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

Page 93 Chapter XXV. SKIRMISH NEAR NEOSHO, MO.

On the morning of the 30th Captain Wilson left on his return to this post. All was quiet during the day, and scouting parties were sent out to a distance of 8 miles to the south and southwest, who returned at evening reporting the country clear. Up to this time Colonel Richardson had pickets stationed on each of the five roads leading into the village, each picket consisting of five men and a non-commissioned officer. These pickets were maintained till his retreat. The usual camp guard was also stationed. In the evening of the 30th, after night-fall, a rumor was brought into camp that a force of men were in the college-yard (some half a mile from camp), and the woods full of horses. A council of war was held, the rumor traced to its source, and scouts sent out to examine the facts, but the rumor was not verified. The camp guard was doubled and directions given as to the course to be pursued.

The night passed without alarm. All danger of attack was supposed to have passed away, and the hour of 8 a.m. had arrived, when a fire was opened from the brush to the southwest. At this time Captains Burch and Julian and Lieutenants Worley and Kelso were absent from camp. The former was the officer of the day, in the discharge of his duty. Captain Julian and Lieutenant Worley were acting under orders to examine the cells in the court-house, and were accompanied by Lieutenant Kelso. Colonel Richardson immediately ordered Lieutenant Wilson, of Company A, to form his men, and left this company to give orders for the other companies to form. Whether he gave such orders is left in doubt by the conflicting testimony. However each company formed in line. Colonel Richardson ordered his company (A) to charge the brush, but it appears that for some reason the order was not executed. The men of this company fired three rounds, as did also the men of Company H. With these exceptions no firing took place on our side.

Just after ordering the charge of Company A, Colonel Richardson received a wound in the arm and his horse was shot under him, in the fall laming his left leg, dislocating his shoulder, and spraining his wrist. At this time his entire command seemed seized with a panic and fled in disorder. Within ten minutes from the time of the first shot the camp of Colonel Richardson was clear of men, all the camp equipage and train being abandoned. No adequate reason can be assigned for this precipitate flight. The fall of Colonel Richardson is of course no justification. The enemy undoubtedly was in superior force, but not so much so as to negative all chances of success; and whatever the superiority may have been, it had not at that time been demonstrated. The screaming and whooping of the Indians is said by the officers of the command to have rendered their untrained horses nearly unmanageable. They further remark that quite a number of refugees had accompanied the command to Neosho in the hope of being reinstated in their homes, and that they fled en masse at the first shot, tending to confuse and alarm the troops.

In this report I have stated as facts what I believe to be true, after the most thorough investigation which the circumstances have permitted me to make. I should state that there is scarcely a point upon which the testimony is not contradictory. The propriety of the conduct of Colonel Richardson upon this occasion is to be inferred from the facts as stated. These is nothing which indicates in any degree a lack of personal courage; neither were any of the ordinary precautions in the way of guards and scouts omitted, save the unaccountable neglect to post a picket upon the hill to the southwest of the camp,


Page 93 Chapter XXV. SKIRMISH NEAR NEOSHO, MO.