September 1861

 

Washington:  On September 2, 1861, President Lincoln informed General Fremont of Lincoln’s concern that Fremont had freed slaves in Missouri; Lincoln feared alienating Union sympathizers in the South.  Fremont was the subject of a cabinet meeting on the 5th.  On the 9th, Lincoln sent General David Hunter to Missouri to aid Fremont. September 10 saw Mrs. Fremont meet with Lincoln to plead her husband's case.  The next day, Lincoln wrote Fremont and told him that the proclamation issued on August 30, including the one freeing slaves, had to be altered to conform to the acts of Congress. On the 12th, Lincoln met with Mrs. Fremont again and sent Judge Joseph Holt to St. Louis to urge moderation and modification of Fremont's August 30 proclamation.

On September 27, Lincoln met with General McClellan and discussed offensive plans in Virginia.

Eastern Theater:  The last major engagement in the east was the First Battle of Bull Run on July 21, 1861.

On September 1, 1861, there was light skirmishing at Blue Creek, Boone Court House, and Burlington, all in western Virginia.  On the 9th, Union forces under General Rosecrans confronted Rebels near Carnifex Ferry, Virginia, and light skirmishing resulted; the next day, the Confederates fell back in the face of superior U.S. numbers, and this Northern victory was important in holding western Virginia in the Union.  On the 11th of September, Confederate forces under Robert E. Lee attacked U.S. soldiers commanded by General John Reynolds at Cheat Mountain and Elkwater, also in western Virginia.  Lee had planned a surprise attack, but hard rains and tough terrain interfered with his plans.  Reynolds's men held their ground and Lee had to pull back, securing West Virginia for pro-Union forces.  Lee lost nearly 100 men to Reynolds's total of only 21.

The next major land engagement was the Seven Days Battle, which began on June 25, 1862.

Western Theater:  The last major engagement in the West was the Battle of Wilson's Creek, Missouri, which took place on August 10, 1861.


On the first of September, 1861, General Ulysses S. Grant took command of Union forces at Cape Girardeau, Missouri.  On the third, Confederate General Polk ordered troops under Gideon Pillow to move into Kentucky to face a perceived threat of a Union attempt to take military control of the supposedly neutral state.  Two days later, General Grant, having heard of Polk's move, prepared an expedition to Paducah, Kentucky (near the mouth of the Cumberland River).  On the 6th, Grant completed his move into Paducah without resistance, thus securing for the North an important foothold that would be a key to activities in the area for some time to come; General Charles F. Smith was left in command as Grant returned to his headquarters in Cairo, Illinois.  On the 16th, the USS Conestoga took two Confederate vessels in the Cumberland River and the Rebels evacuated Ship Island, Mississippi, leaving the area to Union forces.  Ship Island was later used by the North as a base for its operations along the Gulf Coast.  Also on the 16th, at Lexington, Missouri, Confederate General Price was pressing Colonel Mulligan's U.S. troops, who were hoping for help from General Fremont.  Three days later, Mulligan's troops were the subject of a full siege.  In Kentucky, Southern forces held a strong defensive position in the area of Cumberland Gap, Bowling Green, and Columbus, and Union forces were driven from Barbouville, Kentucky, by Southern forces under General Felix Zollicoffer.  After a full week of siege without any help from Fremont, Mulligan was forced to surrender 3,600 Union soldiers to Price on September 20; Fremont's failure to aid Mulligan was the subject of criticism, adding to Fremont's woes.  After negative press in the St. Louis Evening News, Fremont closed its offices and arrested its editor on September 23.


The next major engagement in the west was at Fort Donelson in February of 1862.

Primary source:  The Civil War Day By Day, edited by John S. Bowman, Dorset Press, Greenwich, CT, 1989.

 

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OFFICIAL RECORD OF THE MONTH

 

HEADQUARTERS MISSOURI STATE GUARD,

Camp Wallace, Lexington, Mo., September 21, 1861.

I have the honor to submit to your excellency the following report of the action which terminated on the 20th instant with the surrender of the United States forces and property at this place to the army under my command:

After chastising the marauding armies of Lane and Montgomery and driving them out of the State, and after compelling them to abandon Fort Scott, as detailed in my last report, I continued my march towards this point with an army increasing hourly in numbers and enthusiasm.

On the 10th instant, just as we were about to encamp for the day a mile or two west of Rose Hill, I learned that a detachment of Federal troops and Home Guards were marching from Lexington to Warrens-burg, to rob the bank in that place and plunder and arrest the citizens of Johnson County, in accordance with General Frémont's proclamation and instructions. Although my men were greatly fatigued by several days' continuous and rapid marching, I determined to press forward so as to surprise the enemy, if possible, at Warrensburg. Therefore, after resting a few hours, we resumed the march at sunset, and marched without intermission until 2 o'clock in the morning, when it became evident that the infantry, very few of whom had eaten a mouthful in twenty-two hours, could march no farther. I then halted them, and went forward with the largest part of my mounted men until we came, about daybreak, within view of Warrensburg, where I ascertained that the enemy had hastily fled about midnight, burning the bridges behind them.

The rain began to fall about, the same time. This circumstance, coupled with the fact that my men had been fasting for more than twenty-four hours, constrained me to abandon the idea of pursuing the enemy that day. My infantry and artillery having come up, we encamped at Warrensburg, whose citizens vied with each other in feeding my almost famished soldiers.

An unusually violent storm delayed our march the next morning [September 12] until about 10 o'clock. We then pushed forward rapidly, still hoping to overtake the enemy. Finding it impossible to do this with my infantry, I again ordered a detachment to move forward, and placing myself at their head, continued the pursuit to within two and at half miles of Lexington, when, having learned that the enemy were already within town, and it being late and my men fatigued by a forced march and utterly without provisions, I halted for the night.

About daybreak the next morning [September 13] a sharp skirmish took place between our pickets and the enemy's outposts. This threatened to become general. Being unwilling, however, to risk a doubtful engagement, when a short delay would make success certain, I fell back 2 or 3 miles and awaited the arrival of my infantry and artillery. These having come up, we advanced upon the town, driving the enemy's pickets until we came within a short distance of the city itself. Here the enemy attempted to make a stand, but they were speedily driven from every position and forced to take shelter within their intrenchments. We then took position within easy range of the college, which building they had strongly fortified, and opened upon them a brisk fire from Bledsoe's battery, which, in the absence of Captain Bledsoe, who had been wounded at Big Dry Wood, was gallantly commanded by Capt. Emmett MacDonald, and by Parsons' battery, under the skillful command of Captain Guibor.

Finding, after sunset, that our ammunition, the most of which had been left behind on the march from Springfield, was nearly exhausted, and that my men, thousands of whom had not eaten a particle in thirty-six hours, required rest and food, I withdrew to the fair ground and encamped there. My ammunition wagons having been at last brought up, and large re-enforcements having been received, I again moved into town on Wednesday, the 18th instant, and began the final attack on the enemy's works.

Brigadier-General Rains' division occupied a strong position on the east and northeast of the fortifications, from which an effective cannonading was kept up on the enemy by Bledsoe's battery, under command, except on the last day, of Capt. Emmett MacDonald, and another battery, commanded by Capt. Churchill Clark, of Saint Louis. Both these gentlemen, and the men and officers under their command, are deservedly commended in accompanying report of Brigadier-General Rains. General Parsons took a position southwest of the works, whence his battery, under command of Captain Guibor, poured a steady fire into the enemy. Skirmishers and sharpshooters were also sent forward from both of these divisions to harass and fatigue the enemy, and to cut them off from the water on the north, east, and south of the college, and did inestimable service in the accomplishment of these purposes.

Col. Congreve Jackson's division and a part of General Steele's were posted near Generals Rains' and Parsons' as a reserve, but no occasion occurred to call them into action. They were, however, at all times vigilant and ready to rush upon the enemy.

Shortly after entering the city on the 18th Colonel Rives, who commanded the Fourth Division in the absence of General Slack, led his regiment and Colonel Hughes' along the river bank to a point immediately beneath and west of the fortifications, General McBride's command and a portion of Colonel [General] Harris' having been ordered to re-enforce him. Colonel Rives, in order to cut off the enemy's means of escape, proceeded down the bank of the river to capture a steamboat which was lying just under their guns. Just at this moment a heavy fire was opened upon him from Colonel Anderson's large dwelling-house on the summit of the bluffs, which the enemy were occupying ass hospital, and upon which a white flag was flying. Several companies of General Harris' command and the gallant soldiers of the Fourth Division, who have won upon so many battle-fields the proud distinction of always being among the bravest of the brave, immediately rushed upon and took the place. The important position thus secured was within 125 yards of the enemy's intrenchments. A company from Colonel Hughes' regiment then took possession of the boats, one of which was richly freighted with valuable stores.

General McBride's and General Harris' divisions meanwhile gallantly stormed and occupied the bluffs immediately north of Anderson's house. The possession of these heights enabled our men to harass the enemy so greatly that, resolving to regain them, they made upon the house a successful assault, and one which would have been honorable to them had it not been accompanied by an act of savage barbarity---the cold-blooded and cowardly murder of three defenseless men, who had laid down their arms and surrendered themselves as prisoners.

The position thus retaken by the enemy was soon regained by the brave men who had been driven from it, and was thenceforward held by them to the very end of the contest. The heights to the left of Anderson's house, which had been taken, as before stated, by Generals McBride and Harris, and by part of Steele's command, under Colonel Boyd and Major Winston, were rudely fortified by our soldiers, who threw up breastworks as well as they could with their slender means.

On the morning of the 20th instant I caused a number of hemp bales to be transported to the river heights, where movable breastworks were speedily constructed out of them by Generals Harris and McBride, Colonel Rives and Major Winston, and their respective commands. Captain Kelly's battery (attached to General Steele's division) was ordered at the same time to the position occupied by General Harris' force, and quickly opened a very effective fire, under the direction of its gallant captain, upon the enemy. These demonstrations, and particularly the continued advance of the hempen breastworks, which were as efficient as the cotton bales at New Orleans, quickly attracted the attention and excited the alarm of the enemy, who made many daring attempts to drive us back. They were, however, repulsed in every instance by the unflinching courage and fixed determination of our men.

In these desperate encounters the veterans of McBride's and Slack's divisions fully sustained their proud reputation, while Colonel Martin Green and his command, and Colonel Boyd and Major Winston and their commands, proved themselves worthy to fight by the side of the men who had by their courage and valor won imperishable honor in the bloody battle of Springfield.

After 2 o'clock in the afternoon of the 20th, and after fifty-two hours of continuous firing, a white flag was displayed by the enemy on that part of the works nearest to Colonel Green's position, and shortly afterwards another was displayed opposite to Colonel Rives'. I immediately ordered a cessation of all firing on our part, and sent forward one of my staff officers to ascertain the object of the flag and to open negotiations with the enemy if such should be their desire. It was finally, after some delay, agreed by Colonel Marshall and the officers associated with him for that purpose by Colonel Mulligan that the United States forces should lay down their arms and surrender themselves as prisoners of war to this army. These terms having been made known, were ratified by me and immediately carried into effect.

Our entire loss in this series of engagements amounts to 25 killed and 72 wounded. The enemy's loss was much greater.

The visible fruits of this almost bloodless victory are very great----about 3,500 prisoners, among whom are Colonels Mulligan, Marshall, Peabody, White, and Grover, Major Van Horn, and 118 other commissioned officers, 5 pieces of artillery and 2 mortars, over 3,000 stands of infantry arms, a large number of sabers, about 750 horses, many sets of cavalry equipments, wagons, teams, and ammunition, more than $100,000 worth of commissary stores, and a large amount of other property. In addition to all this, I obtained the restoration of the great seal of the State and the public records, which had been stolen from their proper custodian, and about $900,000 in money, of which the bank at this place had been robbed, and which I have caused to be returned to it.

This victory has demonstrated the fitness of our citizen soldiers for the tedious operations of a siege as well as for a dashing charge. They lay for fifty-two hours in the open air without tents or covering, regardless of the sun and rain and in the very presence of a watchful and desperate foe, manfully repelling every assault and patiently awaiting any orders to storm the fortifications. No general ever commanded a braver or a better army. It is composed of the best blood and the bravest men of Missouri.

Where nearly everyone, officers and men, behaved so well, as is known to your excellency, who was present with the army during the whole period embraced in this report, it is impossible to make special mention of individuals without seemingly making invidious distinctions; but I may be permitted to express my personal obligations to my volunteer aides, as well as my staff, for their efficient services and prompt attention to all my orders.

I have the honor to be, with the greatest respect, your excellency's obedient servant,

STERLING PRICE,

Major-General, Commanding.

 

O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME 3 [S# 3]


Source for Official Reports of the Month: The Civil War CD-ROM, by Guild Press of Indiana, 435 Gradle Drive, Carmel, IN, 46032, 317-848-6421.

 

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