Gen. Sterling Price and 12,000 mounted, but ragged, Confederate troops began a raid into Missouri on September 19, 1864. Of this number, roughly 4,000 men were unarmed.
Price’s primary objectives were to capture the arsenal at St Louis and recruit men in the pro-Confederate areas of northern Missouri. He also hoped to relieve pressure on Confederate forces in Tennessee, Georgia and Virgina and perhaps influence the November presidential election.
Harper’s Weekly reported:
Price is again moving into Missouri with a force estimated at from ten to thirty thousand men. On the 27th the main portion of this force was at Fredericktown in the southwestern part of the State. There was great excitement, and it was thought that a raid was contemplated on St. Louis. General Rosecrans is actively taking measures to meet the emergency, and General Mower is expected to move upon Price's rear from the south. The forces in the district of Central Missouri have been withdrawn from other points and concentrated at Jefferson city. General Ewing, commanding at Pilot Knob, was nearly surrounded. Several attacks have been made on his position, all of which have been repulsed. General Ewing has three thousand men, and at last accounts had succeeded in withdrawing his force from Pilot Knob. Price was advancing on Rolla
Price reached the towns of Ironton and Pilot Knob on the railroad line to St Louis and defended by Fort Davidson by US troops under Thomas Ewing, Jr. In the ensuing battles on September 26th and 27th, the federal forces escaped destruction and inflict almost 1000 casualties on Price’s column. Price aborted his move toward St. Louis to the north and turns northwest to the capital at Jefferson City.
Reaching the capital’s vicinity, Price found the town was too heavily fortified to attack and that Union forces were closing in from the east. 15,000 infantry and cavalry, commanded by Generals Andrew J. Smith and Alfred Pleasanton, and under the overall command of William S. Rosecrans, were moving St Louis and another 20,000 militia were assembling in Kansas.
Price turned northwest and fanned out toward Lexington and Kansas City passing through Boonville and Marshall while winning token victories at Glasgow, Sedalia and Warrensburg. His slow progress allowed Federal forces to concentrate. On October 19th he skirmished at
Lexington with the Union Kansas troops, commanded by James G. Blunt. ( Price lead the Missouri State Guard at the first battle of Lexington in September1861– ‘The battle of the hemp bales’.)
On October 21, Price's army attacked Blunt's force at Independence and pushed the Yankees through the town in house-to-house fighting to the Big Blue River. On the opposite bank Gen. Samuel R. Curtis had entrenched 8,000 Kansas militia and US troops, hoping to hold Price in place until more Union troops arrived in Price's rear from the east. Curtis had problems with his troops: most were Kansas Militia and many refused to cross into Missouri.
On the morning of the 22nd, Confederate General Jo Shelby crossed the river upstream, flanked Curtis's position and forced him to retreat to Westport, just south of present day Kansas City. When Pleasanton arrived in Independence with his Union cavalrymen that night, he found Curtis's entrenchments occupied by Price's men.
Price’s Confederates shifted south and waited. Early the next, cold morning, Blunt and Curtis attacked Price at Westport. After severe, hand-to-hand fighting the US gained the advantage; a series of desperate charges by Jo Shelby’s troops saved the Confederate forces. Price, poorly victualed and with low ammunition decided to withdraw to the Indian Territory.
Moving through southeast Kansas just over the Missouri border, Price’s slow-moving column was caught at the one-wagon-wide crossing at
Mine Creek on October 25th. The rear-guard disintegrated and again, only solid defense by Jo Shelby’s men saved Price’s command. Price decided to burn most of his wagons to speed his withdrawal. Shelby’s troopers turned back the last determined pursuit at the 2nd battle of Newtonia on October 28th and the Confederates limped into Arkansas defeated, demoralized and effectively out of the war.
All in all, Price's raid was barren of results. His recruits could not replace his casualties and he lost most of his supply train. By drawing large numbers of US troops into a pro-Confederate area the US solidifed it's hold on the Missouri River valley. Price did delay the movement of A.J. Smith's federal division to Tennessee, though it arrived in time to participate in the battle of Nashville.