Price’s Expedition Battles

The Battle of Westport, Missouri by Andy Thomas.

The Battle of Westport, Missouri by Andy Thomas.

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Price’s Missouri Expedition – August-October, 1864 – Also known as Price’s Raid, this expedition through Missouri and Kansas occurred in the Trans-Mississippi Theater of the Civil War in the fall of 1864. It was led by Confederate Major General Sterling Price, who started from Camden, Arkansas on August 28, 1864. The campaign’s intention was to recapture St. Louis and recover Missouri for the Confederacy. Early in the campaign, the Confederate forces won several victories, but the tides changed after they were defeated in Westport, Missouri. They then made their way to Kansas where they lost the Battles of Marais des Cygnes and Mine Creek before they were forced to retreat back to Missouri, and ultimately to Arkansas.

Price's Raid through Missouri

Price’s Raid through Missouri

Fort Davidson, Missouri

Fort Davidson, Missouri

Fort Davidson – September 27, 1864 – The first battle of Price’s Raid, the Battle of Fort Davidson, also called the Battle of Pilot Knob, took place in Iron County, Missouri. In September 1864, a Confederate army under Major General Sterling Price crossed into Missouri from Arkansas with the goal of capturing St. Louis. Union Brigadier General Thomas Ewing moved with reinforcements down the railroad to Ironton to slow Price’s advance. On the morning of September 27, 1864, the Confederates attacked, driving the Federals back into their defenses anchored by Fort Davidson. In the late afternoon, Price unsuccessfully assaulted the fort repeatedly, suffering heavy casualties. Price, considering the possible time involved, had dismissed the possibility of mounting guns on the high ground to compel the fort to surrender or to shell the garrison into submission. During the night, the Federals evacuated the fort. Price had paid a high price in lives and gave Union forces the necessary time to concentrate and oppose his raid. The Union victory resulted in 184 Union casualties and 1,500 Confederate casualties.

Fourth Battle of Boonville – October 11, 1864 – Taking place in Cooper County, Missouri on this was the second battle of Price’s Expedition. General Sterling Price’s Confederate forces arrived in Boonville, Missouri on October 10, 1864. Even though the town was largely sympathetic to the Confederacy, undisciplined members of Price’s force engaged in a two-day frenzy of looting that delayed their advance. In the meantime, Union forces were working on a strategy to defeat the Confederates. Union Brigadier General John B. Sanborn, who had been following Price and his men came upon Price’s rearguard on the outside of Boonville on October 11, but he was repulsed by Confederate Major Generals John S. Marmaduke and James F. Fagan. Sanborn then withdrew south of Saline Creek. On the same day, “Bloody Bill” Anderson and his bushwhackers arrived in Boonville with Union scalps dangling from their horses’ bridles. Appalled, ordered Anderson to remove the scalps immediately, and refused to speak to him until he did. Once Anderson complied, Price ordered him to take his men northward to break up the North Missouri Railroad. However, Anderson and other bushwhackers had already brought the railroad line to a halt, so he instead attacked and looted small towns and depots north of the Missouri River. On October 12, Price and his troops left Boonville.

Glasgow, Missouri, 1864

Glasgow, Missouri, 1864

Glasgow – October 15, 1864 – Part of Price’s Missouri Expedition, this battle occurred in Howard County on October 15, 1864. While Major General Sterling Price led his men westward across Missouri, he decided to send a detachment to Glasgow to liberate weapons and supplies in an arms storehouse, purported to be there. This combined mounted infantry, cavalry, and artillery force laid siege to the town and the fortifications on Hereford Hill. Before dawn on October 15, Confederate artillery opened on the town and Rebels advanced on Glasgow by various routes, forcing the Yankees to fall back. The Union forces retreated out of town and up the hill toward the fortifications on Hereford Hill. There they formed a defensive line in this area, but the Confederates continued to advance. Convinced that he could not defend against another Confederate attack, Colonel Chester Harding surrendered around 1:30 pm. Although Harding destroyed some Federal stores, Price’s men found rifle-muskets, overcoats, and horses. The Confederates remained in town for three days before rejoining the main column with new supplies and weapons and marching on towards Kansas City. The victory and capture of supplies and weapons were a boost to Price’s army’s morale. The Confederate victory resulted in 400 Union casualties and 50 Confederate.

Sedalia – October 15, 1864 – While Confederate Brigadier Generals John B. Clark and Joe Shelby were engaged in the Battle of Glasgow, General Price sent Brigadier General M. Jeff Thompson and elements of Shelby’s Iron Brigade, including about 1,500 men, to attack the town of Sedalia, Missouri. The Confederates defeated and captured the Missouri Union militia stationed there in two fortified redoubts, and then some of the Confederates troops began sacking the town. Realizing what was happening, Thompson ordered them to stop, permitting them to keep only the weapons, equipment, and horses he had already seized from the patroled defenders. Thompson and his men then left Sedalia to rejoin Price’s main force.

Missouri Soldier by Enoch Long

Missouri Soldier by Enoch Long

Lexington – 2 – October 19, 1864 – A battle of Price’s Missouri Expedition, this skirmish took place in Lafayette County on October 19, 1864. Major General Sterling Price’s march along the Missouri River was slow, providing the Yankees a chance to concentrate. Major General William S. Rosecrans, commanding the Department of the Missouri, proposed a pincer movement to trap Price and his army, but he was unable to communicate with Major General Samuel R. Curtis, commander of the Department of Kansas, to formalize the plan. Curtis was having problems because many of his troops were Kansas militia and they refused to enter Missouri, but a force of 2,000 men under the command of Major General James G. Blunt did set out for Lexington. On October 19, Price’s army approached Lexington, collided with Union scouts and pickets about 2:00 pm, drove them back, and engaged in a battle with the main force. The Yankees resisted at first, but Price’s army eventually pushed them through the town to the western outskirts and pursued them along the Independence Road until nightfall. Without Curtis’s entire force, the Yankees could not stop Price’s army, but they did further retard their slow march. Blunt gained valuable information about the size and disposition of Price’s army. The Confederate victory resulted in an unknown number of casualties.

Battle of the Little Blue River, Missouri Historical Marker

Battle of the Little Blue River, Missouri Historical Marker

Little Blue River – October 21, 1864 – Also called the Battle of Westport, this battle, taking place in Jackson County on October 21, 1864, was part of Price’s Missouri Expedition. Price’s march along the Missouri River was slow, providing the Yankees a chance to concentrate. Major General William S. Rosecrans, commanding the Department of the Missouri, proposed a pincer movement to trap Price and his army, but he was unable to communicate with Major General Samuel R. Curtis, commander of the Department of Kansas, to formalize the plan. Curtis was having problems because many of his troops were Kansas militia and they refused to enter Missouri, but a force of about 2,000 men under the command of Major General James G. Blunt did set out for Lexington. He met the Confederate troops at Lexington on the 19th, slowed their progress, but was defeated and retreated. On the 20th, Blunt’s troops arrived on the Little Blue River, eight miles east of Independence. The Union forces prepared to engage the Confederates again in a strong defensive position on the west bank. Curtis, however, ordered Blunt into Independence while leaving a small force, under Colonel Thomas Moonlight, on the Little Blue. The next day, Curtis ordered Blunt to take all of the volunteers and return to the Little Blue. As he neared the stream, he discovered that Moonlight’s small force had burned the bridge as ordered, engaged the enemy, and retreated away from the strong defensive position occupied the day before, crossing the river. Blunt entered the fray and attempted to drive the enemy back beyond the defensive position that he wished to reoccupy. The Yankees forced the Confederates to fall back, at first, but their numerical superiority took its toll in the five-hour battle. The Federals retreated to Independence and went into camp there after dark. Once again, the Confederates had been slowed and more Union reinforcements were arriving. The Confederate victory resulted in an unknown number of casualties.

Colonel Sterling Price

Colonel Sterling Price

Independence – 2 – October 22, 1864 – Part of Price’s Missouri Expedition this skirmish took place in Jackson County on October 22, 1864.Major General Sterling Price’s army rode west in the direction of Kansas City. On the night of the 21st, he camped at Independence and resumed his westward march the next morning with Brigadier General Joe Shelby’s division in the lead followed by Brigadier General John S. Marmaduke’s division, with Brigadier General James Fagan’s division bringing up the rear. While Shelby’s men met success at Byram’s Ford, the other two columns did not fare as well. Major General Alfred Pleasonton’s Union force crossed the Little Blue, beat up a Rebel brigade in Fagan’s command, and occupied Independence. Marmaduke’s division then met Pleasonton about two miles west of Independence, hit the Federals hard, pressed them back, and held them at bay until the morning of the 23rd. Pleasonton’s actions, however, frightened Price and his army, and influenced them, after they had crossed the Big Blue, to send their wagon trains to Little Santa Fe on the Fort Scott Road. The Confederate victory resulted in 140 Confederate casualties, the number of Union casualties is unknown.

Battle of Byram's Ford by Benjamin D. Mileham

Battle of Byram’s Ford by Benjamin D. Mileham

Byram’s Ford – October 22-23, 1864 – Also called the Battle of Big Blue River this skirmish took place in Jackson County, Missouri as part of Price’s Missouri Expedition on October 22-23, 1864. Major General Sterling Price’s Army of Missouri was headed west towards Kansas City and Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Major General Samuel R. Curtis’s Army of the Border, in and around Westport, was blocking the Confederates’ way west and Major General Alfred Pleasonton’s provisional cavalry division was pressing Price’s army’s rear. Price had nearly 500 wagons with him and required a good ford over the Big Blue River to facilitate the passage of his supplies. Byram’s Ford was the best ford in the area and became a strategic point during the fighting around Westport. On October 22, Major General James G. Blunt’s division held a defensive position on the Big Blue River’s west bank. Around 10:00 am on the 22nd, part of Brigadier General Joseph O. Shelby’s Confederate division conducted a frontal attack on Blunt’s men. This attack was a ruse because the rest of Shelby’s men flanked Blunt’s hasty defenses, forcing the Federals to retire to Westport. Price’s wagon train and about 5,000 head of cattle then crossed the Big Blue River at Byram’s Ford and headed southward toward Little Santa Fe and safety. Pleasonton’s cavalry was hot on the tail of Price’s army. Brigadier General John S. Marmaduke’s Rebel division held the west bank of the Big Blue at Byram’s Ford to prevent Pleasonton from attacking Price’s rear. Pleasonton assaulted Marmaduke at Byram’s Ford, around 8:00 am, on the 23rd. Three hours later, Marmaduke’s men had enough and fell back toward Westport. With Pleasonton across the river, he was now an additional threat to Price who was fighting Curtis’s Army of the Border at Westport. Price had to retreat south. The number of casualties in the Union victory is unknown.

Battle of Westport, Missouri by Andy Thomas

Battle of Westport, Missouri by Andy Thomas

Westport – October 23, 1864 – Occurring in Jackson County, Missouri on October 23, 1864, this was part of Price’s Missouri Expedition. Confederate Major General Sterling Price’s Missouri Expedition had changed course from St. Louis and Jefferson City to Kansas City and Fort Leavenworth. As his army neared Kansas City, Major General Samuel R. Curtis’s Army of the Border blocked its way west, while Major General Alfred Pleasonton’s provisional cavalry division was closing on their rear. Price decided that he needed to deal with the two Union forces and decided to attack them one at a time. With Pleasonton still behind him, Price chose to strike Curtis at Westport first. Curtis had established strong defensive lines and during a four-hour battle, the Confederates hurled themselves at the Union forces but to no avail. The Rebels could not break the Union lines and retreated south. Westport was the decisive battle of Price’s Missouri Expedition, and from this point on, the Rebels were in retreat. Estimated casualties in the Union victory were 1,500 for both Union and Confederate.

Battle of Trading Post/Marais des Cygnes – October 25, 1864 – Three battles occurred within several hours of each other on October 25th, the first of which was the Battle of Marais des Cygnes. After losing the Battle of Westport, Price was in a headlong retreat, while being hotly pursued by Major-General Alfred Pleasonton’s Union cavalry.

The Union general caught up with the Confederates as they camped on the banks of the Marais des Cygnes River near Trading Post in Linn County, Kansas. After an artillery bombardment that began at 4:00 a.m., Pleasonton’s men launched a furious assault. Price ordered his troops to cross the swollen river, leaving Major General James F. Fagan to hold off the Federals until he could get his wagon train across. Although the Union captured two cannons and several prisoners, they were unable to prevent the escape of Price’s force. The number of casualties in the Union victory are unknown. Pleasonton continued his pursuit of Price, catching up with him again later that morning at Mine Creek.

Battle of Mine Creek, Kansas by Samuel J. Reader

Battle of Mine Creek, Kansas by Samuel J. Reader

Battle of Mine Creek – October 25, 1864 – The Battle of Mine Creek, Kansas, also known as the Battle of the Osage, was fought on October 25, 1864, as part of Price’s Raid. The second-largest cavalry engagement of the war, it was fought between two divisions of Confederate Major General Sterling Price’s Army of Missouri and two Federal brigades under the command of Colonels Frederick Benteen and John Finis Philips. About six miles south of Trading Post, the brigades of Benteen and Philips of Pleasonton’s division, overtook Price’s Confederates as they were crossing Mine Creek. The Southerners had been stalled as their wagons crossed the swollen ford, and they formed their line of battle on the north side of Mine Creek. Although outnumbered, the Federals commenced a mounted attack, led by the 4th Iowa Cavalry, which one participant described as bursting upon the Confederates “like a thunderbolt”, causing Price’s line to disintegrate “like a row of bricks”. Superior Union firepower and the ferocity of their attack made up for their inferior numbers, and Pleasonton’s cavalry forced Price to retreat once more. Approximately 600 of Price’s men, including two of his generals, John S. Marmaduke and Brig. General William L. Cabell, were captured, together with six cannon.

Marmaton River, Missouri courtesy Wikipedia

Marmaton River, Missouri courtesy Wikipedia

Marmaton River – October 25, 1864 – Also called the Battle of Shiloh Creek or Charlot’s Farm, this skirmish occurred on October 25, 1864, as part of Price’s Missouri Expedition. Following the Battle of Mine Creek, Major General Sterling Price continued his cartage towards Fort Scott. In the late afternoon of October 25, Price’s supply train had difficulty crossing the Marmiton River ford, and, like at Mine Creek, Price had to make a stand. Brigadier General John S. McNeil, commanding two brigades of Pleasonton’s cavalry division, attacked the Confederate troops that Price and his officers rallied, including a sizable number of unarmed men. McNeil observed the sizable Confederate force, not knowing that many of them were unarmed, and refrained from an all-out assault. After about two hours of skirmishing, Price continued his retreat and McNeil could not mount an effective pursuit. Price’s army was broken by this time, and it was simply a question of how many men he could successfully evacuate to friendly territory. There was an unknown number of casualties in the Union victory.

Newtonia – 2 – October 28, 1864 – Fought in Newton County on October 28, 1864, this battle was part of Price’s Missouri Expedition. Price’s force was in full retreat following its expedition into Missouri. On October 28, 1864, it stopped to rest about two miles south of Newtonia, Missouri. Soon afterward, Major General James G. Blunt’s Union troops surprised the Confederates and began to drive them. Brigadier General Joe Shelby’s division, including his Iron Brigade, rode to the front, dismounted, and engaged the Yankees while the other Rebel troops retreated towards Indian Territory (Oklahoma). Brigadier General John B. Sanborn later appeared with Union reinforcements which convinced Shelby to retire. The Union troops forced the Confederates to retreat but failed to destroy or capture them. The Union victory resulted in 400 Union casualties and 250 Confederate.

Compiled by Kathy Weiser-Alexander, updated August 2020.

Also See:

The Civil War

Civil War Timeline & Leading Events

Kansas in the Civil War

Missouri Civil War Battles

Price’s Raid

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