April 10, 1864: Need troops at Poplar Bluff

Eleven Point River
The Eleven Point River in southern Missouri


Just as a change of pace, a little news of affairs in extreme southern Missouri, where rebel guerrilla forces were causing constant problems for Union loyalists. The Unionists in the area petitioned Gen. Rosecrans for a post to be established at Poplar Bluff, but the commander at Pilot Knob feels that Doniphan would be a more likely place for an outpost. Availability of forage is the big problem, as the country was mostly hilly and wooded and not very productive.

Official Records:

Pilot Knob, April 12, 1864.

Respectfully forwarded to General Ewing, commanding District of Saint Louis, Mo.
Within is in answer to telegram of the 8th instant. Major Wilson is fully acquainted with the country referred to; has been down there many times. He can be fully relied upon. I entirely agree with him in regard to placing troops at Doniphan, &c. His whole statement consist of my own opinion.

Lieutenant Colonel First Infantry, M. S. M., Commanding Post.

PATTERSON, MO., April 10, 1864.
Major-General ROSECRANS:

SIR: We the loyal citizens of Wayne, Butler, and Ripley Counties, would humbly petition the establishment of a post at Poplar Bluff, Butler County, and at Doniphan, Ripley County, or otherwise grant us permission to organize home guards for our defense. There are not a dozen loyal men (I mean what I say; they can’t say shibboleth) left in Butler and Ripley Counties. They are about all driven from homer or killed, their arms lying idle; their families reduced almost to a state of starvation. A post of infantry at these places would answer almost as well as cavalry, for those demons can never be subdued by raids. Their paths must be watched. If an order was issued for every loyal man from eighteen to fifty to take up arms and scout the country until jayhawking was no more it would soon cease.

If neither can be granted, please inform your most obedient servants,
[And 44 others.]

Patterson, Mo., April 10, 1864.
Lieutenant Colonel JOHN N. HERDER,
Commanding at Pilot Knob, Mo.:

SIR: Your telegram has been received. I do not think it would be practicable to place troops at Poplar Bluff or Doniphan, making them dependent upon the country for forage, even after grazing becomes good, as there is no forage in this country worth mentioning; but twenty wagons would supply three companies at Doniphan with full rations of forage and provisions from Pilot Knob. Considerable bacon may be procured in the country, and after the 15th of May beef-cattle could be obtained; this with the corn that can be obtained in scouring the country would reduce the transportation required, and after the 15th of September there would be, I would suppose, sufficient forage in the country to subsist a command of that size. Applications are being made to me daily by citizens of Oregon, Ripley, and Butler Counties to furnish them assistance to remove their families from that country.

Up to this time I have not encouraged them in removing, advising them to wait and see if troops would not be sent there to remain and protect them. It seems very hard for every loyal man to be driven away from that country by a mere handful of guerrillas. It is out of the question to operate against them effectively at so great a distance, with such a scarcity of forage and provisions in the country, but if stationed among them, well supplied, we might soon kill and drive out these devils and restore peace and quiet to those counties; and instead of the citizens being supported by the Government the coming winter, they would be enabled to support themselves and to supply the Government troops in that country. I prefer Doniphan to Poplar Bluff because it commands the range of guerrillas on Currant River, and is centrally located between Black River swamps and Eleven Points River. I think the placing of troops at that point would be productive of much good, if well supplied.

I have the honor to be, colonel, your most obedient servant,
Major, Commanding Outpost.

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