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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Battlefield Dispatches No. 300: 'Remembering a galling fire, heavy fog'

Friday, January 20, 2012

We as a nation and people, for the most part, remember anniversaries, birthdays and other significant events in the history of our country and families, some of which are milestones.

Mr. Webster, one of the author's best friends, defines a "milestone" as "a significant event in one's career or history." Therefore, as we, the United States, commemorate and remember the 150th anniversary our Civil War from 2011--2015, this was indeed a significant event and milestone in our nation's history.

For the author of this column, Battlefield Dispatches No. 300 is more of a "wordsworthian moment" (something that can last for a few seconds, minutes, hours or more) rather than a "milestone," because it was immediately preceded by No. 299 and is to be followed by No. 301 and more in the future.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the faithful readers of this column and the staff of the "Tribune," including Julie Simpson, Ruth Campbell, Scott Nuzum and all the others who make this newspaper an asset of Fort Scott.

One of the most fascinating legacies of the Civil War is the memory of that cataclysmic event that remains with us today.

This memory is perpetuated through historic photographs, contemporary and historic paintings and books and, most of all, through the written words of the participants in the form of letters, diaries, other correspondence and reports.

These documents and words are, in a way, "voices from the past" that cannot be duplicated today, and that is why the title of this column usually consists of words or phrases that are used in an original document.

The following after-action reports are brief and to the point and are located on pages 49 and 50 in Series I, Vol. 8 of the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion.

"Action at Roan's Tan-Yard, Silver Creek, Mo.

Otterville, Mo. Jan. 10, 1862.

On the 8th, at 4 o'clock p.m., Majors Torrence and Hubbard, with 450 men, attacked Poindexter, with 1,000 to 1,300 men, on Silver Creek. The enemy was totally routed, with heavy loss. Seven left dead on the field; many carried off. From 50 to 75 wounded.

Our loss reported at four killed. The rebel camp was destroyed and a large number of horses and arms taken. A heavy fog alone saved them from complete destruction. The number of prisoners is reported at 30.

John M. Palmer, Brig. Gen."

"Headquarters La Mine Cantonment, Otterville, Mo., Jan. 14, 1862.

Captain: Maj. Hubbard of the 1st Missouri Cavalry returned to this place last night. He left his command on the north side of the river opposite Boonville.

Ice in the river prevented his crossing. He reports on the eighth instant, at Silver Creek, in Howard County, he attacked the rebels, 900 strong, under command of Col. Poindexter.

After a brisk engagement, which lasted 40 minutes, he completely routed the enemy. The enemy's loss was 40 killed and 60 wounded. His loss was six killed and 19 wounded.

He captured about 160 horses, 60 wagons, 105 tents, 80 kegs of gunpowder, about 200 rifles and shotguns and a large quantity of clothing, blankets and bed quilts. He has in his possession 160 captured horses and 28 prisoners.

The wagons, powder and other property captured he was compelled to destroy for want of help to remove them. I directed him to bring the prisoners and horses here, unless he received orders to take them to some other point.

Maj. Hubbard is greatly in need of ammunition, as is also all the cavalry at this post. I have been informed that requisitions have been forwarded to St. Louis for a supply, but they have not been attended to. I would respectfully suggest that an ordnance officer be appointed for this post.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Thomas J. Turner, Col., commanding Cantonment."

"Camp near Fayette, Mo. Jan. 10, 1862.

General: I have the honor to report that in compliance with your order I marched my command to Boonville and was there joined by three companies of Merrill's Horse, under Maj. Hunt, and at the earliest day possible crossed the Missouri River and reached camp near Fayette on the evening of the fifth instant, when I was joined by four companies of the 1st Missouri, under the command of Maj. Hubbard and one company of the 4th Ohio, Capt. Foster commanding.

All being in readiness the column moved forward rapidly, the advance guard driving the enemy's pickets and rushing to the entrance of the camp. The column followed soon after, dismounted and drew the enemy's fire.

They (approximately 800) were in a strong position, being protected by ravines, thick underbrush and timber. Their volley was promptly answered by our forces pouring in "a galling fire!"

Three companies of the 1st Iowa and a part of a company of Merrill's Horse were then ordered forward to charge the camp, which was promptly done.

The enemy was now thrown into confusion and soon began to retreat, leaving horses and guns, together with camp and garrison equipage.

It was a complete rout, as the appearance of the camp fully attested. Two companies from the rear were ordered to cut off their retreat, but darkness and "heavy fog," together with the thick underbrush, rendered it impossible.

Yours, most obediently,

W.M.G. Torrencer, Maj., First Battalion, First Iowa Cavalry."

Now then, it appears that Brig. Gen. Palmer slightly increased the number of Confederates engaged in this battle, but that was not unusual because he did not participate in the engagement and had to rely on figures from the different "Union" commanders who did; and, of course, the war went on!

Arnold W. Schofield
Battlefield Dispatches