Tag Archives: James G. Blunt

The Cane Hill Engagement

November 28, 1862 – Federals led by Brigadier General James G. Blunt attacked Brigadier General John S. Marmaduke’s small Confederate cavalry force in a skirmish in northwestern Arkansas.

General John S. Marmaduke | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Marmaduke had expected the Federals to advance from the northwest, but they came forward using the Fayetteville road to the northeast instead, which the Confederates had not guarded. The Federals quickly drove the pickets off and attacked Marmaduke’s unsuspecting flank.

The fight became a nine-hour running battle, with the Confederates being pushed back from position to position as Marmaduke scrambled to assemble a rear guard to protect his supply train. The Confederates retreated down the Van Buren road as their train hurried into the Boston Mountains.

Meanwhile, the chase scattered Blunt’s Federals, so he waited until they could be regrouped before resuming the offensive. Marmaduke continued falling back, with Blunt pursuing. As nightfall approached, the Federals ran into the Confederate rear guard, led by Colonel J.O. “Jo” Shelby’s “Iron Brigade,” which lay in ambush.

Shelby directed his men to form one column on each side of the road. The front line fired, raced to the rear to reload, and the next line fired to hold off the advancing enemy. This stopped the Federal pursuers and ended the engagement, enabling Marmaduke, his men, and his supply train to escape.

The Federals sustained 44 casualties (eight killed and 36 wounded), and the Confederates lost 80 (10 killed and 70 wounded or missing). During the night, Marmaduke fell back to Dripping Springs, eight miles north of Van Buren. This engagement shifted the initiative in Arkansas to the Federals.

Marmaduke sought to counterattack the next day, as Blunt took up headquarters at Cane Hill. The Federals were now over 100 miles from the rest of the Army of the Frontier and its support base at Springfield, Missouri. Confederate Major General Thomas C. Hindman hurried a regiment and a wagon train of ammunition to reinforce Marmaduke.

In his official report written that night, Marmaduke urged Hindman to come up with all “celerity and secrecy” to join in an attack. Hindman replied:

“The crossing will be completed to-morrow, and the command will move on Monday (December 1) at daylight. I shall march moderately, not above 12 or 15 miles a day, if it can be helped, so as not to break the men down before the fight commences.”

Believing that Blunt would stay at Cane Hill until he came up, Hindman added, “To prevent as far as practicable rumors of the movement getting to the enemy, spread the report that Little Rock is threatened, and I am ordered there. This can be done, I hope, without disheartening your men.” Meanwhile, Blunt’s isolated force remained at Cane Hill.

Hindman’s Confederates began crossing the Arkansas River on the 29th. His superior, General Theophilus H. Holmes commanding the Trans-Mississippi Department, wrote him, “You must save the country if you can.” Hindman met with Marmaduke and his other commanders the following day. The Confederates only had enough ammunition for one day of fighting, so the attack needed to be quick and decisive. The leaders worked out a plan to divide the army into four columns, with one each attacking Blunt’s flanks, front, and rear.

In a sudden change of heart, Holmes warned Hindman, “You must not think of advancing in your present condition. You would lose your army. The enemy will either advance on you or for want of supplies will be obliged to return to Missouri.”

As the Confederate Army of the Trans-Mississippi assembled near Van Buren, Blunt dispatched scouts to determine the enemy positions.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 233; Josephy, Jr., Alvin M., War on the Frontier: The Trans-Mississippi West (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 150; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 290-91; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: C.B. Richardson, 1866; revised version New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 552

Moving Toward Battle in Northwestern Arkansas

November 1, 1862 – Federal and Confederate movements ultimately led to a confrontation in northwestern Arkansas.

General John Schofield | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

By this month, Major General John Schofield had reunited his Federal Army of the Frontier at Osage Springs, Arkansas. Schofield thought Major General Thomas C. Hindman’s Confederates were pursuing him, but he soon learned that Hindman was actually moving in the opposite direction, toward the Arkansas River. Schofield wrote Brigadier General James G. Blunt, “I have hoped that the rebels would come back and give us battle where we could fight them together. But if they will not do this we must separate and follow our respective paths of duty.”

Thus, Schofield divided his army again, sending Blunt’s Federals back to Old Fort Wayne and leading the rest to Springfield in southwestern Missouri. Soon after, Major General Samuel R. Curtis, commanding the Department of the Missouri over Schofield’s army, received orders from General-in-Chief Henry W. Halleck to assemble as many troops as possible at Helena, Arkansas, on the Mississippi River to either move against Little Rock or reinforce Major General Ulysses S. Grant’s Federal Army of the Tennessee driving toward Vicksburg.

Curtis resisted Halleck’s order because he feared sending troops to Helena would open a path for the Confederates in Arkansas to move north and invade Missouri. He directed Major General Frederick Steele to lead 10,000 Federals from Pilot Knob, Missouri, to Batesville, Arkansas. Steele protested Curtis’s order to Halleck and instead went to Helena, where he crossed the Mississippi and joined Grant’s offensive.

Meanwhile, Hindman and Brigadier General John S. Marmaduke sought to reunite their forces with those under Colonels Douglas H. Cooper and Stand Watie at Little Rock. Hindman wanted to attack Schofield’s Federals returning to Springfield, but he lacked the strength to do it. So he instead moved to Fort Smith on the Arkansas River and worked to strengthen his army. The troops lacked adequate food and shelter, and illness ran rampant. And General Theophilus H. Holmes, commanding the Confederate Trans-Mississippi Department, struggled to fill Hindman’s requests for supplies.

Gen Thomas C. Hindman | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Hindman’s army was bolstered somewhat by the addition of William C. Quantrill’s partisans. They joined Marmaduke while Quantrill went to Richmond to try securing a rank and official recognition of his force. Quantrill had gained a notorious reputation operating against Federal supply trains in Missouri and Kansas, with Federal search parties moving through many Missouri counties in search of his partisans.

By late November, about 5,000 new British Enfield muskets and 7,000 new uniforms arrived for the troops. The force was renamed the Army of the Trans-Mississippi, which Holmes planned to name the Army of Missouri once the men reentered that state.

As Holmes balked at President Jefferson Davis’s request to send troops east to defend Vicksburg, Marmaduke’s Confederates advanced 50 miles north of Fort Smith to forage near Cane Hill. When Curtis learned of this, he ordered Schofield to reunite his Army of the Frontier once again. Hindman, thinking that Curtis was shipping Schofield east, only expected to face Blunt’s division in his front.

Hindman thought that Blunt had fallen back into Missouri, but Marmaduke soon learned that Blunt was about 20 miles north of Cane Hill in northwestern Arkansas. He wrote Hindman proposing that the entire Army of the Trans-Mississippi attack Blunt while he sat supposedly isolated. Hindman agreed. Neither Hindman nor Marmaduke knew that Blunt was preparing to move south against them instead.

Marmaduke had about 2,000 cavalry, and he believed that Blunt was too weak to give battle. Blunt’s force consisted of about 5,000 troops, mostly from Kansas, camped west of Bentonville. Marmaduke told Hindman, “General, I feel assured that you can bag this party in a short quick fight. Blunt and no one else dreams of such a move. I will surprise friend and foe, hence the better chance for secrecy and success.”

On the morning of the 25th, Blunt dispatched a scouting party to determine enemy strength around Cane Hill. After a skirmish, Blunt learned that Confederate cavalry were in his front, soon to be joined by Hindman’s army. If Hindman and Marmaduke joined forces, they would have about 11,000 men and a good chance of driving through Blunt’s small force and reentering Missouri.

Blunt rushed to gather a supply train and advance on Marmaduke before Hindman arrived. He was unaware that Hindman was still several days away.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Faust, Patricia L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 673-74; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 227-28, 233; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: C.B. Richardson, 1866; revised version New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 551-52

Confederate Struggles in the Trans-Mississippi

October 27, 1862 – Federal forces pushed from Missouri into northwestern Arkansas, as Confederates in Arkansas were asked to provide support east of the Mississippi River.

The Federals under Brigadier General James G. Blunt and Major General John Schofield united at Sarcoxie, Missouri, where the Federals had retreated after the Battle of Newtonia on September 30. This combined force drove the Confederate cavalry forces of Colonels Douglas H. Cooper and Jo Shelby out of Missouri, with Cooper leading his men back to the Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) and Shelby heading to the Boston Mountains in southwestern Arkansas.

Schofield’s and Blunt’s Federals became known as the Army of the Frontier, with Schofield commanding and the three divisions led by Generals Blunt, James Totten, and Francis J. Herron. This new army numbered about 14,000 men, and its mission was to pursue the retreating Confederates into Arkansas.

Gen Thomas C. Hindman | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

The Federals crossed the state line on the 17th and camped on the Pea Ridge battlefield. They spent the next three days resting and gathering supplies. Meanwhile, Major General Thomas C. Hindman returned from Confederate headquarters at Little Rock to command the 6,000 Confederates falling back. Hindman divided the force in two, moving one portion south of Pea Ridge and sending the other to join Cooper west.

Schofield answered by leading two divisions against Hindman and sending Blunt’s division in pursuit of Cooper. Schofield’s pursuit stopped at Huntsville, where he learned that Hindman was heading toward the sanctuary of the Boston Mountains. Blunt moved to Maysville, where he learned that Cooper camped at Old Fort Wayne, seven miles south in the Indian Territory. Blunt resolved to attack at dawn on the 22nd.

The next day, Blunt attacked as planned, but due to a mix-up, Blunt advanced with only the 2nd Kansas Cavalry. Cooper ordered a retreat nonetheless because his main goal was to protect his supply train. A Confederate rear guard formed as a portion of Blunt’s force in the Federal center charged without authorization. Even so, the Federals overwhelmed the Confederates, consisting mostly of Indians under Stand Watie. This motivated the rest of the Federals to charge as well, and soon the rest of Blunt’s force came up in support.

The Confederates left their camps behind as they fled, but they made off with their supply train. Cooper fell back over 50 miles, south of the Arkansas River. While this was just a minor skirmish, it marked the first successful Federal foray into the Indian Territory, and it convinced many pro-secession Indians to switch sides. Blunt’s Federals set up camp near Old Fort Wayne.

Farther east, Hindman’s Confederates continued falling back into the Boston Mountains, and Schofield fell back toward Bentonville to protect his supply line. Schofield reported to Major General Samuel R. Curtis, the overall Federal commander of the department, that organized Confederate resistance had been cleared out of Missouri and Kansas. He then suggested that Blunt advance 80 miles south to Fort Smith, Arkansas, to keep up the pressure on Cooper, while Schofield remained in northern Arkansas. Curtis, under pressure from Halleck to send troops east for the drive on Vicksburg, ordered Blunt to stay at Old Fort Wayne and Schofield to continue falling back to Springfield, Missouri.

Hindman countered by moving his Confederates to Fayetteville, a town from which he could advance or defend against Federals in any direction. When Schofield learned of this, he directed his Federals to confront the enemy. After a brief skirmish, Hindman ordered his Confederates to fall back to the Boston Mountains once more, and the Federals entered Fayetteville.

By month’s end, Schofield feared a Confederate attack and fell back to Osage Springs. Blunt came up to join forces with him, reuniting the Army of the Frontier.

Meanwhile, President Jefferson Davis wrote Lieutenant General Theophilus H. Holmes, commanding the Confederate Trans-Mississippi Department, outlining a plan for Holmes’s troops to aid in efforts to take back Helena, Memphis, and Nashville. The ultimate objective would be to expel all Federal troops from Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi.

Davis turned to Holmes after Braxton Bragg failed to secure Kentucky and the Confederates failed to expel the Federals from Mississippi. Davis hoped Holmes could coordinate efforts with Bragg in Tennessee and Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton in Mississippi. A week later, the Confederate secretary of war sent a message to Holmes reiterating Davis’s plan:

“Cooperation between General Pemberton and yourself is indispensable to the preservation of our connection with your department. We regard this as an object of first importance, and when necessary you can cross the Mississippi with such part of your forces as you may select, and by virtue of your rank direct the combined operations on the eastern bank.”

Davis hoped to secure Tennessee and Mississippi before heading west to secure Missouri and Arkansas. But to Holmes, this seemed like Davis wanted to abandon Missouri and Arkansas altogether. This made Holmes reluctant to go along with the administration’s plan.

Also this month, Federal naval forces continued pushing up various rivers in Arkansas from their base at Helena on the Mississippi. Federal landing parties from the U.S.S. Louisville and Meteor burned the towns at Bledsoe’s and Hamblin’s landings in retaliation for a guerrilla attack on a Federal mail steamer. The naval commander reported that “the people along the river bank were duly informed that every outrage by the guerrillas upon packers would be similarly dealt with.”

A Federal landing party from U.S.S. Baron de Kalb clashed with Confederate scouts at Hopefield. The Federals captured the scouts after a nine-mile pursuit that included “impressing” local horses.

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References

CivilWarDailyGazette.com; Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 225-26; Faust, Patricia L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 530-31; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 785; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 218, 224; Josephy, Jr., Alvin M., War on the Frontier: The Trans-Mississippi West (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 150; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 280; Sommers, Richard J., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 292-93; Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 356

The Battle of Newtonia

September 30, 1862 – Confederates tried reentering southwestern Missouri from Arkansas, resulting in a fierce skirmish.

Since the Battle of Pea Ridge in March, General Theophilus H. Holmes had superseded Major General Thomas C. Hindman in command of the Confederate Trans-Mississippi Department due to Hindman’s unpopular and allegedly dictatorial rule over both the department and the people within it.

The Confederates were primarily based in Arkansas, while the Federals were mainly in Missouri. The Federals launched occasional incursions into Arkansas, while Holmes envisioned regaining Missouri for the Confederacy.

Gen Thomas C. Hindman | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

In September, Hindman, now serving under Holmes, moved about 6,000 Confederates to Fort Smith to reenter Missouri and capture Springfield. Hindman advanced into southwestern Missouri and occupied Pineville, but Holmes recalled him to help manage affairs at the department’s Little Rock headquarters. Hindman left General James Rains in command at Pineville and returned as ordered.

Federal officials responded by reinstating the Department of the Missouri, which absorbed the jurisdictions of the Departments of Kansas and the Mississippi, both of which were disbanded. The new department consisted of Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, the Indian Territory, and Alton, Illinois.

Major General Samuel R. Curtis was assigned to command the new department, headquartered in St. Louis. Under Curtis, the Confiscation Acts were stringently enforced by Federal provost marshals, and hundreds of Missourians were jailed under martial law. Curtis’s force consisted of three divisions:

  • Major General Frederick Steele’s at Helena, Arkansas
  • Major General John Schofield’s in southwestern Missouri
  • Brigadier General James G. Blunt’s in Kansas

Brig Gen S.R. Curtis | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Curtis directed Schofield to stop the Confederate threat in southwestern Missouri while Blunt provided support from Fort Scott, Kansas, if needed. Blunt sent Schofield two brigades. From Pineville, Rains dispatched Confederate cavalry north to reconnoiter around Newtonia. About 200 Confederates under Colonel Trevesant C. Hawpe established a base at the town.

On the 29th, Colonel Edward Lynde’s 150 Federals and two howitzers reconnoitered around Newtonia, where Confederates had established a base. That afternoon Lynde’s superior, Brigadier General Frederick Salomon (under Blunt), heard firing from Federal headquarters at Sarcoxie, 15 miles from Newtonia. He sent another two Federal companies and three howitzers to support Lynde.

The Federals arrived the next morning, increasing the force to about 4,500 men. Lynde drove the Confederates into a cornfield, where an artillery duel took place until the Confederates ran out of ammunition. The Federals pushed Hawpe’s men into the town until they were reinforced by Colonel Douglas H. Cooper’s Texas and Indian cavalry. Cooper’s men helped knock Lynde back about three miles.

During that time, Salomon arrived on the scene and directed his men to move around the enemy flank and take Newtonia from the rear. The Confederates fell under murderous enfilade fire until reinforced by Colonel Joseph O. “Jo” Shelby’s 5th Missouri Cavalry. Salomon pulled his men back to a wooded ridge as Cooper massed for a counterattack.

The Confederate reinforcements ultimately crumbled Salomon’s flanks, forcing his men to fall back. Confederate artillery panicked the troops, with some running all the way to Sarcoxie. Cooper pursued until nightfall. The Federals sustained about 400 casualties. Cooper reported losing 12 killed, 63 wounded, and three missing. Although the Confederates were victorious, they could not stay in southwestern Missouri much longer because Blunt was about to join forces with Schofield.

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References

Faust, Patricia L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 407-08, 502, 530-31; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 213, 215-16; Josephy, Jr., Alvin M., War on the Frontier: The Trans-Mississippi West (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 149-50; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 269-71; Sommers, Richard J., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 292-93; Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 8, 500, 747; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q362

The Missouri Campaign: Price’s Raid

October 22, 1864 – Federal pursuers closed in on General Sterling Price’s Confederates as they moved through Missouri in an attempt to free the state from Federal rule.

Confederate General Sterling Price | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Confederate General Sterling Price | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Price’s Confederate invasion of Missouri that had begun in September continued. The Confederates reached Washington on the Missouri River, about 50 miles west of St. Louis. Two days later, Price began veering away from the city after skirmishing at Richwoods.

Federals pursued Price’s men as they occupied Herman on October 5 and crossed the Osage River the next day to threaten the state capital at Jefferson City. However, Price found the Federal defenses at the capital too strong to attack. As Price began withdrawing to the west, Major General William S. Rosecrans, commanding the Federal Department of Missouri from St. Louis, deployed cavalry under Major General Alfred Pleasonton and infantry from Major General Andrew J. Smith’s XVI Corps to pursue.

Price reached Boonville on the 9th, where he learned that not only were Federals from Pleasonton and Smith in pursuit, but 20,000 Federals from Major General Samuel R. Curtis’s Army of the Border were gathering to block his westward path to Kansas. After deciding to continue his westward movement, Price issued a proclamation requesting that citizens join his army and “redeem” Missouri from Federal control.

Boonville residents turned against the Confederates when they looted the town for two days. This gave the Federals time to develop a strategy to confront them. On the 15th, a Confederate detachment under Generals Joseph O. “Jo” Shelby and John B. Clark, Jr. captured a Federal garrison at Glasgow. This boosted morale but delayed Price’s movement, giving the Federals more time to catch up.

Meanwhile, another Confederate detachment led by Brigadier General M. Jeff Thompson captured Sedalia. Thompson stopped his men from looting the town before they moved on to rejoin Price’s main army. Price approached Lexington soon afterward, capturing Carrollton and burning Smithville. The Federal pursuers continued closing in from the front and rear, with thousands of state militiamen mobilizing for duty.

Shelby’s Confederates confronted a force of Kansans and Coloradans under Major General James G. Blunt at Waverly, Shelby’s home town. Curtis had dispatched Blunt’s men to slow the Confederate advance. The Confederates pushed Blunt back down the Independence Road to the Little Blue River, but the Federals gained important information about enemy strength.

By the 20th, Price’s momentum had slowed and Missourians had not joined his army as he hoped. Pinned by the Missouri River on his right, Price now faced advances from Pleasonton’s Federal cavalry behind him, A.J. Smith’s infantry moving toward his left, and Blunt’s men in his front. But the Confederates moved on, with Shelby driving Blunt through Lexington and across the Little Blue, then capturing Independence after fighting among the town’s houses on the 21st.

Pleasonton’s cavalry attacked the Confederates at Independence the next day, pushing them westward out of town. Meanwhile, Price learned that Curtis blocked his path at Westport. Shelby’s Confederates flanked Blunt on the Big Blue, giving Price control of Byram’s Ford. Blunt withdrew to join Curtis’s main force, while Price used the ford to move his 500 supply wagons and 5,000 head of cattle southward.

As Price approached Westport, Curtis held a council of war in Kansas City’s Gillis House to ponder his next move. Curtis had initially planned to withdraw to Fort Leavenworth, but Blunt persuaded him to instead attack the Confederates in the morning. Price in turn planned to drive off Curtis in his front and then turn and drive off Pleasonton in his rear. Being outnumbered, this was a desperate gamble, but it was Price’s only hope of escaping Missouri without having his army destroyed.

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Sources

  • Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), Kindle Locations 12116-26, 12137-57, 12178-88
  • Hattaway, Herman, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 602-03
  • Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 578-81, 583-87
  • Schultz, Fred L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 474
  • Wikipedia: Price’s Raid