Fighting in the Ranks of the Quinine Brigade

The Second Battle of Springfield, Missouri, a small engagement that pitted roughly 2,000 Federal troops versus 2,000 Confederates, took place on January 8, 1863. Springfield was an important supply depot supporting the Army of the Frontier then engaging Confederate forces in northern Arkansas; while the garrison numbered only roughly 1,300 soldiers, the town had a line of earthen forts and other defenses that made it a tough nut to crack. Brigadier General Egbert Brown, in command of the post, learned that three detachments of Confederates under General John Marmaduke were heading to take Springfield and chose to defend the town, calling under arms the local Missouri militia and also arming convalescents from the local military hospital. The convalescents were formed into three companies (A, B, and C) and dubbed the "Quinine Brigade."

One of those convalescents who saw action with the "Quinine Brigade" at Springfield was Corporal Ichabod Taylor Miller from Co. F of the 94th Illinois Volunteer Infantry. Miller's account saw publication in the January 23, 1863 issue of the Daily Pantagraph of Bloomington, Illinois. The 31 year old Miller was born in Champaign Co., Ohio, and later served as chaplain of the 94th Illinois; after the war, he served as a pastor in the Methodist Episcopal Church and died in Tacoma, Washington in 1895. Miller's missive, besides describing the battle, also aimed to disprove the stories running rampant that the only men in the hospitals were cowards and loafers. 

Second Battle of Springfield, Missouri, January 8, 1863

Springfield, Missouri

January 12, 1863

          Again, the enemy has been beaten; again, the soldiers of the West have demonstrated to their Eastern brethren that the star-spangled emblem of our nationality, handed down to us by our grandsires, will not be disgraced while in our hands. Again, have the shameless perjured traitors of the Southwest been made to cower, recoil, and skedaddle by the intrepid bravery and unyielding courage which legitimately belongs to and so well becomes soldiers who have left all and have volunteered to fight for the land of the free and the home of the brave.

          On Wednesday last, intelligence was received here that a large force of Rebels were approaching Springfield from the southeast by way of Ozark. General [Egbert] Brown, who happened to be here at the time, and Colonel Crabb of the 19th Iowa Volunteers (in command of the post) immediately went to work in good earnest to give them a becoming “Federal reception.” The convalescent boys in the various branches of the hospital were at once notified that there was a strong probability of their having an opportunity of seeing the elephant with marching ten days or two weeks over Ozark mountain roads. This was glad tidings to our boys, many of whom had been shut up in hospitals from one to three months. Every man who could march half a mile on slow time gave his name as part of the city’s defense, neither was the dependence that was placed in them dependence on a broken reed as the sequel fully proved.

          The citizens and soldiers working together managed to get all the artillery in the place properly mounted by sunrise Thursday morning. During the forenoon the convalescents were formed into Companies A, B, and C, and they and the citizens were marched to the arsenal and furnished with arms and accoutrements. This took up several hours and about all the time to could be appropriated for the work; for when Co. C (which I happened to be in) of the Quinine Brigade as the hospital boys were denominated were marched into Fort No. 4, the Rebel army could be discovered coming over the hills some three miles to the South. They were commanded by General [John S.] Marmaduke and numbered probably a little over 2,000, possibly 2,500.

          As they advanced, our pickets fell back until the Rebels came within a mile and a half; here they formed in line of battle being on the south side of the prairie; the line was ¾ a mile in width while a portion of our cavalry were in position on the north side and about a half mile from Fort No. 4 in a southeasterly direction. The Rebels, from the position they now occupied, at 1 o’clock gave us an artillery salute, their fourth ball passed with an admonishing buzz directly over our heads; of course, there was a general scampering from the walls to the sheltered parts of the fort.

          A little before 2 o’clock, their cavalry advanced to meet ours when some sharp skirmishing ensued in which they had one man killed. During this time they were advancing their main body under cover of several buildings which we had been using up until that morning for hospital purposes and which were known as the Campbell House Hospital. These buildings hid them pretty much from our view until they came within ¾ of a mile where they moved to the west a little and formed directly south of the fort. Our artillery now opened on them at a 2:45 p.m. and shots were given and returned pretty freely for a time with little effect more than to check their advance.


94th Illinois Sutler's Token
(Heritage Auctions)

          About 3:30, the Rebels sent a heavy cavalry force to the southeast which formed in line at a distance of about 1-1/2 miles; at the same time, they advanced a considerable infantry force to the southwest of us supported by their artillery of two small field pieces. With this latter force, they evidently expected to enter the town by passing a little to the right of the fort on which our cannon were planted. They were met by a small portion of the 18th Iowa, one or two companies of the State militia, and a company of the Quinine Brigade of 150 men led by Colonel Crabb of the 19th Iowa and Lieutenant Barnard of the 94th Illinois who was so fortunate as to be in town at the time. Our artillery also took part in this part of the engagement and our infantry were aided somewhat by a small force of cavalry.

          This conflict was a fierce one and lasted and 2 hours and 15 minutes and in it a number of men were lost on both sides. Several desperate charges were made and much valor displayed by both officers and men in them which I would love to mention but cannot in the brief space allotted to this letter. I must, however, state that Colonel Crabb’s praise is in everyone’s mouth and he says had it not been for the convalescents of the Quinine Brigade, Springfield would have been taken, some saying that it is cowardice which keeps them from their regiments notwithstanding.

          Although this fight took place within musket range of the fort, we could not assist them very much owing to the fact that our men were so mixed up with theirs in the various advances and retreats that it was difficult and frequently impossible to distinguish friend from foe. We, however, managed to give them a volley occasionally and our sharpshooters and theirs kept up a constant duel. During the fight, General Brown was severely wounded in the shoulder. About dark, the Rebels fell back a little leaving their dead and ceased firing. Our men slept on their arms and during the night every preparation was more for a terrible battle on Friday. The long night finally wore away and in the morning the enemy concluded to let us alone. And the dirty, thieving set started to engage in their legitimate business at points less able to resist them.

          Our loss in killed and wounded including those who have died since the battle from their wounds I believe is 21; wounded about 100, many of them but slightly wounded. Our wounded are receiving the best possible attention and it is hoped nearly all now living will recover. I saw 19 dead Rebels and heard various rumors about there having buried a number of their dead during the night, but I do not know that they are true. From the best information that I can get, I think the loss on both sides is nearly equal. Hours have passed since writing the above during which time I have learned that several of their wounded have died and also that the Rebels certainly did bury a few of their dead during the night which will place their loss in killed considerably above ours.

          Henry J. Brigg of Co. K was shot in the eye while advancing on the enemy several rods in advance of his company and immediately killed. Marion Kane of Co. E received a slight flesh wound on the arm; these are all of the 94th Illinois who are injured. Our sick are doing well, quite a number of us are expecting to start for the regiment in a day or two.

          We are having nice October weather and feel confident that under the blessing of Providence, the Army of the Frontier can clean Missouri and Arkansas of armed Rebels in a short time. Rumor says that we will be attacked again in a day or two and what may seem strange to some of our friends at home is that nearly all our boys are anxious that the rumor should prove true.

 

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