Monday, May 21, 2007

Price's Missouri Raid, 1864

Dates: 19 September to 1 November, 1864.


Union: Major General Samuel Curtis, commanding Union forces in Missouri.

Confederate: Major General Sterling Price, commanding the Army of Missouri.

Prelude: At this point in time, the fortunes for the CSA were getting grimmer by the day. All throughout the South, the various armies of the Confederacy were being ground down by either siege or by battles that lessened the ability of the Confederates to even wage defensive warfare.

It did not mean that the CSA was through, yet.

In the hope that the union’s resolve could be cracked at this late date, Price, onetime commander of the Missouri State Guards who was thrown out of the state in 1861, wanted one last chance to bring Missouri into the Confederate fold. Perhaps the sudden loss of the state would wreck the Union march to victory. To this end, Price gathered a force of 12,000 troops, mostly mounted infantry and cavalry. Hopefully this force was enough to seize the state capital of Jefferson City.

19 September, 1864: Price departs Pocahontas, AR and quickly enters Missouri. They begin this operation with a minimum of supplies, hoping to use the rich farms as a food source. Another factor to consider was that 1/3 of the troops were not even armed, hoping to get then from seized arsenals or dead Federals.

20 September, 1864: The sight of several thousand rag-tag Confederates was enough for the town to Keytesville to surrender.

Price intended to seize St Louis, but received intelligence that the city would be heavily defended, so he decided to go for Jefferson City.

24 September, 1864: Fayette falls to Price’s forces.

26 September, 1862: Price reaches Ironton after several brief engagements.

Just beyond the town was Fort Davidson, guarding the road to Pilot Knob. Commanded by Brigadier General Thomas Ewing Jr., the fort held 1051 troops and 11 cannon. Price decided that this fort had to be reduced.

27 September, 1864: Battle of Pilot Knob: Price formed his three brigades in a line and advanced from the south. Several assaults were made, but the fort’s walls were not breached. Price had lost about 1200 in the process. Ewing knew that he could not hold out for very long; he ordered the fort evacuated. As the Federals left, the magazine was blown up, denying Price any munitions.

28 September, 1864: As Ewing’s men head off, Price’s men are in pursuit.

As Price continued his advance, there were a series of skirmishes and minor actions, with places such as Leesburg, Cuba, Washington, and Herman and Miller’s Station becoming battlefields that don’t make it to most Civil War histories, but are no less important.

6 October, 1864: Price and his army approach Jefferson City. The Union garrison prepares to meet them.

7 October, 1864: There is a brief skirmish south of Jefferson City involving Federal cavalry. The cavalry were driven back, but the action revealed that the remaining Federal defenses of the city were too strong for Price to crack. He decodes to bypass Jefferson City and head for Kansas City.

8 October, 1864: Price swings past Jefferson City and heads for Booneville, on the Missouri River. After taking the town the next day, he splits his forces in two, sending one to Glasgow and the other to Sedalia.

15 October, 1864: Both Glasgow and Sedalia are attacked and captured.

The Union, at this point, prepare a reception for Price and his army short of Kansas City. Curtis has placed his forces west of Lexington, Price’s next target. Major General Alfred Pleasonton with cavalry was coming in from the east, while Major General A. J. Smith has some infantry to the south.

20 October, 1864: A small volunteer Union force engages Price near Lexington, before falling back to the Little Blue River.

21 October, 1864: Price attacks and defeats a Union force commanded by Major General James Blunt on the Little Blue River, forcing them to the Big Blue River, near Westport.

The withdrawing Federals were drawing Price to a spot of their own choosing. The Confederates were kept busy with strikes on their rear, while Price planned to punch through to Kansas City as Lexington fell to the Confederates. Price decided to press on to Westport.

The main factor affecting Price was numbers; his force was down to 8500, while Curtis was fielding a total of 20,000. He did not think that would be a problem.

23 October, 1864: Battle of Westport: Price decided first to deal with Pleasonton first. He orders his troops to hit the Federal line at Brush Creek, south of Westport. At first the Federals were forced across the creek, but were able to rally and counterattack, resulting in fierce fighting for several hours. Meanwhile, Pleasonton’s cavalry strikes from the east, taking Bryam’s Ford and capturing Brigadier General John Marmaduke in the process. With Federal troops pressing on the flanks and approaching the rear, Price had no choice but to abandon the drive for Kansas City and head south. Pleasonton’s troopers are in pursuit.

25 October, 1864: Price had crossed into Kansas and had headed for a crossing on the Marias des Cygnes River. Pleasonton caught up with him and captured the remaining Confederate cannon. Prices orders his wagons burned and it practically became every one for themselves. Price managed to restore order and forced marched his troops to Carthage.

1 November, 1864: Price and his remaining troops reach Cane Hill, AR, effectively ending the raid.

All this raid did was delay the inevitable victory of the Union in the West, however that was assured anyway. This raid, in the long run, turned out to be no more than a last gasp for the Confederates. There would be no more Confederate offensives in Missouri, or the Trans-Mississippi.

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