Looking for more from Sean McLachlan? He also hangs out on the Midlist Writer blog, where he talks about writing, adventure travel, caving, and everything else he gets up to. He also reproduces all the posts from Civil War Horror, so drop on by!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Civil War Photo Friday: The Famous Cannonball of Lexington, Missouri

On this date 150 years ago, the Confederate army under General Sterling Price was preparing to attack Lexington, a prosperous town on the Missouri River. They'd recently defeated the Union army at the Battle of Wilson's Creek, captured Springfield, and had marched all the way to central Missouri.

The rebels appeared unstoppable. With 12,000 men and more rallying to The Cause, there was no force within striking distance that was of comparable size. Defending Lexington were only 3,500 Union troops under Col. James A. Mulligan. Despite the long odds, Mulligan dug in on a hill overlooking town and waited for reinforcements.

Price's advance guard arrived on September 11. They didn't attack immediately, instead waiting for the rest of the army to come up. This allowed Mulligan a chance to complete his fortifications, which included earthworks and a stone building on top of the hill that was a Masonic College. Skirmishing started on September 13 but the main assault didn't start until September 18, once all of Price's supplies and men had arrived. I'll write about that in a later post.

It was a tough fight with lots of gunplay and a days-long artillery duel. One Union shot passed over the Confederate lines and landed in town, right into a column of the Lafayette County courthouse. Price had established his headquarters across the street, so the cannonball was probably aimed at him. It's still there today. I took a shot of it when I was on my Jesse James road trip.

How does Jesse James fit into this? His big brother, future outlaw Frank James fought in this battle on the Confederate side!


  1. Thanks for the informative post, Sean. I love historical facts like the kind on your blog.
    Donna V,

  2. That is a neat picture and story to go with it.


Got something to say? Feel free! No anonymous comments allowed, though. Too many spammers and haters on the Internet.