The Battle of Mine Creek
|St. Louis Globe Democrat|
Sept. 13, 1884
The letter from the Iowa boy who captured Marmaduke which the Globe Democrat republishes twenty years after the original appearance in the Missouri Democrat, prompts reminiscences of an interesting event. To these, nobody is better qualified to contribute than Col. R.H. Hunt, of this place. Col. Hunt was the Republican candidate for mayor of Kansas City at the last municipal election. During the campaign of 1864, when the Iowa, Missouri and Kansas troops, most of them raw militia, were concentrated to drive Price back into Arkansas, Col. Hunt was on General Curtis' staff. At the Battle of Mine Creek he was acting chief of staff and directed the movements of the troops upon the field of battle, to a victory which made the sequel of Price's last foray northward a disaster. There followed close upon the Battle of Mine Creek a controversy in regards to a division of honors for the success, and Hunt was the officer appealed to for impartial testimony as to the due measure of credit to be given certain commands for the brilliant day's work.
There is another matter which has been in dispute, and that is as to Marmaduke's attire at the time of capture. It has been said that the general had abandoned the gray for the Federal Blue and that when taken he was wearing the uniform of the death. On this point, as well as upon the details of the capture, Col. Hunt is well qualified to speak. He also has at command records and memoranda of that campaign of the "army of the border", as it was designated. All these, as well as his personal recollections, he kindly placed at the service of the Globe-Democrat.
Price's raid into Missouri had been a series of successes. Bodies of the regular portions of his army had reached the Missouri River at different points from Hermann westward. Its irregular contingent, composed of the bushwhacking commands, under the leadership of noted guerrillas, had crossed over and penetrated almost to the northern tier of counties, interfering with and robbing the north Missouri trains and committing all manner of depredations. It was a campaign for recruits and supplies. This meant the plundering of all who were not known sympathizers of the Southern cause. The complaints which went from the stricken interior to St. Louis on the east and to the Kansas posts on the west were at length heeded and a force sufficient to cope with Price was put in the field under General Curtis. As stated, this hastily mobilized army was made up largely of raw soldiers. They were Iowa, Colorado, Kansas and Missouri troops. Phillips, the present Supreme Court Commissioner, was in command of a brigade in which Governor Crittenden was a colonel. Jennison, of jayhawker notoriety, played a prominent part in the campaign. There was also a veteran corps, under Colonel Benteen, now a captain in the 7th cavalry.
While these troops were being put in the field, Price began his retreat southward, having accomplished his mission. He had recruited his regiments. His wagon trains stretched for miles and were loaded down with supplies. He drove before him herds of cattle and flocks of sheep. Quantities of Federal stores had fallen into the hands of his quartermasters, and they, cut off from connection with their own departments, had dealt out the blue uniforms to the Confederates until there were three whole companies wearing the clothes intended fo the Union soldiers.
But these reminiscences have only to do with the Battle of Mine Creek. Price, in his southward march, had reached that point, within a few miles of Fort Scott, the most important post of the Federal army in the Southwest. The forces of Curtis were pressing closely, and the time had come when both sides were ready to give battle. Price turned back at Mine Creek, with the divisions of Marmaduke and Fagan, prepared for attack. Across Mine Creek, Shelby's men were guarding the long trains of wagons and plunder. Success for the Confederates meant the easy capture of Fort Scott, the destruction of which Price expected to make the finishing stroke of his campaign. To the Union forces, defeat and the plunder of Fort Scott meant the throwing open of all southern Kansas to raiders.
On the extreme left of the Confederate line of battle were posted ten cannon and as the brigades of Phillips and Gravelly were sent forward, Col. Hunt said to Col. Phillips:
The Battle of Mine Creek
"The General expects you to capture those guns."
The Missouri troops went steadily forward leading the advance for three miles over the prairie. When they got into close quarters, they found the fire of the battery very uncomfortable and began to waver a little. It was then that Col. Hunt rode back hurriedly to Col. Benteen and directed him to come up with his veterans on the left of Phillips. This encouraged the Missouri brigade, and they moved on, driving in the Confederates on the left of their line, while Benteen"s corps forced in the center, where Marmaduke, Cabell and other leaders were trying to rally their men. It was such quick work that these Confederate generals found themselves in the midst of Union troops before they knew it. Cabell was made a prisoner and Price, who was only a few feet distant, would have shared this same fate but for the fact that he had stripped off all that was calculated to show his rank. He also had the advantage of being well mounted, and rode away in the confusion, none of the Federal troops recognizing him.
"If Price had been captured that day", said Col. Hunt, "I don't know whether his life would have been preserved. During the raid, he had turned over some Union prisoners, including a Major, to a band of guerrillas in north Missouri, and they had murdered the officer. This was known to our troops, and the word was passed around among them that if Price was caught, he was to be shot down by whoever captured him. I had learned this, and had told General Curtis of it. He had given orders to all his officers to do everything in their power to protect Price if we took him. There was a very bitter feeling against Price among our privates. They felt that he had turned over prisoners with the intention of having them butchered. At the time Marmaduke was taken, I was beyond him, inside of the Confederate lines. A blunder occurred just then, but for which we should have made sure work of capturing Price and, I think, ending the campaign just there. The trouble was owing largely to the fact that so many of the Confederates wore blue that it was difficult to distinguish one side from the other. We had pressed in so fast and so far that when Sanborn got a battery into position and directed firing at what he supposed was the enemy, he threw shells right in among us. We had to stop our charge and hold him back until we could get that battery silenced. Soon after this the order came to cease advancing and we did not push our advantage further."
That misappropriation of Federal uniforms by his own men proved the undoing of Marmaduke. The general was trying to rally his men, most of whom were clad in blue, when a boyish member of the 3rd Iowa Cavalry, named Dunlavy, galloped towards him, occasionally firing on the retreating Confederates. Marmaduke mistook the young cavalryman for one of his own men and turned to him, reproving him for firing on his own comrades. Dunlavy dropped his revolver until Marmaduke was within twenty yards of him, and then suddenly leveling the weapon fairly at his breast, shouted to him to dismount and surrender. The general got down, and as he did so his horse jerked away and galloped off. Dunlavy had taken possession of Marmaduke's revolver and was thinking what next to do with his prisoner when Col. C.W. Blair, now of Leavenworth. Rode by. The captor halted him and wanted to turn over his prisoner. Marmaduke was not in Federal uniform, but there was nothing in his attire to indicate rank. Blair with a glance declined to become the custodian, and was about to ride on when the general called out:
"Sir, you are an officer. I claim protection at your hands. I am General Marmaduke."
At this, Blair accepted the charge and told the general he would protect him until he could deliver him to General Curtis as a prisoner. Marmaduke at this seemed considerably relieved.
The Iowa boy spoke up and said: "Colonel, remember, I took him prisoner. I am James Dunlavy, Corporal of Company D, 3rd Iowa Cavalry."
The colonel told the boy, who had been severely wounded in the arm, but was still grasping his weapon, to come on and be introduced to General Curtis, as the captor of General Marmaduke, They started with the prisoner on foot between them, but after going some distance, got a horse and allowed him to ride. On their way to the rear, they passed General Pleasanton and General Sanborn, but Marmaduke was not recognized. General Curtis was found in company with General Hunt, Senator Lane and others, at the house of a Mrs. Reagin, half a mile from the scene of the charge, and there Marmaduke was turned over, and his boy captor given the credit for his day's work and allowed to keep the prisoner's revolver.
As the Union troops pressed back the enemy's lines in their charge, they swept by a log house, in the door of which stood a woman with her hair streaming down over her back and children clinging to her skirts. Unmindful of the pattering bullets, she shrieked out to each passing command: "God bless you, boys. God bless you. Hurrah for the Union. Give it to 'em."
The Union Woman's Revenge
When the battle was over, the heroine of the log house appeared at Mrs. Reagin's and walking up in front of where General Marmaduke was sitting, eyed him steadily for a few moments and then exclaimed triumphantly:
"How are you, general, and how is Miss Mary Price, and where are the Kansas jayhawkers now?"
Marmaduke made no answer.
The explanation came when the heroine told how Marmaduke's division had formed in line of battle I front of her house. The general had named the blooded mare he rode "Miss Mary Price." Just before the engagement began he had mounted, and performing some feats of horsemanship, in front of the Union women, asked her what she thought of "Miss Mary", adding a boast about "riding over the Kansas jayhawkers."
In that battle, General Cabell was captured, as well as Marmaduke. General Slemmon was mortally wounded and General Graham was killed. The retreat became almost a rout. Four hundred of Price's plunder wagons were burned at one time and the stolen stock was taken from him. The pursuit lasted to the Arkansas River, where, on election day, the Union troops standing knee deep in water, sent their farewell shots after the demoralized Confederates, and General Curtis forwarded to General Davies the following brief announcement of the campaign's finish:
We have just concluded the pursuit of Price, whose rear guard crossed the Arkansas River under fire of our guns. He left another of his guns and his own carriage, which, with other arms and equipments, have fallen into our hands. We are now rid of 20,000 to 30,000 half-starved bushwhackers and vagabonds, who, I hope, may never return to disturb the peaceful inhabitants north of the Arkansas River."
Mention has been made of the controversy which arose over the credit of the Mine Creek victory. At one time this assumed a serious phase. When the troops returned, Col. Phillips took occasion to issue an address congratulating his and Crittendon's troops on the success of the charge. Benteen was offended at the tone of the address, which he though assumed all the glory of the day, and he sent a challenge to Phillips. The matter reached the ears of Rosecrans, and his interference averted a hostile meeting.
Transcribed by Christine Spencer August 2008