Sunday, October 7, 2007

Price moves across Missouri - Rosecrans reacts

After the battle at Fort Davidson, Price pushed on toward St Louis. Though he never got closer than forty miles his march threw the city into a panic. Luckily for the inhabitants, Price had sent most of his forces after Ewing into central Missouri and he had lost his nerve for attacking the city. He turned northwest and recombined with his other forces on October 3rd at Hermann on the Missouri River. There they captured a supply train containing 400 Sharps rifles, burned depots and ripped up miles of railroad track. Prics supply train was now 500 wagons filled to the gunwales with military necessities and loot.

Price had been marching across the US Department of Missouri commanded by William S. Rosecrans in St. Louis; His most able subordinate was Alfred Pleasonton, recent commander of the Army of the Potomac’s cavalry and a new transfer to the west.

On October 6th the leading Confederate elements under General Jo Shelby reached the Osage River near the capital at Jefferson City. He forced a crossing but the next day ran into a furious firefight that blunted his move though pushed the federal forces back into the city’s entrenchments.

On the morning of the 8th, Price, with Fort Davidson still fresh in his mind, turned his back on Jefferson City and marched west. Particularly chagrined at this move was Thomas C. Reynolds, Missouri governor in absentia, from the Confederate government of Missouri in exile, accompanying Price’s army. Reynolds had hoped to be inaugurated on the steps of the capitol building in the capital city.

As Price moved west, Roscreans ordered A.J. Smith’s division of 4,500 infantry to follow. Smith’s was the only large infantry unit in the entire campaign and would play ‘catch-up’ throughout. Pleasonton was recalled from furlough and things began to happen. He organized 4,100 horse soldiers in Jefferson City under General John B. Sanborn and moved in pursuit. Federal forces had gone from the defensive to the offensive.

Soon Confederate and Union columns were criss-crossing the rolling hills and plains south of the Missouri River and west of Jefferson City. One federal cavalry brigade moved through Versailles to Warsaw, two others through California and Tipton. Price sent Fagan’s division to protect the rear as the main force headed to Boonville. Sanborn was so aggressive in pursuit that Price reinforced the rear guard with Marmaduke’s division. Sanborn retired when he ran out of food for the men and, more importantly, forage for the horses. Luckily he met a supply train in California. Even more luckily, another brigade of 1,500 veteran troopers joined him.

In Boonville, Price picked up 1,400 unarmed, but enthusiastic, recruits. Price also met with guerillas William ‘Bloody Bill’ Anderson and William C. Quantrill. They were ordered north to destroy railroads. In Boonville for 2 days, Price’s men left on the 12th, their horses burdened with plunder and overloaded wagons groaning behind their teams.

Price sent one brigade north to Glasgow in hopes of seizing rifles to arm his new recruits. The rest headed west. On October 14th he dispatched Shelby with an additional brigade to attack Glasgow from the west. The federals there surrendered after a sharp skirmish but were first able to destroy all of the their supplies.

M. Jeff Thompson took another Confederate brigade south to Sedalia to destroy the railroad terminus and hinder Rosecrans pursuit. On the way, Thompson discovered Pleasonton’s column moving west toward Lexington. Smashing into Sedalia, Thompson captured men, horses and supplies, but was now between Union infantry and cavalry. He slipped by Pleasanton and rejoined Price at Waverly along with the brigades from the Glasgow expedition. The reunited Army of Missouri moved on toward Lexington.

Interesting note: In Glasgow, the sides established their field hospitals in two houses catty-corner across from each other. The local physician tended the wounded from both sides, crossing the street as needed.

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