Letter From Surgeon Plummer.
LINN CREEK, Missouri,
Oct. 16th, 1861.
DEAR COL.: We arrived at this point last evening, having made a march of 24 miles yesterday. Our force consists of the 13th Illinois regiment of infantry and two battalions of cavalry, one of which, under command of Major Bowen, consists a part of the 13th, and is composed of four companies, numbering about three hundred men. We have still another company at Rolla, — they were not equipped and waited for their equipage. They will probably join us to-day. The other, the Fremont battalion, is commanded by Major Wright, and numbers about four hundred men, making our whole force seventeen hundred.
We left Rolla last Thursday and came through in five days, stopping long enough by the way to have one glorious fight. The rebels have quite a force at Lebanon. Their pickets were posted as far out on our route as Humboldt, or thirty miles from Lebanon. They discovered our advance guard of about two hundred cavalry, and supposing it to be the whole force, sent to Lebanon for reinforcements. One thousand came, intending to surround and take us — nor did they discover their mistake till we were after them. They retreated as fast as they could, but not fast enough to save their bacon. We killed thirty-nine; left on the field mortally wounded, twenty-nine, and took fifty-one prisoners. We also got some thirty or forty horses, but most of their horses ran away as soon as relieved of their loads of sin. Our men brought in and destroyed near a hundred guns.
My opinion is that it was one of the best managed affairs that has taken place since the commencement of the war, and has inspired our men, who were full of confidence in our officers before the fight, with a confidence that now knows no bounds.
Gen. Wyman is perfectly worshiped by every one, and I believe there is not a man in his command who would not undertake any thing he ordered. Such is their confidence in him and his judgment as an officer.
Just think of it, thirty-nine killed, twenty nine mortally wounded, fifty-one prisoners, thirty or forty horses, one hundred guns; and, our loss, one man killed (not another injured) and two horses wounded.
In order that you may understand how things were managed, I will give you, briefly as possible, the details of the fight: We had come to where we were to leave the road to Lebanon, and having seen some of the enemy's pickets the evening before, the general sent Major Bowen's command to reconnoiter the country along the road to Lebanon. We had proceeded on our route towards this point, about one and a half miles, when we were startled by a volley from the direction taken by Major Bowen. The sound had hardly died away before a messenger came, informing us that the enemy were drawn up in line of battle and they were in strong force (he said two thousand.)
Maj. Brown fell back to wait for reinforcements, five companies of infantry, F, G, H, I and K at once countermarched. In the mean time Major Wright's command, who were in the rear, had come up with Bowen, and they again advanced, Bowen flanking them on the right, and Wright on the left. Their orders were to draw the enemy's fire and then charge on them, which they did do in splendid style. They run into them after giving them the contents of their carbines, with pistols and sabers, and such cutting and slashing never was done on this footstool before, The infantry followed on double quick for five miles, Old Capt. Blanchard of Naperville leading the van; and such hurrahing — knapsacks, coats, vests, caps and canteens, were strewed along the road, in fact everything interfering with their progress was cast aside. I did think they would kill themselves, but on they thundered, until it became evident that it was useless to keep up the chase any longer: When ordered to halt, I could see disappointment depicted in every man's face. They did want a hand in, and did their best to get it. It was a most glorious victory, and the old 13th is becoming a terror to secesh in this neighborhood.
Yesterday we took up our line of march before 7 o'clock in the morning, Maj. Wright's command leading. When within a few miles of this place, we heard that there was a company of rebels here. We advanced and took the whole of them prisoners, killing one. Not a mother's son of them escaped. We have now over 100 prisoners, among them one colonel, several majors, the commissary of this division of the rebel army — all of them as ill looking set of men as I ever saw.
I have had plenty of business in my line, and that, too, among the men whom I can cut, probe and stich with little feelings of sympathy. It is miraculous how our men escaped, not even a bruise to dress among them.
The country we passed over in coming is hilly, but better for farming purposes than that in the vicinity of Rolla.
We have with us a Capt. Montgomery, as good a jay-hawker as the one of Kansas notoriety. I said to him after the battle, "Captain, you did good work to-day." He replied, "Yes, there are a good many strange faces in hell to-night." He has been robbed of every thing he had, by the rebels, and has no particular love for them.
I would be glad to give you other interesting incidents, but must close for want of time.
SAM'L C. PLUMMER.