General Blunt's Account of His Civil War Experiences
May 1932 (Vol. 1, No. 3), pages 211 to 265
Transcription by lhn; HTML editing by Tod Roberts
digitized with permission of the Kansas Historical Society.
ONE day nearly thirty-five years ago when an employee in the state capitol was cleaning the basement he uncovered a manuscript roll addressed to Col. T. J. Anderson, adjutant general of Kansas. Written in a bold hand, the document completely filled 116 legal cap pages. The 117th page was fragmentary. Apparently the signature had been torn off, but the handwriting and character of the manuscript unmistakably identified it as that of Maj. Gen. James G. Blunt.  Colonel Anderson denied any knowledge of the existence of the report and expressed regret that it had not appeared among the early official military reports of the state of Kansas. Since the record had failed of publication in these volumes, Colonel Anderson requested Capt. Patrick H. Coney, of Topeka, to retain it and provide for its preservation. Realizing the significance of the document, Captain Coney submitted it to Col. Thomas Moonlight,  of Leavenworth, who had served under Blunt through most
In 1858 he moved to Kansas and settled at Greeley as a physician. His strong antipathy toward slavery soon drew him actively into politics. As a constitutional delegate from Anderson county Blunt attended the convention held at Wyandotte, July 5, 1859, and helped write the constitution of Kansas. He served as chairman of the committee on militia. At the first call to arms in the Civil War he volunteered for service, and later became Kansas' first major general.
After the war General Blunt settled in Leavenworth, where he resumed the practice of medicine. About 1889 he removed to Washington, D. C., and for twelve years solicited claims before the federal departments. On April 9, 1873, Bunt and others were charged by the Department of Justice with conspiracy to defraud the government and a body of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina, but the case was dismissed two years later.
Toward the end of his life Blunt became ill with what was diagnosed as softening of the brain. On February 12, 1879 he was admitted as a patient to St. Elizabeth's, a government hospital for the insane. He died there July 26, 1881.
212 THE KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
of his war campaigns. Moonlight's opinion of the manuscript is recorded in the following letter:
"LEAVENWORTH, KAN., September 20, 1898.
"MY DEAR FRIEND CONEY: I received your telegram this morning on my return home, and have this day sent by express the Blunt manuscript.
"I have read it over carefully twice and I thought once I would edit it, so to speak, and have divided it off into ten sections or publications, but when I thought over the selfishness of the whole thing and his many personal abuses against Robinson, Carney, Schofield, Curtis, etc., it seemed to me to be assuming Blunt's part, who never had done anything for me, much as I had done for him, for I say now, what I have never spoken of before, that but for myself Blunt would not stand in history with the same military victories attached to him, particular[l]y in the battles of old Fort Wayne, Cane Hill, Prairie Grove, the Van Buren Raid and the battle of Honey Springs in July, 1863. As I say, he never did anything for me, but I have always stood by him as a fighter. I left him before the Baxter Springs massacre, his troubles at Fort Smith, etc., and his successors were at all times, even in the Price Raid, where we were together. I hope you will publish it and send me a paper of each publication, as I may make up my mind to have something to say.
"Your friend, THOS. MOONLIGHT"
Despite the opinion of Anderson and Moonlight as to the importance of Blunt's account and the desirability of its publication, it was never printed.
A history and short summary of the manuscript appeared in the Topeka Mail and Breeze, November 4, 1898. On June 29, 1900, Captain Coney officially presented the report to the State Historical Society with the request that it be published some time in its entirety. In view of the highly controversial nature of the subject matter of Blunt's report, and the impossibility of justifying many of the statements it contains, no attempt has been made to edit it. The report as published here is a true copy of the original, except that to secure uniformity a few changes were made in Blunt's use of capital letters.
II. GENERAL BLUNT'S ACCOUNT.
WASHINGTON, D. C., April 3, 1866.
Col. T. J. Anderson., Adj't. Genl. of Kansas.
SIR -- Upon the receipt of your circular in October last, requesting me to furnish for your office "a brief or synopsis of my military history during the late war," I at first determined that inasmuch as many of the more prominent of my military operations have been made public through one source or another, I would forego the task of reviewing them; but since the renewal of your request in person, while in this city a short time since, I have reconsidered
BLUNT: CIVIL WAR EXPERIENCES 213
the matter, and shall now endeavor to note, as briefly as possible, such events with which I have been connected in the military service as I shall deem worthy of record and preservation in the archives of the state. In complying with your request in this matter I am prompted by no desire that my acts shall be paraded before the public, as many of them are already before the country, and whether they are good or bad, by them I must be judged.
The only inducement for performing this labor arises from the fact that there are many things connected with the public events in which I have been an actor that are best known and understood only by myself, and concerning which, in consequence of the position I occupied as an officer, I have heretofore been content to remain mute, but as they are matters, a correct knowledge of which should be accessible to the future historian in his research for data to enable him to form a correct and impartial estimate of historical events, and being now freed from the restraints of army regulations, I deem it not only justice to myself but to the state that has honored me with her confidence, and more particularly to her gallant sons, who, with those of other states, have ever so nobly sustained me with their courage and fidelity, that I shall leave upon record for future reference, such facts connected with my career as a public servant, as may be of future interest.
Such details of events as have been given in my official reports, copies of which are accessible, I shall here omit, and in dates I may not in all cases be exactly correct, as I have no data or records here to which I can refer, and must write from memory, but the facts are substantially as follows:
About the first of May, 1861, a few days after the call of President Lincoln for seventy-five thousand volunteers to suppress the Southern Rebellion, which, at Fort Sumter, on the 17th day of April previous, had culminated in an assault upon the flag of the nation, I joined a company recruited by Capt. S. J. Crawford (the present governor) in Anderson and Franklin counties, Kansas. A few days later, in conjunction with other companies from different parts of the state, we rendezvoused at Lawrence, to be incorporated into the Second regiment, but the speedy completion of this regiment being retarded in consequence of Governor Robinson attempting to control its organization, to subserve his own personal and political interest, and, in the meantime, the Hon. James H. Lane (U. S. senator) receiving authority from the Secretary of War to recruit and organize the Third, Fourth and Fifth regiments, and the Second, not having
214 THE KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
yet been mustered into service, I proceeded to assist in raising one of the new regiments, the Third, the recruiting of which was commenced immediately and rendezvoused at Mound City. By this regiment I was chosen its Lieut. Col. On the 24th of July, immediately succeeding the battle of Bull Run, the government being greatly in need of troops, we were mustered into service, by special order of the Secretary of War, with a full complement of officers, although none of the companies were recruited to the minimum required by law.
Fort Scott being threatened by the rebel forces under Gen'l Sterling Price, my regiment (the 3d) was ordered by Gen'l Lane, to that point, about the 10th of August, and formed a part of what was known as the "Lane Brigade." A short time prior to the battle of Drywood I was assigned to the command of the post of Fort Scott, and after the battle referred to, which occurred an the 2d of September, I remained at that post with the 6th Kansas (cavalry) while Gen'l Lane, with the other forces, moved north, on the left flank of Price's army, as they moved upon Lexington.
About the 20th of September, I left Fort Scott with 200 of the 6th Kansas, in pursuit of the guerrilla band under the lead of the notorious Matthews, who had been the terror of southern Kansas, and who but a short time prior, had sacked and burned the town of Humboldt, and then fallen back to their haunts in the Cherokee country. After hard marching for three consecutive nights, lying in covert during the daytime, we surprised their camp at daylight, and succeeded in killing their leader (Matthews) and two others, and dispersing and breaking up the band.
On my return to Fort Scott, I learned of the battle of Lexington, the defeat of Mulligan, and the occupation of the place by Price's rebel command. Believing, as every one else did, that troops would be concentrated to give him battle north of the Osage river, and desiring to participate in the affair, I asked to be relieved of the command of the post at Fort Scott, to join my regiment, then at Kansas City, where, upon my arrival, I found concentrated, in addition to the "Lane Brigade," about three thousand volunteer troops under the command of Brig. Gen'l Sturgis.
Information as to the movements and purposes of Price was very vague and contradictory, and, as for Gen'l Fremont, I have ever doubted that he had any correct conception of the military situation in his department, or at least, he made very poor use of the means at his command to meet the exigencies of the case in hand.
BLUNT: CIVIL WAR EXPERIENCES 215
The day following my arrival in Kansas City, I asked, and obtained permission from Gen'ls Lane and Sturgis, to make a reconnoaissance [sic] in the direction of Rose Hill, to endeavor to ascertain the whereabouts and movements of Price's command, which, from information I had received, I had reason to believe, had evacuated Lexington and was retreating south. With about four hundred cavalry, I left Kansas City at sundown, and the night being dark and rainy, we were enabled to move quietly and unobserved through Independence, and the country east, and at daylight reached the town of Lone Jack, forty-five miles southeast from Kansas City. At this point I learned beyond the possibility of a doubt, that the entire rebel force under Price, had evacuated Lexington a few days previous; that they had been encamped at Rose Hill, eight miles east of Lone Jack, for forty-eight hours, and had only left there, in their hasty retreat to the Osage river, at the middle of the night on which I was making the reconnoissance [sic], or a few hours before my arrival at Lone Jack.
From the information that I obtained, it was evident that Price was anxious to escape the consequences of the concentration of federal troops which he supposed would be made to crush him. I lost no time in returning to Kansas City, and reporting the facts that I had learned to Gen'ls Lane and Sturgis, and about twelve hours after I had done so, an order was received by them (Lane and Sturgis) from Gen'l Fremont, dated at Jefferson City, and directing them "to evacuate Kansas City, destroy all government supplies, and fall back to defend Fort Leavenworth," saying that "Price was moving up in force on both sides of the river to attack and destroy it." Although this order was imperative, leaving no margin for discretion, and under the broad seal of the Department of the Missouri, with a large amount of red tape tied around it, yet Gen'ls Lane and Sturgis took the responsibility to defer its execution until they could communicate to him (Fremont) the facts they were in possession of in reference to Price's movements, the result of which was, that the order was revoked and the commands of Lane and Sturgis ordered to move in the direction of Springfield, Mo., upon the trail of the retreating army.
Upon Price's arrival at the Osage river, in his retreat, he found that stream much swollen, occupying his army seven days in crossing. Had the available troops at Kansas City, Sedalia and Jefferson City, and the seven thousand men under Gen'l Pope on the north
216 THE KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
side of the Missouri river, been rapidly concentrated for offensive operations, Price's entire command could have been destroyed ere they could have crossed the Osage, but when Price was making his safe retreat, our troops were lying idle in camp, while Gen'l Fremont was cooped up in the Brant mansion at St. Louis, surrounded by his Bohemian guard and staff, making it hazardous for anyone to attempt to approach him on the most important and urgent business, or else making his triumphal entry to Jefferson City, treading his way from the depot to his hotel, upon a carpet spread for the occasion; and the people and the soldiers looked on in disappointment. and disgust.
The "Lane Brigade" left Kansas City about the 18th of October, at which time I was detached from my regiment and placed in command of the cavalry of the brigade. Our march through Missouri was noted for nothing very remarkable except that our trail was marked by the feathers of "secesh" poultry and the debris of disloyal beegums. We arrived at Springfield, November 1st. General Fremont had already arrived in person, and forty-eight hours after our arrival, there was concentrated at that point forty-five thousand efficient troops, well armed and equipped, having near one hundred pieces of artillery and many of them rifled, while the rebel forces, under Price, did not exceed twenty-five thousand, many of whom were armed with shot-guns and squirrel rifles, with only about twenty pieces of artillery, and of poor quality. At this time Price's command was encamped at Crane creek, twenty miles south from Springfield, while at the latter place there was much of "the pomp and circumstance of War," especially about Gen'l Fremont's headquarters. While the troops were eager for a fight, and anxiously waiting to be led in front of the enemy, Gen'l Fremont, each succeeding day, would ride out to the south of the town, accompanied by his immense staff, to examine the topography of the country and select his battle ground for the anticipated bloody conflict, which he had already illustrated on large maps, with suitable embellishments.
Fremont's plans were all upon the weak delusion that Price would attack us, and thus we presented more the spectacle of a beleaguered army than an offensive one. This condition of things continued until one day a scout brought in the information that Price had retreated into Arkansas, leaving us to "hold the bag." I thought then, in common with others, and still think that with twenty
BLUNT: CIVIL WAR EXPERIENCES 217
thousand men, less than one-half of Fremont's force, he could have gone out and attacked Price on his own ground and defeated him. The difficulty that interposed as a barrier to our success appeared to arise from the fact that Gen'l Fremont, on taking command of the Department of Missouri, had planned a campaign upon a magnificent and extended scale. It had been minutely mapped out with the aid of his foreign staff, and presented numerous prospective battle fields. It all looked very plausible, on paper, and might have proved a success could he have controlled the movements of the enemy as well as of his own forces. But, as Price had no more respect for Fremont than to have ideas and plans of his own, and did not choose to work to Fremont's programme, and as it would have been "unmilitary" in the latter, to have made any change in his plans to meet the exigencies as they occurred, therefore the campaign in Missouri, in the fall of 1861, was a failure on the part of the federal forces. All may have been planned and conducted on scientific principles and according to the text books, but there were many of us, who were novices in the art of war and did not possess the advantages of West Point, who could not appreciate the "strategy," and, agreeing with an eminent son of Illinois, who remarked of Gen'l McClellan that "no man who wore a six and a half-inch hat was competent to be commander in chief of the armies of the U. S.," we also concluded that no general who parted his hair in the middle was capable of leading an army in the field with success.
Coincident with the information that the enemy had eluded us, Major General Hunter arrived at Springfield and relieved Gen'l Fremont of the command, and a few days subsequent, about the 12th of November, under orders from Hunter, we marched for Fort Scott, while other brigades and divisions marched to Sedalia, Jefferson City, Rolla and other points, and no sooner had the army been broken up into detachments, so as to render it inefficient, than Price, with his entire command, again moved north to the Osage river, where he reposed in quiet, gathering his supplies from the surrounding country, until the expedition against him was organized by General Curtis, in the spring of 1862.
On our march back from Springfield to Fort Scott, I felt, as did many others, a disgust for our new profession of arms, and concluded that, at the rate we had been progressing, it would take a long time to put down the rebellion.
The winter of 1861 I spent with my regiment in camp on Mine
218 THE KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
creek, on the eastern border of Linn county, where, for the want of anything else to kill, we "killed time," in masticating government rations. During this time Gov. Robinson was assiduously engaged in his efforts to deprive me, and other officers, from further duty in the military service, for the patriotic reason that he could not use us to accomplish his own personal and political ends. His efforts in this direction finally culminated about the 1st of April, 1862, in the issuing of a general order from the office of the adjutant general of the state, breaking up the 3d and 4th regiments, transferring a portion of the companies to other regiments, and consolidating the remainder into a new regiment (the 10th) with the appointment of new field officers, to supersede myself and others, whom he desired to get out of the service; and while it was patent that the governor had no right to deprive an officer of his command, who had been mustered into service, or to interfere with the organization of troops mustered into the U. S. service, except by authority of the Secretary of War, yet, having the approval and cooperation of General Denver, and General Sturgis, commanding the troops and the district, by orders issued by the latter, the programme of the governor was carried into effect.
The day preceding the march of the Third regiment to Paola, to be consolidated with the Fourth into the Tenth regiment, and at the time I was expecting to be relieved from my position in the service, I received information of my appointment and confirmation as Brig. General of Vols., which dated April 8th, 1862.
This appointment, which had been unsolicited and entirely unexpected, created no less surprise on my part than it did with the citizens of Kansas.
On the 4th day of May, 1862, I received by telegraph, orders from the Secretary of War establishing the Department of Kansas, to comprise Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado and the Indian Territories, with headquarters at Fort Leavenworth, and assigning me to the command. This brought me into a new field, and imposed upon me greater responsibilities than I would voluntarily have assumed, but recognizing that it was the first duty of a soldier to obey orders, I assumed the command, inexperienced in the routine of military affairs, and with many misgivings as to my qualifications for the position, but with a firm resolve to discharge its duties and responsibilities to the best of my ability, relying upon the indulgence and cooperation of my comrades in arms, and the loyal citizens to sustain me and strengthen my hands for usefulness.
BLUNT: CIVIL WAR EXPERIENCES 219
The command of the Department of Kansas, to which I had been assigned, was, for many reasons, to me, an unpleasant and embarrassing position, which I would have gladly avoided if the matter had been left to my own choice.
Of the troops in my command, the greater portion of them were Kansas regiments, all of which had become more or less disaffected in consequence of the unauthorized interference of the governor with their organizations, while the fact that military matters in Kansas had been conducted very much in the manner of a political canvass, rendered the administration of the affairs of the department anything but pleasant to an inexperienced commander. My assignment to this command was the signal for a combined attack of all my personal and political opponents, as also the opponents of all with whom I had held intimate personal or political relations, and to make my position still more difficult, this crusade against me was headed by the governor of the state, from whom, in his official capacity, I had a right to expect cooperation, but whose acts seemed to indicate more of a desire to embarrass and complicate military operations than to contribute to their success. In this opposition to me, as commanding officer of the department, ready and willing allies were found in many of the officers of the staff departments, and others on duty at Fort Leavenworth who were of the regular army, and whose loyalty, in the case of some, at least, was not above suspicion. Their opposition was first organized by convening a "Council of War" at which Gov. Robinson and some of his political allies, together with the military officers just alluded to, were present. This convocation took place at Leavenworth city, and was intended to be kept secret, but believing it to be a movement of the "enemy," I took the precaution to ascertain their plan of attack, which was as follows: Gov. Robinson, who had already commissioned and procured the muster into service, in many instances, of two and three officers for the same position, had brought with him, to Leavenworth, a large number of commissions to be issued indiscriminately to all his friends who would accept one, when it was known that there were no vacancies for them to fill. Major Prince, the post commandant at Fort Leavenworth, was to have these officers mustered upon the request of Gov. Robinson, and thus impose upon me the responsibility of deciding who was the rightful claimant when several had been commissioned and mustered for the same position or place, expecting and hoping that my action and decision in the matters at issue would result in a general wrangling and demoralization
220 THE KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
of the troops. Another feature in their tactics was, that the officers of the regular army, before referred to, assuming that I was a novice in military affairs, were to take advantage of my inexperience, and endeavor to involve me in as many difficulties and complications as possible, and from which to extricate myself, they supposed that I would have to be relieved of the command. With the proof of these facts before me, I believed it my duty to meet their conspiracy promptly, and as I could not afford to have the usefulness of my small command sacrificed, I directed Major Prince not to permit the muster of any officer upon a commission issued by Gov. Robinson, except upon specific instructions in each case from department headquarters, while, at the same time, I warned all persons of the consequences of tampering with troops in the U. S. service, for the purpose of creating among them, dissension and discord, assuring them that anyone so attempting would be promptly dealt with, even though they might be high state functionaries. This routed my adversaries from their preconcerted purposes, and I had but little further trouble in that direction.
In complications already existing, such as a conflict of interest between officers holding commissions for the same place, I endeavored to decide the matter in question, upon the principles of law and justice, observing a strict regard for the rights of all parties concerned. Officers who had been deprived of their commands by the action of Gov. Robinson and Gen'ls Denver and Sturgis, before I assumed the command of the department, I again assigned to duty wherever there was a vacancy equal to their rank. This I did upon the assumption that the act of Gov. Robinson, in depriving them of their command, was illegal and unauthorized. In this position I was sustained by the Attorney-general of the United States, to whom the matter was referred by the Secretary of War.
Prior to the reinstating of the Department of Kansas, the same territory had been included in the Department of the Mississippi, commanded by General Halleck, who had just started an expedition of near five thousand troops to New Mexico, under the command of Brig. Gen. R. B. Mitchell. This expedition had reached Fort Riley, and was encamped there when I took command of the department. A few days later I received a telegram from the Secretary of War saying that "if I had any troops that I could spare from my department, that I should send them to General Halleck," then before Corinth, "that a decisive battle was anticipated, and that Halleck was greatly in need of reinforcements." Although I had no troops
BLUNT: CIVIL WAR EXPERIENCES 221
that I ought to have spared from my command, yet I was so impressed with the importance of a victory over Beauregard, and being then so unsophisticated as to believe that the war should be prosecuted with the utmost vigor, to suppress the rebellion, I countermanded the order for the New Mexico expedition, and directed General Mitchell to move the troops, by forced marches, to Fort Leavenworth, where, upon their arrival, I had steamers in readiness for their embarkation, and sent them without delay to Pittsburg Landing. Two days after these troops had left Leavenworth, I learned of Beauregard's safe retreat from Corinth, while Halleck was entrenched in his front with a force outnumbering the enemy as two to one. Then, when it was too late, I regretted having parted with my troops. How much my efforts to serve this officer (General Halleck) by sending him my troops, that I could not spare without great detriment to the interests of my own department, was appreciated by him, his subsequent conduct will prove.
Soon after Halleck's miserable failure at Corinth, to the astonishment of the whole country, he was ordered to. Washington and made commander in chief of the armies of the United States, and entertaining, as he always had, the most bitter and hostile feeling towards Kansas, and everything pertaining to her, and this, for no other reason than that her people were truly loyal, and understanding the real issues of the war, desired to punish traitors, while he (Halleck) being of questionable loyalty, sought to exhibit his animosity and hatred towards the state, through me, as the representative of her radical element. This was made manifest by one among the first of his acts after being installed as commander in chief, in sending to me an official paper, with an indorsement by himself, which was a studied and intended insult to the loyal people of my state, whose honor and reputation I felt it my duty to protect to the best of my ability. I therefore wrote to Mr. Stanton, Secretary of War, stating the case to him, and saying that "I would hold no further official intercourse with him (Halleck) as commander in chief, but, as a department commander, I would report directly to the Secretary, and if that was not satisfactory, then I desired to be relieved of the command of a department, and assigned to some subordinate position, where the army regulations would not require me to report to the commander in chief." In this matter I was sustained by Mr. Stanton, and never after did I have any official intercourse with Gen'l Halleck, but, while I continued to command
222 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
a department reported directly to the War Department, and received instructions direct from the same source.
In entering upon the discharge of the duties of commander of the Department of Kansas, I found myself with a large extent of territory, much of which was exposed to the operations of the enemy, and with but few troops with which to meet the emergencies. Especially was this the case after I had sent the greater portion of my best troops to reinforce General Halleck. In addition to protecting the numerous trains with government supplies, en route to New Mexico, which were exposed to raids from the Indian country and Texas, and the protection of the border from rebel incursions from Missouri, and the constantly increasing demand for troops for police duty in all parts of Kansas, to protect peaceable citizens, in the absence of the administration of the civil laws, I had information that a large rebel force was being organized and concentrated in western Arkansas, under Gen'l Hindman, for offensive operations in Kansas and Missouri. To meet this threatened invasion by Hindman's forces, I made application to the Secretary of War for additional troops, urging upon him the necessity of immediate action to avert the threatened danger. His response was that, "in consequence of the pressing demands made upon him from all quarters, for troops, he could not then furnish me the reinforcements I asked for, but would do so as soon as possible, and, in the meantime, authority would be given to raise new regiments within the department." For this purpose, Hon. James H. Lane was appointed by the Secretary of War, commissioner of recruiting, and under his immediate supervision was recruited and organized, the Eleventh, Twelfth, and Thirteenth Kansas infantry, and Third Colorado, and First Kansas Colored infantry, of which, the Eleventh and Thirteenth Kansas were ready for service in September, and joined me in the field in time to participate in the campaign in western Arkansas in the fall and winter of 1862.
A short time prior to my taking command of the department, authority had been given by the Secretary of War, to recruit and organize two regiments of infantry from the loyal refugee Indians (Cherokees, Creeks and Seminoles) then in Kansas, and field and staff officers (white men) had been appointed by the War Department for that purpose; but my predecessor, Gen'l Sturgis, had interfered to prevent the organization of these regiments, declaring that. "it was not the policy of our government to fight high-toned south-
BLUNT: CIVIL WAR EXPERIENCES 223
ern gentlemen, with Indians," and threatened the arrest of the officers if they persisted in carrying out their instructions from the Secretary of War. Immediately after assuming command, I revoked the order of General Sturgis, and facilitated the organization of these regiments as rapidly as possible.
In June I organized and started the first expedition for offensive operations south of Kansas. This force consisted of the Second, Sixth and Ninth Kansas (cavalry), the Tenth Kansas (infantry), Ninth Wisconsin (infantry), Second Ohio (cavalry), First Kansas and Second Indiana batteries, and the two Indian regiments, numbering in all about six thousand effective men, and under the immediate command of Col. William Weer, of the Tenth Kansas.
My purpose in sending this force into the Indian country was to operate against small forces of the enemy that were concentrating there, restore the loyal Indians to their homes, and, in that advanced position, to cover Kansas and southwest Missouri, until I could obtain additional troops, when I designed to take the field and operate against Hindman in western Arkansas.
This expedition penetrated as far south as Tahlequah (the capital of the Cherokee nation), defeating and capturing several small rebel forces, and was in every respect as successful as could have been anticipated, until disagreements and difficulties arose among officers, that finally culminated in mutiny and the forcible arrest of the commanding officer (Col. Weer) by his subordinate (Col. Soloman, of the Ninth Wisconsin) and the assuming of the command by the latter, and the abandonment of the Indian country.
As soon as I received intelligence of this affair, and that Col. Soloman, with the command, was falling back to Fort Scott, upon the false plea that a. large rebel force was flanking him on the east, I despatched a messenger directing him to halt the command wherever the order reached him, to send certain troops to reinforce or support the Indian regiments that had not yet abandoned the Indian country, and with the remainder of the command await further orders, assuring him at the same time, that there was no enemy threatening him on his flank, or elsewhere, and then placing the headquarters of the department in charge of an Asst. Adj't Gen'l, I left Fort Leavenworth about the eighth of August, and proceeded south, with as little delay as possible, to assume command of the troops in person.
On my arrival at Fort Scott, to my great surprise, I found the entire command at that place, notwithstanding Col. Soloman had
224 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
received my order at Baxter's Springs, sixty-five miles south of Fort Scott.
Accompanying this expedition back to Fort Scott was Chief John Ross and family and others of the Cherokee officials, bringing with them the treasures of the nation. The Cherokee regiment organized for the rebel service in 1861, and known as "Drew's Regiment," taking advantage of the presence of our forces in the vicinity of Tahlequah, abandoned the fortunes of the rebel confederacy, came within our lines, surrendered, and offered their services to the government. I accepted their offer and had them organized and mustered as the Third Indian regiment, with field and staff officers and one lieutenant for each company selected from the white regiments. This regiment numbered twelve hundred men. They served three years, which terminated just at the close of the war, and did excellent service for the Union cause.
Upon my assuming command of the troops in the field, I found them in a disorganized and demoralized condition, resulting from the mutinous proceedings before referred to. A general wrangling among officers and charges and countercharges had followed this occurrence. For the purpose of investigating the conduct of officers accused of being implicated in this insubordination and mutiny, I convened at Fort Scott a general court martial, but on learning that a large proportion of the officers were in one way or another involved in the affair, and foreseeing that an investigation would consume more time than could be afforded, I therefore dissolved the court, restored such officers as had been placed under arrest, and proceeded to reorganize the command for an active campaign in the field.
About the 30th of August, and before preparations had been completed for an advance movement, I learned that a force of rebel cavalry, of about four thousand, under Shelby and Coffee, had passed northward through Missouri; and although not within my department, I considered it my duty to act in the matter promptly, with the view of defeating them in their enterprise, which I believed to be the destruction of some of the towns on the Missouri river. With such cavalry as were well mounted, and infantry, in wagons, numbering in all between three and four thousand men, I left Fort Scott at dark, and marched all night in the direction of Pappinsville, hoping to be able to strike the enemy on the flank, but as they were all well mounted and moving very rapidly, I struck their trail twenty-four hours after they had passed north. We pushed on vigorously, moving day and night, with but little rest, and in
BLUNT: CIVIL WAR EXPERIENCES 225
sixty hours after leaving Fort Scott, and after marching one hundred miles, we came upon the enemy at Lone Jack, where, the evening before they had defeated a small force of Missouri militia, who, under the command of Major Foster, had made a gallant and desperate fight before they were overpowered by superior numbers.
The rebels, on learning of our close proximity, showed no disposition to risk an engagement, and, it being near the close of the day, they fell back under cover of heavy timber, and availed themselves of the darkness of the night to commence their hasty retreat. A terrific storm coming on, and the night being extremely dark, we were unable to resume the pursuit until daylight, when the chase again commenced and continued until near the southern boundary of Missouri; when our stock becoming exhausted and worn out, we were compelled to abandon further pursuit. Although we were unable to bring the enemy to an engagement except several times on their retreat, to attack his rear guard and punish them slightly, yet it cannot be doubted that our prompt and vigorous movements saved Lexington and Kansas City from attack and destruction.
Immediately upon our return from the pursuit of Shelby and Coffee, operations were again resumed to prepare the command for a forward movement. In addition to the forces heretofore enumerated as comprising the expedition into the Indian Territory, was a portion of the Third Wisconsin cavalry, the Third Indian regiment, and the Second Kansas battery, which had been recruited and organized, by my order, at Fort Scott.
This force was divided into three small brigades, commanded respectively by Brig. General Soloman (who had just been promoted), Col. William Weer, of the Tenth Kansas, and Col. William F. Cloud, of the Second Kansas.
About the 15th of September, I directed General Soloman to move forward with the first and second brigades, in the direction of Carthage, Mo., to cover the front of a small rebel force which was understood to be in Southwest Missouri, intending to follow myself and overtake them, with the third brigade in a few days, or as soon as I could arrange for the administration of affairs, at department headquarters, during my absence.
The day that I had intended to leave Fort Scott, I received a communication from General Curtis, announcing that the Department of Kansas had been merged in the Department of Missouri, and inclosing an order assuming command of the consolidated department, Gen'l Curtis directing that all of my available troops
226 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
were to be consolidated with the troops concentrating at Springfield under command of Brig. General Schofield. In this new arrangement, I was given the choice of returning to Fort Leavenworth and contenting myself with the command of a district, without troops, or go with my troops under the command of Gen'l Schofield, and at the same time retain command of the "District of Kansas." I chose the latter, and on the same evening, October 1st, left Fort Scott to overtake that portion of the command sent forward under Gen'l Soloman. About midnight, I met a messenger from Gen'l Soloman with despatches stating that he had an engagement the day previous with rebel forces under Generals Cooper and Shelby, at Newtonia, in which he (Solomon) had been defeated and driven back to Sarcoxie. With a small escort I pushed rapidly forward, leaving the Third brigade to follow with as little delay as possible, and the next evening, at 9 o'clock, just twenty-four hours after leaving Fort Scott, I reached Sarcoxie, a distance of eighty-five miles. General Schofield had preceded me in his arrival at Sarcoxie about twenty-four hours, and being the ranking officer, I reported to him early the morning after my arrival, for orders.
Upon consultation between us it was agreed that we should attack the rebel forces at Newtonia (six thousand strong) at daylight the following morning. It was conceded that Cooper and Shelby would not risk an engagement after learning of the strength of our force, if they could avoid it, and our plan of operations was as follows: As it was to be presumed that the enemy would be expecting an attack in front, and would have the approaches by the direct route guarded, we agreed that, with my command I should move to the right by a circuitous route, through the town of Granby, and attack them in their left flank, while Schofield was to move to the left, come in on the east of Newtonia, and throwing his cavalry -- of which he had a large force -- in their rear, cut off their retreat, after I had broken their lines and routed them. As either of us had sufficient force to risk a battle without the aid of the other, we agreed upon this plan as the surest way of "bagging all the game." We had also agreed upon signal guns to notify each other when we were in position. I had a distance to march of twenty-five miles, and before reaching Granby, I encountered a detachment of the enemy in ambush in a narrow defile, who, opening a vigorous fire upon my advance, in the darkness of the night, impeded our march for a considerable time. At daylight we encountered a regiment of mounted men at Granby, six miles from Newtonia, who fled rapidly before
BLUNT: CIVIL WAR EXPERIENCES 227
us. Driving in their pickets and advancing over the high prairie overlooking the town and surrounding country, I had an excellent view of the enemy's position and movements. Having been delayed by the ambuscade just mentioned, which brought me behind the time agreed upon, I feared that Schofield would be waiting on my movements, but on firing the signal guns I got no response, and seeing that the enemy was anxious to get away and avoid a fight, I opened a fire upon them, which, in a few minutes, resulted in their rout and hasty retreat with a small loss in killed and wounded. "After the bird had flown," General Schofield's column could be seen approaching aver the prairie from the east. He had five miles less distance to march than I had, did not encounter even a picket, and yet failed to carry out his part of the arrangement, which, had he done as agreed upon, the greater portion of the rebel force could have been captured.
From Newtonia we followed slowly on the trail of the retreating rebels, occupying near ten days in our march from that point to Pea Ridge, a distance of forty-five miles. In the meantime General Schofield had organized the command into three divisions, and designated it the "Army of the Frontier." I was assigned to the command of the first division, comprising all the troops from the former Department of Kansas. The other two divisions were commanded respectively by Generals Totten and Brown.
Our arrival at Pea Ridge was about the 15th of October, and the time since leaving Newtonia had been spent by General Schofield in making a survey of the country and mapping out roads in our rear, while the enemy kept just far enough in our advance to avoid danger and gather from the surrounding country the supplies that we should have appropriated to the use of our command. At Pea Ridge, where we lay in camp for a week, the same farce was reenacted, and during this time the rebel forces, which we had driven out of Newtonia on the 4th of October, were encamped at Elm Springs, twenty-five miles south of us, at which point they had been reinforced by about six thousand men under General Marmaduke. On the morning of the 20th of October, information was received that the rebel forces had divided at Elm Springs, Cooper and Stand Watie, with six thousand men moving west to Maysville, while Marmaduke and Shelby had moved east, with about the same number, to the vicinity of Huntsville. General Schofield then came to my headquarters and intimating that he had finished his geographical and topographical survey of the country, asked me if I had any
228 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
suggestions to make relative to future movements. This was the first time that he had consulted me since the day previous to the fight at Newtonia. I proposed that, with his permission, I would take the second and third brigades of my division and move against Cooper and Stand Watie at Maysville, leaving the first brigade to guard the transportation and supply trains of the whole command, if he (Schofield), with the other two divisions, would move against Marmaduke at Huntsville. To this proposition he agreed, and the same evening, at dark, with thirty-five hundred men, I moved to Bentonville, where we bivouacked the following day, and making a march of twenty-five miles during the second night, we surprised and attacked Cooper and Stand Watie at old Fort Wayne on the morning of the 22d of October. After a brief but spirited engagement, the enemy was completely defeated, and routed with the loss of all his artillery. In his hasty retreat to the Arkansas river, we pursued him as far as the exhausted condition of our stock would permit, and then abandoned the chase.
Ordering up the first brigade with my transportation and supply trains, I established the camp of the first division near Maysville. General Schofield, who had failed to attack Marmaduke and Shelby, at Huntsville -- notwithstanding they, with an inferior force, had offered him battle -- had returned with the second and third divisions to Pea Ridge, while Marmaduke and Shelby, after Schofield's refusal to fight, had fallen back to the Arkansas river.
I now urged Schofield to permit me to move forward with my division, but, instead of obtaining such permission, I received an order "to fall back to the vicinity of Pea Ridge, to be within supporting distance of the other two divisions." Where the danger was, to the second and third divisions, requiring this support, I have never yet. been able to learn.
In compliance with this order, I commenced moving back to the "support" of Schofield, and established my camp four miles south of Bentonville, and about twelve miles in advance of Schofield's headquarters, where I awaited further orders. Here I remained until about the 10th of November, and receiving no instructions from Schofield, but learning unofficially that he had abandoned the country, and with the second and third divisions moved back towards Springfield, the question naturally arose in my mind, what I should do. Not yet having had much experience in military affairs, I did not know but that it was a part of West Point tactics for a superior officer to abandon his subordinate, and leave him in the
BLUNT: CIVIL WAR EXPERIENCES 229
face of the enemy, with an inferior force, without any order or instructions, but I was not well enough versed in the science of war to appreciate the "strategy" of such a movement. I was now well convinced that I had been abandoned to my fate, and must act upon my own responsibility. The supply of forage being exhausted where I was, I determined to move forward where supplies, such as forage, could be obtained. Therefore, about the 10th of November, I advanced twenty-five miles, and established the camp of the first division on Flint creek, where the old military road to Fort Smith crosses that stream, and fifteen miles south from Maysville. The day after our arrival at this point, I received intelligence of Marmaduke being at Cane Hill, and having learned that Schofield, with the greater part of the "Army of the Frontier," had abandoned the campaign, he contemplated moving against my division before I could be reinforced. I determined, however, to risk a battle, and made my dispositions accordingly; and at this time, while I was each day expecting to be attacked by a superior force, I received a copy of the St. Louis Democrat containing a letter from Schofield's "army correspondent," and dated at his (Schofield's) headquarters, saying that "the Army of the Frontier had fulfilled its mission, and had gone into winter quarters near Springfield, and that General Schofield was about to leave for St. Louis to recruit his health, which had been shattered by long and arduous duties in the field."
This newspaper letter afforded me the only information as to the whereabouts of the second and third divisions that I had been able to obtain since -- in compliance with Schofield's order -- I had moved from Maysville back to the vicinity of Pea Ridge, to "support him."
For some reason, Marmaduke, at this time, failed to attack me, but fell back over the Boston mountains.
On the 26th of November, I learned that Marmaduke had again advanced to Cane Hill with eight thousand mounted men, and eight pieces of artillery, and that Hindman, with over twenty thousand infantry and artillery, then on the south side of the mountains, would join him by the 30th, when they intended moving against me in force, and crush me before I could receive assistance. In this emergency there was no alternative left me but to follow the example of my superior, and abandon the country to the enemy, or to advance upon Marmaduke at Cane Hill, attack and defeat him before he could be joined by Hindman, and then rely upon holding the entire rebel force in the Boston mountains until I could obtain reinforce-
230 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
ments. In the enemy's country we had no posts or important points to guard, and no long lines to defend. My command, though small, was mobile and free, whereas, were I to fall back before the enemy, we would have Springfield and Fort Scott, with their large depots of supplies, as well as other important points to protect, which would necessarily divide our forces, and the enemy would be free to operate where they chose; besides, to have retreated in the face of the enemy, would have the effect to discourage and demoralize my own command, and give confidence and boldness to our adversaries. After weighing all these considerations, and duly impressed with the responsibility my position imposed upon me, I determined to take the offensive.
Early on the morning of the 27th of November, after parking my transportation and supply trains, and detailing a sufficient guard to protect them, I left "Camp Babcock" with five thousand effective men (cavalry and infantry) and sixteen pieces of artillery, taking with us four days' cooked rations. Notwithstanding much of the road was rough and mountainous during this day's march, we made a distance of twenty-five miles by eight o'clock p. m., when we bivouacked ten miles from Cane Hill. At four o'clock the following morning, the column was again moving, and at ten o'clock a. m. the attack was made upon the enemy's lines at Cane Hill. After a brief engagement, their line was broken and they fell back to a second position from which they were a second time routed, and then commenced a hasty retreat. With the second and third brigades, I pursued them in their retreat for a distance of twelve miles, over the Boston mountains, they making stubborn resistance and getting severely punished. At dark we abandoned further pursuit.
I now established my headquarters at Cane Hill, and ordered up all my transportation and supplies. Learning that Marmaduke had fallen back upon Hindman's main army at Lee's creek, on the south side of the mountains, and that they intended to advance upon me in force, I felt that I had no easy contest before me. To meet the emergency, I issued a general order assuming command of the "Army of the Frontier," and despatched to Springfield to the second and third divisions to reinforce me by forced marches. Fortunately, Gen. F. J. Herron had arrived at Springfield a few days previous and had assumed command of these two divisions, and, in a few hours after receiving my telegram, was marching to my assistance. On the morning of the 5th of December, the advance of Hindman's forces, who were moving by the Cove creek road, attacked my
BLUNT: CIVIL WAR EXPERIENCES 231
outpost six miles southeast of Cane Hill and at the junction of that road with the Cane Hill and Fayetteville road. In this attack they were repulsed. On the morning of the 6th they renewed the attack in greater force, and the outpost not being strengthened, as I had directed, was driven back, thus giving the enemy possession of the Fayetteville road which led north on our left flank, and as the position then occupied by both armies was rough and mountainous, and heavily timbered, the holding of the road was an important matter, as troops could not be moved to any advantage, except by the main roads, until they got six or eight miles north of that point. All day of the sixth was spent in skirmishing in front of the second and third brigades of the first division, while Hindman was bringing up and massing his whole force at the junction of the roads before named.
Fearing a flank movement of the enemy by the Fayetteville road during the night, while with a small force they would make a feint in my front, I sent Col. J. M. Richardson, of the 14th M. S. M. (who asked to be detailed for that duty), with a force of three hundred cavalry to move out from Cane Hill by a crossroad, until he intersected the Fayetteville road, then move down said road as near to the enemy as was prudent, and there select a strong position, and if the enemy should attempt a flank movement during the night, to resist his advance and immediately notify me. Knowing well the topography of the country and that it would be impossible for them to succeed in forcing a passage until daylight, if Col. Richardson did his duty -- as I had reason to expect that he would, I awaited the result of their demonstrations in my front.
At dark the cavalry of the second and third divisions arrived at Cane Hill and reported to me for duty. Despatches from General Herron informed me that with the infantry and artillery of those two divisions, he would be at Fayetteville by daylight the next morning. I sent back instructions to him to press forward rapidly until he joined me, and apprising him of the purpose of Hindman to get between us.
At daylight on the following morning (the 7th of December) about two thousand of the enemy appeared in front of the second and third brigades. Although I had yet heard nothing from Col. Richardson -- upon whom I relied for information -- I felt convinced that the main force of the enemy had passed north by the Fayetteville road, and acting upon this theory, I directed all the transportation to Rhea's Mill, and with the first division and the cavalry of
232 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
the second and third divisions, moved rapidly in the direction of Fayetteville, on a road running parallel to that upon which the enemy were marching. About ten o'clock a. m. and about two hours after the command had been ordered to fall back in the direction of Fayetteville, I received a note from Col. Richardson, saying "that the enemy had been passing our flank on the Fayetteville road since twelve o'clock the night previous, and he judged from the rumbling of wheels that they had with them a large amount of artillery." Subsequent investigation proved that this officer (Col. Richardson) had not been nearer than a mile of the Fayetteville road, where he had quietly bivouacked, and for eight hours heard the passing of the enemy's column without even notifying me of the fact. Had he obeyed my instructions he could have successfully resisted their advance until daylight, and by promptly notifying me I could in the meantime have made such disposition of my forces as I chose.
Immediately upon the reception of this note from Col. Richardson, I detached a battalion of cavalry, and two pieces of light artillery with instructions to move rapidly across to the road upon which the enemy were moving, and attack the rear of their column, with the view of retarding their movements until I could form a junction with General Herron.
Hindman's advance met General Herron's command at the crossing of the Illinois river, and twelve miles south of Fayetteville, where skirmishing commenced about 11 o'clock a. m. Between one and two o'clock p. m. with the first division, I came in on the left front of the enemy, joining Herron on his right, just as Hindman was making his dispositions to crush him with an overwhelming force. Up to this time the engagement between Herron and Hindman's command had been carried on principally with artillery, but with very damaging effect to the latter. At two o'clock, the first division having got in position, I ordered an advance of our entire line, and then commenced one of the most determined and sanguinary conflicts of the war. The enemy occupied a position of their own choosing, which was a body of timber known as "Prairie Grove," the formation of which was such that their line was formed in the shape of an elliptic, with their rear protected by heavy timber, while we were compelled to occupy the open plain on the outside of their semicircular line.
From two o'clock until dark the battle raged furiously, and without a moment's cessation, along our entire front. Our troops, knowing the disparity of numbers, and the odds against them, fought
BLUNT: CIVIL WAR EXPERIENCES 233
with desperation, and advancing to the edge of the timber, boldly met their foe, when, for hours, the two lines swayed to and fro, while all the time our batteries were pouring into their ranks a deadly fire of cannister at short range. This condition of things continued without any material change of position, or perceptible advantage to either party, until near dark, when the enemy, seeing our inferiority of numbers, massed a heavy force to flank us on our right, while at the same time they made their dispositions to charge the batteries along the line of the first division. This movement they attempted to execute with boldness and determination, but at each point were driven back in confusion and with terrible slaughter. Darkness now put an end to the bloody strife, and not knowing to what extent we had punished them, I proceeded to make my arrangements to renew the battle at daylight the following morning. The command was directed to occupy their position in front of the enemy's lines -- sleeping upon their arms. The wounded were brought off the field and cared for; subsistence was brought up and supplied to the command; all of the transportation and supply trains sent to Fayetteville where it would require but a small guard, and General Soloman's brigade, which had been guarding it at Rhea's Mill during the battle, was brought to the front. Many of the men of the second and third divisions who had become exhausted and given out in the forced march from Springfield, came up during the night and joined their commands. The cavalry, except two or three regiments, were dismounted and prepared to fight on foot, and therefore, notwithstanding my losses in killed and wounded on that day, I could have renewed the battle in the morning with my force increased at least four thousand effective men.
During the latter part of the night I received, by truce, a note from General Hindman, appealing in the name of humanity, "for a personal interview at daylight, to agree upon terms, to enable him to care for his wounded." To this I assented and met him at daylight, at a place agreed upon, when I discovered that his army had been occupied during the entire night in a hasty, and disorderly retreat over the Boston mountains, leaving all his dead, and a portion of his wounded on the field, and having torn up the blankets of the soldiers to muffle the wheels of his artillery, to enable them to steal noiselessly away. The sacredness of a truce had been prostituted, and proved to be a trick of the high-toned chivalry to get their defeated army out of further danger.
The entire federal force engaged in the battle of "Prairie Grove"
234 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
was not to exceed eight thousand. An additional force of two thousand (cavalry) were on the field, but did not participate in the battle.
The rebel force engaged, as acknowledged by General Hindman himself, in the interview held with him, was twenty-eight thousand, while commissary returns, captured, showed that he was issuing rations to thirty thousand. The exact number of his loss in killed and wounded, I had no data of knowing. After a detail of one hundred and forty rebel soldiers, left with my permission, had occupied an entire day in burying their dead in trenches, over eight hundred of the enemy's dead were buried by my command, while fifteen hundred of his worst wounded were left upon the field in their retreat. I have since learned, from rebel sources, that the loss of the enemy in this engagement did not fall short of six thousand in killed and wounded.
The stake played for in this battle was an important one. Upon the result hung the fate of Missouri and Kansas. St. Louis was their objective point. Had our little army been defeated, there was nothing in our rear to have checked their progress, and flushed with victory, they would have moved rapidly north, augmenting their forces from the disloyal elements, as they marched, and would have entered St. Louis with a force of forty thousand before the government, at that time, could have concentrated sufficient force to operate against them.
Succeeding the battle of "Prairie Grove" some time was occupied in camp near the battle field, awaiting further developments of the enemy, and caring for the wounded.
On the 25th of December, I learned through my scouts and spies, that Hindman had been reinforced at Fort Smith, with nine thousand infantry from Little Rock and that he contemplated moving against me again and risking another battle, and I at once determined to "beard him in his own den."
Hindman's forces were on the south side of the Arkansas river, and knowing the facilities he had for ferrying them across at Van Buren, I was convinced that he could not have more than half his force on the north side before I could reach that point; and although the proposition was dissented to by all my subordinate commanders, I determined to move on him rapidly, surprise and attack him in detail, or in other words, while the river divided his force, to defeat those on the north side, and then, if the river could be crossed, attack those on the south side. Preparations for this movement were
BLUNT: CIVIL WAR EXPERIENCES 235
made with the utmost expedition and secrecy. I had created the impression in camp that I was going to fall back to Springfield, all of which was carried speedily to the enemy by their numerous friends who were inside of our lines, as I intended it should be. I directed six days' cooked rations to be prepared and a peck of shelled corn to be carried by each trooper for his horse.
On the evening of the twenty-sixth, I received a telegram from General Curtis, commanding the department, saying, "that he had information via Helena, Ark., that Hindman had been reinforced by Gen. Henry McCulloch, with nine thousand infantry from Little Rock, and designed attacking me," and "advising me to fall back and not take too great risks." At the same time I received a telegram dated at Wellsville (between Springfield and Rolla) from General Schofield, who had recovered his health, or in other words had failed to secure the promotion to major general, that he went to St. Louis for, and was returning to the command that he had, two months before, deserted. This telegram from Schofield repeated the same intelligence contained in General Curtis' despatch, and ordered me to parole the rebel wounded within my lines; remove my own wounded, then at Fayetteville (where a general hospital had been established) to Springfield, and then fall back to Springfield with the command. I considered that a decidedly cool proposition to come from an officer who had deserted his command in the face of the enemy, and immediately replied to him that "I was in command of the Army of the Frontier, and that until a superior officer arrived there and assumed command by general order, I should direct its movements, and that I should commence moving on the enemy at Van Buren at daylight the next morning."
At daylight on the morning of the 27th of December, with eight thousand efficient troops (cavalry and infantry) and thirty pieces of artillery (taking only four guns from a battery and doubling the teams), we left camp at Rhea's Mill and Cane Hill; the first division moving by the Cove creek road which passes through a narrow gorge in the Boston mountains, and frequently crossed by the meandering stream (Cove creek) which, being at that time much swollen, the infantry were compelled to wade it thirty-seven times in that day's march, the water sometimes waist deep. The second and third divisions I directed to move by the "Telegraph road," which passes over a plateau of the mountains, parallel with the Cove creek road, and from two to four miles distant. After making a march of thirty-five miles we bivouacked at ten o'clock p. m. At
236 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
four the following morning we were again on the march, and at daylight arrived at "Oliver's Store," on the south side of the mountains, and where the two roads (Cove creek and Telegraph road) form a junction. Here I placed the cavalry of the three divisions in front of the infantry and artillery, with the Second Kansas cavalry and two mountain howitzers in advance of the whole column. The distance from this point to Van Buren was twenty miles; and with the cavalry I pressed rapidly forward, directing the infantry and artillery to follow with as great speed as possible. My purpose was to surprise and capture two regiments of Texas cavalry that I knew were encamped at Dripping Spring, a point eight miles north of Van Buren. Five miles from Oliver's store we encountered the rebel pickets, and following them up rapidly came upon the rebel outpost at Dripping Springs, where we found the two regiments referred to, in line of battle and making hurried efforts to save their transportation, and camp and garrison equipage. The ground being favorable, I deployed a portion of the cavalry as they came up, and dashing upon their line, routed and drove them back in disorder, capturing their camp, transportation, &c.; and a running fight followed from there to Van Buren, the enemy several times making a determined stand, and each time being routed with more or less loss from the free distribution among them of "spherical case" from our howitzers.
The flight of the rebel cavalry through the streets of Van Buren, hotly pursued by our troops, was the first intimation had at that place that there were federal troops within sixty miles, and they were quite confident that the "Army of the Frontier" had fallen back to Springfield.
The entry to Van Buren was quite an exciting race. The two regiments of Texas cavalry dashing through the streets at full gal  op, with the despised "Yanks" close upon their heels, the sharp crack of carbines and revolvers, with the consternation and terror of the citizens, all contributed to make up an interesting tableau.
The advance entered Van Buren at ten o'clock a. m. Four steamers in the employ of the Confederate government, that had just arrived from Little Rock with supplies, having their steam up, attempted to escape down the river. I directed a detachment of the Second Kansas cavalry to capture them, which they succeeded in doing, and brought them back to Van Buren. Some of the rebel cavalry attempted to escape across the Arkansas river in the ferryboat, but when in the middle of the river a shell from one of our
BLUNT: CIVIL WAR EXPERIENCES 237
howitzers disabled the boat, when they jumped into the stream, and most of them succeeded in swimming to the opposite shore. The remainder of the two rebel regiments scattered in different directions, but were pursued by our cavalry and many of them captured and brought in.
In reading a book entitled The Great Rebellion, by J. H. Ingersoll, of Iowa, I notice that he gives the credit of the fighting done on the morning of the 28th in the advance on Van Buren, and of the capturing of the steamers, etc., to the First Iowa cavalry. While I do not wish to detract a particle from the merits of this gallant regiment, yet it is due that I should correct this error. What is ascribed by Mr. Ingersoll to the First Iowa cavalry, was done by the Second Kansas cavalry. Being myself in the advance, where all operations were conducted under my immediate direction, I cannot be mistaken as to the part taken in this affair by the different regiments.
The main force of the rebels were encamped on the south side of the river. After we had occupied the place about two hours with the cavalry, the enemy brought a battery to the south bank of the river and opened a fire upon the town, from the effects of which I lost one man killed and two or three wounded. The fire of this battery continued for about an hour when the infantry and artillery coming up I placed the First Kansas battery (ten-pound rifled Parrotts) in position, which soon silenced them and put a stop to their further amusement. The greatest damage sustained from the fire of this rebel battery was by their own friends. Early in the evening (there being a bright moon) I sent a battalion of the Second Kansas cavalry, and two sections of the First Kansas battery down the north bank of the river about four miles to a point opposite which there was a large camp of rebel infantry, with instructions to open fire upon them. The shells falling thick and fast in their camp from these rifled Parrotts, proving disagreeable visitors, they hurriedly left. A scout sent up opposite Fort Smith returned and reported to me that the enemy were burning their steamers there and evacuating the place, and the next morning revealed the fact that Hindman with his entire army had been retreating all night in the direction of Little Rock. Deserters who came in reported that they retreated in disorder and completely demoralized, doubtless the effect of their several defeats, as following this last demonstration against Hindman's command, it crumbled to
238 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
Thus in the space of thirty days had a rebel army of thirty thousand men inspired by the most extravagant anticipations of success, and operating in their own country, been successively defeated and finally broken up and destroyed by a force not half their equal in numbers, and operating far from their base of supplies.
On the evening of the 29th, the troops having become rested, and as nothing more could be accomplished in that direction, I ordered the burning of the captured boats with their supplies, and directed the command to move back to our camp north of the Boston mountains, where we had left all our supplies, transportation, etc.
Twelve miles from Van Buren, the command was met by General Schofield and staff, who returned with us to Rhea's Mill, where, on the first day of January, 1863, he resumed command of the "Army of the Frontier." It was my intention, after returning from the Van Buren expedition, to have moved east to the valley of White river, and thence through a section of country, that afforded supplies, and to have attacked Little Rock and Arkansas Post, which I had reason to believe I could do with success, and establish, at the former place (Little Rock) a base for further operations, having the Arkansas and White rivers as a line of communication for supplies, etc., but the arrival of Schofield defeated all further plans, and on the third of January I left the "Army of the Frontier" and proceeded to Fort Leavenworth to attend to the administration of affairs in my district, that had been much neglected in my absence. My geographical district now comprised Kansas, the Indian Territory and western Arkansas. Before leaving Arkansas, I made application to General Schofield for troops to hold the conquered territory then embraced in my district, and for which I was responsible, as I knew that he (Schofield) intended falling back with the "Army of the Frontier," into Missouri. In response to this request he ordered to report to me the three Indian regiments, a battalion of the Sixth Kansas (cavalry) and Hopkins' battery (a four-gun battery organized from the Second Kansas cavalry with the rebel guns captured at the battle of Maysville). This force I left in northwestern Arkansas, under the command of Col. Wm. A. Phillips, of the Third Indian regiment, to serve as an outpost and protection to southern Kansas, until I could procure troops with which again to take the field.
On my arrival at Fort Leavenworth, I met for the first time in my life, and at his request, Thomas Carney, who had just been inaugurated governor of Kansas. The governor promised me his hearty support to secure the success of military operations within my com-
BLUNT: CIVIL WAR EXPERIENCES 239
mand, or district. This I hailed as the dawning of a new era, and was rejoiced to think that at last I could rely upon the cooperation of the governor of Kansas, especially as my position imposed upon me, in the absence of the execution of the civil laws, the regulation of police affairs throughout the state.
During my absence in the field, matters left in charge of subordinates had been running rather loosely in the district. Among other things, an organization had sprung into existence known as "Red Legs," and whatever had been the primary object and purpose of those identified with it, its operations had certainly become fraught with danger to the peace and security of society. The organization embraced many of the most desperate characters in the country, while the inducements of easy gain had allured into it many persons who, in ordinary times, would never have consented to be connected with such an enterprise. Officers, soldiers and citizens had become infected until the leaders became so bold as to defy interference with their operations. Letters intercepted, passing from one to another of the principal actors in this organization, proved a most deplorable state of affairs, and showed that it extended into Colorado, Nebraska and Iowa. A reign of terror was inaugurated, and no man's property was safe, nor was his life worth much if he opposed them in their schemes of plunder and robbery. In this condition of things I considered it my duty to interfere for the protection of honest and peaceable citizens, and to a great extent was successful, notwithstanding I daily received anonymous letters threatening me with assassination if I did not desist arresting and punishing these offenders.
General Curtis had promised that as soon as the season would permit it, I should have sufficient troops to make a campaign south of the Arkansas river, and with that view I had ordered Col. Phillips to move from western Arkansas to Fort Gibson, in the Cherokee Nation, as soon as there was sufficient grass in that section to sustain his stock, with the expectation of joining him as soon as additional troops could be procured. I soon after ordered to his (Col. Phillips) support, at Fort Gibson, the first regiment of Kansas colored troops, the Second Colorado, and one section of the 2d Kansas battery. This force, on its way to join him, was attacked by a rebel force under Stand Watie and Cabell, at Cabin creek, with the view of capturing the train. After a brisk engagement the enemy was defeated and routed and the train proceeded in safety.
In the meantime, General Curtis was relieved of the command of
240 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
the Department of Missouri by General Schofield, who, without any provocation, had become my bitter personal enemy, when he should have been my friend, for the reason that when he so basely abandoned me in the face of the enemy, I did not complain or say aught against him, whereas but few other officers, similarly situated, would have failed to have preferred against him serious charges. For my forbearance and good will towards him in this instance, he wrote a letter to the department commander the day after he resumed command of the "Army of the Frontier," of the most infamous character declaring "that on returning to his command, he found it demoralized and its efficiency destroyed, and that all of its operations while under my command were a series of stupid blunders." This was the commencement of his crusade against me which he afterwards so persistently followed up.
Governor Carney, from whose friendly declarations I had reason to believe was cooperating with me for the public good, I now discovered was secretly doing all in his power to oppose and embarrass me in my official capacity. In Schofield he found a hearty coworker, and with other worthy allies, they deliberately plotted for my ruin. If I alone had been the only one to suffer, it would have been of little consequence, but, in the position I occupied, to reach me others must suffer, and the public interest be jeopardized.
Just before Schofield assumed command of the department, I had given my consent to some of the most responsible citizens of Atchison, including the sheriff, that they should try by citizens' court and punish several desperate villains charged with murder, robbery and every other species of crime. This I did because there was no attempt made to execute the civil laws, and I had then already more of that kind of work on hand than I could well dispose of by military commissions, and moreover, I believed that some such example of summary punishment was required for the protection of life and property. They were tried and hung, and I believe received their just deserts. This my enemies made the pretext for a terrible howl against me. A huge document, addressed to the President, was drawn up by Gov. Carney's man of "thirty years standing," and signed by the governor himself, reciting the Atchison affair, and charging me with "being a usurper, a tyrant and a murderer," that I had "overridden the civil law, had inaugurated a reign of terror, and that under my administration of affairs, no man's life or property in the state was safe," and demanded that I should be dismissed from the service. This document was taken by Carney to St.
BLUNT: CIVIL WAR EXPERIENCES 241
Louis, where, very opportunely had arrived Thomas Ewing, Sen'r, of Ohio (who at that particular junction appeared to take quite an interest in Kansas matters). Also was there his son, Gen. Thomas Ewing. These parties, together with Gov. Gamble, of Missouri, held frequent sessions with General Schofield, at his headquarters, to devise a programme or plot to insure my discomfiture and destruction. If they failed to win on the charges preferred by Carney, then the district of Kansas was to be divided. I was to be sent to the Indian country in the face of a superior force of the enemy, and all support withheld from me, with the expectation that I would be defeated and destroyed.
I know that I am making serious accusations, but I know whereof I speak. There is proof to show that certain parties were willing to sacrifice the lives of over three thousand Union soldiers, and the interests of the country, if necessary, to accomplish the ruin of one who they imagined, and without cause, stood in the way of the success of some of their ambitious schemes, and I envy neither the head or the heart of those, who to gratify personal malice, or secure personal or political agridizement (aggrandizement) could contemplate, and give countenance to such a heartless and cold-blooded conspiracy.
Thomas Ewing, Sen'r, was the bearer to Washington of the document before referred to, and in company with Attorney-general Bates, presented it to the President with very tragical effect. The result was that the President became quite excited, and at first threatened dismissal, but on reflection, telegraphed me for a report upon the matter. I complied, and gave him in detail all the circumstances attending the hanging of the men in Atchison, and the necessity for such action, and telling him that "under like circumstances I should do the same thing over." This report was accompanied by letters from several officers of the state government, several of the judges, and many of the leading lawyers, certifying that the civil law was powerless to protect the innocent, or punish the guilty, and that the action complained of had done much to insure the security of life and property. The President became satisfied and wrote me privately that I need apprehend no trouble from the charges of Governor Carney.
Not more than four months ago, Governor Carney, in speaking of this transaction, admitted to me "that my course in the Atchison affair was the best thing that could have been done, under the circumstances, and was the only thing that could give protection
242 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
to peaceable and honest citizens, and that he knew such to be the case at the time it occurred, but that they had determined to make a fight on me, and intended to use all the weapons they could get." And I mention this now only to show how assiduously the governor was laboring to promote the interest of the state.
The conspirators against me having failed in their efforts in this direction, now resorted to the second proposition. General Schofield ordered that the district of Kansas be divided into the district of the border, and the district of the frontier, the former to comprise Kansas, except the southern tier of counties and Fort Scott, to be commanded by Brig. Gen. Thomas Ewing, while I was to command the latter, embracing the Indian Territories, western Arkansas, and that part of Kansas excepted in General Ewing's command.
While I did not admire the motive that prompted this change, yet so far as the change itself was concerned, I was well satisfied, for the reason that I desired and intended, in any event, to take the field to operate against the enemy south of the Arkansas river; and to be relieved of the responsibility of protecting the border, liable to rebel raids from Missouri, when I could not be there to personally direct affairs, was to me certainly most satisfactory.
In May I had received my commission as major general of volunteers, to date from Nov. 29th, 1862, and soon after was directed by the Secretary of War to recruit and organize two new Kansas regiments, one of cavalry (white) and the other, infantry (colored), and to select the officers for the same. For this purpose I tried to select from the old regiments, noncommissioned officers and privates who had proved themselves worthy soldiers, for appointments as recruiting officers. When I had not a personal knowledge, and had to rely upon recommendations of other parties, I may have made, in some instances, poor selections. Many persons who had never seen a day's service, although the war had been in progress over two years, were urged upon me by politicians for appointments, but as it was not voters that I needed, but men upon whom I could rely when in the face of the enemy, I preferred to take those who had smelt gunpowder, although they might not have as much influence as the other class, in a town caucus.
On the 13th day of June, Gen'l Ewing arrived to take command of his district. I therefore relinquished the command of the district of Kansas, and the following day left for Fort Scott, the head
BLUNT: CIVIL WAR EXPERIENCES 243
quarters of the reduced command -- my command being reduced in proportion as my rank was increased.
Upon my arrival at Fort Scott I received a letter from General Schofield, saying that he desired that "I should take the field in person and if possible maintain the line I then held," which was the Arkansas river. This was what I desired and intended to do if I could be provided with troops; and not having over two thousand effective men outside of the small force at Fort Gibson (holding the Cherokee country) and my depot, and line of communication for supplies to protect, as also the southern border of the state to guard, I applied to Gen'l Schofield for additional force, representing to him the actual condition of affairs, and urging the necessity of more troops, if it was expected to "hold the line of the Arkansas river." To this application I got no response whatever. After waiting for some time I renewed my application, telling him that the enemy was massing a large force on the south side of the Arkansas river, and, without troops, it would be impossible to hold that portion of the Indian country we then occupied. This second application was treated as the first, and was not answered at all, for the reason, I suppose, that he did not wish to put his refusal on record. It now became evident that all troops were to be withheld from me in accordance with the previously arranged programme of my enemies, while in southwest Missouri there were not less than five thousand efficient troops and three batteries that could have been sent to me without detriment to the interest of the service elsewhere.
During all this time the enemy were being strengthened in front of the weak garrison at Fort Gibson, and on the morning of the 5th of July, I learned from an unofficial source that that post, with its garrison, was in imminent danger of being captured. Leaving the headquarters of the district in charge of my adjutant general (Major Curtis), and the recruiting and organizing of the two new regiments, before alluded to, in charge of Major T. J. Anderson, asst adj't gen'l, I left the same evening for Fort Gibson with about 350 of the 6th Kansas cavalry, and a section of the 2d Kansas battery, and accompanied by two members of my staff. By forced marches I reached Fort Gibson on the morning of the 11th, where I found that the administration of military affairs had been very badly conducted. Detachments of the enemy had been allowed to cross the Arkansas river at pleasure, and amuse themselves by capturing all
244 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
stock sent out to graze, and in every other way annoy our troops, who were kept close to the fortifications, while rebel spies were inside of the garrison in the full confidence of the commanding officer, and acting as his military advisers, and in this way they (the rebels) were enabled to "play both hands," and it is not to be wondered at that they always "took the tricks."
On my arrival at Fort Gibson I found the Arkansas river swollen. Cooper with a force of six thousand was on the south side, having all the crossings guarded, and the one opposite Fort Gibson, at the mouth of Grand river, protected by artillery. Learning that reinforcements from Texas were moving up to join Cooper, I determined to take the offensive, and strike him if possible before they could arrive.
At midnight of the 15th, taking a battalion of the 6th Kansas (cavalry) and four pieces of light artillery, I crossed Grand river and the Verdigris, and proceeded about twelve miles up the north bank of the Arkansas, to a point opposite the Creek agency, where we arrived soon after daylight. This crossing was guarded by about one hundred rebel cavalry, who abandoned the position and fled as soon as we brought our artillery to the river bank. Fording the river at this point, I proceeded down the south side with the hope of capturing their outpost and artillery opposite Fort Gibson, but they had learned of my approach, abandoned the position and fallen back to Cooper's camp on Elk creek, twenty-five miles south of the Arkansas. I now commenced crossing troops in flat boats built for the occasion, and by 10 o'clock p. m. was ready to commence our long and weary night's march. At daylight we encountered about five hundred rebel cavalry, and driving them rapidly before us, came upon Cooper's entire force in line of battle, about 10 o'clock a. m. Their position was on the north side of Elk creek, and in the edge of the timber, which served as a cover, while we were compelled to advance over the open prairie. After halting my command to obtain a couple of hours' rest and eat a lunch from their haversacks, we advanced upon their positions and after two hours of severe fighting, the center of their line was broken, when they fell back from one position to another, and were each time routed. This running fight continued until near night, when my men and stock became so exhausted that I could pursue no further. Before dark I observed General Cabell coming up with about three thousand troops to reinforce Cooper; and supposing that with this increased force, they would offer me battle in the morning, my com-
BLUNT: CIVIL WAR EXPERIENCES 245
mand slept upon their arms ready to renew the engagement, but the morning revealed that, during the night, they had retreated to the Canadian river. My force in this engagement did not exceed twenty-five hundred, while that of the enemy was six thousand. This affair is known as the battle of "Honey Springs."
On the 19th I fell back to Fort Gibson to make preparations for other movements. With a knowledge that Cooper would be reinforced, I despatched General Schofield the result of the battle of the 17th and urged upon him the necessity of sending me additional troops. His reply was that "I could not have any reinforcements, that I was too far advanced and must fall back," notwithstanding he had previously directed me to take the field in person and "hold the line of the Arkansas river." My position now was a delicate and trying one. Prostrated by severe sickness; far in the enemy's country, with but a handful of troops, and in the face of a foe greatly my superior in numbers, and constantly increasing, I felt that I was purposely abandoned to fate. In addition to the reinforcements under Cabell, General Cooper had been joined by troops from Texas under General Steele, and his force, now encamped on the Canadian, forty-five miles south of Fort Gibson, numbered eleven thousand. To fall back from my position on the Arkansas river would be to abandon all the country that had been conquered by the expenditure of blood and treasure, and transfer the theater of war to the borders of Kansas and Missouri. While reflecting what course to pursue in this emergency, I heard, by accident, that the Second Kansas cavalry, a portion of the 7th and 8th M. S. M. and Second Indian battery, had moved down from Springfield to the vicinity of Fayetteville, Ark., thereby getting within the limits of my district. I immediately sent couriers to them with orders to join me at Fort Gibson by forced marches. To this order they promptly responded, and reported to me on the 20th of August. In the meantime the 13th Kansas (infantry) had arrived at Fort Gibson, as escort for a supply train. Leaving a sufficient force to hold the garrison of Fort Gibson, with the remainder of my available troops, numbering four thousand five hundred, I again commenced crossing the Arkansas river, on the 22d of August, for offensive operations. On the evening of the day the command had crossed the river, I received a despatch from General Schofield -- the first that I had received since his order to me to "fall back." This despatch stated that it was the "desire of the Interior Department that we should obtain possession of all the Indian Territory to Red river,
246 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
that they could remove and locate the Kansas Indians in that country, in accordance with an act of congress of 1862, and to enable me to accomplish that object, I was authorized by him (Schofield), to recruit and organize into battalions and regiments, such Indians of the friendly tribes in Kansas as would enlist for a limited period for that kind of service." Knowing that I was in the face of a superior force of the enemy, who might attack me at any hour, I was directed by him to obtain reinforcements to meet the emergency, by recruiting in Kansas, three hundred and fifty miles away, half-civilized Indians, and transform them into soldiers. This was certainly "strategy," but comment is unnecessary. If his previous conduct had exhibited cowardice, this was certainly an unmistakable evidence of his weakness and imbecility. I considered that forbearance was no longer a virtue, and immediately wrote to the Secretary of War, and to the President, saying to them "that I was the superior officer of General Schofield, and should no longer regard his orders, but act upon my own responsibility." At the same time I raised for decision the question of rank between myself and Schofield, taking the position that he was only a brigadier general until he was confirmed upon his appointment of major general, and that under the law "authorizing the President to assign officers of the same grade, to command in the same field or department without reference to seniority of rank," did not authorize him to assign General Schofield (a brig. gen'l) to command over full major general, as he was not an officer of the same grade.
After crossing the Arkansas river, on the 22d, as before stated, we moved rapidly on the enemy who were encamped near "Briertown" on the Canadian river. At midnight of the 24th, learning of our approach, they hastily made preparations to avoid a battle. Cabell, with a force of three thousand, returned to Fort Smith, while Cooper and Steele with the remainder -- seven thousand -- retreated in the direction of Red river. Eight hours after their retreat I arrived in their deserted camp, and scouts were immediately sent out to learn of their movements. Having ascertained that Cooper and Steele were retreating off by the Boggy Depot road, I moved at daylight on the morning of the 26th, and with all the cavalry and a few pieces of light artillery in the advance, pushed on rapidly after them. In the after part of the day our advance several times skirmished with their rear, and at nine o'clock p. m., after a continuous march of fifty miles, we entered the town of Perryville, driving out their rear guard, and capturing and destroying
BLUNT: CIVIL WAR EXPERIENCES 247
their depot of supplies. From this point we returned by easy marches to the Canadian river, and there sending a portion of the command back to Fort Gibson, with less than two thousand men, I moved against Cabell at Fort Smith.
We arrived at the crossing of the Poteau river, nine miles from Fort Smith -- and at which point Cabell had determined to defend that place -- on the evening of the 31st of August. Here we drove in the enemy's outpost and skirmished in their front until dark. At daylight the following morning, we moved upon their position expecting to meet with a determined resistance, but were surprised to find that they had abandoned their position during the night and were retreating in the direction of Arkadelphia. Sending the cavalry, under command of Col. Cloud, in pursuit, who overtook and engaged them, in the latter part of the day, at "Devil's Backbone," while, with the infantry and artillery, I quietly entered the town of Fort Smith, September 1st, and lowered the rebel flag that had been left floating in this garrison, and raised upon the same staff the "stars and stripes." This post (Fort Smith) had been captured from the U. S. forces under Gen'l Sturgis in April, 1861, and until now had been held by the enemy as an important base for their military operations. My health, which had been rapidly failing since my first arrival at Fort Gibson, now completely gave way, and I was confined to my bed until the 12th of September, when, being able to ride in a carriage, I left the command in charge of subordinate officers, and returned to Fort Scott for the purpose of completing the organization of the Second (colored) and Fourteenth Kansas regiments, and removing the headquarters of the district to Fort Smith.
On the fourth of October, with a portion of my staff, the records, and everything pertaining to district headquarters, and accompanied by a small escort (less than one hundred), I left Fort Scott on my return to the command at Fort Smith. On the 6th we met with a party of guerrillas, numbering six hundred and fifty, under Quantrill, in the vicinity of Baxter's Springs. As they were dressed in blue uniform and carried our flag, they were at first supposed to be federal troops, but a doubt arising as to whether they were friends or enemies, I approached their line, alone, to ascertain their true character, and when within three hundred yards of them, they opened a fire on me. When, upon turning to my escort to signal them to return the fire and charge their line, I discovered that the entire escort (who were new recruits) had broken at the first fire
248 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
of the enemy, and were flying in disorder over the prairie. In vain I endeavored to halt and rally any portion of them until they had continued their stampede for a distance of two miles, when I succeeded in halting a squad of fifteen men, with which I checked the advance of the enemy, and followed them back over the field that was strewn with our dead. Sending six of the fifteen men with Lieut. Tappen of my staff back to Fort Scott for other troops, with the remaining nine I hovered close around the enemy, creating in their mind the impression that I had a large force coming up, which induced them to move rapidly off. In this affair eighty-seven men, including escort, clerks, teamsters, servants and musicians were killed. All who fell wounded or were taken prisoners were inhumanely murdered. Among the killed were two members of my staff, Major H. Z. Curtis, my adj't gen'l, and Lieut. Farr, the former being murdered after he was taken prisoner. Had the escort stood their ground, as they should have done, instead of becoming panic stricken, all would have been well, and the horrible massacre would not have occurred.
Returning again to Fort Scott, I procured a new outfit of records, etc., for district headquarters, and on the 29th of October, with fifteen hundred troops, and a supply train of seven hundred wagons, all under the immediate command of Col. S. J. Crawford, of the Second Kansas (colored), I left Fort Scott a second time for Fort Smith.
The day before we were to leave Fort Scott, I received an order from General Schofield, directing that Brig. Gen'l McNeal [McNeil] should relieve me at Fort Smith of the command of the "District of the Frontier," when I was to proceed to Leavenworth and report to him (Schofield) by letter. A few days subsequent, information was received from Washington of the decision of the question of rank between Schofield and myself, which was adverse to Schofield and sustaining me in every point that I had raised, affirming that "Schofield was only a brigadier general."
I arrived at Fort Smith on the 12th day of November, when I found that Gen'l McNeal had preceded me several days, and, by Schofield's order, had assumed command. Although I was not bound to relinquish the command, yet as McNeal had assumed it, and to avoid further complications, I acquiesced, and turned over to him the other troops and supply train.
I learned on my arrival at Fort Smith, that Schofield, anticipating that I would pay no attention to his order, had telegraphed to Gen-
BLUNT: CIVIL WAR EXPERIENCES 249
eral McNeal, "that if I did not comply with his instructions to proceed to Leavenworth, &c., he should arrest me forcibly and send me under guard to St. Louis." I thereupon requested Gen'l McNeal to telegraph him, in my behalf, that if he (Schofield) wanted me arrested he had better come and do it himself, and then for the first time during the war, he might see a little "active service."
Instead of proceeding to Fort Leavenworth and reporting by letter to Gen'l Schofield, I wrote to the Secretary of War, enclosing a copy of Schofield's order, and telling him that "I should not obey it, or any other order from him (Schofield) or hold any further intercourse with him unless it should be to prefer charges against him for imbecility and cowardice," and that "I should remain in Fort Smith until I received orders direct from the War Department." And here I leave General Schofield, and will let others take him up and finish his record, except to add what I have before omitted to state, that anxious to leave nothing undone that could injure me, he (Schofield) sent a smelling committee, dubbed with the respectable cognomen of "board of inspection," through my district while I was making the campaign in the Indian country, in the summer of 1863. They merely "walked over the track," and then signed a report previously agreed upon at Schofield's headquarters in St. Louis, which was not only false in every particular, but infamous in its character. This board refused to comply with my request to come to Fort Smith, where I was lying, confined to my bed by sickness, and where the headquarters of my command was, notwithstanding they were within thirty miles of that place, neither did they make any inspection of my staff departments or of the troops, but their talent for drinking whisky was remarkable. This report was intended to be used against me at Washington, and it was only by accident and good luck that I obtained a copy of it.
In response to my letter to the Secretary of War, asking for orders, I received instructions to recruit and organize, at Fort Smith, the Eleventh regiment, U. S. Colored troops, and appoint the officers for the same.
Early in January, 1864, and after the organization of this regiment had progressed so far that my personal attention with it was no longer required, I made application to the Secretary of War for assignment to other duty, in answer to which I received a telegram from the President to proceed to Washington, where I arrived on the 27th of January, and there learned that the object for which I had been called to Washington was for consultation in reference to the
250 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
condition of affairs in the Indian territories, and with the view to a campaign, early in the spring, into Texas, through the Indian country. Before leaving Washington to return to the West, I was assured, by Mr. Lincoln, that I should have every facility afforded me for the organization of this Texas expedition that I desired, to insure its success. In the meantime the Department of Kansas, to include the Indian territories and the military post of Fort Smith, had been reinstated with General Curtis in command. On the 7th day of February, I left Washington for Fort Smith, via Kansas, where I arrived and resumed command of the "District of the Frontier," on the 12th day of March, 1864. Here I found that all the troops belonging to my command, by reason of their location when the Department of Kansas was reinstated (Jan'y 1st) had been transferred by Gen'l Steele, with the aid and assistance of Col. Judson of the Sixth Kansas (temporarily in command at Fort Smith) to the Department of Arkansas. A controversy ensued relative to the jurisdiction of the troops in question, in which General Halleck, the commander in chief, took the part of General Steele. At this result I was not at all disappointed, as I had already learned that I had not left Washington twenty-four hours when General Halleck, with his chronic hatred of Kansas, had determined to defeat the contemplated Texas expedition, which had had the sanction and approval of the President and Secretary of War; and to this end he had been in collusion with General Steele in robbing my district of all available troops before I could arrive there. Being satisfied that so long as General Halleck was commander in chief, I was to be the special object of his malice, I asked to be relieved of the responsibilities of the administration of military affairs in a large extent of territory that I could have no troops to protect. Accordingly, on the 18th day of April, by telegram from the Secretary of War, I was relieved of the command of the "District of the Frontier," which was transferred to the Department of Arkansas, and from thence proceeded to Leavenworth. By the strangling and defeat of this contemplated Texas expedition, three thousand loyal Texans, whom, through secret agents, I had organized, and were ready to join me as soon as I reached the Red river country, were doomed to bitter disappointment, followed by every species of cruelty that could be inflicted for their suspected sympathy for the Union cause, and in its stead followed the Camden expedition of Gen'l Steele, the disgraceful results of which are before the country and need not be commented upon here.
BLUNT: CIVIL WAR EXPERIENCES 251
There now being no field for active service in the Department of Kansas, I applied to the Secretary of War for assignment to some other, and while at Leavenworth awaiting orders from Washington, I was ordered by General Curtis to the command of the "District of the Upper Arkansas," to operate against the hostile Indians, who were becoming very troublesome upon the plains. I arrived at Fort Riley and assumed command of this new district on the 2d of August.
Here I again found myself with a large extent of territory filled with hostile "redskins," and but few troops with which to operate against them, and no horses to mount the few I had. After procuring horses to mount two hundred and fifty men, I proceeded to Fort Lamed, where I added to the detachment, one hundred and fifty of the 1st Colorado cavalry and two pieces of light artillery, and with this force started on an "Indian hunt."
I had received information of a war party of Arapahoes and Cheyennes on the head of the Smoky Hill who were contemplating a movement across the Arkansas to the Cimarron river. Leaving Fort Lamed on the 21st September, I proceeded west as far as old Fort Atkinson, where I obtained information that satisfied me that no large body of Indians had recently crossed the Santa Fe road. I therefore determined to move north in the direction of the Smoky Hill, and if possible to intercept them; and as it was impossible to move over these extended plains without being observed by Indian scouts I therefore, with the aid of a party of Delaware Indians as guides, did all my marching by night, halting during the day in the deep ravines that afforded grazing for our stock and a secure hiding place from the view of Indian spies.
At daylight of the third night's march, September 25th, we struck the Indian picket on Pawnee Fork, eighty miles northwest of Fort Lamed. A lively fight ensued with a party of fifteen hundred Cheyenne and Arapahoe warriors, lasting about four hours and resulting in the defeat and retreat of the Indians. I followed them rapidly up the Pawnee for two days without again being able to overtake them, when, in consequence of the exhausted condition of our stock, the chase had to be abandoned. I now returned to Fort Lamed with the view of obtaining more troops and organizing a campaign against the "redskins" on a larger scale; but before reaching that place I was met by a courier, with despatches from General Curtis, saying that "Price, with a large rebel force was in Missouri, had captured Pilot Knob, and was moving towards the
252 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
Missouri river," and directing that I should "report in person at Fort Leavenworth with as little delay as possible." The information of Price's movements was not unlooked for by me, as I had come in possession of facts previous to my leaving for the District of the Upper Arkansas, that convinced me that such a raid was contemplated, and at that time stated my apprehensions to General Curtis, and urged upon him the necessity of preparation to meet the threatened danger.
Upon receiving General Curtis' despatch before referred to, I traveled night and day, and lost no time en route to Leavenworth, arriving there on the 8th of October, where, to use a curt phrase, I found matters very much "mixed." Price was moving from Boonville up the line of the Missouri river, constantly augmenting his forces by recruits and conscripts, while it was difficult to tell what General Rosecrans was doing, or intended to do. There were but few regular troops in the Department of Kansas that could be made available for the defense of the state, and the main reliance must be upon the militia. General Curtis had been in a controversy for a week with Governor Carney in reference to calling out the militia of Kansas, the governor refusing to do so, and declaring that there was no enemy in Missouri, that Kansas was not in danger, and that the whole excitement and furore [sic] had been gotten up by "Jim Lane" for political purposes. As soon as I arrived at Leavenworth, I proceeded, in company with Hon. James H. Lane, to the fort, to urge upon Gen'l Curtis the necessity of immediate action to avert the threatened danger. Gen'l Curtis sent his adjutant (Major Charlott) to confer with the governor and ask him to issue a proclamation calling out the militia forces of the state. The governor, in an angry mood, gave many reasons for not acting in this matter, but finally summed up all in the declaration that "Blunt should not command his militia." He promised, however, to telegraph General Curtis in an hour what he would do, and at his (Curtis) request we waited at the fort till near midnight, but no telegram came. The following morning General Lane and myself went again to General Curtis' headquarters, and urged upon him that the danger from delay was imminent, and that not a moment should be lost in making preparations to meet it, and that if he did not declare martial law and call out the militia force of the state, he would be held responsible for the disaster which would follow. General Curtis finally determined to issue the necessary proclamation, and that evening, under orders from him, I left Leavenworth for Paola to
BLUNT: CIVIL WAR EXPERIENCES 253
relieve Major General Sykes of the command of the District of South Kansas. Riding all night I reached Olathe early the next morning, when I assumed command by telegraph and directed all troops in the district to concentrate as rapidly as possible at Paola, at which place I arrived that evening. Early on the morning of the 13th with such regular troops and militia as had arrived, I left Paola for Hickman's Mills, in Jackson county, Missouri, arriving there on the following morning. The same evening other troops arrived, and the force then under my immediate command was the 11th, 15th, and detachments of the 5th, 16th and 14th Kansas (cavalry), a portion of the 3d Wis. cavalry, 1st Colorado, and section of 2d Kansas battery and eight twelve-pound mountain howitzers with the addition of the 5th, 6th and 10th regiments of Kansas state militia. For the latter (militia) I procured the best of arms and equipments in the place of those they had which were of poor quality, and while thus engaged day and night to make my little command as efficient as possible, I was cognizant of the fact that the governor and others were endeavoring to produce disaffection and mutiny among the state troops, themselves remaining in the background, while they used "other paws to rake the chestnuts out of the fire." These mutinous proceedings culminated on the 16th by Brig. Gen'l Fishback, of the state militia, and Col. Jas. T. [D.] Snoddy of the 6th Reg. state militia refusing to obey my orders, and attempting to march their commands back to Kansas. This movement I promptly met by placing Gen'l Fishback and Col. Snoddy in arrest, and substituting other officers in their places, at the same time admonishing others of the consequences of a repetition of such an offense, and no further difficulty of this kind occurred. It is due the militia regiments referred to that I should here state that, with the exception of the persons named, none ever showed any disposition to question my authority to control them, but were willing to advance into Missouri, or elsewhere, to meet the enemy, and cheerfully performed every duty required of them.
With the remainder of the militia and a few regular troops, General Curtis was fortifying a position for defense on the "Big Blue," between Kansas City and Independence, and as there was no reliable information regarding the locality and movements of Price, I asked permission of General Curtis, to make a reconnoissance in the direction of where I supposed the enemy to be. He (Curtis) consented that I might move as far east as Pleasant Hill. Therefore, after dark on the evening of the 16th, leaving the militia and
254 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
heavy artillery at Hickman's Mill, under the command of Col. C. W. Blair, of the 14th Kansas -- with about two thousand cavalry and eight mountain howitzers -- I left the last-named place, and arrived at Pleasant Hill before daylight the next morning. After halting here a short time we again moved forward, repairing the telegraph as we marched, and arrived at Holden about one o'clock p. m. Between Pleasant Hill and this place (Holden) we met a train of citizens and irregular militia from Warrensburgh, who stated that, as they evacuated the place, Shelby's division (rebel) which had captured Sedalia a few days before, was entering the town. Taking back with me the militia and telegraph operators I allowed the citizens to move on. While my command was bivouacked, for rest, at Holden, I sent forward Major Foster, with a detachment of the Warrensburgh militia and a telegraph operator to Warrensburgh to ascertain if the enemy were occupying that place. At dark he telegraphed me that there was no enemy there, but that he had obtained what he believed reliable information, that Price was below Waverly. I learned also that General A. J. Smith's command -- of seven thousand veteran infantry and artillery -- were at California, held back by orders from General Rosecrans, and that a cavalry division of six thousand, under Generals Sanborn and McNeal, was at a point about 12 miles northwest from Sedalia, and upon the flank of the enemy. I immediately telegraphed Gen'l Curtis, requesting him to send me the 16th Kansas and Second Colorado cavalry, and 1st Colorado battery, by the Independence and Lexington road, and join me at the latter place, where I expected they would join me early the next morning. It was my intention then to form a junction with Sanborn and McNeal, then with General Smith, and assuming command of all the troops in the field, attack Price at once, and with this view I had despatched messengers to Generals Sanborn and Smith, apprising them of my movements.
Leaving Holden the same evening at 8 o'clock, and marching all night, we arrived at Lexington at 11 o'clock a. m. the following day (October 18th) and awaited there the arrival of the troops that I had requested Gen'l Curtis to send to me.
On my arrival at Lexington I learned that the advance of Price's army was at Waverly, twenty miles below or east of Lexington. At 10 a. m. of the 19th, I received a despatch from Gen'l Curtis, by messenger, saying that "he could not send me the troops asked for," that "Gov. Carney and others were making him much trouble with the militia, that he could get them no further into Missouri," and
BLUNT: CIVIL WAR EXPERIENCES 255
that he "was fortifying en the Big Blue" for the defense of Kansas. An hour after receiving this despatch my pickets were attacked on three different roads, leading into Lexington from the east and southeast, by Price's forces, who were moving in three separate columns. The only thing I could now hope to accomplish was to develop the enemy's strength and intentions. For this purpose we resisted his advance until his whole force was brought into position, and in full view, upon an open plain. Keeping the Independence road in our rear, we fell slowly back before his overwhelming force, punishing him severely as we retired, and continuing the fight until dark. I had now ascertained that Price's armed force was about twenty thousand, while in addition he had about six thousand unarmed recruits and conscripts, and furthermore that Kansas was his objective point.
During the night of the 19th we fell back towards Kansas, and at 10 o'clock the following morning reached the Little Blue, nine miles east of Independence.
Here, on the west side of this stream, I observed that the topography of the country was admirably adapted for defense against the advance of Price's column. On a semicircular ridge extending to the river on the right and left, I bivouacked my command in line of battle, with the artillery in the center commanding the road and the bridge. I then sent one of my staff to General Curtis, requesting him "to send me subsistence for my men, and also to order forward to me the 16th Kansas and 2d Colorado cavalry and 1st Colorado battery, and with that force I would resist the enemy's advance, leaving the militia at the Big Blue, as a reserve to fall back upon if it should be necessary to do so." In response, General Curtis sent one of his staff to direct me "to leave a picket of two or three squadrons at the Little Blue and with the remainder of the troops fall back to Independence, that he was going to make the fight at the Big Blue, where he had been fortifying."
Instead of leaving two or three squadrons as directed, I left Col. Moonlight with all of the Eleventh regiment and four howitzers, directing him to keep all the crossings of the Little Blue picketed; also keep a strong guard well in the advance on the Lexington road, and if the enemy advanced in force to notify me immediately, and burn the bridge, and make as stubborn resistance as he could. Upon my arrival at Independence that evening I urged upon General Curbs the mistake that had been made in abandoning the Little Blue, and demonstrated to him that when the enemy had crossed
256 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
that stream, they would be in an open country free to move in any direction they chose, and that it was not reasonable to suppose they would move against a fortified position, when it was much easier for them to pass around our flank and rear. At Independence, I also found Governor Carney and his political staff busy in their efforts to produce disaffection in the ranks of the militia, declaring that in my despatch to Gen'l Curtis, informing him of my engagement with Price at Lexington, "I had lied," that he knew "that Price was south of the Arkansas river, that there was no enemy in Missouri except a few bushwhackers," and that "the calling out of the militia upon the pretext of defending Kansas was an outrage." He (Carney) had also a proclamation prepared to disband and send home the militia, that he intended to issue the following morning. This was the situation on the night of the 20th of October.
On the following morning (the 21st) General Curtis acceded to my request to move back to the position I had left the previous evening, on the Little Blue, and taking with me the troops that I had previously with me, and those that I had asked to be forwarded to me the evening before. I lost no time in getting the command in readiness to move, and just as they were filing out of the streets of Independence, a telegram was handed me from Col. Moonlight (I had sent to him the night before, an operator with an instrument and a ground wire to tap the line) saying that he had burned the bridge, that the enemy was crossing in force at several points (fording) and that he was making all the resistance that he could. I now pushed forward at a rapid speed, hoping that Col. Moonlight would be able to hold them in check until I could get in position on the ridge before alluded to, but upon arriving upon the field I found that although Col. Moonlight, with the Eleventh regiment, had been making a desperate resistance, they had been driven back nearly a mile. Deploying the other regiments into line and dismounting them, they dashed forward and pressed the enemy back for a distance of half a mile, when our flanks becoming endangered by the overwhelming numbers of the enemy, we were compelled to fall back. About this time Gen'l Curtis came up, and by interfering with the disposition of my troops without conveying his orders through me, threw the command into confusion that might have been avoided. He soon after left the field and gave me no further trouble during the day, except, on his return to Independence, he ordered back my ammunition wagons which I had ordered to the front, which circumstance came near proving dis-
BLUNT: CIVIL WAR EXPERIENCES 257
astrous to the whole command. My entire available force did not exceed three thousand men, with which to contend against Price's entire command, and my purpose now was to fight for time, that Rosecrans' forces might come up in the enemy's rear, and to enable the militia of Kansas to concentrate on the border.
With the small force at my command I formed two lines, fighting each alternately while the other was falling back and taking a new position, and thus the fight continued from 9 o'clock a. m. until 4 o'clock p. m., when the enemy refused to advance upon our last line, formed on the east side of Independence. In this day's fighting our loss was slight while the enemy were punished severely. I have never for a moment doubted that had I been allowed to remain on the Little Blue the night of the 20th, and received the reinforcements I asked for, the contest would have been settled there in a manner entirely satisfactory to our arms. I had no doubt of my ability in that position to have held the ground until Pleasanton could come up when we could have crushed Price's command.
During the evening of the 21st, we fell back -- to General Curtis' "fortified position on the Big Blue," where the militia were encamped. Hero again a disagreement arose between General Curtis and myself relative to the probable movements of Price the following day. General Curtis contending that he must move direct on the Kansas City road and in front of his fortifications, while I believed that he would only make a feint in front, while with his main army he would flank us on the right,, and cross the Big Blue at one of the upper fords, and as Gen'l Curtis would not take the responsibility to give direct orders for the disposition of the troops, I acted upon my own theory and sent Col. Jennison with his brigade to guard Byron's ford, with instructions to keep his pickets well out in the direction of Independence, to notify me promptly of any movement of the enemy, and in case they attempted to cross at that ford, to make determined resistance until reinforcements could reach him. I only heard from General Curtis twice during the day, once to notify me "that he would move his headquarters a couple of miles to the rear," and then again, "that he would establish his headquarters at Westport."
At about 9 o'clock on the morning of the 22d, a small rebel force demonstrated in front of us on the road leading from Independence to Kansas City. I immediately sent a detachment of the Second Colorado cavalry to develop their strength and purposes. They
258 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
(the rebels) were rapidly driven back in the direction of Independence, and proved to be only a small force sent to make a feint, or draw our attention in that direction, while the main force should attempt to force a passage of the Blue, on our right, as I had previously anticipated. At about 2 o'clock p. m. I heard firing from Col. Jennison's howitzers at Byron's ford, and soon ascertained, as indicated by the firing, that they were being driven back from the ford. Without waiting to hear from Col. Jennison, I sent orders to Col. Moonlight then at Hinckel's ford, two miles below Byron's ford, to move up with his brigade to his support, and immediately ordered Col. Ford with his brigade to move to the same position, with instructions to keep their forces united, and attack the enemy's flank, and not permit themselves to be cut off from Kansas City. I had now to turn my attention to the militia, who were still where Gen'l Curtis had placed them, in the "fortified position ate the Big Blue." With the exception of the 5th, 6th, and 10th regiments of militia, under the immediate charge of Col. Blair, I had assumed no command over them, they having received their orders direct. from General Curtis; but our position had now been successfully flanked by the enemy, and different dispositions must be made, and hearing nothing from Gen'l Curtis, I directed Major General Deitzler, the immediate commander of the militia, to withdraw them, and fall back to Kansas City. This militia force numbered probably ten thousand and on the arrival of the head of the column near Kansas City, at dark, I attempted to get them into position on the south side of that place and have them to bivouac during the night in line of battle, but the north side of the Kansas river possessing peculiar attractions for them at that time, and it being dark it was with great difficulty that I succeeded in halting and forming in line, a small portion of them. While I had been looking after the militia, the brigades of Col. Moonlight, Jennison and Ford (compromising all the regular troops) had been engaging the enemy on his right, south of Westport, and after a stubborn resistance had turned his flank and driven him back until dark. After dark and while engaged in getting the militia in position, as before stated, I received a despatch from General Pleasanton that he had come upon the enemy during the afternoon, and had attacked their rear. I also learned at the same time that General Curtis -- who had again changed his headquarters -- (this time to the Gilliss House, Kansas City) had sent orders to the commands of Cols.
BLUNT: CIVIL WAR EXPERIENCES 259
Moonlight, Jennison and Ford, to fall back to Kansas City. I immediately sent a messenger countermanding the order, telling them to receive no orders except through me as their immediate commander, and directing them to lay upon their arms in front of the enemy, and that I would provide for their subsistence and ammunition and join them before daylight.
After spending the greater part of the night in procuring and forwarding subsistence and ammunition to the command, and sending Col. Blair's brigade (5th, 6th and 10th, state militia) to the front, I left Kansas City at three o'clock, at the same time notifying Gen'l Curtis of the position of the enemy, and of my purpose to attack him at daylight, and that I should rely upon others to form a line of battle with the militia on the south of Kansas City, that in case I should be driven back by overwhelming force, I could avail myself of them for support.
The enemy during the night had bivouacked on the south side of Brush creek, which lies immediately south and near Westport. Soon after daylight I formed Blair's brigade as a reserve on the north side of Brush, creek, and advanced the brigades of Cols. Moonlight, Ford and Jennison to the edge of the timber on the south side, when they immediately engaged Shelby's and Marmaduke's divisions of the enemy. Soon as the engagement had commenced I sent a despatch to General Curtis, at Kansas City, requesting him to send forward to me all the militia, in response to which they soon commenced arriving at Westport and reported to me by regiments. After the engagement had continued near two hours, the conflict becoming unequal and my flanks being endangered in consequence of the superior numbers of the enemy, I withdrew my forces to the north side of the creek to enable me to bring up the militia and get them into position, and having accomplished this and taken measures against my flanks being exposed, I ordered an advance of the whole line. Moving steadily forward across the creek and through the timber we met the enemy at the edge of the prairie on the south side, and the engagement soon became general along the entire line. After a brief but fierce contest the enemy's lines were broken, and a rout and retreat soon followed. Driving them back a mile and a half over the prairie, I discovered Fagan's division of the rebel command engaging Pleasanton, who -- during the morning -- had come up from the east, on the enemy's flank. Their line was formed at right angle with the advancing line of my division, and massing three batteries of artillery on my left, they poured a murderous fire into the flank
260 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
of Fagan's division, just as they were in the act of charging Pleasanton's line. The terrible fire of these batteries on their flank, routed them in confusion, and joining the flying fugitives of Shelby's and Marmaduke's divisions they moved rapidly south, while Moonlight's, Ford's and Jennison's brigades, of my command, moved past Pleasanton's command, and pressed rapidly upon their rear until dark. That night, my command and Pleasanton's bivouacked at and near Little Santa Fe. Here I urged upon Gen'l Curtis the importance of moving the following morning at two o'clock (at which time the moon rose), with the view of coming up with Price at Grand river, where I knew he must bivouac that night. Gen'l Curtis decided that we should not march until sunrise, and by that time I was moving with my command on Price's trail down the military road, except Col. Moonlight's brigade, which I had directed to move down on the enemy's right flank to prevent raiding parties into the state. On arriving at the crossing of Grand river, where Price had bivouacked during the night, I ascertained from deserters that the rear of their column had left there about three hours before, and had we moved at two o'clock in the morning, as I urged, we would have overtaken them at that point.
After a march of fifty miles, we arrived at West Point at sundown. Here I received an order from Gen'l Curtis, who was with Pleasanton's division, about six miles in the rear, to halt my command until they came up. It was evident that the enemy at this point had taken the Fort Scott road, and it was also evident that he would halt until morning at the crossing of the Osage, twelve miles south of West Point, and while waiting for the arrival of Gen'l Curtis, scouts whom I had in the advance, returned to me with information that they (the enemy) were bivouacked on the south side of the Osage (at the trading post) with a strong rear guard on the north side of the river.
Upon General Curtis coming up, a consultation was had in reference to further movements. In this conference a decided difference of opinion was held. Being well satisfied that the enemy were expecting our attack upon their rear, and that their flanks were unguarded, I proposed that we should leave a few squadrons of cavalry to make a feint on their rear, while, with the main column, we should pass to the right, cross the Osage river four miles above the trading post, pass entirely around their flank, and before daylight in the morning have our line of battle formed in their front, our right resting on the Osage below them, and our left on
BLUNT: CIVIL WAR EXPERIENCES 261
the same stream above them, while the enemy would be in the sack formed by the course or bend of the river. Understanding well the topography of the country, I felt assured that this movement could be made with complete safety and success, and would result ''in the capture of Price's entire army with but little loss to us. General Pleasanton seconded this proposition and subsequent events proved that had it been adopted and we had been in position in their front at daylight, where they neither looked for, or were prepared to meet an attack, no portion of the rebel command could have escaped, but General Curtis disagreed with me, and decided that we should follow up and attack their rear. I now despatched a messenger to Col. Moonlight to move with his brigade by way of Mound City, past the enemy's flank, and proceed to Fort Scott with as little delay as possible, for the defense of that place.
After halting about two hours at West Point, for rest, Pleasanton, by Gen'l Curtis' order, moved his division past my command and took the advance. The column then moved forward, and near midnight our advance came upon the enemy's pickets, when the column halted until daylight. The attack was then made by Pleasanton's division on their rear guard, when they showed more disposition to make a safe retreat than to fight, but being pressed hard, they were compelled to form their line near Mine creek, where they were soon routed with severe loss and the capture of near all their artillery and a large number of prisoners, among whom were Gen'ls Marmaduke and Cabell. In this engagement, my division, except three squadrons of the Second Colorado cavalry, took no part, in consequence of the crossing of the Osage being obstructed by the rear of Pleasanton's command, and thus prevented from getting up in time. From Mine creek a running fight continued until dark, when the enemy reached the timber of the Marmaton about four miles east of Fort Scott. General Curtis having now left the field, leaving me without orders, or even an intimation of what he intended doing, and my men being without rations, and the night so excessively dark that we could not move on the enemy's rear, I marched my division to Fort Scott, where on my arrival I found that Gen'l Curtis and General Pleasanton with his command had preceded me, and believing that Price must bivouac until morning near the junction of the Drywood and Marmaton, I urged the importance of moving east from Fort Scott, as soon as the command could be supplied with rations, and at daylight place ourselves on the enemy's flank, but in this I was overruled by General Curtis,
262 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
and did not leave Fort Scott until noon the next day (Oct. 26th), when the enemy had had time to get far in our advance.
I now again got the advance with my division, and near night struck the enemy's trail near Shanghai and pressed forward as rapidly as the condition of our stock would permit. At three o'clock on the morning of the 28th, we bivouacked at Carthage, and at daylight again moved forward, arriving at Granby about noon. I there ascertained that we were close upon the enemy's rear, and having with me, in the advance, only the first and fourth brigades of my division, I sent back messengers to hurry forward the second brigade, and also Gen'l McNeal's brigade of Gen'l Pleasanton's command, both of which I supposed were only a short distance in my rear. Arriving on the high prairie overlooking the town of Newtonia from the northwest, I discovered the enemy bivouacked in the edge of the timber south of the town, while a detachment numbering some fifteen hundred were occupying the town, and were preparing to manufacture flour for their command. They had stopped here upon the supposition that we had abandoned the pursuit, and upon observing our advance approaching, they made hasty preparations for leaving. Although I had not to exceed one thousand men on the ground, yet seeing the enemy was anxious to avoid a fight, I determined to attack them at once, relying upon Col. Moonlight's and Gen'l McNeal's brigades to come up in time for support. Placing the First Colorado battery in position on the high ridge west of the town, and directing them to open fire upon the enemy, I advanced in line with the cavalry and two mountain howitzers, until we met their line moving out of the timber, when skirmishers were immediately thrown out, the battery ordered up and a spirited engagement ensued. A second line of the enemy soon advanced from the timber and with less than one thousand men I found myself confronting all of Price's available force, and according to the estimate of his own officers, not less than ten thousand in number. Having sent back messengers repeatedly to hurry forward the other troops, and momentarily expecting their arrival, I determined if possible to hold the ground until they came up. In this situation of affairs the battle raged on an open plain from two o'clock p. m. until sundown, the enemy, by their superiority of numbers, attempting to overwhelm and crush us, while the two diminutive brigades of Col. Ford and Lt. Col. Hoyt fought with a heroism seldom equalled, and as the enemy repeatedly attempted to charge
BLUNT: CIVIL WAR EXPERIENCES 263
our artillery, they were each time driven back by a terrible and deadly fire of cannister.
Just in the twilight of the evening, and as the enemy were moving a heavy column to flank us on the left, and when the ammunition of the First and Fourth brigades was exhausted, the brigade of Gen'l Sanborn came in sight. I immediately ordered him forward to form on my left, when the rebels seeing that I had been reinforced, fell back under cover of the timber, and occupied the night in their hasty retreat, leaving their dead, and many of their wounded on the field.
My loss in this engagement, in killed and wounded, was one hundred and fourteen, while the enemy's loss, according to their own estimate was over eight hundred.
After dark General Curtis came up with the remainder of the command and directed the pursuit to be continued the next morning, but during the night, orders were received from Gen'l Rosecrans for the troops belonging to his department to return to their respective districts, and General Curtis then determined to abandon the chase. Upon our arrival at Neosho , on our return, despatches were received from Gen'l Grant, countermanding Gen'l Rosecrans' orders, and directing that the pursuit be continued to the Arkansas river, but we had now lost two. days' time, which rendered it very improbable that we could again overtake the enemy, yet we pressed forward as rapidly as possible. At Cane Hill we were twenty-four hours behind them, and here I learned, from the official report of Gen'l Price's adjutant, that their losses in killed, wounded, prisoners and deserters, from the time that I met them at Lexington, was ten thousand, five hundred and fifty.
From Cane Hill we strained every nerve to overtake them, but arrived at the Arkansas river on the 8th day of November three hours after the rear of their column had crossed, thirty miles west of Fort Smith; and from this point we commenced our long and weary march back to Kansas.
Had Gen'l Thayer, who had six or seven thousand efficient troops inside of the fortifications at Fort Smith-and who was apprised of our movements by despatches by messengers -- sent a small force with two or three pieces of artillery up the river on the south side, to attack and check Price's advance while crossing, as he (Thayer) was urged to do, we would have been enabled to have captured the entire rebel force at the Arkansas river.
While I have not gone into minute details regarding the campaign
264 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
against Price in the fall of 1864, yet I have been more elaborate than I otherwise would if it were not that my official report of the affair has been manipulated, while many accounts of the same have been spread before the public which were far from being correct, and while I have not said all that I might in reference to this campaign, yet what I have narrated I know to be correct.
I arrived in Kansas on my return from the campaign against Price, the 24th of November, and remained at Paola, the headquarters of my district, until after the surrender of Lee, when it being supposed the war would be continued west of the Mississippi, I was ordered by Gen'l Pope, commanding military division of the Missouri, to the command of the cavalry division of an army that was to move against Gen'l Kirby Smith, who with a command of sixty thousand rebels, was occupying the line of Red river. About the middle of April I left Kansas and proceeded by way of St. Louis and the Arkansas river, to Fort Gibson, when I commenced to concentrate and organize my command, which was to consist of ten thousand cavalry, and several batteries of light artillery. With this force it was expected that I would move as a separate column through the Indian country, cross Red river, and come in upon the enemy's left flank, while the infantry columns moved from Little Rock, and Fort Smith, to form a junction, but the surrender by Kirby Smith, of all the rebel forces west of the Mississippi, saved us further efforts in that direction. While I was making active preparations, and in a short time would have been in readiness to move against the enemy, I received information, on the second day of June, of the surrender just alluded to, and considering the war was at an end, I forwarded on the following day (June 3d) to the Secretary of War, my resignation as Major General of Vols. and asked of Gen'l Reynolds, commanding Department of Arkansas, to be relieved of the command as soon as convenient. Accordingly I was relieved on the 18th day of June and proceeded to Leavenworth to await action on my resignation, which was accepted on the 29th of July, 1865, and thus terminated my connection with the army, after serving a period of over four years.
In the foregoing recital I have not attempted to go into the minor details of events with which I have been connected, or refer to the part taken by individual officers or particular commands. For these I must refer you to my official reports, in which I have endeavored to do justice to all according to their merit. If I have
BLUNT: CIVIL WAR EXPERIENCES 265
erred, or omitted what, was due to anyone, it has not been intentional.
While there are some pleasant reminiscences connected with my service in the volunteer army during the late war, yet my path was not free from thorns. To be compelled always to contest with an enemy double and treble my superior in numbers, and thrown upon my own resources to provide for every emergency, was not the misfortune that annoyed me the most. I had as much to fear from the treacherous and cowardly enemy in my rear, as from armed rebels in my front. When I first entered upon the duties of a responsible command, I verily believed it was the duty of every loyal man to sustain the government in its hour of peril, and to strengthen the hands of those who were laboring to put down the gigantic rebellion by a vigorous prosecution of the war. In this I was mistaken. Experience has since taught me that patriotism
[There is a gap in the manuscript here; the top of the final page is missing and what is left appears as follows.]
knew better than they, the
and the remedy to be
I Have been willing to have sac-
principle, honor and self-respect,
back upon those with whom my lot had been cast, and played the sycophant and toady to men for whom I had a supreme contempt, and some of whom I even doubted their loyalty, notwithstanding they occupied high official positions in the army, I should probably have been one of the favored instead of the persecuted. That I did not comply with their requirements, I shall never regret.
Another annoyance and barrier to my usefulness, that met me at every step, and one that I felt more keenly than all others was the unrelenting crusade against me by those exercising authority and influence. [Apparently the report does not quite end here, but it is evident that Blunt was concluding his narrative. If there were other pages they have been lost.]
1. James Gillpatrick Blunt was born July 21, 1828 in Trenton, Hancock county, Maine. At the age of fifteen he went to sea for five years. Subsequently he studied medicine and in 1849 a degree was granted him from Starling Medical College, Columbus, Ohio. Afterward he practiced in New Madison, Ohio. He was married there to Nancy Carson Putnam.
2. Thomas Moonlight was born near Arbroath, Scotland, November 10, 1833. At the age of thirteen he ran away and shipped as a forecastle hand on board a schooner bound for the United States. Landing in Philadelphia without funds he worked at several trades before enlisting in the regular army on May 17, 1863.
He saw service in Florida and was with Albert Sidney Johnston's command in the campaign against the Mormons in Utah. A short time after receiving his discharge at Fort Leavenworth in 1858 he settled on a farm in Kickapoo township, Leavenworth county. At the beginning of the war of the Rebellion be raised a light battery and was commissioned a captain of artillery in the Union Army. He received prominent mention for his services at the battles of Dry Wood and The Blue, and at Prairie Grove. At the end of the war Moonlight was colonel of the Eleventh Kansas, with the brevet rank of brigadier general. Upon returning to civilian life he became prominent m political circles. In 1888 he was elected secretary of state. During President Cleveland's first term he was appointed governor of Wyoming, and in 1893 he became minister to Bolivia. He returned to the United States four years later, where he settled on a farm. He died February 7, 1899.