War of the Rebellion: Serial 003 Page 0219 Chapter X. SKIRMISHERS NEAR CLINTONVILLE, MO., ETC.

Search Civil War Official Records

cut off retreat southward and to attack the camps on the south side, while I, with the other half, would have crossed the bridge, attacked the enemy on the flank, and marched up the road to the town. When it is remembered that Colonel Plumme, with 1,500 men, arrived at Fredericktown between 9 and 10 o'clock of the 20th from the southeast, and that a retreat northward was impossible, it is evident that Thompson's whole army would have been captured if my plan had not been thwarted. Marching all night, excepting such halts as were necessary to prevent a too early arrival at Fredericktown, I arrived at the usual picket stations of the enemy, but found them deserted. I proceeded on cautiously to the bridge, but still saw no enemy. I entered the town, and to my great surprise and annoyance I found that at 2 o'clock on the 20th the enemy had marched farther south on the Greenville road. This sudden move, which seemed to make my expedition fruitless, was caused by the unfortunate circumstance reported by Colonel Plummer, viz, he had sent a dispatch for me directly through the enemy's camp, which gave them information of our movement, and of course deranged all my plans. Having arranged for a surprise, I took only two days' rations in haversacks and five ambulance wagons, and was not prepared for pursuit, having my provision train laden, but order not to start till further orders.

The above statement explains why Thompson's army was not captured. Colonel Plumme having provisions in abundance, I gave hi a portion of my command to take in pursuit, intending to wait for my supply train before starting myself. About three-fourths of a mile south of the town, as stated by Colonel Plummer, his advance guard discovered the enemy, and he brought on the action, and I sent orders to all the troops by his staff officers, both my command and his, but he sent no message to me, though he knew I was his senior as a volunteer colonel, even of his rank had any effect, having been appointed by General Fremont.

Heaving the cannonading, Immediately gave orders to all the troops in town to march to the battle-field, except the Eighth Wisconsin and two 24-pounder howitzers, which were to remain to hold the town and as a reserve, and then proceeded as rapidly as possible to the point where the battle was progressing. Finding that Colonel Plummer had sent orders to all the troops, that he seemed determined not to respect my rights but to hold command, and caring more for success to our cause than for the honors of command, I withdrew to my own regiment, having first placed that on the left to guard against a flank movement of the enemy. After the enemy had given way on the left I marched with my regiment on his trail till I reached the main rod, which I crossed into the field on the field on the right, when we found the enemy had made a stand with his artillery, supported by infantry. He soon fled on south, followed by my regiment as well as nearly al our forces, who had then crowded into the road. It was here, about 3 miles from the town, where our pursuit ceased, and where Colonel C. C. Marsh, of the Twentieth Illinois, very irrelevantly and untruly says, "Colonel Carlin, Thirty-eighth Illinois Volunteers, came up with not more than two companies of his regiment." Not only my regiment, but the Thirty-third Illinois and First Indiana Cavalry, were as near me as the crowded state of the road would permit. On my return from the pursuit I met Colonel Plummer and staff going south. Considering the great forbearance I had shown towards him, I was prepared to receive a positive order from him, which, however, he did give, to wit: to go with my regiment to the right on an old road for a mile or more, to see if the