Sunday, October 18, 2009

Missouri Battles During Civil War

My wife wanted to attend a two day conference for women in Springfield before continuing on to see our son in Tulsa . While she kept occupied with the women’s meeting, I called an old-time friend Rev. Dale Skiles and asked if he was like to escort me to Wilson’s Creek Civil War battlefield about 15 miles southwest of where we were staying. What a thrill it was for me to not only visit with him, but to get a great tour master at the same time.

The following is what I learned.The Battle of Wilson's Creek, fought ten miles southwest of Springfield , Missouri on August 10, 1861 . Named for the stream that crosses the area where the battle took place, was a bitter struggle between Union and Southern forces for control of Missouri in the first year of the Civil War.

According to a pamphlet at the visitor’s center, the Battle of Wilson's Creek was the beginning of the Civil War in Missouri .

I found it interesting when President Lincoln called for troops to put down the rebellion, Missouri was asked to supply four regiments. Governor Jackson refused the request. Captain Nathaniel Lyon learning of the governor's intentions, had most of the weapons moved secretly to Illinois .

In June, after a futile meeting with Governor Jackson to resolve their differences, Lyon (now a brigadier general) led an army up the Missouri River and captured the state capital at Jefferson City later arriving in Springfield . Despite inferior numbers, Lyon decided to attack the enemy encampment at Wilson ’s Creek. Leaving about 1,000 men behind to guard his supplies the Federal commander led 5,400 soldiers out of Springfield on the night of August 9. Lyon 's plan called for 1,200 men under Colonel Franz Sigel to swing wide to the south, flanking the Southern right, while the main body of troops struck from the north. Success hinged on the element of surprise.

Ironically, the Southern leaders also planned a surprise attack on the Federals, but rain on the night of the 9th caused McCulloch to cancel the operation. On the morning of the 10th, Lyon 's attack caught the Southerners off guard, driving them back. Forging rapidly ahead, the Federals occupied the crest of a ridge subsequently called "Bloody Hill." Nearby, the Pulaski Arkansas Battery opened fire, checking the advance.

For more than five hours the battle raged on Bloody Hill. Fighting was often at close quarters, and the tide turned with each charge and countercharge. At about 9:30 a.m. , General Lyon, who had been wounded twice already, was killed while positioning his troops.

For the next three and a half years Missouri witnessed so many battles and skirmishes that it ranks as the third most fought-over state in the nation.

The Confederates made only two large-scale attempts to break the Federal hold on Missouri , both of them directed by Missourian Sterling Price. He and his troops remained in the state until early 1862, when a Federal army drove them into Arkansas . The subsequent Union victory at the Battle of Pea Ridge in March kept large numbers of Confederate military forces out of Missouri for more than two years.

After Pea Ridge, Price accepted a command in the Confederate Army. He led unsuccessful campaigns at Iuka & Corinth , Mississippi and at Helena , Arkansas .

From another source, I learned that on September 1864 Price returned to Missouri with an army of some 12,000 men. By the time his campaign ended, he had marched nearly 1,500 miles, fought 43 battles or skirmishes, and destroyed an estimated $10 million worth of property.

Only 14 miles from Farmington where I live, on Sept 27, 1864 , the Confederates pushed back the Federal Troops at Ironton and Arcadia , Missouri , when Union Brigadier General Thomas Ewing decided to hold Fort Davidson at Pilot Knob, General Price decided to take the fort instead of bypassing it. This was apart of his bid to take St. Louis to win support for a Southern Missouri Government in the 1864 Elections.

However, his campaign ended in disaster. At Westport , near Kansas City , on October 23, Price was soundly defeated by General Curtis in the largest battle fought west of the Mississippi and forced to retreat south.

The state's strategic position on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers and its abundant manpower and natural resources made it imperative that she remain loyal to the Union . Most Missourians desired neutrality, but many, including the governor, Claiborne Fox Jackson, held strong Southern sympathies and planned to cooperate with the Confederacy in its bid for independence.
Price went to Mexico after the war, but returned to Missouri in 1866. He died there the next year.

My mother had 4 great grand uncles who fought for the Union and one of these when he moved to Arkansas then fought for the CSA. All were wounded in battle. In my genealogy I found a father and a son who fought on different sides. I had kindred on all my ancestor sides that fought in the rebellion against the states. War is terrible no matter where or with whom.

Maybe one day we can sing the ole song, “Ain’t gonna war no-more.”

”Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.” --James 4:2 (KJV)

James 4:1-3 translated by Daniel Mace brings added light as he states: “You breathe slaughter and revenge for what you cannot obtain. You quarrel and go to war, but without success, because you don't petition for it: and if you did, you would not obtain it, because you wickedly request to have your passions gratified."

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