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Old Settlers’ History of Bates County, Missouri. (Amsterdam, Mo: Tathwell & Maxey, 1897) 187-188.

THE BATTLE AT FORT TOOTHMAN

This fort was situate[d] on the N.W. quarter, Section 35, Township 40, Range 32, in Charlotte township.

J.S. Pierce, an old settler being interviewed said:

"I came to Bates County in the spring of 1853, and have resided here ever since, except a short time during the late war between the States. Ft. Toothman was a regular U.S. fort, and garrisoned by regular U.S. troops, colored; and must have been established there late in 1862. What I know about the battle was gleaned from a soldier whom I met in Little Rock, Ark., shortly after the battle, and who had participated in it. He and other Southern men were camped, or rendezvoused on the slough island nearly directly south of the fort, and were taking care of themselves the best they could in the unsettled condition of the country.

"The colored troops to the number of 150 or 200, were foraging upon the country for a living; and in order to punish them these Southern men planned an attack. They sent out a few men to approach the fort and entice the colored troops out. One man had been placed in a cottonwood tree where he could see the colored troops, and at the same time signal a charge. The rest of the force was quietly disposed for action a short distance south on the low land of the Marais de Cygne [sic] river. This was not to be made until the colored troops were some distance from the fort, and near the river timber.

"The scheme worked. The colored troops came out in force and pursued the squad nearly to the timber, and at the proper time the man in the cottonwood tree gave the signal, and the Southern men, numbering some 15 to 25 men, charged the colored troops, and the battle raged fast and furious until the few who escaped were inside Fort Toothman. Both sides were mounted, and the Southern men had the advantage of fresh horses, and the colored troops had to retreat with fagged horses and up over the bluffs towards the fort. Hence, they were cut down mercilessly, and only one or two survived to get inside the fort. The Southern men, who had sustained no losses, soon evacuated the island, and went south. The colored troops remaining were soon afterward ordered to some other post."

Researcher notes:

Paragraph #1:  All evidence points to the fact that there was no "regular U.S. fort" at the Toothman farm.  Instead, the evidence shows that the men of the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteers erected a hasty barricade around the house from the farm's split rail fences, and the African American troops dubbed the Toothman house and surrounding defenses "Fort Africa."  After the troops left the Toothman farm on November 1, 1862, there is no evidence that the place was ever used again by Union forces.

Paragraph #2:  This account holds with the other contemporary accounts and is interesting as it provides evidence of what the rebels had planned for the 1st K.C.V.

Paragraph #3:  The 1st K.C.V. was an infantry unit and the only mounted personnel of the command were the half-dozen attached white cavalry scouts from the 5th Kansas Cavalry and possibly the white officers of the 1st K.C.V.  It is interesting to note how the engagement was interpreted from a "Southern" point of view.   As with many of the engagements of the Civil War both sides involved in the "Skirmish at Island Mound" undoubtedly show a propensity to exaggerate figures and events in their favor.  Perhaps the author is confusing the events of the morning of the October 29th with the actual engagement of that afternoon.  In the morning, while a forage party went in search of cornmeal and salt, a diversionary force was dispatched from "Fort Africa" to evidently keep the enemy's attention off of the forage party.  A running skirmish ensued but was inconclusive as the mounted rebels kept out of the range and reach of the foot soldiers of the 1st K.C.V.


Old Settlers’ History of Bates County, Missouri. (Amsterdam, Mo: Tathwell & Maxey, 1897) 188.

James Drysdale, being interviewed on the same matter said:

"I came to this county in 1868, and settled on a farm one mile west of Ft. Toothman. I also own the 40 [acres] adjoining the Toothman farm on the west. When I first settled there the earthworks and some of the timber used in the fort were still there. The Toothman house was the center of the works, and the earth works surrounding took in about an acre of ground. This farm has since been known as the Cogill farm. A short distance north of the fort there was fresh dirt thrown up and everything indicated a burial ground. Here, I was informed, was where the men killed in the battle were buried. Recently I had a talk with a woman by the name of Wheeler, whose maiden name was Langferd, and who resided on the Oliver Ellswick place, adjoining the Toothman place on the north, at the time of the battle, and she said she saw the battle and that there were twenty-one colored troops and one white man, commanding, killed; that the colored men were buried there, and the white man taken to Mound City, Kansas for interment. This battle was fought some time prior to General Ewing’s Order No. 11, which was dated August 25, 1863, and from all the information at hand, it was probably on or about the 1st of June."

This is supposed to have been the only battle fought on Bates County soil in which regular U.S. troops were engaged.

Researcher notes:

Paragraph #1:  It is conceivable that during the 5 days that the 1st K.C.V. occupied the Toothman farm the hasty defenses would have been improved upon.   From my experience in the U.S. Marines, every time we stopped for any extended period of time... we dug-in. 

This account is interesting as it provides anecdotal evidence that the killed soldiers of the 1st K.C.V. were buried at the Toothman farm.  Subsequent interviews and research lends credence to this fact.   It was common practice during the Civil War to bury men where they fell or nearby.  

We know that the 1st K.C.V. only suffered 19 casualties (8 KIA and 11 WIA).   All of the wounded eventually recovered.  Of the 8 men killed in action (1 white officer, 6 African Americans, and 1 Cherokee Indian) there is only evidence that the white officer Captain Andrew J. Crew was not buried at the Toothman farm.  However, he was not interred at Mound City, although his body might have been initially transported there.  We know from a newspaper account that Crew's body was transported to his home in Leavenworth, Kansas.  All attempts to locate the grave of Andrew J. Crew (the first white officer to be killed in action during the Civil War while leading African Americans in combat) have failed.  It is probable that Crew was buried on the post at Fort Leavenworth at the location where the current Commanding General's house is. 

Please see the casualty list located in "The Battle" segment of this web site for further discussion about those killed and wounded in the engagement.