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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Union troops sweep through central Missouri looking for rebels

With General Price in southwest Missouri and not showing any inclination to move northwards, the Union army busied itself with sweeps through Missouri catching Confederate recruits. All across the state, especially in the "Little Dixie" region along the Missouri River, large bands of rebel volunteers rallied around Price's recruiters. While poorly armed and untrained, many of these bands numbered in the hundreds and required a sizable force to defeat.

Brig. Gen. Benjamin Prentiss, shown here in this Wikimedia Commons image, certainly felt the need to bring a large force along on his rebel hunt. He was patrolling Boone County with five companies of the Third Missouri Cavalry and two of Birge’s Western Sharpshooters, some 440 men in all. He was looking for secessionist recruits, plus he wanted to protect the North Missouri Railroad, which had already been the object of an attack.

He set out from Palmyra on Christmas Eve and arrived in Sturgeon on the 26th. There he heard of a Missouri State Guard force rallying recruits near Hallsville. The Missouri State Guard was the original state militia, most of whom had followed Price into rebellion.

On December 27th, 150 years ago today, Prentiss sent Captain Howland and one company of cavalry to check out the situation at Hallsville. About two miles outside of town Howland found them and a sharp skirmish ensued. Finding himself outnumbered, Howland ordered a retreat but he was wounded and lost his horse, probably being shot off it. He and one of his privates were captured.

The rest of Howland’s company retreated back to the Union camp around 9pm and reported. Prentiss made plans to move out the next morning.

To be continued tomorrow!

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