Refreshing furlough… Now a return to work

No posts for the last week of July.  Instead of “on the road” posts as offered during vacations in the past, I opted to just let the grass grow here on the blog.  During our trip, we added a number of Civil War related sites into our itinerary.

Several stops in Tennessee, including a lengthy tour at Johnsonville, Tennessee… or rather what was Johnsonville.


During the second half of the Civil War, the site was a major Federal depot supporting operations through middle Tennessee and deeper into Georgia.  Students of the western campaigns know this site for the action on November 3-4, 1864, in which Major-General Nathan Bedford Forrest used his “navy” to capture and destroy the depot. Today the site is partly submerged by Kentucky Lake.  Though substantial earthworks remain on the high ground.


The Johnsonville State Park includes an excellent museum, which covers many aspects of the depot’s and town’s history.


And the trail system is well interpreted.


The Johnsonville State Park on the east side of the river/lake matches up with the Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park (which… who knows… might get renamed in the future) on the west side.  I’ll have more on Johnsonville in future posts.

After some time spent at my old family “homestead” in Missouri, we headed through St. Louis.  There are many Civil War related sites in and around the city, and most are familiar to me.  But our short stay precluded a full tour.  Besides, the Aide-de-Camp had some other objectives in mind!  On our way to the Arch, we took in the Old St. Louis Courthouse.  The St. Louis Circuit Court met in that courthouse through the mid 19th century right up into the 20th century.  Perhaps the most famous case heard in the courthouse was that of Dread Scott v. Sandford.  The National Park Service has arranged the courtrooms to the appearance of that time period.


It was in one of these courtrooms that Dread Scott eventually received his freedom, in May 1857, as result of manumission.

Before leaving St. Louis, we toured Jefferson Barracks.   This base, which has supported military operations from 1826 right up to the present (as a National Guard base), saw significant activity in several wars.  During the Civil War it was a garrison, depot, and hospital.  Today, the Missouri Civil War Museum occupies one of the early 20-th century buildings of the old post.  I will have more on this museum in a trip report post. Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery contains the remains of over 8,500 Federal and 1,000 Confederate soldiers.  Those include many remains originally buried at other places across Missouri, indicative of the widespread wartime activity in the state.

Jefferson Barracks 2015 107

And as you can see from this photo, a number of those graves are simply “unknown.”

From there, we visited family in the Indianapolis area.  Our stops included the Indiana State Museum, which has a modest Civil War display.  Among the artifacts is the Medal of Honor awarded to Corporal Andrew J. Smith, 55th Massachusetts Infantry, for actions at Honey Hill, November 30, 1864.

Indiana St Muse_4844

And there will be a follow up post on that subject.  Interesting how the Charleston-Savannah theater of war keeps circling back into my line of sight!

The rest of our tour was a detour off the Civil War subjects (with the exception of dinner with a friend, fellow blogger, and Civil War historian of note).  The Aide-de-Camp enjoyed this sort of stuff:

USAF Muse July 2015 601

However, you Civil War-types are perhaps less enthusiastic…. Plenty of blog posts should I start a new blog entitled “To the Sound of Pratt & Whitney”.

While relaxing, the trip also gave me time to consider future blog posts for “To the Sound of the Guns.”  As mentioned above there are several “trip reports” and other topics for posts.  But more importantly, I had the opportunity to consider which threads to follow as I evolve this blog into the post-sesquicentennial.  Not saying there will be changes, but rather the promise that there will continue to be content in the weeks and months (and hopefully years) ahead.

150th Anniversary of the Sultana Disaster

I mentioned this on Facebook yesterday, but thought it better to also put out word via a blog post.  This upcoming weekend, the town of Marion, Arkansas will host observances of the 150th anniversary of the Sultana disaster.  Details of the events are posted on the official Sultana 150th website, along with a full schedule of events.

As I’ve mentioned here on the blog before, I lived in Marion, Arkansas for several years.  And the Sultana disaster was one of my choice “field research” topics. I played a role in the dedication of a plaque for the Sultana, placed in town (originally at the city hall, but recently move to the county courthouse).  Many of the names I see active in the weekend activities are old friends.  Though I won’t be able to attend myself, I am looking forward to reports back from those who are able to go.

December 3, 1864: A journey of 1,434 miles comes to an end, closing Price’s Campaign

The last three entries in the itinerary of Major-General Sterling Price’s Campaign read:

December 1 (Camp No. 85). – Clark’s command on the march. Thompson to move tomorrow; eighteen miles.

December 2 (Camp No. 86). – At Laynesport. Crossed river; nineteen miles.

December 3. – Clark arrived and sent courier to Washington.

Whole distance marched, 1,434 miles.

With that, the last great campaign to reach into Missouri came to a quiet, anti-climatic end.  Since crossing the Arkansas River, Price had marched without threat through the Indian Territories and down the Texas side of the Red River.  A close up of the campaign map (below) shows the route taken from November 7 to December 3, 1864.  During the last weeks of the march, the Federals were no where near, having broken off pursuit at the Arkansas.


Notice at the right side of this map cut, I’ve left in the red lines indicating the first portions of the march, past Little Rock, on August 28.

In his official report Price made the case the campaign had accomplished a great deal:

In conclusion, permit me to add that in my opinion the results flowing from my operations in Missouri are of the most gratifying character. I marched 1,434 miles; fought forty three battles and skirmishes; captured and paroled over 3,000 Federal officers and men; captured 18 pieces of artillery, 3,000 stand of small-arms, 16 stand of colors that were brought out by me (besides many others that were captured and afterward destroyed by our troops who took them), at least 3,000 overcoats, large quantities of blankets, shoes, and ready-made clothing for soldiers, a great many wagons and teams, large numbers of horses, great quantities of subsistence and ordnance stores. I destroyed miles upon miles of railroad, burning the depots and bridges; and taking this into calculation, I do not think I go beyond the truth when I state that I destroyed in the late expedition to Missouri property to the amount of $10,000,000 in value. On the other hand, I lost 10 pieces of artillery, 2 stand of colors, 1,000 small-arms, while I do not think I lost 1,000 prisoners, including the wounded left in their hands and others than recruits on their way to join me, some of whom may have been captured by the enemy.

Military operations don’t happen in a vacuum.  I could probably replace “Missouri” with “Georgia” and pass that paragraph off as a report from Major-General William T. Sherman’s march.  While Price was concluding a campaign that destroyed $10 million, William T. Sherman was in the middle of one which would destroy an estimated  $80 million.  Add to that what was destroyed across Virginia and Tennessee that fall, and I would think the tally to be one of the most destructive fall seasons in the nation’s history.  The last autumn of the war was indeed a frenzy of destruction at all points of the map.

But in one way, Price’s campaign still was not over.  Later in December Thomas C. Reynolds, Confederate governor in-exile of Missouri, made several public statements condemning Price.  Seeking redress, Price asked for, and was granted, a court of inquiry.  The court met on April 21, 1865 and ran through May 3.  The end of the war sort of rendered any further proceedings useless.  So Price never got his full “day in court.”  Instead it is a footnote demonstrating the somewhat chaotic state in the last days of the Confederacy.

Historians have pointed out that Price failed to achieve most of his objectives – did not occupy any of the key cities of Missouri, did not influence the elections, did not damage Federal forces in any significant way, and did not inspire an uprising in the state.  However, he did bring in recruits for the army.  And he felt that effort would have been greater, under other circumstances.  “I am satisfied that could I have remained in Missouri this winter the army would have been increased 50,000 men.”

And in other ways, Price’s campaign continued well after the war.  The deeds of those fall days of 1864 – good, noble, brave, along with the ghastly and hideous – would remain at the base of the state’s identity for many generations to come.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 41, Part I, Serial 83, pages 640 and 648.)

November 8, 1864: “Our work accomplished….”, Curtis ends his pursuit of Price

Though he had fled Missouri over a week earlier, 150 years ago today (November 8, 1864) Major-General Sterling Price was still on the move trying to escape pursuit.  After the failed attempt at Fayetteville on November 3, what was left of Price’s army marched southwest through the Indian Territories to avoid the Federals operating out of Fort Smith and gain a safe crossing of the Arkansas River.  On November 4th, the Confederates reached the Sallisaw River, which they followed down to the Arkansas.  Most of the battered Army of Missouri crossed the Arkansas on November 6th.


Hard on Price’s trail was Major-General Samuel Curtis with elements of his Army of the Border, along with other formations attached for the pursuit.  By this time, Curtis had Major-General James Blunt’s division, Lieutenant-Colonel Frederick Benteen’s brigade from the Department of Missouri, Colonel M. La Rue Harrison’s force out of Fayetteville, and a collection of other troops from Kansas.  Though ordered to follow Price to the Arkansas River with the hope of trapping the Confederates with the garrison out of Fort Smith, Curtis would not receive any reinforcement.  This was due in part to the fatigue from the long campaign against Price, but also due to pressing requirements that pulled troops out of Missouri and to Tennessee. None-the-less, Curtis resolved that his “boldness of pursuit must compensate for want of numbers….”

By November 5, Curtis reached Prairie Grove.  Then on the 6th, he reached the Sallisaw River.  The following day, fully expecting to engage Price, Curtis arrayed for battle.

November 7 we started at daylight, our route leading through the woods and on by-roads in a southwesterly direction. Horses, wagons, and property stolen from the Missouri marked the way, which we followed till late at night and remained until the morning. Among other articles a carriage, said to be the one occupied by Price himself, was passed on the wayside, and everything showed a hasty and terrified retreat.  Our curiosity, usual on such occasions, hurried the advance forward, hoping to overtake the enemy.  About dark we came upon a cannon which he left in the road, and after a few miles more, darkness and a necessity to close up my forces induced another halt. We had very little chance to feed ourselves or horses and resumed the march early on the 8th, uncertain of our whereabouts, but confident of the enemy’s near presence as the prairie was still burning and his broken down mules, horses, and baggage were again broadcast over his well-defined way.  Colonel Harrison now had the advance and pushed forward with great vigor to the timber, far in our advance, which proved to be the timber skirting the Arkansas River. A few of the rebel rear guard were driven beyond the stream, and bringing up McLain’s battery, we shelled the timber on the south side. Some of our troops crossed over and exchanged a few shots as they supposed with the last of Price’s army.  Our work was accomplished, and the shout that went up from the Army of the Border and the roar of our cannon resounded through the gloomy forests of the Arkansas, carrying to the camp of the starving enemy beyond our parting farewell.  This crossing, selected by Stand Watie’s Indians, is a little above the mouth of the Sallisaw, about twenty-five miles above Fort Smith.

With that, the pursuit of Price came to an end.  That evening Curtis issued an order proclaiming “the object of this organization and campaign is accomplished.”  After congratulating the men on their performance, Curtis gave orders for the various parts of the pursuing force to return to their assigned stations.  The Army of the Border had pursued Price for around 850 miles.  They’d reached their assigned limit.

At that point, what was left of Price’s command was, though free to move, so far out of position as to not threaten Missouri again.  The Confederate Army of Missouri would spend the next thirty days marching through Indian Territory and Texas in order to get back to their base in southwest Arkansas.  The last chapter in Price’s 1864 campaign was one of routine marches, recuperation, and attempts to justify the effort expended.

(Citation from OR, Series I, Volume 41, Part I, Serial 83, pages 516-7.)

November 3, 1864: “They attacked my pickets and commenced bombarding the town”: Arkansas unionists defend Fayetteville

Northwest Arkansas has, in my opinion, not received its due attention from historians.  Several major military campaigns took place in that hilly section of the state, in particular those leading to Pea Ridge and Prairie Grove.  And for those of us interested in Southern Unionism, there was a strong movement in that portion of the state… so strong that several regiments were recruited.   The 2nd Arkansas Cavalry (Union) served in Brigadier-General John Sanborn’s brigade and saw action across Missouri as that command chased Major-General Sterling Price in the fall of 1864.  During that same time, the 1st Arkansas Cavalry (Union), under Colonel M. La Rue Harrison, maintained posts in Northeast Arkansas, using Fayetteville as a base of operations.

Fayetteville was a waystop on the Old Wire Road (prior to the telegraph, the Military Road between St. Louis and Fort Smith ran through Fayetteville) between Jefferson City and Little Rock.  As one of the few roads leading into the Boston Mountains, this waystop made Fayetteville an important objective.  In addition to military activity during the two campaigns mentioned above, the Confederates made an attack on the town in April 1863.  So Fayetteville had seen its share of action.  In the fall of 1864, it would see more.

Confederate Major Buck Brown and Colonel William H. Brooks operated in Northwestern Arkansas with around 1,500 men.  Harrison reported,

These bands during the summer have given Union citizens great annoyance, constantly plundering and driving them from their homes, until the rebel rule in the surrounding country has been for a time almost complete.

However, against the Federal garrison, Brown and Brooks had not done much, save cutting of telegraph lines and harassment of foraging parties.  While Price’s men were marching through Missouri, those Confederate forces attempted some diversions, as Harrison recalled:

Since the commencement of Price’s raid these desperadoes had become more bold and seriously threatened for some time the post of Fayetteville and the Government supply trains. On the 20th of October, while I was passing with a train through Benton County from Cassville, Mo., with an escort of 170 men, I met and attacked 600 men under Buck Brown, who was awaiting my approach. The engagement lasted for over two hours, when the rebels were routed in confusion, with a loss of several killed and wounded. Before my arrival I learned that Brooks, with 800 men, was lying in ambush at Fitzgerald Mountain, and at midnight passed around his camp, leaving it five miles on my left, and arrived in safety with my train at 1 p.m. on the 25th. Brooks then invested the town of Fayetteville with his forces, expecting thereby to starve the garrison into submission, but in this he was deceived. By reducing my issues to seven ounces of bread per day I found that my stores would hold out for twenty days, and felt assured that ere that was exhausted assistance would come. My only trouble was forage. It was impossible to send out my train without the most imminent danger of its capture. I therefore procured gunny-sacks for each teamster and mounted man, and watching the safest opportunities sent out my men as often as possible under an experienced officer.

For just over two weeks, Fayetteville was under a state of siege … loosely defined.  There was a sharp engagement on October 27 involving 500 of Brown’s Confederates an a foraging party sent out of Fayetteville. Then on October 28, the Confederates mounted a direct attack on the town, suffering nearly fifty casualties while inflicting only seven on the Federals.


The situation came to a head on November 3.  From the Cane Hill area, Price dispatched Major-General James Fagan and the remainder of his division to reinforce Brown and Brooks.  Harrison detected this move, but there was little he could do but brace:

Price detached Fagan with 5,200 men and two pieces of artillery, which force was joined on the march by 1,500 men under Brooks and Brown. They attacked my pickets and commenced bombarding the town with all their boasted chivalry, not giving me the least time to remove families (mostly their own at that) nor demanding a surrender. The bombardment was kept up with one 6-pounder rifled gun and one 12-pounder field howitzer until nearly sunset. Three times the order was given to charge the works, but each time the men on coming within range of my rifles shrank from the assault and fled to a safe position. At sunset the retreat of the enemy commenced and was continued during the whole night by divers routes, the majority, with the artillery, returning to Cane Hill; at sunrise on the 4th instant only about 600 remained to cover the retreat. By the admissions of the enemy and reports from prisoners their loss in killed, wounded, and prisoners was about 100 (over 75 being killed and wounded). My loss was 9 wounded–1 mortally, 8 slightly. The strength of my command during the engagement was 958 volunteers and 170 militia; total. 1,128.

Major-General Samuel Curtis’ Army of the Border arrived after that and Harrison’s command joined the pursuit of Price.

Though not a major action by any definition, this Second (or was it Third?) Battle of Fayetteville featured Arkansans fighting Arkansans.   Beyond that, was there ever a larger battle in which a force predominantly composed of Southern Unionists fought a regular Confederate force, as on November 3, 1864?

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 43, Part I, Serial 83, pages 398-400.)

November 1, 1864: “Murder of Three Union Officers” at Greenton, Missouri… hard feelings about hard war

I mentioned yesterday the orders from Washington to move the portions of Major-General A.J. Smith’s Sixteenth Corps involved with the pursuit of Price’s army out of Missouri and then on to Tennessee, where another crisis was emerging.  One of the regiments in Smith’s force was the 89th Indiana.  150 years ago today the regiment was on the march passing the small town of Greenton, Missouri (southwest of Lexington, just north of Odessa).  While at a break, one of the countless tragedies of the war occurred.  Captain William N. Norville provided the official report on November 3, 1864:

I have the honor to report that Maj. Samuel Henry, Asst. Surg. John P. Porter, and Lieut. Harles Ashley, regimental quartermaster, all of the Eighty-ninth Indiana Regiment Infantry, were taken prisoners on the 1st at Greenton, La Fayette County, Mo., by three guerrillas, rapidly taken to the bushes, where their bodies were found yesterday. They were all shot through the head. Their bodies were brought to this post by a citizen who relates as follows: While the Eighty-ninth Regiment was marching through Greenton these three officers rode up to a house and called for dinner. The lady told them that she had nothing cooked, but that if they could wait she would soon have something cooked. They consented to wait; their command marched on. They had gotten their dinner, left the house for their horses hitched at the gate, where, upon going into the house, they had also left their arms. Before they had reached their horses, three men in Federal uniform came dashing up and ordered them to surrender. The officers at first regarded it as a joke, but upon cocked revolvers being presented they surrendered almost within sight of the regiment and were taken to the woods. I have buried them to-day. When brought here they had neither overcoats nor vests on; Major Henry’s saber hung in a tree near his body.

The guerillas were still active in Missouri, though not in the numbers they’d been the previous month.  I don’t want to down play the death of the three officers.  But incidents like this were commonplace – inflicted by partisans from both sides – in Missouri.  Thirty years ago when I was studying Price’s campaign for the focus of a research paper, I simply passed this incident off as “just another.”  And Missouri was filled with “just another” stories.

But a few weeks ago while collecting material in regard to Major-General William T. Sherman’s March (and, I do intend, unless something gets in the way, follow that campaign in the same spirit as some of the other “150 years ago” threads), I ran across a repeat of the story from Greenton.  This appears in the November 23, 1864 edition of the Warcester, Massachusetts Massachusetts Spy, third column, fourth page:


As you can see, most of the details, passed along second hand from a St. Louis newspaper, were pulled from Norville’s report.  The story had legs.  It resonated well beyond Missouri and well into the month of November.  I have found similar accounts in more than a dozen newspapers throughout the North in November 1864.  And I’d wager that result was not complete.  Maybe it was “just another.” But it was “just another” seen and repeated across newspapers far and wide… not just Missouri.

When I saw that article, what connected for me was the search string that had brought me to the newspaper to begin with:


That is the headline of the story which ran just above the report from Greenton, Missouri.

We often read of “war weariness” as a factor in play for the elections of 1864.  The premise goes that many northerners were simply ready to throw in the towel.  I’m sure some of that existed.  But on the other hand, just reading the papers, you see plenty of examples where “war weariness” translated to just the opposite – a desire to bring the war to a swift, if violent, conclusion.  We have to ask, having seen so many of the “just another” episodes as reported from Greenton, did northerners become tolerant of the measures employed to bring the war to a close.  The hard war had hardened sensitivities.

When Sherman said he’d make Georgia howl, there were many sympathetic ears in the north… a product of so many “just anothers” such as the incident 150 years ago at Greenton, Missouri.

(Citation from OR, Series I, Volume 41, Part I, Serial 83, page 896.)


Grant desires “Price be pursued to the Arkansas River”: Curtis, Rosecrans, Pleasonton and the “battle” over Price

150 years ago today, Major-General Sterling Price’s campaign was far from over.  Maybe lunging through its last legs, but far from over.  The action at Newtonia on October 28, 1864 had effectively closed Missouri to the Confederacy.  On October 29, Price moved his headquarters south of Pineville, Missouri.  He moved to Maysville the next day.  By November 1st, Price’s column reached Cane Hill, Arkansas – technically Boonsborough, which was one of three small communities in the area.  At that point, Price dispatched part of his column under Major General James Fagan to support an attack on Fayetteville (an action I’ll pick up later).  Thus by All Saints’ Day, Price was well into Arkansas.


However, the Federal’s pursuit of Price was not to the effect that authorities back east preferred.   Brigadier-General James Blunt remained in pursuit with his division after the action at Newtonia. For Major-General Samuel Curtis, in command of the Army of the Border, Blunt’s 1,000 effectives were the only force to push forward.  Major-General Alfred Pleasonton, with the cavalry from the Department of Missouri, was not in pursuit.  After the fights on October 25, Pleasonton pulled most of his command off to refit.  On October 27, he issued instructions, presumably from Major-General William Rosecrans, to withdraw the remainder (brigades of Brigadier-Generals  John Sanborn and John McNeil).

Granted, Pleasonton’s cavalrymen had been in the saddle through most of the month.  And at the same time, those troops were supposed to be securing portions of Missouri (which, by the way, happened to be reporting Confederate activity in the wake of Price’s transit.) But a golden opportunity was out there for the taking – the elimination of an entire Confederate army.  The split command caused problems throughout the pursuit of Price, and on October 29-31 that rift was the saving grace for Price.   From Washington came a telegram for Curtis from Major-General Henry Halleck:

General Grant directs that Price be pursued to the Arkansas River, or at least till he encounters Steele or Reyonlds.

This order referenced the commands of Generals Frederick Steele  and Joseph J. Reynolds in Arkansas.  The orders did not reach Curtis until October 30.  In his response written at 1 a.m. that day, Curtis threw Rosecrans under the bus:

I send couriers with orders to this effect directed to the several brigade commanders of troops of General Rosecrans, who had abandoned the pursuit by his orders. I will proceed with my own force toward Cassville, hoping to concentrate sufficient troops at that point to resume the pursuit.  I also send to General Steele your dispatch, indorsing on it the present direction taken by the enemy.

Six hours later, Curtis sent off a very lengthy, but detailed, summation of the situation with a barb attached, “The delay occasioned by General Rosecrans’ orders will be the equivalent to thirty-six hours….”

Rosecrans was, of course, communicating with Halleck also.  On October 28 he received his orders from Washington:

General Grant thinks you can and ought to send troops to assist General Thomas….

This prompted an exchange between Rosecrans, Major-General George Thomas and Major-General William T. Sherman to work out the details.  The following day, Brigadier-General John Rawlings, Grant’s own Chief of Staff, received orders to go west to supervise the “re-enforcing the armies actually confronting the principal armies of the enemy.” Grant’s instructions to Rawlings indicates clearly his impression of the situation.

Now that Price is retreating from Missouri, it is believed that the whole force sent to that State from other departments can be spared at once. The fact, however, that a considerable force is pursuing Price, and may go so far that some time may elapse before they can be returned to Missouri and be distributed for the proper protection of the State, has induced me to make two separate orders….

The orders given pertained to Major-Generals A.J. Smith’s and Joseph Mower’s commands.  Their destinations depended much on the evolving situations in Tennessee and Georgia.

Meanwhile, Rosecrans, in Warrensburg, Missouri at that time (about half way between Jefferson City and Kansas City, so still “in the field”), was quick to respond to Curtis’ couriers on October 30:

Your dispatch of 1 a.m. of this date received.  It was my intention and expectation that Sanborn’s and McNeil’s brigades should follow the enemy…. [Sanborn] has orders to take every available man and force Price within reach of Steele’s men…. [General Edward F] Winslow’s brigade was worn down by long marches and is under orders to return to General Sherman….

That last mention, of the fourth brigade in the provisional cavalry division, is noteworthy.  Rosecrans was at this time dealing with conflicting requirements – chasing Price and directing units to Tennessee.  Supporting Rosecrans’ side of this, from Fort Scott came Colonel Charles Blair’s report, stating in part, “McNeil never stopped his pursuit.”  What is interesting, at this juncture of the dialog, is Pleasonton is absent from the message routing.  His “provisional” division was for all practical purposes working as independent brigades.

For a chief of staff thousands of miles from the fighting, perceptions are reality.  On October 31, some of those perceptions, built upon Curtis’ telegrams, brought cross words between Halleck and Rosecrans.  At 12:30, Halleck sent a message which reinforced the orders arriving with Rawlings:

Lieutenant-General Grant directs me to repeat his order that General A.J. Smith’s command be brought to Saint Louis with all possible dispatch, preparatory to its being sent to General Thomas.  Telegraph what date it will reach Saint Louis.

Before that telegram arrived, Rosecrans (still in Warrensburg) sent an update to Halleck relating Sanborn’s progress, stressing that brigade was “to take all his horses that are not exhausted and continue to move on the enemy’s rear.…”  Rosecrans went on to estimate Price’s force at 20,000 – a figure he attributes to Pleasonton.  He further said Major-General Marmaduke, captured on October 25, felt Price only had three cannons left.  Conflicting estimates of the enemy force, perhaps?  But certainly that message had not arrived in Washington before Halleck’s second telegram of the day:

General Curtis telegraphs that you have ordered the troops back from the pursuit of Price, directing General McNeil to Rolla and General Sanborn to Springfield. The orders of General Grant and General Canby are that the pursuit must be continued to the Arkansas River, or until you meet the forces of Generals Steele or Reynolds. These orders must be obeyed.

Rosecrans didn’t receive the two telegrams until much later in the day.  Only at 6:30 p.m. was Rosecrans able to respond to Halleck’s first telegram.  In that response, Rosecrans assured Halleck that A.J. Smith was on the way.  Then at 9 p.m., Rosecrans responded, somewhat awkwardly to the second telegram:

Generals Sanborn and McNeil determined the defeat of the enemy at Newtonia, and everything has been, and is being, done to accomplish the objects arrived at by the orders of General Canby and General Grant. Under all these circumstances of the case, it is the matter of regret that General Curtis should have thought proper to telegram you as he did.  That Winslow’s cavalry did not accompany them may be easily understood when it is stated that it had been marching after Price fifty-two days, and their horses are worn out.  General Sanborn telegraphs tonight that one-half of the horses of the troops from Saint Louis have been abandoned by the way.

And to Rosecrans’ credit, his orders for Sanborn and McNeil that day reiterated the intent – continue after Price.

Over the following days, the correspondence with Washington turned more and more towards the urgent need to transfer troops to Thomas.  Still, not until November 3 did the orders go out that would resolve the problem caused by the split command structure.  To Curtis, Halleck sent:

The Secretary of War directs that you assume command of all troops belonging to the Department of Missouri and now serving on the western border of that State, and pursue Price toward the Arkansas River, or till he reaches the troops of General Steele or Reynolds.

So, 27 days after Price turned west from Jefferson City… and 46 days after Price entered Missouri … there was one commander in charge of the direct efforts against him.  A lot of miles, and a lot of telegrams, were wasted before the battle over command was decided.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 41, Part IV, Serial 86, pages 301, 305, 330-1, 342-4, and 420.)