The Federal Withdrawal
Location: Start from the parking area for WCNB Tour Stop 8 [ Waypoint = N37 06.702 W93 25.074 ] and following the trail east to the West Overlook Interpretive Sign [ Waypoint = N37 06.710 W93 24.989 ]. If you walk about 200 yards to the north, you will be following the general path of the Federal withdrawal [ Waypoint = N37 06.819 W93 24.991 ].
Description: The Union commander was dead, having been killed in action. The Federals had just beaten back the third assault launched on Bloody Hill by the Southerners. During the lull in the fighting, the new Union commander, Major Samuel Sturgis, called a council of war to decide what thy should do next. It was around 11:30 A.M. when Sturgis ordered a withdrawal. The Federal troops were exhausted, having been on the move since the evening of August 9th and fighting since 5:00 A.M. The Federals were running low on ammunition.
Du Bois' Battery was moved north onto the high ground of the northern spur. This battery would cover the withdrawal. The battalion of US Regulars commanded by Captain Frederick Steele was the last unit to withdraw from the top of Bloody Hill. As they withdrew, they saw the advancing Southerners who were just beginning to launch their fourth assault of the day. The Federals were headed for Springfield, Missouri. On their way back to Springfield, Sturgis finally got word about Sigel's fate.
It took a while for the Southerners to realize that the Federals had withdrawn north. They advanced slowly up Bloody Hill. Once it became clear that the Federals had withdrawn, the southern commanders, Price, McCulloch and Pearce gathered together at the top of Bloody Hill. They could see the Federal column marching northward.
In his official report, Brigadier General Bart Pearce wrote:
"General McCulloch, myself, and our staff-officers now grouped ourselves together upon the center of the hill. Woodruff's battery was again placed in position, and Totten, who was covering the retreat of Sturgis (who had assumed command of the Federal forces after the death of General Lyon), received the benefit of his parting shots. We watched the retreating enemy through our field-glasses, and were glad to see him go. Our ammunition was exhausted, our men undisciplined, and we feared to risk pursuit. It was also rumored that reinforcements were coming to the Federal army by forced marches, but it was found the next day that the disaster to the retreating army was greater than we had supposed, and a few fresh cavalry troops could doubtless have followed and captured many more stragglers and army stores. Next day the enemy evacuated Springfield, and Price, with his Missouri troops, occupied it, and had his supplies and wounded moved to that point."