January 8, 1862 (Wednesday)
As secessionist Missouri clung to the fading hope that General Price could retake the state, bands of recruits still flooded towards his main body in Springfield. One of the finest recruiting agents was Col. John Poindexter. He and his 800 Rebels, along with a similar number of raw recruits, had encamped along Silver Creek, near Glasgow in Randolph County.
When the Union cavalry made their way through Glasgow the previous day, they learned the general location of Poindexter’s camp. Gathering 500 cavaliers, Major W.G.M. Torrence, of the 1st Iowa Cavalry, moved out from his camp near Fayette early in the morning. After riding fifteen miles north to Roanoke, they continued north, in the direction where the camp was rumored to be.
Around 3pm, four miles from the headwaters of Silver Creek, they encountered Rebel pickets and drove them quickly back to the outskirts of their camp. When the Union troops gathered before the Rebel camp, they could see that Poindexter had selected a fine spot for defense, being protected by thick underbrush and ravines.
Torrence’s Union cavalry came under immediate enemy fire, which they returned promptly. Feeling that they had an advantage, three companies of the 1st Iowa charged the Missourian camp and sent the whole force scattering in a wild panic. Two other companies were ordered to swing towards the back of the camp and cut off the Rebels’ retreat.
The winter dusk fell swiftly over the camp and battlefield, as a thick fog coated the ground. The darkness and muted visibility allowed most of the Rebels to escape.
In making their hasty retreat, the Missouri State Guard left behind blankets, clothes, 160 horses, sixty wagons, 105 tents, 200 guns, fifty kegs of gun powder, and other various accouterments. Losses on both sides were light, each suffering around five killed. As was typical, Torrence exaggerated the number of enemy wounded and dead, reporting that “it cannot be less than 80 to 100.” He did, however, capture twenty-eight prisoners.
With Col. Poindexter and his men sent scampering into the foggy night, Torrence and his command rode twenty-three miles back to their camp. Secessionist recruiting in Randolph County had been stopped.1
Grant Prepares for War
To create a diversion and to keep Confederate troops in Western Tennessee from reinforcing their friends in Eastern Tennessee, General Halleck, commander of the Department of Missouri, had ordered General Ulysses S. Grant to make a demonstration in the direction of Murray, Kentucky, about fifty miles southeast. He was also told to somehow involve Commodore Andrew Foote’s flotilla.
Grant received the dispatch in the morning and by nightfall, he was able to organize the troops, the gunboats and create a plan. While he followed Halleck’s instructions for a diversion to the letter, it is surprising just how ready he was for battle.
First, he would send three gunboats down the Mississippi River, towards the Rebel stronghold of Columbus. An additional pair would cruise up (heading south) the Tennessee River. Some infantry would accompany Foote’s gunships, but the majority would march under General Charles Smith for Mayfield. After being joined by cavalry and two more regiments of infantry, they would threaten Murray and hopefully lead the Rebels to believe that he was about to attack Fort Donelson, near Dover, Tennessee.
To cover his rear, Grant would also cover the ground between Fort Jefferson and Blandville, ensuring that no Rebels would attack from Columbus. Since the rains of the past week had worsened the roads, Grant concluded that he would send two transports full of troops down the Mississippi with the three gunboats.
“This movement will be carried out tomorrow,” wrote Grant to Halleck, who had given Grant no deadline and was, himself, still waiting to hear from General Buell in Kentucky about when to launch the diversion.
Whether it was out of duty, boredom or his own spirit, Grant was almost immediately ready to do battle.2
Davis Chastises Gov. Jackson
President Jefferson Davis’ reply to Missouri’s secessionist governor, Claiborne Fox Jackson, was harsh and to the point. Though he remained the gentleman, the strains of the office, the war and the past year were wearing upon him.
Governor Jackson wrote the President from the comforts of New Orleans, after fleeing his own state. He bitterly complained that even though Missouri was officially a Confederate state, she had been abandoned by Richmond. General Sterling Price, commander of the militia, had begun to transfer his soldiers to the Confederate Army. However, there was no place, as of yet, for him (Price) within that army. Jackson was campaigning for Davis to appoint Price the commander of the Western Department.
In his reply, Davis ignored Jackson’s request concerning Price. In fact, he mentioned him not at all. Jackson had complained of Richmond’s delay, but Davis appeared to not understand what Jackson was talking about. Perhaps, mused Davis, Jackson was complaining about Richmond “not appointing a general before we had troops for him, or in not appointing him to command your militia, and in not having an organized army in your State when you have not furnished to me a regiment; and now when we want muster rolls, to send me only your reasons why the Missouri Volunteers may not be willing to enter the service of the Confederate States and contribute to make up the army which is needed to defend Missouri.”
Davis was also unable to understand how Jackson could complain about Richmond not coming to Missouri’s aid. “You seem only to remember what others have not done,” Davis pointed out, “else in enumerating the privations of your own militia, not mustered into the Confederate service, you would have mentioned the relief afforded to them by the agent of the Confederate Government, sent by me with money to cover more than the objects you and General Atchison originally specified.”
As a final, parting jab, it seems as if Davis could not resist calling Jackson out on his new, cushy home in New Orleans. Davis wrote that he was sending his reply to Memphis rather than to New Orleans “under the expectation that you will return to that place or to Missouri, and take the occasion to renew my request for the tender of any armed troops which you may be able to offer to the Confederate States for the common defense or for the local defense of Missouri.”3