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DANGEROUS SECRET ASSOCIATIONS.

275

1864.

August 23

hearing the firing, he landed and hastened in the direction of its sounas. He found Brooks and his men gallantly fighting double their number, so, with his followers, he dashed through the Confederate lines, joined the colored troops, and assisted them in repulsing their assailants. Colonel Brooks was killed, and fifty of his men were slain or wounded. The foe had lost more. The Union troops fell back to Helena, followed some distance b Dobbins. At about the same time fifteen hundred Confederates surprised an outpost of Fort Smith, on the border of the Indian July 27, country, which was held by two hundred of the Fifth Kansas, under Captain Mefford. After a sharp fight, in which he lost twenty-fi men, Captain Mefford was compelled to surrender. The Confederates lost thirty-two killed and wounded. Less than a month later, Shelby, with about two thousand men, struck the line of the railway between Duvall's Bluff and Little Rock, and captured nearly the whole of the Fifty-fourth Illinois, who were guarding it at three points. Guerrillas hovered in large numbers around Little Rock and other places, making communications between the military posts dangerous, and requiring heavy escort duty, which wore down men and horses. Gradually several of these posts were abandoned, and at the close of 1864 only Helena, Pine, and Duvall's Bluffs, Little Rock, Van Buren, Fort Smith, and one or two other posts in that region, were held by the National troops. These being insufficient to protect the Unionists of the Commonwealth, they became disheartened, silent, and inactive, for the guerrillas, who roamed over the State, dealt vengeance upon these “traitors” and “renegades," as they called them.

General Steele, like other old officers of the regular army, was opposed to the emancipation policy of the Government, and his alleged sympathy with the slave-holding Oligarchy of Arkansas made the army under his command a feeble instrument in upholding the National cause in that State. The consequence was, that, at the close of 1864, that Commonwealth was practically surrendered to the Confederates. The disloyal Gov

Sept. 22. ernor called a session of the Legislature, which met at Washington, and chose a Senator (A. P. Garland) to represent the State in the “Congress” at Richmond.

The condition of affairs in Arkansas was favorable to a long-contemplated scheme of invasion of Missouri, by her recreant son, General Sterling Price, which had both a military and political object in view, and, when undertaken, might have been most disastrous to the National cause but for the sleepless vigilance of General Rosecrans, who, late in January, had arrived at St. Louis as commander of the Department of Missouri. He soon discovered that the State was seriously menaced by openly armed foes on one side, and by hidden and malignant ones on the other, and within its bosom, in the form of secret associations, known as “Knights of the Golden Circle," and "American Knights,” or “Sons of Liberty.” He employed competent and trustworthy spies, who reported that these secret organizations were numerous and powerful; that they were preparing to join Price, when he should invade Missouri, in numbers not less than twenty-three thousand strong, each man of whom was sworn to perform

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276

A CONSPIRACY DISCOVERED.

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his part of the drama, which contemplated also an invasion of the Northwest, and a formidable uprising there of the sympathizers with the Confederate

They reported that General Price was the “Grand Commander” of the Missouri and Southern members of these secret leagues, and that C. L. Vallandigham was the Grand Commander of the Northern members, composed of the general and local leaders of the Peace Faction, and their dupes. It was also reported that Vallandigham was to enter Ohio boldly from Canada, to take part in the Democratic Convention for nominating a candidate for President, which was to meet at Chicago. It was also discovered that arms were extensively coming into the State, and distributed secretly among the sympathizers with the rebellion; and it was evident to the general that over the Union cause in that region great peril was impending.

Rosecrans promptly laid before the Government the information he had gathered, and asked for re-enforcements. Instead of complying with his request, an officer (General Hunt) was sent to Missouri, who made a tour of observation in the State, and reported that Rosecrans was unduly alarmed. The latter continued his investigations, and obtained positive information that danger was great and near. One of his spies visited the lodges of the secret associations, and ascertained that measures had been taken for commencing the revolution in St. Louis by murdering the Provost Marshal, and seizing the Department head-quarters. On the strength of testimony thus obtained, he arrested the Belgian consul at St. Louis, who was the “State commander” of these disloyal citizens, together with his deputy, secretary, “ lecturer,” and about forty members. The still incredulous Government ordered their release. Rosecrans, satisfied of danger, did not comply, but sent such information to Washington that the Government, convinced that he was right, approved his course, and countermanded the order. No doubt the vigilance and firmness of Rosecrans at that time was of incalculable service to the National cause.

In the mean time Price and his friends, in and out of his army, were preparing to carry out their part of the drama of invasion and revolution. The circumstances were favorable. Missouri had been stripped of troops for service elsewhere. The secessionists and guerrillas were bold, especially in the western and the river counties of Missouri. These had been watched with keen eyes, and the movements of the Confederates in Arkansas were under

the vigilant scrutiny of General Washburne, at Memphis, who Sept. 8,

gave a Rosecrans the first clear note of warning concerning a com

ing invasion. He informed him that General Shelby was at Batesville, in Northern Arkansas, waiting for Price to join him, when the invasion would begin. Rosecrans sent the information to Washington, and Halleck telegraphed to Cairo, directing A. J. Smith, then ascending the Mississippi with about six thousand troops, infantry and cavalry, destined to re-enforce Sherman in Northern Georgia, to be halted there, and, with his command, be sent to St. Louis to re-enforce Rosecrans. This strengthening

of the troops in Missouri was timely, for Price soon crossed the Sept. 21

Arkansas River, joined Shelby, and, with nearly twenty thousand men, entered Southeastern Missouri between the Big Black and St. Francis rivers, and pushed on to Pilot Knob, more than half way to St. Louis from the Arkansas border, almost without a show of opposition.

1864.

THE LAST INVASION OF MISSOURI.

277

Rosecrans had only about six thousand five hundred mounted men in his Department when this formidable invasion began, and these were scattered over a country four hundred miles in length and three hundred in breadth, with only a partially organized infantry force and dismounted men, guarding from the swarming guerrillas the greater depots, such as Springfield, Pilot Knob, Jefferson City, Rolla, and St. Louis, and the railway bridges. These were concentrated as quickly as possible after ascertaining the route and destination of Price, yet so swiftly did that leader move, that when it was seen that St. Louis was probably his first and chief objective, only a single brigade was at Pilot Knob (which is connected with the former place by a railway) to confront him. This was commanded by General Hugh S. Ewing,' who had for defenses only a little fort and some rude earth-works. But he made a bold stand, fought Price and his ten thousand men gallantly, with his little force of twelve hundred, repulsed two assaults, and inflicted on the Confederates a loss of about one thousand men. His own loss was about two hundred. His foe, with his superior force, soon took positions to command his entire post, so Ewing spiked his guns, blew up his magazine, and, finding his chosen line of retreat northward, by way of Potosi, blocked, fled westward during the night toward Rolla, where General McNeil was in command, and had just been re-enforced by cavalry under General Sandborn. At Webster he turned sharply to the north, and, pushing on, struck the Southwestern railway at Harrison, after a march of sixty miles in thirtynine hours, with an accumulating encumbrance of refugees, white and black. There his exhausted troops were struck by a heavy force, under Shelby, which had been chasing him. Ewing's ammunition was short, but he held his ground for thirty hours, when the Seventeenth Illinois Cavalry, under Colonel Beveridge, sent by General McNeil from Rolla, came to his relief. Shelby was driven off, and Ewing and Beveridge marched leisurely to Rolla.

Ewing's bold stand astonished Price, and he was greatly disappointed by the lack of the promised re-enforcements pledged by the “Knights of the Golden Circle,” and the “Sons of Liberty.” The hearts of most of these had failed at the critical moment. They were satisfied, by the arrest of their “ State Commander," that Rosecrans and the Government were fully informed of their meditated treason, and they were made exceedingly timid. Instead of seeing an uprising of " at least twenty-three thousand Sons of Liberty," as he was promised, Price received but few recruits, in the stealthiest manner, and, conscious of peril in his farther pathway northward, he moved with great caution. That tardiness, and the check given him by Ewing, gave Rosecrans time to concentrate a considerable force at St. Louis. For a week the Confederate element seemed to have the upper hand, and guerrillas and incendiaries were active everywhere. But these soon showed circumspection, as troops poured into St. Louis. General A. J. Smith's infantry, between four and five thousand strong, were there. Soon eight regiments of the enrolled militia of the State' arrived, and these were associated with

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1 The brigade ras composed of the Forty-seventh Missouri Volunteer Infantry, detachments of the First, Second, and Third State Militia, and the Fourteenth Iowa.

? These were the First, Second, Third, Fourth, Tenth, Eleventh, Thirteenth, and Eightieth Regiments.

278

THIE MISSOURI CAPITAL TIIREATENED.

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six regiments of Illinois one hundred days' men,' whose term of service had expired, but who patriotically went to the assistance of Rosecrans.

Meanwhile, the troops in the central portion of the State were concentrated at the capital, Jefferson City, by General Brown, who was re-enforced by General Fisk with all available troops north of the Missouri River. The Union citizens in that region cordially co-operated with the military, and before Price turned his face in that direction, the capital was well fortified. The invader advanced by way of Potosi to the Meramec River, crossed it, and took post at Rich wood's, within forty miles of St. Louis, when, after remaining a day or two, and evidently satisfied that an attempt to take that city would be very hazardous, he burned the bridge at Moselle, and then marched rapidly in the direction of Jefferson City, followed by General A. J. Smith and his entire command.

Price burned bridges behind him, to impede his pursuers, and appeared before the Missouri capital on the 7th of October, just after Generals MeNeil and Sandborn, with all the mounted men they could muster, had reached there by a forced march from Rolla. The united forces made a garrison of a little more than four thousand cavalry and less than three thousand infantry. A slight resistance was offered to Price at the crossing of the Little Moreau River, four or five miles east of the city, when the opposers fell back, and the Confederates enveloped the town in a line semicircular in form and nearly four miles in length, the wings resting on the Missouri. Taking counsel of prudence, after looking at the defenses which the troops of Brown and Fisk and the strong hands of the citizens had thrown up in the space of a few days, the invader sent his trains westward, and followed with his whole army, leaving the capital untouched by his guns.

. General Pleasanton arrived at Jefferson City on the day after Price left it, assumed chief command, and sent General Sandborn with his cavalry in pursuit of the fugitive, with instructions to delay his march, so that General Smith might overtake him. Sandborn struck his rear-guard at Versailles, and ascertained that Price was marching directly on Booneville. Shelby's cavalry quickly enveloped Sandborn, who made a timely retreat, and, falling back a short distance to California, was overtaken there by Smith's cavalry, under Colonel Catherwood, with needed supplies. In the mean time re-enforcements from the Nationals were coming from St. Louis. General Mower had followed Price out of Arkansas, and struck the Mississippi at Cape Girardeau, after a fatiguing march of three hundred miles in the space of eighteen days. His army was so worn, man and beast, that Rosecrans sent steamboats to Cape Girardeau for them, and they were taken to St. Louis, whence the infantry were conveyed up the Missouri on steamers, while the cavalry, fifteen hundred strong, under General Winslow, marched to Jefferson City by land.

Price was now moving toward Kansas, with a heavy force, in pursuit. The National cavalry, with Pleasanton in immediate command, led in the chase. As the Confederates marched westward they found more sympathizers, and became bolder. Price sent Shelby across the Missouri River at

1 These were the One Hundrer and Thirty-second, One Hundred and Thirty-fourth, One Hundred and Thirty-sixth, One Hundred und Thirty-ninth, One Hundred and Fortieth, and One Hundred and Forty-second Regiments.

CONFEDERATES RETREAT TOWARD KANSAS.

279

Arrow Rock, to strike a Union force at Glasgow, in Howard County. After a sharp fight for several hours, he captured the place, with its defenders, under Colonel Harding, composed of a part of his Forty-third Missouri, and small detachments of the Ninth Missouri militia and Seventeenth Illinois Cavalry. This temerity would have been punished by a serious, if not fatal, blow upon Price's main body, had not the pursuing General Smith been detained at the Lamine River, on account of the destruction of the railway bridge at the crossing on his route. There he was overtaken by General Mower, when, with a few days' provisions, and in light marching order, he pushed on directly westward, toward Warrensburg, while Pleasanton, with his cavalry, including those under Winslow, was sweeping over the country north ward to the Missouri River, in the direction of Lexington, which Price's advance reached on the 20th of October. Blunt, who had come out of Kansas, had been driven back to Independence, near the western border of Missouri, by Price, and the ranks of the latter were being increased by recruits.

And now a single false step of the pursuers deprived them of the solid advantages they had been gaining. Rosecrans, at St. Louis, not fully comprehending the importance of cutting off Price's retreat into Arkansas, ordered Pleasanton (by telegraph) to move directly on Lexington, and directed Smith to abandon his westward line of march and follow Pleasanton in the direct pursuit of Price. The orders were obeyed, and the game was lost. The pursued, burning bridges behind him, outstripped his pursuers. He had left Lexington when Pleasanton's advance, under McNeil and Sandborn, reached that place on the evening of the 20th," and was moving rapidly westward. - At Little Blue Creek he struck Blunt's Kansas troops, then under General Curtis, who had just assumed command of them. After a sharp contest of a few hours, Curtis, hard pressed on front and flank by a superior force, fell back to the Big Blue Creek, where he took a strong position and awaited an attack. Meanwhile, Pleasanton, with all his cavalry, had pushed on after Price with great vigor. When he reached the Little Blue he found the bridge destroyed, and the Confederate rear-guard prepared to resist his passage with strong force. They were soon driven, and Pleasanton pressed on to Independence, then held by the enemy. He captured that place at seven o'clock in the evening by a brilliant charge, by which he drove the Confederates and seized two of their guns.

From Independence Pleasanton sent McNeil with his cavalry toward Little Santa Fé, to intercept Price's retreat, and at the same time asked Rosecrans, by telegraph, to order Smith to the former place. Rosecrans did so. Meanwhile, Pleasanton pushed vigorously on after the fugitives, and on the following morning approached the Big Blue, where he found the main body of the Confederates, who had striven in vain, the day before, to drive Curtis from his position. Pleasanton fell upon them at seven o'clock in the morning. A sharp struggle ensued, which lasted until past noon, when the Confederates gave way and fled toward Little Santa Fé, closely pursued by Pleasanton and Curtis. On the same afternoon Smith reached Independence, with nine thousand infantry and five batteries. His men were very weary, yet they were moved at once

• Oct., 1864.

October 23.

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