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Official Records



Captain John M. Muse
First Missouri Infantry (Confederate).


Page 293 Chapter XXXIV

Numbers 15. Report of Captain John M. Muse, First Missouri Infantry (Confederate).


Jacksonport, Ark., May 14, 1863.

CAPTAIN: According to orders received from headquarters Shelby's brigade, I left Fredericktown, Mo., on the night of April 21, with a detachment of 90 men of your command, and also 3 commissioned officers, viz, Captain [W. T.] Lineback, Burbridge's regiment, Lieutenant [Josiah L.] Bledsoe, Gordon's regiment, and Lieutenant [J. M.] Wills, Thompson's regiment, for the purpose of destroying some portion of the

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Saint Louis, and Iron Mountain Railroad. We left Fredericktown at 12 o'clock at night, and proceeded toward Farmington. At 5 o'clock in the morning, we stopped, fed our horses, and rested for two hours, and proceeded in direction of Farmington. We traveled through the woods and by roads until we got in the vicinity of Farmington, when, through a fault of my guide, we entered a public place called Valley Forge, on the Ironton and Saint Genevieve plank road. This was the first place we seen, being discovered by the enemy. We found some few enrolled militia, some of whom escaped; the balance we captured and turned loose on parole of honor, not having time to retain them as prisoners, knowing that our men had been discovered. It being important that we should travel as rapidly as possible, we went night and day, avoiding all public roads, impressing our pilots as we went, until we got within 1 mile of the Big River Bridge, which we had anticipated attacking, but when arriving a short distance of said bridge I found that it was strongly guarded by 250 infantry and a section of artillery. Knowing that there would be an improbability of our success at that point, I thought it best to make an attack on some portion of the road, so we proceeded south 3 miles to what is known as Mill Creek Bridges, which consists of three bridges of 100 to 150 feet in length, and all being within 300 yards of each other. When we got within half a mile of the bridges, we halted the command in an obscure hollow between two mountains, and Captain Lineback and myself went to the summit of the mountain on the east side of the road, which overlooked those bridges, to ascertain the strength and position of the enemy guarding those bridges. When we arrived at our place of reconnaissance, we found that the bridges were situated as follows: Mill Creek runs due north and south at this point and empties into Big River 3 miles north of the aforesaid bridges. When we got to the point overlooking those bridges, we saw that there were about 250 guarding the north bridge, 50 guarding the south bridge, and about 50 guarding the middle bridge. We saw they were not expecting an attack at that time, although they had not expected it the night previous (this was on the evening of April 24.) I saw there was no chance to dismount my men and make an attack without being discovered, and if so, I knew it would be a failure, as there were two block houses -one at the north and one at the south bridge-so I knew that our only success would be to surprise them and keep them stampeded until we could fire one bridge and cut the telegraph wire. There was one cut in the mountain which entered the creek valley about 60 yards from and opposite the center bridge, which was the only place we could make a charge on them mounted, so we quietly moved down the ravine until within 100 yards of the bridge, when we heard the whistle of a train coming from Ironton going in the direction of Saint Louis. We took advantage of that, and just as this train had passed the middle bridge, while their attention was drawn to that, we made a charge on the bridge guards and succeeded in stampeding them from and through the bridges. When we charged on the middle bridge, we captured 16 privates and 2 lieutenants of the Twenty-fourth Missouri Infantry. As soon as we had taken the bridge, I ordered the bridge fired and the telegraph cut, which was done with dispatch. At the same time I was so much interested about the destruction of the bridge and the telegraph that I forgot to send the prisoners to the rear.
In about half an hour after we had taken possession of the bridge those guards from the upper and lower bridges got around on the west side of the mountains overlooking those bridges on the west side of the

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road, and formed, marched up in line of battle, and obtained a position overlooking us, being a perpendicular height of 300 feet, giving us a very severe fire. Seeing there was no chance to get at them, and that it was everlasting destruction to us, I ordered my men to retreat, but not until I had 2 men killed and 6 wounded (4 severely), 12 horses killed and disabled. I carried off all my wounded and some of the small-arms, such as guns, pistols, and one officers' sword, but had to abandon the prisoners we had previously taken. I then learned that there had been a force of 2,000 cavalry sent out from Ironton to capture me and my party, and it was their intention to intercept me in the vicinity of Farmington. I would say, however, when we left the bridge it was well fired, and some hundred yards of the telegraph wire cut to pieces. I am well satisfied, and so is every man that was in my command, that the bridge was destroyed. When we started back, we traveled night and day, only stopping to feed about once every twenty-four hours. We suffered much from want of sleep and fatigue. On our return we traveled through the woods and by-roads all the way. When we got within about 5 miles of Farmington (east), we came on a party of about 300 Federals. We formed in line of battle, but before they got within range I concluded it would not be prudent to fight them, as they had other forces which would soon concentrate and destroyed us; so just as the enemy were making preparations to charge us, I ordered my little band to scatter and concentrate some miles south of that. This was on the eve of the 26th.

On the morning of the 27th, by 10 o'clock, we had all got together, except two, who had stopped at their homes. This brought us within about 12 miles of where we had last heard of your command. We then felt as though we were out of the lion's den, but such proved not to be the case, for when we got within 2 miles of Patton, I learned your command had left the evening before in the direction of Cape Girardeau.
At that time we could distinctly hear firing in that direction, and also learned that the enemy was again in my front, passing through Patton following up your command, which force I learned to be about 3,000 strong. I halted in a secreted place, and waited until they had all passed; then I crossed the road immediately in their rear and made in direction of Dallas. When I reached Dallas I learned your pickets had been on the Dallas and Jackson road the day before; so I got an old, reliable citizen to carry a dispatch for me, and ordered him to report by 12 o'clock that night; but he did not return, so I took it for granted you were farther south; so I made in direction of Bloomfield. About 2 o'clock the same evening I came to the Bloomfield and Cape Girardeau road, and ascertained your rear guard had been gone about two hours previous; so we rode rapidly and overtook you when you were crossing the Castor River, near Bloomfield.

I can say with pleasure that both officers and men under my command acted most gallantly. Captain Lineback, of Burbridge's regiment, gallantly led the charge when we attacked the bridge. Private Robert N. Hagood, Company C, Gordon's regiment, and some men besides, whose names I am unable to record, made a great display of bravery and daring. The reason I cannot give their names, I was not furnished with a list with the details. I hope to be able to do so soon.

Respectfully submitted.

Captain, Commanding Detachment.

Captain [W. J.] McARTHUR,
Assistant Adjutant-General.

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