|Major General Samuel R. Curtis, U.S. Army|
BATTLE OF WESTPORT.
Night closing the battle of Big Blue on the 22nd, I ordered my troops under cover of the darkness to concentrate within the lines of fieldworks that inclosed Kansas City, Mo., only a small force remaining in front of Westport near the long line of camp-fires that marked the position and vastly superior numbers of the rebel forces. The citizens and soldiers had so improved the natural strength of Kansas City as to make this position almost impregnable, and being well furnished with food, forage, and ammunition, I replenished exhausted stores and secured my weary soldiers a few hours' repose, which, after so many days of marching, watching, and fighting, we all very much needed. But in view of to-morrow my officers were put to a new test of their powers of endurance. The enemy had halted south of Westport, and some five or six miles south of Kansas City, where he could either turn my new right flank, which rested on Turkey Creek, or attack in front at his leisure. I therefore determined to renew the offensive on his own grounds with my main force, leaving heavy artillery, unmounted militia, and the home guard of the city to hold the line of intrenchments, to fall back upon of occasion required. A dispatch from Major Frank Eno, Saint Louis, October 22, informed me that General Rosecrans was at 1.30 p. m. to-day fifteen miles from Lexington, but a scout from his cavalry advance reported General Pleasonton at Independence, only nine miles from Kansas City. Militia also came in to re-enforce me and compensate for the considerable losses of the day. I directed Generals Blunt and Deitzler to personally supervise preparations and have the troops to commence moving at 3 o'clock in the morning, and all of my staff not then engaged locating the troops for the night were also directed to assist in notifying and replenishing the militia for the proposed attack of the enemy at daylight the next morning. A verbal message was also sent to General Pleasonton giving him information of my purpose. General Pomeroy volunteered to locate troops at the crossing of the Kansas River, so as to apprise me of any movement around my right flank. The officers all heartily united and labored most of the night in efforts to have everything ready for a united, powerful attack on the rebel camp at daylight.
Our regular volunteers, with the artillery, moved early in the morning of the 23rd, and were deployed into line of battle two miles south of Westport, on Brush Creek, which is shown on the map accompanying this report. This stream lies east and west, and is skirted by a dense forest some two miles wide. This advance of General Blunt was soon attacked by overwhelming odds, and gradually fell back. The militia came up and deployed under Colonel Blair on the right, but not sufficient to maintain the advanced position. Our troops fought desperately and sometimes repulsed the enemy, but gradually fell back to the north side of Brush Creek. After directing General Deitzler and colonel Coates (who commanded the Missouri militia) to put the whole male population about Kansas City on duty in the trenches of that place, I pressed forward all the mounted forces and joined General Blunt at Westport at 7.30, where I found our forces as last mentioned. The enemy had advanced his skirmishers so as to occupy the timber south of Brush Creek, while our troops occupied the timber on the north side. As the militia were coming forward, I ordered a reconnaissance to the left and front, also sending Major Curtis in that direction with orders to find and report matters to General Pleasonton, and directed also the farther extension of our lines to the right. From the roof of the hotel where I found General Blunt we could see beyond the timber of Brush Creek the rebel forces deployed in endless lines on the open prairie. McLain's battery was on the brow of the north bank of Brush Creek and near the road, Dodge's (Ninth Wisconsin) battery to his right. We also had about twenty other pieces of artillery, mostly mountain howitzers, with cavalry, taking position as their supporting squadrons came into line. Meantime continued firing was kept up by skirmishers and artillery on both sides, with but little damage to either. After taking the positions named on opposite sides of Brush Creek, about 11 o'clock I went myself to the right of our lines, and led the militia forward as skirmishers. I tried to get through the timber with Dodge's battery and two little howitzers of my escort, but the roads were not favorable and I left the farther movement of the right to Colonel Blair, who was soon after joined by General Deitzler. I was directed by an old man, a Missouri patriot of seventy-five years, through a narrow defile to Brush Creek with Dodge's battery and other forces. With trembling, sinking steps the old man directed us to a position where we immediately began to demonstrate against the enemy that occupied the inclined plain and wooded heights on the south of Brush. The weary veteran refused to ride, but sunk down with delight and exhaustion when he saw the success of our guns. Like many other brave Missourians of that day he saw the rebellion vanishing before him and his home and country free. Moving farther down Brush Creek to the left I found Colonels Ford and Jennison skirmishing fiercely and evidently successfully pressing the enemy back. Thinking it a favorable time I immediately ordered a cavalry charge, one by the main road, and another by a road leading to the left and front, supported by advancing skirmishers and second lines. At the same time I directed General Blunt to advance in support with McLain's battery, and other artillery. The cavalry charges led by Lieutenant-Colonel Hoyt and Captain Thompson dashed forward with a terrible shout, carrying the heights and stone fences, which were immediately occupied by our main forces, and I soon saw our line, extending far away on my right, emerging from the dark forests of Brush Creek.
The enemy was soon overpowered, and after a violent and desperate struggle fell back to another elevation on the broad prairie and operated their artillery and cavalry to their utmost ability in a vain attempt to check our general movement. Our militia continued to come swarming out of the forest, displaying a length and strength of numbers that surprised me. Their movement was steady, orderly, and gallant. Every piece of artillery, especially the little howitzers, was in active fire, showing artillery enough to represent an army of 50,000. This display of force, rather than effective fire, seemed to cause the enemy to increase his distance before us, while we steadily advanced all arms over a beautiful prairie, where both armies were in full view. It was at this time, about 11.30 a. m., I telegraphed you and my anxious friends in the rear that the victory was ours. At about 12 p.m. the guns of General Pleasonton were heard on our left, and at 2 p. m. his lines were in full and successful co-operation on the left. The enemy's retiring movement was immediately changed to a complete rout and our troops took up the pursuit at full speed. I met with General Pleasonton at a farm-house on Indian Creek, where he related to me his movements, which had also commenced early in the morning and included active operations most of the day.