Col. McFerran Reports on the Battle of Westport

Oct. 6, 1864 — Daviess Countians involved in the Battle of Westport

Oct. 6, 1864 — Daviess Countians involved in the Battle of Westport

General:

I have the honor to report that pursuant to your orders I marched with my command of five companies, on the 25th day of September last, from camp on the Sni, eight miles southwest of Lexington, leaving Company M at that place, and arrived at Sedalia on the 26th, where I was joined by major Mullins’ battalion and Company K, and remained until the 29th and marched for Jefferson City, arriving there on the 1st day of October, when I was joined by Company B and remained until the 2d, and then marched to Mike Clark’s Ford, on the Osage, with 200 men to guard that and other fords against the advance of Price’s army. No enemy appearing I was ordered back to Jefferson City on the 5th, and at 5 a.m. on the 7th took position with my regiment in the rifle-pits on the extreme left of the defenses of the city and remained there during their during the fight and until Price’s army had passed. On the 8th I joined other troops in the rear of Price’s army, and on the evening of the 9th was present at the fight with his rear guard at California. On the 10th marched by way of Tipton and camped ten miles south of Boonville. On the 11th, by order of General Sanborn, I was sent with my regiment to reconnoiter the Boonville and Georgetown road to ascertain whether the enemy had moved west from Boonville or not. Found the road strongly picketed by the enemy and drove the pickets in; shortly afterward two squadrons, under the command of Major Mullins, charged a party of the enemy numbering about 100 who were marching on the road toward Boonville, and dispersed them. No casualties on our side; loss on the enemy not ascertained. After an examination of the road, and exhausting all sources of information, I became fully satisfied that no portion of the rebel army had moved west, and immediately sent a dispatch to General Sanborn to that effect and returned the same night to General Sanborn’s camp, having traveled about twenty miles and completed the reconnaissance as directed. On the 12th marched to California after subsistence, and on the 13th returned to the Georgetown road and encamped about fifteen miles southwest of Boonville, Price’s army in the meantime having moved to Saline county. On the 14th the command marched by way of Georgetown and encamped about eighteen miles west of Sedalia on the Lexington road. On the 15th marched to the vicinity of Cook’s Store, in La Fayette County, and camped. On the 16th I was ordered by General Sanborn, with my regiment, to reconnoiter in the direction of Waverly, and if necessary visit that place to ascertain the position and movements of the enemy. I marched my regiment to the vicinity of Waverly and obtained the desired information. The sun was setting when we turned toward camp, twenty miles distant. Price’s army, 20,000 strong, lay in and below Waverly. What seemed to be a large cloud of dust to the east and passing our rear admonished us that the enemy was making an effort to cut off our return. The darkness of the night favored us, and by taking a more westerly route than we had traveled in the day we escaped this force and also that commanded by Jeff. Thompson, who, returning from Sedalia laden with spoil, placed his men, 2000 strong, in ambush on the road we had passed over in the morning to intercept our return.

On the 17th marched to Fisher’s Creek, in Pettis County, and camped and remained there until the 19th, when we marched to Boonville, in Saline county. Here you assumed command of the First Brigade, of which my regiment formed a part, which from the time of leaving Jefferson City had, by order of General Sanborn, been under the command of Col. John F. Philips, Seventh Cavalry Missouri State militia. On the 20th we marched to Lewis’ plantation, in La Fayette County. On the 21st marched to the Sni, eight miles southwest of Lexington. On the 22d marched to Independence, arriving there in the afternoon; I was immediately ordered to the front with my regiment at a gallop and to advance upon the enemy on the Kansas City road. after moving about half a mile from the town my advance was fired upon; my regiment was then dismounted, and all, except one company held in reserve, advanced against the enemy. It soon became apparent that the enemy in large force was posted in the timber that skirts the southwest portion of the town and held the fences and hedge in front of his position, and were attempting to flank my regiment on the right and left. This made it necessary to extend my lines to near three quarters of a mile in length. I now discovered that the enemy was increasing his forces and that my regiment was in imminent danger of being overpowered and cut to pieces. I immediately sent messengers to you with the information, and about this time I sent forward the company held in reserve to support the left in peril. After considerable delay, for which you were not responsible, I sent other messengers to you, and still others, in relation to our condition. After near one hour the Fourth Missouri State Militia appeared upon the ground, and shortly afterward a battalion of the Seventh Missouri State Militia, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Crittenden, who assisted by Neill’s battalion, gallantly charged the enemy and drove him from his positions. As these respective commands arrived I sent them to the left, just in time to prevent disaster, and where up to this moment my gallant men, under the command of the heroic Neill, had maintained the protracted and unequal contest, while Mullins and Burris with their brave battalions held the overpowering force at bay on the right and in the center. In the meantime the enemy placed several pieces of artillery in position and were shelling my men furiously over the entire field. Shortly afterwards you arrived with two pieces of artillery and opened upon the enemy, and about the same time the remainder of the Seventh Missouri State Militia, under the command of Colonel Philips, also arrived and supported the artillery. During all this time the town of Independence was occupied in force by Federal soldiers, well supplied with artillery, and yet for near one hour my regiment with forlorn hope battled against fearful odds, perhaps ten times their numbers.

The fight continued until sunset, when the enemy retreated toward the Blue, pursued by my regiment, assisting the advance of Colonel Winslow’s brigade, and continued to press his rear in the darkness of the night, encountering at short intervals heavy volleys of musketry from the almost, concealed enemy, who slowly and stubbornly retreated. My men having traveled forty miles, and been engaged with the enemy since about 3 p. m., withdrew from the contest, and pursuant to orders remounted and moved forward with the brigade. The column continued to advance, Colonel Winslow’s brigade being in the front; a few volleys more and the column halted at about 10 p. m., the conflict ending for the night. My men lay upon the road during the remainder of the night, holding their horses, both having been without food since the night previous, and orders were received to move, I was relieved of the command of my regiment by orders of Major General Pleasonton, without any cause being given. It is but justice in this connection to say that the regiment during the campaign, while under my command, nobly did its duty, and at the battle of Independence behaved with distinguished gallantry.

The casualties in the campaign, while under my command, are as follows: In action October 6, 1864, on the Osage, below Jefferson City, Private Wright J. Hill, Company D, killed; Private Samuel Howard, Company D, mortally wounded; Sergt. James C. Triplett, company D, slightly wounded; Private Warren Mitchell, Company D, severely wounded; Private George Tyler, Company H, killed; Private John Harvey, company H mortally wounded; Private Jacob Evans, Company H, mortally wounded; private William Collier, Company H, mortally wounded. In action on the move west of Jefferson City, October 8, 1864, Sergt. William L. Powell, Company A, slightly wounded. At Sedalia, Mo., October 15, 1864, George Sparks, private, Company D, killed. At Georgetown, Mo., October 14, 1864, Lieutenant Triplett, Company D, was severely wounded by pistol shot, accidentally. In action at Independence, October 22, 1864, First Lieut. John D. Mullins, Company A, severely wounded; Private William H. Royston, Company A, severely wounded; Private Richard Owings, Company G, severely wounded; Corpl. James C. Wood, Company K, slightly wounded.

In relation to the action on the Osage, below Jefferson City, October 6, 1864, you are respectfully referred to Major Mullins’ official report, a copy of which is forwarded herewith, marked A.

The loss sustained by the enemy in the several engagements is not known, but must have been severe. At Independence Colonel Young was mortally wounded and Captain Davidson severely wounded, both of the C. S. Army, fell into our hands as prisoners of war.

James McFerran, Colonel First Cavalry Missouri State Militia

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