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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Battlefield Dispatches No. 344: How they fight!

Friday, November 23, 2012

The study of the Civil War can often be overwhelming even when one focuses on a specific subject or subjects. This and especially in this case, the study of the First Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry Regiment is often very difficult to find primary or original sources, so colleagues often share information as it is discovered. More than 20 years I was fortunate to meet Chris Tabor, formerly of Butler, Mo., now living in Katy, Texas, who has also made an extensive study of the First Kansas. Recently we had a brief visit at the dedication of the new Island Mound State Historic Site just west of Butler, Mo. During the visit, we exchanged copies of our recent discoveries. He gave me a copy of the following newspaper article that was published in the Nov. 12, 1862, edition of the Big Blue Union newspaper that was published in Marysville, Kan., and had been previously published in the Lawrence Republican. The article is an excellent, previously unknown, description of the Battle of Island Mound, Missouri that occurred on Oct. 28 and 29, 1862.

"From a correspondence in the Lawrence Republican we learn the following facts:

Toothman's Mound, Bates County., Nov.1, 1862

Editor Republican: you have doubtless heard ere of this the Battle of Toothman's Mound, fought here on the 29th of last month. Yet a few particulars may not be uninteresting.

There is a strip of land between the Marais des Cygnes (River) and a long connecting slough known as "The Island." This has long been infested with more or less bushwhackers, who have carried all their plunder off to it for safe keeping. Lately they had been increasing in strength and boldness, until they had become the terror of all good citizens for miles around. Accordingly, about the 25th of last month Col. Seaman was ordered with about one hundred men to proceed to the Island. He was joined by about 150 men, under Capt. Ward (Commanding in the absence of Col. Williams) and acting in concert they moved down to this point, where they stopped within about three miles of the Island and in sight of the enemy. The attack was made upon a party of 24 of our men who were out about one mile reconnoitering. They were under Capt. Crew, Lts. Gardner and Huddelston and were intercepted by about one hundred Cavalry, within about a half mile of camp, who charged upon them desperately and hewed them down in a horrible manner; not, however without a heavy loss on their side. Our men under the first fire had to resort to the bayonet, which proved very effective. The officers were armed with revolvers and sabers and they had used them very well, excepting Lt. Gardner, who was among the first number to fall and consequently did not get many shots at the enemy. Capt. Crew was called upon to surrender: he bravely replied -- "Never" -- and died with that determination. The only officer left was Lieut. Huddleston, who also had determined to prefer death rather than surrender. You may well imagine his situation (as) the only remaining white officer. Of course the fury of the enemy was chiefly directed toward him, but he kept the enemy at bay until succor reached him. He never discharged his revolver without taking good aim and doing good execution.

In the meantime, most of the available men in camp were ordered out under Capt. Armstrong and Lt. Thrasher. They brought up their men in two bodies at right angles and delivered a few volleys at the enemy, crossfire, which caused him to retreat in great haste.

He carried his wounded away and as the wind was blowing towards us, (the enemy) fired the prairie, making it difficult to save the wounded alone and consequently scorching the body of some of our dead.

About two hundred and fifty of or Regiment were left at Camp Lincoln (west of present Fulton, Kan.) on the north bank of the Little Osage River, myself among that number. The day after the expedition left on Oct. 27, 1862, we received a dispatch from Capt. Ward, calling for reinforcements. With three rounds of ammunition each, (all we had in camp), we started for the scene of action -- a little over 100 of us all told. We marched night and day until we reached our boys. And when we came upon them on the 29th, you may imagine our consternation, when you know that we found eight of our brave men dead and eleven wounded and among the latter was Lt. Joseph Gardner, well known by most of your citizens. He was wounded in the head, hip and knee, besides a ball grazed his ankle and one of his feet.

The wounded are all doing well and will generally recover. Lt. Gardner's wounds, though severe are not dangerous.

The whole force of the enemy was commanded by Cockeral and numbered about 300. The day after we came up with reinforcements Oct. 30, 1862, the enemy retreated toward the southeast, leaving some valuable horses and beef cattle which fell into our hands.

Col. Williams arrived yesterday.

Having proven that Black men can fight, we are now prepared to scour the country thoroughly and not leave a place where a traitor can find refuge.

Yours, in haste,(Lt.) William N, Statton"

Now then, by sharing each other's discoveries, colleagues continue to enhance each other s knowledge of the Civil War which beyond one's individual capabilities. Therefore, I would be remiss in not thanking Chris Tabor once again and another friend Howard Mann of Lee's Summit, Mo., for sharing their discoveries with me, and of course, the war went on!

Arnold W. Schofield
Battlefield Dispatches