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Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Civil War Battle of Roan's Tan Yard, Missouri

One hundred and fifty years ago today the Civil War in Missouri had not taken a break for the winter. Confederate General Sterling Price still occupied Springfield in the southern part of the state, and rebels in north and central Missouri gathered to join him.

One such group consisted of about 800 men under Col. John A. Poindexter, camped at Silver Creek in Randolph County about 14 miles northwest of Fayette. His men were a mixed bag of Missouri State Guard and raw recruits, indifferently armed or not armed at all. When Union Maj. W.M.G. Torrence heard of the camp, he gathered 450 cavalry and sharpshooters to go break it up. His force included units from Ohio and Iowa. Units from many northern states were in Missouri at that time.

Torrence led his men on a 15 mile march to within 4 miles of the camp and then planned his attack. The main body of his troops would fire into the camp and keep the rebels occupied while a strong detachment would charge into the camp.

The advance guard drove in the rebel pickets. They were soon joined by the main Union column. The rebels were in a strong position behind ravines, thick underbrush, and trees. As both sides traded heavy volleys, three companies of the First Iowa and a part of a company of Merrill's Horse charged the camp and threw the rebels into confusion. The Confederates fled, leaving behind a large amount of their gear. Two companies from the Union rearguard tried to cut off their retreat, but darkness, heavy fog, and thick underbrush helped the rebels escape.

Union reports list 6 killed and 19 wounded on the Union side, with the rebels suffering 40 killed and 60 wounded. Maj. Torrence also "captured 160 horses, 60 wagons, 105 tents, 80 kegs [of] powder, about 200 rifles and shot-guns, and a large quantity of clothing, blankets, and bed-quilts" along with 28 prisoners. As is usual with the Official Records, these numbers must be taken with a grain of salt. Officers on both sides tended to exaggerate enemy numbers and casualties.

This skirmish/battle was only the latest in a series of engagements between Union regulars and camps of rebel recruits. In December 1861, Union troops had swept through Saline County, fighting numerous small engagements and bagging a small camp of rebels at Roper's Mill. A larger engagement at Mount Zion Church broke up a rebel force of 900 men (according to the Union report, 350 according to an interview with a Confederate officer 20 years after the fact).

This series of small Union victories added up to a major headache for Confederate recruiters. The hope of a rebel takeover of the state was fading.

1 comment:

  1. Neat history! The war is Missouri was so different form other parts of the country.


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