BEHIND EMENY LINES
by Sidney Drake Jackman
Sidney Jackman's account of the Battle of Lone Jack begins with Chapter 13.
The next morning [August 15, 1862] Col. Hunter proceeded to Lone Jack, a distance
of about 15 mile and finding supplies scarce, moved west four miles and went into
camp. Col. Coffee and Tracy, not recognizing Hunter’s authority, encamped in Lone
Jack. The Battle at Independence, have occurred a few days before, had now filled
the country with Federals determined on capturing or driving from the country, the
Confederates engaged in that battle.
Col. Cockrell, on reaching the vicinity of Warrensburg, learned of a large body of
Federals moving in the direction of Lone Jack, and, fearing danger to his command,
came hurriedly back, reaching it at 9 o’clock at night, the 15th. When very soon the
"boom" of artillery was heard back at the town.
And of course, all knew that Coffee and Tracy had been fired upon.
During the evening Col. Hays had joined us with a few hundred men, including Col.
Gid Thompson and Col. Bohannan, two brave and experienced officers. Also twenty
five men of Quantrell’s command under Lieut. Haller, who was killed in September
following. Col. Cockrell formed his command and prepared for battle, expecting
Coffee and Tracy would fall back upon him, pursued by the enemy, who was to
receive a warm welcome. In this, we were disappointed. When Capt. Eph. Allison of
Clinton, Henry County, Missouri, and Capt. Osborne of Jackson County were sent to
reconnoiter the enemy and learn what had become of Coffee and Tracy. In the
meantime, our command was resting on their arms and in line of battle. Allison and
Osborne were prompt in a discharge of this duty, and soon returned, reporting that
Coffee and Tracy had retreated upon a road south of us and that the enemy,
believing they had fired on Hays and Quantrell, who had ran, had now they retired
for the night and was ignorant as to our presence in the country.
Col. Cockrell asked my opinion, as to whether we had better fight or retreat. I urged
strongly, the importance of giving battle and making the attack at daybreak, the next
morning, and gave as reasons, the fatigued condition of our men and horses, as
compared to the enemy, who was fresh and vigorous. With such a force in our rear
and a strong probability of meeting fresh troops pursuing us from the south, retreat
was impossible. Let us fight the enemy in detail. Whip those at hand now, and
others as occasion might require.
He fully concurred in my suggestions and went to consult Hay and others and to
make known his determination. The danger and responsibility, talked about a ways
south, seemed no longer thought of, by him, although painfully visible on every hand.
He seemed every inch a soldier, and I admired him greatly.
I now made a little mid-night speech, to my men and informed them of the decision
and show them the necessity. I insisted that they remember that, that was our
country, the home of our mothers and sisters and wives and children and everything
dear to us, on this earth. We must whip the enemy and hold it, or be whipped and
driven from it. Let us meet them as men. Keep cool. Shoot low. Give these shots,
boys, and the work will be done.
Tracy was now seen approaching from the west. He knew nothing of Coffee. They
had separated in the darkness and Coffee was lost. Cockrell now returned and
informed me of the plan of attack, as agreed upon by him and Hays. It was this: The
command of Hunter, Tracy and myself were to be used as infantry, with Hunter on
the right, I in the center, and Tracy on the left. Those of Hays and Haller were to be
retained as cavalry. The infantry was to receive six rounds of ammunition and to
move up as near the enemy as possible, without attracting attention and there,
quietly remain until Hays should fire on the flank of the enemy and when his
attentions was drawn to Hays, we were to charge home.
I protested strongly against the plan and gave the following reasons for it. "Let Hays
be used as infantry also and let us make a combined assault on the enemy, while in
bed and in his confusion, we can exterminate every man and that too, without loss of
a man. But lest a few should escape, retain Haller’s men mounted, who can then
complete the work.
But he said Hays would not be dismounted.
"Then let him remain mounted, but let the infantry make the attack as I have
"No," he replied, "Hays must bring on the engagement."
"Then, six rounds will not do."
"Yes," he thought the enemy would run after a shot or two.
Said I, "Col. Cockrell, the enemy, having artillery, and knowing nothing of our
presence here, is evidence to me that they are a picked body of men, sent out after
Hays and Quantrell, who are regarded as desperate men. Let them get into line, and
we will need all your ammunition and will lose many valuable lives, with the very
doubtful chances in our favor."
He thought now, the enemy would run after a fire or two.
I looked at him in amazement. But, he was so cool and evidently so brave, that I
could not but admire him. Yet, I felt it in my very bones, that his skill in this matter,
was greatly at fault. The result would prove who was right. Being a subordinate, it
was my duty to obey.
The command was now mounted and moved up to within half mile of the town,
where it was dismounted and formed as above, Capt. Osborne, who was familiar
with that section, led the infantry to where it was to remain until Hays should bring on
the engagement. The line of march was up a ravine or branch, west of town, into a
wheat or oat filed, that had grown up in iron weeds, sufficiently tall to entirely
conceal or hide us from the enemy. We now moved up quietly in line of battle to
within seventy five or a hundred yards of the enemy, where a halt was made, as per
V It was now near day break and here we waited, seemingly an eternity for Hays to
begin the work. When to my great surprise, here came Hays riding slowly and
quietly up the front of my line. I hurriedly approached him and exclaimed, "colonel
Hays, in the name of God, What are you doing here? Here, we have been waiting
for a long half hour for you to bring on the attack, as agreed upon, and instead of
doing it, you come riding up this line, as though you were the Inspector General of
the Confederate Army."
He replied in a very easy and quiet way that he would soon. He then made a short
detour up Hunter’s line and without suggesting anything or making known any
business, turned about and made as slowly and quietly back down the line. He was
a very cool and no doubt brave man, but was evidently distrustful of our command,
as I can conceive of no other motive.
A camp guard of the enemy, some little time before this, had discovered the
movements of Hays command and gave the alarm. The enemy was now rallying with
all possible speed. We could hear every command distinctly. During all the waste of
precious time, my men were eager and crazy for the attack. "Why halt here? Why
not make an attack now? This is wrong. It won’t do to remain here. Now is the time,"
and all such questions and remarks were continually within my hearing, from the time
the halt was made. The worst that could have possibly been one, was now done.
To wait longer for the attack by Hays was nonsense. I gave the order to charge.
And with a yell, the men dashed in fine style. But an unexpected obstacle, in the way
of a stake and rider fence, and running parallel with out line, lay before us; not more
than forty or fifty yards from the enemy. At this fence, we met a terrible fire of grape
and musketry, which brought us to a halt. But here, protected somewhat by the
fence, we fought the thing out. The enemy was formed in the street and rear of their
horses and houses, and of course, greatly protected by both. Word soon ran up the
line that Col. Tracy had been killed. This, I regarded, a heavy loss and filled me with
The first man I saw shot was a handsome your fellow on the extreme left of Hunter’s
force, whose name I did not know. Poor fellow was shot through and Oh, how he
begged for water. He asked me to raise his head. I did so, then looked for
something, even a stone, on which to rest his head. But, finding none, folded his hat,
and used it. He was soon done.
The next man I saw shot, was Captain Lewis. He was hit with a spent ball, square in
the forehead, but high up and with sufficient force for the ball to stick. He picked it
out and called my attention to it. I told him if the wound was painful, he had better
But, he replied, "No, not for that."
Very soon he received a shot in the hand. The two was enough for him, and he
retired. I afterwards told him that in our association, I had hoped to convert him to
Campbellism, but since Yankee bullets could not penetrate his head, there was no
use in trying Campbellite argument, and I should have to give up. He is a Methodist
to this day. Captain Watson, who was acting Ordinance Officer for the command,
and who had some experience in battle and knowing him to be a brave man, I had
placed on the left of my force to aid me in its management. He was shot dead, I
learned, while in charge upon the enemy’s artillery. He died with his face to the
enemy, a brave and Christian gentleman. Oh, may his spirit rest in peace. He,
Lewis, and Cockrell constituted my mess.
Very soon after the battle, opened and when only a volley or two had been fired,
Col. Hunter came hurriedly to me and told me that he could hear the enemy crawling
in the open corn, upon our right and asked if I did not think he had better take his
command and throw it along a fence, at right angles with our line and that separated
the filed we were in from the corn, and protect my right flank.
"No," said I, "Remain where you are and help to fight this battle, for it’s impossible
for the enemy’s cavalry to be there. They have not had time to get there."
He left me, but only to come rushing back in a moment exclaiming, "I assure you
they are there, for I can hear their sabers in the corn and hear them talking."
"Then," said I, "if you know them to be there, which I don’t believe, take your force
and guard my flank."
He then withdrew, when the enemy felt encouragement, with a yell, came rushing
upon us. But one well-directed volley settle that business. They turned and fled, but
only for protection by the houses, their horses having been mostly killed, by this time.
The command of Col. Tracy, under Lt. Col. Dick Hancock, of Bates County,
Missouri, a cool and brave man, was behaving nobly.
Early in the engagement, and realizing that we would need more ammunition, I
directed H.B. Brewster, of Carrollton Missouri, acting Adjutant for my Regiment, to
furnish me a man to go for it. He requested to go himself, stating that he would do it
quicker than anyone else. I told him to go and lose no time. But he never returned.
The artillery had now been silenced by the left of my force and that of Lt. Col.
Hancock and our six rounds of ammunition almost expended, and being still under a
galling fire, there was nothing left, but to retire for more, only a round or two left. I
took a man from the line and sent him to notify Hunter that I was forced to retire for
ammunition. The man returned in a moment and reported Hunter gone. He had
deserted my flank. I then gave the order to fall back and it was done ingood order.
The enemy, now being greatly encouraged by this move, again raised a yell and
came charging after us. Anticipating this, I had reserved one round for the occasion.
I ordered an about face and poured my last round into a yelling and advancing foe. It
did its work well and the enemy now showed his back the second time.
On reaching the low ground, where the line had been formed in the morning, there I
found Hunter, with his command. I asked him why he had deserted my flank.
He replied that he had no ammunition.
Said I, "What did you do with it? You reported cavalry in the corn field, when there
was not a man there. Did you throw it away?"
He was dumb now.
"If ammunition is what you want, let us get it and return to the battlefield."
We proceeded down the valley tot he ordinance wagon, which had been brought up
near the mill at the north or northwest of the town and here I found hundreds of men
congregated about the wagon, with Col. Cockrell urging them, with all the power that
was in him, to return to the battle, but with little or no effect. I here found Capt.
Brewster, who approached me, when I inquired, why he had not returned with the
He frankly replied, that it was too hot a place for him. He could not go back.
Ammunition was issued to mind and Hunter’s commands. I ordered my men to fall
into line, and to great surprise, very few obeyed the orders. Many asking the
question, "Why a few of us go back to be killed, when the whole command is here
and refuses to go back."
Really, it did look just that way.
But a few gallant spirits followed, among them Capt. Cummings, Capt. Bryant, Lt.
Martin, Jamestown, Bates County, Missouri, and Lieutenant Jess Herrell of Butler
County, Missouri. If there were any other officers who returned with me, I do not
recollect them, doubtful there were. But they were chiefly strangers to me, many
brave and daring acts by both officers and men must be passed without notice,
which I exceedingly regret. Capt. Lewis had been twice wounded, as stated above.
Capt. Stemmons dangerously, Capt. Eph Allison, seriously. Capt. Watson, McComb
and Moses killed, all, first class men anywhere in the world. Moses was shot in the
throat and fell in the arms of Bernaugh, who was near by.
Hunter was less successful because he had less men, and was less anxious, having,
as I thought, treated me badly, by leaving the field and my flank exposed. I
determined that he should go back with me. He pulled back wonderfully, but I
dragged him after me, and a few splendid soldiers followed him. I returned upon a
direct line to the battle field, and on the way, I saw Col. Tracy approaching me,
supported by a man under each arm. I rejoiced at this, for I had supposed him dead.
When near enough to speak to him, said, "Colonel Tracy, I am sorry you are
wounded. Are you much hurt?"
"Yes," he answered, "I am shot all to pieces."
This remark rather opened my eyes, for I could see no blood. We were now face to
face and I asked him, "How are you hurt?"
"Oh," said he as if in great pain, "When the first bomb was fired, it struck me in the
breast and exploded, completely enveloping me in fragments, some of which cut on
top of the head and some cut my legs terribly in front and one piece struck me in the
fundament, and now the blood is running down my legs."
I made him take off his hat and examined his head. There was not a mark or even a
speck of blood to be seen and no rents in his clothing. I left him with a feeling of
supreme contempt and was thoroughly convinced that he was mistaken, as to what
it was running down his legs.
I moved on with Hunter after me, and when passing through a corn field, of a few
acres, then in roasting ears, Col. Hunter suddenly exclaimed, as if in great pain, "Oh,
I have sprained my ankle." And down he fell, and then I left him in disgust. Two of
his captains, Capt. Lowe, of Schell City, Vernon County, Missouri, and Old Capt.
Frazier, of Greene County, Missouri, went on with me to renew the fight and
requested me to take command of them, as they had no leader. I did so and now
take the pleasure, in testifying that they were among the bravest of the brave on the
ever memorable occasion.
As I now approached the field, I saw Confederates in beyond the Bois d’Arc hedge
and some what protected by it, and which I learned was the command of Col. Hays.
The enemy was directly between us and as we were in easy range, it is very
probable that their command and ours, on the west had suffered from each other’s
fire. It is however impossible to know the facts.
The enemy had now almost entirely gone into the houses and were firing from the
windows and holes made for that purpose, which gave them great advantage over
us. Our little force, now engaging them, were forced to break into squads and seek
protection, as best we could. I, with four others. Took position near the corner of an
old log cabin. When very soon a shot from an upper room of the hotel, brought down
one of our squad, shot directly through the temples. His name I did not know. In a
moment more, a shot from the same place, brought down First Sergeant
Montgomery, of Bryant’s Company, and shot through the temple. Montgomery fell
directly by the other man. Another shot, from the same place, hit Capt. Bryant in the
temple and killed him. He fell on top of the other two. Good and brave men. How I
hated to give them up. Here lay three men out of five, all dead, and shot in the same
place and evidently by the same man and the same gun. I remarked to Lieut. Herrell,
that those men had all been killed by our sides and that the next shot would get one
of us. Let us move. Before the suggestion had scarcely escaped my lips, Herrell
was shot in the arm.
He left the field and I moved up with all my men engaged, to the rear of the hotel, a
two story frame structure, in which most of the enemy now sought refuge. It being
an old fashioned weather boarded house, with thin walls, I felt that I might drive
them out by shooting through the walls. But, failing in that, and occasionally losing a
man, Lieut. Martin, referred to above and afterwards Capt. Martin, came to me and
suggested that the house ought to be burned.
Said I, "Lieutenant, I know it, but I am afraid to risk a few men there for that
He then replied, if I would protect him, he would do it.
I told him to go, that I would do it, or sacrifice the command.
He called a man, whose name I never knew (which I regret), to go with him to burn
the house. They jumped the fence and ran up to the chimney corner, snatching up a
little trash as they went. I now brought my men solidly up to the fence, with
instructions for every man to be ready, in case an attempt was made to capture
Martin. We had not long to wait. Very soon a strong squad came boldly each way
around the house for Martin’s capture. But after receiving one well directed volley,
they wheeled and ran. Martin soon had the fire well under way and very soon the
house completely enveloped in fire. The house now burned. Thank God, the battle
was over and the victory won, but dreadfully so. And thus, it will be observed, my
prediction to the Col. Commanding, before the battle, had proven entirely true. I
desire here to remark that a great many persons have claimed the honor of that
brave and daring act of burning the hotel. In the future, let the tongue of any man
doing it (but Martin and the man who went with him) cleave to his mouth.
Behind Enemy Lines by Sidney Drake Jackman