Monday, June 14, 2010

Missouri Trip & 8th MO historical sites

Well, it has been a great while since I've taken the time to make a post. Life gets that way sometimes. But I get to take a trip back to the St. Louis for the back end of June to visit family. And an even better treat - my wife is now able to come along! So that is great.

The plan is to visit a lot of family history sites with my Dad. Of course, we plan on seeing several 8th MO CAV sites as well. When I get the pics, I will make another post. Until then, hang tight and keep riding!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Marmaduke's First Raid into Missouri - JAN 1863

Well, the boys of the 8th Missouri Cavalry didn't waste much time trying to get back to home soil and beat back the invading Federal forces once they re-mustered to Confederate service on 11 December 1862 at Pocahontas, Arkansas. Of course, many of the troopers already had about a year of experience under their belts from their time in the First Division of the Missouri State Guard. But under Colonel William L. Jeffers, they had formed a new Cavalry Regiment, the 8th Missouri, CS. Approximately 900 strong, these troopers were ready to save their families, homes and really their hopes, dreams and Constitutional rights of self-government and determination. I can only imagine that their spirits were high as they stepped off to attack enemy strongholds.

The Battle of Hartville was the first action of the newly formed 8th MO Cavalry Regiment. Here is one synopsis of the battle. Another description is here for your historical pleasure. The red county is Wright County Missouri. Greene County, where Springfield is located, is depicted in the map to the right.

If you follow the links above there are some pretty fair descriptions of the importance of this battle. Perhaps this bit from Wikipedia on the battle sums it up the best:

" Elements of both sides observed the other withdrawing from the field as night approached, and both claimed victory as a result. The real results were mixed. From the Union command's perspective they had repulsed Marmaduke's assaults inflicting heavy casualties, but the Federals had been forced to leave the field. From the Confederate perspective Marmaduke had united his force and secured his line of withdrawal. He set up a field hospital in town and could claim to control the field briefly. However, he was compelled to make a rapid retreat into Arkansas and then an arduous trek to winter camp. Additionally, the frontal assaults had resulted in the death or mortal wounding of several senior CSA officers including: brigade commander Col. Joseph C. Porter, Col. Emmett MacDonald, Lt. Col. John Wimer, and Major George R. Kirtley.

The raid itself caused great disruption of Federal forces in the region and a number of small outposts had been overrun, destroyed, or abandoned. However, the other major objective, the depot at Springfield, remained in Union hands. The successful escape of the raiding party did foreshadow the vulnerability of Federal Missouri to fast-moving expeditions."

Indeed, this was not the last raid that Brigadier General Marmaduke undertook with his fine cavalry units. In reality, the units involved, including the 8th Missouri Cavalry Regiment, were very much alive in the fight in the often over-looked Trans-Mississippi Department throughout the entire portion of the War of Southern Independence. In fact, just a year and half or so after this battle under Major General Sterling Price, the largest cavalry movement on the American continent would occur - albeit with far more grandiose aims than taking an armory in Springfield - Price's Raid of Fall 1864 with the Army of Missouri.

Too bad MG Price didn't learn the lesson from this movement in early 1863 - the merits of a fast moving expedition. That ill-fated expedition bogged down until they barely made it back to the safety of their territory. There is a great thesis written by a MAJ Dale Davis which discusses some methods MG Price could have used to win in Missouri (I recommend you read it...). But that is the subject of other posts on this blog!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Forgotten Trials of Liberty & Peace

Here is another post regarding MG Price's last effort to secure Missouri not just in the hearts of its citizens, but also militarily, for the Confederacy. Since I've discussed both Fort Davidson (Pilot Knob) and now the Battle of Westport, I think I'd like to share a few more words from LT John A Bennett of Co. D.

I often think of this time of year, and what the 8th MO CAV REG might have been doing on this day, so many years ago. From Bennett's diary from Campaigning With Marmaduke by James McGhee, we can gain a glimpse of the thoughts and hardships of the day. Without further adieu, here are some of his entries during that last great campaign of the fighting men of the Confederacy from Missouri, Arkansas and Texas - to free their home state and protect their neighboring states - from the tyranny of an invading and rest their homelands to liberty and peace - indeed their goal was a 'glorious victory' to this end.

31 OCT - "...The road runs part of the time in Arkansas and part in Cherokee Nation. Country passed over today nearly deserted. The houses are mostly burned and farms destroyed. The whole of the country traveled over from Jackson County, MO., to this point is deserted or nearly so. Towns burned, houses burned, and everything going to decay. The heart of the philanthropist can not help bleeding as he sees the destruction along this line of march and the misery it has caused thousands who once lived here in affluence and ease, but are now wanderers in exile from their once happy homes. God of mercy, stop this unholy war and let peace once more reign in the unfortunate country, is my prayer."

3 NOV - "Snow last night; quite gloomy this morning. Some snow throughout the day."

5 NOV - "Marched southeast; beautiful day. Camped in Cherokee Nation; very hungry at the time of writing this and no prospect of anything to eat. We have had no breadstuffs issued to us for two weeks past, living on broiled beef."

10 NOV - "My horse gave out yesterday about 12 o'clock, so I left him and had to foot it...we could travel much faster afoot than the command, as they had to stop and graze their animals to try to get them through, but hundreds are giving out every day and are left on the prairie. We have had no corn or forage of any sort to feed our animals for several hundred miles. The men have had no bread issued to them for 18 days and a hundred miles to march yet before we can get forage for horses or bread for men. The army is living on beef without salt..."

13 NOV - Morning beautiful and serene. Nothing to eat last night or this morning; very weak and loath to move on, but we are here in the wilderness and no one living nearer than 50 miles; all the settlements evacuated, therefore we are compelled to travel or starve. Six wagons met us this evening from Boggy Depot with rations of salt and flour. The ration was very short - only half a pint of flour to the man and about a thimble full of salt."

20 NOV - Cool, ground frozen; crossed a small stream early, below a mill; pulled of my boots and waded across; the cold water and rocks made my feet very cold...."

25 DEC - "Marched up the Red River 10 miles and camped at the winter quarters used by Gen. Gano's command last winter. This Christmas makes four that I have spent in the Confederate service. The Christmas of '61 I spent in camp near New Madrid; the Christmas of '62 I was on the Van Buren scout and made my dinner on a cold piece of cornbread; the Christmas of '63 I spent in Camp Ewing, Ark.; my dinner that day was something better than before - I had chicken, flour bread cooked on a board and beef roasted over the fire. What another year may bring forth is hard to tell. Where I am another Christmas, and what I may have for dinner, is too far in the future and the times too fluctuating to say what and where. I hope peace may be made before another year rolls around. That the soldiers of the Confederacy may return to their families and friends and enjoy once more the sweets of social society is my prayer."

31 DEC - "...Today closes the year 1864, and still the great war, commenced in 1861 is raging in all its savage fury. In 1860 we had peace at home and peace abroad. All things seemed to be in a prosperous condition....All things calculated to make man prosperous and happy were approximately to perfection. But lo, the contrast today! The despoiler came and in his ambition has brought ruin and desolation on our once happy country....We were once happy and resting quietly beneath our own vines and fig trees in peace; but now we are engaged in one of the most frightful wars recorded in the annals of time. Oh, that some person could come forth and set out a plan that an honorable peace could be ratified between the contending parties. Such a person's name would be honored to the latest generation. But we must look higher than man to see this war closed. We must look to Him who can calm the billows of the tempest-tossed ocean to bring peace and quiet to our country. When He has chastened the country for its neglect of duty, and not till then, will we have peace."

I don't think I can add much to his words that described his feelings and events of the day. The reality of war and the often deprivations of that of a soldier...even a cavalry soldier. God Bless all those that have, do and will sacrifice for freedom, peace and prosperity - especially that among this choice Nation of United States!!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Battle of Westport-CSA's Last Gasp in MO

Due to my new assignment in the US Army (Executive Officer...a position normally held by experienced 1st Lieutenant, not a brand new 2LT!...rough sledding here at first) I've been too busy to put up a post. I've been wanting to, but I'm a bit behind the time frame of one a month per new post.

Well, I'll pick up where I left off....discussing the last major attack into Federally held Missouri during the War of Southern Independence -"Price's Raid" to liberate Missouri from the invading host.

In the previous post, you will see the major engagements of the actions taken. Just click on that hyperlink to learn a little more of these mostly forgotten battles. I'd like to delve a little more specifically on the Battle of Westport, which occurred on 23 OCT 1864.

Gen. Joe Shelby and His Men at Westport

The above print is by the outstanding artist, Andy Thomas. He has a lot of great artwork depicting the Trans-Mississippi Theater. I really appreciate his efforts to tell more of the story of the fighting men on both sides of the conflict in these battles so many years ago.

Westport, which is on the south side of the modern day Kansas City, MO was really the last gasp of MG Price's Army of Missouri on that fateful expedition. Some call this the Gettysburg of the West (I'm not sure why...maybe in a small sense it is similar, but those comparisons don't speak of the larger mission objectives I believe). But to be sure it is one of the largest battles fought in Missouri with over 30,000 men engaged. Someone made a very comprehensive description (at least from the point of view that a blog should take!) of the Battle on Wikipedia.

The 8th MO CAV REG was engaged at Byram's Ford. Often in the War of Southern Independence, fords were important terrain features which were access points to key terrain...areas that are critical to hold or use to allow the battle to be successful. The Federal units had more manpower and maneuvered them successfully, in a series of frontal- and then - flanking attacks. I think had BG Shelby and his Iron Brigade been sufficiently supplied, the day might have gone differently. But regardless, this was basically the same story through the entire war. The Confederacy often was poorly supplied and armed, which then led to them not accomplishing their expedition mission aims.

There are some nice pictures of this well preserved battlefield in Kansas City, MO from the Civil War Album. I'd like to visit the site someday and see in person BG Jo O. Shelby and many of his hard fighting Iron Brigade (CAV) burial sites and memorials.

Confederate Monument on site at Westport Battlefield & Cemetery.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

MG Price's Raid in Missouri - Fall 1864

MG Sterling Price's Missouri raid, depending on what one considers to constitute a raid, is the longest raid of the Civil War at 1,435 miles. In comparison, Gen. Morgan's Raid into Kentucky, Indiana, & Ohio was just over 1,000 miles. Considering that lasted from 29 AUG to 2 DEC, I'm not sure one could really consider it a raid, but if one chose to, Price's raid to liberate Missouri would be the longest of the War. One might more accurately call it an expedition.

Expectations were high for all of Old Pap's forces. Here is a quote from James E. McGhee's book, Campaigning With Marmaduke, from the diary of 2LT John A. Bennett, Co. D at the beginning of the Raid.

"Recruits are daily coming into our army, filling up its ranks to overflowing. Our prospects are bright. Every one looks forward to a glorious victory and a speedy termination of this horrible war. May God speed the day of a glorious peace."

So started Price's Raid from Camden, AR on 29 AUG 1864. By the 19 SEP, Price's Army of Missouri was crossing the state line. Troop totals were between 12,000 & 15,000, with probably half of them armed. Of course, when opportunity presented itself, small arms & ammunition would be secured for the unarmed soldiers. The Raid started off well enough. Victory in APR 1864 in Southern Arkansas in forcing MG Steele (US) back into his Little Rock headquarters of the Army of the Frontier set the stage for this last heroic charge to secure Missouri firmly for the Confederacy.

MG Price had on hand as his leaders:

A series of skirmishes occurred leading up to Pilot Knob from the Missouri border. Colonel Jeffers engaged General McNeil's forces on the Bloomfield/Sikeston Road near the Castor River on 21 SEP 1864. It was a rout, with a fair amount of supplies secured, despite the efforts of the Yanks to hastily destroy them.

On 24 SEP, COL Jeffers band left Bollinger's Mill (present day Zalma, MO) according to LT Bennett's account and "marched in the direction of Jackson, Cape Girardeau County, MO. We charged into Jackson about sunset, captured 18 prisoners and about 40 horses. We got one man wounded." On 26 SEP they linked back up the main column.

COL William F. Jeffers

Then on 27 SEP, the fateful battle at Ft. Davidson began. Basically, a series of frontal attacks, while bold, turned out to be largely ineffective. I'm not sure what else could have done. Maybe doing a better job of reconnaisance and developing a solid plan. Old Pap had at least 10 to 1 advantage. But speed was of the essence...long story short, CS losses were estimated 1,000-1,500 while US losses were only 184. And to boot, BG Ewing and his men slipped through Confederate pickets that night to escape a sure defeat the next day, as Price's men were constructed ladders. Talk about a loss of command and control out there on the pickets! Such it goes sometimes.

This map shows the the path of the raid. Basically, St. Louis the primary goal of the raid. With a brutally costly victory at Pilot Knob/Ft. Davidson, attack on St. Louis was pointless. The secondary aim of the mission was then to try and secure the state capital, Jefferson City, in the hands of the Confederacy. Hot pursuit from Federal forces prevented that. From that point forward, MG Price's forces were bleed little by little as they had to turn back to friendly territory. From there the battles went as follows:
As you can see on the map, he pushed through Kansas and Indian Territory as fast as possible before returning to Arkansas on December 2 with only 6,000 survivors. He reported to LTG Kirby Smith that he "marched 1,434 miles, fought 43 battles and skirmishes, captured and paroled over 3,000 Federal officers and men, captured 18 pieces of artillery ... and destroyed Missouri property ... of $10,000,000 in value." He claimed the loss of 1,000 men, but it was closer to 6,000 over the three-month adventure.

In hindsight many look at his mission as a failure. True, mission aims were not completely met. But surely one must look at his audacious efforts and praise him for at least hazarding a move. For the majority of the War, the Trans-Mississippi Department simply didn't have enough manpower to mount a legitimate attack on Federal forces to remove them from the region. Consequently, they just played a defensive action throughout the War, slowly losing ground in Arkansas & along the Mississippi River valley. And while loss of manpower was high, at least he inflicted a respectable loss on the enemy as well. With the exception of the frontal attacks on Ft. Davidson, the raid was executed fairly well, considering the manpower and resources disparity. Then the inevitable complete eviction of the Confederate soldier in Missouri occurred. The noble fighting men under 'Old Pap' had to end the War on a sour note. But their accomplishments were great and will always be remembered in the best light!