One Who Was There

The night of the arrival of the wounded in St. Louis, a crowd of the secesh had congregated at the planter's house which, by the way, is their headquarters and were discussing in not a very quiet way, the fight and its results, as usual, of course, claiming a glorious victory. It so happened that a member of the second regiment - the acting orderly of Col. Mitchell, was present, and he promptly took up the gage of discussion thrown down by the "go-to Tom Harris" portion of the "Jacksonian" school present. The orderly was asked what the federal forces were fighting for, to which he replied: "seven hundred wagons and $280,000 in gold. In fact gentlemen, we accomplished every purpose for which we fought." Secesh couldn't see the case in this light, and wanted the matter illustrated, which the orderly did in this wise: "Suppose," said he, "that I had a bushel of onions here which you were endeavoring to get possession of. Suppose further that I should set down the basket, meet you half way and give you such a confounding threshing that you could not follow. Suppose then that I should pick up the basket and walk off - which would have been the best of it?" Here a perceptible smile appeared upon the faces of the bystanders, and one of them broke out with, "Dry up Dick, he's got the onions on you." Secesh sudsided amid the snickers of the crowd.


It is a noteworthy fact that the little army which fought against Price and McCulloch furnished at least seven Major-Generals and thirteen Brigadier-Generals to the Union. Among the former were Schofield, Stanley, Steele, Sigel, Granger, Osterhaus, and Herron; and among the latter were Sturgis, Carr, Plummer, Mitchell, Sweeny, Totten, Gilbert, and Powell Clayton. Among the confederates who became General officers in their service were McCulloch, McIntosh, Churchill, Greer, Gratiot, Dockery, Hebert, and McRae. Among the Missourians who rose to that grade were Price, Parsons, Slack, Shelby, John B. Clark, Jr., Colton Greene, and Cockrell.


I've often wondered what would have happened if our advance had not been countermanded. Our lines of approach were on different roads from those of the federal army used in approaching our camp, so, if we had continued the morning of the 10th would have seen both armies surprising empty camps. The two belligerents would have actually swapped positions; lyon in our camp at Wilson Creek and McCullouch and Price in Springfield. This would surely have been a desperate mix-up, and certainly would have happened had our army not been halted,...


Of the 4200 men who fought there under Price 988 were either killed or wounded. Nearly every one of his higher officers was disabled, and he was himself wounded. Churchill had two horses shot under him, and lost 197 of his 500 men.

Spfld Leader

The official reports of the battle show that 223 federal soldiers were killed on the field, but only 133 bodies were found for burial...There were between eighty and ninety soldiers killed whose remains were never found. These can be accounted for on no other supposition than they were devoured by hogs and other animals during the interval of six weeks before the work of burial commenced.

McDonald (interview with WF Steele)

...say the dead were buried. Some of them were. But days afterward, I saw bodies here, dozens of them. Many were never buried. Their skeletons lay bleaching here in the sun for years afterwards.

Sweet (27th Ohio soldier, 2 months after battle)

Our squad buried seven men that day that had dried in the sun for two months,...

Unknown Soldier

Over the place where Gen Lyon fell, I pen these lines. The place is marked by a huge pile of flat stones placed there by soldiers who visit the spot and on which are rudely carved the name of the one who placed it there. A placard requested each visitor to add one stone to the pile. A little clump of white oaks but a few yards distant is pointed out as the place where lyon breathed his last. It is a barren, rough and desolate hill and but little to show that a hero perished here, but little to remind you of him who gave his life a sacrifice for his country....A pit in which our dead were placed has been uncovered by the beating of rain and human bones and skulls lay exposed to our view a sad picture of one for the horrors of war. And for one in giving myself a willing victim upon the altar of my country, I wish a burial and one deep sufficiently to protect me from exposure.


On the 29th visited the battleground, could see bones of every description scattered here and there. Found part of the skull, thigh bone and ribs of a man. Saw the sinkhole where some 60 or 70(sic) German soldiers were buried; ribs, leg bones, and arm bones, were sticking above the earth. We took out several bones, also the hand of a man, took up the thumb on a stick and examined it, found nothing left but the skin and nail. A hot stench was continually escaping from the sink which was sickening and almost suffocating. We also found large bunches of human hair in several places scattered over the ground, where we supposed men had fallen and laid several days before burial, the hair falling off in removal.....The battlefield was literally covered with the remains of horses and fallen timber. There were trees larger than a man's body cut down by cannon balls, and the smaller trees were filled with balls of every description. Observed a large tree where a cannon ball had passed through leaving it still standing.

(It is normal human curiosity to want to find a war relic on a battlefield. Please be advised that removing anything found on a national park service protected battlefield is a federal crime. If you spot a bullet or relic, please do not remove it from its location, but advise a park ranger as soon as convenient. For those serious about relic hunting, there are thousands of Civil War battle, skirmish, and war camp sites that are on private land and can be visited with the  land owner's permission. A park ranger might even be able to help you find a location off park. Please protect our federal parks for future generations.)


About thirty were thrown into a sort of pit sink hole on the battlefield and covered with rocks....Nothing like a perfect skeleton can be found. Sixteen bodies were thrown into an old dry well at the foot of the hill....At another point, seventy-two bodies were buried in a small trench. About thirty or forty more are buried at various other points on the field.

(The sinkhole is clearly marked and visible on the Bloody Hill trail today. The trench is a few yards away in an area protected for ecological endangered reasons.  it has been covered by vegetation and no longer visible to the naked eye.)


During our occupation of Springfield I paid a visit to the wilson creek battleground. It was eleven weeks from the day I had left it. Approaching the field, i was impressed by its stillness, so different from the tumult on the 10th of the previous august. It was difficult to realize that the spot, now so quiet, had been the scene of a sanguinary contest. The rippling of the creek, and the occasional chirp of a bird, were the only noises that came to our ears. There was no motion of the air, not enough to disturb the leaves freshly fallen from the numerous oak-trees on the battlefield. At each step I could but contrast the cool, calm, indian-summer day, with the hot, August morning, when the battle took place. All sounds of battle were gone, but the traces of the encounter had not disappeared. As we followed the route leading to the field, I turned from the beaten track and rode among the trees. Ascending a slight acclivity, I found my horse half-stumbling over some object between his feet. Looking down, I discovered a human skull, partly covered by the luxuriant grass. At a little distance lay the the dismembered skeleton to which the skull evidently belonged. It was doubtless that of some soldier who had crawled there while wounded, and sunk exhausted at the foot of a tree. The bits of clothing covering the ground showed that either birds or wild animals had been busy with the remains. Not far off lay another skeleton, disturbed and dismembered like the other. Other traces of the conflict were visible, as I moved slowly over the field. Here were scattered graves, each for a single person; there a large grave, that had received a dozen bodies of the slain. Here were fragments of clothing and equipments, pieces of broken weapons, the shattered wheel of a caisson, and near it the exploded shell that destroyed it. Skeletons of horses, graves of men, scarred trees, trampled graves, the ruins of burned wagons of the rebels, all formed their portion of the picture. It well illustrated the desolation of war.

Lovejoy    (In 1862 Julia Lovejoy visited a hospial in Leavenworth,KS and wrote to the Zion's Heraldin Boston,Mass.)

Here were several who were in the terrible battle at Springfield, MO.,..Some sick with typhoid fever, pneumonia, measles,...And we found three who will soon breathe their last, far from home and kindred dear. There was the empty pallet from which one had just been lifted to his rude grave; there another soldier speechless, and grappling with the grim monster; there another emaciated to a skeleton, sobbing as though his heart would break, and trying to tell us of his poor mother away up in wisconsin. Our own emotions at times quite overcame us as we grasped the skeleton fingers of one after another of these poor creatures, who had come hundreds of miles to fight for their country, and now must find a grave unmarked, and be buried by a stranger's hand.

Resolved by the congress of the Confederate States, that the thanks of congress are cordially tendered to Brig. Gen. Ben. Mcculloch and the officers and soldiers of his brave command, for their gallant conduct...

Abraham Lincoln (upon hearing of the Union's second major defeat)

August 12, 1861 ...And whereas when our own beloved country, once, by the blessing of God, united, prosperous, and happy, is now afflicted with faction and civil war,...Therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, president of the United States, do appoint the last Thursday in September next as a day of humiliation, prayer, and fasting for all the people of the nation..


Thus you may see that over one vast arena this terrible scene was spread, and that the reality of this drama was most terrible! Until night drew on and veiled this bloody prospect from view, by the shades of darkness, the fearful scene presented itself to view. When at last it was no longer visible we again lay down to rest on that hill which had so lately been drenched with the blood of the hundreds of human sacrifices which had been that day offered to the god of war on its green altar, and henceforth to be called Bloody Hill. 

The end of the battle.....Don't miss the the prologue

 MO    KS    IA   

 MO     AR  LA    TX  

Return to Index To Prologue

Copyright © 2000-2010 David Long

All Rights Reserved