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Military History of the Fourteenth Kansas Volunteer Cavalry
"To the very moment that he bade me tell it;
Wherein I spake of most disastrous chances,
Of moving accidents by flood and field;
Of hair-breadth 'scapes i' the imminent deadly breach;
Of being taken by the insolent foe." - Shakespeare.
In the spring of 1863, Maj. Gen. Blunt received authority from the War Department to recruit a battalion of cavalry as his personal escort.
This was speedily obtained; so speedily, indeed, that inasmuch as the necessity was at that time urgent for more troops, Gen. Blunt had the order so extended and altered as to authorize the enlistment of a full regiment of cavalry for the currents wants of the service.
Under this authority Gen. Blunt, through his recruiting commissioner, Maj. Anderson, (afterwards Adjutant General of the State), aided by the efforts of Gov. Carney, soon had the requisite number of men recruited, and in November, 1863, the 14th Kansas Cavalry was in effect organized and placed in the field.
On the 20th of this month, (November), by order of General Blunt, the regiment moved from Fort Scott (which was its place of rendezvous) en route for Fort Smith, Ark., under command of Lieut. Col. Thomas Moonlight, 11th Kansas Volunteers. It arrived at Fort Smith December 3d, 1863, and was at once placed upon active duty by Gen. John McNeil, who then commanded at that place. The regiment (being well mounted, and cavalry being much needed at the post) at once entered upon an active career of scouting, foraging, picket and other duties. This was kept up during the winter, or until the 23d of February.
Just before this time, Col. Moonlight was relieved from the command of the regiment, Maj. J. G. Brown succeeding him. Under this officer the 14th Kansas marched during the month of February on an expeditioin into the beautiful but almost deserted Choctaw country. The line of its march was that of Lieutenant Whipple's survey for the Southern Pacific Railway via Sherman, Texas. Many of the iron bridges built by that pioneer of the Pacific Railroad, the Overland Mail Company, yet remained. The expedition was intended to penetrate to Boggy Depot, C. N., and was to co-operate with a force from Fort Gibson, C. N., under command of Col. Wm. A. Phillips. On account of orders received from Headquarters District of the Frontier, the entire regiment did not proceed further than North Fork Town, on the Canadian river, eight companies of the regiment returned to Fort Smith under Maj. Brown, and Cos. B, K, L and M accompanied Col. Phillips. As the only cavalry with the force it acted as the advance of teh command while penetrating the enemy's country, and when within twenty miles of Boggy Depot, it was found necessary to retreat to avoid a largely superior force, this battalion of cavalry acted as the rear guard of Col. Phillips' little army, doing signal service throughout.
Upon returning to Fort Smith the regiment, under command of Maj. Brown, was ordered to proceed to and garrison the temporary post of Ozark, Ark. It arrived at that place, which is situated on the Arkansas river, fifty miles below Fort Smith, on the 28th of February. Here it remained until the 6th of April, '64, constantly scouting the country, and rendering secure the navigation of the Arkansas river within its scouting limits. The 14th Kansas Cavalry afforded the loyal citizes of Franklin county an opportunity of voting at the important State election held during the occupancy of Ozark by the regiment, and were much gratified to witness the loyalty with which the citizens exercised the right of suffrage.
About the 6th of April teh regiment marched in obedience to orders on the famous Camden Expedition, in company with the balance of General Thayer's forces, forming the Frontier Division, which it joined at Danville, Ark. A junction was formed with Gen. Steele's main force at the Crossing of the Little Missouri river, on the 11th of April. On the 13th the battle of Prairie de Anne was fought, and the rebels defeated. In this engagement the regiment bore an honorable part. On the next day the 14th Kansas Cav alry was detailed as rear guard of the entire army. Acting in this capacity, it received and repulsed a furious onset made by an overwhelming force of the enemy under the rebel General Dockery. The whole of the 3d Brigade, composed of teh 2d, 6th and 14th Kansas Cavalry becoming engaged, the battle of Moscow ensued, and the enemy were driven with considerable loss into their entrenchments beyond the Prairie de Anne.
The brunt of this engagement was borne by the 14th Kansas Cavalry. The two howitzers belonging to the regiment were worked with signal ability by Lieut. Rickabaugh, and the regiment was complimented by General Thayer for its coolness and bravery.
A detachment of the regiment, consisting of some sixty men, was engaged in the sanguinary battle of Poison Springs, on the 17th of April. Some twelve of this number were killed or taken prisoners by the enemy. Some of these died a lingering death in the miserable prison pen of the rebels at Tyler, Texas.
During the march from Camden (after its evacuation) towards Little Rock, two squadrons of the 14th Kansas Cavalry - Cos. F and G, with their officers - participated in the bloody engagement of Jenkins' Ferry, on the 30th of April. They were the onlly cavalry upon the Federal side engaged; all the balance of the cavalry force of Gen. Steele's army having been pushed forward to repel a threatened attack upon Little Rock. The duties of this little handful of cavalry at the battle of Jenkins' Ferry was therefore arduous and of such a nature as to call forth the greatest display of coolness. They were mostly employed as mounted skirmishers, couriers and orderlies, and behaved themselves iwth commendable tact and bravery.
About the middle of May the regiment returned to Fort Smith, doing guard, picket, scouting and escort duty. Its losses from these causes were severe during this period.
Company E, with its officers, was engaged in the different battles of the border with the rebel General Price during the fall of '64. This company with its brave and accomplished commanding officer, Lieut. Wm. B. Clark, acted as the personal escort to Maj. Gen. Blunt.
They had just before this greatly distinguished themselves at Cabin Creek. At Westport they were hotly engaged, and had seven men killed and wounded. At Mine Creek and at Newtonia they were in the front of battle, and added fresh laurels to their already splendid reputation.
It is but just to state that three other officers of the regiment were engaged with Gen. Curtis' force in the memorable Battles of the Border. All of them were on detached duty at the time. First, and most conspicuous, was Col. Charles W. Blair, who commanded a brigrade of militia and volunteer artillery, and whose bravery and self-sacrificing efforts during these troublous times, will never be forgotten by the people of Kansas.
Col. Blair's brigade, under his efficient leadership, won imperishable honor upon the fields of Mine Creek and Westport. At the former engagement, Col. Blair received the formal surrender of Gen. Marmaduke, and conducted him in person into the presence of Gen. Curtis, to whom he delivered him as a prisoner of war.
Surgeon A. W. Chenowith accompanied Col. Blair as his acting Medical Director. He had charge of the rebel wounded at Mine Creek, and rendered arduous and effective service.
Capt. Geo. J. Clark, long the able and efficient Ordnance Officer at Fort Scott, accompanied the army as chief Ordnance Officer on Gen. Curtis' staff. He had charge of the ammunition train, and his duties, which were discharged with great zeal and promptness, necessitated almost constant labor by night as well as by day.
On the 1st day of January, 1865, the regiment was ordered to Clarksville, Ark., whither it went under command of Maj. Chas. Willits, who had succeeded Lieut. Col. Brown.
Its duty, in connection with the balance of the 3d Brigade stationed at Clarksville, was to scout and police the country so as to render the navigation of the Arkansas river as safe as possible. Although stationed north of the river, they scouted both sides of the stream, crossing by the uncertain means of rafts or hastily-constructed boats, to surprise some detachment of a partizan force and annihilate it. The whole country swarmed with guerrillas. Engagements with them were of almost daily occurrence. Our troops fought them in their mountain fastnesses, or in their camps in the midst of the dense and almost impassable thickets of cane bordering the Arkansas river, and always with that general success which attends the patriotic brave who battle in a just cause.
Thus did our soldiers brave disease and death in all its forms, and thus, upon the line of the Arkansas river, did the brave men of Kansas defend their homes "far away."
The people of Kansas were secure just in proportion as this line of defense was maintained. It is hoped that they will remember, with becomingly grateful feelings, the devotion and bravery of those men who gave them immunity from danger amid the troubles and trials of the greatest civil war that history records.
But all the activity and energy of these troops could not prevent the enemy from occasionally interfering with the navigation of the river. The only serious interference, however, was that of the rebel Col. Brooks, who, with fifteen hundred men and two pieces of artillery, intercepted, captured and destroyed the steamer chippewa, and disabled the steamer Annie Jacobs, fifteen miles above Clarksville, the rebels advancing from the south side of the river. Timely aid was rendered the wounded soldiers, passengers and crew, and they were brought to Clarksville and tenderly cared for. In the relief afforded these unfortunate sufferers, the 14th Kansas Cavalry bore a conspicuous part. A battalion of the regiment, under the brave Capt. Larimer, remained with the disabled steamer until she was repaired and once more afloat.
While the 14th Kansas Cavalry remained at Clarksville, an important scout was made by a battalion of the regiment led by Maj. Chas. Willits in person. It was into what is known as the Bear Creek country, Searchy county, Arkansas. The Surgeon of the regiment and Adjutant Nieman, together with Capt. Teeple and some other officers, accompanied the party. The region of country was penetrated one hundred and twenty-five miles northeast of clarksville, which had not before been visited by Union scouts. The narrow, rich valleys were found teeming with provisions and forage. The party was absent some ten days, and enjoyed themselves in leisurely contemplating some of the finest natural scenery in the world. A small band of guerrillas was surprised, and two of its notorius members were killed. Their names were ascertained to be Sam Halstead and Abb Cook.
Returning from this scout, orders were found awaiting us transferring the 14th Kansas Cavalry to the 2d Brigade, 2d Division, 7th Army Corps, and ordering that the regiment report at once to the commanding officer at Pine Bluff, Ark., for duty. The order was complied with, and on the 25th of February, '65, the regiment embarked on board the Government steamer Ad. hines for destination. Arriving at Pine Bluff on the 27th of February, the regiment found its new arms - the Spencer carbine - awaiting them. These splendid weapons were procured through the energetic efforts of the Lieut. Colonel of the regiment, J. Finn Hill. This officer had lately been comissioned and mustered vice Brown, resigned. His arrival was anxiously looked for by the entire regiment. In the month of March he was heard from at Little Rock, sick in the officer's hospital; later, by advice of his attending surgeon, he was transferred to the officer's hospital at St. Louis, Mo. He did not long survive his arrival at that place. Lieut. Colonel Hill died of consumption, incurred through hard service during four years of duty in every grade. He rose from the ranks, having entered the service as a private, and having secured his promotion through sterling worth and unquestioned ability. His premature death was sincerely mourned by his intimate friends, and his decease was justly regarded as one of the most precious offered upon the altar of a free government and undivided country.
Lieut. J. G. Haskell, who had been commissary of the regiment from its organization, died on board the steamer Linnie Drown, on the 4th of May, 1865, while the boat lay at Little Rock. He died of pneumonia. Lieut. Haskell was an excellent offier, and being a perfect gentleman and highly respected by all, his death was greatly regretted.
At Pine Bluff the 15th Kansas Cavalry did a great deal of duty. The regiment was now almost entirely dismounted and serving on foot, doing the duty of infantry.
Lieutenant Coonel Hill was succeeded by Albert J. Briggs, (formerly Captain of Company F,) who was elected to the vacancy with great unanimity. He was mustered Lieutenant Colonel of the regiment the latter part of May. The regiment was now at Fort Gibson, C. N., whither it had gone in teh early part of the month, in obedience to orders.
It reported to Major General Blunt at this post, and it was expected that the 14th would accompany that gallant officer on an expedition into Texas. The great final scenes of the war were now closing in upon us, and their occurrence rendered the expedition of General Blunt unnecessary, and also made it possible for a portion of the troops intended to accompany it to be mustered out of the United States service. Accordingly, on the 25th day of June, th 14th Kansas Cavalry, having been included in an order to muster out dismounted cavalry in the Department of Arkansas, on that day, by Lieutenant Fred. W. Schwarte, 2d United States Cavalry, and Assistant Commissary Musters, 4th Division, 7th Army Corps, the regiment was at once placed en route for Lawrence, Kansas, the place designated for final discharge and payment.
It arrived at this point on the 11th day of July; but from some unaccountable delay, the final muster-out and payment of the regiment was not accomplished until the 20th of August following.
A review of the duty performed by the 14th Kansas Cavalry, during the two years of its history, will show that the part it performed in subduing the great rebellion, was of an important and onerous character. For the most part is served in a regioin of country destitute of supplies, and so far from a base that it was a great portion of the time on diminished rations of subsistence and forage. The men endured may privations in consequence, and the horses were soon lost from the same cause.
While mounted, the men were almost constantly in the saddle, for they entered the service at a time when the power and force of the rebellion seemed to have culminated, and when our troops were kept in ceaseless activity to prevent any advantage from being taken by an unscrupulous foe. The 14th Kansas Cavalry did its part well in defending the line of the Arkansas river, and in all the important campaigns and expeditions undertaken by the troops serving in the Department of Arkansas from December, 1863, to June, 1865.
Many of the boys "sleep the sleep that knows no waking" in that far off region. Nobly did they perform their duties; gallantly did they demean themselves in battle; heroically did they yield up their lives "that the Nation might live."
"They left the plough-share in the mold,
The flocks and herds without a fold;
The sickle in the unshorn grain,
The corn half-garnered on the plain;
And mustered in their simple dress
For wrongs to seek a stern redress;
To right those wrongs, come weal, come woe,
To perish - or, o'ercome the foe." - A. W. C.
Transcribed by Carolyn Ward.
Transcribed from Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Kansas, 1861-1865. Vol. 1. (Reprinted by Authority) Topeka, Kansas: The Kansas State Printing Company. 1896.
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Tom & Carolyn Ward