OCTOBER 6, 1863.--Action
at Baxter Springs, Kans.
No. 1.--Report of Maj. Gen. James G. Blunt, U. S. Army.
HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF THE FRONTIER,
Fort Scott, Kans., October 19, 1863.
COLONEL: I have the honor to report, for the information of the general commanding, the following facts:
On the 4th instant, upon the receipt of dispatches from Fort Smith, informing me that the command there was threatened with a superior force of the enemy, I immediately left for that post, accompanied by a part of my staff, and taking with me the records, papers, and property belonging to the headquarters of the district. My escort consisted of Company I, Third Wisconsin Cavalry, and Company A, Fourteenth Kansas, about 100 men (all the available mounted men that could be spared from this post). I arrived near Baxter Springs about 12 m. of the 6th, and being in advance of the escort and wagons, I halted near the camp at the Springs, commanded by Lieutenant [James B.] Pond, of the Third Wisconsin Cavalry. This camp, being in low ground under the hill, was not visible from the point where I halted, although not more than 400 yards distant. After the escort had closed up, and while waiting a few moments for the wagons, my attention was called to a body of men in line (about 100) advancing from the timber of Spring River, which was some 500 yards on our left. When within 300 yards, they halted; and they being all dressed in Federal uniform, I supposed them at first to be Lieutenant Pond's cavalry (of which he had two companies) on drill; and my first suspicion of their being an enemy was aroused by seeing several men, supposed to be officers, riding hurriedly up and down their line, and apparent confusion among the men. I directed the escort to be brought into line facing them, while I advanced toward their line to satisfy myself as to the character of the force. I had proceeded but 50 or 75 yards when they commenced an irregular firing, and at the same time I heard a brisk firing of musketry in Lieutenant Pond's camp, under the hill. Being no longer in doubt that they were rebels, I turned toward my escort to give the command to fire, when I discovered the line broken, and all of them in full gallop over the prairie, completely panic-stricken. Seeing the disorderly and disgraceful retreat of the escort, the enemy made a charge, using their revolvers, followed by another force of about 200, who were formed in the edge of the timber, and, being better mounted than the escort, they soon closed in on them. In vain I endeavored, with the assistance of Major [H. Z.] Curtis, my assistant adjutant-general, to halt and rally the escort, and succeeded only in rallying 15 men, after following them 1½ miles. When turning upon them with this small force, they retreated back over the ground which they came, and formed in line upon the main road. After sending Lieutenant [J. E.] Tappan, of my staff, with 6 men to Fort Scott for troops, with the remaining 9 men I kept close to them, watching their movements closely, which, doubtless, impressed them with the belief that I had a larger force coming up, as they burned all the wagons, and moved hurriedly off' south, on the Fort Gibson road.
On looking over the ground for the wounded, I soon discovered that every man who had fallen, except 3, who escaped by feigning death, had been murdered, all shot through the head. The brigade band, teamsters, and all headquarters' clerks who were first captured were murdered in the same way. On reaching Lieutenant Pond's camp, I found the command all safe. A part of the force, carrying a Federal flag, had attacked his camp in the rear, which was in close proximity to the timber, while a force of 300 advanced through the timber on the left of his camp, and were forming on the edge of the prairie, for the purpose of surrounding him. The unexpected meeting of my escort diverted their further plans, and enabled Lieutenant Pond to successfully resist the force that attacked his camp. And in this connection I desire to compliment Lieutenant Pond and his command, consisting of two companies of the Third Wisconsin Cavalry and one company of the Second Kansas Colored Volunteers, for their gallantry in repulsing the enemy.
Having ascertained that the rebel force, 600 strong, was under the command of Quantrill, and that they designed moving directly south, I immediately sent messengers to Fort Gibson and Fort Smith, directing the commands at those forts to intercept them, if possible, at the Arkansas River, while at the same time I kept scouting parties on their trail to watch their movements until I could procure troops to pursue them. After leaving the ground, they moved south on the Fort Gibson road until they had crossed Cabin Creek, when they made a detour to the right across the Verdigris, and crossed the Arkansas River, 18 miles west of Fort Gibson, on the morning of the 10th. At this point they captured a scout of 12 men, belonging to the First Indian Home Guards (Creeks), and murdered them all. On the night of the 11th, they camped on the North Fork of the Canadian River, 45 miles south of the Arkansas; since which I have no reliable information concerning them. From information obtained from a colored boy who escaped from Quantrill's command at Cabin Creek, I learned that they came direct from La Fayette County, Missouri, by rapid marches, seeing no Federal troops on the route, and that their destination was to join the rebel forces south of the Arkansas They evidently had no knowledge of my being en route south, and their design was to capture the force at Baxter Springs, which they supposed to consist only of one company of colored troops and a part of a company of cavalry, but which had been re-enforced the previous night by an additional company of cavalry and a 12-pounder mountain howitzer. Had the escort stood their ground and fought instead of running, I have no doubt that I could have driven them in a few minutes, and, with the addition of Lieutenant Pond's cavalry, pursued and captured many of them.
Inclosed is a list of the casualties. (nominal list, omitted, shows 79 killed, 8 wounded and 5 missing)
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JAS. G. BLUNT,
Chief of Staff.
visits since 02/04/2004
page revised 05/25/2006