The war in Missouri "in 1861 pitted Federal forces, under Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon, against the pro-secessionist State Guard, led by Governor Claiborne Fox Jackson and Major General Sterling Price. Although Missouri had not seceded, Lyon drove the state legislature from the capital at Jefferson City on June 15 Two days later, Lyon routed the State Guard at Boonville, then sent a force southwest to cut off their retreat.
From Springfield, a Federal force of 1,100 advanced to a point just north of Carthage. There, on July 5, they were defeated by 4,000 Confederates marching south under Governor Jackson. The Federals retreated to Springfield. Jackson continued south to Cowskin Prairie, where Price had gathered an additional 1,200 men from across Missouri. The Missourians withdrew into Arkansas, uniting with Confederate and Arkansas State troops under Brigadier General Ben McCulloch. Lyon started south on July 3 and arrived at Springfield on July 13 with a force of over 5,000 men, but lacked supplies for offensive operations.
On August 1, McCulloch led the combined Confederate forces north toward Springfield, but rain canceled his plans to attack Lyon on August 9. The aggressive Lyon, however, launched a surprise dawn attack on the Confederate camp at Wilson's Creek on August 10. Lyon was killed and the defeated Federals retreated to Rolla.
McCulloch withdrew to Arkansas, but Price advanced with the State Guard toward Lexington. The Confederates besieged from September 12 to 20, finally capturing the 2,800 defenders, with minimal losses. Lack of supplies forced Price to retire back to Springfield, and the year ended with Federal forces controlling most of the state.
In a separate action in eastern Missouri, Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant sailed down the Mississippi from Cairo, attacking and nearly defeating an equal Confederate force under Brigadier General Gideon H. Pillow at Belmont. When Confederate reinforcements from Columbus drove Grant back to his gunboats, he returned to Cairo.
The rebels have been elated and emboldened while our troops have been depressed, if not discouraged... It may be said of these victims, 'They have fallen, and to what end?' "
The Chicago Tribune after Grant's return to Cairo.
Union artillery under the command of Capt. James Totten repel a Confederate cavalry charge during the battle of Wilson's Creek. The Confederates quickly rallied and succeeded in breaking the Union line.
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