Today in History:

13 Series I Volume XIII- Serial 19 - Missouri - Arkansas Campaign


Division, commanded by Colonel McNeil; and a large portion of the Saint Louis Division, lying north of the Missouri River, commanded by Colonel Merrill. United action in that district being necessary, that portion of the Saint Louis Division which lies north of the Missouri River was added to the Northeastern Division, and the whole placed under command of Colonel Merrill, Brigadier-General Davidson relieving him in command of the Saint Louis Division. The troops under Colonel Merrill's command consisted of 3,200 cavalry, 400 infantry,and six pieces of artillery, besides the enrolled militia. The rebel bands, under Porter, Poindexter, Cobb, and others of less note, amounted to somewhat more than 5,000 men, the number in one band varying with their varied success from a few hundred to 3,000.

Determined to destroy this force, and not in any event allow it to join the enemy south of the river, I caused all boats and other means of crossing the Missouri River, and not under guard of my troops, to be destroyed or securely guarded, and stopped all navigation of the river, except by strongly guarded boats, and for a short time under convoy of a gunboat extemporized for the purpose of patrolling the river. These means proved effectual. Though broken up and scattered, captured or killed, no considerable number ever succeeded in making their way to the South.

My troops were directed to move entirely without baggage, carrying a few necessary articles of subsistence on their horses, and to take whatever else might be necessary from the rebels of the country. They were also directed to remount themselves from the best horses that could be found as fast as their own should fail, and to give the enemy no rest day or night until they should be totally broken up and destroyed.

Porter's band was immediately pursued by our cavalry, almost without intermission, for twelve days, during which time he was driven a distance of nearly 500 miles and forced to fight our troops nine sharp engagements. His force increased during the first few days from 200 or 300 to 3,000, which it reached on August 6 at Kirksville, where he was attacked by Colonel McNeil, with about 1,000 cavalry and six pieces of artillery. The engagement was very desperate and lasted about four hours. It resulted in a total defeat of the rebels. Their loss was 180 killed, about 500 wounded, and a large number taken prisoners or scattered. Several wagon loads of arms fell into our hands. In this single engagement Porter's force was reduced from 3,000 to 800,and his power and influence entirely broken.

Our loss at Kirksville was 28 killed and 60 wounded. Our troops behaved with great gallantry, and were handled with consummate skill by their commander, Colonel McNeil.

Among the other officers specially deserving mention are Lieutenant-Colonel Shaffer, and Major Clopper, of Merrill's Horse; Major Caldwell, First [Third] Iowa Cavalry; Major Benjamin and Major Dodson, of the Missouri Militia.

Poindexter's gang had increased to about 1,200 men before sufficient force could be collected to break him up. About the 8th of August Colonel Guitar, Ninth Cavalry, Missouri State Militia, with about 600 men and two pieces of artillery, started in pursuit of Poindexter, overtaking and attacking him while crossing the Chariton River on the night of the 10th. A very large number of the enemy were killed, wounded, and drowned. Many horses, arms, and all their spare ammunition and other supplies were captured. Poindexter moved rapidly northward to effect a junction with Porter, but was intercepted and