In early February 1862, pro-Union Missourians could take a sigh of relief. Just months before, the war in Missouri had shifted from Southern victory to retreat. Though the future looked promising for the Unionists, there was still uncertainty. Is the Missouri State Guard out of Missouri for good? Will the state be invaded? What will happen if the Southerners are victorious? Can Federal and State troops protect civilians as promised?
On February 5, The Macon Gazette – a pro-Union paper in Macon County – published an article from nearby Knox County about a group of deserters from Price’s Missouri State Guard who were captured by local militia. For the Unionists in the area, to hear signs of desertion and exhaustion must have been reassuring.
For us historians, it reveals an abundance of information about the Guard’s physical condition, equipment, armament, and morale. What is also quite interesting is the fact that they felt “deceived” by Price and Jackson. With the Guard merging into the Confederate Army of the West, it frustrated many of Price’s men. There were others who felt that the Confederate cause was not what they were fighting for; instead, they were fighting to protect their homes, hearths, and state.
The rebels were all armed, having the best description of double barreled shot guns and two rifles, and three Colt’s revolvers. The rifles were destroyed by the Federal soldiers. They had large quantities of ammunition, about sixty or seventy pounds of powder, about two hundred pounds of lead and 20,000 caps. The powder was carried in their satchels and saddle bags, put up in flasks, powder horns, and wrapped up in packages of paper, and the lead and shot was carried in sacks and on a pack horse. All this was quite significant of their future intentions. These rebels had left Price’s army at Springfield on the 22d ult. They were miserably clad, and their horses were so near worn out that two of them were unfit to be brought back, and another gave out on the return of the Federals to this point. This division of the scouting party returned with the eleven prisoners same day, reaching camp about 8 o’clock at night … Some of the Rebels had U.S. belts, cartridge boxes, bridles, etc. They say Price’s men are all as poorly clothed as they were. Numbers are leaving him every day, and more would do so, if they could travel such weather as this without freezing. A great many are compelled to go about the camp bare foot, being impossible for them to procure shoes. Most all of them manifested great penitence for their conduct, bitterly complaining that they have been deceived, and two of them offered to join the Federal army, but of course were refused.
The Macon Gazette, February 5, 1862, The State Historical Society of Missouri, Columbia, MO.