In this assault the loss of our forces, in proportion to the number engaged, was quite severe, but the enemy was put to flight, and the town occupied for a few hours. We gained nothing of a material nature, as the Rebels would have quietly evacuated Springfield at the approach of our main army. The courage of the Body-Guard, which no sensible man had doubted, was fully evinced by this gallant but useless charge. When the fight was over, the colonel in command ordered a retreat of twenty miles, to meet the advance of the army.
A corporal with a dozen men became separated from the command while in Springfield, and remained there until the following morning. He received a flag of truce from the Rebels, asking permission to send a party to bury the dead. He told the bearer to wait until he could consult his “general,” who was supposed to be lying down in the back office. The “general” replied that his “division” was too much exasperated to render it prudent for a delegation from the enemy to enter town, and therefore declined to grant the request. At the same time he promised to send out strong details to attend to the sad duty. At sunrise he thought it best to follow the movements of his superior officer, lest the Rebels might discover his ruse and effect his capture.
Two days after the charge of the Body-Guard, the advance of the infantry entered Springfield without the slightest opposition. The army gradually came up, and the occupation of the key of Southwest Missouri was completed. The Rebel army fell back toward the Arkansas line, to meet a force supposed to be marching northward from Fayetteville. There was little expectation that the Rebels would seek to engage us. The only possible prospect of their assuming the offensive was in the event of a junction between Price and McCulloch, rendering them numerically superior to ourselves.
During our occupation of Springfield I paid a visit to the Wilson Creek battle-ground. It was eleven weeks from the day I had left it. Approaching the field, I was impressed by its stillness, so different from the tumult on the 10th of the previous August. It was difficult to realize that the spot, now so quiet, had been the scene of a sanguinary contest. The rippling of the creek, and the occasional chirp of a bird, were the only noises that came to our ears. There was no motion of the air, not enough to disturb the leaves freshly fallen from the numerous oak-trees on the battle-field. At each step I could but contrast the cool, calm, Indian-summer day, with the hot, August morning, when the battle took place.
All sounds of battle were gone, but the traces of the encounter had not disappeared. As we followed the route leading to the field, I turned from the beaten track and rode among the trees. Ascending a slight acclivity, I found my horse half-stumbling over some object between his feet. Looking down, I discovered a human skull, partly covered by the luxuriant grass. At a little distance lay the dismembered skeleton to which the skull evidently belonged. It was doubtless that of some soldier who had crawled there while wounded, and sunk exhausted at the foot of a tree. The bits of clothing covering the ground showed that either birds or wild animals had been busy with the remains. Not far off lay another skeleton, disturbed and dismembered like the other.