Reaching Springfield, I found the army had passed on in pursuit of Price, leaving only one brigade as a garrison. The quartermaster of the Army of the Southwest had his office in one of the principal buildings, and was busily engaged in superintending the forwarding of supplies to the front. Every thing under his charge received his personal attention, and there was no reason to suppose the army would lack for subsistence, so long as he should remain to supply its wants. Presenting him a letter of introduction, I received a most cordial welcome. I found him a modest and agreeable gentleman, whose private excellence was only equaled by his energy in the performance of his official duties.
This quartermaster was Captain Philip H. Sheridan. The double bars that marked his rank at that time, have since been exchanged for other insignia. The reader is doubtless familiar with the important part taken by this gallant officer, in the suppression of the late Rebellion.
General Curtis had attempted to surround and capture Price and his army, before they could escape from Springfield. Captain Sheridan told me that General Curtis surrounded the town on one side, leaving two good roads at the other, by which the Rebels marched out. Our advance from Lebanon was as rapid as the circumstances would permit, but it was impossible to keep the Rebels in ignorance of it, or detain them against their will. One of the many efforts to “bag” Price had resulted like all the others. We closed with the utmost care every part of the bag except the mouth; out of this he walked by the simple use of his pedals. Operations like those of Island Number Ten, Vicksburg, and Port Hudson, were not then in vogue.
Price was in full retreat toward Arkansas, and our army in hot pursuit. General Sigel, with two full divisions, marched by a road parallel to the line of Price’s retreat, and attempted to get in his front at a point forty miles from Springfield. His line of march was ten miles longer than the route followed by the Rebels, and he did not succeed in striking the main road until Price had passed.
I had the pleasure of going through General Price’s head-quarters only two days after that officer abandoned them. There was every evidence of a hasty departure. I found, among other documents, the following order for the evacuation of Springfield:—
HEAD-QUARTERS MISSOURI STATE GUARD,
SPRINGFIELD, February 13, 1862.
The commanders of divisions will instanter, and without the least delay, see that their entire commands are ready for movement at a moment’s notice.
By order of Major-General S. Price.
H.H. Brand, A.A.G.
There was much of General Price’s private correspondence, together with many official documents. Some of these I secured, but destroyed them three weeks later, at a moment when I expected to fall into the hands of the enemy. One letter, which revealed the treatment Union men were receiving in Arkansas, I forwarded to The Herald. I reproduce its material portions:—