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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Battlefied Dispatches No. 240: 'Compelled to Fight'

Friday, November 19, 2010

At sunset (approximately 6 p.m.) on Tuesday, Oct. 25, 1864 the last battle of the day occurred northwest of Deerfleld, Mo. This battle, like many battles in the Civil War has a few names. It has been called the Battle of the Marmaton, Little Marmaton Creek, Shiloh Creek and Chariot's Farm which makes it very interesting and at times confusing to study. Being the last battle of the day, it was preceded by three battles in Kansas which were the Battles of Trading Post at approximately 6 a.m., Mine Creek at 11 -11:30 a.m. and the Little Osage River at 2 -2:30 p.m.

Throughout the day, on Oct. 25, 1864, the Confederate Army of Missouri commanded by Major General Sterling Price consisted of approximately 12,000 men and a supply or wagon train that was ELEVEN MILES long. After the Battle ofWestport on Oct. 23, 1864, near Kansas City, General Price's orders were to proceed south by southwest into the enemy state of Kansas and raise as much havoc, devastation and destruction as possible and capture the large vast amount of supplies housed in the Quartermaster Depot at Fort Scott. The havoc, devastation and destruction his army did with a vengeance as it passed through Johnson, Linn and Bourbon Counties, but he did not attack or capture Fort Scott because the "Union" pursuit from Kansas City caught up with and defeated the Confederates in three battles that included the Battles of Trading Post, Mine Creek and the Little Osage. During the Battle of Mine Creek, General Price, decided against attacking Fort Scott because the "Yankees" were to close and changed the direction of his column by ordering his army to proceed east into the friendly territory that was Missouri. All of these battles were decisive "Union" victories that also included the Battle of Shiloh Creek or Chariot's Farm and that were also successful "Confederate" rear guard actions.

For the Confederates to lose 4 battles and still be successful may seem like a contradiction, but it was & is not. Because, the "mission" of the rear guard in battles or campaigns on land is the same today as it was in the Civil War and is as follows:

1. Protect and DEFEND THE REAR OF THE COLUMN or army so that it can continue to advance.

2. DELAY the pursuing enemy so the column can continue to move.

3. Do not engage the enemy in strength unless it is absolutely necessary.

Therefore, even though the Confederates lost all four of the battles on Oct. 25, 1864, they conducted four successful rear guard actions that culminated in the Battle of Shiloh Creek or Chariot's Farm about sunset on that fateful day in October of 1864.

After each battle the "Union" pursuit stopped and was DEALYED while fresh troops were advanced to continue the chase and the entire Confederate column continued on it's way, never stopping while each "Gray & Butternut" rear guard successfully DEFENDED THE REAR OF THE COLUMN!

The following description of the Battle of Shiloh Creek was written by Captain Richard J. Hinton and is located on Pages 233-235 in his book entitled the "Rebel Invasion of Missouri & Kansas" that was published in 1865.

"At last the enemy approached the Marmaton. He was again COMPELLED TO FIGHT. At this point it is quite a considerable stream, with wide bottom prairie, dense timber and [a] swift rocky ford to cross. Being encumbered with his [supply] train, Price turned to resist for its passage & McNeil it seemed likely, would pay dearly for his temerity. The entire rebel army was drawn up in line of battle (four lines deep) about two miles [northwest] of the stream. As we afterwards learned, even his partially armed recruits were being used to swell the strength & add to its formidable appearance. They formed their line of battle along the edge of a swell where the plateau dipped to the river valley. A slight rise was of advantage in concealing a flank movement from their left. Their main center was protected from charging by a strong stonewall, behind which & in the rear of a fighting division, was placed their raw troops. The right extended till it rested on some trees & under growth jutting out from the main stream, the timber of which could not be seen from our lines. The movements & extent of our forces were plainly visible to them. A small creek & farm, called after the proprietor, gave the name of Charlotte to this engagement.

McNeil did not hesitate, but promptly formed in line of battle to resist & if possible, drive the foe. His slender lines looked like a pigmy in the face of the rebels, whose flanks extended three-quarters of a mile beyond our own. A brisk fire of small arms opened on both sides. Major McKenny was requested by General Pleasanton to order McNeil to advance his right & assure him of support. The order was given & McNeil responded, "I obey the order with pleasure; it is the most joyful news I have heard today!"

Colonel Crawford & Captain Hinton galloped along the line of our advancing forces with the view of hurrying troops & guns [cannon] to his assistance. Two howitzers [small cannon] were sent to the front. Major Suess of General Pleasanton's staff, brought up a couple of Rodman guns, which were immediately opened upon the right & center. The two howitzers opened [fire] on their right with considerable effect, finally causing it to fall back on the center.

Our right was still threatened by a heavy column, when the howitzers & Rodman guns were turned in that direction & after rapid firing the movement was checked [slowed or stopped]. The lines of both armies on our right were in extremely low ground & as a consequence the shells from the howitzers fell at our own front, causing considerable confusion. Major McKenny rode back to remedy this, when the guns were advanced. Colonel Benteen's brigade came up on a trot & by direction of General McNeil, forming a second line of battle, both advanced towards the enemy at a walk, all exertions being unavailing to move the horses to either trot or gallop. [The horses were exhausted after 50 miles or so of forced marches & surviving the chaos of at least two battles.]

Before this steady movement the enemy retired, gradually massing his wings [flanks] on their center and abandoning the [battle] field in haste, as the sun sank below the horizon. Our loss was but small. Colonel Benteen had several wounded, among whom was the gallant Major Pierce, of the 4th Veteran Iowa Cavalry, who was shot in the foot. Here, then, was the golden occasion to once more precipitate a ruinous flight upon the invaders. Had all of our forces within reach, jaded though they were, been moved to the assistance of McNeil and Benteen (who of themselves had borne the brunt of this day's work) until the enemy were reached at the Marmaton, the result must have been to them complete confusion & overwhelming disaster."

So ended the Battle of Shiloh Creek or Chariot's Farm that was the 4th "Union" victory and the 4th succesful "Confederate" rear guard action of the day. The "Union" Army of the Border commanded by Major Generals Samuel Ryan Curtis and Alfred Pleasanton had succeeded in part of their mission which was to capture or drive the Confederates out of Kansas.

However, General Price and his Confederate Army of Missouri escaped and continued to move into southwest Missouri and of course the War Went On!

Arnold W. Schofield
Battlefield Dispatches