The 17th Kansas Volunteer Infantry Regiment
This was a regiment called into service for one hundred days, and was officered as follows:
Authority was transmitted in the early part of July, 1864, from the Secretary of War to Maj. General Curtis, then commanding the Department of the Missouri, to call upon the Governor of Kansas for a regiment of infantry to serve one hundred days.
The call was met with the usual promptitude of the Executive of the State, but for reasons that need not be stated here, only five companies were raised and mustered into service at Fort Leavenworth, July 28th, 1864. The commissions of the Field and Staff officers are dated July 4th, 1864.
The battalion was organized at Camp Deitzler, within the southern limits of Leavenworth City, but was soon ordered to Fort Leavenworth, where it entered upon the usual routine of garrison duty.
A new camp, named in honor of Gen. Curtis, was selected, and during the term of enlistment the command was never quartered in barracks.
The call for troops for the western posts, caused the early detachment of Co. A, which was ordered to Fort Riley, and C, ordered to Cottonwood Falls. These were soon followed by D Co., which took post at Lawrence, leaving companies B and E with regimental headquarters.
The early separation of the companies of this command prevented a thorough organization, but it is believed they performed their duties faithfully in the limited field in which they found themselves placed.
The rumors of a new invasion by General Price, caused numerous movements of troops in Kansas, and the 17th was, in September, ordered to Paola, then the headquarters of a sub-district, Col. Moonlight, 11th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry, being in command. Lt. Col. Drake, upon his arrival, took command of the post of Paola, relieving Capt. Huntoon, 11th K. V. C.
A large garrison was now assembled at this point. The rumors of the advance of Price began to be resolved into certainty, and measures were taken to check his advance towards the State of Kansas.
The events of October, 1864, are freshly remembered, since they were participated in by the whole body of the citizens of Kansas, called into the field to defend their state from rebel invasion.
The first force which marched to repel the advance of Gen. Price into Kansas, was organized at Paola by Maj. Gen. Blunt, and left that post with the two companies of the 17th and one of the 16th, to protect that important position, and the public property therein contained.
The vigilance required at this time was such as to tax the resources of the command and the spirit of the men heavily, in addition to which a fort was erected by the labor of the command on the site of its camp, and everything put in a complete condition of defense.
Paola being designated as one of the rendevous for the State militia, the regiments and detachments reporting at this point were supplied and forwarded by Col. Drake to their respective destinations. Col. Mitchell's regiment (mounted) from Lyon county, remained within the limits of the post, however, and performed good service in the coming operations.
The defeat of Price near Independence, and his rapid retrograde march southward, in close proximity to the Kansas line, seriously threatened the posts along that line, and fears were entertained especially for the safety of Paola, Mound City and Fort Scott, it being perceived that Price might attempt to destroy those towns, and with them the large amount of military stores they contained.
During the period of Price's advance from Lexington to Hickman's Mills--which our force proved too weak to prevent--the situation of the posts on the Kansas border was deemed insecure, and orders were transmitted to Col. Drake to hold the post of Paola at all hazards. The post, fortunately, was not attacked; had it been, it would have been defended.
Passing Paola in their flight south, the rebel forces were to be checked from demonstrations against Mound City and Ft. Scott. The advance of their column already menaced Mound City, which contained a single company of the 16th K. V. C. and was commanded by Captain Greer.
Col. Drake now solicited and obtained permission to march to the relief of Mound City with all his available force, and was overtaken on the march by an express from Gen. Curtis ordering this movement. His command made a forced march during the night and arrived before Mound City at daybreak. During the night the prairie fires lighted by the rebel rear guard to impede our pursuit were plainly visible, and in the darkness two privates of the 17th were captured by the enemy's parties, having wandered from their comrades.
Approaching Mound City, which had been occupied during the night by Col. Moonlight, an officer conspicuous during these events, a rebel force was observed near the town, but the troops of Col. Moonlight within and those of Col. Drake just entering the town deterred them from attacking, and they withdrew.
The men of the 17th, fatigued by their march, and having fasted for seventeen hours, were endeavoring to prepare their coffee, when the guns of the enemy announced the action at Mine Run, which resulted so disastrously for them.
Col. Moonlight had proceeded with all speed towards Fort Scott. The 17th was formed and proceeded in skirmishing order towards the field. The cornfield surrounding the town were filled with the enemy's foragers and stragglers, a number of whom were captured and brought to Mound City. The action at Mine Creek being fought with cavalry, the 17th could not participate further in it, and consequently they returned to camp.
The period of its enlistment now having expired, the command was ordered back to Paola, and thence to Fort Leavenworth, and where it was mustered out November 16th, 1864, by Maj. Wm. O. Gould.
There were no casualties from disease or service, and but two or three desertions from the command, and these by professional bounty jumpers at an early period. Many of the enlisted men and a majority of the field and line officers had seen service. The reputation of the command for discipline and soldierly conduct was good, and the material equal to any situation in which the regiment might have found itself.