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Major Abial R. Pierce's Official Report from Price's Expedition

Posted by The Muse (themuse) on Nov 24 2014
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During Sterling Price's 1864 expedition into Missouri, Major Abial R. Pierce was in command of the Fourth Iowa Cavalry. His official report did not make it into Volume 41 of the US War Department's Official Records. Pierce and the Fourth Iowa Cavalry were a key factor in the Federal victory at the Battle of Mine Creek on October 25, 1864.

Price's Missouri Expedition: Report of Major Abial R. Pierce, Fourth Iowa Cavalry, U. S. Army, of Price's Missouri Raid, September 2-November 29, 1864.

Headquarters, Fourth Iowa Abial R. PierceCavalry, Saint Louis, Missouri, November 29, 1864

SIR: I have the honor to make the following report of the part taken by the Fourth Regiment of Iowa Cavalry in the expedition against the Rebels under General [Sterling] Price, in Arkansas, Missouri, and Kansas.

On September 2, we left Memphis with 547 men of the Fourth Iowa, in company with detachments of each of the other regiments composing the Twentieth Division Cavalry Corps, and marched for Clarendon, Arkansas, on White River. The weather was very warm and the roads bad; we were frequently obliged to pass through deep mud and water for miles, and often halting to build bridges over the creeks and sloughs; but we marched rapidly, arriving at Clarendon on September 6. On September 7, we marched for Brownsville, which place we reached on September 9. We were detained several days, waiting for supplies.

On September 18, we began our northward march, in company with Major-General [Joseph A.] Mower's command of infantry, and passing through Arkansas entered Missouri at Roberts Ford, on Black River. On October 1, when near Stevenson's Mills, Company D of my regiment, having the advance of the Army, encountered a body of Rebels, charged them, and captured three prisoners and several horses. From these prisoners we learned of the capture of Pilot Knob by Price's forces.

Our course was now changed toward Cape Girardeau, where we arrived on October 5. Our horses were much jaded from the long march, and many of them lamed for want of shoes on the hard road. The men were in good spirits, and anxious to continue the pursuit. We embarked on steamboats for Saint Louis, arriving there October 9. Drew 100 horses, and clothing for the men. On October 11, we marched westward, striking the enemy's trail near Franklin, thirty miles west of Saint Louis. We followed in pursuit as fast as the command could march, making twenty to forty miles per day. On October 22, we came up with the rear of Price's Army at Independence. About dark I received orders to send a battalion forward, dismounted. Captain [Edward W.] Dee, commanding the third battalion, soon took the advance on the road to Kansas City, driving the enemy five or six miles, to near the Big Blue River. The fight continued until 12 o'clock at night; the men rested on their arms until daylight. This battalion was to have been relieved by General [Egbert B.] Brown's Brigade at daylight, but by some mistake they were not relieved. Soon after daylight, I went to the front, and commenced the advance with the third battalion, meeting with stubborn resistance from the enemy. General Brown's troops now came up, and were placed under command of Colonel [Edward F.] Winslow, who ordered them to charge across the river. The enemy was well posted behind trees and fallen timber on the opposite bank, and poured in such a destructive fire that the men addendum halted. The third battalion, although considered relieved by General Brown's troops, were ordered by Colonel Winslow to make the charge across the river, which they did gallantly, using their Spencer carbines with great effect upon the enemy, who retreated precipitately to his main line. The first and second battalions, under commands of Captains [James T.] Drummond and [Newell B.] Dana, now came to the front, where Colonel Winslow directed me to place them in support of a battery which was to be sent forward. After a few shots from the guns, I ordered a charge upon the enemy's battery, which was at the edge of the timber. When we arrived at the point where their guns were used, I saw the enemy retreating rapidly on the open prairie, not more than 300 yards distant. My men were all dismounted, and it was useless to continue the charge further. A few volleys from our carbines increased their speed wonderfully. Our battery soon came up, and opened fire on the retreating Rebels. The third battalion and our led horses now came up, and the first battalion was ordered forward with the battery. A charge was soon ordered to be made by the cavalry, mounted. The Missouri State Militia first charged, and their lines were badly broken. Our brigade charged, the Tenth Missouri (Volunteers) having the advance. I commenced the charge as soon as the second battalion was in line, sending orders at the same time to Captain Dee, commanding third battalion, to follow the charge as fast as possible. We swept through the Rebel lines, carrying everything before us. The Fourth was first to break the Rebel lines. The enemy was soon completely routed. We followed him about three miles, when we halted, went into camp, and procured feed for our horses. We were here joined by Generals [Samuel R.] Curtis and [James G.] Blunt.

On October 24, we started in pursuit of the retreating enemy and came up with his rear on the Osage River, about 2 o'clock a.m. of October 25, after marching fifty-seven miles without stopping. The enemy was posted upon two high hills overlooking the road from the right and left. 1 was ordered by General [John B.] Sanborn to take the hill on the right before daylight. It was very dark and raining, the hill steep and rocky, but the men moved forward, some times having to climb the steep rocks upon their hands and knees. The enemy kept up a brisk fire all the time over our heads. We fired but few shots until near the top of the hill. As soon as they found we were coming upon them, they left their strong position, which they had occupied with two cannon, and did not stop their flight until they were far out on the prairie. They left in their camp one small cannon, many wagons, some loaded with provisions, and quite a number of horses and mules hitched to the trees. The enemy moved out about three miles and formed his lines upon the prairie. As my men had been dismounted all the morning, I had to wait for the lead horses; as soon as they came up I moved forward at a quick gallop. Our lines were formed in front of the enemy, and not far from them. I formed my regiment on the left of the second line, one half extending past the left flank of the first line, and my extreme left about even with the right flank of the enemy's lines. Just as the regiment came into line, the charge was sounded. Our lines moved forward to within 300 yards of the enemy's lines, when a terrific fire was poured into us from cannon and small arms. The front line halted; the right of the second line halted, trembling under the heavy fire from the enemy. The Fourth did not halt, but swept on, every horse at full speed, and every man yelling like a demon. The right of the regiment, which was in the rear of the Tenth Missouri, was obliged to pass through that regiment, thereby slackening its speed and causing a half right wheel in my line. We struck the enemy's lines on the extreme right, scattering them as we came up. My regiment was the first to break the enemy's lines, and we had crushed in quite a distance of his right before our other regiments, in front of the enemy's left, advanced. The second battalion, under Captain Dana, was the first to drive the enemy from his cannon, but the honor of the capture was afterward claimed by other regiments. The Fourth did not stop to gather up the captured property on the field, but pursued the retreating enemy more than one mile, and were yet pursuing when General [Alfred] Pleasonton came up and ordered us shelled by our own guns, thinking we were a part of the flying enemy. The Fourth captured 235 prisoners, and two stands of colors; killing and wounding many, and losing but two killed and four wounded. Lieutenant [Hira W.] Curtiss, Company F, was killed in this charge. We continued in pursuit of the enemy all day. Late in the afternoon he made another stand. A charge was ordered against his center, in squadron column, the Tenth Missouri in the advance, the Third Iowa next, the Fourth Iowa to follow the Third. The charge was commenced at a long distance from the enemy's line. As the first squadron neared the enemy, it slackened its speed, causing the squadrons following to close up on its rear. Fearing to get into a bad position by crowding one regiment upon another in front of the enemy's center, when he outflanked us on both wings, I slackened the speed of the Fourth until the rear of the Third was about 100 yards in advance of my front. I then deployed to the right, charging at full speed, passing the regiments in my front, and striking, for the enemy's left. He broke in confusion before we arrived within 100 yards of his line. I followed about one-half mile, when I discovered that our regiments in the center and on our left had not advanced, but were halted in front of the enemy. The enemy rallied and attacked me on my left and front; and I had to fall back, closely pressed in rear and flank. Many of my men were wounded while retreating. I received a severe wound in the foot. This ended the fighting for our regiment. The next day I turned the command over to Captain Dee, not being able to ride on account of my wound. The command continued the pursuit to the Arkansas River and then marched back to Saint Louis, where it arrived on November 29, having been out nearly three months and marched about 2,000 miles. Our whole loss was four killed and twenty-six wounded.

In closing my report, I feel it a duty I owe to my command to mention the good conduct of the officers and men on the march, and their bravery under fire doing honor to themselves, to the regiment, and to the State to which they belong. I cannot mention all the individual cases of gallantry. The battalion and company commanders, in all cases, managed their commands in a manner highly creditable to themselves. Captain [Asa B.] Fitch, acting as staff officer, gave many examples of bravery before the enemy, in urging the regiment forward. Lieutenant [John S.] Keck, Company G, Acting Adjutant for the regiment, was among the foremost in the charges on October 23 and 25.

Your obedient servant,
A. R. Pierce, Major, commanding regiment.

Lieutenant [Ambrose] Hodge, Acting Assistant Adjutant-General, Second Division, Cavalry Corps, District West Tennessee.


Abial R. Pierce image courtesy of the Battle of Westport Museum, Kansas City, Missouri.


Pierce, Abial R. “Price’s Missouri Expedition: Report of Major Abial R. Pierce, Fourth Iowa Cavalry, U. S. Army, of Price’s Missouri Raid, September 2-November 29, 1864.” In Report of the Adjutant-General’s Office of the State of Iowa: January 11, 1864 to January 1, 1865, 966–69. Des Moines, IA: F. W. Palmer, State Printer, 1865.

Pierce's report was included in the OR Supplement, Army Official Records, Volume 7. Hewett, Janet B., Noah Andre Trudeau, and Bryce A. Suderow, eds. Supplement to the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Wilmington, NC: Broadfoot Pub. Co., 1997.


Last changed: Nov 24 2014 at 10:02 AM