“It Looked Awful”: The Western Turner Rifles’ Visit to Wilson’s Creek

Just three months after fighting raged across the fields near Wilson’s Creek, 40,000 men sent by Major General John C. Fremont were sent toward Springfield, Missouri to regain the initiative against the Missouri State Guard, who were victorious at Wilson’s Creek and Lexington. On November 11, the men of the 17th Missouri Infantry (“The Western Turner Rifles”) visited the battlefield that wrecked havoc on their fellow Federal soldiers and killed Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon.

The effects of shot and shell on trees on Culp’s Hill at Gettysburg would have been similar to the sights at Wilson’s Creek. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. 

On November 21, 1861, Pvt. John W.  Lindner of the Western Turner Rifles penned a letter to his friend August Duemler about what they saw ten days before. Read the letter below:

Dear Friend Mr. August Duemler, I will take the pen up in my hand and will let you know that we are all well so far and I wish to you the same.We are in Rolla again, I think that you know the place very well, and so I will not tell you much about the town because you know it as well as I do; but I will tell you about the march that we made the 11th of November. We went to Wilson Creek and searched it all over the battlefield but it looked awful. Some of the trees have ten dozen balls in them. Some is blown plumb down. The bones of horses are just piled up in some places. On the 12th of November we camped in Macclain and the next day we went to Springfield again and we stayed there three days and then we went to Rolla and we arrived there the 19th of November. They say that we will go to St. Louis in a short time. I don’t know if it is true or not, I don’t believe anything they say. I think that is all what I know this time except one of our company died on the march from Springfield to Rolla. His name was Phillip Swerouting. This is all the news I can tell you this time so I will bring my letter to a close. And the best regards from your affectionate friend, John William Lindner. 

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