Battlefield Dispatches No. 231: 'Complete Surprise'

Friday, September 10, 2010

"Surprise", be it spontaneous or planned, by it's very nature was a major element in the tactics and success of the "Union" and Confederate guerrillas in Missouri and Kansas during the Civil War. All of the following after action reports describe brief, violent engagements where "surprise" was complete and contributed to the success of the victor.

The reports are located on Pages 600-601 and 609-610 in Series I, Vol. 22, part I Reports of the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion.


Hickman's Mill, Mo., August 30, 1863.

[To] Brigadier General Ewing,

Commanding, District of the Border;

General: I have the honor to report that I left this station yesterday morning with verbal orders from Lieut. Colonel Hayes to go to the Texas Prairie on a scout. After marching 15 miles, I met Lieut. Colonel C. S. dark, of the 9th Kansas Cavalry, who ordered me to join Captain C. F. Coleman's command and scout the Blue Timber. I accordingly turned my command consisting of 75 men of Company F, 2nd Regiment Colorado Volunteers & reported to Captain Coleman. He ordered me to cross the Blue [River] and scout the north side of it to this station. I started to do so, but soon after discovered a trail of a single horseman on a by-path & followed it for about 8 miles, when I came upon a gang of 8 BUSHWHACKERS at a house in the timber. They immediately broke for the brush & I went after them. We crowded them so close that they had not the time to mount their horses, which were already saddled & bridled about 300 yards from the house.

We captured them & I immediately ordered Lieut. W. Wise, with the 1st & 2nd platoons, to deploy and follow them through the brush. I also ordered Lieut. J. Parsons, with the 3rd platoon, to proceed up the road to the prairie and cut off their retreat. Lieut. Wise performed his duty and Lieut. Parsons proceeded with his detachment, as ordered, and came upon a picket [guard] of 4 of them mounted. He at once attacked them & KILLED 2 of them & 1 horse, capturing another horse; the other 2 escaped. The result of the scout is 2 BUSHWHACKERS KILLED, 1 HORSE KILLED & 9 horses captured. No casualties on our side. We took them COMPLETELY BY SURPRISE that THEY DID NOT FIRE A SHOT!

I ascertained that the HOUSE where I found them was a REGULAR BOARDING PLACE for them & I thought it ought to be DESTROYED. I accordingly ordered it BURNED, together with a CORN CRIB, containing 100 BUSHELS of corn that they had been feeding from.

I cannot say too much of the zeal & efficiency of Lieutenants W. Wise & J. Parsons; they were ready & prompt in the execution of all orders. I must also say a word for my men. This was the first time I had ever seen them under fire, but they went to their work like old hands & obeyed every order as readily as though on parade.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Captain Company F, 2nd Regiment, Colorado Volunteers, Commanding Station."

"Headquarters, 3rd Sub-District, Central District,

Sedalia, Mo., September 7, 1863.

[To:] Brigadier General e. B. Brown,

Commanding Central District of Mo., Jefferson City, Mo.,

General: I beg leave to report that on the 4th instant, a BAND of GUERRILLAS, under the lead of the NOTORIOUS RAFTER, dashed into Quincy, at once firing into a squad of citizens sitting in front of a store, KILLING 1, a Mr. Thomas & wounding a soldier of the 8th Missouri State Militia, who chanced to be in town. The stage had just come in, having for passengers 3 or 4 soldiers of the 181 Iowa. These it seems took refuge up stairs in a house. RAFTER went in person after them. As he entered the door, one of these soldiers SHOT him twice, KILLING him instantly. The Iowa soldiers were taken prisoners and carried off. It is quite probable that they have been killed, as nothing has been heard of them since. I have stationed a small force there & wish I had a company of Enrolled Missouri Militia to send there.

My scouts in Saline, La Fayette & Johnson [Counties] have started [surprised] no BUSHWHACKERS recently. Everything is as quiet as a grave, except in the vicinity of Knobnoster. There is an independent company, under the leadership of one MATTOX, who are TERRIFYING, ROBBING & RUNNING quiet, peaceable citizens of Johnson County. General Ewing should be advised of it and order them to disperse.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Colonel, Seventh Missouri State Militia Cavalry.

[To:] "General McNeil:

Springfield, Missouri; September 8, 1863.

General: I have the honor to inform you that, on my return from Sedalia, with arms for Major Eno's battalion, on the 4th instant, I came upon a BAND of REBELS at Quincy, commanded by Captain RAFTER! They had ROBBED the town and shot "Union" citizens and taken 4 soldiers purporting to belong to the 18th Iowa Volunteers. They were in the act of FIRING [BURNING] the town. I made a dash in town, scattering them and KILLING their leader Captain RAFTER! We also captured a great many of the goods that had been taken. One of my men was mortally wounded.

I learned the next morning that they had killed the Iowa boys. I sent out about 6 miles and found 1 dead & 1 mortally wounded.

I am general, with much respect, your obedient servant,


First Lieut. Co. A, 8th M.S.M. Cavalry, Comdg. Escort."

"Headquarters Troops on the Border,

Cold Water Grove, [Ks.], September 8, 1863.

[To:] Brigadier General Ewing,

General: On the morning of the 4th of September, 1863,1ordered a scout [patrol] of 40 men from Companies E & G of the 9th Kansas to accompany me to Pleasant Hill, [Mo.], where I had previously instructed Captain c. F. Coleman to march and join the scout from this station, with Companies D, of the 9th Kansas and M of the 5th Kansas, which he did on the 5th instant. The same night we marched 15 miles east, concealed our men in the brush, dismounted and sent out four parties of 12 men each, under Captains Coleman & H. Flesher. KILLED 6 BUSHWHACKERS, remounted, marched 4 miles south; divided the command; the scout from this station to scour Big Creek, in the direction of Pleasant Hill; Captain Coleman, with his command, was to take in those run off Big Creek & scour the brush east.

The scout on Big Creek, under Captain Flesher & myself included, SURPRISED a party at a HOUSE; KILLED 4, captured 8 horses, saddles & bridles & some LAWRENCE goods & wounded, as I think, 4 others. Our loss, 2 men slightly wounded, viz. Corporal John Walters, Company E & Private S. Pentico, Company G & returned to this station the 7th instant. Captain Coleman was to remain in the vicinity of Pleasant Hill two or three days, to watch QuantrilPs movements. I found a trail of about 100 men 5 miles east of Harrisonville, who had passed the night of the 3rd, twelve hours in advance of my scout, the trail taking a northeast direction.

I am General, your obedient servant,

C. S. dark,

Lieut Colonel 9th Kansas Vol. Cavalry, Comdg."

Now then, who actually killed Captain Rafter because his death is attributed to two different soldiers? At this point in time, who fired the fatal shot will probably be never known. However, it is evident from these three reports that the use of "surprise" was a key to the respective victories and of course the War Went On!