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The Contest in Missouri.


June 1861

From The Missouri Democrat, Friday, June 21, 1861.



Departure of the Expedition from the Capital.



Capture of their Battery of Two Guns.

Their Precipitate and Cowardly Retreat.

Gallant Behavior of our Volunteers.

From 50 to 75 of the Enemy Killed and Wounded.
“We Have Met the Enemy and They Are Ours.”

[From our Own Correspondent.]

BOONVILLE, MO., June 17.

The steamers A. McDowell, Iatan and City of Louisiana, left Jefferson City yesterday afternoon, at two o’clock, and reached a point a mile below Providence last night, where it was thought best to lay up a few hours. Three companies of Boernstein’s regiment, under his command, were left to protect the capital. We were cheered enthusiastically by the little town of Marion as we passed there yesterday evening. This morning we took an early start, and reached Rocheport before six o’clock, where we made a short stop, but found the people mostly surly and not disposed to be communicative. We learned, however, that the enemy were in considerable force a few miles below this place, and preparing to make a vigorous defense. Leaving there, and taking the steam ferry-boat Paul Wilcox with us, we ran up steadily till we had passed the foot of the island eight miles below here, and seeing a battery on the bluffs, and scouts hastening to report our arrival, we fall back to a point opposite the foot of the island, and at 7 o’clock A. M., disembarked on the south shore, where the bottom land between the river and the bluffs is some mile and a half wide. No traitors were visible there, and the troops at once took the river road for this city. Following this road somewhat over a mile and a half to where it ascends the bluffs, several shots from our scouts announced the driving in of the enemy’s pickets.

We continued to ascend a gently undulating slope for nearly half a mile, when the enemy was reported in full force near the summit of the next swell of ground, about three hundred yards from our front. The enemy were exceedingly well posted, having every advantage in the selection of their ground, but as you will see, it has been clearly demonstrated, that one secessionist is hardly superior to many more than his equal number.

Arriving at the brow of the ascent, Capt. Totten opened the engagement by throwing a few nine-pounder explosives into their ranks, while the infantry filed oblique right and left and commenced a terrific volley of musketry, which was for a short time well replied to, the balls flying thick and fast about our ears, and occasionally wounding a man on our side. The enemy were posted in a lane running toward the river from the road along which the grand army of the United States were advancing, and in a brick house on the northeast corner of the junction of the two roads. A couple of bombs were thrown through the east wall of that house, scattering the enemy in all directions. The well directed fire of the German infantry, Lieut. Col. Schaeffer on the right, and Gen. Lyon’s company of regulars and part of Col. Blair’s regiment on the left of the road, soon compelled the enemy to present an inglorious aspect. They clambered over the fences into a field of wheat and again formed in line just on the brow of the hill. They then advanced some twenty steps to meet us, and for a short time the cannons were worked with great rapidity and effect. Just at this time the enemy opened a galling fire from a grove just on the left of our center, and from a shed beyond and still farther to the left.

The skirmish now assumed the magnitude of a battle. The commander, Gen. Lyon, exhibited the most remarkable coolness, and preserved throughout that undisturbed presence of mind shown by him alike in the camp, in private life, and on the field of battle. “Forward on the extreme right;” “Give them another shot, Capt. Totten,” echoed above the roar of musketry clear and distinct from the lips of the General, who led the advancing column. Our force was 2,000 in all, but not over 500 participated at any one time in the battle. The enemy, as we have since been reliably informed, were over 4,000 strong, and yet twenty minutes from the time when the first gun was fired the rebels were in full retreat, and our troops occupying the ground on which they first stood in line. The consummate cowardice displayed by the seceshers will be more fully understood when I add hat the spurs or successive elevations now became more abrupt, steep and rugged, the enemy being full acquainted with their ground, and strong positions behind natural defences, orchards and clumps of trees offering themselves every few yards. Nothing more, however, was seen of the flying fugitives until about one mile west of the house of Wm. M. Adams, where they were first posted. Just there was Camp Vest, and a considerable force seemed prepared to defend the approaches to it. Meanwhile, a shot from the iron howitzer on the McDowell announced to us that Capt. Voerster, with his artillerymen, and Capt. Richardson’s company of infantry, who were left in charge of the boats, were commencing operations on the battery over a mile below Camp Vest. This but increased the panic among the invincible (?) traitors, and Capt. Totten had but to give them a few rounds before their heels were again in requisition, and Captains Cole and Miller, at the head of their companies, entered and took possession of the enemy’s deserted breakfast tables.

About twenty horses had by this time arrived within our lines with vacant saddles, and the corps reportorial were successfully mounted on chosen steeds. The amount of plunder secured in Camp Vest, or Bacon as the citizens here call it, from the name of the gentleman owning a fine house close by, was very large. One thousand two hundred shoes, twenty or thirty tents, quantities of ammunition, some fifty guns of various patterns, blankets, coats, carpet sacks, and two secession flags were included in the sum total.

Leaving Captain Cole in command of the camp, we pushed on toward Boonville, chasing the cowardly wretches who outmanned us two to one. The McDowell now came along up in the rear and off to the right from our troops, and having a more distinct view of the enemy from the river, and observing their intention to make another stand at the Fair Grounds, one mile east of here, where the State has an armory extemporized, Capt. Voerster again sent them his compliments from the old howitzer’s mouth, which with a couple of shots from Capt. Totten and a volley from Lothrop’s detachment of rifles, scattered the now thoroughly alarmed enemy in all directions. Their flight through the village commenced soon after eight o’clock, and continued until after eleven. Some three hundred crossed the river, many went south, but the bulk kept on westwardly. A good many persons were taken at the different points of battle, but it is believed the enemy secured none of ours.

Captain Richardson had landed below, and with the support of the howitzer from the steamer McDowell, captured their battery, consisting of two six pounders (with which they intended to sink our fleet), twenty prisoners, one caisson, and eight horses with military saddles. The enemy did not fire a shot from their cannon. Speaking of prizes, the brilliant achievement in that line was by our reverend friend, Wm. A. Pilf, chaplain of the First Regiment. He had charge of a party of four men, two mounted and two on foot, with which to take charge of the wounded. Ascending the brow of a hill, he suddenly came upon a company of twenty-four rebels, armed with revolvers, and fully bent upon securing a place of safety for their carcasses. Their intentions, however, were considerably modified when the parson ordered them to halt, which they did, surrendering their arms. Surrounded by the squad of five men, they were then marched on board the Louisiana prisoners of war. The parson also captured two other secessionists during the day, and at one time, needing a wagon and horses for the wounded, and finding friendly suggestions wasted on a stubborn old rebel, placed a revolver at his head, and the desired articles were forthcoming. In time of peace the preacher had prepared for war.

After passing the Fair Grounds, our troops came slowly towards town. They were met on the east side of the creek by Judge Miller, of the District Court, and other prominent citizens, bearing a flag of truce, in order to assure our troops of friendly feelings sustained by three-fourths of the inhabitants, and if possible prevent the shedding of innocent blood. They were met cordially by Gen. Lyon and Col.Blair, who promised, if no resistance was made to their entrance, that no harm need be feared. Major O’Brien soon joined the party from the city, and formally surrendered it to the federal forces. The troops then advanced, headed by the Major and Gen. Lyon, and were met at the principal corner of the street by a party bearing and waving that beautiful emblem under which our armied gather and march forth conquering and to conquer. The flag party cheered the troops, who lustily returned the compliment. American flags are now quite thick on the street, and secessionists are nowhere.

As usual, the traitors had destroyed the telegraphic communication with the East, and I have therefore been unable to transmit the news of our victory.

The gallant bearing of our men is the subject of constant remark and praise from the officers, while Colonel Blair, Lieutenant Colonel Andrews, Adjutant Hascock, Major Conant, and many others won golden opinions from the soldiers for their fearless and determined behavior.

There were two men killed on our side—Jacob Kiburtz, commissary of Company B, Second Regiment, who kept a cigar manufactory on Second street, St. Louis, between Plum and Poplar, and M. N. Coolidge, of Company H, First Regiment. Nine of our men were wounded, but few of them severely. One man is also missing, who was known to have been badly shot. Thos. McCord, of Lothrop’s regulars, was one of the most seriously hurt. The loss of the enemy will, probably, never be fully ascertained. It did not fall short of fifty, and probably will run nearly as high as a hundred. Among their dead are Dr. William Charles, Isaac Hodges, and thirteen others of the Cooper county company; Francis A. Hulin, of the Pettis county Rifles, and many others more or less prominent, some of whom have not yet been recognized.

The enemy had two regiments of 1,800 men under command of Col. J. S. Marmaduke, of Arrow Rock, and nine hundred cavalry, besides other companies whose muster rolls have not been captured. Horace H. Brand was Lieut. Colonel of Marmaduke’s regiment. It was reported, and for some time generally believed, that he was among the dead, but he has since been heard from, taking a meal several miles away. Gov. Jackson was also seen at three o’clock this afternoon at a blacksmith’s shop about fifteen miles from here. Gen. Price left Sunday morning on the steamer H. D. Bacon, for Arrow Rock. His health was very poor when he left.

You can hardly imagine the joy expressed and felt by the loyal citizens here when the federal troops entered the city. Stores, which had been closed all day, began to open, the national flag was quickly run up on a secession pole, cheers for the Union, Lyon, Blair, and Lincoln were frequently heard, and everything beckoned the restoration of peace, law and order. True men say had the troops delayed ten days longer it would have been impossible for them to remain in safety. Irresponsible vagabonds had been taking guns wherever they could find them, and notifying the most substantial and prosperous citizens to leave. As a specimen of the feeling here, Mr. McPherson, proprietor of the City Hotel, denounces the whole secession movement as the greatest crime committed since the crucifixion of Our Savior.