E.F. Ware Memoir, from American Heritage Magazine, Fall 2011

E.F. Ware Memoir


Secessionists and Unionists both claimed the border state of Missouri, although the state had refused to secede. Three significant clashes took place there in mid-1861, the bloodiest of them occurring on August 10 near Springfield. Brig. Gen. Nathaniel Lyon split his 5,400 Union force, one column attacking 11,000 Confederates under Gen. Ben McCulloch and Maj. Gen. Sterling Price from the north, the other from the south. Harness maker and 1st Iowa Infantry private E. F. Ware described the action.


In a short time as it began to grow a little light we heard a gun fire. In a short time two or three more. Then some regular troops were detailed as skirmishers, and circled around to our left. In a short time we found that the enemy were alive and active. Our regiment was ordered to go in a direction to the left, and to take a position on a low ridge; the enemy in straggling numbers were shooting at us from the ridge. The skirmishers fell back. As we marched up the hill, it came in my way to step over one of the skirmishers who was shot right in front of us. He was a blue-eyed, blonde, fine-looking young man, with a light mustache, who writhed around upon the ground in agony. While I was walking past, I asked him where he was shot, but he seemed unable to comprehend or answer, and perhaps in the noise heard nothing. As we started up the ridge a yell broke from our lines that was kept up with more or less accent and with slight intermissions for six hours. We took a position on the ridge, and the country seemed alive on both our right and left. Wilson’s creek was in our front, with an easy descending hillside and a broad meadow before us, in which about five acres of Confederate wagons were parked, axle to axle. The hills bore some scattering oaks, and an occasional bush, but we could see clearly, because the fires had kept the undergrowth eaten out, and the soil was flinty and poor. Since that time a large portion of the country has been covered with a very dense thicket of small oaks. But in those days the few trees were rather large, scrawling, and straggling, and everything could be distinctly seen under them all around. Across the creek, which was not very far, perhaps about a third of a mile, a battery of artillery made a specialty of our ranks, opening out thunderously. We all lay down on the ground, and for some time the shells, round shot and canister were playing ?closely over our heads. Some few of the canister fell into our ranks. They were coarse cast-iron balls, about an inch to an inch and a half in diameter. Where they struck in the ground the boys hunted for them with their hands. The shells were shrapnels, being filled with leaden balls run together with sulphur. Our company did not have much to do for a while in the way of shooting; we simply laid down on the ridge and watched the battery in front of us.


From The Lyon Campaign in Missouri by E. F. Ware (Crane & Company 1907).

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