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Official Records

Brigadier General John McNeil, U. S. Army
U. S. Army

Marmaduke’s Expedition into Missouri

Page 255 Chapter XXXIV.

Reports of Brigadier General John McNeil, U. S. Army, of action at Cape Girardeau and pursuit of Marmaduke.


April 26, 1863-6 p. m.

GENERAL: I am attached by 8,000 men under Marmaduke. I have repulsed them this afternoon. Expect to be stormed to-morrow. Can you send me two regiments of infantry and a field battery, with supply of ammunition? Answer.

Brigadier-General, Commanding.

General ASBOTH,
Commanding Columbus, Ky.

APRIL 26, 1863.

Two steamers with re-enforcement from you have arrived. I have already put them in the field. The first of the enemy has been brilliant repulsed. He has ceased firing all arms, and now appears to be changing his position to attack our right flank. He will be well cared for in that direction. I have not yet used the gunboats, but am holding them in readiness. I think you may give yourself no concern about Cape Girardeau. Do me the favor to keep my family advised with the progress of events.

Brigadier-General, Commanding Captain Girardeau.

Major-General CURTIS.

Page 256 Chapter XXXIV.


April 28, 1863-10.45 p. m.

GENERAL: The enemy are building rafts at the river, and will probably cross to-nigh or toward morning, unless we shell them from the ford. This than any now at the front. Can your rifled guns be forced up? Horses may be taken from the ranks, caissons lightened, and drivers urged to work up their guns and caissons.
With the artillery soon up, they are bagged. Please send to the rear to hurry up ammunition for Welfley's battery; it started from the Cape this morning.

I have the honor to be, general most obedient servant,




April 28, 1863-2. 30 p. m.

GENERAL: I have now halted the head of the column, in order to close up. Am taking fresh horses from the ranks, in order to keep Welfley's battery moving. The main army of the enemy in front, with eight pieces of artillery. They are inquiring for a road across the swamps. If I am fortunate in getting up my support, especially the light guns from your command, I shall cut them out of the center, and capture their artillery. The inclosed * was found torn up in a house this morning. We are entirely out of subsistence; please send us rapidly forward a share of the rations you received this morning. We are losing time waiting for support to our artillery.




April 28, 1863-12 p. m.

GENERAL: Both columns of the enemy met at and encamped at this place last night (4 miles from White Water), and are now moving in our advance, in the direction of Bloomfield. Marmaduke is in command. They have destroyed the bridge over Crooked Creek between this point and Williams' Ferry, so as to impede your advance. I will move forward and engage them as soon as I can reach them. We cannot be more than five hours behind their rear guard. If you can hurry up some of your artillery, well supported, I shall have no doubt but the pursuit will be successful; but I must be strong enough to protect my flanks. Please answer by return of courier.




May 1, 1863-6 a. m.

GENERAL: We are driving the enemy in front, and have peppered them from the howitzer battery. La Grange has discovered a small

Page 257 Chapter XXXIV.

party, say from 500 to 800, on the railroad cut, 4 miles in the rear and east of this road. This I suppose to be the party that went east from Bloomfield, or some other that has ventured down the prairie road. A regimental can take care of them.
I shall keep ahead, being sure than I am within 8 or 10 miles of the main force of our enemy. Hurry up, for victory is sure.

I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,




May 10, 1863.

GENERAL: I have the honor to report my return to this post and to acknowledge receipt of your order to occupy in until further orders. Captain Anton Gerster, Topographical Engineers, is here inspecting the forts. I have already detailed an officer with a working party for his assistance.
The post ordnance officer has made a report of small-ammunition, and the ordnance sergeant of the regular service is directed to do the same. Requisitions for ammunition for the forts go forward by this mail.
I shall, as soon as I get matters arranged, forward my report of proceeding up to the time I reported to and was directed by orders of General Vandever. I am only waiting for reports of the officers of the different commands.
We took no transportation, guns, or stores from the enemy, and but few prisoners. The officers and men displayed on every occasion the most soldierly spirit, marching until both horse and man had to succumb to fatigue and want of rest and food. But our fatal error was in allowing the enemy to cross the Castor.
Please excuse the haste with which this letter is written.

I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,


Brigadier-General DAVIDSON,

Commanding District of Saint Louis.

Cape Girardeau, Mo.,

May 12, 1863.

GENERAL: I have the honor herewith to submit to you my report of the pursuit of General Marmaduke's forces from Cape Girardeau to Chalk Bluff, and also accompany it with the several reports of the brigade and regimental commanders.
On Monday, April 27, at 2 p. m., notwithstanding my men were worn out by their recent severe marches, and two days and nights of constant duty in preparing for the enemy, and finally defeating him on Sunday, I started in pursuit.
My force was composed of the First Wisconsin Cavalry, Colonel [O. H.] La Grange; Second Missouri State Militia, Lieutenant -Colonel [John F.] Benjamin; Welfley's battery, Lieutenant [Lawrence] Jacoby, and two detachments of Enrolled Missouri Militia, under Colonel [William H.] McLane and Lieutenant -Colonel Lee. The Enrolled Missouri Militia, however, were sent in the direction of Perry County, with instruc-

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tions to move through the country, and, in case of my engaging at White Water, to pick up straggling detachments.
I left as garrison in the Cape the Thirty-seventh Illinois Infantry, the Thirty-second Iowa Infantry, and the First Nebraska Infantry. My men were in fine spirits, although but one day's regiments and no equipage encumbered their movements or added to their comforts. That afternoon we made 16 miles, reaching White River. I had expected that General Vandever, by a forced march from Jackson, would have cut the enemy out from the bridge and placed him between our two columns, forcing him to general action, when our great superiority in artillery and better quality of troops must have given us a decided victory. I found the Whiter Water Bridge had been thoroughly destroyed by the fleeing foe, just two hours in advance of me. Learning that General Vandever was encamped about 4 miles to the north of the bridge, and higher up the river, I there reported to him, and learned from him that the jaded condition of his horses had prevented his farther pursuit that day. By 10 o'clock next morning, owing to the indefatigable exertions of the First Wisconsin, Colonel [O. H.] La Grande and Major [William H.] Torrey, the bridge was rebuilt, and General Vandever having assigned to me the advance, I hurried on and encamped after about 3 miles from the Castor River, having marched, over very bad roads, 32 miles. At this point Lieutenant F. R. Poole, my acting assistant adjutant-general, who was urging the advance, made a dashing over charge upon a part of the enemy's rear with only 6 men, killing 2 of the Texans and capturing Lieutenant [William] Bast, of Thompson's regiment. I learned from a farmer near, whom I know to be loyal, that the main body of the enemy was at the Castor, and he supposed, from the recent rain, they would be unable to cross. Colonel [John M.] Glover, with the Third Missouri Cavalry and Welfey's battery, was pushed on the within 1\2 miles of the river crossing, and I made every arrangement for an attack by early dawn, but received orders from the rear to halt until they had come up. I sent Colonel La Grange, with the First Wisconsin, to feel his way, and learned that the river was fordable and the enemy had been crossing all night, drowning several of their men, and were posted in the woods on the opposite bank and prepared to dispute our crossing. Captain [Perry D.] McClanahan's section of the Second Missouri State Militia advanced, afterward strengthened by Cole's section of long-range, guns, under Lieutenant [Joseph B.] Atwater, and Colonel La Grange, First Wisconsin Cavalry, who soon drove the enemy from their position, the First Wisconsin doing excellent service as sharpshooters. I then fell back, and in the afternoon crossed the river, as per order received April 29, a copy of which is transmitted. The river in the mean time having risen, I am indebted to the exertions of Captain [William] Dawson and his company, Second Missouri State Militia, for being enabled to cross my artillery and ammunition with the necessary dispatch.
I pushed on toward Bloomfield, as far as obedience to the order would allow, when Colonel La Grange, who was leading an advance party, commenced skirmishing with the enemy's rear, driving them to within three-fourths of a mile of Bloomfield, where the enemy had taken position in some force. I at once hurried up to the support of La Grange, and posted the artillery on Walker's hill, within 1,000 yards of the enemy; recalled the skirmishers and opened fire. By dark the enemy was silenced, and I was in hopes the report of their being in strong position at Bloomfield and determined to make a stand would prove correct.

Page 259 XXXIV.

The men lay down that night in line of battle, and at 4 a. m. the First Wisconsin advanced and engaged the enemy, whose rear occupied the position of the night before. Opened on them with artillery at 5 a. m., and also on the town, forcing the enemy to a precipitate retreat, my advance entering the town at 10 m. m. from the north as they retired by the south, on Chalk Bluff road. My whole was in full occupancy of the town before 11 o'clock. Here I was compelled to wait further orders.
In the afternoon there was assigned to me, by Brigadier-General Vandever, two brigades: The First Brigade-Third Missouri Cavalry, Third Missouri State Militia Cavalry, Third Iowa Cavalry, Thirteenth Illinois, Stange's section, Hauck's battery, Lindsay's section of Enrolled Missouri Militia, and the First Iowa Cavalry, Colonel J. M. Glover commanding. The Second Brigade-First Nebraska Infantry, Second Missouri State Militia Cavalry, First Wisconsin Cavalry, and Welfley's battery, Colonel La Grange commanding.
I found the enemy had sent fatigue parties in advance, to construct at floating bridge with which to expedite their crossing the Saint Francis. The delays which had occurred satisfied me that it would be nearly impossible to bring the rebels to an engagement, the nature of the country between Bloomfield and Chalk Bluff being such that a strong rear guard could retard a heavy column with ease and almost impunity. Hoping that I could make the river in time to injure them, however, I notified the various corps of the change in order of assignment, with orders to march at 7 p. m., the Second Brigade, under Colonel La Grange, in the advance. We marched all night and came up with the enemy; attacked them at 5 a. m. on May 1; engaged them in constant succession, they taking position after position for 20 miles. Night found me in position 2 miles from Chalk Bluff.
Next morning, May 2, I advanced the artillery on the bluff - north side of river-the enemy having crossed; bridge being destroyed, and being posted on Chalk Bluff, south side of the river, advanced skirmishers to find their position. The enemy immediately opened with artillery and small-arms, which was as promptly replied to. Our artillery was admirably served, and our fire soon became terrific. The First Nebraska, the Thirty-seventh Illinois, part of the First Wisconsin, and Second Missouri State Militia performed admirably as skirmishers and sharpshooter, and finally drove the enemy, with heavy loss to them, from the bluff, when I received orders to fall back.
I deeply regret that despite the excellent quality of the force in pursuit, and the splendid and effective artillery placed at our disposition, Marmaduke was allowed to make a successful retreat into Arkansas, saving his guns and baggage, but trust an examination of the reports made by the various brigade and regimental commanders will exonerate me from blame in the premises.
The loss I suffered will be seen from the report of Major William McClellan, surgeon of the general hospital at Cape Girardeau, also inclosed. I must make honorable mention of Colonel Glover and the Third Missouri Cavalry, who on all occasions conducted themselves as gallant soldiers, and particularly during our 20-mile engagement, when, with Lieutenant-Colonel [Robert] Carrick and the Third Missouri, they made a dashing on the enemy on May 1, for the purpose of taking their artillery, which would have been a complete success had the First Iowa, which was ordered to support the charge, got up in time. Welfley's battery, Lieutenant Jacoby, and Captain McClanahan's section, Second Missouri State Militia, deserve special mention for good con-

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duct and execution done the enemy. The First Wisconsin, always zealous to be first in the fight, did admirable service in every position in which it was placed. The First Nebraska, as you will see by the brigade report, again sustained its well-earned reputation. Captain [Charles P.] Meisner, up to the time of his wound, acting as chief of artillery, discharged his duties fully up to the mark as a brave and good soldier.
I would also mention the volunteer members of my staff, who were ready at all times to discharge any and every duty assigned them, Colonel W. R. Strachan, Lieutenant-Colonel Lee, Lieutenant F. R. Poole, and Lieutenant [Tolbert C.] Ankeny.

I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,

Brigadier-General, U. S. Volunteers.

Brigadier General J. W. DAVIDSON,
Commanding District of Saint Louis.

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