Rural Missouri - September 2012 - (Page 24)
Battle of newtonia ~ Sept. 30, 1862
American Indians ﬁght on both sides in southwest Mo.
by Jim Denny firstname.lastname@example.org
Closing the gateway
and a prolonged summer drought had starved the surrounding country. There were rich pickings in southwest Missouri, however. Hindman determined to enter Missouri to feed his army and maybe try t was nearing the end of September 1862, a to capture Springﬁeld or another important Federal little more than a year after the Battle of Wilstronghold. son’s Creek in southwest Missouri. Here on the By early September, he began to move soldiers western extreme of the Confederacy, rolling into the southwest Missouri breadbasket. A particutablelands skirted the rugged Ozarks from northwest larly rich area encompassed Newtonia, where a mill Arkansas into southwest Missouri, creating a gateexisted to grind the abundant harvest way for invasion. into ﬂour and cornmeal. Before the Gen. Samuel Curtis had closed this end of the month, 4,000 Confederates gateway in the spring of 1862, when he were at work in the vicinity, busily drove out Confederate generals Sterling grinding meal and mining badly needPrice and Earl Van Dorn. But now, six ed lead ore at nearby Granby. months later, it was open again, and At this critical juncture, Hindman rebel armies were starting to re-enter was ordered back to Little Rock. His Missouri. leadership would be sorely missed in The Union high command was the weeks to come. The clash at Newdetermined to halt this incursion tonia demonstrated just how quickly before it blossomed into a full-blown his territorial gains could come unravinvasion. A battle was inevitable, eled in his absence. Hindman explicitbut no one had planned for this ﬁrst ly ordered his successor, Gen. James S. battle to be fought in the tiny town of Rains, not to bring on a major conﬂict. Newtonia. The Union forces at NewVirtually identical orders were tonia managed to blunder into given to Federal forces operatan inglorious and unnecessary Jim Denny, a Co-Mo Electric member ing out of Fort Scott, Kan., and defeat that gave the rebels a vicfrom Lupus, brings the state’s Civil War Springﬁeld. Leaders in the Union tory in an otherwise bleak year history to life in Rural Missouri as we high command were aware for the Arkansas Confederacy. commemorate the sesquicentennial of that Confederate forces were That sizable contingents of this time in our nation’s history. Order Confederates, unopposed by Jim’s book, “The Civil War’s First Blood,” in Missouri and seemed to be on the move. Perhaps invasion Federal forces, were even able online at www.ruralmissouri.coop. was imminent. It would take to make their way to Newtonia the generals — James Blunt in Fort Scott and John in late September was a remarkable happenstance. Schoﬁeld in Springﬁeld — a few days to concentrate Just weeks earlier, Arkansas had nothing by way of their scattered forces and take the ﬁeld against Hindmilitary supplies or soldiers (Van Dorn and Price had man’s army. spirited them all across the Mississippi). Northwest Arkansas and the adjoining Indian Territory (today’s Oklahoma) were stripped bare of crops, forage and foodstuffs by the marauding armies of Curtis and other Federals, who then withdrew from the region. Into this desolate scene, in late May, stepped one of the genuine miracle workers of the Civil War, Maj. Gen. Thomas Hindman. “Nothing escaped his vigilance and his energy. Resources, arms, supplies and army sprang into being almost by the magic of his will,” said one admirer. A month and half after his arrival, a roughshod Confederate army 20,000 strong had taken shape in northwest Arkansas. Thousands of these soldiers were Missourians brought back by recruiters who Hindman had dispatched a few weeks earlier. They were joined by several Texas regiments, many Arkansas volunteers and, in some cases, conscripts. Many in this multicultural mix came from Indian Territory, attracted to the Confederacy by longstanding grievances or tribal afﬁliation. With these makeshift forces, Hindman was in nominal military control of northwest Arkansas. Now that he had his army, artwork courtesy of the Newtonia Battleﬁelds Protection Association Hindman needed to feed it. He could not stay where he was, Fort Missouri artist Doug Hall depicts the Battle of Newtonia, likely the only Indian-against-Indian battle in the Civil War outside of Indian TerriSmith, Ark., because pillaging tory. The Matthew Ritchey Mansion, seen in the background, still stands today and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In the meantime, Federal patrols were kept busy trying to locate the enemy. On Sept. 30, Lt. Col. Arthur Jacobi pulled up north of Newtonia at the head of troops from Kansas, Wisconsin and a detachment of the Third Indian Home Guard. Newtonia was defended by a Texas regiment and the First Cherokee Regiment from Indian Territory. The numbers on the opposing sides seemed roughly even, so Jacobi ordered a full-scale attack spearheaded by the 9th Wisconsin Infantry. A ﬁerce battle ensued that raged all the way to the stone walls and fences of the Matthew Ritchey farmstead on the edge of Newtonia. At this point, the fatal ﬂaw in Jacobi’s ill-advised decision to attack was revealed. Pounding toward Newtonia were reinforcements from Camp Coffee, just two miles south of Newtonia, where 4,000 Confederate soldiers were bivouacked. The ﬁrst Confederates to reach the stranded Wisconsin infantry, riding at full gallop, were a regiment of Choctaws and Cherokee, whooping and singing war songs. A Texas Cavalry regiment smashed into the exposed Federal right ﬂank, while Missouri horsemen from Col. Joseph Shelby’s brigade swarmed around the left ﬂank of the collapsing Federal position. The doomed 9th Wisconsin was annihilated; four whole companies were lost to death or capture. That afternoon, the relief brigade of Brig. Gen. Frederick Salomon arrived to salvage the Union disaster. Salomon did little by way of mounting a full-ﬂedged attack against the Confederates. The brunt of the ﬁghting that occurred during the rest of the day was carried out by the Third Indian Home Guard, who beat back a charge by Missouri cavalry and then grappled in a desperate struggle at close quarters against Confederate Choctaw and Cherokee regiments, probably the only Indian-against-Indian battle in the Civil War outside Indian Territory. As the Confederates gathered for a ﬁnal charge, Gen. Salomon gave the order to retreat. Five days later, the Federals were back before Newtonia. This time, the Confederates faced three full enemy divisions. An artillery barrage soon broke up Camp Coffee. Acting commander Rains ordered all Confederate forces back into northwest Arkansas. Missouri had been handed back to Federal control, and if the gateway was not yet closed, the lid to the breadbasket was. The winter was going to be a lot leaner for Hindman’s Confederates trying to subsist north of the Arkansas River.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - September 2012
Rural Missouri - September 2012
Table of Contents
Where the wild things are
Hit the trail
Plowing forward with a new tradition
Out of the Way Eats
Hearth and Home
Closing the gateway
A man & his monsters
Rural Missouri - September 2012