The inhabitants of Commerce have mostly fled to Santa Fe, in Illinois, a village opposite. They are full of stores of wanton and cruel destruction of the property of Union men, killing stock, stealing horses, burning corn fields, destroying household property, robbing women and children of their wearing apparel, and of carrying off young girls to their camp.
The inhabitants of Commerce are earnest in their entreaties that some force may be sent to protect them.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Commander, U. S. Navy.
SAINT LOUIS, August 20, 1861.
Brigadier General B. M. PRENTISS:
SIR: I have this moment received information from Cairo per telegraph that the rebels are moving from Charleston towards Commerce with a force of from 3,000 to 5,000 men. The gunboats are already ordered to Commerce, and cavalry scouts sent upward along the shore to watch the enemy's movements. Asking your attention to these facts, you are directed to detach a force of your command sufficient, in concert with our troops at Cape Girardeau, to prevent the enemy from taking possession of Commerce and interrupting the free navigation of the Mississippi River. I have received no report from you either in relation to your own proceedings or the strength and movement of the enemy, but presume that you have made dispositions to prevent General Hardee's command at Greenvile (reported to be about 7,000 men, 2,000 horses, ten 6-pounders, and two 12-pounders) from co-operating with the rebel forces moving from Charleston.
J. C. FREMONT,
HEADQUARTERS WESTERN DEPARTMENT,
Saint Louis, Mo., August 21, 1861.
Colonel CHESTER HARDING, Jr., Missouri Volunteers:
SIR: You are assigned to the command of the district comprising the western portion of the county of Saint Louis, commencing at Meramec Station, and the counties of franklin, Washington, Jeferson, Gasconade, Osage, and Crawford. Proceed to Pacific Station, on Pacific Railroad, and there establish your headquarters. You are directed to raise for three years' service three or more infantry regimens in those counties, which regiments, with your own, will form a brigade, and to establish one or more camps of instruction at a point or points from which troops can be readily moved to saint Louis, Jefferson City, or Rolla. You are charged with the protection of the railroad, the suppression of all hostile gatherings in the region; but you will not be required to keep a guard upon that portion of the Iron Mountain Railroad which passes through Jefferson and Washington Counties.
The chief quartermaster at Saint Louis will purchase clothing and other stores of his department necessary for your brigade. You are authorized to appoint a brigade staff.
You are directed to organize squadrons of cavalry to be attached to your brigade, the horses as far as practicable to be furnished by the men. A competent cavalry officer will be placed in command of them.
J. C. FREMONT,