The Battle of The Blue

The Battle of The Blue
Rebel forces charge the Topeka Battery at Mockbee farm, original painting by Benjamin Mileham

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The 2nd. KSM Decides to Fight, Part 1

 From the diary of S.J.Reader: 

Loud rose the stern commands of Veale –
To guide this storm of battle –
Amid the cannon’s thunderous peal,
And the “Enfield’s” spiteful rattle.

 Colonel Veale had just given the order to the Topeka Battery to fire upon the Rebel Army now massing across the field in front of them.  These Rebels were part of Col. Sidney Jackman's Missouri Brigade and had already dislodged the Union forces under Cols. Jennison and Moonlight from Byrom's Ford, allowing passage of  General Price's huge wagon train.  The bulk of Jackman's Brigade was still about 500 yards from Topeka Battery's brass howitzer and these first shots proved ineffective; a bit too long, not long enough.  Most of the men from the 2nd. were on their horses when the firing began and their mounts immediately gave them trouble.   These horses were not accustomed to the sound of a 24 pounder gun firing off nearby and it became necessary for some of the riders to dismount so they could control their animals and sight their carbines more accurately.  
   Jackman's Brigade now appeared to be forming a line for battle a little below the ridge (about 300 yards out) and were now in plain view.  Most of them were on horseback and their clothing presented a curious sight to the men of the 2nd., as they didn't appear to be in uniform but wore regular clothing with a smattering of blue army overcoats among them.  As the exact identity of the Army across the rolling field of battle was unknown, someone decided that “Old Glory” should be waved in that direction.  Within seconds this maneuver was met with a hail of gunfire which once and for all settled the question.  The first member of the 2nd.KSM fell dead in this volley (most likely pvt. Hiram Coville, Co.C) and more were wounded.  Horses became increasingly frantic and some of the men tied them off or let them loose.   The shooting from both sides continued at a lively pace and the "whiz-zip" of rebel bullets was more felt then heard by the men of the 2nd.  (Jackman's Brigade carried no artillery but used sharpshooters which fired upon the 2nd. from the locust grove to the north)  At one instance the line of the 2nd.  wavered and threatened to break, but Colonel Veale rode up amongst the men and called out, "For God sake men, keep your place in line!" The trouble seemed to be mostly with the horses, not the men. 
   The howitzer of the Topeka Battery had begun to get the measure of its mark and was inflicting heavy losses upon Jackman's Brigade.  At one point the Rebel color-bearer was cut down and for a moment the battle flag lay on the ground.   The Rebel horsemen fell back behind the swell but there was no panic in their actions as their horses were trained to stand fire.    The order was now given to the men of the 2nd.  to dismount and fight on foot and the mood was further heightened when the Rebel sharpshooters were driven from the grove.
   After a minute or so the shooting died off and all was relatively quiet; the howitzer continued to fire beyond the swell at the hidden Rebels.  Then was heard a peculiar yell or scream from the Rebels as they charged forward in unison.   This was a cavalry charge of closely massed riders, about six abreast, down the road directly toward the gun of the Topeka Battery.  Captain Burns had throughout the battle displayed an almost eerie detachment and calmly commanded his men to fire double-charges of cannister directly at the Rebel charge, sighting the gun himself.   The men in his command obeyed his orders instantly and precisely and after the Rebels received a double-dose of cannister at 100 yards, they again retired behind the swell.  Others besides Captain Burns would also be called brave from Topeka Battery: one of the privates in the Battery, a German immigrant named John Branner, had received a bullet wound to his arm early in the battle and every shell or load of cannister fired upon the enemy bore the mark of his blood. 
   Jackman's Brigade had now twice been driven from the field, mostly due to the work of Captain Burns and his Battery, and the 2nd. continued to hold a strong line despite the repeated Rebel charges and the constant gunfire.  Some of the men thought to themselves, "It can't be this easy" as a young Confederate officer rode directly up to Col. Veale, saluted and said unhesitantly:"General Gordon, General Shelby directs you to hold this point at all hazards, and reinforcements will be here in a few minutes."  He was quickly taken prisoner and taken from the field, where he was spared future events.   As it had again become quiet, save the continued firing of the howitzer, some of the men from the 2nd. wondered if the Rebels had fled.   A moment later the call of a bugle was heard from behind the swell; first the heads, then the bodies, then the horses of the men of Jackman's Brigade appeared, leaving no doubt that the Rebels hadn't fled, but were sending every last man and animal towards the Kansans.  And still they remained at their places. 

No comments:

Post a Comment