LONE JACK AGAIN
The following appears in the Holden Enterprise:

Ossawatomie, Kas., April 21.-Some kind friend has mailed me copies of
your paper containing “War Reminiscences.”  The author, in speaking of the
battle of Lone Jack, says:

“I do not arrogate to myself the abilities of a commander, nor never did, but
I really do think the battle of Lone Jack, on both sides, was poorly
managed.  The very first thing, Foster was to blame for going into a scrape
which [sic] could promise disaster only.  After he was there he did not make
so many blunders; his fatal blunder was ever going into the fight.  No good
general would have gone there and took the position he took with the odds
against him that he knew the confederates possessed.  Many good
positions could easily have been selected, but he made no choice whatever,
simply marched into the heart of the confederate camp and fell to sleep in a
lane or street.”

The facts are, that when Maj. Foster left Lexington with 740 men on the
morning of August 15, 1862, he went out to fight wherever he could find it –
a force of men about his own numbers, that had captured Independence
about one week before that date, and was commanded as I understood, at
that time, by Col. Coffey [sic], who at one time was aresident of Miami
county, Kansas.  At that time the writer was first lieutenant of Co. A,
Neugent’s battalion, and upon the death of Capt Wm. A. Long at Lone Jack,
was commissioned as captain of said company.  About sundown, August
14, I was ordered to report to Col. Houston of the Seventh Missouri cavalry,
who was at that time in command of the post.  He instructed me to take
forty men of my own company and sixty men belonging to the enrolled
militia, and to proceed at once in the direction of Dover or Berlin, and to find
and fight Maj. Joe Shelby at all risks.  Before we parted he informed me that
early in the morning his command would start to fight Col. Coffey, who had
about 1,000 men, and was supposed to be near Pleasant Hill or Lone Jack,
and that my object must be to prevent Joe Shelby from joining Col. Coffey’s
force.  I did not find Shelby, and returned to Lexington in the middle of the
afternoon next day.

Our camp was nearly deserted; the men under command of Maj. Foster had
left in the early part of the morning to find and to fight the confederate
forces.

Two steamboats were tied up at the river, it not being considered safe for
them to proceed to Leavenworth without an escort, and I was instructed to
be on board at 5 o’clock that evening with my party of men and escort them
to their destination.  The boys all put on their best uniform, and had made up
their minds to have a good old time at Kansas City and Leavenworth.  At the
appointed time I reported to Col. Houston for orders, and at 7 o’clock p.m.
was instructed to follow Maj. Foster’s command, find it and recall it without
bringing on an engagement.  I was informed that a dispatch had just been
received from Col. Fitz Henry Warren of the First Iowa cavalry to the effect
that parts of four regiments of confederates were marching north and would
camp on a stream called Deepwater (or Blackwater) that night.

Col. Houston thought that these fragments of regiments would form a
junction with Col. Coffey, and whip or perhaps capture the whole of Foster’s
command, should he attempt to bring on an engagement.  Foster, he
remarked, had gone out to fight a force a little larger than his own, but that it
was not as well armed.  He impressed upon me the importance of reaching
Foster’s command as soon as possible, and of recalling it.

Just as I was about to march the major of the Seventh Missouri cavalry
reported to me and informed me that by Col. Houston’s orders he would go
along with me and assume command of Foster’s force, if necessary, after
we should reach it.

Between daylight and sunrise we had reached a point about a mile west of
Chapel Hill.  An old man named Robert Shores was just going out of his
house to get a pail of water; I halted him for a moment, and asked him what
time our troops had passed his place last night, and if he knew where they
camped.  While he was answering my hasty questions I heard the boom of
artillery some ten or twelve miles away.  The confederate forces had
concentrated at Lone Jack, and the gallant force of Foster was fighting three
times its number.  I was too late.  The night before the general battle Foster
had met near Lone Jack the force he was sent out to meet.  He fought them
and scattered them, and lay down to sleep in the streets of Lone Jack, not
knowing or dreaming that there was another organized enemy within 100 or
more miles.

Rueben Smith

Missouri Republican, St. Louis, Missouri, May 15, 1886