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


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

Note: many other McFerran reports from earlier in the war available on this site:

A Glimpse at James H.B. McFerran

A letter to the editor submitted to a Colorado Springs, Colorado, newspaper offers a glimpse at the personality of James H.B. McFerran, once a leading citizen of Gallatin, MO, active in Democrat politics and organizer of a Union militia unit which fought in the Civil War.

A letter to the editor submitted to a Colorado Springs, Colorado, newspaper offers a glimpse at the personality of James H.B. McFerran, once a leading citizen of Gallatin, MO, active in Democrat politics and organizer of a Union militia unit which fought in the Civil War.

James H.B. McFerran

To the Editor of The Gazette:

September 21,1891, a human light went out in Colorado Springs. It was the passing of Judge J.H.B. McFerran. Though only 20 years in the world life since today, his name is seldom mentioned. And yet Colorado Springs has had few men, in good circumstances who as quietly and without show came to the relief of so many in the hour of need. During the despair years following the panic of 1873, I doubt if there were any half dozen others in their combined strength who did so much to help the needy to tide over their periods of distress, as Judge McFerran. For many weeks at a time he provided coal and food and shelter. He often loaned small sums when he never expected a return. But for his good offices many in our state, now too proud to acknowledge their former condition of beggary, would most likely today be toiling under unfavorable circumstances for their daily bread.

It was my privilege in the early dark days frequently to be called upon for relief. When I was not able to give that relief myself there were a few to whom, without humbling myself, I could go. Among them were D. Russ Wood, Dr. Culver, F.L. Martin, Dr. Kimball, Judge McFerran, and three or four others. As Judge McFerran could better afford to give than the others, my appeals were generally made to him, or perhaps I ought to say my statement of the case was generally made to him, and that was all the appeal that was necessary.

During a cold spell, in the winter of 1875-6, I think, my attention was called to a poor woman, with three or four little children, living in the south part of our village, who had had no fire in her house for a week. This was confirmed by a neighbor who said that he was practically out of coal himself. Meeting one of the bankers a little later, I asked him to provide two or three tons of coal, for the family. His reply was: “my house is not an eleemosynary institution.” He thereupon undertook to give me a lecture on poverty as a result of waste and idleness. Considering the lecture out of place and untimely I said: “I am here to get money, or something, to keep a poor woman and her children from freezing to death tonight and I have no time to hear a lecture.” With a kind of a Spanish body-twist he said: “So!” and handed me a dollar. At once I hastened to Judge McFerran’s and made the statement I had made to the banker. Without hesitating a moment he replied: “It is too late to order coal from Lennox’s. I will do that tomorrow. My man can take her down some from our bin, at once, a hundred pounds of coal.”

Judge McFerran, however, was not only a sympathetic helper in the hour of real distress, but one of the most far-seeing, at that time, in the direction of the highest interest of Colorado Springs. In 1874, he consulted with K.P.R.R. officials as to the propriety of extending their road from Hugo to Colorado Springs, and he received their assurance that they would do so provided El Paso county would give a bonus in bonds of $200,000. Through jealousy and Republican leadership stupidity the bonds were voted down and there and then Colorado Springs lost her chance of being the great city of Colorado. In 1880, a vice president of the K.P., while speaking of the mineral resources of southern Colorado and the astonishing richness of Leadville, said: “If in 1875-6 we had extended our road to Colorado Springs, 1879 would have found us in Leadville and your citizens who first had control of Leadville would not have been driven to Denver for better railway facilities. Denver is not the natural outlet for Leadville.”

What the gentleman said about the relation of Denver to Leadville was true of the relation of Denver to all southern Colorado. For years the greater part of gold and silver ores reduced in the great smelters, later established near Denver, was carried through our city and over the Divide at extra cost, as well as a large part of the fluxing ores, all the coke not brought from east of the Mississippi River, and all their good coal.

Judge McFerran was also in favor of the city owning South Cheyenne canon, when it was offered for $6,000, and of securing at the same figures the Seven Lakes’ water rights.

We have not one unpleasant thought against Denver. She saw her opportunity and used it; we are proud of her today. We, however, cannot help being more or less ashamed that we allowed contemptible politics and the littleness of our natives to destroy the efforts of the men of experience and foresight.

— James Hutchinson Kerr, October 1, 1911


— This letter forwarded from Tom LeCompte of Cambridge, Mass. (July, 2005)

Col. James H.B. McFerran — Union Leader of Daviess County

The man who organized and led Union soldiers from Daviess County in the Battle of Westport was also the county’s prosecuting attorney and a circuit court judge. James H.B. McFerran helped initiate the Daviess County Savings Association, and served as its president when this banking institution was later robbed by Frank & Jesse James in 1869. McFerran eventually left for Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he died.

The man who organized and led Union soldiers from Daviess County in the Battle of Westport was also the county’s prosecuting attorney and a circuit court judge. James H.B. McFerran helped initiate the Daviess County Savings Association, and served as its president when this banking institution was later robbed by Frank & Jesse James in 1869. McFerran eventually left for Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he died.

James H.B. McFerran

James H.B. McFerran was born in Washington County. Maryland, September 17, 1819. At the age of six years his father died, and he remained with his mother until his 17th year, attending school part of the time.

On reaching the above age he engaged in the stone cutting business under a contractor by the name of Andrew Small, receiving seventy-five cents per day for the first year. Owing to an aptitude for the work, the second year he was given the position of superintendent, at a salary of one dollar and eighty-seven and one-half cents per day, and continued as superintendent until he was 20 years of age. At that time he went into business for himself, taking a contract first on the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, and then on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, and continued some six years, at the close of his last work going back to his mother’s in 1845. He then decided to study law, and living with his mother he attended school and studied law under the instruction of the Hon. Samuel A. Lowe of Hagerstown, Maryland, afterwards the governor of the State. He remained there until 1848, when he became a citizen of Gallatin, and Daviess County.

Having been admitted to the bar he practiced his profession, and in June, 1855, was appointed prosecuting attorney of Daviess County, at a salary of $100 a year, payable in quarterly installments. Mr. McFerran held many offices of trust, and was for a number of years county commissioner, and, also, superintendent of public buildings.

In 1856 he was elected to the legislature, serving one term, when, in 1858, he was elected to the State Senate. In this latter position he attended but one session, when he resigned, having been elected judge for the judicial circuit composed of the counties of Worth, DeKalb, Harrison, Daviess and Livingston, in the year 1859, which he held for a full term of six years, acquitting himself with honor, and the good will of the bar for the prompt manner he conducted the business of the court, and the justness of his decisions. Mr. McFerran’s competitor for the judgeship was William Y. Slack, a prominent attorney of Livingston County, and for a long time circuit attorney of this judicial district. Col. Slack became, in the Civil War between the States which soon commenced, a volunteer on the Confederate side, and rose to the rank of Brigadier-General for gallant service. He was killed at the battle of Pea Ridge. In the election to the several offices above named, Mr. McFerran was elected as a Democrat.

In April, 1862, Mr. McFerran organized the First Cavalry Regiment of Missouri State Militia, and received his commission as colonel April 9, 1862. Alexander M. Woolfork of Livingston County, being lieutenant-colonel of the regiment. The company continued in the service under the command of Colonel McFerran until the close of the war, and was honorably discharged. Colonel McFerran then returned to Gallatin, and took up his residence. Previous to the war, he was engaged for a few years in the mercantile business, his partner being Jonathan E. Mann, the style of the firm being Mann & McFerran.

Soon after his return from the war, in 1865, Colonel McFerran went into the banking business, organizing the Daviess County Saving Association, yet a prominent banking institution, and of which he remained president until 1879. In 1867, however, Colonel McFerran removed to Chillicothe, in Livingston County, Missouri, where he was instrumental in organizing the People’s Saving Bank, of that city; and was elected president, which position he held until he retired in 1873. During all these years he was in the active practice of the law.

In 1873, Colonel McFerran concluded to make his home at Colorado Springs, Colorado, and removed to that place the same year. He is still a resident of that city and engaged in the banking business, having established the well-known People’s Bank, of that flourishing city. He visits often his old home, Gallatin, where he is greeted by his numerous friends most cordially. Colonel. McFerran is of fine personal appearance, being over six feet in height and of large frame. He is in the sixty-third year of his age and in good health. In 1854 he married Miss Emily Lewis, of Gallatin, by whom he has three children, daughters: Blanche, wife of George W. Trimble, of Denver, Colorado; Estelle, wife of Absalom Y. Hunter* of Leadville, Colorado: and Maud who is living with her parents. Colonel McFerran is at this time a member of El Paso Lodge No. __,, A. F. & A. M., of Colorado Springs, Colorado.


—  from The 1882 HISTORY OF DAVIESS COUNTY, pp. 550-551.
(other references on pages 214, 272, 275, 311, 494, 486, 488, 528, 556, 566)