Battles of Marais des Cygnes and Mine Creek, KS: October 25, 1864

In commemoration of the 150th anniversary of Price’s raid on Missouri and Kansas, KHC is featuring excerpts from “Price’s March of 1864” Shared Stories of the Civil War reader’s theater script. The Shared Stories of the Civil War reader’s theater project is a partnership between KHC and the Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area.                                                                                              

Battle of Blue-Battle of Mine Creek

Battle of Blue-Battle of Mine Creek. Photo courtesy of: kansasmemory.org, Kansas State Historical Society. Copy and Reuse Restrictions apply.

READER 2: In his retreat [Price’s army] camped for the night on [the] Marais des Cygnes…Here they took possession of the flouring mill, and ran it all night, grinding all the grain in it for their supply.

Reverend James Shaw, Kansas militia.

READER 3: After a chase of sixty miles, [Price] was overtaken on the Marais des Cygnes and aroused from his bivouac by a salvo of artillery at four o’clock in the morning, and took to flight…A charge of brigades of Pleasonton’s forces, superbly executed, broke his lines, with the loss of all his cannon, 1,000 prisoners — among them Major General Marmaduke, Brigadier General Cabell, and five colonels — a quota of small arms, colors and transportations.  Rallying his scattered forces a few miles in advance he made another stand, only to be again routed and pursued until darkness gave him a respite, his trail lighted up by the burning wrecks of his abandoned wagons.

Shalor Winchell Eldridge, Kansas militia.

READER 4: We passed through the hastily vacated camp.  Clothing, blankets, parts of tents, camp utensils, mess chests, etc., all betokened the hasty evacuation.  The picture was hideous in its filth.  The debris of a camp is never a sightly object, but the peculiar features thereof were enhanced by the knee deep mud, the remains of slaughtered cattle, the broken equipments, and the disgusting effluvia which greeted the nostrils.  The little hamlet looked woe-begone.

A few women, ashen grey with terror, and half naked, poured blessings upon the troops as they moved by.  In every house were found sick or wounded rebels.  Some stragglers were captured during the morning, and it is believed were hung by our troops in the rear.  The passions aroused by the sight of their pillaged homes, their insulted friends, and the knowledge of the base murders committed on old and defenseless men, might afford palliation of such acts of summary retaliation.

Captain Richard Hinton, Kansas, Army of the Border.

READER 5: General Price with an army of about nine thousand ragged, hungry soldiers, after a wild, reckless raid through Missouri, was trying to make his escape through Kansas and back to the dismal swamps of the Sunny South.  He had been fighting and running for thirty consecutive days and his deluded followers were crying for bread.  At Fort Scott, twenty miles away, was a Federal depot of army supplies; and to reach and capture that post was the ambition of his military life.  To keep him out of Fort Scott was the determination of the Federal troops.

The battle of Mine Creek was one of the most important of all the battles ever fought on the soil of Kansas…[O]fficers and men, Feds and Confeds, were all mixed in a life and death struggle.  The roar of musketry, the rattle of rifles and pistols, the clash of sabers, and the shrieks of the wounded, created a scene that was perfectly awful.

Colonel Samuel Crawford, Union army.

READER 3: I sent forward a direction to Brigadier-General Shelby to fall back to my position…for the purpose of attacking and capturing Fort Scott, where I learned there were 1,000 negroes under arms.  At the moment of his reaching me, I received a dispatch from Major-General Marmaduke, in the rear, informing me that the enemy, 3,000 strong, were in sight…with lines still extending…

I immediately mounted my horse and rode back at a gallop, and after passing the rear of the train I met the divisions of Major-Generals Fagan and Marmaduke retreating in utter and indescribable confusion, many of them having thrown away their arms.  They were deaf to all entreaties or commands, and in vain were all efforts to rally them.  From them I received the information that Major-General Marmaduke, Brigadier-General [William] Cabell, and Colonel [William] Slemons…had been captured, with 300 or 400 of their men and all their artillery (5 pieces).   Major-General Fagan and several of his officers, who had there joined me, assisted me in trying to rally the armed men, without success.

General Sterling Price, Confederate Army of the Missouri.

READER 1: Forward! was shouted along the line…and then with a fierce momentum, dashing and crashing through the rebel right and centre.  A rush — a scramble — a confused vision of flashing sabers on our left and center; the wild trample of rushing horses; the frantic shouts of charging combatants; the crash of small arms — not continuous as in line, but rapid and isolated as of individual combat…

Captain Richard Hinton, Kansas, Army of the Border.

Check KHC’s blog tomorrow to continue reading about the epic battles of Marais des Cygnes and Mine Creek.