colonel William’s negroes arose out of the sumac bushes with a shout of triumph and started forward to take the rebs in, the Texans could not bear the idea of surrendering to “niggers,” and accordingly doused their white flag, shouting defiantly, “Go back, you D----d S--s of B-----s!” and giving the rebel yell resumed their former occupation of killing negroes, while the black boys dropped into the bushes again and kept picking off the Texans. Again the men in gray raised the white flag; again the negroes arose to advance and receive their surrender; again the rebels dropped their flag-of-truce, and yelling defiance turned loose on the darkies. The white flag appeared on the field a third time, but the negroes, warned by previous experience, still laid low, although in obedience to their officers, they ceased firing; just them the bearer of the white flag climbed up on the fence and called out, “If you’ll send white men to take us we’ll surrender, but never to a nigger!”

General Blunt having been informed of the desperate fight going on between negroes and Texans, had ridden up to that part of the field, and ordering a cessation of hostilities, sent a white regiment to receive the surrender of the game Southerners, and was astonished to find only 60 men of the Texas battalion left standing- every officer being down, either killed or wounded. The corn rows were strung full of killed and wounded Texans.

Most of the particulars about this field between the negroes and Texans I learned after the battle from the men engaged on either side. Before the surrender, when the rebels began giving way, Hugh Poland and I hurried back to our train, where, leaving Hugh to bring up the six-mule teams and establish camp near the farm buildings, where there was a little creek, I rushed up to the ambulances to go to gathering the wounded and hauling them to the hospital.