The Civil War in Missouri: A Military History

By Louis S. Gerteis | Go to book overview

Chapter Three
“IN THE VALLEY OF WILSON’S CREEK”

On the morning of July 6, Sterling Price and Ben McCulloch continued their advance into Missouri. They were well on their way from Neosho to Carthage when they received word that Claiborne Jackson had pushed aside Franz Sigel the previous day and was quickly approaching them. With Jackson no longer in danger, McCulloch and Bart Pearce returned to Maysville, Arkansas. The Missourians, in easy marches, proceeded to Cowskin Prairie. There, about thirty miles southwest of Neosho, they were about twelve miles north of Maysville. Price joined Jackson at Cowskin Prairie on July 9 and continued the difficult job of organizing his ungainly force. Price’s adjutant, Thomas Snead, had taken note of the Missourians’ shortcomings at the Battle of Carthage. The Missourians were not only untrained, they were also either poorly armed or entirely unarmed. Jackson’s men succeeded in forcing Sigel to retreat, but they could not bring their superior numbers to bear in order to defeat him. The men who brought weapons with them from home fought with shotguns and hunting rifles. Only a few hundred stands of infantry weapons—long-range rifled muskets—had fallen into the hands of the State Guard. At least two thousand men came into Price’s camp at Cowskin Prairie with no weapons at all.

Price’s army was also desperately short of ammunition. Fortunately, the nearby Granby mines provided an abundant supply of lead. The gunpowder that Jackson had procured from St. Louis served Price well. Many of the men were experienced in molding their own bullets and shot, and with some practice Captain Henry Guibor and his men fashioned effective canister and shells for the artillery. By the end of July, Price had fashioned an army that he was eager to take into the field. He hoped to reunite with McCulloch to attack Lyon at Springfield.1

Shortly after Price set up camp at Cowskin Prairie, Jackson traveled to Memphis to confer with Major General Leonidas Polk of the Confederate army. Jackson hoped that Polk would coordinate an invasion of Missouri that would allow the deposed governor to reclaim his office. Much to Jackson’s delight, Polk unveiled a plan to assemble a grand army of twenty-five thousand men. Composed of Confederate troops under Polk’s command and the elements of the Missouri State Guard commanded by Price, this force would drive Federal troops from the

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The Civil War in Missouri: A Military History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter One - "Your First Allegiance" 8
  • Chapter Two - "Formidable Preparations … by the Enemy" 32
  • Chapter Three - "In the Valley of Wilson’s Creek" 54
  • Chapter Four - "Tell My Wife That I Died like a Brave Man for Missouri" 99
  • Chapter Five - "There Is No Rebel Flag Now Flying in Missouri" 132
  • Chapter Six - "He Saw the Rebellion Vanishing before Him" 179
  • Conclusion 205
  • Notes 209
  • Index 233
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