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.

1 comment:

Vicki said...

Does anyone happen to have the names of the individuals who were executed as secessionist traitors by Lane?