Report of Brigadier General Thomas W. Sweeny, U. S. Army.
HEADQUARTERS SOUTHWEST EXPEDITION,
Springfield, Mo., July 27, 1861.
In compliance with verbal orders received from you, I left this place on the evening of the 20th instant, and proceed with dispatch to Forsyth, where I arrived at about 6 p. m. of the 22d.
On approaching the town I took every possible precaution to prevent the hostile force assembled there from becoming aware of our presence. The advance guard, which consisted of a company of mounted Kansas Rangers, fell in with a picket guard of the enemy some 3 1/2 miles from town, and succeeded in capturing 2 of them. Upon an examination of the prisoners, they informed me that there were only 150 men stationed at Forsyth; whereupon I ordered Captain Stanley’s cavalry command and the Kansas Rangers to press rapidly forward and surround the town.
After they had passed on, and before the remainder of my force had come up, one of the prisoners remarked, “If that is all you have, you will get badly whipped, for we have a thousand men in Forsyth.” Supposing this statement might be true, although contradictory of his former assertion, I dispatched and order to Captain Stanley to keep the enemy in check if he found the resistance formidable, while I hastened forward with the artillery and infantry to his support. The enemy in the mean time had received information of our approach, and having partially formed in the town, opened a scattering fire on the cavalry, but as it was returned with a well-directed volley from our troops, they fled to the hills and surrounding thickets, keeping up a scattering fire as they retreated. Under cover of the trees and bushes, they collected in considerable numbers upon the hills to the left of the town, from which they were dislodged by a well-directed fire of shell and canister from the artillery. The infantry meanwhile had been deployed as skirmishers through the woods and in the rear of the city, and but a short time elapsed before we were in complete possession of the place.
From the best information I could gather, the loss of the enemy in killed was 8 or 10, and in wounded must have been several times that number. Among the dead was Captain Jackson, who took an active part in the skirmish. Our own loss consisted of 2 men wounded, neither of them dangerously, and 4 horses killed, including the one shot from under Captain Stanley, First Cavalry. The men belonged to the cavalry. Three prisoners were taken on the day of the action, and 2 on the day following.
The entire affair lasted about an hour, and both the officers and men engaged exhibited great coolness and courage. With the town we also captured 7 horses, and a quantity of arms, munitions of war, flour, meal, sugar, syrup, salt, clothing, cloth, boots, shoes, hats, camp furniture, mule and horse shoes, &c., most of which we found in the court-house, which we used as a barracks for their troops. The arms and munitions of war were distributed among the Home Guards of the county, and the clothing and provisions among our troops, of which they stood in great need.
The country through which we passed is exceedingly hilly and broken, and the latter part of the route almost entirely destitute of provisions for men and forage for horses.
Notwithstanding the adverse weather, which was remarkably stormy for a portion of the time, the march of
45 miles and the capture of the place occupied but little over fifty hours. The last day the troops marched 28 miles, the last four of which were passed over at double-quick time.
I remained in Forsyth till noon of the 23rd receiving the captured property, and then took up the line of march for Springfield, which I reached at 2 p. m. of Thursday, the 25th instant.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
- W. SWEENY,