Friday, November 9, 2012

The Fall of Lexington – Why Mulligan was not Re-enforced – Fremont Vindicated

We make the following extract from the speech of Hon. Schuyler Colfax, in defense of Gen. Fremont, delivered on Friday last.  It is but an extract, but sufficient to justify to the General with the honest and patriotic people.  The speech was made in reply to the attack of F. P. Blair:

I come now to the fall of Lexington.  I happened to be in St. Louis on the 14th of September, and found the whole city excited with the news that had just reached there, that Price was marching upon the gallant defender of the town of Lexington, and when my friend speaks about the Home Guard it appears to me that Colonel Mulligan didn’t bear very high testimony to their gallantry then.  But I saw Lieutenant Governor Hall and he told me that Price was marching toward Lexington with fifteen thousand men, and that Fremont ought to send out a column to intercept him.  I asked him how many men Fremont had, and he said he thought he had twenty thousand.  I thought if he had that number he certainly could send out some, and I went to General Fremont, full of zeal for the re-enforcement of Mulligan, and told him what Lieutenant Governor Hall had said, and that if he had twenty thousand men some ought to be sent out. – He said: “I will tell you, confidentially, what I would not have known in the streets of St. Louis for my life.  They have got the opinion that I have twenty thousand men here.  I will show you what I really have got.”  He rang his bell, and his secretary came and brought the muster roll for that day, and by that muster roll he had in St. Louis and within seven miles round about, less than eight thousand men, and only two of them full regiments.  It was a beggarly array of an army, and it was all needed to defend that city at that time.  But I asked him if he could not spare some of these?  Sir, the tears stood in his eyes, as he handed me two telegraphic dispatches he had that day received from Washington.  I will read them, that you may see how little was at his command to re-enforce Mulligan.  Mr. Colfax then read the dispatches, ordering him to send five thousand armed infantry to Washington, and continued: I have shown you that he had the men, but no guns; and when he bought guns, the necessity for which was imperious, he was denounced from one end of this country to the other because they were not Springfield rifles of the best quality.  You must send five thousand well armed infantry to Washington at once, and this draft on him was to be replaced by troops from Kansas, or wherever he could best gather them.  I asked him, “What can you do (and my heart sank within me as I asked the question) here with an inferior force, and your best forces sent away to Washington?”  Said he, “Washington must have my troops, though Missouri fall, and I fall myself.”  After I heard that I would have been a traitor to my convictions if I did not stand up to defend this man, who was willing to sacrifice himself to defend the imperiled capital of the country.

He telegraphed to Washington that he was preparing to obey the order received, and I doubt not it made his heart bleed, knowing the strait Mulligan was in.  Then he telegraphed to Gov. Morton and Gov. Denison for more troops and the answer he received was that they had received orders to send all their troops East.  So there his reliance failed.  My friend says that it cannot be shown that he moved any of his men until after Lexington had fallen.  Lexington fell on Friday, the 22d of September.  I well remember the day.  Here are dispatches to Gen. Pope on the 16th of September, and dispatches from Gen. Sturgis to Col. Davis, hurrying the men.  The wires were hot with orders hurrying the men to re-enforce Mulligan.  Pope telegraphed on the 17th of September that his troops would be there day after to-morrow, which would have been two days before Lexington surrendered, and Sturgis thought he should be there on Thursday.  Col. Mulligan told me himself that if Sturgis had appeared on the opposite side of the river he though Price would have retired.  Thus from three sources Fremont sent on troops to re-enforce Mulligan, but he failed to do it because the elements seemed to be against him, and not because he did not seek to do so in every possible way that he could send succor to him.  At this very time there were all the different posts in Missouri to be held; his three months’ men were rapidly retiring, and his best men sent to Washington, Price, with fifteen thousand me, marching to Lexington; McCullough threatening Rolla, Hardee threatening Ironton, and Polk and Pillow at Columbus; and all over the State where organized bands of rebels – about eighty thousand men – threatening him, and he with an inadequate force to meet them.  And while thus struggling, from every side were launched against him the poisoned arrows of hate and partisan enmity; and while Fremont was out hunting the enemies of his country, somebody was in St. Louis hunting up witnesses against him, and giving ex parte testimony taken there; and while he was facing the foe, endeavoring to secure victory, a synopsis of the testimony was sent upon the wires all over the country, so that the public mind should be poisoned against, and his overthrow might be easier.  I think, in the name of humanity – if there is no such word as justice – they should at least have sent him this evidence after he came back to his post; but to this very hour the committee have not sent him this testimony at all.

– Published in The Burlington Weekly Hawk-Eye, Burlington, Iowa, Saturday, March 29, 1862, p. 4

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