On August 17, 1861 Missouri Governor Hamilton R. Gamble ordered a proclamation establishing the Missouri State Militia for defense of the State against guerrilla activity. Gamble soon realized the need for additional troops, and on July 22, 1862 he issued General Order Number 29 organizing the Enrolled Missouri Militia (EMM). General Colley B. Holland assumed command of the 4th Military district, consisting of the counties in southwest Missouri, on October 30, 1862. Based in Springfield, Missouri, roughly 2,500 men reported for duty, operating under the jurisdiction of the State of Missouri. Holland’s documented all activities related to his command in the enrolled Missouri Militia order book for the 4th Military District in Southwest Missouri, from November 1862 through May 1863. His reports covered the Battles of Springfield and Hartville and also include details about depredation in Southwest Missouri and the extensive guerrilla activity that took place in the region.
Colley B. Holland was made captain of Company D, in the famous Phelps Regiment, organized in the summer of 1861. He took part in the Battle at Pea Ridge, Arkansas, the heaviest battle west of the Mississippi. Holland was promoted to the position of lieutenant colonel of the reorganized Phelps Regiment, and in the fall of 1862 he aided in recruiting the Seventy-second Regiment, of Missouri State Militia, and was commissioned colonel of that organization, his commission bearing date of September 9, 1862.
Holland’s control over southwest Missouri was tested early as Gen. John. S. Marmaduke led confederate troops from Arkansas and assaulted Springfield on January 8, 1863. Marmaduke had hoped to surprise Springfield’s garrison, but Union Captain Milton Burch’s Company H, 14th Missouri State Militia Cavalry Regiment, while scouting near Dubuque, Arkansas, on January 6, 1863, detected Marmaduke’s movements. Burch then retreated with his company to Lawrence’s Mill in Douglas County, Missouri, before daylight of January 7. Captain Burch then sent a warning message: A Confederate force, estimated between 4000 and 6000 strong, was moving toward Springfield. This was alarming news for Union Brigadier General E. B. Brown’s Springfield & Ozark garrisons, whose commands included only 1,343 veteran soldiers. With suggestions from militia officers Holland, Henry Sheppard, and Doctor Samuel Melcher, General E. B. Brown called upon all available Enrolled Missouri Militia commanders to concentrate their regiments immediately at Springfield.
After fighting Union soldiers for several hours, Marmaduke realized that his force was too small to capture the Union garrison. He disengaged his Confederate forces about 11 p.m, and retreated from the battlefield on the morning of January 9. The Union won a major tactical victory since they successfully held onto the town and saved the Union Army of the Frontier’s winter supplies.
After the defeat at Springfield, General Marmaduke turned his sights towards Hartville. Marmaduke’s men were able to bypass the Union forces on the road and enter Hartville. Union troops raced to Hartville and formed a battle line on the high ground west of the courthouse. The Union forces had almost no time to prepare their position before Colonel Joseph Shelby and Colonel Joseph Porter’s commands engaged them in battle.
As the Confederates discovered the precise location of the Union battle line, they began concentrating their fire from the buildings in town. A portion of the Union line began to break and elements retreated, including the Union’s artillery. Confederate commanders noted the Union withdrawal, and presumed victory. The Union position west of the courthouse, however, was covered by ample brush and trees. While some Union forces indeed retreated from the battlefield, the 21st Iowa Infantry did not receive the order to retreat, so they held their ground in the bush. As Colonel Porter and his column reached the courthouse they realized their mistake as the enemy, only 50 yards away from his men, opened fire. Porter was wounded in the leg and hand.
Lieutenant Colonel Cornelius Dunlap, of the 21st Iowa Infantry, extended his line of defense and increased his regiment’s rate of fire to mask his weakness from the Rebel forces. The Confederates made three additional advances before sundown, all of which were repelled. Dunlap later reported, “My men all acted finely, and were cool and active when they learned that they were left alone in front of a rebel horde of 5,000 men.”1 After darkness, Dunlap retreated with the other Union forces toward Lebanon.
Along with calling upon men to fight in combat, General Holland’s responsibilities also included protecting the citizens of Southwest Missouri from guerrilla fighters as Col Henry Sheppards replied to General Holland the need for mounted men was great, “ It is mounted men that are wanted, to distribute them in the Counties of Newton, Jasper, Lawrence, Dade, Cedar, and Barton in the West, and in Christian Stone and Taney in the South, for in many localities in the counties named are bands of Guerrillas. Unless the loyal citizens in those Counties have some protection, they will be overrun and driven from their homes; and have their property destroyed.”2
Management of rebel civilians became a difficult issue for the Enrolled Missouri Militia and Holland. Holland issued General Orders No. 4, which required all able-bodied men between the ages of 16 and 55 years, residing in the Springfield area, to report for work on fortification and other necessary duties for the EMM. “All able-bodied men” did not discriminate among political affiliations and oaths of loyalty. Captured rebel prisoners began work on fortifications, a pragmatic use of idle manpower. Claims of maltreatment from rebel civilians by the Enrolled Missouri Militia reached Holland and General Egbert B. Brown, in which Holland responded:
Many complaints are made to me by persons who admit they have been active rebels, or that they sympathize with those in rebellion. They complain of depredations on their property by the Enrolled Militia. In many cases I find the complaints groundless… I am ready to sustain all measures which you may consider necessary for the public good; and to have maintained in the Enrolled Militia the strictest discipline. To disarm and disband any portion, because of alleged misdemeanors or crimes, is in my judgment not only irregular, but will tend to destroy all military discipline.
Colley B. Holland to Egbert B. Brown, December 15, 1862
By the end of the war, over 52,000 men were mustered into 70 regiments of the EMM. While plagued with a stereotype created by its notorious elements, many Enrolled Missouri Militia regiments “became professional in their demeanor and execution, defended their home areas with distinction, even won acclaim for occasional combat, and often performed these feats with their own private weapons, clothing, and horses.”3
This collection represents the bureaucratic task of organizing, supplying, training, disciplining, and maintaining a military presence in the Ozarks.
Contributed by the STATE HISTORICAL SOCIETY of MISSOURI RESEARCH CENTER – Columbia
- U. S. War Department, The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series 1, Volume XXII, Part 1 (Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1880-1901), 193.
- Order Book Enrolled Missouri Militia, 4th Military District, pg 5.
- Bruce Nichols, Guerrilla Warfare in Civil War Missouri, 1862 (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2004), 103.