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Military History of the Second Kansas Volunteer Infantry
This regiment was mostly recruited during the month of May. It rendezvoused at Lawrence, Kansas, and was mustered into the United States service at Kansas City, Missouri, on the 20th of June, 1861, by Lieutenant R. H. Offley, United States Mustering Officer. Immediately after being mustered into service, the regiment moved from Kansas City to join the brigade commanded by Major Sturgis at Clinton, Missouri, and the division of Brigadier General Lyon, near the Osage river, in St. Clair county, Missouri. From there it marched through Stockton and Melville to a point near Springfield. Here a camp was established, and the work of brigading and drilling the troops commenced. The First and Second Kansas Volunteers formed one brigade, commanded by Colonel Deitzler, of the First regiment, the ranking Colonel. The first time any portion of the regiment came under fire was in the engagement at Forsythe, Missouri, July 22d, 1861. In the latter part of July, General Lyon moved his command south, on the Cassville road, having heard that the enemy was approaching in three columns, hoping to attack and defeat them in detail. On the 2d of August the command engaged and defeated the enemy at Dug Springs, and followed as far as McCullock's ranche. At this point it became evident that the enemy was falling back, to concentrate their columns in one, and then attack on his own getting further from the base of supplies, a council of officers was called, to determine the propriety of a retrograde movement on Springfield, General Lyon stating at the same time that this would probably also involve the necessity of falling back all the way to Rolla. The enemy was known to be about 25,000 strong, and our forces only about 4,000; yet it was determined choice of ground. The command, being nearly out of supplies, and every day to fall back to Springfield. On arriving at the latter place, a large supply train had arrived, which, in itself, was so unwieldy as to preclude any rapid movement, without abandoning it, which latter alternative could not for a moment be contemplated. General Lyon now determined to attack, with the design, no doubt, as related in the history of the First regiment, of so crippling the enemy as to enable him (General Lyon) to accomplish a safe retreat, if nothing more. But finding that his men were too much fatigued by the recent hard marching, under a burning August sun, deferred it until the night of the 9th of August, when the line of march was taken up, without wagons or ambulances. Colonel Siegel, with his own regiment, and Colonel Solomon, with a portion of the regular cavalry and six pieces of artillery, were to attack the enemy on one side, and the main command on the other. At daylight Siegel's artillery opened the engagement. It, however, was soon silence, and heard no more during the action. During the early part of the battle, the Second regiment supported one section of Totten's battery, on the left of our line, where the battalion of regular infantry, in the long to be remembered corn-field, fought. When the regulars fell back, the Second covered their retreat, and by the aid of the battery, drove the enemy, in turn, to his covert in the timber, beyond the corn-field. In the pause which followed the conflict on the left, Colonel Mitchell directed Lieutenant Colonel Blair to proceed to the right, and ascertain from General Lyon, Colonel Deitler or Major Sturgis, what further disposition to make of the regiment, and whether their services were more needed, or could be used to better advantage elsewhere. While crossing an intervening ravine, and ascending the opposite slope, he met the First Iowa regiment being driven back in confusion, and with terrible loss. He galloped back to within calling distance of Colonel Mitchell, and requested him to move the Second regiment to a point higher up the ravine, to prevent our right from being turned, and also to within supporting distance of the center, which being rapidly done, the enemy fell back, and order was restored on the right. He then sought General Lyon, told him of the position of the regiment, of what had been done, and asked permission to occupy the crest of the hill on the front center, where he thought the main attack would be made. "That is right, sir. Order your regiment to the front," was the reply. The regiment was ordered, and promptly came up, and as it passed Totten's battery, marching by the flank, General Lyon joined Colonel Mitchell, and was riding by his side, and when they approached the crest of the eminence, a heavy ambuscaded fire was opened on the head of the column, which killed the General, and wounded and disabled colonel Mitchell. The regiment was marching left in front, Company "K," Captain Tholen, was at the head. The fire was so severe, that for a moment the head of the column recoiled under it, but in an instant the men sprang forward again, and as the column swept into line by the left, charged, and drove the enemy clear over the hill, and into the brush beyond. Lieutenant Colonel Blair now brought the regiment back to the brow of the hill, and formed it there, when he received a message from Colonel Mitchell to come to him. On going back about two hundred yards, he found him badly wounded. The Colonel informed him that he (Lieutenant Colonel Blair) must take command, and fight the regiment to the best of his ability, to which he replied, "I will try not to disgrace you or the state." At this time there were but eight companies present. The cavalry company, under Captain Wood, and Company "B," Captain McClure, had been detached at daylight, under Major Cloud, who had been accompanied by the Adjutant (Lieutenant Lines) and had not returned, leaving neither field nor staff officer with Lieutenant Colonel Blair, and but one mounted orderly, to assist him. Lieutenant Colonel Blair passed along the line, speaking a few words of encouragement to the officers and men, when the main attack was made, and the heavy fighting commenced. The enemy's first charge was gallantly met and repulsed, and it soon became evident that the position could be held, although the men were falling thick and fast along the whole line. They were now ordered back, under cover of the crest of the hill, and ordered to lie down to load, and rise on one knee to fire. In this way many valuable lives were spared. In a short time, Major Cloud and Adjutant Lines rejoined the command, with Company "B," and soon after, Captains Clayton, Walker, Roberts, and Zesch, with their companies of the First Kansas Volunteer Infantry, formed on the right and left of the Second, where they could the soonest get into action. The regiment occupied this position for some time, occasionally charging the enemy, and driving them from the crest of the hill, when they came too inconveniently near, and then retiring again to the first position. Adjutant Lines was repeatedly sent to Major Sturgis for orders, but could receive none. Artillery was then earnestly sought after, and only after repeated efforts did they succeed in getting a section, which came without any officers, under the command of a Sergeant. It came just in time, as a whole rebel brigade was marching up to our right, and by the time the artillery got into position the enemy was within short canister range, but the quick and deadly discharges soon scattered them along our entire front, from which place our Minnie rifles hurled them back into their covert range. About this time the Sergeant limbered up his guns, and left the field, giving as his excuse, that he had no officer with him. Three companies of the First Kansas were also ordered off, to rejoin the balance of the regiment, but Captain Clayton, with his company, remained with the Second. During all this time, the anxious inquiry was, "Where is Sigel?" The belief was, that if Sigel could be joined, the victory would be sure. As yet, there was no knowledge of his defeat. About this time, through the thick underbrush, the stars and stripes were men on the hill opposite our front, and being satisfied that it was Sigel, and there being a pause in the firing, which tended to confirm this belief, our men were formed, the line dressed, and three cheers given for the victory deemed already won. Captain Russell rushed from his place in the line to where Lieutenant Colonel Blair was sitting on his horse, to warn him that he believe it to be a ruse. "I tell you, Colonel, it is Manassas again," he exclaimed, with great emphasis. And the words were scarcely uttered, until the fiercest fire of the day opened upon our line from beneath the "dear old flag," and the battle was renewed with greater fury than ever. It was at this juncture, under a furious fire, and totally unsupported, all the other troops moving visibly and rapidly to the rear, with his little regiment, as it were, in the very "jaws of death," that Colonel Blair received the order to retire. "I was humiliated," says Colonel Blair, "beyond expression, for I felt that the battle might have been ours, and the ground we had fairly won. I felt it to be impossible to retire under such a fire as that, and accordingly held my ground for near an hour and a half, and until the enemy's fire was utterly silenced, and then slowly withdrew from the field, pausing and reforming several times before rejoining the balance of the force on the prairie." The Second regiment was the last one to leave the field, and the only regiment which kept its line and organizatioin unbroken from the first to the last of the fight, which lasted about six hours.
About one-third of the regiment was lost, but Colonel Blair came out of it unscathed, although his horse was killed under him. The command returned to Springfield the same day after the close of the battle, and the next day were en route for Rolla. the Second, after being delayed a short time at Rolla, and also at St. Louis, was ordered to Kansas for muster out and reorganization. arriving at Hannibal, Missouri, Colonel Williams of the Third Iowa Infantry, requested that the Second accompany him to Paris, Missouri, after a force of the enemy in that neighborhood, and to assist the officers of the bank in removing the money under their charge to where it could be protected by the government. Accordingly, about one-half of the regiment, the other half being left to guard the stores, with three companies of Colonel Williams' regiment, (all he had in the neighborhood) moved up to Shelbina, on the Hannibal & St. Joe R. R., and from there moved south to Paris. After a slight skirmish the enemy was driven out and the town occupied by our troops. We remained here until the next day, our outposts most of the time skirmishing with guerrillas. The next day Major W. F. Cloud put the officer in command under arrest, (he not being in condition to command) and marched the troops back with caution, avoiding ambuscade to Shelbina. The following morning colonel Green, with 3,500 men and a battery of artillery, summoned us to surrender, and upon our refusal opened on the town. They soon tore up the railroad east, and made several attempts to destroy it on the west, from which the command was barely able to repulse them. Colonel Williams had in all only about 600 men, of which only thirty were cavalry and only one cavalry officer, Lieutenant Pierce, who had been taken prisoner at Paris. Notwithstanding this, our little band marched out several times and offered them battle on the prairie, but they being all mounted kept out of our reach, and continued to play upon our lines with their artillery. It was evident that we were powerless and must in the end be taken, unless we could escape. In this action Captain McClure, of Company B, had his right foot shot off by a solid shot. If the enemy's guns had been supplied with shell our forces would have suffered severely, but as it was they escaped with little loss. A council of all the officers was called, and it was determined to run the gauntlet of the battery with a locomotive and some freight cars, which was accordingly done. Arriving at Macon City, we found Brigadier General Hurlburt with some three hundred men, who had been loaded on the cars all day, and for whom we had been persistently telegraphing for many hours, but who never came to our relief. General Hurlbut ordered our return to Shelbina, but as he was not in a condition to give orders, I, Colonel Blair, declined to obey them, on the ground that I had General Fremont's orders to proceed to Kansas. General Hurlburt then furnished transportation, and the Second came on to Bloomfield, where it remained a few days to guard some public stores, then without adequate protection. From thence the Second came by rail to St. Joseph, Missouri, by night, and surprised and routed the rebels, and held the post until the arrival of troops to permanently garrison the place. Then, taking boat, the Second started for Leavenworth, and at Iatan attacked and dispersed a rebel force. Arriving at Leavenworth, the Second, for the first time in three months, laid aside arms and took off accoutrements, feeling that they again rested upon friendly soil and among "loyal people." Price's forces having captured Lexington and threatening Kansas, the Second was sent to Wyandotte for its defense. Price retreated, and the Second returned to Leavenworth, and having finished the term for which they entered the service, were honorably discharged, with instructions to organize. For the accomplishment of this, Colonel R. H. Mitchell, Lieutenant Colonel Blair, (the acceptance of his resignation having been revoked), Major W. F. Cloud and Captain S. J. Crawford were retained in the service.
The Second was reorganized into a cavalry regiment, with the title of Second Kansas Volunteer Cavalry, and during the war fully maintained its former standing and good name.
The Second Kansas Volunteer Infantry took part in the following battles and skirmishes:
Forsythe, Mo., July 22d, 1861.
Dug Springs, Mo., August 2d, 1861.
Wilson Creek, Mo., August 10th, 1861.
Paris, Mo., September 2d, 1861.
Shelbina, September 4th, 1861.
Iatan, September 4th, 1861.
Colonel Robert B. Mitchell, Colonel Second Kansas Volunteer Cavalry.
Lieutenant Colonel Charles W. Blair, Major Second Kansas Cavalry.
Major W. F. Cloud, Major Second Kansas Volunteer Cavalry.
Adjutant Edward D. Thompson, mustered out with regiment October 31st, 1861.
Quartermaster Shaler W. Eldridge, mustered out with regiment October 31st, 1861.
Surgeon Aquila B. Massey, absent on detached service at date of muster out.
Assistant Surgeon A. L. Pattee, absent on detached service at place of muster out.
Chaplain R. C. Brant, mustered out with regiment October 31st, 1861.
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