Operations at the Ohio and Mississippi River Confluence – November 1861
Belmont – November 7, 1861
Control Missouri Campaign – June-October 1861
Boonville – June 17, 1861
Carthage – July 5, 1861
Wilson’s Creek – August 10, 1861
Dry Wood Creek – September 2, 1861
Lexington – September 13-20, 1861
Liberty – September 17, 1861
Fredericktown – October 21, 1861
Springfield – October 25, 1861
Operations in Northeast Missouri – 1861-62
Mount Zion Church – December 26, 1861
Roan’s Tan Yard – January 8, 1862
Joint Operations on the Middle Mississippi River – February 1862
New Madrid/Island No. 10 – February 28-April 8, 1862
Operations North of Boston Mountains – 1862
Kirksville – August 6-9, 1862
Independence – August 11, 1862
Compton’s Ferry – August 10-August 13, 1862
Yellow Creek – August 13, 1862
Lone Jack – August 15-16, 1862
Newtonia – September 30, 1862
Clark’s Mill – November 7, 1862
Marmaduke’s First Expedition into Missouri – January 1863
Second Battle of Springfield – January 8, 1863
Hartville – January 9-11, 1963
Marmaduke’s Second Expedition into Missouri – April 1863
Cape Girardeau – April 25, 1863
Price’s Missouri Expedition – August-October, 1864
Fort Davidson – September 27, 1864
Boonville – October 11, 1864
Glasgow – October 15, 1864
Sedalia – October 15, 1864
Lexington – October 19, 1864
Little Blue River – October 21, 1864
Independence – October 22, 1864
Byram’s Ford – October 22-23, 1864
Westport – October 23, 1864
Marmaton River – October 25, 1864
Newtonia – October 28, 1864
Control Missouri Campaign – June-October 1861 – Missouri, like the three other “border states” of Delaware, Maryland, and Kentucky, was deemed critical to the Lincoln Administration due to its geographical position and questionable loyalty to the North because it was a “slavery state.” At the outbreak of the Civil War, Major General John C. Fremont was appointed to lead the Western Department of the Union Army. However, Fremont spent more energy fortifying the city of St. Louis, Missouri, than equipping the troops in the field. As a result, his forces suffered several losses, particularly a significant defeat at Wilson’s Creek on August 10, 1861.
Boonville – June 17, 1861 – Also referred to as the First Battle of Boonville, this battle took place in Cooper County. Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon led the Union victory, while Colonel John S. Marmaduke headed the Confederates. The skirmish resulted from pro-Southern Governor Claiborne Jackson’s desire to secede and join the Confederacy. As a result, Union Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon set out to put down Jackson’s Missouri State Guard, commanded by Sterling Price. Reaching Jefferson City, the state capital, Lyon discovered Jackson and Price had retreated towards Boonville. Lyon re-embarked on steamboats, transported his men below Boonville, and marched to the town to engage the Rebels. In a relatively short battle, Lyon dispersed the Confederates and took command of Boonville. This early victory established Union control of the Missouri River and helped temporarily douse attempts to place Missouri in the Confederacy. The estimated casualties in the battle were 31 Union and 50 Confederate.
Carthage – July 5, 1861 – Taking place in Jasper County, the battle resulted after Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon pursued Governor Claiborne Jackson and approximately 4,000 State Militia after the Confederate defeat at Boonville. Colonel Franz Sigel also led another force of about 1,000 Union troops into southwest Missouri. When Claiborne Jackson heard that Sigel and his troops were encamped at Carthage on July 4, he took command of the troops and began formulating a plan to attack the much smaller Union force. Jackson moved in on Sigel the following day, establishing a battle line on a ridge ten miles north of Carthage, inducing Sigel to attack him.
Sigel responded as Claiborne had anticipated and moved to attack the next day. However, he withdrew when he saw a large Confederate force on his left flank. Though these were unarmed Confederate recruits, Sigel had no way of knowing that. The Rebels pursued Sigel’s forces, but the Colonel conducted a successful rearguard action. By evening, he and his troops were inside Carthage and under cover of darkness and then retreated to Sarcoxie. Though the battle was relatively insignificant, the pro-Southern elements in Missouri, anxious for any good news, championed their first victory.
Wilson’s Creek – August 10, 1861 – Also referred to as the Battle of Oak Hills; this Confederate victory took place in Greene and Christian Counties. The victors were led by Major General Sterling Price, leading the Missouri State Guard, and Brigadier General Ben McCulloch, heading the Confederate forces.
Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon and Major General Samuel D. Sturgis led the Union Army in the battle. Confederate troops were approaching while the Lyon’s Army of the West was camped at Springfield, Missouri. On August 9, both sides formulated plans to attack the other. About 5:00 a.m. on the 10th, Lyon attacked the Confederates on Wilson’s Creek about 12 miles southwest of Springfield in two columns commanded by himself and Colonel Franz Sigel. The Rebel cavalry received the first blow and fell back away from Bloody Hill. However, additional Confederate forces soon rushed in and stabilized their positions. Then they attacked the Union forces three times that day but failed to break through the Union line. When General Nathaniel Lyon was killed in the battle, Sturgis replaced him.
After the third Rebel attack, the southern forces withdrew. Sturgis, in the meantime, realizing his men were exhausted and his ammunition low, ordered a retreat to Springfield. The Confederates were in a similar position and did not pursue them. However, the battle had been a victory for the Rebels. Estimated casualties totaled 1,235 Union and 1,095 Confederate. The most significant Missouri battle of 1861, Wilson’s Creek, gave the Confederates control of southwestern Missouri. This Confederate victory buoyed southern sympathizers in Missouri and served as a springboard for a bold thrust north that carried Price and his Missouri State Guard as far as Lexington. In late October, Governor Claiborne Fox Jackson pulled together his political forces, met in Neosho, and passed an ordinance of secession.
Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield
6424 West Farm Road 182
Republic, Missouri 65738-9514
Dry Wood Creek – September 2, 1861 – Also called the Battle of Big Dry Wood Creek and Battle of the Mules, this skirmish between the Kansas Cavalry Brigade and the Missouri State Guard occurred in Vernon County. It began when General James H. Lane’s Kansas Brigade of about 600 troops set out from Fort Scott, Kansas, to learn the whereabouts of a rumored Confederate force. They soon surprised a Confederate force of about 6,000 strong near Big Dry Wood Creek. The stronger Confederate force, commanded by Major General Sterling Price and Brigadier General James S. Rains, soon drove the cavalry to retreat and captured their mules in the meantime. The Rebels then continued towards Lexington, forcing the Federals to abandon southwestern Missouri and concentrate on holding the Missouri Valley. The skirmish resulted in about 14 Federal casualties. The number of Confederate casualties is unknown.
Lexington – September 13-20, 1861 – Taking place in Lafayette County, this battle is also referred to as the Battle of the Hemp Bales. A major Confederate victory, the rebels were commanded by Major General Sterling Price, leading some 12,000 troops of the Missouri State Guard. After their success at Wilson’s Creek, the Guard consolidated forces in the northern and central parts of the state and marched on Lexington. Colonel James A. Mulligan commanded an entrenched Union garrison of about 3,500 men. Price’s men first encountered Union skirmishers on September 13, south of town, and pushed them back into the fortifications. Having bottled the Union troops in Lexington, the Major General then decided to await his ammunition wagons, other supplies, and reinforcements before assaulting the fortifications. By the 18th, Price was ready and ordered an assault. The Missouri State Guard moved forward amidst heavy Union artillery fire and pushed the enemy back into their inner works. On the 19th, the Rebels consolidated their positions, kept the Union forces under heavy artillery fire, and prepared for the final attack. Early on the morning of the 20th, Price’s men advanced behind mobile breastworks, made of hemp, close enough to take the Union works at the Anderson House in a final rush. Mulligan then requested surrender terms afternoon, and by 2:00 p.m., the Federal men had vacated their works and stacked their arms. This Unionist stronghold had fallen, bolstering southern sentiment and consolidating Confederate control in the Missouri Valley west of Arrow Rock. In the end, the battle resulted in estimated Union casualties of 1,874 compared to just 100 Confederate.
Liberty – September 17, 1861 – Taking place in Clay County, this battle is also called Blue Mills Landing or Blue Mills. On September 15, 1861, Confederate General D.R. Atchison left Lexington and marched towards Liberty, where he met up with the Missouri State Guard. The next night, his forces crossed the Missouri River to the south side and prepared for a fight with Union troops reported to be in the area. At the same time, Union Lieutenant Colonel John Scott was leading a force of about 600 men from Cameron, Missouri, toward Liberty, on the 15th. Camping at Centreville, he and his men departed at about 2:00 a.m. on the 17th. When Scott arrived in Liberty, he sent out scouts to find the enemy, and at about 11:00 a.m., skirmishing began. At noon, Scott marched in the firing direction, approached Blue Mills Landing, and, at 3:00 a.m., struck the Confederate pickets. However, the Union forces began to fall back, and the Rebels pursued for some distance. The fight lasted for an hour. The estimated casualties in the battle were 56 Union and 70 Confederate.
Fredericktown – October 21, 1861 -This Union victory, led by Colonels J.B. Plummer and William P. Carlin, occurred in Madison County. The two colonels leading separate columns of troops, advanced on Fredericktown to overtake Confederate Brigadier General M. Jeff Thompson and his men. On October 21, Thompson’s force left Fredericktown and headed south. Thompson left his supply train in a secure position and returned toward Fredericktown about 12 miles out. He then learned that Union forces had occupied Fredericktown, so Thompson spent the morning attempting to discern the enemy numbers and disposition. Unable to do so, he attacked anyway, around noon. With his force and a detachment of Colonel William P. Carlin’s troops, Plummer met the Rebel forces outside town, and a two-hour fight ensued. Overwhelming Union forces took their toll, and Thompson’s men retreated. Union cavalry pursued. Fredericktown cemented Union control of southeastern Missouri. The total losses for the Union are unknown, while the Rebel casualties were an estimated 62.
Springfield – October 25, 1861 – Also referred to as Zagonyi’s Charge, this battle took place in Greene County. Having accomplished little since taking command of the Western Department, with headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri, Major General John C. Fremont formulated a plan to clear Major General Sterling Price’s Rebels from the state and then, if possible, carry the war into Arkansas and Louisiana. Leaving St. Louis on October 7, 1861, Fremont’s combined force eventually numbered more than 20,000. His accompanying cavalry force, numbering 5,000 men and other mounted troops, included Maor. Frank J. White’s Prairie Scouts and Fremont’s Body Guards under Major Charles Zagonyi. Major White became ill and turned his command over to Zagonyi. These two units operated in front of Fremont’s army to gather intelligence. As Fremont neared Springfield, the local state guard commander, Colonel Julian Frazier, sent out requests to nearby localities for additional troops. Fremont camped on the Pomme de Terre River, about 50 miles from Springfield. Zagonyi’s column continued to Springfield, and Frazier’s force of 1,000 to 1,500 prepared to meet it. Frazier set up an ambush along the road that Zagonyi traveled, but the Union force charged the Rebels, sending them fleeing. Zagonyi’s men continued into town, hailed Federal sympathizers, and released Union prisoners. Leery of a Confederate counterattack, Zagonyi departed Springfield before night, but Fremont’s army returned, in force, a few days later and set up camp in the town. In mid-November, after Fremont was sacked and replaced by Maj. Gen. Hunter, the Federals evacuated Springfield and withdrew to Sedalia and Rolla. Federal troops reoccupied Springfield in early 1862, and it was a Union stronghold from then on. This engagement at Springfield was the only Union victory in southwestern Missouri in 1861. The estimated casualties were 85 Union and 133 Confederate.
Operations in Northeast Missouri – 1861-62
Mount Zion Church – December 26, 1861 – Taking place in Boone County, this battle was part of the Operations in Northeast Missouri Campaign. Brigadier General Benjamin M. Prentiss led a Union force of five mounted companies and two companies of Birge’s sharpshooters into Boone County to protect the North Missouri Railroad and overawe the secessionist sentiment there. After arriving in Sturgeon on December 26, Prentiss learned of a band of Rebels near Hallsville. He sent a company to Hallsville the next day that fought a Confederate force under the command of Confederate Colonel Caleb Dorsey and suffered numerous casualties, including many taken prisoner, before retreating to Sturgeon. On the 28th, Prentiss set out to meet Dorsey’s Rebels with his entire force. He routed one company of Confederates on the road from Hallsville to Mount Zion and learned that the rest of the force was at Mount Zion Church. Prentiss headed for the church. After a short battle, the Confederates retreated, leaving their killed and wounded on the battlefield and abandoning many animals, weapons, and supplies. This action and others curtailed Rebel recruiting activities in Central Missouri. The estimated casualties in the Union victory were 72 Union and 210 Confederate.
Roan’s Tan Yard – January 8, 1862 – Also Referred to as the Battle of Silver Creek, this skirmish took place in Randolf County on January 8, 1862, as part of the Operations in Northeast Missouri Campaign. Rumors and sightings of a Confederate force in the Howard County area had circulated for over a week, but the Union troops could not locate them. On January 7, 1862, information came to hand that Colonel J.A. Poindexter and his Confederate force were camped on Silver Creek. Detachments from various Union units came together and headed towards the Confederate camp, which was about 14 miles northwest of Fayette. After finding the camp, the force attacked, routing the enemy and sending those that were not killed, wounded, or captured fleeing for safety. Afterward, the Union forces destroyed the camp to prevent its further use. The Confederates could no longer use their Randolph County base for recruiting and raiding. The Union Victory resulted in estimated casualties of 11 Union and 80 Confederate.
Joint Operations on the Middle Mississippi River – February 1862
New Madrid/Island No. 10 – February 28-April 8, 1862 – Part of the Joint Operations on the Middle Mississippi River Campaign, this skirmish took place in Madrid, Missouri, and Lake County, Tennessee, from February 28 to April 8, 1862. With the surrender of Forts Henry and Donelson, Tennessee, and the evacuation of Columbus, Kentucky, General P.G.T. Beauregard, commander of the Confederate Army of the Mississippi, chose Island No. 10, about 60 river miles below Columbus, to be the strong point for defending the Mississippi River. Nearby was New Madrid, one of the weak points. Brigadier General John Pope, the commander of the Union Army of the Mississippi, set out from Commerce, Missouri, to attack New Madrid on February 28. The force marched overland through swamps, lugging supplies and artillery, reached the New Madrid outskirts on March 3, and laid siege to the city. Brigadier General John P. McCown, the garrison commander, defended New Madrid and Island No. 10 from the fortifications. He launched a sortie, under Brigadier General M. Jeff Thompson, Missouri State Guard, against the besiegers and brought up heavy artillery to bombard them. On the 13th, the Confederates bombarded the Yankees to no avail. Since it was impossible to defend New Madrid, the Confederate gunboats and troops evacuated to Island No. 10 and Tiptonville. On the 14th, Pope’s army discovered that New Madrid was deserted and moved in to occupy it. Under the command of Flag-Officer Andrew H. Foote, arrived on March 15 upstream from Island No. 10. The ironclad Carondelet, on the night of April 4, passed the Island No. 10 batteries and anchored off New Madrid. Pittsburgh followed on the night of April 6. The ironclads helped overawe the Confederate batteries and guns, enabling Pope’s men to cross the river and block the Confederate escape route. Brigadier General William W. Mackall, who replaced McCown, surrendered Island No. 10 on April 8. The Mississippi River was now open down to Fort Pillow, Tennessee. The number of casualties in the Union victory is unknown.
Compiled and edited by Kathy Alexander/Legends of America, updated June 2023.