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Union Forces

Sigel advances in the south and prepares for action


5:20 am

Sigel's cannons open up Confederates surrounded


At our feet in the misty valley of Wilson's Creek was a large encampment of Confederate cavalry still enjoying their sweet morning slumbers; with the exception of some enterprising cooks hovering over the camp fires preparing breakfast.


At this moment an artillery fire was opened from a high point about 2 miles distant, and nearly in our front, from which Colonel Sigel was to have commenced his attack.


Just as the sun had risen over the eastern horizon and was dispelling the morning mist in the valley below us, the loud boom of a cannon came rolling down the valley of the creek, and informed us that gen. Lyon had commenced the action. Our guns having been in position for some time, we presented our morning compliments to the Confederate cavalry below us in the shape of half dozen shells. Gracious, how the boys tumbled out of their blankets and struck a bee line for the nearest wood.


...Sigel soon gave the order to fire, which was responded to with rapidity, but our guns being on an elevation, and the Confederates being in a field which sloped toward the creek, the shots passed over their heads, creating a stampede but doing little, if any, damage to life or limb. In vain I and others urged the artillerymen to depress the guns. Either from inability to understand english, or, in the excitement, thinking it was only necessary to load and fire, they kept banging away till the whole camp was deserted.

Pvt Julius von Spindler

3rd MO Infantry

photo courtesy of great grandson Fred Runkel


The men serving the pieces and the drivers consisted of infantry taken from the Third Regiment, and were mostly recruits, who had only a few days' instruction.


We were taken by surprise, but nothing will put soldiers in battle positions quicker than a bombshell and grapeshot whistling through the air.


...Sigel began to send us his tokens of affection from our rear, and his rude behavior was another astonishing surprise to us.


A Rebel officer afterward told me about our first shell. When the pickets gave the alarm of our approach, the rebel commander ordered his forces to "turn out". An Arkansas Colonel was in bed when the order reached him, and lazily asked, "Is that official?" Before the bearer of the order could answer, our shell tore through the Colonel's tent, and exploded a few yards beyond it. The officer waited for no explanation, but ejaculated, "That's official, anyhow," as he sprang out of his blankets, and arrayed himself in fighting costume.


Then a scene of greatest confusion and alarm ensued. Some began hurrying here and there after their horses; some were bridling and saddling those already in camp; some were loading their cooking utensils; and baggage; some were hitching their teams; some were getting their guns; some running to and fro hardly knowing what they were after; and some were beginning to form a line at the urgent calls of their respective officers.


....Captain Hale, who made no military pretensions, called out to his company: "Git in a straight row, here, boys! This is the war you all have heard talked about! Them's the cannon; them's the muskets; that great big screeching thing is a bung-shell; and them little fellows that sing like bumble-bees, are minie-balls! Git in a straight row; we're gwine to work, now!"


...We were aroused from our reverie with the warning "The foe, they come, they come."


I tied Frank to a little sapling and told Mr. Rorrison that I would go to the ford of the creek, some 200 yards distant, and wash my face...While at the creek I heard a cannon shoot nearly in front of me. A shell passed over and burst a little to the left of where Frank was tied.


...a large portion of our cavalry was cut off from our army. They were stampeded by the sudden onslaught and was out of the scrape.


Such scampering of wagons and rushing to arms was never seen...


The first shell from the enemy's guns passed high over my head. I well remember the screech of that missile as it cut through the air and lost itself in the distance.


A shell burst near me and shattered a comrade's arm.


A shell, from the gun of totten's battery which gave us notice that...The enemy was upon us, burst when Colonel Kelly, Colonel James Edwards,...And Isaac Fulkerson, of St. Charles, an old steamboat captain,...were sitting around a fire on which their breakfast was cooking. It broke two metacarpal bones for Kelly, gave Fulkerson a slight wound on the hand, and demolished the coffee pot.


I had pulled off a pair of tight-fitting boots, the first time for several nights; I thought I would never get them on. I fell over the benches in the straw several times, but finally succeeded in getting them on.


I thought the whole world had exploded when it burst, and I suspect old master thought so too, for he turned and let out for home on his race horse, and he never stopped until he got there. But my horse, he reared and snorted and flung me right off where the (?) shell busted, and I thought I was killed.


In Company A, Third Texas Cavalry, was an unadultered specimen from erin, of the name of B. Thomas. Mr. Thomas rode an incorrigible horse, who would eat the tether that bound him to a tree, and, being loose, he would devour whatever was eatable in camp. This equine marauder had pursued his evil bent to such an extent, that many of the victims had become exasperated, and declared if Mr. Thomas did not devise means for securing the horse, they would kill him-the horse. As Mr. Thomas would have rather suffered crucifixion, head down, than to have been left afoot in Missouri, he procured a chain and padlock, with which he managed to secure the marauder. When Sigel's battery opened, just before dawn on that memorable morning, and the bugle rang out "to horse!" Mr. Thomas discovered that the mechanism of his lock was not perfect, for the "bloody thing wouldn't work."


Captain Hale, of Company D, was rather rough-hewn, but a brave, patriotic old man,...While he had some of the bravest men in his company that any army could boast of, he had one or two...stalwart bullies who were exceedingly boastful of their prowess, of the ease with which Southern men could whip Northerners, five to one being about as little odds as they cared to meet....While we were moving out in the morning...Captain Hale was coolly riding along at the head of his company, these two men came riding rapidly up, one man holding their reins while the other was pressed across the stomach, as if they were in great misery..."Captain Hale, where must we go? We are sick." Captain Hale looked around without uttering a word for a moment, his countenance speaking more indignation than language could express. At last he said, in his characteristic, emphatic manner: "Go to h--l, you d--d cowards! You were the only two fighting men I had until now we are in battle, and you're both sick. I don't care where you go.".....One of our men,...when I was forming the company,...was so agitated that it was a difficult matter to get him to call his number.


...We immediately marched down into the valley, crossed the creek, took down the fence, marched through the farm, crossed another creek and took the road alongside of the woods,...in quick time, by fours, as the road or lane was narrow.


....opening fire with my carbines, for the purpose of distracting the attention of the enemy, being at too great a distance to do much execution.


....commenced firing ourselves on the guard of a drove of cattle as they were crossing Tyrell's Creek where it enters Wilson's Creek.


Col. Armistead, of this county, a contractor for furnishing our army with beef, was killed in his camp, when at breakfast, by a company of dragoons. Several others, among them his son, Walter, was with with him, but made their escape.

Col Thomas Churchill

1st Ark Mtd Rifles

photo courtesy of "General Officers of the Civil War"


Colonel Churchill remained at his quarters in camp, giving orders to the men until all had left. Sigel's line was entering our camp before he left. His orderly had failed to saddle his horse, and he rode out barebacked, making quite a narrow escape from capture. Major Harper took command and formed the line in the road....


....Mr. Brazil, who originally hailed from Buncombe County, Tar River, North Carolina. Mr. Brazil had a dozen ears of green corn on the fire when Sigel opened the matinee, which he swore he wouldn't leave for all the d--d dutch in hell... Lyon's army was composed so largely of Germans, that they were not called by the Confederates "Yanks", but "Dutch"....When Mr. Brazil was satisfied the corn was cooked thoroughly, he took the dozen ears up in his arm, mounted his "war hoss", and with his old musket, as long as a fence-rail, lying in his lap, went joggling along in the direction he supposed the regiment had taken...."Hello! My man!" Exclaimed an officer, as he (Mr. Brazil) rode up to one of Sigel's regiments, "Where are you bound, so early?" "O, by --," exclaimed Brazil, with his mouth full of corn, "I'm q'wine to ketch me a Dutchman, I am, you bet!" "Take him in, boys," fell upon the startled ears of the astonished Brazil, like the knell of doom.


Churchill's regiment, the 1st Arkansas Mounted Riflemen, to which I belonged, literally ran out from under the fire of Sigel's artillery and, tying their horses in the wood by the side of the Springfield Road, fell into line near Sharp's house on foot. I had come in late from a scout the night before, and was sound asleep when our camp was fired on. It was a complete surprise to me at least, and I made the best time I could until I came up with the company at Sharp's house.

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