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Direct from Pilot Knob.


September 1864

From The Missouri Democrat, Thursday, September 29, 1864.


Arrival of Gen. Ewing’s Quartermaster.

Narrow Escape of Government Property.


The Condition of the Fort.


The Order to Evacuate the Knob.



We are indebted to Captain B. Garven, Assistant Quartermaster of the District of St. Louis, for a variety of interesting information from the seat of war in the Southeast.

Captain Garven left Pilot Knob at 4 A. M., on Tuesday, in charge of three railroad trains sent off with stores by order of General Ewing. One of the trains was crowded with refugees. The trip was dangerous for several reasons, not the least of which was the uncertainty of finding the track clear of down trains. Captain Garven sent a hand car ahead to feel the way in order to avoid collisions and the progress was very slow. After crossing the Big River Bridge, he met a down train carrying two hundred and fifty soldiers as reinforcements to Gen. Ewing. After this train passed the upward the engineer discovered some rails displaced. The soldiers commenced to repair the track, when they were fired upon by concealed rebels. They replied to the fire and killed several rebels and proceeded forward. The train had not gone far before they saw the South Big River bridge on fire. The train then backed up to and joined Captain Garven’s. The soldier’s [sic] train and the others reached De Soto without further adventure.

The situation on Tuesday at five P. M. was as follows: On Monday our lines extended to Arcadia, and a picket was stationed at Ironton. The fort at Pilot Knob was strengthened by Gen. Ewing’s order, and vigorous preparations made to defend the post.

During the day telegrams passed freely between St. Louis and Pilot Knob. General Ewing asked General A. J. Smith, the ranking officer who commands the forces in the field, for instructions in view of a possible contingency, whether he should evacuate the post. General Smith referred the matter to General Rosecrans. The latter replied to General Smith to allow General Ewing to use his own judgment. The answer was returned to General Ewing, who thereupon determined to evacuate. Hence the orders for sending the teams with the extra commissary and quartermaster’s stores. Pending this questioning the rebels were in motion, and after Captain Garven’s trains had passed over the road, the rebels cut it and prevented General Ewing frm quitting the post.

The fort into which General Ewing has withdrawn is situated two miles from the railroad depot. It is strongly built, and armed with four sixty-two pounders and six field pieces. Colonel Thomas C. Fletcher is in the fort with eight companies of his regiment. The fort is well supplied with water, provisions and ammunition. The interior of the fort is open, and exposed to shell from Shepherd’s mountain. General Ewing has only a small force of cavalry, having sent off the 3d M. S. M. on a scout on Sunday, and the men were unable to return. If Ewing can stand the shelling which was imminent from Shepherd’s mountain, he can hold out for an indefinite period. It was believed at General Rosecrans’ Headquarters last night that yesterday would settle Gen. Ewing’s fate.

The forces assaulting Pilot Knob are all under Shelby. He has four pieces of artillery, and the rest of his force is cavalry, who are scouring the country in every direction for conscripts. The result is a general rush of refugees into our lines, and much information which would not otherwise be obtained. A few prisoners have been captured by our pickets, trying to strut into our lines to gain intelligence of our movements.


We learn from Captain Garven that the 2d brigade of the 3d division, 16th army corps, commanded by Colonel Mills, of Missouri, was attacked night before last at Mineral Point by about three thousand rebels, all cavalry, supposed to be under Marmaduke. The attack was intended to be a surprise, but was not. The rebels were repulsed with a loss of fifty killed, whose bodies, with those of many horses, were left on the ground. The wounded were all carried off. Some hours after the rebels retired our forces were withdrawn to De Soto, where General A. J. Smith is now stationed with his whole command, receiving reinforcements.


A force of rebels took possession of Potosi on Tuesday night, and hoisted the rebel rag. They were merely guerrillas, and few in number, but they plundered the stores and dwellings after the most approved fashion. No troops were stationed there, and yesterday a portion of the 6th Missouri Cavalry went after the rebels in hopes of gobbling them. We have not heard the result. These captures of small towns are annoying. This example should bestir our friends in the interior to be prepared to resist such raids. Many of the people had left Potosi before the capture.


A horrible tragedy occurred on Tuesday night near De Soto. A few prisoners were on the last up train from Pilot Knob, in charge of a sergeant and squad of men. While the engine was wooding, a rebel prisoner, whose name we could not learn, attempted to escape by jumping from the train. The sergeant ran after him, when the fellow drew a knife and cut the sergeant fearfully across both eyes, inflicting an injury that will cost the wounded man his eyesight. Three other soldiers ran up to secure the fellow, when he slashed and cut them fearfully. But at last help came, and the rebel was secured and carried to De Soto. Yesterday morning at eight o’clock he was hanged in front of the hotel at De Soto, by order of General A. J. Smith, in the presence of five thousand troops. The summary execution of this miserable wretch is a poor return for the unjustices done to so many of our gallant soldiers.

The Invasion—Price’s Army—General Mower’s Forces—The Railroad Telegraph—The Fortifications at Pilot Knob—Sundry Facts and Rumors.

The invasion of the Southeast by a formidable rebel army under Sterling Price is still the principal topic of conversation in this city. From a variety of sources we have gleaned the following intelligence.

Price had his headquarters all day Tuesday at Fredericktown. This fact is attested by several citizens who arrived here at three P. M. yesterday. His entire army is estimated from 10,000 to 15,000 strong, and principally cavalry. As is well known, Shelby commands the advance, and his troops were all cavalry. Generals Fagin, Marmaduke, Cabell, and Colonels Williams, Gordon, Comingo and others are under Price. He has only a few thousand infantry who are used to guard a long wagon train.

In answer to the inquiries as to the whereabouts of General Mower and the forces which left Brownsville, Arkansas, many days ago, to attack the rear of Price, we are unable to give a positive answer. Inquiries at General Rosecrans headquarters failed to elicit any information yesterday, but it is probable we shall shortly pass through Cape Girardeau. When General Mower reaches Bloomfield he can easily open communications with Cape Girardeau and perhaps obtain reinforcements if he requires them.

The Iron Mountain railroad is still in possession of the military authorities. The trains ran very irregularly yesterday, and only to DeSoto. The last train arrived during the evening, but brought no other information that we are aware of, than that furnished by Captain Garven. The military telegraph was working to the main Big river bridge as late as ten o’clock last night.

We have made inquiries concerning the fortifications at Pilot Knob, and ascertained that they were built in 1861, by order of General Fremont, at the time of the celebrated advance of Hardee and Pillow. The works were not designed to withstand a siege, but were constituted to resist assault by cavalry, or an infantry dash. It is true the main work is commanded by Shepherd’s mountain, but the design of the fortifications hardly included a sufficient delay to enable the rebels to mount guns upon the steep and difficult slopes of that mountain, and had General Ewing a few hundred cavalry, he could have prevented the rebel occupation.

The rebels captured a telegraph operator at Fredericktown on Saturday last, and two Government teams belonging to the telegraphic corps.

A prisoner, who was captured at Irondale, was before General Rosecrans yesterday. He belonged to Shelby’s command, and hailed from Greene county, in this State. He said the rebel army had exhausted the country since crossing the White river, and that they calculated to thus subsist until driven back to Arkansas. He confirmed the statement previously published that the rebels intended to capture Jefferson City, and that Tom Reynolds, the pretended Governor of Missouri, was with Price to assume the reins of government at the State capital, and we are informed that the rebel Colonel H. Frank Gordon, whose letter (dated Gordon’ regiment, Shelby’s division, near Jacksonport, September 4th,) was recently intercepted and published, is a former resident of Waverly, Missouri, a to[illegible]man of Joe [sic] Shelby, and son-in-law of Colonel Hinton, who still lives near Lexington. Hinton has four daughters whose husbands are all in the rebel army, though the wives are enjoying protection on this side the lines. Gordon is a man of influence, and those who know him have no doubt of the genuineness of the letter lately published.

Some doubt has been thrown on the statement on the burning of the Big river bridge by a misunderstanding of the locality. There are three Big river bridges on the Iron Mountain railroad—the track crossing the river three times. The railroad men know the bridges as the north, south and main Big river bridges. The one burned by the rebels is the south bridge—a light structure, about sixty feet long, and not at all to be compared in importance with the middle bridge, which was burned in the fall of 1861 by Jeff. Thompson’s brigade.