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The Invasion: The Rebels on the Southwest Branch.


October 1864

From The Missouri Democrat, Saturday, October 1, 1864.


The Rebels on the Southwest Branch



Cuba and Bourbon Burned.



A gentleman who early yesterday morning came over the Southwest Branch of the Pacific railroad from Harrison’s Station, gives us the following items of intelligence.

On Thursday the regular passenger train from Franklin for Rolla was delayed by military orders till late in the evening. It approached Harrison’s Station at about 10 P. M. Firing was then going on between a heavy body of cavalry and General Ewing’s men from Pilot Knob. Citizens said that General Ewing’s main force had a few minutes previously arrived, pursued by the enemy. The artillery first came in and was partly placed in freight cars when the infantry arrived, followed closely by the rebel cavalry, and fighting. The artillery was removed from the “flats,” unlimbered, and began to open upon the rebels. A number of General Ewing’s men had already been killed, and others wounded.

The train was stopped at a very respectful distance from the troops. The rebel cavalry continued to increase in numbers, and the battle to grow in fierceness. The cars were hurriedly backed to a convenient locality and switched off the track, while the passenger made haste to conceal themselves in a cellar. The engineer and others then went on a short distance with the locomotive, and ascertained that the town of Cuba had been fired and was burning. The track was soon found to have been torn up this side of Harrison’s Station.

The locomotive quickly returned, leaving the cars and passengers, but soon reached a place where the track had just been torn up by a party who had left. The engineer and his men managed to speedily re-lay the rails, and the engine then went back with the startling news to Franklin. Soon after the locomotive had passed through Bourbon, that town was discovered to be also on fire. The result of the battle was of course not then learned; but General Ewing was making a vigorous resistance. He was using breastworks that had been thrown up by militia, and in which a force of militia remained till Tuesday night, when it was withdrawn by General McNeil’s order, to Rolla.

At Franklin, reports of a body of rebels moving towards that place from Richwoods had been received, and occasioned much excitement. It was fully expected that the place would be attacked before nightfall, or soon afterward. The force there prepared to make a sturdy defense.

The rebels cut the telegraph below Harrison’s Station, at half-past four o’clock on Thursday afternoon.

The above confirms the inference already drawn from numerous facts, that the objective point of Price’s invasion is Jefferson City, via Rolla.

At the latter place General John McNeil can be fully relied upon to make the best possible use of his means for inflicting defeat and chastisement upon the enemy. His force is not deficient, and has been increased by troops who reached him last week.

At Jefferson City, all was activity in the fortifications. Every available man was at work on them, and some men were even taken from the railroad train and put to work with the shovel.

Fears were last evening entertained that Franklin, and the rolling stock of the Branch westward, had been captured, the garrison at Franklin not being large.

Some seven or eight thousand rebel cavalry are reported traversing the region around Richwood [sic-Richwoods]. The inhabitants were leaving.


A Scouting Expedition over the Iron Mountain Railroad.

By order of Major General Smith, a party of one hundred soldiers went on a reconnoitering expedition yesterday over the Iron Mountain railroad, as far of De Soto. The train left Jefferson Barracks at ten A. M., having on board Lieutenant W. S. Smith and thirty-five men of Company K, 40th Missouri. At Meramec bridge, from the garrison there, some thirty-five six months men of Colonel Fletcher’s regiment and a portion of a company of General Smith’s second brigade joined the party. The road was found quiet and unmolested, the bridges all secure to De Soto. At the various stations the women testified great joy at seeing Union troops again. The men had almost wholly left the country to escape rebel conscription. Of rebels few had been seen or heard of north of Cadet Station. At that place scores were seen Wednesday.

At Mineral Point the rebs burned but one building, a store owned by Frank Boyd. At Potosi they had burned several. At De Soto there arrived a fugitive who said he had been captured by and escaped from the rebels. He reported that they occupied the Fort at Pilot Knob, and made the place their headquarters while their parties ravaged and plundered the country.

At De Soto the officers were told by some ladies that a certain house, deserted by the proprietor, but in charge of another, were two barrels of fire-water. The ladies feared that should guerrillas enter town they would become intoxicated with the whisky and only murder and plunder the worse. On the ladies’ request the barrels were upset and their contents spilled out.

Colonel Rankin, of the Washington county militia, agreed to get a militia force large enough to defend the town at night.

At the Meramec bridge were left about nine hundred troops.

The scouting party telegraphed to St. Louis at two P. M., at four P. M. left De Soto, and reached St. Louis at seven o’clock.