Thursday, October 25, 2007

Mine Creek

Sterling Price’s defeated Army of Missouri moved south after the battle of Westport. It divided into two columns protecting the army’s huge wagon train – mostly full of plunder and of little military value other than the wagons themselves. Price’s destination was indeterminate: the Indian territory (present-day Oklahoma), Arkansas or even Texas. One thing was sure – a line of Union forts and units lay in his path, perhaps ripe for plucking or maybe strong enough to delay his retreat and ensure his destruction.

The army crossed into Kansas in the rain on the 24th and continued moving south. Price sent Jo Shelby’s division to test the defenses of Fort Scott , a U.S Army district Headquarters, quartermaster supply depot, training center and recruitment station, and perhaps capture the garrison and it’s supplies.

Meanwhile, the various Union commanders met to plan their response. Kansas governor Carney and militia chief Deitzler both wanted their local forces to return to their homes in Kansas. The fall election was fast approaching and the troops could not vote from the field. General Curtis assigned Blunt and Pleasonton (who actually reported to Rosecrans) to continue the pursuit.

On October 25th the federals caught up to Price’s strung-out rearguard, Marmaduke’s division, south of Trading Post, Kansas. A running fight ensued from the Marais des Cygnes river through Mound City. Reaching Mine Creek, the way south was blocked by the rebel wagon train. Union artillery began shelling the crossing while Fagan’s Confederate division joined the defense on the north bank. The Confederates numbered over 7,000 tired men on tired horses. Pleasonton’s Yankee advance, lead by Col. Fredrick W. Benteen, counted 2,500, armed mostly with revolvers and 7-shot Spencer carbines, crushed the rebels in a furious mounted charge. Marmaduke was captured along with General Cabell and 600 men.

Total destruction loomed for Price’s men. In the nick of time, Shelby, recalled from his Fort Scott expedition, counter-attacked and saved the butternut forces. Price managed to withdraw his men and wagons across the creek and decided to burn and abandon most of his wagons to speed his withdrawal to friendlier territory. The only major Civil War battle fought in Kansas, and the last big battle west of the Mississippi, was over.

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John said...
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