Report of Maj. Gen.
Commanding Missouri State Guard, of Operations from July 25 to August 11.
AUGUST 10, 1861.--Battle of Oak Hills, Springfield, or Wilson's Creek, Mo.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME 3 [S# 3]
HEADQUARTERS MISSOURI STATE GUARD,
Springfield, Mo., August 12, 1861
His Excellency CLAIBORNE F. JACKSON,
Governor of State of Missouri.
SIR: I have the honor to submit to your excellency the following report of the operations of the army under my command at and immediately preceding the battle of Springfield:
I began to move my command from its encampment on Cowskin Prairie, in McDonald County, on July 25 towards Cassville, in Barry County, at which place it had been agreed upon between Generals McCulloch, Pearce, and myself that our respective forces, together with those of Brigadier-General McBride, should be concentrated, preparatory to a forward movement.
We reached Cassville on Sunday, July 28, and on the next day effected a junction with the armies of Generals McCulloch and Pearce. The combined armies were then put under marching orders, and the First Division, General McCulloch commanding, left Cassville on August 1 upon the road to this city. The Second Division, under General Pearce, of Arkansas, left on August 1; and the Third Division, Brigadier-General Steele, of this State, commanding, left on August 2. I went forward with the Second Division, which embraced the greater portion of my infantry, and encamped with it some 12 miles northwest of Cassville.
The next morning a messenger from General McCulloch informed me that he had reason to believe that the enemy were in force on the road to Springfield, and that he should remain at his then encampment, on Crane Creek, until the Second and Third Divisions of the army had come up. The Second Division consequently moved forward to Crane Creek, and I ordered the Third Division to a position within 3 miles of the same place. An advance guard of the army, consisting of six companies of mounted Missourians, under command of Brigadier-General Rains, was at this time (Friday, August 2) encamped on the Springfield road, about 5 miles beyond Crane Creek.
About 9 a.m. of that day General Rains' pickets reported to him that they had been driven in by the enemy's advance guard, and that officer immediately led forward his whole force, amounting to nearly 400 men, until he found the enemy in position some 3 miles on the road. He sent back at once to General McCulloch for re-enforcements, and Colonel Mcintosh, C. S. Army, was sent forward with 150 men, but a reconnaissance of the ground having satisfied the latter that the enemy did not have more than 150 men on the ground, he withdrew his men and returned to Crane Creek. General Rains soon discovered, however, that he was in presence of the main body of the enemy, numbering, according to his estimate, more than 5.000 men, with eight pieces of artillery, and supported by a considerable body of cavalry. A severe skirmish ensued, which lasted several hours, until the enemy opened their batteries and compelled our troops to retire. In this engagement the greater portion of General Rains' command, and especially that part which acted as infantry, behaved with great gallantry, as the result demonstrates, for our loss was only I killed Lieutenant Northcut) and 5 wounded, while 5 of the enemy's dead were buried on the field, and a large number are known to have been wounded.
Our whole forces were concentrated the next day near Crane Creek, and during the same night the Texas regiment, under Colonel Greer, came up within a few miles of the same place.
Reasons which will be hereafter assigned induced me on Sunday, the 4th instant, to put the Missouri forces under the direction, for the time being, of General McCulloch, who accordingly assumed the command in chief of the combined armies.
A little after midnight we took up the line of march, leaving our baggage trams, and expected to find the enemy near the scene of the late skirmish, but we found as we advanced that they were retreating rapidly towards Springfield. We followed them hastily about 17 miles to a place known as Moody's Spring, where we were compelled to halt our forces, who were already nearly exhausted by the intense heat of the weather and the dustiness of the roads.
Early the next morning we moved forward to Wilson's Creek, 10 miles southwest of Springfield, where we encamped. Our forces were here put in readiness to meet the enemy, who were posted at Springfield to the number of about 10,000. It was finally decided to march against them in four separate columns at 9 o'clock that night, so as to surround the city and begin a simultaneous attack at daybreak. The darkness of the night and a threatened storm caused General McCulloch, just as the army was about to march, to countermand this order, and to direct that the troops should hold themselves in readiness to move whenever ordered. Our men were consequently kept under arms till towards daybreak, expecting momentarily an order to march.
The morning of Saturday, August 10, found them still encamped at Wilson's Creek, fatigued by a night's watching and loss of rest.
About 6 o'clock I received a messenger [message] from General Rains that the enemy were advancing in great force from the direction of Springfield, and were already within 200 or 300 yards of the position, where he was encamped with the Second Brigade of his division consisting of about 1,200 mounted men, under Colonel Cawthorn. A second messenger came immediately afterwards from General Rains to announce that the main body of the enemy was upon him, but that he would endeavor to hold him in check until he could receive re-enforcements. General McCulloch was with me when these messengers came, and left at once for his own headquarters to make the necessary disposition of our forces. I rode forward instantly towards General Rains' position, at the same time ordering Generals Slack, McBride, Clark, and Parsons to move their infantry and artillery rapidly forward. I had ridden but a few hundred yards when I came suddenly upon the main body of the enemy, commanded by General Lyon in person. The infantry and artillery, which I had ordered to follow me, came up immediately, to the number of 2,036 men, and engaged the enemy.
A severe and bloody conflict ensued, my officers and men behaving with the greatest bravery, and with the assistance of a portion of the Confederate forces successfully holding the enemy in check. Meanwhile, and almost simultaneously with the opening of the enemy's batteries in this quarter, a heavy cannonading was opened upon the rear of our position, where a large body of the enemy, under Colonel Sigel, had taken position in close proximity to Colonel Churchill's regiment, Colonel Greer's Texan Rangers, and 679 mounted Missourians, under command of Colonel Brown and Lieutenant-Colonel Major. The action now became general, and was conducted with the greatest gallantry and vigor on both sides for more than five hours, when the enemy retreated in great confusion, leaving their commander-in-chief, General Lyon, dead upon the battle-field, over 500 killed, and a great number wounded.
The forces under my command have possession of three 12-pounder howitzers, two brass 6 pounders, and a great quantity of small-arms and ammunition taken from the enemy; also the standard of Sigel's regiment, captured by Captain Staples. They have also a large number of prisoners.
The brilliant victory thus achieved upon this hard-fought field was won only by the most determined bravery and distinguished gallantry of the combined armies, which fought nobly side by side in defense of their common fights and liberties with as much courage and constancy as were ever exhibited upon any battle-field.
Where all behaved so well it is invidious to make any distinction, but I cannot refrain from expressing my sense of the splendid services rendered under my own eyes by the Arkansas infantry, under General Pearce; the Louisiana regiment of Colonel Hébert, and Colonel Churchill's regiment of mounted riflemen. These gallant officers and their brave soldiers won upon that day the lasting gratitude of every true Missourian.
This great victory was dearly bought by the blood of many a skillful officer and brave man.
Others will report the losses sustained by the Confederate forces. I shall willingly confine myself to the losses within my own army.
Among those who fell mortally wounded upon the battle-field none deserve a dearer place in the memory of Missourians than Richard Hanson Weightman, colonel, commanding the First Brigade of the Second Division of the army. Taking up arms at the very beginning of this unhappy contest, he had already done distinguished services at the battle of Rock Creek, of the lamented Holloway [sic], and at Carthage, where he won unfading laurels by the display of extraordinary coolness, courage, and skill. He fell at the head of his brigade, wounded in three places, and died just as the victorious shout of our army began to rise upon the air. Here, too, died in the discharge of his duty Col. Ben. Brown, of Ray County, president of the senate, a good man and true.
Brigadier-General Slack's division suffered severely. He himself fell dangerously wounded at the head of his column. Of his regiment of infantry, under Col. John T. Hughes, consisting of about 650 men, 36 were killed, 76 wounded, many of them mortally, and 30 are missing.
Among the killed were C. H. Bennett, adjutant of the regiment; Captain Blackburn, and Lieutenant Hughes.
Colonel Rives' squadron of cavalry, dismounted, some 234 men, lost 4 killed and 8 wounded. Among the former were Lieutenant-Colonel Austin and Captain Engart.
Brigadier-General Clark was also wounded. His infantry, 200 men, lost in killed 17, and wounded 71. Colonel Burbridge was severely wounded; Captains Farris and Halleck and Lieutenant Haskins were killed.
General Clark's cavalry, together with the Windsor Guards, were under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Major, who did good service. They lost 6 killed and 5 wounded.
Brigadier-General McBride's division, 605 men, lost 22 killed, 67 severely wounded, and 57 slightly wounded. Colonel Foster and Captains Nichols, Dougherty, Armstrong, and Mings were wounded while gallantly leading their respective commands.
General Parsons' brigade, 256 infantry and artillery, under command, respectively, of Colonel Kelly and Captain Guibor, and 406 cavalry, under Colonel Brown, lost, the artillery, 3 killed and 7 wounded; the infantry, 9 killed and 38 wounded; and the cavalry, 3 killed and 2 wounded. Colonel Kelly was wounded in the hand. Captain Coleman was mortally wounded, and has since died.
General Rains' division was composed of two brigades. The first, under Colonel Weightman, embracing infantry and artillery, 1,306 strong, lost not only their commander, but 34 others killed and 111 wounded. The Second Brigade, mounted men, Colonel Cawthorn commanding, about 1,200 strong, lost 21 killed and 75 wounded. Colonel Cawthorn was himself wounded, and Maj. Charles Rogers, of Saint Louis, adjutant of the brigade, was mortally wounded, and died the day after the battle. He was a gallant officer, and at all times vigilant and attentive to his duties, and fearless upon the field of battle.
Your excellency will perceive that our State forces consisted of only 5,221 officers and men; that of those no less than 156 died upon the field, while 517 were wounded. These facts attest more powerfully than words can the severity of the conflict and the dauntless courage of our brave soldiers.
It is also my painful duty to announce the death of one of my aides, Lieut. Col. George W. Allen, of Saline County. He was shot down while communicating an order, and we left him buried on the field. I have appointed to the position thus sadly vacated Capt. James T. Cearnel, in recognition of his gallant conduct and valuable services throughout the battle as a volunteer aide.
Another of my staff, Col. Horace II. Brand, was made prisoner by the enemy, but has since been released.
My thanks are due to three of your staff--Col. William M. Cook, Richard Gaines, and Thomas L. Snead--for the services which they rendered me as volunteer aides, and also to my aide-de-camp, Col. A. W. Jones.
In conclusion, I beg leave to say to your excellency that the army under my command, both officers and men, did their duty nobly, as became men fighting in defense of their homes and their honor, and that they deserve well of their State.
I have the honor to be, with the greatest respect, your excellency's obedient servant,
Major-General, Commanding Missouri State Guard.
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