The Battle of The Blue

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

Friday, September 23, 2011

October 26th & 27th 1864; Carthage Missouri

" It must needs be that offences come ; but woe unto him by whom offences cometh."
    Luke 17:1   

   After marching nearly sixty miles that day, General Price's Army along with its prisoners finally reached the town of Carthage, Missouri and camped on the Spring River on the afternoon of Wednesday,October 26th.   The horses that had carried the Rebel Army so faithfully as it made its way through Missouri were in as poor a condition as the soldiers and this location offered good forage for the animals.  The countryside during the march was one of desolation and ruin; the prisoners noticed several examples of "Jennison's Tombstones", the charred remains of farmhouses with only the chimneys left standing.  The town of Carthage was also now a ghost town, as most of its inhabitants had left the previous month when it was burnt by pro-slavery guerrillas.   The citizens who had fled Carthage left behind a ghastly landscape; the burned shell of a town surrounded by once-fine farms reduced to rubble.
   The long march to Carthage had rendered it impossible for some of the prisoners from the 2nd Kansas Militia to go on any further.   Captain A.J.Huntoon recalled the scene many years later:  "Seven of the prisoners were so exhausted when we reached Carthage that it was manifestly impossible for them to go any farther.  So they were left at a vacant house two miles south of town at about six o'clock that afternoon. (October 26th)  I saw General Shelby and protested to him against their being left there, knowing there was a danger of them falling into the hands of Jackman's men and being killed.  However, they were so left.  I remember the names of four of them; E.B.Williams, William Flanders, a young man named Mozier, (William Moeser) and James Greer.  The house was the only one left standing in the neighborhood of Carthage, when I had seen it last it was a beautiful place.  That same night about midnight some of (Col.) Jennison's men, members of a Kansas Volunteer Regiment, came by there.  There was a Rebel soldier there also; they took him out and hung him on an apple-tree in the yard." 
    The Rebel Army had succeeded in refreshing its horses at Carthage but now realized the Federal pursuit had resumed.   New recruits and conscripts continued to desert General Price's Army and many of his sick and wounded were left by the roadside as they were unable to travel further.   By noon on October 27th the shrinking "Army of Missouri" had left Carthage and was headed to the south, towards Shoal Creek near present day Joplin, Missouri.   The Federal Army under the command of Major General James G. Blunt continued to follow the trail of the Rebel Army, and found ghastly evidence of their passage south: "After leaving Carthage, among the first objects that met the eye, was the form of a negro, with his skull half blown off, evidently by a gun placed so near as to singe the hair in the discharge. It was acts such as these, as well as charges of murdering their comrades after being wounded, that induced the hanging of a couple of wounded rebels found in a house a few miles from Carthage, where the advanced brigade (Colonel Jennison's) had halted for camp. The act was cowardly and dastardly, whoever was guilty thereof. Yet with rude men, whose passions were aroused by such sights and acts, some palliation may be offered. For the officers who encouraged it, none can be given. This act, and others, were afterwards made the subject of investigation. As we proceeded, the poverty and even destitution of the inhabitants became daily more evident." * 
   Although the Rebels were were again being pursued by the Union Army, they managed to keep their distance from them as they left Carthage.   The Union Force was weakened, disjointed and not following at a particularly brisk pace.  After a march of only 20 miles, the Confederates slowly passed over the mill-race at Redings Mill on Shoal Creek and camped for the night.  The Rebels had managed to gather in a few cattle, enough so that a quarter was brought to the prisoners and they were able to roast pieces over their campfires with their guards even giving them a little salt.        
   General Price was aware that his Army would need more supplies in order to complete their escape, supplies which could be found at the small Federal garrison near Newtonia, Missouri, about 25 miles to the east.  It was decided that this garrison would be their destination the next day, October 28th, 1864. 
* "Rebel Invasion of Missouri and Kansas, and the campaign against the Army of the Border against General Sterling Price in October and November, 1864" by Richard Josiah Hinton

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