November 2, 1861: Hunter takes command

Gen. David Hunter
Gen. David Hunter

Fremont had called Hunter to bring reinforcements – now Hunter was replacing him.

From the New York Times:


SPRINGFIELD, Mo., Monday, Nov. 4, 1861.

We have had stirring times here yesterday and today. Late on Saturday night, one of three messengers sent forward by Col. LEONARD SWETT, from St. Louis, succeeded in eluding the vigilance of the guards stationed to prevent access to Gen. FREMONT’S Headquarters, and served on the General personally the orders from Washington turning over the command of the Western Department to Maj.-Gen. DAVID HUNTER.

Upon this there was, of course, unutterable consternation and commotion in and around headquarters, and it appeared doubtful for several hours what course Gen. FREMONT would pursue. Many of his leading personal adherents, chiefly of the Teutonic stripe, were in favor of disregarding the removal and refusing to recognize Gen. HUNTER’s appointment, — a course which, if they had persisted in it, (and it was not wholly abandoned until late last evening,) would have caused a very considerable row, — for Gen. HUNTER is not the sort of man it would be safe to trifle with.

In the end, however, wiser counsels prevailed, — Gens. SIEGEL and ASBOTH both refusing to countenance or be concerned in the mutiny; and Gen. FREMONT, it must be said, either not knowing anything of the contemplated movements, or opposing them, as in duty bound, with all his force. On this point, however, we are in the dark. Certain only it is that a council now known as the “Council of Insubordination” was held last evening only a few hours before Gen. HUNTER’s arrival; that regular invitations to it had been issued, and that the affair looked very threatening until suppressed by the emphatic course of Gen. SIEGEL. Early yesterday morning, therefore, Gen. FREMONT issued his farewell address to the “Soldiers of the Mississippi Army,” — though to say why “Mississippi Army” and not “Western Department,” might well puzzle a Philadelphia lawyer to explain. Here is the document, neatly printed as you see and placed in the hands of all the soldiers in the army:

HEADQUARTERS WESTERN DEPARTMENT,
SPRINGFIELD, Mo., Nov. 2, 1861.

SOLDIERS OF THE MISSISSIPPI ARMY: Agreeable to orders received this day I take leave of you. Although our army has been of sudden growth we have grown up together, and I have become familiar with the brave and generous spirits which you bring to the defence of your country, and which makes me anticipate for you a brilliant career. Continue as you have begun, and give to my successor the same cordial and enthusiastic support with which you have encouraged me. Emulate the splendid example which you have already before you, and let me remain as I am, proud of the noble army which I have thus far labored to bring together.
Soldiers, I regret to leave you. Most sincerely I thank you for the regard and confidence you have invariably shown me. I deeply regret that I shall not have the honor to lead you to the victory which you are just about to win, but I shall claim to share with you in the joy of every triumph, and trust always to be fraternally remembered by my companions in arms.

(Signed) JOHN C. FREMONT,
Major-General United States Army.

This little affair being over, dozens of messengers were forthwith posted off in all directions to Gen. HUNTER, with the announcement of his appointment, and entreaties to come on at once, as an action with the enemy was expected either last evening or this morning, at furthest. These missives represented that PRICE, with 40,000 men, was within ten or twelve miles of Springfield, encamped on the old battleground (where Gen. LYONS was killed) at Wilson’s Creek. The information added that the pickets of the enemy could be seen by the National pickets on the south side of Springfield, and that thousands of Union men and their families were flocking in for protection. So widely had this report been circulated and credited, that a regular panic existed throughout the town — many of the women and camp followers taking the roads to Bolivar, Buffalo and Rolla on the run; while portions, also — and these not small of the newly raised and disaffected soldiery — gave plain signs of “undue excitement.”

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