The Battle of The Blue

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

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Tainted Well

  As the afternoon of October 23rd. wore on, the pace of General Price's retreat south began to quicken and the prisoners from the 2nd. KSM began to suffer.  The country was mostly rolling prairie land with a cultivated field occasionally but the season had been dry and all the small streams had dried up.  The prisoners were forced to run between the mounted guards and therefor had to run "double-quick" in order to keep from being trampled to death.  Some prisoners held on to the tails of the horses in front to help them keep up the pace, while gradually the weaker men began to fall behind. When this happened, the call "Close up! Close up!" was heard and with great effort these men increased their pace to close the gap.  A few of the men noticed their guards chewing bullets to ward off thirst and begged for one; some were lucky to find one dropped in the road and this was quickly in their mouth. Occasionally the order was given to halt for a few minutes rest, but all too soon would come the dreaded: "Forward, march!" and the torture would continue.  Captain Huntoon begged Lt. Sentile to give the men a brief rest which was granted; but when the march resumed and another voice cried out to stop, the Lt. threatened to shoot the first man to drop out of line.  The lack of water was now weighing heavily on the men and at one point that afternoon they came upon an old well that seemed alone in the middle of the prairie. (the nearby dwellings having all been burned.)  Someone drew up the bucket and the smell of the rotten water at once nauseated and excited hope in the prisoners.  Someone said there must be a half-rotten skunk in the well, but the men crowded in line for their turn at the pint cup.  They all drained the cup in spite of the stench and some even begged a second.  
   Late in the afternoon a large number of Rebel soldiers overtook and passed the captives and taunted them as they passed: "Kill them! Shoot every last one of them - They don't take us prisoners - What are we keeping these men for?  I've been at the front all day - I've seen them damn Yanks ride up to our wounded as they lay on the ground and shoot them in cold blood!"  No attempt was made to molest the men other than threats though and the march continued south.  Just after dark the Provost Guard stopped for the night at a stream and water was given in great amounts to the suffering men.  The only food they would receive from their captors was now also given: a few handfuls each of raw flour which they placed in their handkerchiefs and made into a stiff dough by adding water.  The dough-balls were impaled on a stick and placed in the campfire, where they were singed and then relished by the men.  As the men from the 2nd. drifted off to sleep the best they could, they couldn't know that they were being pursued by the Union Cavalry and that the sufferings they had endured thus far would pale in comparison to what they would soon encounter. 

No comments:

Post a Comment