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The Low House Fight
THE next rendezvous was at Reuben Harris’, ten miles south of Independence, and thither all the command went, splendidly mounted again and eager for employment. Some days of preparation were necessary. Richard Hall, a fighting blacksmith, who shot as well as he shod, and knew a trail as thoroughly as a piece of steel, had need to exercise much of his handiwork in order to make the horses good for cavalry. Then there were several rounds of cartridges to make. A Guerrilla knew nothing whatever of an ordnance master. His laboratory was in his luck. If a capture did not bring him caps, he had to fall back on ruse, or strategem, or blockade-running square out. Powder and lead in the raw were enough, for if with these he could not make himself presentable at inspection he had no calling as a fighter in the brush.
It was Quantrell’s intention at this time to attack Harrisonville, the county seat of Cass County, and capture it if possible. With this object in view, and after every preparation was made for a vigorous campaign, he moved eight miles east of Independence, camping near the Little Blue, in the vicinity of Job Crabtree’s. He camped always near or in a house. For this he had two reasons. First, that its occupants might gather up for him all the news possible; and, second, that in the event of a surprise a sure rallying63 point would always be at hand. He had a theory that after a Guerrilla was given time to get over the first effects of a sudden charge or ambushment the very nature of his military status made him invincible; that after an opportunity was afforded him to think, a surrender was next to impossible.
Before there was time to attack Harrisonville, however, a scout reported Peabody again on the war path, this time bent on an utter extermination of the Guerrillas, and he well-nigh kept his word. From Job Crabtree’s, Quantrell had moved to an unoccupied house known as the Low house, and then from this house he had gone to some contiguous timber to bivouac for the night. About ten o’clock the sky suddenly became overcast, a fresh wind blew from the east, and rain fell in torrents. Again the house was occupied, the horses being hitched along the fence in the rear of it, the door on the south, the only door, having a bar across it in lieu of a sentinel. Such soldiering was perfectly inexcusable, and it taught Quantrell a lesson to remember until the day of his death.
In the morning preceding the day of the attack Lieutenant Nash, of Peabody’s regiment, commanding two hundred men, had struck Quantrell’s trail, but lost it later on, and then found it again just about sunset. He was informed of Quantrell’s having gone from the Low house to the brush and of his having come back to it when the rain began falling heavily. To a certain extent this64 seeking shelter was a necessity on the part of Quantrell. The men had no cartridge boxes, and not all of them had overcoats. If once their ammunition were damaged, it would be as though sheep should attack wolves.
Nash, supplied with everything needed for the weather, waited patiently for the Guerrillas to become snugly settled under shelter, and then surrounded the house. Before a gun was fired the Federals had every horse belonging to the Guerrillas, and were bringing to bear every available carbine in command upon the only door. At first all was confusion. Across the logs that once had supported an upper floor some boards had been laid, and sleeping upon them were Todd, Blunt and William Carr. Favored by the almost impenetrable darkness, Quantrell determined upon an immediate abandonment of the house. He called loudly twice for all to follow him and dashed ............
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