Eyewitness Account of Battle

Copy of letter written August 3, 1861, by A. Warner, a resident of Monroe City, to his nephew in Ohio.

Mr. S. C. Warner Unionville, OH

Monroe, August 3, 1861

Dear Stephen:

Since my last letter to you startling events have occurred here. Our place here seemed destined at one time to be­come one of the seats of war in Missouri. We have heard the roar of the cannon, the whistling of the balls, and have seen the smoke of cannon brought to bear in hostile array by brethren against each other — almost a bloodless battle. God grant that we may not witness the like again.

On the night of July 8th, Col. Smith of the 16th regiment of Illinois volunteers arrived at this place with about six hun­dred men for the purpose of breaking up an encampment of Secessionists under the command of Gen. Tom Harris, en­camped about twelve or fifteen miles south of this place. A heavy rain pre­vented their forward movement until the next morning when about nine miles from this place they were ambushed and fired into. They brought their cannon to bear upon the enemy and soon disposed of them. The federal troops had three wounded, none killed; the Secessionists reported none killed, one wounded. The federal troops retreated into the open prairie and encamped for the night. I will, however, say before proceeding fur­ther that this execution of the federal troops was inadvised, ill-planned, and badly executed. They landed here in eighteen cars and went off on their expedition, leaving them without guard.

The 9th passed quietly at this place, but as I left the depot late in the evening my suspicions were somewhat aroused from seeing some armed men passing about and from some threats which I heard with regard to a sick soldier whom they had left here; consequently I tele­graphed to the commander at Hannibal to send a guard to protect the property here. He had no men that he could spare but sent a train to Palmyra, requesting the commander there to send a guard. But he was in the same predicament, ex­pecting an attack and no men to spare. When morning came was grateful to find all right, no depredations having been committed, and went to the wheat field with my boys stacking wheat.

You may well judge my astonishment and dismay when about nine o’clock I saw the black smoke arising from the depot, and in a few moments the whole building together with the eighteen cars and the carpenter shop wrapped in flames. I ordered my boys to jump on their horses and go to help to keep the fire from spreading to other buildings. I came by the house and was about to pro­ceed to the village when my niece, Mrs. Van Swearingen, drove up in great haste, saying that her husband had sent her down to beg me not to come by any means. They had shot a man by the name of Hodgkiss and swore they would kilt every man that came about. They were perfectly frantic. I thought that prudence was the better part of valor and remained at home.

A company of twenty-five men was headed by Capt. John L. Owen, a wealthy farmer living about six miles from the depot, who had organized under the military law and raised a company of ‘some fifty or sixty men. Everybody was sur­prised that he should commit such an act. Men who were present, both Union and Secessionists, tried to dissuade him from it, but no, he said he had his orders and was bound to do it. And dearly has he paid for it, for the next day his resi­dence with all its contents was burned by the federal troops and his stock driven off. The burning of his home was wrong and not approved of by the commanding officers.

After setting fire to the depot the company went out to meet the returning troops which were now three or four miles distant, but one or two shots from their field piece disposed of them. The federal troops marched in and took pos­session of our seminary, occupied by the Messrs. Comings, principals of the school, and commenced throwing up fortifications. The Secessionists were hovering about and an attack was expected at night. Word came that they had three or four cannon. People in the village were much alarmed. Van Swearingen and family and the Comings and others came to my house to get out of the way of the cannon balls. My kitchen, servants’ house, and stable were filled with Irish­men, women and children. The night passed off without an attack. Early in the morning the Secessionist troops be­gan to assemble. The whole prairie seem­ed to be alive with them. About two o’clock the cannonading commenced by the Secessionist and at long intervals replied to by the federal troops. At this time things looked very squally. The federal troops were nearly out of ammunition. The Secessionists had torn up the road and destroyed culverts in order to prevent reinforcements. Telegraph destroyed so that no information could be obtained. But to our great joy about four o’clock the cannon was heard in the distance, reinforcements were coming; but as they had the road to repair it seemed a long time before they hove in sight. And when they did appear such scampering was never before seen. They went in all directions, leaving the man who hauled their cannon alone to hitch his horse and bring it off. We call it the “battle of the spurs.” They fired twenty-three rounds at the seminary building, only three of which took effect, the building not ma­terially injured by them.

We had a fine view of the whole skir­mish. The seminary building is hardly three-fourths of a mile from our house. The Secessionists’ cannon was about the same distance from us. From the roof of our porch we could see the whole of the affair and the whole surrounding country, which was black with men and horses, sup­posed to be about 2,000. If they had had a good commander and better arms and better courage they might have taken the federal troops. I am sorry to say that the federal troops behaved very badly here. Many families through rear had left their homes. All such were robbed of everything that they could carry off, furniture broken up, etc. Some families who were at home, supposed to be Seces­sionists, also suffered much. 1-Hennenies and pigstys were robbed. Both Union and Secesstonists have suffered very much. I have a colored boy who is a shoemaker. They robbed his shop of all that was worth carrying off. I was, however, for­tunate enough to have taken out most of the boots and shoes the day they came in for fear of accidents. They stole nothing from my farm or residence, and in all instances when they came to my house behaved very well.

Missouri is in a most deplorable con­dition. It is said that our Secessionist governor said he would take Missouri out of the Union or he would take her to hell. If hell is a condition instead of place he has been successful in taking her to the latter place.

Our state convention recently in ses­sion has deposed the governor, the lieutenant governor, anti secretary or state, and appointed a governor, lieu­tenant governor, and secretary of state pro tern, their acts to be submitted to a vote of the people on the first of No­vember next. The men appointed to fill the above named offices are all good Union men and many the best men of the state. How this thing will operate as yet it is impossible to tell. We all hope for the best.

We expected you had heard a very exaggerated account of the engagement here and thought I would state to you the facts. I suppose you have heard that many prisoners were taken. Some twenty-five or thirty were brought in at different times, most of whom proved to be Union men, or men who had not the depot has been tried and admitted to bail under $10,000 bond. I would say much about our ruined and distracted country, but time will not permit. Al­though some threats have been made against Union men yet I have never had any fears of being disturbed. I do not believe if I had gone to the depot the day the depot was burned that they would have molested me. The man whom they shot and wounded is an avowed abolitionist and has been accused of tampering with Negroes; at any rate has been very imprudent in his conversation. In this part of the state there seems to be but little ill feeling existing between Secessionists and Union men at present. Should the Secessionists get the upper hand it is hard to say what the result would be. There are many man of des­perate fortunes among them.

I suppose the abolitionists expect to subjugate the South. There will have to be some tall fighting done first. Aboli­tionism and Secessionism I consider twin sisters, although fighting avowedly for a different object. The result of both isms is the same—dissolution of the Union. I am a Union man, but not a black republican. I do not believe in Mr. Lincoln’s administration. I think a dif­ferent policy would have brought about a very different result. War should •have been the last means resorted to, and I am inclined to think that Mr. Lincoln will think so too before he whips the South. I have not time in •this letter to give you my views. I may hereafter say something more upon the subject. Of all the wars in the world, civil wars are the worst. The horrors of this war are too terrible to contemplate.

Yours truly, A Warner.