The Kansas Regiments at Wilson’s Creek.
The Kansas Chief – August 29, 1861
At the risk of repetition, we lay before our readers a portion of a communication to the Missouri Republican relating to the action of the Kansas boys in the recent
battle: The First Missouri Regiment was deployed as skirmishers, until it reached a hill near the enemy’s camp, when it closed up and began the fight in earnest. The firing now became heavy; the cannon opened on both Bides; the balls whistled over our heads, knocking branches from trees, and pounding the rocks beyond us in an unmerciful manner, but hurting no one. The enemy’s musketry, however was better directed and did much havoc with the Missouri boys, who stood it bravely. The First Kansas regiment was now ordered to their support, six companies in front and four as a reserve. Just now the Missouri boys were compelled to fall back, having sustained a galling fire for a half hour, and then the Kansas fellows came in with a yell. After firing a few rounds, Capt. Chenoweth’s, Clayton’s and a part of Capt. McFarland company under Lieut. Malone the Captain having been previously wounded were ordered to charge.
Headed by Col.Deitzler, they drove the enemy from their position, but soon found that their ardor was likely to cost them dear, for they got into the rebel lines so far that they were almost surrounded, a large body showing themselves on either flank and pouring in a fearful fire. They were obliged to fall back, and in doing so Col. Deitzler was severely wounded, and his horse killed. Capt. Chenoweth was slightly wounded in the arm, received a ball in his boot, and had his hat shot off.
Amid the noise and confusion of the constant firing of musketry and roaring of artillery, the order of retreat was not heard by Capt. Clayton, who continued to advance until he came to the brow of the hill, where he discovered a regiment of men whom he supposed from their uniform to be Sigel’s regiment, advancing toward him at right angles. Their Colonel asked the Captain where the enemy were. He replied by pointing in the direction of the retreating rebel forces, and immediately commended aligning his company on the right of the regiment. All at once Capt. Clayton mistrusted that be was in a trap, and looking towards the Colonel he recognized in him an old acquaintance, being no less than Col. Clarkson of Kansas Border Ruffian notoriety, ex-postmaster of Leavenworth City. The Captain then gave the command, “right oblique, march 1” When he had moved his company a distance of about thirty paces away from the enemy’s line, the Adjutant of the rebel regiment rode rapidly towards him and commanded him to halt. He did so and immediately brought his command to an “about face,” fronting the enemy’s line. The Adjutant asked “what troops are these ?”
“I belong to the First Kansas Regiment,” replied the Captain; “who are yon ?” “I am Adjutant of the Fifth Missouri Volunteers.” “What; Confederate or United States?” “Confederate.” “Then dismount, God damn you; you’re my prisoner,” said the Captain, presenting his pistol. He obeyed, and upon the demand of the Captain delivered over his sword. “Now” said the Captain, “order your men not to fire, or you’re a dead man,” and commenced moving backward with his company, holding the Adjutant between himself and the rebel forces.
The Adjutant ordered his men to open fire, which they did, and the Captain shot the Adjutant with his pistol. At the same moment a sergeant of Captain C’s company thrust his bayonet through the’ body of the Adjutant, pinning him to the ground and leaving his gun sticking in his body. The Captain then ordered his men to run for their lives, which they did, forming again upon the brow of the hill. Meanwhile Maj. Halderman was gallantly leading the reserve of four companies which were now engaged. The Second Kansas regiment had come into action; their brave commander, Colonel Mitchell, was shot severely, and now Lieut. Col. Blair was acting like the true man ha it, is cheering as and directing his men. Maj. Clark with his long hair reminding one of Col. May, was riding up and down the line as cool as if nothing unusual was happening. Capt. Steel, with his brigade, was pouring thunderous volleys into the scoundrels, while Capt Totem’s battery was outdoing itself in its murderous belching. Wherever his guns were turned, solitude was made. Gen. Lyon had fallen, and Maj. Sturgis was now in command.
The grape shot began to rattle about us like hail, and then
we knew that Col. Sigel had lost his battery, and that his guns were turned upon us, for the enemy had hitherto fired no grape. Just now Capt, Chenoweth rode to the right of the Second Kansas, and pointing over the brow of the hill, called for cannon observing that the enemy were approaching .from that direction. There they’ came, fifteen hundred men, in an unbroken line. Two field pieces were brought to the right and opened upon’ them with ‘terrible effect, but still they advanced, evidently thinking that the cannon would prove their prey. Little they knew of the thousand unflinching men who lay in’ the grass before them.
They opened a terrible fire, but received no answer save from the artillery. The bullets whistled, rattled, banged, whirred over our heads, striking the trees and
bushes two or three feet from the ground. If our men had stood up, hardly a man would have been left. At last the order to fire was given, and such a terrific volley as followed was never before heard by any man on that field. It is folly to try to describe it, or to search for a comparison. The enemy broke and fled their
train was seen to be on fire and they in retreat, but we could not hope to hold the field with our small force, for they would not fail to return with overwhelming
numbers. We were therefore ordered to retire. The Second Kansas Regiment was the last off the field; wheeling into column and marching off in prefect order.
We halted about two miles from the battle-field to wait for stragglers and collect our forces, thinking it hardly possible that the enemy would not harass our
rear with his cavalry, of which ho had great numbers. It afterward proved that he was clad to bid us a final adieu. Our whole train was brought away in safety Thus a little army of five thousand men rescued an immense and valuable train from a force more than five times its number. The officers who directed the fight acted with the utmost coolness and bravery. When Col. Deitzler was obliged to retire wounded from the field, ho called Adjutant Nash to his side and directed him to take command of the battalion. He did so for some time, until he could get the attention of Capt. Chenoweth, the ranking captain, when he requested him to take command, he meanwhile assisting in directing the movements of the battalion. Captains Chenoweth, Clayton and McFarland, and Lieutenants Barker, Malone, Tucker, Spicer. Stafford and Spaulding as well as Col. Deitzler, Maj. Halderman and Adjutant Nash, behaved gallantly throughout the battle, and should be honorably mentioned in the official reports.