The following letter is one of a series of letters written by Dr. Andrew Jackson Huntoon who served as the Assistant Surgeon and Surgeon of Kansas’s Lane’s Brigade from the summer of 1861 until April of 1862. The original letters are located in the “Huntoon Collection” in the Kansas Historical Society in Topeka, Kansas. Dr. Huntoon and his wife Elizabeth came to Kansas from New England in 1857 and settled south of Topeka in Williamsport, Shawnee County. During the civil War his wife and small son returned to their former home in New England and rejoined Dr. Huntoon in Kansas after the Civil War was over. After the civil War they lived in Topeka and Dr. Huntoon became very active in public affairs until he died in 1902. Sometime after his death a street in Topeka was named Huntoon Blvd. to recognize and honor the public service of Dr. Huntoon.
The following letter is the first of a series that provide previously unknown information on the history of Fort Scott and Bourbon County during the Civil War. This letter was written at Fort Lincoln which was located approximately 12 miles north of Fort Scott and a few miles west of Fulton, Kansas on the north bank of the Little Osage River. It includes an excellent description of the Battle of the Mules and the possibility that Gen. Lane was going to “BURN “Fort Scott to the ground, rather than let it (Fort Scott) be captured by Confederate forces commanded by Major General Sterling Price who were advancing north through western Missouri to the Missouri River.
Sept. 2, 1861,
Headquarters of Lanes Brigade
My Dear wife,
You will see by the date of this that I have changed camp since my letter of Sunday last was commenced. Within one hour after I had stopped writing, an alarm was given in our camp that 2000 Sesesh [Confederates] had come upon a heard of mules about 5 miles from camp in care of four herds men, killing two of the herders & taking 70 mules belonging of Col. Wier of the 3rd [Kansas Infantry] Regiment. Our regiment was on the move immediately and in one hour was on the ground & drawn up in the line of battle opposite the enemy.
Our regiment only engaged them that evening & Capt. R’s Co. being all that were armed with “Sharps Rifles” did the fighting. His company was divided in two squads & skirmished on the right and left flank of the enemy with good effect. Not over 600 of our men were engaged with 3,000 secessionists. They drove the rebels 12 miles and night compelled them to return to the fort [Fort Scott]. I was ordered to remain in charge of the Hospital and Dr. Johnson went on to the field.
About sundown Gen [James H.] Lane ordered our camp to pack up & move into town. I put my charges numbering 16 patients aboard the ambulances and accompanied the train. Upon arriving at Lane’s headquarters we were ordered to repair at once to Fort Lincoln, situated on the Little Osage River, 12 miles north of Fort Scott. A new point where our forces have been fortifying for the month past where we arrived about 2 A.M. I had tents pitched and disposed of my patients just as day was breaking and started back to Fort the Fort to assist in taking care of our wounded, but not a man of ours was injured. They had several horses killed and 17 Sesesh were left dead on the field.
Monday morning our forces gathered to the number of 3,500 & moved south 5 miles where the enemy were found 10,000 strong were drawn up in line of battle, having 5 pieces of cannon which we had only 2. Our first shot silenced one of their guns [cannon]. I returned to Fort Scott. They fought most of the day and our forces left the field, but were not pursued. Two of Ritchey’s men were woundedand they slightly. The wounded arrived at our camp about midnight Tuesday. Only 2 killed and 8 wounded of our men and of the enemy we know nothing of.
Our men retreated to town [Fort Scott] and moved all their Infantry to this point [Camp / Ft. Lincoln] and our supplies have been transported hither. The Cavalry remained and have been skirmishing all of the day today, but we have not heard with what result.
I was called to consult with the Surgeon of the 3rd regiment as to the propriety of AMPUTATING on one man wounded in the knee & another in the forearm. Decided to postpone the operation for the present. In my hospital rounds this morning I prescribed for 36 patients of our own Regiment and 17 from others in absence of their Surgeon. Fever, Ague, Diarrhea, Bilious Fever, Colds and Sore Throats and Cough are the chief difficulty. Do not consider any dangerous, as my worst cases are improving.
I must close. My duties keep me busy all the day. We expect our men in at any hour and are making preparation for an attack on this point. Fort Scott is evacuated by all but our Cavalry. Fagots [bundles of straw and kindling] are piled in every house in the place and will be fired if our men are compelled to retreat.
In great haste I am truly yours,
A. J. Huntoon,
P.S. Kiss P & remember Pa does not forget him. A Kiss for My ever Dear Lizzie.
Now then, from this letter Dr. Huntoon was a loving father and husband. His enemy figure of 10,000 was an exaggeration which was not uncommon by both sides during the Civil War. The “Kansas Cavalry” did evacuate Fort Scott, but Col. Jewell refused to fire or burn the town as the enemy continued marching north to the Missouri River and did not attack Fort Scott. Additional letters will appear in future Battlefield Dispatches and of course the War Went On!