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NEWS OF 150 YEARS AGO
From The Missouri Democrat, Monday, March 3, 1862.
THE RETREAT AND PURSUIT OF PRICE.
[Special Correspondence of the Missouri Democrat.]
“CROSS HOLLOWS,” ARK.
Feb. 25, 1862.
I left Springfield at 1 P. M., Friday last and reached here Sunday at 4 P. M., having traveled 90 miles in that time. Everywhere on our route was seen the devastation caused by the march of armies. From the battle-field of Wilson’s Creek to Cassville, I should judge that one-half of the dwellings and barns were burned by Price and McCulloch when Fremont was supposed to be in pursuit. The remaining half of the tenements were deserted by Union men last season, who have since been fugitives in Rolla, St. Louis and throughout Illinois. These dwellings were frequently occupied by straggling soldiers, who were very hospitable in offering the traveler the best bed in the house, to-wit: the floor. This side of Cassville, among the Sugar Creek defiles, we saw where McCulloch, in his flight last fall, had a detail of 500 men to fell trees for a distance of several miles across the road to prevent pursuit. This barricade was eventually removed by the rebels themselves for their own convenience. The few country people met with on the way gave full particulars of the picket fighting between Curtis’s advance and the rebel rear, as over
“The ragged road the ragged rascals ran.”
Many gallant exploits occurred, and I find our troops, officers and men, exulting over the achievements of the famous retreat and pursuit. I have obtained from our officers the following brief account of events up to the Sugar Creek affair:
THE RETREAT AND PURSUIT.
In leaving Springfield, General Price undoubtedly supposed he could make good his retreat without molestation, thinking, most likely, that General Curtis would be so much pleased with the recapture of the town, that he would remain several days and glorify. In fact, many of our own officers and men expected as a matter of course the army would halt some time. But Price “had reckoned without his host,” and our officers did not yet understand their leader. The same night of our arrival came orders to march at daybreak the following morning, the divisions of Generals Sigel and Asboth taking the Mt. Vernon road, while those of Generals Jeff. C. Davis and Carr took the direct route to Cassville. Pushing rapidly forward, twelve o’clock of that day found the latter divisions passing the famous battle field of “Wilson’s Creek, where the enemy had bivouacked the night previous, leaving only that morning. Here their camp fires were still burning, much of the meat that had been killed for the troops lying around uncooked, with every evidence of having left “in something of a hurry.”
The enthusiasm of our troops as they passed this famous place, cannot be described. All around us were the graves of our own friends, who had sacrificed themselves for the cause; in advance, the same identical enemy that murdered Lyon. All felt that it would have been a pleasure to fight the rebels on this same spot. Marching on, six o’clock brought us to Dug Springs, where we were preparing to bivouac, when a messenger announced that our cavalry had overtaking [sic] the enemy, and urging the infantry forward. Hunger, fatigue and all was forgotten. Onward we pushed, never halting until twelve o’clock that night. The division of Gen. Davis was in the advance, with the cavalry of Col. Ellis and Major McConnell. The enemy, it seems, had halted on Crane Creek, and here were captured quite a number of prisoners. First was the rebel Col. Freeman, so well known as the marauder at Salem, below Rolla. Our pickets were close upon the enemy’s camp, and Freeman’s horse escaping from him, ran up the road, followed by the Colonel. In a very few moments he was on his way to headquarters. Soon after came a dapper little Major, walking right up to our pickets, and asking if they could show him Gen. Price’s headquarters. “Certainly,” was the reply, and in a trice he was before Gen. Curtis. Afterwards our men captured an engineer and several other commissioned officers.
Had not the night been so terribly dark, it is more than likely Gen. Curtis would have attacked the enemy, but he determined not to be drawn into an ambuscade. The troops lay on their arms awaiting the break of day. At an early hour, February 15th, the column moved forward, but during the night Price had again fled, leaving a large proportion of his camp equipage, and a number of wagons. During that day the chase was very exciting, there being constant skirmishing between our advance and his rear guard. The road was strewn with broken wagons, dead and dying mules and horses, and every conceivable kind of goods. At four o’clock in the afternoon, the booming of cannon notified us that Price had made a stand. The Dubuque battery was pushed forward, and for an hour we had a fine artillery fight. By the time our infantry got up, the enemy had precipitately fled. On the 16th inst., we pushed on, finding many evidences of the hasty flight in that day’s march. During the afternoon our cavalry again overtook the rebels at Cross Timbers, and here was made a gallant charge by Colonel Henry Pease and forty men. Coming on the enemy’s picket they drove it in, dashing at once in the very midst of his camp. One of our men, a lieutenant of Cavalry was wounded, and five or six horses killed. The enemy’s loss was much greater. This charge was really one of the most brilliant things that occurred on the route. On the 17th inst., we had several skirmishes and at last discovered the enemy in position on the south side of Sugar Creek. Taking it altogether, the flight of Price and our pursuit, will form one of the most interesting passages in the history of the war, Missouri has been freed from the rebels, and the war transferred to Dixie.
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