The Civil War in Missouri: A Military History

By Louis S. Gerteis | Go to book overview

Chapter Four
“TELL MY WIFE THAT I DIED
LIKE A BRAVE MAN FOR MISSOURI”

For Price, the march north from Springfield was triumphal. McCulloch’s disdain continued to rankle, but the Texas Ranger was now back in Arkansas, and Price returned to the heartland of Missouri with State Guardsmen who had fought well at Wilson’s Creek. With Lyon dead and Lyon’s army in retreat, Price now hoped to secure much of the state for Governor Jackson. A first priority was to punish the Kansas Jayhawkers who had been emboldened by the Federal pursuit of Jackson and Price. Many of Price’s men were veterans of the fight against the Free State forces in Kansas. Although Price’s border foes had emerged victorious when Kansas became a free state under the Topeka constitution in January 1861, Price was determined to keep Jayhawkers and any taint of abolitionism out of Missouri. A particular point of concern for Price was Fort Scott, Kansas, where a Free State community had grown up a few miles from the Missouri border around an abandoned Federal army post. Price received reports that Kansas militiamen were gathering in large numbers at that location. Indeed, James H. Lane had assembled a force of about twelve hundred mounted men at Fort Scott. Moreover, Lane was well aware of Price’s movements. As Price marched slowly north through Vernon County, Missouri, he was about a dozen miles east of Fort Scott. Lane seized the opportunity to strike the Missourians before they could reach the Missouri valley. Hoping to catch Price off guard, Lane led his Kansas Brigade into Missouri and lay in ambush as Price’s column approached Dry Wood Creek.

The road Price followed north passed for several miles through a landscape of rolling prairie covered with grasses rising five or six feet high. Through this landscape, Dry Wood Creek carved a ravine running northeast to the Marmaton River. Densely wooded forest covered each bank. Lane set up his ambush on the southern edge of the woods. Late in the afternoon of September 2, Price’s advance guard, commanded by Alexander Steen, fell victim to Lane’s trap. Lane had succeeded in catching the Missourians by surprise, but if he had also expected to instill panic in his enemy he failed. Price’s column continued to move forward,

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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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