A brisk fire of artillery and some skirmishing among the cavalry ensued, and continued until about 8 o'clock, when the enemy withdrew, and, as we soon learned, took a circuitous route toward Hartville. Our forces immediately started for the same point. We took 30 or 40 prisoners in this engagement, from whom we learned that Marmaduke had with him something over 5,000 men, having been joined by Porter and Greene since his attack on Springfield.
Both armies arrived at Hartville at the same time (a little before 11 a. m.), and took positions on opposite sides of the town. Our line formed the arc of a circle, close to the place, on the brow of a row of hills, sheltered by underbrush and small trees. The Twenty-first Iowa Infantry occupied the center, and Ninety-ninth Illinois the right, and dismounted Third Iowa Cavalry and Third Missouri Cavalry the left. Our artillery, Lieutenant Waldschmidt commanding, opened on the enemy immediately with shell. When he had fired a few rounds, the rebels commenced replying briskly. In a few moments their cavalry dismounted and charged upon us along our whole line, but, receiving repeated and heavy volleys from our forces, they gave way and fled to the other side of the town, leaving many dead and wounded behind them. Fresh troops came to their aid, and they again charged upon us in force, and were each time handsomely repulsed with great loss on their part. In one instance they charged upon our artillery, in heavy force, with mounted cavalry, but were driven back in confusion by the cross-fire of the Ninety-ninth Illinois and Twenty-first Iowa Infantry. Charges were repeatedly made, and as often repulsed, and a heavy and destructive fire of artillery and musketry maintained until about the middle of the afternoon, our troops having manifestly the best of the fight.
Finding that the town was full of rebel sharpshooters, who were very annoying to us, I sent a request to Colonel Merrill to have the artillery turned upon them. Not being able to find him, I ordered Lieutenant Waldschmidt to shell the town, and clear the court-house and other places of rebels. He immediately turned his pieces upon the town with good effect, but, after firing a few shots, retired from his position. About the same time firing ceased on both my right and left, and, supposing that a strategic movement was going on, I increased the force of my fire, in order to attract the attention of the rebels while the other commands changed their positions. In about half an hour, not hearing anything from our troops, I sent men out to look for them, who soon returned and reported that our forces had all left the field. In what direction they had gone I could not ascertain.
Finding myself deserted and without orders (I had received no orders and seen no commanding officer since I got into position in the forenoon), I determined to hold my position, at least until dark, in order to conceal from the enemy the absence of most of our forces and keep him ignorant of my own weakness. I had only 250 men of the Twenty-first Iowa. I threw squads of men to the right and left, with orders to maintain rapid firing. After this they charged upon our front three times, in one instance coming up in four ranks, and were every time repulsed, thrice at the point of the bayonet. A continued running fire was carried on between the charges.
Half an hour before sundown, much to our satisfaction, the enemy commenced falling back and retreating over the opposite hills in a southerly direction. They were so near that we could distinctly hear the orders of their officers and see every movement. They began to move off rapidly; seeing which I increased my fire, in order, as much as possible, to hurry their retreat. By sundown their whole army was in full