Today in History:

749 Series I Volume III- Serial 3 - Wilson's Creek


been asked why I did not pursue the enemy. In answering this question I will merely state facts, and let my superiors say if it would have been advisable to advance under the circumstances.

In the first place, my forces was entirely inadequate for such an enterprise, it being about 5,000 men, including fourteen pieces of artillery. Five hundred of these men had been to much enfeebled by sickness to be able to take the field though they would have fought the enemy had he marched upon us. This would have reduced my force to 4,500; 2,000 of which it would have been indispensably necessary, as recent events have shown, to have left for the protection of that portion of Arkansas and the Indian Territory. This would have further reduced my command to the small number of 2,500. Would it have been prudent, with this force, to follow General Sigel, who had 12,000 men, to Rolla, where General Phelps was already with 2,000 more, or would it have been better to follow General Hunter to Sedalia, who had over 15,000? At the same time it will be remembered that both Rolla and Sedalia are the termini of railroads leading from Saint Louis; that supplies without limit could be had, and any number of men thrown to these points long before I could have reached them; and this, too, when I had made half the distance before they knew of my approach. Again, it will be remembered that these points-Rolla and Sedalia-are about the distance of 200 miles from the position held by me at the time the enemy retreated from Springfield. I had not exceeding three days' rations for my men to start with, and not a single extra mule or horse shoe to replace those lost on the march, and this, too, at the season of the year when the ground, being frozen, would render it impossible for our mules or horses to travel without being shod.

It may be asked also why I did not join my forces to those under General Price. In answer to this question it will only be necessary to say that it was impossible for us to march together, owing to the great number of animals in our commands, being not much short of 15,000 all of which had to be fed, as well as our men, on what could be gathered on the march through a country already laid waste by the armies of both sides having repeatedly passed over it. Besides, it was always clear to my mind that we could never maintain a position on the Missouri River for any length of time, owing to the great distance we would be from our resources and the close proximity of those of the enemy, we having to haul in wagons 300 or 400 miles supplies which he could obtain by railroads or steamboats in a few hours; thus putting it in the power of the enemy to do as much in twenty-four hours as we could in as many days to supply a want of men or means to make war.

It has been said, both by individuals and newspapers, that I was unwilling to assist Missouri. Do the enemy efforts on my part recited above to aid her go to prove it? or can the accusation be proved by the fact of my having called on her general-in-chief three times at his headquarters and met him at two other points for the purpose of bringing about concert of action against the large force under General Fremont? Truth constrains me to say the neither he nor any officer under him ever visited my camp, though some of his generals were known to have passed in a few yards of my headquarters at the time.

In conclusion, permit me to say I have endeavored to give a plain statement of matters and things as they occurred. The dates and precise language of the notes and letters referred to cannot now be given, as they are at this time at my headquarters.

I have the honor to be, respectfully, your obedient servant,