Numbers 5. Reports of Brigadier General M. Jeff. Thompson, Missouri State Guard (Confederate), of skirmish at Charleston, with order arresting Confederate commander.
HDQRS. FIRST MILITARY DISTRICT, MO. S. G.,
Camp Benton, Mo., August 21, 1861-9 a.m.
DEAR GENERAL: Yours of yesterday is at hand, and I will try to keep my men in hand as much as possible. If you will allow me to suggest, I would that it would be very impossible to send any of the wagons back from the troops here. We are within 8 miles of where the enemy can land 10,000 troops at any moment, and, with cavalry, attack us on thirty minutes' warning. I am disposed, by vigilance and impudence, to keep the enemy from knowing our weakness, but I am always prepared to retreat if he should discover his strength and march on me.
That unfortunate affair at Charleston shows the danger of giving them time to count our numbers. If Colonel Hunter had advanced only far enough to march back to his camp after driving in their pickets, the object and order would have been accomplished; but he reached Charleston at 10 a.m., remained there all day and night, within a few hours' march of an overwhelming force. I have placed him under arrest, and will see that my brave boys shall have more sensible and brave leaders.
M. JEFF. THOMPSON,
Brigadier General GIDEON J. PILLOW, C. S. A.,
Commanding Army of Liberation, New Madrid, Mo.
CAMP BENTON, MO., August 21, 1861-2 p.m.
DEAR GENERAL: I send you another letter from General Pillow, which he directed me to read. If the general delays his movements much longer the enemy will find our real strength and position, and can, by the number of steamboats at his command, drop on us any night with an overwhelming force at some point in our rear. Each available point on the river should be taken as we advance and navigation cut off, and Gape Girardeau should be taken by a coup de main. I stopped the navigation of the Mississippi for ten days, by going to Commerce and firing four shots across into Illinois; and if I were only allowed to make my appearance at different and unexpected places, I could effectually stop all steamboats except the gunboats.
My officer acted miserably at Charleston yesterday. The enemy attacked them suddenly. My men fell in like veterans, and drove them away, when the colonel took them out of the field and retreated with them, when nearly every man thought he was charging the enemy. The other officers have made formal complaints against him, and the men refused to serve under him longer. I have ordered him under arrest. Colonel McCown, with two regiments of infantry, a battery of artillery, and four companies of cavalry, are within four miles of me; but still I am in great danger, unless allowed to keep hitting at the enemy.
M. JEFF. THOMPSON,
Brigadier General W. J. HARDEE, C. S. A., Greenville, Mo.