[Masthead] Fair ~ 87°F  
Heat Advisory
Thursday, July 24, 2014

Battlefield Dispatches No. 337: Dealing death and destruction

Friday, October 5, 2012

During the Civil War, the effective use of artillery was often one the factors that determined victory in battle. The following after action report by Col. Edward Lynde of the Ninth Kansas Volunteer Cavalry gives credit where credit was due to the Yankee Artillery that was instrumental in the Union victory in the Battle of Newtonia, Mo., on Sept. 29, 1862. This report is found on Pages 291-293 in Series I, Vol. 13 of the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion.

"Sarcoxie, Mo., Oct. 1, 1862.

General: In compliance with your verbal orders, I left camp at this place on the morning of the 29th of September 1862, accompanied by Majs. Bancroft and Pomeroy and four companies of this regiment, viz: Co. D, Capt. Coleman; Co. E, Capt. Flesher; Co. F commanded by Lt. Spencer; Co. H, Capt. Killen and two howitzers (small cannon) under the command of Lt. Opdyke of Co. F and proceeded in the direction of Newtonia, feeling my way. At a distance of eight miles from our camp, we commenced driving in the pickets of the enemy.

Arrived on the prairie in front of the town, our farther advance was disputed by a strong picket guard stationed in and around a deserted house and corn field on our left (distance from town about 1 1/4 miles). At this point I discovered a strong outpost still farther on our left and nearly in our rear. I ordered Capt. Coleman, with his company, to observe their movements, while I directed Lt. Opdyke to shell the house and corn field; Maj. Pomeroy, with one company covering (protecting) the howitzers. A few rounds from our howitzers soon dispersed the enemy, who sought shelter in the town. We then advanced our lines to within three-quarters of a mile of the town and opened on them with the howitzers, but the distance was too great for our shells to do any damage.

After remaining on the field for 1 1/2 hours and making what observations I could, the enemy not replying with any guns, I ordered the command to retire. At this time two prisoners were brought in from whom I learned the strength of the enemy in town to be about 2,000 with two pieces of cannon. We fell back slowly to the prairie north of Shoal Creek, rested, retired to camp and reported to you. On the morning of the 30th, I again left my camp at 3 o'clock a.m. with the same command as yesterday, according to your verbal orders and proceeded to Newtonia, arriving there about 6 o'clock a.m. and found Lt. Col. Jacobi of the 9th Wisconsin Volunteers with reinforcements, already on the ground and the action had already commenced by Capt. Medford of the 6th Kansas volunteer Cavalry, driving in the outpost of the enemy on our left in splendid style and aking some prisoners. A portion of the infantry having been ordered forward to a wooded ravine north of the town by Lt. Col. Jacobi, I now ordered the artillery forward under the command of Lt. Masterson, to the center, at the same time directing Majs. Bancroft and Pomeroy, with the 9th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry and the two howitzers to occupy an elevated piece of ground on our extreme right and Capt. Medford was directed to occupy our left.

The artillery opened on the town in gallant style with shot and shell. The position of the enemy proved to be a strong one, they having the shelter of several brick houses, one large stone barn, as well as a long line of heavy stone wall. Near the stone barn the enemy had two pieces of cannon which opened fire on us in answer tour own. This was the position of things at about 7 o'clock a.m.

The enemy having got the range of our guns, they were changed to a new position father down to the right and nearer the town and enemy. Their shots were now thrown at random sometimes on our right, sometimes on our center and then again our left without doing any damage.

The firing from our guns not being as effective as I desired, they were directed to advance still nearer and within about 600 yards of the town.

The artillery now played on the position of the enemy with marked effect, dealing death and destruction at each discharge and for a time their guns were silenced. They soon got them into a new position, but did us no damage.

The Ninth Kansas Volunteer Cavalry, with the howitzers, were now ordered up from our right and Capt. Flesher, with Co. E, was directed to support Capt. Medford on the left -- the balance to support the battery, the howitzers occupying a position by the side of the larger guns-the balance of the infantry having been ordered forward to the wooded ravine by Lt. Col. Jacobi I soon after saw the infantry close to the stone wall already described, from which soon leaped a perfect stream of fire right into the ranks of the infantry, they returning the fire nobly and slowly retired. And just here permit me to say the conduct of the infantry under those trying circumstances deserves the highest commendation, showing front against rash odds and resisting the desperate attempts of the enemy to overwhelm them.

Deeming it impossible to take the town by storm with my small force, numbering barely 500 and observing the enemy firing signal rockets from their guns into the air, I ordered the command to retire which was done in good order until we reached the high ground adjoining the timber. Before reaching that point, however, reports were brought to me that large bodies of reinforcements of the enemy were seen arriving from the southwest as well as the west. I now observed the enemy swarming from their concealed position in the town to harass our retreat. One regiment or more, said to be under the command of Col. Cooper, coming up on our rear, another body as large on our right flank through the corn field, the artillery was again brought into position and the ranks of the enemy were mowed down with great slaughter. We continued to retire, forming and reforming, for the infantry to pass the cavalry and reload. The artillery on arriving at the woods having been ordered in the advance, under cover of Company F, Ninth Kansas Volunteer Cavalry, were armed with revolvers and sabers only, while the enemy was armed with long- range guns.

Here Maj. Bancroft, assisted by Maj. Pomeroy of the Ninth Kansas Volunteer Cavalry, as well as the Ninth Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, made a gallant stand, but were overpowered by numbers and were obliged to retreat.

The officers in general are entitled to praise for their heroic manner in which they conducted themselves and the soldiers are worthy of all praise for the determined manner in which they resisted repeated assaults of the enemy. Our loss I am unable to give, as no reports have been made to me. The loss of the enemy must have been far greater than ours. I estimate their loss at 300 killed and wounded.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,

E. LYNDE,

Colonel Commanding."

Throughout the ages, "artillery" has been described as the "King of Battle" and this report clearly indicates that it was a decisive factor in the Battle of Newtonia.

If, it had not been effectively used as it was, Col. Lynde and his command probably would have been destroyed and the battle would have been lost. However this was not the case, and of course, the war went on!

Arnold W. Schofield
Battlefield Dispatches