Monday, April 30, 2007
Union: Brigadier Generals Nathaniel Lyon, Franz Sigel, and Ulysses S. Grant, commanding Union forces in Missouri and Illinois.
Confederate: Missouri Governor Claiborne Fox Jackson and Major General Sterling Price, commanding the Missouri State Guard, and Brigadier General Ben McCullough, commanding a force of Confederate and Arkansas soldiers.
Prelude: Missouri was part of the region of the US that was racked by sectarian violence between pro and anti-slavery forces. As part of the Missouri compromise of 1820, the territory was admitted into the Union as a slave state, meaning that it was legal to keep African-Americans in bondage. During the furor over the admittance of the Kansas Territory as a state, Missouri became the spring board for pro-slavery groups, known as “Border Ruffians” and anti-slavery groups, known as “Free-Soilers” to influence the election on whether to allow slavery by any means possible, including terror. Kansas was admitted as a slave state in 1850, but struggles continued.
In 1861, as the Southern States were breaking away, forming the Confederate States of America, it was expected that Missouri would join the new nation. The state itself was split along factional lines, with the southern half being pro-Confederate, while the northern half being pro-Union. The governor of the state, Jackson, was pro-secession and was working toward his legislature voting on Articles-of-Secession. If Missouri seceded, it would have hampered Federal operations along the Mississippi River with the headquarters for such an effort, Cairo, IL, coming in range of hostile attacks from Missouri. To help in the secession effort, Jackson organized the Missouri State Guard and put them under Price’s command.
In order to prevent that, Lyon was giving command of the Department of the West. As a Regular Army Captain, he had already struck the first blow. On 10 May, 1861, his troops had seized Camp Jackson, near St Louis, capturing several hundred pro-secession militia members. While marching back into the city, pro-secessionist started a riot, forcing Lyon to order his troops to fire into the crowd, killing 27 civilians while losing 4 soldiers in the process. Lyon was rewarded with a promotion straight to Brigadier General and a mandate to prevent Missouri from seceding. Lyon decides to try talks first.
11 June, 1861: There is a meeting between Lyon, Jackson, and Price. Jackson’s position was that Missouri was neutral, like Kentucky, and US troops were not to be allowed into the state. Lyon knew about the Missouri State Guard and did not buy the “neutral” stance. That stance would put Missouri square in the Confederate camp. There was no way he would agree to Jackson’s demands.
Meanwhile, a force of Arkansans and other Confederate troops under McCullough was on their way bolster Jackson and Price.
12 June, 1861: In Jefferson City, Jackson calls for 50,000 volunteers to repel a Union “invasion” on Missouri. Lyon dispatch Sigel to Springfield upon hearing of the reinforcements coming from the south. Lyon decides to move on Jefferson City.
13 June, 1861: Lyon takes 1500 Union troops and advances on Jefferson City. At the same time, Jackson takes his own troops and leave the Missouri capital. The pro-secessionist Legislature take it upon themselves to flee as well. Lyon soon reaches Jefferson City and secures the city.
Meanwhile, the Confederates were trying to consolidate their forces, Price has troops at Boonville, up the Missouri River from Jefferson City. Other troops are at Lexington, further up the river. There is still McCullough coming from the south.
17 June, 1861: Battle of Booneville: Lyon takes his troops and heads upriver in three steamers. They disembark just outside of artillery range and begin an advance on the town. After one assault, Lyon fakes a retreat that draws the Confederate defenders out. After a 20 minute battle, the confederates are driven off.
18 June, 1861: There is a clash between pro-Union and pro-Confederate Missourians at Camp Cole.
Jackson and Price decide that their best chance laid with joining up with McCullough’s troops in the south and begin moving towards Springfield. They end up meeting at Carthage, west of Springfield.
Things settle down for a while as both Union and Confederate troops maneuver around the state.
5 July, 1861: Battle of Carthage: Sigel has marched his troops through Springfield and to the west. West of Carthage, they spot Jackson and Price, with 4000 man. Sigel launches an assault and follows up with a artillery duel. His cannon have the upper hand, but Price sends cavalry to hit Sigel on a flank. Sigel has no choice but to fall back to Carthage. Finding the town occupied by Confederates, Sigel orders a fighting withdrawal to Mount Vernon, where he arrives on 6 July.
While the two main armies are recovering from that battle, there are still skirmishes going on:
9 July, 1861: A Confederate camp is dispersed at Florida.
10 July, 1861: A skirmish takes place at Monroe Station.
16 July, 1861: Another skirmish, this time at Wentzville.
As the first Battle of Bull Run (Manassas, VA) was taking place, two state legislatures were in place in Missouri. In Jefferson City, there was a pro-Union government in place, meanwhile, Jackson, still on the run, presided over a pro-Confederate legislature.
Meanwhile, Major General John C. Fremont, a former Presidential candidate in 1856, arrives in St Louis with reinforcements and takes over command in the West.
There were still skirmishes;
25 July, 1861: Skirmishes at Harrison and Dug Springs.
1 August, 1861: McCullough and his forces arrive in Missouri, bringing about 10,125 men, and begin marching on Springfield.
2 August, 1861: Lyon spots a part of McCullough’s force at Dug Springs and makes an attack, killing 40 and losing 4.
3 August, 1861: Lyon is reinforced by Fremont’s troops.
Lyon digs in at Dug Springs and waits for McCullough to make his move.
9 August, 1861: To help his position, Lyon pulled his troops to Springfield. He has Fremont’s and Sigel’s troops with him but with the Confederates coming, as well as unrest in St Louis preventing Fremont from sending additional troops, Lyon decides on a gamble. He orders 5200 men to Wilson’s Creek and accompanies them.
10 August, 1861: Battle of Wilson’s Creek: Lyon splits his force into two columns, giving Sigel one while taking the other himself. Lyon plans to come from the north while Sigel comes from the south. This should trap the Confederates in a vise.
5:00 a.m.: Lyon launches his assault on Price’s troops. McCullough brings up troops in support of Price. McCullough makes a right flank attack through a cornfield but is stopped by Union artillery.
8:00 a.m.: Sigel launches his attack on another of McCullough’s formations, driving them back until Confederate artillery was brought to bear. Sigel, a political general who was promoted for bringing many German immigrants into the Union Army, is repulsed.
McCullough then pressed two counterattacks on Lyon’s position, which holds.
10:30 a.m.: Lyon places himself at the head of the 1st Iowa during McCullough’s attacks. It was during this time that he was killed. Sigel was in no position to take over, so command devolved to Major Samuel Sturgis, who had brought reinforcements from Kansas. With the tactical situation deteriorating, due to more Confederates entering the battle, Sturgis orders a withdrawal to Springfield, then on to Rolla.
Despite the fact that the Confederates just won a major victory in the West, McCullough’s army is smashed and is forced to withdraw into Arkansas. Price decides to advance and take Springfield.
With the Union defeat at Wilson’s Creek, unrest grows at St Louis, prompting Fremont to declare martial law in the city. When word of all this reached Washington D.C., US President Abraham Lincoln orders reinforcements sent to St Louis.
Meanwhile, the skirmishes continue:
16 August, 1861: Skirmish at Kirkville.
17 August, 1861: Skirmish at Brunswick.
19 August, 1861: Fighting at Charlestown and Bird’s Point.
20 August, 1861: Skirmishing at Jonesboro.
29 August, 1861: Fighting at Lexington.
30 August, 1861: Fremont orders all property owned by pro-Confederates seized, including slaves. He intends to emancipate them.
1 September, 1861: A new figure enters the conflict in Missouri as Grant arrives in Cape Girardeau with a small force.
The skirmishing continued:
1 September, 1861: Bennet’s Mills
2 September, 1861: In the far west of Missouri, skirmishing took place at Dallas, and briefly at Fort Scott, just inside Kansas.
Through all of this, Price moved his troops north and was soon ready to take the battle to the Federals.
12 September, 1861: Price attacks and surrounds Lexington, settling in for a siege. The Union commander sends messengers to St Louis, but many are captured. At the same time, there is an engagement near Ironton, in southeast Missouri, in which the Confederates are repulsed.
13 September, 1861: A Confederate probe at Booneville is repulsed.
Price now has a force of 18,000 while the defenders in Lexington have about 3600. Word has gotten to St Louis, but any forces Fremont was able to send are intercepted by the Confederates.
18 September, 1861: Price is resupplied and is strong enough to attack Lexington. He spits his army in two, having one attack from the northeast while the other attacked from the southwest. Soon the Union troops are in a vise between two forces and are cut off from fresh water supplies. Attempts to resupply them by steamer are thwarted when the vessels are captured.
20 September, 1861: The Union defenders of Lexington have no choice but to surrender.
22 September, 1861: While Price consolidates his gains, there is another skirmish, this time at Elliot’s Mills.
24 September, 1861: Fremont still has problems in St Louis, having closed the St Louis Evening News after the paper published an article critical of his generalship.
Reports of his activities reach Washington and there is concern that Fremont’s actions could drive Missouri into the Confederacy.
4 October, 1861: President Lincoln decides to sent Secretary of War Simon Cameron to St Louis to see what Fremont is doing. Meanwhile, Fremont has launched a force at Lexington, 17 days after the town’s capture.
Another effect of Fremont’s harsh measures was that Southern sympathizers have taken to the field.
12 October, 1861: Clintonville, Pomme de Terre, Cameron, and Ironton are the latest skirmishes.
14 October, 1861: Jeff Thompson, former mayor of St Louis and a secessionist, forms a smell body of troops and decides to conduct raids in southeastern Missouri. Meanwhile, Fremont’s force advance on Lexington.
15 October, 1861: Thompson has some bridges burned near Potosi.
16 October, 1861: Fremont reaches Lexington, but Price has pulled out without a fight. Fremont decides to pursue Price.
17 October, 1861: Thompson decides to conduct more raids around Ironton, this time it attract the interest of Grant’s forces at Cape Girardeau.
19 October, 1861: A Union force consisting of the 17th, 20th, 21st, 33rd, and 38th IL, the 8th WI, the 1st IN Cavalry, and part of the 1st MO Light Infantry engage Thompson’s Confederates at Ironton.
22 October, 1861: Thompson is finally driven from Ironton.
24 October, 1861: President Lincoln decides that a new commander in the West is needed, sending Major General David Hunter to replace Fremont, who is busy trying (and not succeeding) to find Price.
27 October, 1861: Fremont reaches Springfield while price joins McCullough, who has come back into Missouri, at Neosho.
1 November, 1861: Price and Fremont meet and agree on a prisoner swap, even though Fremont had no authority to do so.
2 November, 1861: Hunter arrives in St Louis, formally assuming command in the West.
Price and McCullough do not have the means to launch any further offensives. But the last chapter was written else ware.
7 November, 1861: Battle of Belmont: Grant had sent a force from Cairo down the Mississippi, misleading the Confederates, under Major general Leonidas Polk, who had recently violated Kentucky neutrality by taking Columbus, KY, that they were the target. Instead, Grant lands at Belmont, MO, with the objective of taking out the garrison, led by Major General Gideon Pillow. Poly soon sees the true Union plan and sends reinforcements to Pillow. As Grant attacked, the Confederate reinforcements drive him back to his river transports. Grant gather all available Union troops under his command and launches another assault. By then, Polk had placed cannon across the river and committed more reinforcements, stopping Grant’s attack and forcing him to make an orderly withdrawal to his transports and pull back to Cairo. Even though it was considered a Confederate victory, Polk’s and Pillow’s forces were badly mauled.
While there were no crushing victories, the fighting on Missouri died down to skirmishes for the remainder of the war. The Union had de facto control over Missouri, even though the Confederate Government did authorize a star on all Confederate flags to represent Missouri.
Fremont was ordered back East to a field command, which he loses in 1862. He would not be heard from until the Election of 1864, when he was a candidate on the Radical Republican ticket. He would withdraw from the race after Postmaster General Montgomery Blair was removed from that office. Post-war saw him as Governor of Arizona Territory. He dies in 1890, mostly forgotten.
Price would serve the Confederate Army in many of the Western battles until getting defeated at Mine Creek, KS. He retreats into Texas and following the Confederate surrender, crosses into Mexico, offering his services to Emperor Maximillian and establishing a Confederate colony in Veracruz, which fails.
Jackson did realize his wish of Missouri’s secession on 28 October, 1861, but soon was overseeing a government-in exile in Arkansas. Jackson dies in 1862 of stomach cancer.
McCullough would lose his command to Major General Earl Van Dorn due to a feud with Price. He would be killed leading an attack at the Battle of Pea Ridge, AR on 7 March, 1862.
Grant would go on to other victories, as well as command of the entire Union war effort, as well as the Presidency.
Polk would be killed during the Atlanta Campaign in 1864.
Peace did not return to Missouri until the war itself was finished.
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