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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Marmaduke's First Missouri Raid and the Second Battle of Springfield

The year 1863 started with a bang in Missouri. On December 31, 1862, Confederate Brigadier General John Sappington Marmaduke rode out of Arkansas at the head of 3,000 cavalry to hit Union supply lines.

For the first few days, they rode in three separate columns through the sparsely populated Ozarks without the Union command being any the wiser. That changed on January 7 when the rebels fell upon Union outposts at Ozark and Fort Lawrence. Most of the garrison managed to flee. Some of the supplies were taken away or burned, and some fell into Marmaduke's hands.

That same evening Brig.-Gen. Egbert Brown, pictured here, was alerted. He was based in Springfield, the Union's base of operations for southwestern Missouri. He heard Marmaduke was coming straight for him with 6,000 men. For some reason Union reports consistently overestimated rebel numbers and this led to much unnecessary panic and retreating.

Not so with Gen. Brown. He decided to stick, even though he only had 2,100 men, many of them untested militia and a "Quinine Brigade" of convalescents from the military hospital; and five cannon, three of them on slapped-together mountings of old wagon wheels. The town was surrounded by four forts. Even though none were completed they were better than nothing.

Marmaduke desperately wanted the supplies stored in Springfield. All three of his columns were supposed to attack the town on this date, but only two showed. Col. Porter, with 800 men, didn't make it on time, thus Marmaduke was attacking an entrenched position without numerical superiority.

The rebels attacked at 10 a.m., advancing steadily under the cover of their three cannon. Brown had ordered the houses in that area burned to afford the defenders a clear field of fire and soon the battle was on in earnest. The rebels probed to the south and west of town, both sides ordering charges and countercharges that got pushed back.

The worst fighting came in the western part of town, where the rebels managed to take one of the forts and several houses. One of the Union cannons was positioned too far forward and was also taken.

The Union troops, including the "Quinine Brigade" charged though the streets to push them back and came under a withering fire from the houses. Gen. Brown got a bad wound in the shoulder and was carried from the field. Brown and at least one of his officers believed he was shot not by one of the rebel soldiers, but by a secessionist civilian in one of the houses on the Union side of the line.

The Union troops fell back, rallied, and tried again. The fighting became hand-to-hand, with Americans stabbing at Americans with bayonets, or clubbing them to death with the butts of their rifles. Shadows lengthened as the fighting raged in the streets.

As the sun sank in the west, the rebels began to slink out of town. They had lost about 80 killed, 200 wounded, and 12 missing; the Union lost 30 killed, 195 wounded, and 6 missing. The next day Marmaduke decided not to renew the attack. The Battle of Springfield was over.

It was the second time the city had been touched by the war, the first being on October 25, 1861 when in a short sharp fight the Union took the city. Marmaduke was beaten, but his raid continued. We'll be getting back to his adventures later this week.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

1 comment:

  1. One of the theories for the Jan 8th attack is that the Confederates were wanting to attack a Union armory as revenge for the previous Union attack on the armory in Pea Ridge, Ark. When the Confederates hit Springfield, they met more resistance than expected due to the 72nd regiment under the leadership of Springfield residents, Col. Henry Sheppard and Lt. Col. Fidelio S. Jones.


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