The 11th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry
The Eleventh Regiment of Kansas Volunteers was raised in response to the call of the President of July--, 1862--following the reverses of McClellan before Richmond--for 300,000 volunteers for "three years or during the war". The quota of Kansas, under this call, was three regiments of infantry. Contrary to usage, Hon. J. H. Lane, one of the Senators from Kansas, was authorized by the War Department to recruit this quota, and, under certain restrictions, to officer the troops when mustered into service, The authority of the Governor of the State was entirely ignored.
On the 6th of August, General Lane authorized Hon. Thomas Ewing, Jr., Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the State, to recruit one regiment of infantry in the counties of Leavenworth, Jefferson, Jackson, Shawnee, Waubaunsee, Pottawatomie, Riley, Davis, Morris, Lyon, Greenwood, Franklin and Anderson--comprising nearly one-third of the State--delegating him full power to organize and officer the regiment when recruited.
Judge Ewing at once established a regimental rendezvous near Fort Leavenworth, christening it Camp Lyon, appointed one or more active and energetic recruiting officers for each county of his district, and aided their efforts by a thorough canvass in person, speaking in nearly every county of the district, and in many at several different places.
It was a time of great gloom and despondency. The State had already furnished ten regiments to the Union army from its sparse population. The footloose men were all gone. There remained only the men of families, farmers and mechanics, all poor and mostly but just fairly getting a firm foothold in the state of their adoption. Several of the counties of the district were but recently organized, and all, but one, were thinly populated. The whole state was yet suffering from the effects of the Border War preceding her admission into the Union, and the more recent drought and famine of 1860, which latter had lost to the state one-third of its total population and a greater proportion of its wealth. Threatened with invasion from their old enemies, the Border Ruffians of Missouri, the disloyal Indians of the Cherokee and Creek nations on the southern border, and by the wild Indians of the Plains from the West, the people of Kansas felt that to defend their own soil would be the full measure of all just claims the Government could have upon them. The quota assigned under the last call for troops was felt to be onerous and unjust, and the opinion was very generally expressed by prominent men of the state that it could not be raised by volunteer enlistments. But the instincts of patriotism prevailed. The crisis was everywhere regarded as the most imminent that had been presented during the war. The Union was especially dear to Kansas, who had just entered it, after a long struggle and through much tribulation. The enemies of the Union were those who had oppressed Kansas and opposed her admission. The full quota was not only raised in an unprecedentedly short space of time, but the stimulus given to recruiting furnished hundreds of recruits to the old regiments.
The first recruit for the 11th was enlisted on the 18th of August, on the 29th Co. A was mustered in, one hundred strong, and two days later was followed by Co. B. On the 14th of September the last company was filled and mustered and the regimental organization completed. Many of the men were enlisted one hundred and fifty miles from the rendezvous, and yet such was the rapidity in recruiting, the promptness in forwarding recruits to the regimental rendezvous, the admirable forethought which pervaded arrangements at headquarters and the superintendence of Judge Ewing, that the entire regiment was recruited, organized, mounted and equipped for active service in less that a month after recruiting began--the quickest work of the kind ever done in Kansas.
The company officers were chosen by the enlisted men of the respective companies, and the field officers by the company officers. Judge Ewing was unanimously chosen Colonel, Captain Thomas Moonlight, Lieutenant Colonel, and P. B. Plumn, Captain Co. C, Major. The regimental staff was appointed by Colonel Ewing, as follows; John Williams, Adjutant; J. R. McClure, Quartermaster; J. W. Hogeboom, Surgeon; R. M. Ainsworth and J. D. Adams, Assistant Surgeons. The first company officers were as follows;
Company A--Capt., Lyman Scott, Jr.; 1st Lieut., Jno. Owens; 2d do., Henry E. Palmer.
Company B--Capt., Martin Anderson; 1st Lieut., ---- Smith; 2d do., Louis F. Green.
Company C--Capt., P. B. Plumb, (succeeded on the 25th of September by Lemuel T. Heritage); 1st Lieut., Henry Pearce; 2d do., Wm. V. Phillips.
Company D--Capt., Jerome Kunkle; 1st Lieut., Elias Gibbs; 2d do., Peleg Thomas.
Company E--Capt., Edmond G. Ross; 1st Lieut., Chas. Drake; 2d do., Nathan P. Gregg.
Company F--Capt., Jacob G. Rees; 1st Lieut., Jno. G. Lindsay; 2d do., Geo. W. Simons.
Company G--Capt., Nathaniel A. Adams; 1st Lieut., Grenville L Gove; 2d do., Alfred C. Pierce.
Company H--Capt., Joel Huntoon; 1st Lieut., Harrison Hannahs; 2d do., John W. Ridgway.
Company I--Capt., Lewis D. Joy; 1st Lieut., Josiah B. McAfee; 2d do., Wm. Y. Drew.
Company K--Capt., John M. Allen; 1st Lieut., Josiah M. Hubbard; 2d do., Henry C. Haas.
Of the officers of the regiment, a number had previously served in the Union Army. Lieut. Colonel Moonlight had served as Captain of artillery and A. A. G.; Quartermaster McClure as Captain in the 2d Kansas; 2d Lieut. H. E. Palmer as Corporal in Moonlight's Battery; 1st Lieut. Smith in the Army of the Potomac; 2nd Lieut. L F. Green as Chaplain of Colonel Nugent's regiment; Capt. Heritage as 1st Lieut. in the 9th Kansas Cavalry; Lieuts. Pearce and Phillips as Corporals in the 2d Kansas; Lieut. Elias Gibbs as private in the 2d Kansas; Lieut. N. P. Gregg as private in the 2d Kansas; Lieut. Lindsay as Lieut. in the 2d Kansas; Lieut. G. L. Gove as Corporal in the 6th Kansas Cavalry; Lieut. J. W. Ridgway as private in the Fifth Kansas Cavalry, and Lieut. Wm. Y. Drew as Corporal in the 2d Kansas.
All the officers of the regiment, save Lieut. Col. Moonlight and Surgeons Hogeboom and Ainsworth, had actively participated in recruiting the regiment. Colonel Moonlight had been a soldier in the regular army, had served with distinction as commander of a battery in 1861, and was now A. A. G. on the staff of General Blunt, commanding Department of Kansas. He was regarded as one of the most accomplished soldiers in the West, and was chosen to the position of second in command that the regiment might have the advantage of his military experience.
The regiment lay in camp waiting for Enfield rifles and the promised advanced pay and bounty, which had been applied for by the proper officers, when an order came from Gen. Blunt, immediately following the second battle of Newtonia, to proceed forwith by forced marches to join the Army of the Frontier, then pursuing the rebels southward. Neither money or arms had yet arrived. A large majority of the regiment consisted of married men whose families sorely needed the advance pay and bounty. Arrangements were therefore made by Colonel Ewing with bankers in Leavenworth City to furnish the necessary means for the payment of the men. The only infantry arms at Fort Leavenworth were a lot of Fremont's Prussian muskets, manufactured in 1818, of antique pattern, extra large calibre, and one-fourth heavier than either the Enfield or Springfield musket. These were hastily drawn and issued, and on the 4th of October, twenty days after its organization, the Eleventh regiment, with eager steps, started on its first campaign.
The march to Fort Scott, one hundred and twenty-five miles, was made in five days, where the regiment lay until the afternoon of the 15th, waiting for supplies and an ammunition train designed for General Blunt. Leaving Fort Scott, accompanied by a section of Blair's Battery, and having in charge the ammunition train, the regiment proceeded, by way of Dry Wood, Preston, Carthage, Newtonia, Stony Comfort and Keetsville, Mo., to Pea Ridge, Ark., the locality of General Curtis' celebrated battle with the rebels under Price and Van Dorn, where the Army of the Frontier had been consolidated under General Schofield, arriving on the 19th. The regiment was reviewed on its arrival by General Schofield, hospitably dined by the 10th Kansas, assigned to General Blunt's Division--the 1st--and by him assigned to the 3d Brigade, commanded by Colonel Cloud, of the 2d Kansas Cavalry.
The march had been forced, And one that tried the men more than any subsequent one they ever made; but there was no rest in store for them now. General Blunt believed in night marches and surprises. The night of the 20th, the 1st Division marched to Bentonville, and the next night to the vicinity of Old Fort Wayne, C. N., where General Cooper lay with a force of three thousand men, preparing for a raid on Fort Scott. General Blunt attacked at daylight with his cavalry advance, and so completely was the surprise that a handful of cavalry routed the whole force and captured four pieces of artillery. The principal charge was led by Capt. Crawford of the 2d Kansas, subsequently Governor of the State. The 11th had the infantry advance, and double quicked six miles to be in time. The men, in their eagerness to be on hand, threw away overcoats and everything that impeded their movements, but arrived on the field only in time to see the enemy's rear disappear, pursued by the cavalry.
The month succeeding was spent in comparative idleness. From Fort Wayne the Division moved to Little Osage, six miles south of Bentonville, where Cos. D and E of the 11th, under the command of Major Plumb, were detailed on a foraging expedition to Brown's Mill, ten miles south, charged with the duty of running the mill and foraging the surrounding country, for the purpose of replenishing the exhausted commissariat of the Division. This duty occupied about two weeks time, was thoroughly performed, and further resulted in the destruction of large stores of rebel leather, intended for Hindman's shoeless army, and in the exodus of a large party of Unionists--black and white--to Kansas, transportation being furnished by their secesh neighbors. On the 14th of November, the Division moved southward to Flint Creek, near the west line of Arkansas, where it lay for a couple of weeks, almost without rations, waiting for the arrival of commissary supplies from Fort Scott. The night of the 27th the supplies were received, three days' bread and meat issued and placed in haversacks, eighty rounds of ammunition put in the boxes and knapsacks, and early next morning the whole disposable force, moved, without transportation, for Cane Hill, forty miles south, where the rebel General Marmaduke lay with a force of six thousand cavalry and a battery of artillery. The march was accomplished and the attack made at 11 o'clock the next day, the 11th leading the infantry advance. After a short resistance, the enemy retreated from the town, but made a desperate stand on the east side of the Boston Mountains, four miles to the south, from which he was duly driven after stubborn fighting, which continued for six miles through the forests and ravines of the mountains to the junction of the Fayetteville and Cane Hill roads, where the action was closed at nightfall by a brilliant charge of the 6th Kansas Cavalry, lead by Lieut. Col. Jewell, who was mortally wounded, leaving the enemy in full retreat for the Arkansas river. The victory was both bloody and decisive, but only a foretaste of what was in store. The 11th deserved and received the encomiums of the commanding General for its veteran-like behavior in the action. The army returned to Cane Hill next morning and went into camp while the transportation was brought up from Flint Creek.
At Cane Hill a printing office had been found and pitched into the street by the rear guard. When the 11th returned to town, the type was scattered about in the most incomprehensible "pi", and trampled under foot by cavalry, artillery and infantry. The 11th had its share of printers, and under the direction of Major Plumb and Capt. Ross, both old typos, the pi was gathered up, assorted and the first number of a newspaper printed bearing the suggestive title of "Buck & Ball." It was intended to issue on Saturday, the 6th, and in due time the outside, being of that date and mainly filled with a diary of the marches and operations generally of the 11th to that time, was printed. The inside was all up, being largely composed of an account of the battle of Cane Hill, with, of course, the usual digs at the fugacious "rebs", but not worked off, when all operations of that character were summarily suspended by the approach of the enemy, and the preparations for battle. Sunday morning, the 7th, as the rear guard of the 11th passed through town, on its way to meet Hindman at Prairie Grove, the officer in charge put the printed sheets into an ambulance, where they remained until after the great battle and the return of the regiment to Cane Hill, when they were taken out, the office again picked out of "pi", and the inside printed, containing accounts of both battles and bearing date the 15th, eight days later than the date on the outside.
The Division had hardly got comfortable in camp at Cane Hill before word was brought that General Hindman was crossing his infantry to the north side of the Arkansas river to join the cavalry under Marmaduke for an offensive movement. The 2d and 3d Divisions were over one hundred miles to the rear; the 1st Division consisted of barely five thousand men, all told, of which over one thousand were Indians, and only about two thousand were infantry, while the joint forces of Hindman and Marmaduke were over twenty-five thousand, of which all but five thousand were infantry, newly armed with Enfield riffles. General Blunt having dispatched for the 2d and 3d Divisions, determined to await their arrival where he then was, though the enemy had but one-half the distance to march that his reinforcements had. Saturday morning, the 6th of December, at daylight, the picket at the junction of Cane Hill and Fayetteville roads, six miles from the former place, were driven in, and during the day skirmishing between the cavalry advance of the enemy and our pickets was continued until near night, when, the picket having been reinforced by Co. H of the 11th, a desperate struggle took place for the possession of the summit of the mountain which the rebels had surrendered so unwillingly at the battle of Cane Hill. The overwhelming numbers of the rebels finally prevailed, and darkness put an end to the contest. The conduct of Co. H in this struggle was the theme of encomium throughout the Division. While it lost largely in its brave but vain endeavor to hold ground against greatly superior numbers, the loss of the enemy was afterwards ascertained to have been more than four times greater.
Saturday night the rebels passed a strong column of infantry up the Fayetteville road, and by the time the movement was discovered, Hindman's whole force was practically in General Blunt's rear, and had encountered the 2d and 3d Divisions under General Herron, on their way to reinforce General Blunt, at the crossing of the Little Illinois, twelve miles northeast of Cane Hill.
At 10 o'clock Sunday morning, General Blunt began falling back from Cane Hill to join General Herron, and at half-past 2 the Division arrived on the battle field, where for nearly five hours General Herron, with an available force of scarce five thousand men, had been contending, with varying success, against a force outnumbering his three to one, and constantly increasing. The last five miles of the march of General Blunt' Division was made to the music of the raging battle and at double-quick, the regiments vieing with each other for the honor of being the first to get into the fight. The 11th had the infantry advance and held it though the race, though close crowded by the 10th, which finally came first under fire, owing to its position on the extreme right, being farther advanced when the line of battle was formed.
It was a critical moment for General Herron; he had been fighting against large odds and the battle, for an hour, had gone sorely against him. The remainder of General Hindman's Infantry had just arrived and these, numbered about ten thousand, with Marmaduke's cavalry, were moving west to throw themselves upon Herron's right flank. It was at this juncture that the 1st Division arrived on the field, and forming on the right of Herron's line, but with an interval between of three or four hundred yards, met the onset of the fresh rebel force. The main portion of General Blunt's line was formed in a thick woods, at the foot of a slight ascent, the left extending into an open field, where Rabb's and Hopkin's batteries, supported only by the left wing of the 11th and a few dismounted men of the 2d Kansas Cavalry.
The two wings of the 11th were separated by an interval of about two hundred yards, the right being in the woods, under the direct command of Col. Ewing, and the left in the field, under command of Lieut. Col. Moonlight. The enemy's skirmishers were speedily turned back over the rise, and the whole line advanced about half way up the ascent, when they were ordered to fix bayonets for a charge as soon as the crest should be reached. The men had been ordered to lie down, to await further developments of the enemy's position and numbers, and just as the order for a further advance had been given, the rebels, who had been concealed in the thick woods beyond, charged over the brow of the hill, massed four ranks deep. They were received with a volley which checked their advance temporarily. A terrible struggle ensued. The weight of numbers was with the rebels three to one. To counter balance this, our artillery was superior in weight of metal and in the manner in which it was served.
Our line was gradually forced back, and though sometimes broken was afterwards reformed, to a line of fence skirting the woods, where the last desperate stand was made just before night fall, and the position held by a few resolute men, until the rebels gave up the contest and fell back under cover of the darkness. Several times the rebels essayed the capture of our batteries in the open field, but were as often driven back with terrible slaughter. General Hindman's order for the battle directed that the cavalry be posted in the rear of the infantry to act as file closers, with instructions to shoot all stragglers, and so all day the surging mass of rebel infantry was crowded forward with desperate vehemence and recklessness, with certain death behind if they quailed, and incited by the hope of revenge and plunder in case of victory.
The 11th came off the battle field with ranks thinned but unbroken, having fired the last shot of the contest, under orders from General Blunt to form a new line of battle in the rear of the position where the last victorious stand was made, and where the broken and scattered fragments of the Division had been gathered. The action was not regarded as decisive, and all night preparations were going on for the encounter that was expected on the morrow. The supply and baggage trains were all sent from Rhea's Mills to our rear at Fayetteville, and the guard, consisting of the 9th Wisconsin Infantry, part of the 6th and 9th Cavalry, and 3d Indian, were added to the forces on the field. Provisions and ammunition were brought up and distributed, and every preparation made for a more desperate contest than that which had just closed. About daylight a message came from General Hindman to General Blunt, under cover of flag of truce, asking for a personal interview, and shortly after daylight an interview was had, which, of course, suspended for the time being the operations of our army, which was to have attacked at that hour. The interview was soon discovered to be a mere ruse to gain time, the rebels having evacuated their position seemingly early in the night, and now being miles away. General Hindman stipulated for two hours' truce to get away himself, which, General Blunt granted.
The Union loss in killed and wounded was about twelve hundred, of which the 11th had its full share, and from among the best and bravest in its ranks. That of the rebels was about two thousand, five hundred, of which all the dead and two-thirds of the wounded fell into our hands. By agreement between Generals Blunt and Hindman, the battle was manes Prairie Grove. It was one of the bloodiest and by far the most decisive of the battles fought in Arkansas during the war, and was equivalent to a rout in its effect upon Hindman's army, as not less that three thousand of his men deserted after the battle, and found their way within our lines, or escaped beyond them to their homes in Missouri, and never after, during the war, did the rebels have an army of all arms north of the Arkansas river.
The official reports of Cols. Ewing and Moonlight of the part taken in the battle by the 11th, and furnished to General Blunt, were inadvertently omitted from the regimental books. An extract from General Blunt's report of the battle is, however, herewith appended, which shows the estimation of the service of the regiment in the mind of the General commanding.
A couple of days after the battle the regiment, along with a major portion of the Division, returned to its old camping ground at Cane Hill, where it remained until the 27th, when it went with the army to Van Buren, on the Arkansas river, fifty miles south, in search of the rebels. No transportation was taken, and each man carried six days' cooked rations and his blankets. The first twenty miles of the march was through a gorge of the Boston Mountains, known as the Cove Creek road, crossed and recrossed by a swift mountain stream over forty times, through which the men waded heavily laden, often swept from their feet, and losing rations and blankets, until far into the night. Many died from the effects of this exposure, and the remembrance of it is still in the bones of many more.
Hindman had prudently put the Arkansas river between him and danger, leaving only a regiment of cavalry on the north side, which was surprised and annihilated. There was some artillery fighting across the river, four steamboats loaded with stores and rebel sick and wounded were captured and destroyed, the prisoners being paroled, and after unavailing attempt to get Hindman within striking distance, on the 31st the army started on its return, accompanied by about five hundred contrabands and a few Union refugees. The transportation was joined at Rhea's Mills, where General Schofield relieved General Blunt, and the army marched to Elm Springs, twelve miles northwest of Fayetteville, where it lay about two weeks, when another forward movement was inaugurated, this time against Little Rock via Batesville; but the first thirty miles only were marched, when General Curtis ordered a return to the vicinity of Springfield, Mo., to remain until spring. The roads were horrible, snow and rain alternating every day, the streams swollen, and weather bitterly cold. White River, the most considerable stream in northern Arkansas, was to be crossed, and it was very high and the current rapid. There were neither bridges, ferries nor pontoon trains. While the Division commander was exhausting his ingenuity in fruitless expedients, Col. Ewing made a detail of competent men from the 11th, procured lumber and a cable chain from a neighboring mill, and in ten hours time built a first-class ferry boat, that took the army over swiftly and without loss. The first halt was made at Crane Creek, thirty miles south of Springfield. Here the measles broke out in camp with great violence, causing many deaths. Sickness of all kinds was very prevalent. The locality came to be spoken of in the regiment as "the Valley of the Shadow of Death". About the middle of February a move was made to a point fifty miles west of Springfield, in Lawrence county, which is commonly known as Camp Solomon. On the 16th of March a dispatch was received from Washington announcing the appointment of Col. Ewing as Brigadier General, which causes great rejoicing, the Colonel being very popular with the regiment. On the recommendation General Ewing, the Regimental Adjutant, Lieutenant Williams, was soon after appointed Captain and A. A. G.
On the 17th, the Division started for Forsythe, reported beleaguered by the enemy; but on reaching James river, it was ascertained to be a false report, and in pursuance of a previous order of General Schofield, all the Kansas troops of the Division were ordered to march to the vicinity of Fort Scott for the purpose of being furloughed. On the 27th the major portion were sent to the localities where recruited under charge of company officers, with orders to report back at the expiration of thirty days.
At the expiration of this leave,. the regiment marched form Fort Scott to Salem, Mo., and joined the remainder of the Army of the Frontier, General Ewing having been assigned to the command of the First Division. This arrangement, however, lasted but a few days. The infantry and artillery of the 2sd and 3d Divisions were sent to reinforce General Grant at Vicksburg, the cavalry mostly went to the vicinity of Cape Gurardeau, to look after Marmaduke, and what was left of the 1st Division was marched to Rolla, thence to be scattered widely and known to each other no more. General Ewing was sent to command the District of the Border, headquarters at Kansas City, including Southwestern Missouri and most of Kansas, the location of the principal guerrilla disturbances, and thence, soon after, went the 11th, arriving in Kansas City about the 20th of April. The regiment had now been in service about nine months, and its ranks were sadly thinned, having lost over three hundred men and being reduced below the minimum number.
The authority of appointment in the regiment having been previously relinquished by the War Department, on the promotion of Col. Ewing, Lieut. Col. Moonlight had been promoted to be Colonel, Maj. Plumb to be Lieut. Colonel, and Capt. Anderson, of Co. B, to be Major; but owing to the regiment being below the minimum, these officers could not muster.
Soon after its arrival at Kansas City the regiment was mounted by order of General Schofield, and in August, on recommendation of Generals Ewing and Schofield, it was changed from infantry to cavalry, with authority to recruit two new companies. The regiment had by this time been recruited above the minimum strength of infantry, but the change to cavalry prevented the muster of other field officers except a Major. Capt. Anderson was mustered as Major, and R. J. Harper, of Co. G, as Lieut. and Commissary.
The order mounting the regiment, and the subsequent one changing it to cavalry, were both intended by General Schofield as complimentary, and a reward for service theretofore rendered, the change being earnestly desired by nearly the entire regiment.
Renewed efforts were now made to fill all the old companies to the cavalry maximum and recruit the two new companies, as required by the War Department, which were not, however, wholly successful until the following spring.
Meanwhile the regiment was doing the arduous and dangerous, but thankless duties of the Border service--scattered a company or two in a place escorting trains, policing the country, hunting bushwhackers, a service more that any other calculated to stimulate individualism among the soldiers and destroy discipline, calling for rare watchfulness, constant exposure, self-reliance, and personal daring, with no reward save the consciousness of duty faithfully done. Until the men became acquainted with the country and the to them, new mode of warfare, and skilled in the mounted service, the bushwhackers "held their own", but finally the tables were turned. The bushwhackers no longer held a monopoly of way side and creek crossings, ambushes and stealthy night marches and surprises of camps; the country became too hot for them, and in September Quantrell fled with his forces to Texas. The experience necessary for victory was dearly bought, being paid for with the lives of many brave and good men; but once gained, its effect was never lost. Quarter was neither given nor asked on either side, which made all the contests of the most sanguinary character.
Notwithstanding the constant temptation, the men never fell into excess and in the substantial elements of discipline the character of the regiment was as well maintained during its border service as before.
In the latter part of September the rebel General Shelby made a cavalry raid into Central Missouri, which caused a temporary concentration of the available troops in the District of the Border for his pursuit and expulsion. Most of the 11th participated in this campaign to its close.
A threatened rebel raid from the Cherokee country by Stand Waitie, in December, caused General Ewing to send a portion of the 11th, under command of Major Plumb, to the southern border of Kansas, which remained, scouting, escorting trains to Fort Gibson, etc., until the following August, when the companies were returned for service to the eastern border of the State.
During the winter and early spring, Sergeants Henry Booth, Jacob Van Antwerp and William Booth, of Co. G, recruited a company of men in the vicinity of Fort Riley, which was mustered as Co. L of the 11th, with these gentlemen as Captain and 1st and 2d Lieutenants, respectively. During the same time, Capt. E. G. Ross, of Co. E, stationed at Lawrence, recruited one full company and fifty additional men for the old companies, which raised them above the cavalry minimum. This company was mustered as Co. M, with 2d Lieut, Nathan P. Gregg, of Co. E, as Captain, and Sergeants Joseph Green and Henry C. Lindsay, of the same company, as 1st and 2d Lieutenants, respectively. The regimental organization was now completed the commission and muster of Lieut. Col. Moonlight as Colonel, Major Plumb as Lieutenant Colonel, and Capt. E. G. Ross, of Co. E, and N. A. Adams, of Co., G, as Majors.
The regiment now over twelve hundred strong, was all stationed in Kansas. Co. L was engaged in the Indian service, headquarters at Fort Riley; Co. G was body guard for General Curtis, commanding Department of Kansas, headquarters at Fort Leavenworth. This company was said to be the best drilled and disciplined of any company on duty in the department. Cos. C and F were stationed on the southern border, and the remaining companies were stationed along the eastern border and at Lawrence, under command of Colonel Moonlight, who also commanded a sub-district, headquarters at Paola. The service was so well performed that there were no invasions of Kansas during the entire summer, although the guerrillas were in usual force over the line in Missouri and in the Indian Territory.
The part taken by the 11th in what is popularly known as the "Price Raid", is well set forth in Colonel Moonlight's report as commander of the 2d Brigade, Army of the Border, and only an outline will be here added.
With the remaining available troops of the Department of Kansas, ten companies of the 11th rendezvoused at Hickman's Mills on the12th of October 1864. Co. L remained at its station on the frontier, and Co. G, though on duty in the campaign as body guard to General Curtis, as scouts, messengers, and at the battle of Little Blue as support to a howitzer battery, did not report to regimental headquarters. Colonel Moonlight having been assigned to the command of the 2d Brigade, composed in part of the 11th, Lieut. Col. Plumb commanded the regiment. Majors Anderson and Ross each commanded a battalion. Major Adams was on detached service as Inspector of the Northern District of Kansas.
In all the marches and battles of the eventful campaign that followed, the 11th bore prominent and honorable part. It had the advance of General Blunt's forces in the dash on Lexington. Cos. A, B and F occupied advanced positions on the line of rebel approach to the city, and held them until surrounded, and then fought their way out and rejoined the command after they had been given up as entirely lost. The regiment alone covered the perilous retreat of the army from Lexington on the 19th of October, in a series of desperate contests with overwhelming numbers in a manner to fully accomplish the object aimed at and to win the special commendation of the commander-in-chief. Being left alone to guard the crossings of the Little Blue, while the main force fell back to Independence, two days after the fight at Lexington, it had the honor of opening the battle to which that stream gives its name, and which, though temporarily a victory for Price, was so dearly bought in the losses from his ranks as well as the delay occasioned him, as to be really a bad defeat. The infantry experience of the regiment proved of great service in this battle, as the men dismounted and fought on foot nearly the entire day. Cos. B and I charged over a stone wall, behind which a superior force of the rebels had entrenched themselves, killing and capturing nearly the whole lot. Co. M, now under fire for the second time, bore itself worthy the old-time reputation of the regiment, standing at the head in the number of its killed and wounded, among the latter its Captain. Co. E had in charge a battery of four howitzers, which were served in a gallant manner and with great effect. Co. H held an important ford, singly and alone, until late in the day, saving much to our fight flank, which it thus covered. Co. A made a brilliant charge, unmounted, down a narrow lane early in the action, clearing it of rebels, and helping Co. F to obtain an advance position, which it reached under a galling fire. Cos. C, D and K held the center and were last off the field.
Finally, when the retreat was ordered, the regiment was again assigned the duty of covering the rear, which it did with its usual fidelity and success, enabling the army to place itself in a place of safety behind the line of the Big Blue.
The continual assignment of the regiment to the most difficult and dangerous duty in the advance in offensive movements, and to the rear in the retreat, showed the reliance which was placed upon it, The battle of Little Blue, though a loss of ground, was really a victory in the detention of the rebels a whole day, which enabled the Pleasanton to strike their rear. The Union forces in this battle did not exceed twenty-five hundred, while the rebels numbered twelve thousand, all of whom came into action before its close.
The next day the regiment participated in the battle of Big Blue, including the cavalry charge which drove the rebels over the Kansas line, one battalion breaking into fragments and putting to rout Jackman's whole brigade of rebels. The next day (Sunday) in the beginning of the battle of Westport, the regiment achieved a brilliant success, which it was prevented from following up by an order from General Curtis to fall back. The day, however, was one of victory, and the rebel retreat southward down the state line began. Colonel Moonlight was then sent to hover on their flank and prevent their entering Kansas. The rebels were encountered at Cold Water Grove, at Mound City, and at Fort Lincoln, and his marauders kept from their work of devastation in the state they so bitterly hated.
In the pursuit which followed from Fort Scott the 11th participated to the last, and after the rebels had been driven across the Arkansas river, instead of remaining with the remainder of the troops to their stations, were sent to Fort Smith, from whence they returned to Kansas, arriving at Paola December 12th, just two months after the beginning of the campaign.
The hardships of the latter part of the campaign were its chief features.
The men were thinly clad, and the weather became very cold and stormy. The regiment had no transportation, and so insufficient were the provisions for subsistence, that for two entire days the man had nothing but coffee and bacon, and the three following nothing but coffee, and that in scant supply. The country furnished no forage, and the horses were constantly giving out, so that by the time the regiment arrived at Paola, the loss was over two-thirds of the whole number, and not one was fit to be ridden. For four hundred miles the regiment repeated the experience of its early infantry service.
Soon after the return to Paola, Colonel Moonlight was assigned to duty as commander of the District of Colorado. Lieut. Col. Plumb took his place as commander of the sub-district of Paola; but the change was hardly made, when the regiment was ordered to Fort Riley to outfit and recruit, preparatory to service on the Planes against the Indians.
At Fort Riley Co. D joined the regiment for the first time. The company was composed of excellent material and was finely disciplined and equipped. it had done good service on the Plains, and it was no fault either of commander or men that it had not taken part in the late campaign against the rebels.
Early in February Cos. C and E were ordered to Fort Larned. It was the intention that the whole regiment should soon follow, to make a campaign against the Indians on the Smoky Hill. But a change of Department commanders brought a change of plan, and on the 20th of February the remaining nine companies started for Fort Kearney, under orders to report to Brig. Gen. Mitchell, commanding the Northern District of the Plains. Nearly one-third of the regiment were still dismounted, and fully one-half not properly clothed, owing to the lack of supplies at Fort Riley.
Fort Kearney is distant two hundred miles from Riley, and the march was accomplished in twelve days, the command arriving on the 4th of March. No previous experience of cold and exposure equaled that of the regiment on this march, which, severe as it was, proved only a slight foretaste of what was still before them. Violent storms of either snow or rain prevailed constantly, Large numbers of men were on foot, and the greater share were insufficiently clothed. Many were badly frozen, ant it sometimes happened that the footmen became lost from the command during the severe snow storms that obscured the heavens and drifted the roads, and were only found and saved from freezing to death by details sent out from camp as soon as their absence was known. The great severity of the weather man be better understood when it is stated that a regiment of cavalry ordered from Fort Leavenworth to Fort Kearney at the same time the 11th was ordered from Fort Riley, found it impossible to march after the first two or three days out, and lay by for over a month in Northern Kansas and Southern Nebraska--in fact, until the 11th had arrived at the foot of the mountains, five hundred miles beyond Fort Kearney--before its commander considered it save to venture to resume his march.
Recent high waters had swept away the bridges which the Government had, a few years previously, built over most of the intervening streams. As the waters were still high, these bridges were nearly all to be rebuilt, which, however, in the hands of the competent and willing men always to be found in the ranks of the 11th, was a comparatively a small job.
At Fort Kearney only a two days' halt was allowed--one for shoeing horses and drawing supplies, and one for inspection. The inspection was made by the District Inspector, in the presence of Gen. R. B. Mitchell, the District commander. Notwithstanding the unfavorable circumstances, the regiment appeared to good advantage, and was highly complimented by both the inspecting officer and Gen. Mitchell.
Fort Laramie, four hundred miles northwest of Fort Kearney, was the objective point from whence an early spring campaign was to be prosecuted against the Sioux Indians on Powder River, two hundred and fifty miles still further to the northwest. The weather continued very severe, and the exposure and hardships of the march were aggravated by the lack of fire wood, there being but two points on the route from Kearney to Laramie where supplies could be had. The main reliance was upon the willows, no larger then a man's thumb, that grew on the islands of the Platte River, and even these could not always be had. At the Sioux Agency, thirty miles below Laramie, the regiment was stopped by an order from Gen. Conner, who had relieved Gen. Mitchell in command of the District, to halt and await further orders.
The men, with that readiness of resource that always distinguishes old campaigners, set about making themselves comfortable. The tough alkali sod of the Platte bottom was formed into houses and stables with marvelous rapidity, and in two days' time a city sprang up which, if without architectural pretensions, was yet laid out with wide streets and commendable regularity, and answered the purpose of comfort. About the time this work was fairly completed, orders were received to proceed to Fort Laramie and report for duty to Col. Baumer, 1st Nebraska, commanding Post.
The regiment arrived at Fort Laramie April 9th, and there received news of the first successes around Petersburg vie Overland Telegraph, which caused great rejoicing. No halt was made, orders being to proceed at once to Platte Bridge, one hundred and thirty miles west, and from that point as headquarters, make such disposition of the companies as would best serve th protect the telegraph, obtain information of the Indians, and prevent their crossing the Platte and going south.
Although the spring was now well advanced, there were no tokens of it in air or landscape. The Laramie Mountains to the left were covered with snow, to which more was being added by storms every few days.
At Deer Creek, thirty miles from Platte Bridge, Major Adams was left with companies D and L. Co. I, Capt. Greer, was sent to Sweet Water station, fifty miles west, and shortly after Co. H, Lieut. Bodwell, was added. Regimental headquarters were established about six miles from Platte Bridge, near the mountains, on account of its convenience to wood.
But twenty days' rations of corn could be drawn at Laramie, and this, we soon found, was to be the total supply for the summer. The grass had not yet started--even that of the previous year's growth, scant, and also dried and almost worthless, was often covered with snow. The horses soon became weak and unserviceable, and many of them died. There was shameful lack in every department, not only for the necessaries of a campaign, but for troops in camp or garrison, Neither quartermaster, commissary or Ordnance supplies could be had in anything like needed quantities for even a single regiment, and ammunition suitable for the carbines carried by the 11th, not a cartridge was to be had short of Fort Leavenworth, one thousand miles distant.
The telegraph route from Laramie to South Pass, nearly three hundred miles, was garrisoned by three companies of the 11th Ohio Cavalry, in detachments from ten to fifty, according to the exposed condition of the place, and from thirty to fifty miles distant from each other. The men had been almost wholly dismounted, as the effect of the various raids of Indians upon the route.
A few days after the arrival of the regiment at Platte Bridge, a dispatch was received from Capt. Marshall, commanding at La Bouter, half way between Laramie and Platte Bridge, stating that the Indians had just stampeded the remainder of his horses from under the very eyes of the garrison, and asking that a force might be sent in pursuit. Major Adams was accordingly dispatched from Deer Creek with detachments of Cos. D and L, in all about thirty men to endeavor to intercept the Indians in their northward flight with the stock. Night overtook the Major in a range of barren sand hills, far distant from timber or water, The horses were picketed to sage bushes, or held by their lariats by the men, whom the Major, in what was thought an excess of caution, required to lie down in line upon their arms, and under minute instructions as to their duties in case of a night attack. Pickets were placed on each side of the camping place, about six rods distant. The camp was in a hollow, and so surrounded by ravines that there was but one approach to it over level ground, and that so narrow and winding that one not familiar with the exact lay of the land, could not find it in the night. About nine o'clock, and when all but the sentinels were fast asleep, the sound of approaching horsemen was heard. Soon the pickets saw against the horizon from their lower station a swiftly moving mass coming over the level approach straight for the camp. When within a few rods they fired, and the Indians, disconcerted, turned, and instead of dashing through the camp, as was their evident intention, dashed along its front, shooting into it with fire arms, but receiving a hot welcome from the now aroused men. The whole affair did not last over three minutes, from the time when the Indians were first seen to that when they disappeared in the darkness. In the morning eight Indian horses were found, most of them with bloody trappings, but not an Indian, nor did the Major succeed in again getting sight of one on his scout. This affair was worth much to the men who, mainly ignorant by experience of the Indian character, could hardly be brought to consider the savages as foemen worthy of their steel, or of any consideration whatever. Sentinels, herders and scouting parties were always thereafter on the qui vive, and to the watchfulness thus engendered, may be largely attributed the fact that during over four months operations among the Indians, there were but nine horses taken from the regiment by the favorite Indian method of stampeding, and they by a superior force at a remote stage station.
From this time forward the Indians fairly swarmed along the telegraph line. Scouting and hunting parties encountered then and videttes and herders of the stock were kept constantly on the alert. Skirmishes were frequent, and several most sanguinary encounters took place. Generally the advantage was with "the boys", and never were they driven from the field. The telegraph line was kept up and in working order, notwithstanding the efforts of the Indians to interrupt its operations by cutting the wires, and capture and destroy the stations.
On the 8th of May, Col. Moonlight, now in command of the Fort Laramie sub-District, took the available force of the regiment and made an extended scout to the foot of the Powder River Mountains and the vicinity of Wind River, under the guidance of the famous scout, Bridger.
On the 11th of June, Gen. Conner telegraphed Col. Plumb that the Indians had collected in large numbers on the overland stage line, captured and burned several stage stations and almost wholly interrupted travel on the route, and directing him to take Cos. A, B, F, L and M of the 11th and proceed to Fort Halleck, one hundred and twenty miles distant from Fort Laramie, and re-open and protect the route, and secure the safe and speedy transmission of the mails, and afford all possible protection to emigrant and other travel. The troops arrived at Fort Halleck on the 24th of June, and were at once disposed along the line from Camp Collins, Colorado, to Green Rover, a distance of about four hundred miles, relieving the Colorado and Ohio troops thertofore on duty. For a distance of about two hundred miles every hoof of stage stock had been driven off by the Indians and not replaced by the state company. Cavalry horses were substituted. The dangers of the route were such that most of the drivers deserted it, and men were taken from the ranks to fill their places. The Indians were almost constantly on the road, and oftentimes in very large numbers. Large escorts were impossible, as, owing to the distance to be covered and the small number of the troops, ten men was the maximum number for each stage station. The coaches were therefore often run in the night. Through all these difficulties and hazards the coaches were regularly driven through. Passengers shunned the line, driver and agents deserted it, and U. S. mails filled the coaches. U. S. soldiers sat on the driver's box, and drove U. S. cavalry horses, and thus the overland communications between the East and the West was kept up. Occasionally the Indians attacked the coaches, but they were as often driven off. This service lasted until the 13th of August, when the 11th was relieved from duty and ordered to Fort Leavenworth for muster out of service.
On the telegraph route matters progressed much as usual until late in July. Col. Moonlight had been mustered out of service and succeeded in command at Fort Laramie by Gen. Henry.
The muster out of the 11th commenced in June, and about twenty men of the Co. G, stationed at Fort Leavenworth, were discharged, when the further muster out was stopped by orders from the War Department. Under the operation of the first order, Col. Moonlight and Adjutant Taber were mustered out. When, however, the order was suspended, and it became apparent that the regiment was to remain longer in the service, Gov. Crawford proceeded to fill the vacancies by commissioning Lieut. Col. Plumb as Colonel, Major Anderson as Lieutenant Colonel, Capt. Allen, of Co. K, as Major, and Sergeant Major I. H. Isbell as Adjutant. These officers were not, however, mustered in their new rank, owing to the renewal of the order for muster out, which took effect just as the companies reached Fort Leavenworth, and under the operation of which the last company was mustered out on the 20th of September.
Major Anderson commanded the companies of the 11th remaining on the telegraph line, with headquarters at Platte Bridge. Co. I was stationed at the same place, and for several days previous to the 21st of July had been camped in the Platte bottom near the telegraph station, which was composed of several log buildings, forming three sides of a square, and a stockade, covering stabling for about fifty horses, forming the other. The evening of the 21st, the Indians made their appearance in considerable force near the station and stampeded some cattle. A portion of Co. I under Capt. Greer pursued, and a fight ensued, in which the Indians were whipped, and left their dead on the field. At the same time the telegraph wires were cut both sides of the station. Lieut. G. M. Walker, Acting Adjutant, was sent out with a party to endeavor to repair the line in the direction of Fort Laramie, so that communication could be had with Dear Creek station, thirty miles distant, where Co. K was stationed; but before he arrived at the break, he was attacked by an overwhelming force of Indians and compelled to retreat to the station, with the loss of one man killed and several wounded. Private Baker, Co. K, in this encounter, was thrust nearly through the body with a bayonet used as a lance by an Indian, the bayonet remaining in the wound. A comrade pulled it out with great effort, and Baker lives to tell the tale, and carry his wounded body behind a plow in the Cottonwood Valley. The garrison at the Bridge consisted of about seventy men of Co. I. of the 11th, twenty of the 11th Ohio, under Lieuts. Bretner and Collins, and the non-commissioned staff and band of the 11th, in all about one hundred and ten men. Of these about eighty were armed with carbines, and of the remainder about one-half had no arms and the others only revolvers. Owing to the criminal negligence either of the Department commander or of the Ordnance Department, ammunition suitable for the carbines had never been within reach since the 11th had left Fort Riley, and so now the little garrison at Platte Bridge was provided with less than twenty rounds of cartridges per man. About midnight, a small party of the 11th Ohio came in from Sweet Water station, fifty miles west, having seen no Indians. They reported having passed a party of the 11th in camp at Willow Springs, half way to Sweet Water. This was a train escort of twenty-four men of Cos. D and H, under command of Sergeant Custard of the latter company, who had been up as far as South Pass with supplies for the various stations and were now returning.
Next morning at daylight the Indians showed themselves on the various hills surrounding the station, but not in considerable numbers, yet sufficient, taken in connection with the possibilities of a larger force concealed, to induce great caution on the part of the commander of the station. Anxious watch was kept westward for a sight of Sergeant Custard's party. About 10 o'clock it came in view, on a high hill about six miles distant, and the howitzer was fired to warn them of danger, of which it seemed apparent that they had as yet no conception. The Indians seemed to discover the party at the same time with the garrison, and immediately turned their attention that way. At this, Maj. Anderson ordered Lieut. Collins, with about thirty of the best mounted and armed men of the 11th, to go to the assistance of the coming detachment. K Lieut.. Collins crossed the bridge, moved out rapidly through the bottom and to the first range of bluffs on the road, probably half a mile from the station, the Indians giving way before him and making no demonstrations. Suddenly from, the ravines, from the timber of the Platte, and from behind every knoll, there sprang into full view two thousand Indians, who had thus lain in wait for a demonstration from the garrison, and charged as if with one impulse upon Lieut. Collins' party. The Indians, coming from every side, were exposed to their own fire, and so forbore the use of bow or fire arm, and relied mainly upon spears, tomahawks and sabres. After the first discharge of carbines, which was with deadly effect, the soldiers relied wholly upon their revolvers, as there was neither time or opportunity for reloading. The party had faced towards the station when the impossibility of proceeding further became apparent. The Indians, anxious for their prey, and confident in overwhelming numbers, rushed toward the common center in such a manner as to partially impede their bloody purpose. So intermingled did the combatants become that it was impossible for the garrison to distinguish friend from foe, and Maj. Anderson dared not open with the howitzer up the heterogeneous mass that surged towards the station; but he sent all the available force across the bridge, to aid his struggling comrades. This diversion served to enable Lieut. Collins' party to cut their way through and rejoin their comrades. Just as they were emerging from the crowd of their enemies, Lieut. Collins' horse became unmanageable, carried his rider far into the mass of surrounding Indians, and nothing but his body, horribly mutilated, was ever afterwards seen. The loss in Lieut. Collins' party was but five men killed and one severely wounded. The escape of the remainder was miraculous. Not a man expected to get out alive, and their comrades at the station gave up all hope of saving them.
As soon as this affair was over, the Indians turned their whole attention to Sergeant Custard's party. When the Sergeant first saw the Indians he was near the river, and at first felt confident that he could make the station in spite of them. To this end he put out flankers from his small party, but these were speedily driven in, and when the Indians appeared in such large numbers as to render further progress impossible, the Sergeant directed the coralling of the wagons in a position for defense. At this time the Indians made a rush from all sides upon the party, cutting off four men from the advance, and preventing the Sergeant from getting his wagons into position for defense. The men who were cut off rode into the Platte river with the purpose of crossing, which three of then accomplished, and reached the station in safety during the following night. The other was killed when about half way across the stream. Prevented by the sudden and overwhelming attack of the Indians from getting the wagons into a position for defense, Custard's men sheltered themselves behind their horses (which were soon shot down), and the irregularities of the ground, which favored them. By their great courage and presence of mind the Indians were prevented from the anticipated effect of their sudden charge, and were held in check and compelled to resort to other means of approach. The men were well armed and supplied with an abundance of cartridges, all in the company to which they belonged having been given to them on starting on their journey, and were veterans who had faced death on too many battle fields to be frightened at it in whatever terrible guise it might come. The fight which commenced at ten o'clock in the morning, ended at four. For six hours twenty men had held at bay one hundred times their number of desperate savages, who paid the penalty of their victory with a heavy loss. The men must have fought with wonderful skill as well as resolution. The Indians carried logs and rocks to the vicinity and rolled them forward, thus making a movable breastwork, from behind which they plied their deadly weapons. Not a man of Custard's party was left to tell the tale, and not one of their bodies were even recognized, the Indians having knocked them to pieces and carried away many of the fragments. The fighting could be seen from the station, but only its outlines could be determined. Details were gathered from the three men who escaped, from the evidences left on the ground, and from the Indians themselves, who told the squaw of a Frenchman named Redhan, whom they captured a few days after the time of the fight, of the terrible resistance, and their large excess of losses over that of the whites. The Indians also threw away the scalps taken in the fight, which were afterwards picked up on the ground of the battle. This is said to be evidence that they lost many more lives than they had taken.
During the night of the 22d, Maj. Anderson succeeded in hiring two half breed scouts at the station to take a message to Captain Allen at Deer Creek, thirty miles below. They reached Deer Creek in safety next morning, and Capt. Allen at once put his company in motion for Platte Bridge, but on his arrival, about noon, not an Indian was to be seen. The mutilated bodies and fragments of bodies were gathered together and buried with military honors in one grave.
A few days afterwards all the companies of the 11th on the telegraph line were relieved by detachments of the 1st Michigan Cavalry, and proceeded to Fort Leavenworth for muster out.
The 11th was the most truly Kansas in its composition of any of the regiments the Spartan State furnished to the Union Army. In its original organization there was not a single refugee or non-resident in its ranks. Every member of the regiment was a bona fide citizen of Kansas. Neither were they recruited from the rabble of cities or the floating population of towns. The only considerable place in all the District in which the regiment was raised was Leavenworth, which furnished a bare half dozen recruits. The farms and shops furnished the major portion of the men, who thus represented the best portion of Kansas population--what there was of stability, order, virtue, and love of freedom. As the service then rendered was in obedience to the impulses of patriotism and the convictions of duty, so those services were untarnished by acts of lawlessness. A strong esprit du corps pervaded the regiment during the whole of its service, which prevented many of those excesses which at times stained the fair name of our arms. The discipline which was maintained throughout, though strict, was not the result of fear or the exercise of brute force; but came largely from the steady character and sober habits of the men, and their intelligent appreciation of the needs of the service. Degrading punishments were never necessary and never inflicted. No regiment of men yielded more cheerful obedience to all orders, or were more respectful to the authority of its officers. And this was equally true under all circumstances--as well in the scattered and isolated service along the Border and on the Plains among the Indians, as in the Brigade or Division.
The intelligence and capacity of the rank and file of the 11th is largely attested by the fact of the great number of promotions therefrom into other regiments, where, without exception, they rendered acceptable service, and in many cases, received additional promotion as reward for gallant, efficient and soldierly conduct.
Although this narrative is written by one who was with the regiment from the commencement to the close of its splendid career, yet the writer is painfully conscious that it lacks much, very much, of conveying a proper and complete idea of the regiment and of the value and character of the services it rendered to the cause of Freedom and Union during its three years service. Written wholly from memory, in the absence of records, there may be errors of dates and also of more important facts stated; and the errors of omission which have been inevitable from the hasty and fugitive manner in which it has been written, will doubtless exceed all others. Whatever its failures, they should not be attributed to a lack of appreciation of, or indifference towards, the subject. The duty of recording the character and services of his associates in the regiment, though shunned on account of a feeling of inability to properly perform it, has, nevertheless, been gratefully performed.
I love to think of them from the time they were called from their homes, widely scattered from the eastern border of our State to the remotest verge of the settlements, to the time when the regimental organizations was dissolved at the close of the war to meet no more, with the great mass of them, in that intimate association produced by dangerous and honorable service in the sacred cause of our country. Of the two thousand regiments in the Union army from the commencement to the close of the war, I venture to say that not one was composed of men more brave, honest or true to the cause of Freedom and the Nation. When they enlisted, their counties had been already stripped of all foot-loose men--of all who could reasonably be called upon to go to the field--and nothing but the imminent peril of the Republic, and the instant necessity for more men in its defense, could have justified them in forsaking their dependent families.
Few men would have made such sacrifices as they did for the country, and few in the populous states east of the Mississippi were called on to make such. The prompt organization of the regiment, its rapid and painful marches, and its successful encounters with the enemy have been feebly set forth in these pages, but no history will record the heroic struggles of the men at the recruiting stations on the prairies, when they resolved to leave their ill-provided families for the hazards of three years of distant service. No exposure on picket, no toil on march, no danger in battle, ever tried their manhood like the first struggle of enlistment. When I compare their service and sacrifice with thousands of others who left well-provided families and received high recompense in pay and honors, I feel how partial is the distribution of human favors, and how the great rewards for patriotic effort must at last be dispensed by Him who alone knows all the sacrifices and motives of men.
EXTRACTS FROM THE REPORT OF MAJ. GEN. JAMES G. BLUNT OF THE BATTLE OF PRAIRIE GROVE, DECEMBER 7, 1862
". . . . . . Observing that the enemy had now thrown a large force upon my center and right, I directed the infantry of the 1st Division to enter the woods and engage them, which order was executed with promptness, Col. Weer leading the 10th and 13th Kansas regiments of his Brigade upon the right; a portion of the Kansas 2nd, dismounted, under command of Capt. S. J. Crawford, the right wing of the Kansas 11th, under Colonel Ewing, and the 1st Indian, under Colonel Wattles, upon the left; the 20th Iowa advancing upon the left of the Indians; the left wing of the Kansas 11th, under Colonel Moonlight, supporting Rabb's and Hopkins' batteries.
". . . . . . While this attempt was being made to charge my artillery on the right, the same demonstration was made upon Rabb's and Hopkins' batteries, the enemy following up my infantry as they retired from the woods, and with a shout rushed out from under cover of the trees, when the two batteries, supported by the infantry of the 11th Regiment, belched forth a perfect storm of canister, producing immense slaughter in their ranks, and compelling them again to retire.
". . . . . . As the immediate commander of the 1st Division, I deem it but justice to say of Col. Wm. Weer, commanding the 2d Brigade, that he behaved throughout with great gallantry, leading his men into the thickest of the fight. The same is true of Col. Bowen and Maj. H. H. Williams, commanding regiments in the same Brigade. Capt. S. J. Crawford, of the 2d Kansas, who commanded a battalion of that regiment that fought on foot, displayed great gallantry, as did also the lamented Capt. A. P. Russell, who fell mortally wounded. Col. Thos. Ewing, Lieut. Col. Moonlight and Major Plumb, of the 11th Kansas, gave evidence of their high qualities as gallant officers."
COL. MOONLIGHTS REPORT OF THE PART TAKEN BY THE 11TH KANSAS CAVALRY IN THE CAMPAIGN OF 1864 AGAINST THE REBEL GENERAL PRICE
Headquarters 2d Brig.,1st Div., Army of the Border,
Paola, Kas., December 15, 1864.
"Captain--I have the honor to submit the following report of the part taken by my command during the late campaign against the rebel General Price;
"On the 15th of October, 1864, at Hickman's Mills, Mo., the 2d Brigade was organized as follows; The 11th Kansas Cavalry, Cos. L and M 5th Kansas Cavalry, Cos. A and D 16th Kansas Cavalry. Four mountain howitzers were in the 11th, manned by Co. E. On the 16th the Brigade was marched into Missouri, in company with the 1st Brigade, (all under command of Major General Blunt), in search of Price's army. After having gone in a southeasterly direction as far as Holden, Mo., on the Warrensburg road, our course was changed to Lexington, Mo., which was captured by the 2d Brigade on the 18th. Co. B of the 11th Kansas had the advance, and skirmished with some bushwhackers in the streets, killing and wounding several and capturing some prisoners. Our camp was formed near the College, and it fell to the lot of the 2d Brigade to picket the roads leading south, on which Price was advancing. Capt. Green, Co. B, 11th Kansas Cavalry, commanded the picket on the Warrensburg road, composed of his own company and Co. A of the 16th. Capt. Palmer, Co. A, 11th Kansas Cavalry, commanded the picket on the Dover road, composed of his own Co. and Co. F, of the 11th. I am particular in mentioning these facts, because much credit is due these companies for maintaining their positions and holding the rebel advance in check as long as they did.
"When, at the battle of Lexington on the 19th, retreat was ordered, the 2d Brigade was in the advance and a portion of it dismounted, so that it fell to our lot to cover the retreat. To enable the Division to move out, it became necessary to face the enemy with every man and every weapon. The howitzers here did good service, but on leaving the field the tongue of one of the pieces got broken, so that it was necessary to lash the limber and piece to other pieces in order to save them, which was done in the very face of the enemy and under his fire. The enemy persistently followed us for several miles, and long after dark we were compelled to fight him on every piece of ground favorable for making a stand. The enemy outnumbered us more than ten to one, so that they were enable to flank us as well as press us in the rear, thereby making our position a warm one and giving us lively work. Every officer and soldier did well and nobly under the most trying of all positions. The retreat was continued all night until 2 a.m. next morning, On the same day the Division took up position on the west bank of the little Blue, eight miles from Independence, and in the afternoon the 2d Brigade was left alone to watch the enemy, fight him at the crossings, and burn the bridge. It is proper to state here that the two companies of the 5th Kansas Cavalry were not with the Brigade, as they had been left on the borders of Kansas to watch the guerrillas, and when the balance of the Division was withdrawn from the Little Blue, the two companies of the 16th Kansas also went, leaving me only ten companies of the 11th Kansas Cavalry--Co. G of that regiment being escort for Maj. Gen. Curtis, and Co. L at Fort Riley. My force being reduced, and the stream being fordable at almost any point, it was no easy matter to hold an enemy so numerous and active, all being cavalry. Maj. Anderson, of the 11th, with two companies, had command of the bridge, which he set on fire and held until it was fairly burning, after which he fell back on the hill and joined the command, who then opened on the enemy. Capt. Greer, Co. I, had been stationed at a ford about one mile below the bridge, with instructions to hold the enemy as long as possible. He retired without firing a shot, but claims that it was not possible to do otherwise, as the enemy were crossing at all points. Being thus menaced on all sides, and the object for which I was left accomplished, the command slowly fell back about two miles, fighting. A favorable piece of ground here presenting itself, a new line of battle was formed on the left of the Independence road, and we slowly began to drive the enemy back over the ground again, dismounting every man for the purpose of shelter behind stone walls, fences and houses, some of which were then held by the enemy, who, after a vigorous assault, were dislodged, thus affording us an advantage which accounts for the few killed and wounded on our side, compared with the enemy, who suffered terribly. The 11th here behaved like old veterans, and gave renewed proof of their fighting qualities, driving an enemy greatly superior in numbers to the very ground occupied in the morning. By this time General Blunt had come up, and other troops were being thrown in on the right to my support. About two hundred of the 16th K.V.C., under Lieut. Col. Walker, of that regiment, reported to me, and did splendid service on the left. Maj. Hunt, 15th Kansas Cavalry, Chief of Artillery for the Department of Kansas, reported about this time with some mountain howitzers, and rendered such services as only a brave and gallant officer can render. We thus held the enemy back for hours, a great portion of the time without ammunition, supplying its place with lusty and defiant cheers. It became necessary to withdraw the command a short distance and take up a new position, as the enemy, ten to one, were flanking us in perfect safety. Shortly after gaining the new position, I received orders to withdraw my men and mount. The first movement had to be accomplished in the very face of the enemy, and giving up to them a line of stone walls, rendered this movement a dangerous one; and had it not been for the command. already referred to under Lieut. Col. Walker, opening a flank fire by my direction, I question if the retreat would not have been a fatal one; but yet it had to be done, as the ammunition train by some mistake was away in the rear, when I joined it and supplied my command anew. By this time the entire command had fallen back, and the 2d Brigade, as ordered, had formed a new line of battle on the east side of Independence. About this time, Capt.. Huntoon with his company (H) of the 11th, joined the command. The Captain had by my orders, the day previous, been sent up the Little Blue about four miles to guard a ford and check the enemy, which he did in his usual gallant style, never abandoning his position though pressed, in a manner isolated, and knowing we were being driven back on his left. The covering of the retreat from this point was given the 2d Brigade, and to Cos. B and H was the work assigned under my own supervision. The enemy was held for some time at bay; a skirmish was kept up in the streets of Independence and as far as the railroad bridge, where the enemy abandoned the pursuit. It was then dark. We arrived in camp on Big Blue about midnight, where the entire force was concentrated. Throughout the entire engagement on Little Blue, I was ably assisted by the field officers of the 11th, viz.; Lieut. Col. Plumb, Majs. Anderson and Ross (the latter had two horses shot under him), as also my Adjutant, Lieut. Taber, together with those already mentioned of other regiments. The entire command behaved with the utmost coolness and gallantry--commanding officers of companies vieing with each other in the discharge of their duties. I regret to say that in this engagement Capt. N. P. Gregg, Co. M, 11th Kansas Cavalry, received a severe gunshot wound in the right arm, which is likely to disable him for life. The Captain is one of the best officers in the service, and it is hoped that he will yet be spared for future fields of operation.
At Big Blue, on the 23d, the 2d Brigade was ordered to Hold Simmons ford and report the movements of the enemy. None coming, and the 1st Brigade at Bryan's ford retreating, the 2d Brigade, in double quick, whipped around by Westport and met the enemy on the State line, checked his advance into Kansas, and by the setting of the sun drove him back over into Missouri. The fight continued until dark, after which the pursuit was abandoned, and my command moved up to Shawnee Mission for the purpose of procuring forage and rations. It is but just to say that the 2d Brigade had been so actively engaged for several days that little or no rations had been procured. Yet all were eager for the fight, and determined that Price could only invade Kansas when the little band no longer existed. The battle of the Line, or the Big Blue, as it is called, was a very pretty one, and satisfied my mind that the enemy's cavalry was no match for ours on the prairie. In this fight Co. G, of the 11th, escort for Maj. Gen. Curtis, joined my command and participated in the fight, as also the howitzers mentioned as commanded by Major Hunt on Little Blue. A militia force--I think of Johnson county--under Lieut. Col. Johnson, was also present. Another militia force camped with the brigade that night, but I have forgotten what regiment. Several prisoners were captured during the engagement, and properly forwarded to the headquarters of Major Gen. Curtis. Early on the morning of the 24th, I received orders to supply my command with ammunition and take the right of the line of battle about to be formed a little south of Westport. This was promptly done, and in front of the 2d Brigade the enemy were driven back for over a mile, after a stubborn resistance. The command on the left had fallen back, so that I was not supported in that direction, allowing the enemy to come up on my flank and deliver a raking fire, To meet this fire and preserve order, it was necessary to wheel two squadrons to the left, which was done in fine style by Cos. A and I if the 11th. (Lieut. Drew commanded Co. I after the battle of Little Blue.) My command fell back in good order, handsomely protected on the right flank by Lieut. Col. Woodworth, 12th Kansas State Militia, who reported to me that morning with a part of the regiment. Col. Woodworth is deserving of much praise for dashing on the enemy's flank of skirmishers in the manner in which he did. After falling back to Westport, I received orders from General Blunt to pass round the right flank of the enemy and keep in between him and Kansas, which order was faithfully carried out, and while our forces from Westport were putting Price to rout, the 2d Brigade whipped in on the right flank in hot pursuit of that portion invading Kansas. At Little Santa Fe my advance--Co. H of the 11th--struck the rear of the enemy and drove him out of Kansas. This was gallantly done, and saved that portion of the state from the flames. The command pushed on that night to Aubrey, where a few hours' rest was obtained and forage procured. Early the next morning we again marched for Coldwater Grove, where we struck the centre of the enemy, skirmished a while, and held him in check as long as possible. Seeing from the route the enemy was taking that he must necessarily camp about the Trading Post, and that Mound City was in danger of being destroyed, I pushed on, marching all night, a distance of sixty-five miles, arriving there at 2 a. m. on the 25th. Early in the morning the enemy made his appearance, and was quickly driven back and the town saved. About this time I received an order from General Blunt to make for Fort Scott and hold it at all hazards, so that no time was lost, after procuring rations for my starving command, in striking for that place. At Fort Lincoln the enemy had possession and disputed our passage. After vainly trying to dislodge him, I moved off by the right flank, leaving a battalion to engage his attention until the command crossed the stream above. Arrived at Fort Scott about 4 p. m. Found the place in the most intense excitement. The same evening Generals Curtis and Blunt arrived, and the next morning we again started in pursuit. I would here state that near Coldwater Grove, I was joined by the Lyon county Militia, under Col. Mitchell, who accompanied me all the way to Fort Scott, doing excellent service, performing the night march and bearing up under the many trials incident to a camp life with commendable fortitude.
Nothing of importance occurred in the pursuit until the 28th when General Blunt overtook the enemy at Newtonia, Mo., and drove him from his position. The 2d Brigade was deprived of the pleasure of participating in this fight, as instructions had been received to await rations, then forty-eight hours due. At Newtonia, on the 31st, after returning from Neosho, the Brigade was joined by Co. L of the 5th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry, Capt. Young commanding, who was appointed A. A. Q. M. and A. C. S. for the Brigade, which position he still retains.
Nothing of importance transpired during the remainder of the pursuit via Cassville, Keatsville, Elkhorn, Bentonville, Elm Springs, Fayetville, Prairie Grove, Cane Hill, Dutchtown and to the Arkansas River, half way between Forts Gibson and Smith. On November 9th, after the pursuit had been abandoned and the Division broken up, the 2d Brigade marched for Fort Smith with General Blunt. Remained at Fort Smith, awaiting forage and rations, until the 19th, when the march was taken up for this place. Arrived at Fort Gibson on the 23rd; remained one day to feed hay; marched for Fort Scott; met on the south bank of the Neosho a large supply train going south; stayed with it one day, as reports had been received that the rebel Generals Cooper and Gano had crossed the Arkansas river for the purpose of capturing it; sent out Major Ross with every horse able to walk to reconnoiter; found no enemy and returned; marched the following day, via Catholic Mission, for Neosho bottoms; arrived at Fort Scott December 7th; remained two days to recruit animals; arrived at Paola December 12, having been absent exactly two months. During one-half of this time not more than one-fourth forage could be obtained, so that with the continuous and rapid marching a very great many horses have been abandoned, as well as a great many killed in battle.
In conclusion, I desire to call the attention of the Department commander to the uniform gallantry and efficiency of the following named officers, who came prominently under my immediate observation, and who behaved themselves throughout the entire campaign in a manner worthy of special mention, viz.; Lieut. Col. P. B. Plumb and Majs. Anderson and Ross, battalion commanders of the 11th Kansas Cavalry; Surgeon R. M. Ainsworth and Assistant Surgeon J. D. Adams, 11th Kansas Cavalry, in charge of Medical Department, and Capt. Young, 5th Kansas Cavalry, A. A. Q. M. and A. C. S. from the time he joined the command.
The campaign was an unusually severe one, marching day and night, with often little or no rations. Yet every officer and soldier bore up under the difficulties and hardships without even murmuring, ever prompt and obedient. To Lieutenant and Regimental Adjutant Ira I. Taber, my A. A. A. General, I am especially indebted for his zeal, activity and vigilance, and I earnestly recommend him for promotion in the Adjutant General's Department. I cannot close without mentioning the following enlisted men, to whom special praise is due for their services on the battle field as aids. I had none other nor could I have had better, viz.; Sergeant Major I. H. Isbell, Quartermaster Sergeant W. H. Cowen and Chief Bugler N. D. Horton, all of the 11th Kansas Cavalry. These non-commissioned officers well merit promotion. I had forgotten to mention that Lieut. W. F. Goble, 5th Kansas Cavalry, served in the Brigade as Battalion Adjutant from the beginning for Col. Plumb, and is reported by him as being an officer of uniform good conduct and high standing.
The following is a list of casualties during the campaign;
Company A. Killed--privates, 4; wounded--4; missing--1 sergeant and 2 privates.
Company B. Killed--1 sergeant and 1 private.
Company D. Killed--2 privates; wounded--3 privates.
Company F. Killed--1 private; wounded--1 private.
Company H. Wounded--1officer and 1 private.
Company I. Killed--1 private; wounded--2 corporals and 6 privates.
Company K. Wounded--2 corporals and 3 privates.
Company M. Killed--1 corporal and 3 privates; wounded--1 officer, 1 corporal and 5 privates.
(Signed) T. MOONLIGHT,
Col. 11th Kan. Cavalry, commanding.
Capt. Geo. S. Hampton, Assistant Adjutant General.
(BY TELEGRAPH FROM FORT LARAMIE, SEPT. 3, 1865)
To Lieut. Col. Plumb, Fort Kearney;
You are about to leave this District, and before you do so, these headquarters desire to thank you for the energy and ability you have always manifested in the discharge of your duties. Less than this could not well be said and do justice to you.
By command of Brigadier General Conner.
GEO. F. PRICE,
Captain and Assistant Adjutant General.
(SOURCE: Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Kansas, 1861-’65. Topeka, Kansas: 1896 reprint. Transcription provided by Dale Vaughn, Civil War Round Table of Eastern Kansas.)