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The Fredericktown Fight.


October 1861

From The Missouri Democrat, Monday, October 21, 1861.




[Special Correspondence of the Missouri Democrat.]

PILOT KNOB, October 20th.

All is safe here this morning, and there seems to be no well grounded fear of an immediate attack. The reports that have reached your city as to the peril of this post have been greatly exaggerated. It is true, that night before last the soldiers slept on their arms, but an attack for all that would have been somewhat unexpected. No serious apprehension is now felt.

I arrived here last night at eight o’clock, and have collected all the facts respecting the fight at Blackwell’s station, and the skirmishes near Fredericktown on Thursday, and other interesting items which I have not time to write out, as the train is about leaving.

Charles Valle was not dead yesterday as had been reported. As your readers will remember, he was one of Thompson’s men who was wounded at Blackwell station.

Major Schofield, First Missouri Light Artillery, with a battery of four guns, came down on the train last night, as was welcomed by a perfect storm of cheers from the troops who were drawn up in lines on either side of the road. Never were men in better spirits or more eager for a fight.

I consider this post for the present, at least, entirely out of danger, and that seems to be the opinion among the officers as far as I have heard them express it.

Major Gavitt, First Indiana Cavalry, and Capt. Hawkins, Independent Missouri Cavalry, have been scouring the country for twenty miles around, almost day and night for the last four or five days, and they are sure that within that radius there are no considerable bodies of rebels.



PILOT KNOB, October 18.

Yesterday about ten o’clock A. M. the news came into Pilot Knob of a severe but short engagement having taken place near Fredericktown, between our forces and those commanded by Jeff. Thompson and Col. Low. It seems that Capt. Hawkins, commanding the Independent Missouri Cavalry, was ordered on Tuesday to proceed with a detachment of forty men to reconnoiter in the vicinity of Fredericktown. Having proceeded to within five and a half miles of town, his advance guard was suddenly attacked by the rebels, and two of his men taken prisoners, the enemy were however driven within the lines. Wednesday morning his advance guard was again attacked, and four of his men captured. They were, however, retaken. While awaiting reinforcements from Pilot Knob, Capt. Hawkins’s command was three times attacked by the enemy during the day, who each time was successfully repulsed and driven in.

Late in the evening reinforcements arrived, consisting of six companies of Major Gavitt’s Indiana Cavalry, and five companies of infantry under Col. Alexander of the Twenty-first Illinois. Thursday morning at daylight, while on the march, the advance guard, under Lieut. E. Francis, of Capt. Hawkins’ command, was soon among the enemy. Slight skirmishing commenced, Capt. Hawkins coming up with the balance of his command, supported by the whole battalion of Major Gavitt, when there was some clean running done by the rebels. For two miles the road was strewn with blankets, saddles, shotguns, rifles, hats, caps, &c.

Near town the enemy were in considerable force in the woods, thickets and brush, and attacked our main force, doing considerable damage before they were driven from their position. Major Gavitt charged upon them, driving them in every direction, wounding many and killing three; also, several horses were taken.

In this charge Captain Hawkins’s Company sustained a severe loss. Lieutenant Francis fell from his horse and was carried off mortally wounded. Several of his men were dangerously wounded, and it is thought will not recover. This company with but few exceptions, were of raw recruits, never having been under fire before, yet they stood up like soldiers, receiving and giving volley after volley. In this attack Captain Hawkins received a shot in the knee; his horse was shot in twelve places. In this attack Major Gavitt had one man killed and several wounded. The infantry having come up, and feeling confident of being attacked by a very superior force, Colonel Alexander ordered the command to fall back on more advantageous grounds. As they were withdrawing they found the enemy were pursuing in force. Colonel Alexander then threw out three or four companies in ambush. The remainder then commenced a hasty retreat, and the enemy supposing a victory close at hand, ran into the trap and were completely routed, leaving the road strewn with dead men and horses. It was impossible to ascertain the number killed of the enemy in the entire engagement, as they were scattered all through the woods, though it does not fall short of fifty. During the night, the entire force of Col. Alexander fell back to Pilot Knob. No advance has since been made in that direction; however, they are completely entrapped, it is supposed, by movements not best to make public. We are expecting hot times in the Southeast soon.

Most respectfully, P. R.