MAY 19, 1863.--Skirmish
near Richfield, Clay County, Mo.
Report of Capt. Joseph Schmitz, Twenty-fifth Missouri Infantry.
U.S. ARSENAL, CLAY COUNTY, MO., May 22, 1863.
SIR: I received your letter of instruction, duly, from Richmond, Mo., of the 16th instant, in regard to the scouring out of Fishing River Bottom. I accordingly made every disposition of the forces under my command to secure success in the matter, but, unluckily, as you are already aware, the movement commenced about one hour and a half too late. The following special programme was laid down to be pursued:
Lieutenant [George W] Shinn, with his command, was to leave Camden at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, the 19th instant; Lieutenant Fleming, of the Provisional Missouri Militia, was to join Lieutenant [Louis] Grafenstein at Richfield, Mo., before 9 o'clock on Tuesday evening, at which hour they were to start to their different destinations; Lieutenant Fleming to the mouth of Fishing River, where he was to meet Lieutenant Shinn, with whom he wants to act in concert in scouring the country on each side of the river up to the lower bridge. Lieutenant Grafenstein, whom I had previously stationed at Richfield, with 16 men, and who were not mounted, were to start at the same time to the lower bridge, where they were directed to lie hidden and guard the roads on both sides of the river.
In accordance with this arrangement, Lieutenant Fleming left here at 6 p.m. for Richfield. When arriving near that place, he met two messengers with the intelligence of the bloody work; and shortly after, while hurrying up his men, he met Sergeant Clymo and the balance of Lieutenant Grafenstein's command (13 men) on the retreat to this post, having been assured by citizens of the place that the bushwhackers numbered from 60 to 100. * * * The whole command [being] but 36 all told, they concluded it best to return to this place (particularly because the reported force to oppose was too large to attack in the night without knowing definitely the situation of affairs in the place), which they did immediately. After making every preparation possible for an early pursuit next morning, we anxiously awaited daylight.
At dawn, Captains Garth and Tracey, of the Provisional Reserve Missouri Militia, with 40 men from Liberty, were here and ready to start in pursuit. With them I sent Lieutenant [H. C.] Carlile (and Dr. [J. Q.] Egelston volunteering) with 35 men. I concluded to give our party under Dr. Egelston's supervision. After nearly reaching Richfield, they first learned the true condition of affairs, and the sad result of the decoy and ambush of Lieutenant Grafenstein and Captain Sessions and squad.
The facts are simply as follows, to wit: Sixteen bushwhackers made their appearance 2 miles east of the town of Richfield, in the afternoon of Tuesday ; two of them went to a house in the neighborhood, acting as if drunk, swearing they were Quantrill's men, &c. The men at whose house they were, started immediately after they left, and reported to Lieutenant Grafenstein, as above, when Lieutenant Grafenstein and Captain Sessions and 3 men started out to look into the matter. After getting out of the place 1½ miles, they were fired upon from the thick brush. Captain Sessions and Private Rapp fell the first fire; Lieutenant Grafenstein was hit soon after, and had to stop; the three were then rushed upon by the party of murderers. Rapp was robbed and left for dead. Captain Sessions was shot again two or three times through the head, and Lieutenant Grafenstein, after surrendering himself a prisoner, was coolly shot twice through the head also (a woman at the same time, near by, begging for his life). They both were stripped and plundered also. The gang then pursued the two remaining number of the squad in a direction not directly toward Richfield, but reached that place in about twenty minutes after the first firing, the two boys beating them in and escaping from them. In the mean time, some one passing near where Rapp was, brought him in to town, and was having his wounds dressed. After the devils entering the town, and learning that Rapp was not killed, one of them went directly to him and shot him three times more, and left him for dead the second time. (He yet will probably recover.) They then commenced to pillage the Union citizens particularly, but really made but little distinction between the loyal and disloyal; and after doing this pretty effectually, and destroying the Union flag, cutting the pole, &c., they left the place, on the same road they entered, about 9 or 10 o'clock the same night.
After my command reached Richfield, on Wednesday morning, and finding the true condition of things, the detachment of the Twenty-fifth, not being mounted, returned here, with the exception of the doctor and one man of my company as a guide, who paraded with the Provisional Reserve Missouri Militia to the mouth of the Fishing River. After arriving there, they found out that Lieutenant Story left there an hour in advance of them. They scoured the west side of the river, and returned to Liberty without finding anything except a camp where the bushwhackers camped a few days before.
The citizens around that country are all sympathizers, with very few exceptions, and it is hard to get information from them.
On yesterday I sent Lieutenant Cornell, with a detachment of 30 men, to Richfield, and Lieutenant Carlile, with 20 men, to the island below, to prevent the bushwhackers from crossing, and to arrest every one in that region that might be suspected of complicity in the affair of Tuesday evening. I also sent Captain Tourney, of the Provisional Reserve Missouri Militia, with his company, from Plattsburg to a place 12 miles north of Liberty, where the scoundrels were reported to have been all day Wednesday, and where he was to take their trail and follow them to their end, if possible to do so by that means, and, otherwise, to proceed from that point to Smithville, and from there to Centreville (both in this county), where he would meet and act in conjunction with the provost-marshal of Richmond, who has taken the field in person, with some of Ray County Militia, and Sergeant Lyle, with 10 men of my command.
From the best information that I can obtain, there were but 16 or 18 men of the bushwhackers, and were under command of one Ferdinand Scott, who was recognized by persons who know him well; so also were the following-named: Frank Turner, L. Easton, Frank James, Louis Vandever, Louis Gregg, and Churchill, and Moses McCoy, the husband of Mrs. McCoy, now on parole at your place. Joe Hart was not with the gang at Richfield on Tuesday evening, but was reported to have met them at the place before mentioned, 12 miles north of Liberty, on Wednesday (by the men at the house they stopped). Hart said then that he came from Saint Joe (direct) and visited Mrs. McCoy.
I have all the old arms of the militia boxed up, and will send them to Saint Joe by the first boat. I wish the arms, also tents for which requisitions are sent in, would be forwarded to this post; also stationery and blank reports.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Captain Twenty-fifth Missouri lnfantry.
Col. CHESTER HARDING, JR.
visits since 02/04/2004
page revised 05/25/2006