With the same squad we visited the principal bank of Booneville, and persuaded the cashier to give us a Rebel flag which had been floating for several days from a staff in front of the building. This flag was ten yards in length, and the materials of which it was made were of the finest quality. The interview between the cashier and ourselves was an amusing one. He protested he knew nothing of the flag or its origin, and at first declared it was not about the building. According to his own representation, he was too good a Union man to harbor any thing of the sort. Just as he was in the midst of a very earnest profession of loyalty the flag was discovered.
“Somebody must have put that there to ruin me,” was his exclamation. “Gentlemen, I hope you won’t harm me; and, if you want me to do so, I will take the oath of allegiance this minute.”
Soon after the occupation of Booneville, General Lyon sent a small expedition to Syracuse, twenty-five miles in the interior. This force returned in a few days, and then preparations were begun for a march to Springfield. Colonel Blair left Booneville for St. Louis and Washington, while General Lyon attended to the preliminaries for his contemplated movement. The First Iowa Infantry joined him, and formed a part of his expeditionary force. The Rebels gathered at Lexington, and thence moved southward to reach the Arkansas line, to form a junction with the then famous Ben McCulloch.
The prospect was good that Central Missouri would soon be clear of Rebels. Our general success in the State depended upon occupying and holding the Southwest. General Lyon was to move thither from Booneville. General Sweeney had already gone there by way of Rolla, while another force, under Major Sturgis, was moving from Leavenworth in a southeasterly direction. All were to unite at Springfield and form an army of occupation.
Preparations went on slowly, as the transportation was to be gathered from the surrounding country. Foreseeing that the expedition would be slow to reach Springfield, I returned to St. Louis. There I made preparations to join the army, when its march should be completed, by a more expeditious route than the one General Lyon would follow.
At Booneville, General Lyon established a temporary blockade of the Missouri River, by stopping all boats moving in either direction. In most cases a single shot across the bow of a boat sufficed to bring it to land. One day the White Cloud, on her way from Kansas City to St. Louis, refused to halt until three shots had been fired, the last one grazing the top of the pilot-house. When brought before General Lyon, the captain of the White Cloud apologized for neglecting to obey the first signal, and said his neglect was due to his utter ignorance of military usage.
The apology was deemed sufficient. The captain was dismissed, with a gentle admonition not to make a similar mistake in future.