AUGUST 23, 1862.—
Skirmish at Hickory Grove, Mo.
No. 1. -- Report of Lieut. Col. John T. Burris, Tenth Kansas Infantry.
Fort Leavenworth, Kans., August 27, 1862.
SIR: I have the honor to report that, in pursuance of reliable information, received on the 17th instant, to the effect that the rebel forces which had previously captured Lieutenant-Colonel Buel's command, together with the arms and public stores under his charge, at Independence, Mo., has been largely reenforced and were threatening Kansas City, and, at the request of Brigadier-General Schofield to co-operate with Federal forces then marching against the enemy from the east, south, and southeast, I marched on that place with Companies A and F, Captains Abernathy and Conover, Eighth Kansas Volunteers; Company B, Captain Wagner, Third Wisconsin Cavalry, and Company E, First U.S. Infantry, serving as an artillery company, with a light battery, under First Lieut. Charles S. Bowman, Fourth U.S. Cavalry. Staff officers for the expedition, Capt. R. H. Offley, First U.S. Infantry; Lieutenant Laighton, Eighth Kansas Volunteers, and Lieut. H. Sachs, Third U.S. Cavalry.
Arriving at Kansas City on the morning of the 18th, I was joined by Major Ransom, with Company A, Lieutenant Carpenter; Company L, Captain Derry, Third Wisconsin Cavalry, and Company B, Captain Harvey, Sixth Kansas Volunteers. I immediately commenced work toward completing and repairing the fortifications at that point and placing the city in a state of defense, and also endeavored at the same time to open up communication with other Federal forces reported to be moving in that direction and to ascertain the position and strength of the enemy.
Learning that the enemy was in the vicinity of Lone Jack, and hearing that General Warren was advancing from Rose Hill to attack him, I moved on Independence on the morning of the 21st, transporting the infantry, artillery, and Captain Wagner's squadron of cavalry by water, and sending Major Ransom, with his battalion of cavalry, by land.
Major Ransom, on his march to Independence, burned a house and out-buildings of Benjamin Rice, a notorious guerrilla, and on his arrival at that point arrested the editor and distributed the type belonging to the office of the Border Star, a treasonable sheet published there.
Failing to hear further from General Warren's command or other Federal forces I moved with my entire command from Independence in the direction of Harrisonville on the morning of the 22d. After a march of 12 miles, and when near the headwaters of the East Branch of the Little Blue, I learned from a colored man that the enemy was a few miles to the left of us. Following down near the timber on the south side of that stream I came to a point opposite to where their camp was supposed to be a short time before sunset. Here we formed a line of battle, placing our guns in position on an eminence from which we could have effectually shelled the woods. I then sent Major Ransom, with his battalion, to reconnoiter on our left and a scouting party to the front, which soon returned, having run onto the enemy's pickets, taking one prisoner. From him we learned that the rebels were 1,000 strong, under Colonels Thompson, Hays, and Quantrill, and were in camp in a dense forest 4 miles farther down the stream.
It being now near dark, we bivouacked at a watering place near by until 3 o'clock on the morning of the 23d, when we marched to the farm of one Charles Cowert, the nearest point to the enemy's camp accessible to artillery. Here we formed line of battle, and I sent two companies of cavalry, under Captain Derry, to reconnoiter the enemy's position and endeavor to draw him out onto the open ground. Captain Derry soon returned, having driven their pickets before him, through an almost impenetrable forest of timber and brush, for a distance of 2 miles, to the rebel camp. Failing in our efforts to draw the enemy from his cover, and the want of water in the vicinity of the house and farm which we occupied rendering it impossible for us to remain for any considerable length of time, together with the fact stated by contrabands and prisoners and admitted by the ladies of the house that this was the headquarters of the enemy; that here most of the rebel officers boarded, and that from this farm their supplies of forage were obtained, induced me to burn the house and out-buildings and the immense racks of grain and hay found on the premises. I then moved with my command in a westerly direction toward the nearest point to where water could be obtained, when soon the enemy was seen emerging from the woods, marching south, and crossing our line of march at right angles, directly in our rear. We quickly took position on an eminence near the Hickory Grove with the battery, supported by the infantry in the center and a battalion of cavalry on either flank. The enemy (some 1,000 or 1,200 yards distant) formed line of battle, but after a few well-directed shots from Bowman's battery their line was broken, they were thrown into confusion, and their march to the south resumed. Following them up with small detachments of cavalry, they were soon discovered to be in full retreat in the direction of Pleasant Hill. Theirs being entirely a cavalry force, and wholly unencumbered by camp equipage or transportation of any description, their flight was much more rapid than it was possible for our pursuit to be.
The enemy's loss, as nearly as could be ascertained, was 12 killed, several wounded, and 2 prisoners. No casualties on our side.
Moving from Hickory Grove west to the nearest point where water could be obtained we bivouacked for the night. Ascertaining from my scouts during the night that the enemy had continued his retreat beyond Pleasant Hill I marched back to Independence with my command on the 24th, and on the 26th I returned to Kansas City, bringing with me the Federal wounded, left there by Lieutenant-Colonel Buel, together with a large amount of public stores, captured from him by the rebels and left there by them for want of transportation. Leaving at that point Major Ransom, with his battalion, together with Colonel Buel's wounded and the public stores, I returned with the remainder of my command to this post on the 27th.
A considerable number of horses were captured from the enemy on the expedition, a detailed report of which will be made as soon as prepared by the acting assistant quartermaster. About 80 loyal colored persons accompanied and followed my command out of Missouri.
I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant,
JOHN T. BURRIS,
Lieutenant-Colonel, Commanding Expedition.
Capt. J. M. GRAHAM,
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General, Department of Kansas.
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