Memoir – Chapter 2

MEMOIRS OF THE CIVIL WAR W. L. TRUMAN


CHAPTER 2 – MISSOURI STATE GUARD – last posted 4/5/2001

 

I left my home just in the nick of time to meet Gen. Price’s army before it left Lexington. The news was brought to my neighborhood by men from the army, that Price would remain at Lexington a few days only. It seemed that every man and boy of 16 years wanted to leave home to join Price’s army. By appointment, I was to meet other boys and men at a certain place in the woods on Thursday evening at 4 O’clock P.M. After mounting my horse I called to my sisters and brothers and told them in a jocular way, that I may not be back for two or three weeks, as I was thinking of going to Gen. Price’s army, because I wanted to have a chance to be in one little fight before the war was over. Alas, alas, forty-six years have passed and I have not yet returned.

Well, when I arrived several were already there and they continued to come until we had about twenty-five or thirty. We agreed to remain where we were until after dark, and then move and travel all night and pass around some points where we knew guards were stationed to intercept us. Most of us took breakfast with Mr. Thomas Moore, whose mother was a neighbor of mine. We then continued our march until 8 P.M., then we turned off the road into some woods, took a rest fed our horses, got provisions for our supper from the near farm houses, as all seemed to be friends and anxious to do something for the Southern boys. We then resumed our march another night, and the next day about 10 o’clock made a hault, fed and had breakfast. Oh, how the women did feast us. We continued our march and about 4 o’clock arrived at the ferry, took the boat and were soon among the boys listening to their many hairbredth escapes, as all had been in the seige of Lexington. We were so sorry, we had missed the chance to be shot at. Most of us were placed in Capt. Fritz McCullough’s Company, who were all northeast Missouri boys, and were sworn into service as the Missouri State Guards for six months.

We arrived at Lexington on Saturday evening, Sept 26 1862, and on Sunday evening struck tents and commenced our retreat for Neosho, Mo., and traveled due south most of the time.

My company was in Col. Joseph Porter’s Regement and Brigadier Gen. Martin E. Green’s Brigade, Harris’ Division. We were all mounted on our own private horses. Col. Porter was a neighbor of mine; a large land owner and stock man; and a highly prized and patriotic citizen. Gen. Green and Harris were also from north Missouri. Gen. Martin E. Green was a noble man, so good and kind and all that knew him loved him. He was brave in battle, and he shared all the dangers and hardships with his men.

We passed through Warrensburg in Johnson County and thence to Clinton and on the Osage river in Henry Co. It seemed as if Harris’ Division had ten thousand men in it, all cavalry, and many of them without arms and without being sworn in to any command. This showed how loose and imperfect we were organized at the beginning.

Gen. Martin E. Green’s Brigade, brought up the rear of this Southern movement and on the third day out from Lexington. My command would meet every morning as we left camp, men in squads of two to ten, going back, which showed a fearful want of organization and discipline. Men stayed with their freinds and neighbors in the camp and on the march for days and weeks without joining the command or company; and then take their leave, several hundred at least went back before the army got out of Johnson County. I noticed how imperfectly our Quartermaster and Commisary departments were organized.

On the first day of our retreat, after marching all night we halted on the morning of Sept. 28th, 1861, about 8 o’clock to cook breakfast and feed our teams. We were issued rations from the captured stores, and received other things as coffee and sugar. There were eight or ten men in my mess and one would go and draw rations for his mess of eight men, and then another would go and do the same thing until we got ashamed of ourselves, an quit. Our supply of sugar being so abundant, we not only used it for our coffee, but sweetened out water, and used it extravigantly on our bread.

After an hour or two, our retreat was continued until late at night; we moved in a steady slow walk, through a prairie country, no timber except on the creeks. We did not go into camp in regular order, simply bivouaced in columns of four, as we were marching right on the roadside and often in a lane. The fencing made of rails enclosing fine fields of fall wheat and with the corn in the shock. We would go in and help ourselves to the corn and feed our horses, and often saw the rails burnt at night, as it was cold. We had but a single blanket.

On Sept. 29th we traveled about twenty miles, through some rain and bivouaced just where we halted on the roadside. We were now in Johnson county. On the 30th we resumed our march early and traveled about fifteen or twenty miles. We have had several hard rains today.

We are still in Johnson County; halted for the night, right in a long muddy lane. Have no wood except fence rails. It is very distressing to me, to see the fenceing burned from around the fields of corn and wheat, and so far from timber. It cost great labor and time and expense to fence these fields. It seems to be no hope of getting it replaced in time to save the fine crops of wheat. Doubtless the Northern army will pass this way and clean up what we have left.

On Oct 1st, we started early, and had a bright fine day, saw nothing but prairie. It is rolling and beautiful and very rich. Some farms are in a high state of cultivation. I saw a fine looking man riding down the line this evening, dressed in grey citizens clothes. His fine portly figure and intelligent appearance, impressed me very much. I said to myself, “that must be Gen. Price,” and so it proved to be. He is truly a noble looking man and he has proved himself to be a great General.

Oct. 2st, 3rd, 4th. Continued our backward movement slowly through Johnson County, passed through Warrensburg and Rose Hill, in Henry county, and rested a day at Pappinsville (see note 1). There were no large pieces of timber except on the creeks. It is a great grazing country and I would like to live in this section and raise stock, as there seems to be no end to this rich prairie section. Southwest Missouri is certainly a prairie country.

Oct. 8th, we are now near the Osage river in St. Clair county. All the creeks are full from the late rains.
Oct. 9th. Arrived at the Osage river this evening and found the flat-boat that was drawn back and forth by hand. The river is full and still rising. The boat was busy crossing wagons and teams. Part of our regiment tried to ford on their horses, and some came very near getting drowned on account of their horses not being able to swim. The fording effort was soon given up, and we awaited the slow process of ferrying. We got over late in the night and went into camp, on a ridge and remained several days and rested.

I am told that Gen. Harris placed Gen. Green under arrest for a while after he had crossed the river. I think it was on account of some order about crossing, that he failed to carry out. It hurt Gen. Green very much to think that his son-in-law would have him put under arrest.

While here our Capt. Fritz McCollough was promoted to Colonel (see note 2). And we held an election in our company to elect a captain and the choice fell on Will McCullough, a brother to Fritz McCullough, he was our first Lieutenant. After he was promoted to Captain, we had to elect another Lieutenant. We have quite a number of Shelby county boys in our company, and they claimed the place for one of their men.

Oct. 11th. There was quite an excitement in camp this evening, caused by the death of Lieut. Ellis of Monticello, Lewis county. He was searching with a squad of his men, for “Jay Hawker,” as there are quite a number in this section. As he was crossing a creek, with his men in a dark secluded place, in a dense forest and thicket, they were fired upon from ambush and Lieut. Ellis was killed. About one hundred men were ordered out, part of my company, including myself, among them and commanded by Col. Franklin. We arrived at the crossing or ford, a little before sundown, and we deployed into a skirmish line and were ordered to scour the thicket. We worked through the briers and brush for more than half a mile when we came to a prairie about dark. We found only their camping; they had left their coffee pots and other cooking utensels. We then gave up the hunt and returned to camp.

Oct. 12th. We continued our march through Cedar county. The portion my command passed through was rough, very rough. All the upland was covered with scrubby black-jacks, and large grape vines full of purple grapes. There were tons of them, and they were very sweet. I never saw anything like it. The grapes looked like Concord, only sweeter and more palatable.

Oct. 15th. Passed through Greenfield, Sarcoxie, Granby, and on to Neosho, in Newton county.
Oct. 21st. My Reg. and Brigade remained here about two weeks, as well as Gen. Price’s army. Gov. Jackson convened the Legislature at this place and the Ordinance of Secession was passed, which caused much rejoicing among the Missouri soldiers and there was a great booming of cannons. Many cases of measels were among the soldiers, and many of them took pneumonia and died. Among those of my company, was my friend Cylus Kendrick, who took measels, which was followed by pneumonia. He was taken to the country and cared for and nursed by gentle women, but he died and was buried by his comrades near the country home. The burial services were conducted by my friend Jonnie Wharton. He is a member of my company and he is thinking of going into the ministry.

I had a very bad case of measels, and I claim that the Lord cured me in this way; to-wit: my tent was about one hundred yards from the Neosho Spring, a great health resort, and a noted spring. My nurse fed me on teas, and would not allow me to drink cold water, which was the only thing that I wanted; and the only thing that I believed would do me good. One clear, cold night, about midnight, I got up from my pallet, with a high fever and a raging thirst, and wrapped my blanket around me, took a quart cup, and made my way to the beautiful gushing Neosho Spring, the fountain of health, that sprang from the solid rock; seated myself on one of the stones just above the water, and reached over and dipped up one quart, drank it, and then thanked the Lord for such a blessing. I remained and enjoyed the second blessing, and then again I filled my cup and started for my tent, but before reaching my pallet took a third draught. I was soon well of the measles.

Oct. 29th. Left Neosho and travelled east into Henry county, and in and around Cassville, the county seat of McDonald county, the extreme south western county, with Indian Territory on the west and Arkansas on the south (see note 3). At this point, Gen. Price made preparations for battle, the men were drilled daily. They were kept busy between times moulding bullets and musket balls. Wagons were sent to a place called Leadville to get loads of lead in bars, each bar weighing about fifty pounds. They took those bars and run them into balls of different sizes.

The Federal army under Gen. Freemont is at Springfield, about seventy-five miles north east of us. We learned that Gen. Hunter has succeeded Gen. Freemont, and that there is mutiny in their camp, on account of the change of Commanders, and Gen. Hunter is retreating.

Gen. Price ordered an advance, and moved north to Oseola and Warsaw, a distance of more than one hundred miles, and went into camp on Nov. 24th, on Sack river (see note 4). The northern army being at Rolla one hundred and twenty-five miles north east of us. We remained in camp on Sack river for nearly one month. The winter is quite cold, snow and ice in abundance, and there is much suffering among the men, for want of clothing and blankets. Nearly every man had one blanket or quilt, that he brought from hoome, and had to make the best use of that, he could. By keeping good fires during the freezing nights we managed to get some sleep. My command did no drilling while here, and we only answered roll call and did some picket duty.

Dec. 1st. Gen Price has established a recruiting camp among us, so that any one wishing to join the Confederate army can do so, at any time. When sworn in the Confederate army for two years, they will receive their discharge from the Missouri State Guards. Gen. Price encourages all his State troops to join the Confederate army. He has set the example, and will not leave us. I am sure that about all his men will follow him into the Confederate Service, before their time expires, as State Militia Col. Thos. Snead is now in charge of the recruiting camp.

Many of the men coming from home brought their guns. There were some very fine rifles, ornamented with silver designs of dogs, deer, bears, and horses. There was also some very fine shot-guns. The men turned the guns in for musket and army guns, and these fine guns were thrown into a wagon and hauled around, thousands of them, for many months and eventually abandoned or destroyed.

Dec. 10th. I was placed on the picket line, on the extreme out post, some eight miles from camp. The Lieut. had six men in his charge; we were sent to guard a ford on some large stream. There was a blind man, with a wife and son of twelve years, who lived near the ford. His wife was a very strong Southern woman, she made a flag out of quilt pieces or squares and put it on a pole in the corner of her yard, and called it her “Southern Flag,” although it could be made to represent any country on earth, by just saying it was so intended.

Well the officer in charge (I do not remember his name, as he did not belong to my company), ought to have been reported, court-martialled and shot, as he quartered his six men in the house of this blind man, placed our horses in his barn and we made ourselves at home for three days and nights. We did not guard the ford properly, by keeping a strong guard there. The house was some three hundred yards from the ford, and occasionally one man would walk down to the ford during the night, and stay an hour, and then come back and turn into bed, and then another one would go. Our whole army was at the mercy of the enemy’s cavalry, if he had but known it. The enemy could have crossed, and captured the one man, before he could have gotten to the house to give the alarm, and if the alarm could have been given, there was no show for their escape, as they were undressed in bed, and their horses unsaddled in the barn.

A short time before this I was detailed with another man of my regiment, whom I found to be a theif and a liar, to guard a citizen’s property. He owned cattle, sheep, plenty of hogs, chickens, beehives, potatoes, and some large banks of apples. The gentleman boarded us and treated us nicely, but the man that was with me, when his turn came to stand guard at night, would open the old man’s apples and fill sacks and carry them out to the woods, in the bushes and hide them. He would then fire his pistol and hollow, “Halt,” and report that men were stealing apples. The next morning he had business in camp early, and I found out when I was reieved and returned to camp, that this fellow was selling apples every day in camp. The old man, to save his apples took up his kitchen floor, dug out and made a place for them, and that night had his family, with our assistance bring them in buckets and sacks and hand the apples down in the hole and he would empty them. I found a pile of apples, that night in the dark, that this thief and guard had poured out of his sack, as he was bringing them to the house, and I told the lady about it. She had him relieved and sent to the camp the next day.

Most of our horses are suffering from foot evil, scratches or grease heel. It makes them lame and effects the hoofs. We have quite a severe remedy, but it never fails to cure; vis, heat some tallow in a frying pan, when it is boiling dash it on the effected place.

About Dec. 19th, Harris’ Division as well as the balance of Gen. Price’s army, moved down to Springfield, county seat of Green County. It is a beautiful country, much timber, corn, wheat, and apples in abundance. Flour mills are numerous on the creeks; run by water-power. Everybody seems to be prosperous. They have a fine fair ground, but much damaged by the army that has been here. Both the Confederate and Northern armies, were here in the spring.

I was in the rear guard, weather cold, and snow and sleet covering every thing. In passing through a portion of Polk county, we came to and passed through a dense thicket of persimmon bushes, they bent over under their load of fruit and sleet. I never had such a feast of persimmons, before or since. Just to think of those tons of candied sugary persimmons, makes me long for another feast.

 


Notes

1. Pappinsville is in southwest Bates county

2. This would be Lt. Col Frisby McCullough, who was captured and executed while on recruiting duty in northeastern Missouri in August 1862

3. Cassville was (& is) county seat of Barry County. Henry County is over 100 miles to the north

4. This is the Sac River

Return to Table of Contents