« PreviousContinue »
LYON ADVANCES ON THE REBELS.
ten or twelve miles distant, advancing full upon him. His need for reinforcements was most urgent, yet he was told they could not be furnished him. What should he do? Strict military rules demanded a retreat; but then the Unionists at Springfield and the surrounding region would be abandoned to the tender mercies of the rebels, from whom they had just been delivered, and a moral defeat sustained, full of peril to the Union cause in the state. In this painful dilemma, he resolved, like a true hero and patriot, to make one desperate effort to arrest the progress of the enemy, and if he could not save Springfield, at least give Fremont time to rally his forces at St. Louis before being crushed by the two armies approaching him from the west and south.
BATTLE OF WILSON'S CREEK.
So on the 9th, he determined on the following morning to march forth in two columns, and at daylight fall like a thunderbolt on the enemy, and by a sacrifice as great as it was noble, stop him in his victorious career. At five o'clock in the evening, the little army set forth on its perilous undertaking, and marching all night, long before the first gray streak of dawn appeared in the east, approached the camp of the enemy. Here the column halted, to wait for daylight. Sigel was directed to make a detour around the right of the enemy, and fali on his rear, while Lyon moved straight on his position.
Driving in the enemy's pickets, Lyon ascended a ridge, and there in the valley before him, glittering in the early sunlight, lay more than a thousand tents, dotting the green fields, and sprinkled among the thickets, and surrounding forests. The rebels had been apprised of his approach, and stood in battle array, ready to receive him. Less dauntless soldiers would have been appalled at the overwhelming force
that stood massed below, but the men of Kansas, Iowa, and Missouri, surveyed the work before them with undismayed hearts. It was then that the batteries of Totten and Dubois, by the skillful manner in which they were worked, showed that they could supply the lack of numbers. The enemy came resolutely on, and halting three ranks deep—the first lying down, the second kneeling, and the third standingpoured in a continuous and murderous fire on our thin line. Totten's battery coming into action by sections, and by single piece, as the wooded hights would permit, hurled its shells and canister, tearing with frightful effect through the rebel ranks. The firing was incessant and awful; the opposing lines often coming within a few yards of earsh other, before delivering their volleys, while their shouts ind yells rose over the deafening roar of the guns. For a half an hour the conflict was deadly, and the contending lines swayed to and fro like two fierce opposing tides meeting in mid ocean, but each surged back only to leap to its place again. General Lyon, seeing the troops on the left of Totten's battery in disorder, led his horse along the line to rally them when the dapple gray fell dead by his side, and two balls struck him, one in his leg and the other on his head. He then waiket slowly a few paces to the rear saying, “I fear the day is lost. The next moment, however, he mounted another horse, and swinging his hat over his head, and shouting to the troops to follow him, dashed where death was mowing down the brave fastest. The enemy, in the mean time, had massed a large force in a corn field on our left, and for a short time it seemed as if that wing must be overpowered. But at this critical juncture, Dubois' battery came into position, and seni such a shower of shells into their ranks that the enemy withdrew. There was now a short lull in the contest in this portion of the field, but on the right, where the gallant First Missouri stood, the battle raged fiercer than ever. Though contest
ing every foot of ground like veterans, they were gradually being forced back by overwhelming numbers. An officer, dashing up to Lyon, reported the perilous state of things when he immediately ordered up the Second Kansas and the brave lowas, to their support. Coming into position, they lay down close to the brow of the hill, and waited the approach of the enemy as they came on in imposing, overwhelming force. Not a word was spoken as they lay with their eyes along their Minie muskets, till the foe, firing as they came, arrived within forty feet, when a sheet of fire ran along the ridge, and the crash of a simultaneous volley rolled along the astonished ranks. As the smoke lifted, a disordered host was seen staggering reluctantly back. Lyon now ordered them to charge bayonets. One of the regiments had lost its colonel, and called for a leader, saying they would follow him to the death. “I will lead you, exclaimed Lyon, “Come on, my brave men !," and placed himself in front of the Iowas, while the one-armed Sweeny rode to the head of the Kansas regiment. On came the enemy, pouring in a destructive volley as they advanced, and the brave Lyon fell dead from his steed--one of the bravest, noblest, purest patriots, that ever gave his life in a holy cause. But these gallant regiments stood rooted to the field, and the enemy finally withdrew from the fire they could not make bead against; and there was a lull in the contest, while each commenced carrying their wounded to the rear.
The command now devolved on Major Sturgis, who began to rally his disordered line. Affairs were looking gloomy enough; for twenty thousand men still stood in battle array in front, while that brave little army, though standing undaunted amid its own dead, had not tasted water since five o'clock the day before, and if it should retreat could expect none till it reached Springfield, nine miles distant. To go forward was impossible. Not a word had been heard from