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On the morning of March 7, Union General Curtis ordered Colonel Peter Osterhaus to take a brigade of troops to investigate reports of confederate troops near Twelve Corner Church. Osterhaus set out with portions of the 3rd Iowa cavalry, 1st and 5th Missouri Cavalry and 3 guns of the 1st Missouri Flying Battery. These mounted forces rushed toward Twelve Corner Church. As Osterhaus led these troops past Leetown, he made a fateful decision.
Not knowing what he was going to find on the other side of the woods, he left one of his aides behind to tell Nicholas Greusel, who was following Osterhaus with the infantry and artillery portions of the brigade, to fall into line behind the split rail fence along the southern edge of Oberson’s field. Osterhaus continued on through the woods and onto Wiley Fosters farm. To his amazement he saw a large body of confederate troops, Brigadier General Ben McCulloch’s half of the Army of the West. He quickly had the flying artillery unlimber and fire into the confederate mass. They managed to fire 18 rounds before being overrun by Texas and Arkansas cavalry. The survivors fled through the woods, crossed Oberson’s field and headed straight for Greusel’s line.
During the fight on Fosters field, Greusel calmly filed his men along the southern edge of Oberson’s field. Within minutes, panic stricken horses and men would come fleeing across this field and through Greusel’s line. These were the defeated survivors of the fight in Fosters field and they began to spread fear among Greusel’s brigade. Seeing this, Greusel shouted to his men, officers and men, you have it in your power to make or prevent another Bull Run affair. I want every man to stand to his post! The men continued to fall into line and would defeat the oncoming confederates at Leetown.
While forming this line we were surprised with a precipitate retreat of cavalry, but my men stood like veterans.
Colonel Nicholas Greusel, 36th Illinois Infantry, commanding 2nd Brigade, 1st Division
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