September 15, 1863,
Brigadier-General John McNeil to Major General John M. Schofield
HDQRS. DISTRICT OF SOUTHWESTERN MISSOURI,
Springfield, Mo., September 15, 1863.
Maj. Gen. JOHN M. SCHOFIELD,
Commanding Department of the Missouri:
GENERAL: Your telegram of this date received. The First Arkansas Infantry are with Colonel Cloud, as are one battalion of the Sixth Missouri State Militia and one of the Eighth, and four guns of Rabb's battery, and one squadron of the First Arkansas Cavalry, with two howitzers. Eleven companies of the First Arkansas Cavalry are either at Cassville, with one section of First Arkansas Battery, or clearing the road between there and Fayetteville. Four companies of the Eighth are on the road to Rolla, guarding trains and mails, with occasional scouts in pursuit of guerrillas. One company is in Hickory County, with directions to pursue, capture, and destroy the devils who murdered the men of the Eighteenth Iowa at Quincy, and two companies in Newton County, under that energetic bushwhacker and brave soldier, Captain Burch. Four companies of the Sixth are in Benton, Vernon, and Saint Clair Counties, to trap Quantrill's men and to enforce General Orders, No. 92, of your headquarters. I have one company of the Sixth and Eighteenth Iowa Infantry, two sections First Arkansas Battery, and one of Rabb's battery here with me, and a few recruits. If the First Arkansas Infantry and two cavalry battalions return to Fayetteville, there will be force enough to wipe out anything north of the mountains, and, when I can arm and equip the recruits, to drive all hostile parties north of the river. I hope the assistance of Colonel Cloud's force was essential to General Blunt, for, to say the least, his leaving this district with the best troops I had--those I depended on to make a firm stand in Northern Arkansas--was unfortunate for my plans, Hunter's, Ruff's, Arrington's, Brown's, and other bands are raiding that country now and harassing our trains, when we should be making the country too hot for them. The Eighteenth Iowa Infantry has been at this point too long. It is a good regiment and well officered, but is suffering from the canker of too long a rest in post. The best interests of the service and of the regiment would be advanced by ordering them to the field at once. There is no danger of losing anything we have gained in front, while we are keeping the country comparatively quiet. The occupation by the Enrolled Missouri Militia and the arming of loyal citizens will effectually keep down bushwhacking. It makes the war against those people necessarily more sanguinary and cruel; but for that very reason it will be sooner brought to a conclusion. Cruelty to the bushwhacker will be mercy to the loyal and peaceful citizen.
I am not advised of the real force under General Blunt, or of his ability to hold Forts Smith, Gibson, and Van Buren, and keep his communication open to the rear. I should regard the defection of the Indian tribes, now, I suppose, well ascertained, as a guarantee of an open road by Fort Scott, while the occupation of Fayetteville and the small towns between the river and the Missouri line would guard his rear, and the troops so occupied would be of more service to him than though actually in his camp. The distance from Rolla to Fort Smith being some 75 miles shorter than from Leavenworth, I submit whether this be not the best point to furnish supplies from, until the occupation of Little Rock and the rising of the Arkansas River. The burning of Fayetteville inteferes materially with its importance as a military point, and I think when the loyal men of Northern Arkansas have guns put in their hands, they will be able to take care of themselves, and no depot of supplies will be needed north of Fort Smith. I have no apprehensions of losing any ground that we have now occupied in Northwestern Arkansas, nor of keeping comparative peace in the Missouri part of the district; but there are many things in regard to the policy to be pursued in Arkansas that I would like to confer with you about as soon as I can spare time from this post.
I have already signified that in case the health of the gallant General Blunt shall render his longer stay in the field impossible, that I should like to be trusted with that command. I trust what I lack in accurate military knowledge I may be able to make up in energy and determination to perform my duties.
Hoping this brief statement of the state of the district may be satisfactory, I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,
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