Monday, August 22, 2011

150-Years-Ago -- The Battle of Oak Hill (Wilson's Creek)

The Richmond Daily Dispatch
August 22, 1861

Captain David Thompson of the Caldwell Minute Men (later
Caldwell Light Infantry); Company D, 1st Infantry Regiment
4th Division Missouri State Guard; and Company H, 2nd
Missouri Infantry Regiment; holding his sword.
(Library of Congress, Liljenquist Family Colletion)
The great battle in Missouri.
accounts from both Sides.

The St. Louis Democrat (Black Republican) of the 15th inst., has a description of the great battle in Missouri, furnished by a Springfield correspondent. We copy the material portion:
Of course many acts of valor were performed not witnessed by me, but among those I saw conspicuous were Captain Gratz, leading his men against overwhelming odds, and falling in death just as he had repulsed the foe, Lieutenant Murphy dashing forward ahead of the line, waiving his sword high in the air, shouting on ward to the almost wavering men, who gained fresh courage from the exhibition, and pushing forward, drove the enemy from the field. In this fight, many of our brave soldiers fell to rise no more, while Colonel Andrews had his horse shot from under him and was wounded himself slightly. General Lyon suffered, in a similar manner; Captains Cavender, Cole and Yates, each slightly, or at least not dangerously wounded; Lieuts. Brown and Johnson, and Corporals Conant and Rogers, more or less severely wounded.

During this engagement two companies of regulars were sent to the east side of the creek to engage a force which was operating against Capt. Wright's cavalry, sheltering themselves behind a fence. Capt. Plummer and Capt. Gilbert, with their companies, marched close by to the fence and delivered an effective fire, but were compelled by great odds to retire, which they did, but again renewed the attack. The enemy being largely reinforced, and having now at least three thousand men, jumped over into the cornfield, and Capt. Plummer's gallant band was imminently threatened with annihilation.--They retreated rapidly, firing as they did so, when Lieut. Dubois, having got his battery under headway on the hill, near the Missouri volunteers, seeing the position of affairs on the opposite side of the valley, threw in the most precise manner several shells, which exploded just as they reached the dense mass of Secessionists, scattering them lifeless on the ground in scores, while all who could were glad to run for dear life.

The men in Col. Blair's regiment were now ordered back and their position taken by the Iowa First. Gen. Lyon had previously had a poor opinion of the fighting qualities of these men, formed more from supposition than upon any real failure in duty, but now the time had come for him to reverse his judgment, which he did after their first repulse of the enemy. They fought like tigers, drove the enemy back, and followed up the advantage gained for a considerable distance. Captain Mason, Company C, was killed soon after his regiment was engaged. Lieutenant Purcell was mortally wounded. Major Porter and Colonel Merritt, gallantly cheering on their boys, escaped unharmed. The Kansas First and Second regiments were now ordered forward to support the right flank of the Iowas.

Col. Green's Regiment of Tennessee Cavalry, bearing a Secession flag, now charged upon our wounded, who were partially guarded by one or two companies of infantry. Seeing the movement, Capt. Totten poured a few rounds of canister into their ranks just in time to save our sick men from being trampled to death, dispersing the rebels so completely that nothing more was seen of them during the day.

Gen. Lyon now desired the Iowa boys, whom he had found so brave, to prepare to meet the next onset of the enemy with the bayonet immediately after firing. They said, "Give us a leader, and we will follow to death." On came the enemy in overwhelming numbers, confident of victory over such a meagre force. No time could be lost to select a leader. "I will lead you," exclaimed Lyon; "come on, brave men;" and placing himself in the van, received a fatal bullet just at the pit of the stomach, which killed him instantly. The Iowas delivered their fire and the enemy retired, so there was no need of charging bayonets. Gen. Lyon's body was carefully picked up and conveyed lifeless toward the ambulances by two of his body guard.--There was no feeling of depression on the part of the troops at the unexpected calamity, but rather a feeling of quiet determination to avenge his death.

It was now a little after nine o'clock, and the battle had raged with a fierceness seldom if ever equalled for over three hours. The smoke hung like a storm-cloud over the valley, a fit emblem of mourning for the departed hero.--The battle raged for two hours more, the command devolving upon Major Sturgis. The enemy made repeated attempts to retake the heights from which they had been driven, but were repulsed each time. The Kansas regiments behaved with a bravery seldom or never equalled, forming ambuscades for the benefit of the rebels by lying flat on the ground until the enemy came near enough for them to see their eyebrows, when they would pour a deadly volley into their opponents and again remain in possession of the field. The last repulse of the enemy was the most glorious of all, and was participated in by members of every regiment on the field. The enemy came fresh and deceived our men by bearing a Union flag, causing them to believe Siegel was about making a junction with our forces. Discovering the ruse just in time, our boys rushed upon the enemy, who, with four cannon belching forth loud-mouthed thunder, were on the point of having their efforts crowned with success, and again drove them, with great loss, down the slope on the south side of the hill.

Capt. Totten's ammunition was now nearly exhausted, and placing Dubois' battery upon the hill at the North end of the valley, Major Sturgis ordered the ambulances to move towards town. The infantry and Totten's full battery followed in good order, and were not pursued by the enemy, who was evidently glad to be let alone.

When General Siegel, who commanded the Eastern division, heard the roar of Totten's artillery, he at once attacked the enemy in his quarter, driving him half a mile, and taking possession of his camp, extending westward to the Fayetteville road. Here a terrible fire was poured into his ranks by a regiment which he had permitted to advance within a few paces of him, supposing it to be the Iowa First. His men scattered considerably, and Colonel Solomon's could not be rallied — consequently Siegel lost five of his guns.

Our troops took some four hundred horses and about seventy prisoners, and compelled the enemy to burn nearly all of his baggage to keep it from falling into our hands.

The enemy had 21 pieces of cannon, and at the last 26, including those taken from Siegel. They were none of them worked with precision, every shot, for nearly an hour, going whiz twenty feet over our heads.
Our army reached Springfield in safety, and are now preparing to move toward Rolla.

Our loss is about 200 killed, and 600 or 700 wounded, while the loss of the enemy must have been double our own. Dr. Scheuck, who was in the rebel camp at a late hour last evening, bringing away our wounded, reports our men comparatively few with those of the enemy, whose dead were lying thick under the trees.
[by Telegraph.]

Rolla, August 15.
--Mr. Graham, a Union clerk, employed in a Secession store at Springfield, reached here this morning.
He reports that four regiments of Confederate cavalry [This unit was part of the Missouri State Guards, not a Confederate Regiment - Editor], under General Raines, entered Springfield on Monday at noon, and hoisted a Secession flag over the Court-House, amidst the noisy demonstrations of the troops and resident sympathizers.

Our wounded soldiers in the hospital had not been molested, and it was announced that only the Home Guards would be the subject of resentment.
The Confederates purchased everything in the stores, paying any price demanded in Confederate scrip.
Wagons containing the families of Union men continue to arrive here. More than one half of the population of Springfield have left, and the farmers along the route to this place are leaving for their homes.

Rolla,Mo., Aug. 18.--The St. Louis Republican correspondent furnishes the following items:

The forces engaged in the battle of Wilson's Creek, reached their camping ground, eight miles southwest of here, to-day, where there is an abundance of water and other facilities for camp life. Major Sturgis assumed command of the army at about thirty miles from Springfield, and has since conducted the retreat.

The first Iowa Regiment reached here to-day, and will proceed immediately to St. Louis and be disbanded, their term of enlistment having expired.
The loss of this regiment was 13 killed, 134 wounded, 56 seriously and 8 mortally, and 5 missing.

Lieut. Col. Merritt, commanding the First Iowa regiment, reports officially that the enemy brought into the field 14,000 well armed, disciplined troops, and 2 000 irregular troops, while our own force was only about 5, 000 in the early part of the engagement, and considerably less than 4,000 for the concluding four hours.

Capt. Emmill McDonald, of the habeas corpus notoriety, arrived at Major Sturgis' camp, this morning, with a flag of truce, ostensibly to negotiate an exchange of prisoners, and procure medical stores for the wounded on both sides, but it is strongly suspected that he is really acting as a spy. What action Major Sturgis will take in the matter is not known.

St. Louis,Aug. 17.--The statement in the late news from California that J. C. Palmer had left that State for the purpose of taking charge of the commissary department under Gen. Fremont, is untrue. He has no connection whatever with Gen. Fremont.

The other side.

The St. Louis correspondent of the Baltimore Exchange writes to that paper (August 14) as follows:

The papers of this morning contain amongst the telegrams received in the course of last night from Washington, one announcing that "official advices were yesterday received from General Fremont, at the War Department, respecting the battle near Springfield and the death of General Lyon." This is all the telegraph deigns to communicates. The writer of this will be less reticent than that useful agent towards that portion of the "dear people" at least who read the Exchange, and supply an important omission in the dispatch referred to, and which he supposes is all that appears on the subject in the Baltimore papers of this morning.

Lyon is a dead cook in the pit this time, beyond all peradventure, having been shot in "the small of the back, whilst gloriously leading his column on to"defeat, instead of "victory," as the Democrat Extra of last evening had it in large capitals. Siegle was in full retreat upon Rolla, with the remnant of what was the Grand Army of Southwest Missouri, on Sunday last, having left "one of his guns on the field," as the Democrat itself admits, together with eight hundred killed! On the other hand, the same impartial narrator informs us that this "glorious victory" was purchased only after a most desperate struggle on the part of the rebels, and the "loss of Generals McCulloch, Price, Parsons, and many other prominent officers among them," including General Beauregard, perhaps. That it was a severely fought engagement, there can be no question; nor can it be doubted that the loss on the side of the State troops has been heavy; for, though numerically stronger than their enemy, this latter, nevertheless, had with them several regiments of U. States regulars from Fort Leavenworth and other points, as also several batteries, comprising some twenty pieces of artillery, officered and worked by men who for years past have been in the Government service, perfecting themselves in the manual of this branch of the art of war. I need scarcely say that no one here, acquainted with the lying character of the dispatches received by the telegraph in these days, attaches the least credence to the reports respecting McCulloch, Price and Parsons' death; but rather attribute them to a laudable desire on the part of those concerned to mitigate, in some degree, by this resort to a pious fraud, what may be regarded as a severe affliction, visited upon the "loyal people" of this city and State; for they were exultant, only the day before yesterday even, at the positive assurances of success, forwarded them from day to day by the doughty Lyon, and the consequent speedy and dutiful return of the State to her loyalty to the beneficent power at Washington. Alack a-day! the result affords but another instance of the truth of the adage respecting the schemes of men and mice; and if Abraham Lincoln, when the details of this affair at Springfield shall have reached him, don't admit that somebody was hurt, it will be, perhaps, because he ascribes as much softness to the pedal extremity of the fair Bellona, (who is supposed here to have put her foot down in the vicinity of Springfield, last Saturday, and right smartly, too,) as some prejudiced people do to the organ contained in his cranium, and commonly known as brains. Whatever the President may think on the subject, there was the "d--1 to pay among the tailors" out here yesterday, as was abundantly evidenced by the running hither and thither, all the afternoon and evening, of men dressed in soldiers' clothes, with straps on their shoulders and their waists girded with sashes, as also the passage through Market and Chesnut streets last night about 10 o'clock, on their way to the Pacific Railroad Depot, of some three or four thousand troops, en route to Rolla, as two or three of them informed the writer. The news of yesterday has thrown the city into a great state of excitement, because of the very uncertainty in which the minds of citizens have been left to flounder by reason of the meagerness of its details, and I would not be in the least surprised to witness a repetition of the panic that drove so many families out of town on Sunday, the twelfth of May last.--All we know is, there has been a repetition of the Bull Run affair in the neighborhood of Springfield, with serious disaster to the Federal forces; that Siegel was retreating hastily to Rolla, whither — report now has it — Hardee, with 12,000 men, has — by previous concert of action with McCulloch — been gradually tending for some days past, in order to intercept the return of the Federals either to Jefferson or this city; and after using them up, and being joined by McCulloch, to pursue his triumphal march. If that march should bring him here — and there would seem to be reason to believe it may, if the rumor current on the streets, to the effect that General Thompson last evening took possession of Pilot Knob, the Southern terminus of the Iron Mountain Railroad, be true — if, I say, his march should bring him here, there must of necessity be a severe fight, even within the city limits; for Fremont has several thousand troops at the arsenal, the barracks, and elsewhere in the immediate vicinity, and for several days has been planting cannon on all the principal roads leading to it on the west and south. You will not wonder, then, that people should have become panic-stricken, especially when I inform you that the Dutch have said they would raze the city, rather than that it should pass from their hands to that of the Americans; and there are many Northern men here, who, from their implacable hatred of the South and all whose sympathies lead them to espouse her cause, would no doubt cheerfully lend a helping hand in carrying out their atrocious threat.

Friday, August 12, 2011

150-Years-Ago -- The Lone Star Rifles pass through Louisiana

Members of the 1st Texas Infantry in their 1861 Winter quarters.
(Photographic History of the Civil War)
The  New Orleans True Delta
August 13, 1861

     Movement of Texas Troops - From Mr. Geo. Gordon, of Texas, who arrived this morning, we learn some particulars of the movement of the Texas troops.
     The Lone Star Rifles [Co. L, 1st Texas Infantry], Capt. A.C. McKeen, from Galveston, have marched through the swamps to New Iberia - a distance of 150 miles - and will arrive in this city on Wednesday. They are a fine body of young men, and number 100 rank and file - and anxious to take a hand in the fight. Mr. Gordon met them trudging along, some barefooted and others with their boots in the hands, but still in the best of spirits. This is the third time that Capt. McKeen has made an effort to reach Virginia, but the citizens of Galveston have always persuaded him to hold on until now. Along the route they have been received with the utmost kindness, and in Lafayette they were making strenuous efforts to send out all the available carts and wagons to help them along.
     The camp at Harrisburg was to move on to Virginia to-day. They number 2000, and are splendid fighting men, accustomed to the saddle and the rifle from childhood, and will give a good account of themselves wherever they meet the enemy.
      The crops in Texas are magnificent; nothing like it has ever been seen in the state - corn and cotton in profusion.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


By Mike Jones
    I've been writing historical stories for years and it never fails that often you learn more about your subject when the story comes out. That is logical since not many people know that you are writing an article or a book before it is published.
    I recently received a phone call from a gentleman wanting to buy a copy of my new book, "Tiger Rifles: The Making of a Louisiana Legend," who was a descendant of one of the members of that unit, Cpl. Joseph Nichols. The descendant, Gilbert W. Nunez, Jr., sent me some additional information about his ancestor. Since one of the goals of my book was to find a much personal information as I could about the individual Tigers, I thought I'd add such supplementary information to my blog as I receive it.
   This was the first time I've talked to a descendant of one of the Tiger Rifles soldiers. For my book I was in contact with a descendant of A. Keene Richards, the wealthy New Orleans and Kentucky businessman who donated the Tiger Rifles their famous Zouave uniforms. I have a nice pictures of Richards in the book.
     Corporal Nichols was one of the older men in the Tiger Rifles. According to the 1860 census,  he was born about 1819 in South Carolina and was farming in Rapides Parish, Louisiana. He raised cotton and sheep and was a lumberman. At least one other member of the unit, Private John S. Williams, was a farmer from Rapides Parish. Nichols had a wife and eight children listed in the 1860 census.
      He enlisted as a private in the Tiger Rifles April 25, 1861 in New Orleans and was elected to the rank of corporal on January 15, 1862. His election to corporal after the unit had been through the First Battle of Manassas and so many trials and tribulations in camp in the winter of 1861-62, indicates he was a good soldier and well respected by his fellow Tigers.
     After the Tigers were disbanded in August, 1862,  he traveled down to Vicksburg, Mississippi, possibly with Captain Alexander White, commander of the Tiger Rifles, who  also went there, and joined Company C, 27th Louisiana Infantry. His oldest child and son, Isaac Nichols, was serving in the same unit. Father and son battled the Northern invaders throughout the Siege of Vicksburg and were surrendered July 4,  1863. Joseph Nichols then reported for exchange April 1, 1864 at Shreveport, Louisiana. He continued with the 27th Louisiana and was surrendered in the command of General E. Kirby Smith May 26, 1865 and was paroled June 19, 1865 at Alexandria, Louisiana. At some point he moved to what was then Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana, later becoming Beauregard Parish. He died February 17, 1904 and is buried in the Cooper Cemetery in Beauregard Parish just west DeRidder, Louisiana off U.S. Hwy. 190.
       Anyone interested in my book can order it from,, or If you'd like a signed copy from the author send $19.95 plus $3.50 shipping to Michael D. Jones, P.O. Box 1318, Iowa, Louisiana 70647.