Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Christmas 2007

Dear Family and Friends,

Greetings! It is this time of year again! The decades just seem to run together. We hope your year was happy, safe and fruitful. Here is our latest news…

Spring break in March took us to Virginia and Hank’s folks. We toured the US Capitol with a staffer from our Congressman, visited Chinatown and became separated half-a-dozen times in the Smithsonian. We managed a romantic getaway (for 2) in mid-week to Strasburg in the Shenandoah Valley.

Rachel is a teenager – turning 13 on June 15. She is in 8th grade at Thomas Jefferson Junior High (interestingly, Jefferson is well-represented in Missouri, not quite as much as Lewis and Clark, though). She stays busy throughout the school year with soccer, band and church youth group. Despite Hank’s tutoring she manages to do well in honors Algebra and shop and make the honor roll. She plays the piano and is playing baritone in the marching band which marched downtown in the MU and local high school homecoming parades and the Christmas parade. She plays in the city’s under-16 soccer league. Hank coached the team this year and Rachel was the leading goal-scorer. Luckily the team had great defense ;)

In July we vacationed at Cape Hatteras on the Outer Banks of North Carolina with Hank’s family. The surfing was good and the food was excellent. We celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary there on July 20th.

Jessica turned 9 on October 1. She is in 3rd grade at Rock Bridge Elementary. Her teacher does a great job with Jessica’s energy and temperament. Jessica played ‘up’ a league in soccer, in the 4th-6th grade league in Upward soccer. The field is longer and the action a bit more intense.

Mary’s father, Richard, celebrated his 80th birthday on October 2nd. Friends and relatives congregated for a shindig at the local winery. He is doing well within the limits of Parkinson’s and a small stroke he had in November and with the help of Mary’s mom, Sue. They are always up on the latest Wisconsin Badger and Green Bay Packer sports news.

Hank’s mom, Elise, broke her kneecap in October. After a month in a brace, she is into physical therapy, which sounds good for all of her, not just the knee ;) Hank’s father, Chuck/Charlie/Charles (depending on whose phoning) gets out on the golf course, into the ledgers and onto the church landscape. He and Hank give each other golf lessons during every visit. Eventually, they’ll improve.

Mary works MWF at the University‘s Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders adding numerous publications to her CV. Hank is working at the University computer department providing e-mail to the students, paychecks to the faculty and football for the alumni (well two out of three anyway).

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Mary, Hank, Rachel and Jessica

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Springfield re-re-re-taken

After his victory at Lexington, Price leisurely marched his men southward through the mostly pro-Southern tier of Missouri’s western border counties. The march’s lack of resistance gave Union general, and department head, John C. Fremont cause for grief, mostly in the person of his political nemesis, Frank Blair, and the powerful New York newspapers.

Fremont yearned for a smashing military victory. He began moving his 5 divisions of 40,000 men south and west to intercept Price’s 12,000. Hunter’s division went to Versailles; Pope’s to Boonville; Sigel’s to Sedalia; Asboth to Tipton and McKinstry to Syracuse. Senator-General Jim Lane had another 5,000 in western Missouri.

Price had easily pushed Lane’s force aside in his northern movement to Lexington. Since then, Lane had captured supplies, burned Osceola and executed men accused as secessionist traitors while hoping for some measure of revenge to assuage his wounded pride.

The converging northern force had plenty of men to confront Price, but except for the foreign generals Sigel and Asboth, all the others were working to cross-purposes of personal ambition.
Moving ever southward, replacing burned bridges along the way, Fremont’s columns finally converged just south of ruined Osceola and moved toward Springfield where the rump rebel legislature was said to be in session.

On October 24th, Fremont sent his elite ‘Jesse Fremont guard’, commanded by Hungarian Major Charles Zagoni, to capture the assembly. Zagoni lead his 350 men west of Springfied and then in toward the town. Meeting resistance just a quarter mile from the town limits, Zagoni formed ad charged ahead. A solid rank of Confederates fired a volley and then gave way. Zagoni’s men galloped into vacated Springfield, raised their banner at the courthouse and found no evidence of the rump legislature after an eighty-five mile ride and five-minute skirmish. On the anniversary of Balaclava, Zagoni declared his men heirs to the Light Brigade. Two days later Fremont’s main force entered Springfield.

Despite Frmont's heroic dispatches announcing Springfield’s capture as a tonic for Bull Run, Wilson’s Creek, Lexington and Ball’s Bluff, President Lincoln was unimpressed. Price had scampered back into Arkansas, ready for further resistance. On November 2d, the aged David Hunter temporarily replaced Fremont. Hunter, feeling overextended 125 miles from the Rolla railhead, ordered a withdrawal to that point and Sedalia.

Volunteer officers proposed the ‘Lane treatment’ – leave a US flag flying in each town and if it came down their town would be burned at the next opportunity. Fortunately, the regular officers could not accept such harsh medicine. For the fourth time in 1861, citizens of southwest Missouri saw their country change hands but the seesaw state of affairs was gaining traction with the upper echelons in both Washington and Richmond.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Sterling Price

Sterling Price was born in Virginia in 1809. He studied law at Hampden-Sydney and moved with his family to Missouri in 1831.

Price prospered as a tobacco planter and served in the legislature from 1836-1838 and for four more years beginning in 1840 as speaker of the general assembly. In 1844 he was elected to the US Congress, served for 2 years and resigned to become colonel of the Second Regiment, Missouri Mounted Volunteer Cavalry in the war with Mexico. He advanced to Brigadier General and was appointed military governor of Chihuahua. Returning to Missouri he was elected governor in 1852.

A conditional Unionist, he was elected presiding officer of the Missouri State Convention which voted against secession. "Old Pap" threw his lot with the South after Fort Sumter and Lincoln's call for troops.

He was given command of the Missouri State Guard and lead them, first in retreat, then to victory at Wilson's Creek and a successful campaign resulting in the capture of a 3300-man federal force at Lexington. Price's force was then mostly incorporated into the Confederate army and saw action east of the Mississippi. From 1862 on, as a Confederate Major General, he suffered defeats as both a subordinate and a commander at Iuka and Corinth in Mississippi and Helena Arkansas.

His raid across Missouri in 1864 left him in retreat in Texas and Arkansas. He expatriated himself for a brief time in Mexico but returned to Missouri where he died in St. Louis in 1867 from chronic dysentery contracted during the Mexican War.

Nathanial Lyon

Nathanial Lyon was born in Ashford Connecticut in 1818 and graduated 11th in his class from West Point in 1841. Assigned to the 2nd Infantry he fought in the Seminole Wars and the Mexican War. After the war, Lyon participated in the controversial ' Clear Lake Massacre' in California and was reassigned to Fort Riley Kansas where he was accused of hounding an enlisted man to death.

'Bleeding Kansas' turned Lyon into a fanatical abolitionist, writing "It is no longer useful to appeal to reason, but to the sword.". Lyon transferred to St. Louis, used his friendship with the powerful Blair family to gain command of the St. Louis arsenal and captured pro-secessionist Missouri troops at camp Jackson outside of the city. Marching the captives back through the city, fighting broke out and over 100 people were killed or wounded.

Promoted to Brigadier General Lyon was given command of all Union troops in Missouri and began pursuing Governor Claiborne Fox Jackson's forces across the state which he defeated at Boonville and chased southwest past Springfield. Meeting a combined force of Missouri State Guard and regular Confederate forces at Wilson's Creek, Lyon was killed on August 10, 1861. Lyon's quick, perhaps rash, action in the early days of the war neutralized Confederate ambitions in Missouri, allowed Union forces to dominate the state and laid the groundwork for the bloody guerilla war for the next 3½ years.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Lexington - the battle of the hemp bales

After the battle of Wilson's Creek on August 10, 1861, General Sterling Price slowly marchs the Missouri State Guard north. At Dry Wood Creek he brushs aside Kansas militia lead by Jims Lane and Montgomery. His destination is Lexington, the wealthy little town on the Missouri River that had served as an embarkation point for border ruffians during the days of bleeding Kansas.

Lexington contains a Masonic college, large houses, a columned courthouse and sturdy bank filled with gold. It also bases a Union force of about 2800 men lead by Colonel James A. Mulligan.

Alerted to Price's advance, Mulligan was ordered from Jefferson City by John C. Fremont, head of the Department of the West. Mulligan moved slowly west searching for Price's vanguard. After 9 days, he arrived in Lexington and was joined by Colonel Thomas A. Marshall with a regiment of Illinois cavalry and 350 Missouri militia. Other forces commanded by John Pope and Samuel Sturgis are on the way.

On September 11, Price's lead regiments appears in front of Lexington. After being chased southwest across Missouri, winning a skirmish at Carthage and the battle of Wilson's Creek and marching north, the Missouri State Guard is a veteran, disciplined, if not a crack, force of 12,000.

Price camps on the fairgrounds, deploys the Guard's 16 artillery pieces and exchanges rounds with Mulligan's 5 cannon. As more Guard regiments arrive, the federal position is slowly surrounded. Mulligan, already low on food, depends on the river for his water supply.

On the 18th, Price's extends a skirmish line along the river bank, cutting the Union troops off from the water and completely encircling them. Their entrenchments on the college's high ground are yet formidable.

Price's men capture a three-story hospital building . Realizing it provides an excellent view into his position, Mulligan launches a counter-attack and retakes it. A Confederate counter-counter-attack secures the position for good and denies the federals their desparately needed water supply in the scorching weather.

On the 19th, Price tightens his lines and continues a slow exchange of artillery. The heat and lack of water in the defending camp are his allies.

The well-protected US position must be approached across open fields. Discovering a warehouse full of large hemp bales in the town on the 20th, Price has them carted to the river, soaked and then brought to the front line. Soon a long movable breastwork moves is levered toward the Union line from the west. The slow, steady advance is sometimes interrupted as a cannon ball sends a hemp bale tumbling, but the soaked bales stop a bullet and refuse to burn. A brief, hand-to-hand attack from the defenses fails to halt the Guard's advance.

Hungry, and now thirsty, a number of defenders show the white flag. Mulligan refuses to acknowledge them. Finally, he calls for a vote of his officers - they vote 4-2 to surrender.

On September 20, the Union forces stack arms and march out of their trenches. Prics allows them to keep their side arms, personal property and horses. Price hosts Mulligan and his officers at a champagne dinner that evening, and toasts their valor.

Price captures 1000 horses, 100 wagons, 5 cannon and 3000 muskets which aid in supplying his troops. Pope and Sturgis, in separate columns are less than 15 miles away and unaware of Mulligan's predicament.

Price's Missouri State Guard lost about 100 killed and wounded; in addition to the captured, Mulligan counted 160 battle losses.

On the heels of the debacle in the east at Bull Run, and the Confederate victory and death of General Lyon at Wilson's Creek, the battle of Lexington and the loss of some 3300 men was another blow to the Union cause.

End note: The Lexington courthouse still contains an artillery shell fragment in it's portico.

End note: Col. Mulligan was exchanged in October, returned to Chicago and received as a hero. Given command of the 23rd Illinois and charge of Camp Douglas, a prisoner-of-war camp, he reformed the poor management system at the camp and granted the prisoners much more humane treatment than had his predecessor.

In June 1962, he and his regiment moved to Maryland for field service and played a small role at Antietam. Ordered to western Virginia they spent two years warding off guerilla raids, ambushes, and night attacks.

In July 1864 the 23rd moved into the Valley of Virginia. They helped turn back Confederate General Jubal Early's attack on Washington. Fighting under General Philip Sheridan, the 23rd met Early's troops at Winchester.

Here Colonel Mulligan was shot from his horse, and when his men offered to carry him from the field, he rebuked, "Lay me down and save the flag!" He was captured where he fell and died two days later in Confederate hands. The position of his fatal wounding is now marked on the battlefield.