Missouri’s Importance

The position of Missouri during the Civil War was unique. It was located on the border line between North and South. Nearly all the territory was north of the Ohio River, which generally considered the dividing line between North and South. In two Secession Conventions before the conflict went live, Missouri voted to stay within the Union

Missouri’s importance in the Civil War is easily underestimated. Had she fell to the Confederacy, the entire mid-west would have been more open to attack. This could have made the Civil War a different conflict. An entire different strategy would have been needed.

Under normal circumstances, Missouri would, from its location would be a Northern state. Yet, a great bulk of its immigrants were from southern states, Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee perhaps furnished more settlers for Missouri in the early settlement period than all other states. Mostly, they stayed Southern in their sentiment. Thus, normally, it would be expected for Missouri to join the Confederacy.

Many of the state’s farmers owned slaves at the start of the Civil War. Their vote at the Secession Conventions counted for withdrawal. However, Missouri had a large foreign population, most of which settled in towns. Few of them were slave holders. Their sympathies were very strongly favoring the Union. The German population in the town of Cape Girardeau, and the counties of Cape Girardeau, Perry, and Bollinger, and in the city of St. Louis almost to a man favored the North.

Feeling on both sides were high and very emotional. Missouri men enlisted in the armies of both side in almost equal Numbers.

The Mississippi River became an important part of the strategy of the Union commanders; it was to use this waterway to pressure the South from the West adding to the coercion from the East. As the river became an important means of transportation of troops and supplies. Southeast Missouri, being bordered on the Mississippi and at the junction of the Ohio, became an important part of the conflict.

Union General in Chief Winfield Scott’s Anaconda Plan received widespread publicity. This plan was to blockade the coastal cities a advancing down the Mississippi River to cut the Confederacy in two. Thus the rebelling forces were aware of the threat posed n the Mississippi Valley.

        Early Civil War Actions

During the first year of the war, Confederate forces in the West went through a series of command changes that after was confusing and left responsibility for particular action hard to pin down. The Bootheel was strongly pro-Southern and therefore fell within the control of Confederate Department Number 2. This department was under the command of Major General Leonidas Polk.

In May of 1861 the state legislature passed an act authorizing the Missouri State Guards. The statue also divided the state into military districts; Southeast Missouri was District One with N. W. Watkins of Cape Girardeau appointed by the Governor as Brigadier General to command the district. Finding the work distasteful, he resigned being replaced by Jeff Thompson who temporarily made his headquarters at Bloomfield.

Northern sympathizers not joining the Union Army were drafted into the Home Guard. Between the Home Guard and the Confederate State Guards there was constant hostility and warfare, especially in Southeast Missouri.

The Confederates made a three prong assault into Missouri. In the southwest, Colonel McCulloch attacked; in central Missouri, General Hardee; while in the east General Pillow was in charge. Pillow reached and captured New Madrid early but made no plan to advance from there.

On August 30th, General Fremont issued a proclamation declaring martial law. J. McKinstry, a United States Army Major was appointed Provost Marshal of the state. Drawing a line from Kansas City to Cape Girardeau, Fremont declared: anyone caught below this line carrying arms will be tried by court martial and shot and all personal and real propriety owned in Missouri shall be confiscate and put to public use if proven enemy of the Federal government and their slaves, if they have any, shall be declared free men and found guilty of giving aid to the Confederates, including a speech or substance have been warned of ill consequences to themselves.

Persons traveling away from their home area had to carry a permit issued by the provost marshal. This proclamation covered the southern half of Missouri. Business was hampered by this degree and it caused demoralization and property loss throughout this part of the state.

On August 11, 1861 some of Thompson’s Rebels entered the Scott County community of Hamburg. An attack on the Home Guard left one dead and five wounded and 13 captured

Colonel Daugherty with his Illinois troops, on August 19, skirmished with Confederates near Charleston defeating them. That same day skirmish was fought at Fish Lake near Charleston and here the Federals also routed the enemy.

On December 29, 1861, Confederate Brig Gen Thompson sent a report to the New Madrid Headquarters of the first Military District of the Missouri State Guard at Columbus, Kentucky. He had left New Madrid Saturday evening with 40 men, one 6-pounder and one little rifled cannon. While heading towards Sikeston, near Hunter’s the little cannon was accidently damaged and the 6-pounders’ team gave out. After sending the little gun back, the 6-pounderwas placed at Jones’ Ford.

With 27 men, Thompson proceeded into Commerce on the Sandy Ridge Road. A quick attack took the residents by surprise with all male inhabitants under guard. After a raid on the two Federal stores, my men replaced any clothing they needed. About 2:30, the steamer City of Alton was sited. My plan to capture the packet, without cannon support, was defeated by the women of Commerce as we were unable to stop them from giving the alarm. Coming close enough to the shore, they received a good peppering before the backed out of range and headed downstream. The raid netted muskets, two rifles, six horses, 15 or 20 suites of clothes. After stampeding the Union men of Scott County we returned safely to New Madrid. In forty hours, we marched 105 miles.

The events at Sikeston were typical of the Civil War events in the Bootheel. That is, most of the contacts between Union and Confederate troops were not normally considered large events, except by those involved. However, two events did have a national impact.

The Union leaders wanted to drive General Thompson out of the Southeast if he could not be captured, which was their first choose. Union General Prentiss was in Ironton. He was to go to Cape Girardeau and turn his forces south. Meanwhile, Grant would cross the Mississippi at Cairo and descend downstream to Belmont and move westward from there.

General B. M. Prentiss, when he arrived at Jackson, on his way to cut off and capture General Thompson, was given orders from Grant to stop there, to go no farther. Believing himself to be the senior officer, Prentiss disobeyed that order and departed to Cape Girardeau..

Upon reaching Cape Girardeau, he found Grant in charge, therefore he ordered his men back to Jackson where he left his command and went to St. Louis feeling he and not Grant should have been promoted. Thus, the expedition to capture General Thompson ended.

With the defeat of Lyon’s army at Wilson’s Creek, it generated a feeling throughout Missouri that Confederates were winning the war. Within the border of the state and among the state leaders there was a great deal of excitement and confusion.

In the fall of 1861, a column of troops were rushed by Confederate Brigadier General Jeff Thompson from New Madrid to Sikeston Confederate troops were moving towards Cape Girardeau to enforce the troops stationed there.

While in the Sikeston area Thompson had set up three camps in the area. The camp west of town was Camp Brown. North of Sikeston he later created Camp Hunter he located on the farm of Joseph Hunter near the Scott County Central School. The final camp was in Sikeston proper. Each was in a strategic location to harass any Union troops moving towards Sikeston from Commerce.

On August 20th, at Charleston, there was a skirmish against forces under the Confederate Colonel Jason Hunter and the 22nd Illinois Infantry under Colonel Daugherty and the Union Cavalry under David P. Jenkins. Hunter was defeated and retreated to rejoin Thompson’s forces. Hunter was arrested for not following orders. He was only to discover the position of the enemy, not fight a superior force.

Bird’s Point was a strategic site. One secured after the Confederates were deterred from regain control of the supply routes, this became an important supply and repair site as well as training camp and military port for the Union army and navy.

On September 3, General Fremont, hearing rumors, warned General Grant that Rebel forces in Sikeston numbed 16,000 men. His report also expressed concerns about the Confederates experienced cavalry there while his men were mainly untested. After finding out the next day that the reported Confederate troop numbers were not only inflated, but that the Southern army had left Sikeston Prentiss occupied Sikeston.

A skirmish was fought on October 14, 1861 at Underwood’s farm near Bird’s Point. It was a Confederate victory

During the month of October, 1861, Thompson led his army on an expedition from his headquarters in Stoddard County by way of Fredericktown into Jefferson County. He had two planned objectives. One was to destroy The Iron Mountain Railroad Bridge over Big River, thus hindering the movements of Federal Forces south from St. Louis. The other was to capture much needed lead the Confederacy required for bullets.

Union soldiers were guarding the bridge, near Blackwell, and a skirmish was fought and the bridge was destroyed. Thompson then retreated back to Fredericktown where he learned a strong Union force was closing in on him.

With the knowledge that Federal troops were on the way to Bloomfield, Thompson fell back some ten miles to Camp Jackson, and later to West Prairie close to Clarkton in Dunklin County. Plans were made, if the Union troops followed him, to use the Plank Road form Clarkton to New Madrid.

After Plummer and Oglesby received reports of Thompsons retreat to New Madrid, they set off in pursuit. With orders arriving from General Grant to return, to their base, Plummer went back to Cape Girardeau with Oglesby returning to Bird’s Point.

On October 4, 1861, Confederate Brigadier General M. Jeff Thompson stopped at Sikeston; his planed was to strike Cape Girardeau. As his manpower was limited, his plans changed and he disappeared in the swamps off to the west. Another time that year, General Thompson visited Sikeston. Without money to buy supplies or pay his troops, he robbed a bank at Charleston before heading west. He left an IOU with the Charleston Bank and apologized for the necessity of his actions.

That same day Grant reported to General Halleck in St. Louis that Confederates were retreating from the area of Sikeston and Bird’s Point. Colonel Wallace received orders to occupy Charleston and sent patrols to Sikeston to confirm the rumors of a Confederate retreat.

Discovering the Union plan, Thompson expressed concerns to his superiors that Prentiss’ plan to occupy Sikeston would interfere with Southern troop movements. He realized the importance of Sikeston as a transportation center. Thus he moved his forces out as he slowed Prentiss’ advance. Thompson also worried about a reported buildup of Union troops at Cairo. These troops could be used, he realized, to set a trap for him.

In 1861 Cape Girardeau was under Union Control. On Oct. 18, with the knowledge that Federal troops were on the way to Bloomfield, Thompson fell back some ten miles to Camp Jackson, and later to West Prairie close to Clarkton in Dunklin County. Plans were made, if the Union troops followed him, to use the Plank Road from Clarkton to New Madrid.

That same day, the Confederate steamers Aargo and Lake City lobed cannon balls into Cape Girardeau.

Included in the quick plan to capture Thompson, the federal authorities sent Colonel Plummer from Cape Girardeau with amour 1,500 men; Colonel Carhn left Pilot Knob with 3,000 troops. Thompson heard the reports of the advancing enemy and went south towards Greenville where he had to fight off Union forces just outside Greenville on October 21, 1861.

After the fiercely fought baton on both sides, Thompson continued his retreat in good order as the Union forces occupied Fredericktown. Hauling away some 18,000 pounds of lead, the Confederates made good their escape.

The situation as of November 1, 1861 in Southeast Missouri; General Grant was in command and station at Cairo with an army of about 20,000. Colonel J. B. Plummer was at Cape Girardeau with another 1,500 troopers including the 11th Missouri Volunteer and some Illinois troops. Colonel Carhn was at Ironton and Pilot Knob with 3.000 Illinois troops. Colonel R. J. Olgesby commanded at Bird’s Point but under direct supervision of General Grant.

At this time the Confederate forces in Southeast Missouri included General W. J. Hardee at Greenville with some 3,000 men, General Pillow was in New Madrid commanding about 5,000 men, and General Jeff Thompson was stationed at Bloomfield with a force of about 1,500.

During the Civil War Bloomfield was controlled by both the Confederate and Union armies. She was the staging area for several expeditions and also the target of expeditions. The Confederates right before the Battle for Island Number Ten lost control of the city and a number of men planning to shortly move to help their comrades there were captured.

At midnight, Saturday, November 2, Colonel Richard J. Oglesby, 8th Illinois Infantry regiment’s commanding officer, stationed at Bird's Point received a dispatch from Brigadier General Grant. He was ordered to lead an expedition to destroy rebel forced gathered in Stoddard County. These southern forces were under Brigadier General M. Jeff Thompson of the Missouri State Guard.

        Bloomfield and the Stars and Stripes

On November 7th and 8th, 1861, federal troops from Illinois and Iowa enter the nearly abandoned town of Bloomfield and set up camp. Undoubtedly, they were pleased with themselves as this was their first military operation

Colonel Oglesby had under his command some 2,200 men in the 11th, 18th, and 29th Illinois Infantry Regiments. On Tuesday, the 5th, they started towards Bloomfield. The shortest route was across Niger Wool Swamp, arriving at their destination on Thursday November 7th.

General Grant had also ordered in Cape Girardeau and Ironton to Bloomfield. Thus Union forces were converging on the town from the east, northeast and northwest. Confederate General Thompson, realizing his predicament withdrew further south to a less precarious position.

The first Union army to enter Bloomfield was the 10th Iowa Regiment. Coming from Cape Girardeau they arrived about 10:00 on the 7th of November only to find the Confederates had left town.

About 9:00 on the 9th, Oglesby’s command arrived. Plans were for them to only stay in town one day. During the day some of the Illinois started looting the stores. After a while, the military police stopped this.

Another group of union soldiers touring the town noticed the newspaper office of the Bloomfield Herald was empty. Its editor, Jokes O. Hull, a New Jersey native, recently in the newspaper business in Southern Illinois before opening the Bloomfield Herald in 1858. The office was empty as he had joined the Confederate army and left town.

That night ten Union solders returned to the newspaper office and the newspaper, Stars and Stripes was born. Nine of these men had or served newspapers after the war as publishers, editors’ newsmen, managers, or printers. Little did they know the legacy started that night; a newspaper by military personal for military personal.

They thought it logical to print their own newspaper telling about camp life. It is unknown how many copies of the first paper were printed for the 2000 troops in and around the town.

They called their paper the Stars and Stripes Also at Bloomfield is the Stars and Stripes Museum Library Association Still in operation today it is an American newspaper that reports on matters affecting the members of the United States military.

The Battle of Belmont  

A small community north of Island Number 5, commonly called Wolf Island that was laid out in 1853 by the Belmont Company of New York and named for its president, August Belmont. In 1870, a post off was established there. During the 1912 flood, almost all the down was destroyed with the flood of 1922 destroying its only church building, also substituting as a school. After 1922, they lost their post office with the mail being routed across the Mississippi to Columbus, Kentucky.

General Grant had received orders to stop Confederate troop from crossing the Mississippi at Columbus and the Battle of Belmont was the results. Belmont was a small Missouri community north of New Madrid. Columbus was a Confederate staging area in Kentucky.

A month later, Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant wrote a letter from Cairo, Illinois, to Colonel Richard J. Olgesby, Commander of Union Forces Headquarters District Southeast Missouri at Bird’s Point. Grant wanted him to move against Sikeston. Oglesby was ordered to move from Commerce and Colonel W. H. L. Wallace was to meet Oglesby there in preparations for Grant’s attack at the Battle of Belmont. His troops in marching across Niger Wool Swamp had to fight several skirmishes against irregular Rebel forces as they made their way into Bloomfield, only to find it deserted of armed forces.


During the opening states of the Civil War, Kentucky, a critical border state, declared its neutrality, saying it would align opposite the first side breach its borders. On September 3, 1861 this occurred when Confederate forces, commanded by Major General Leonidas Polk who occupied Columbus, Kentucky.

Columbus was setting on a series of Mississippi River bluffs. Some of these bluffs looked down 150 feet at the river. Polk’s army quickly set about fortifying the bluff by mounting 140 heavy guns pointed the river. Included was an 8-ton Dahlgren called “Lady Polk.” Rifled and breech-loaded, the Dahlgren could fire 128-pound cone shaped projectile. To hinder river traffic, a log pontoon floated on massive iron chain tied to two sycamore trees on the Missouri side and grounded on the Kentucky side with a 6-ton anchor. 

The Union commander of Southeast Missouri, Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant sent forces under Brigadier General Charles Smith to occupy Paducah, Kentucky on the Ohio River. Grant based at Cairo, some 30 river miles north of Columbus and was eager to attack this Southern stronghold. Until just before November 7, 1862, Major General John C. Fremont, Grant’s superior officer, frequently asked for permission to attack

The Federal gunboat Tyler, on patrol near the Iron Banks in the Belmont area fired one shot on to Beckwiths’ and Hunter’s corn fields trying to provoke a response from any guerrillas in the area. No response was made in return. This was a primary probe before the Battle of Belmont.

With 4,000 men Grant transported his men by boat accompanied by a convoy of gunboats from Cairo on November 5th. After a three mile march from Hunter’s farm and after being dropped off, they reach Belmont early in the morning. Although the Confederates were outnumbered, even with reinforcements from Columbus the battle lasted for four hours before they withdrew into the deep woods and swamp.

Instead of following up their success, the Federal troops stopped to pillage the Rebel camp. The Confederates at Columbus crossed to river to reinforce their besieged comrades. Under pressure from this new attack, the Union army withdrew.

The Union army suffered severely in their retreat. General Grant barely escaped capture before reaching a gunboat. It was considered a Confederate victory although they lost 642 men while the Union loss was 402, with 80 of them killed.

In early November Grant elected to move against the small Confederate garrison at Belmont, Mississippi County, Missouri across the river from Columbus.

For support in this operation, Grant ordered Smith to leave Paducah and distract the Confederates by moving to the southwest, marching towards New Madrid. On November 6th, Grant left by riverboat from Cairo to attack the Rebels massed at Columbus, Kentucky. Accompanying, the men aboard the steamers were the gunboats USS Tyler and USS Lexington.

Next morning Grant received word that some Confederate forces had crossed the Mississippi River to Belmont. Polk sent Brigadier General Gideon Pillow across the river from to reinforce the troops at Belmont. Crossing were four Tennessee regiments to strengthen Colonel James Tappan’s command at Camp Johnson. They moved northwest to block the road south from Hunter’s Landing the logical steamboat landing spot. Confederate forces now counted 2,700 soldiers.

The Union flotilla carried four Illinois regiment, one Iowa regiment, two companies of cavalry and six guns, and a total of 3.000 men. About 8 A.M. Grant’s flotilla stopped at Hunter’s Landing, some three miles north of Belmont.

General Pillow staged his main defensive line along a low rise in a cornfield. Grant’s men marching south cleared the road of obstruction after driving back skirmishers. Union soldiers formed a battle line in the woods. After they crossed a small marsh the Union troops emerged from the trees.

For about an hour, the Confederates repelled the attacking army. After the Union artillery finally reached the battle ground around noon, Pillow’s troops began falling back. Quickly the retreating army reorganized to defend Camp Johnson and became trapped against the river.

Supported by the heavy artillery from bluff across the river, Grants men were forced to retreat. Reaching his riverboats, Grant took his men to Paducah, Kentucky.

Union loses during the battle numbered 120 killed, 383 wounded, and 104 captured or missing. Polk’s command lost 105 men killed, 419 wounded and 117 missing or captured. Grant achieved his objective of destroying the camp. Therefore he claimed victory. The Confederates also claimed the Battle of Belmont a victor. Compared to later events, the battle was relative small. Here, Grant gained valuable field experience. Although a formidable position, the Confederate batteries were abandoned at Columbus after Grant outflanked them by capturing Fort Henry on the Tennessee River and Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River.

        Failure to Remove Confederates from Southeast Missouri

December 11th there was a skirmish at Bertrand and next day at Charleston.

The Confederates, under Thompson, on December 29th with 40 men left Hunter’s Farm and passed quickly through Sikeston and Commerce capturing supplies before retreating to New Madrid.

January 19, 1862, on an expedition from Cape Girardeau into Bloomfield, the Union Cavalry had to borrow rifles from a Missouri Volunteer Company to be armed. The raid by 100 men was in response to rumors the Confederates gathering at Bloomfield were preparing to reinforce Confederate troops at New Madrid. The Confederates were at a dance and were easily captured. Included among the 39 prisoners were a Lieutenant Colonel and ten other officers. Small cannons and several horses were also confiscated.

January 26.1862 found Confederate General Jeff Thompson with a cavalry of some 500 men between Commerce and Price’s Landing. Union troops were dispatched from Bird’s Point and Cape Girardeau. Again, Thompson escaped.

A few days later, Grant moved his command to Cairo. At this time, a debate raged in Grant’s command about the practically of forcing the Rebels out of Southeast Missouri. He however was hampered by poor intelligence.

In the attempts to drive the Rebels out of Southeast Missouri, where the battles and skirmishes were not important to the overall outcome of the war, there was one results usually overlooked. The problem arose as wither to defend Southeast Missouri or Southwest Missouri. An invasion from Arkansas was supposed to come by way of Springfield, as it did later under General Price.

Another invasion was planned from Arkansas coming up the Mississippi to Birds Point. General Fremont assumed command and had to decide whether to defend the southeast of the southwest from Rebel encroachment. His decision was to defend Southeast Missouri. Doing so, he sent a fleet of eight steamers loaded with infantry and artillery to Birds Point. In part, this decision resulted in the defeat of Federal Forces at Wilson’s Creek in Northwest Arkansas.

The Battle of Island Number Ten

While, at Cape Girardeau, with General Order 37 issued February 1, 1862, Grant, was given command of the District of West Tennessee, and was to plan and execute the capture of Island 10 near New Madrid, and opened the Mississippi River to Memphis. The enemy troops at Belmont stood in the path of Island 10.


The Battle of Island Number Ten was an engagement at the New Madrid or Kentucky Bend on the Mississippi River, lasting from February 28 unto April 8, 1862. The position was an island at the base of a tight double turn in the river and held by the Confederates from the early days of the war.

Confederate Brigadier General Gideon J. Pillow, one of General Polk’s subordinates brought the areas around Island Number 10 to, official notice. Neither Polk nor Pillow was actively involved in developing defenses at the bend. The assignment was given by Polk to Captain Asa B, Gray, an army engineer. Gray worked hard even thought he was not given the resources needed.

Captain Gray started in Mid-August of 1861 on constructing batteries to protect the island. The Tennessee banks, about 1.5 miles north of the island was the first location selected by shore batteries. Battery Number 1 commanded the approach to the bend. Coming down stream, vessels would have to move directly towards theses guns for more than a mile. In practice, these weapons were not very effective as the low ground was subject to flooding. At this time, Polk was diverted to the capture and fortification of Columbus. While work continued at Island Number 10, it was not regarded as urgent and was denied by equipment and workers.

When Fort Henry and Fort Donaldson fell into Union hand early in February 1862, the importance of New Madrid end rose dramatically. This cut Columbus off from the rest of the Rebel army leaving the garrison subject to capture by the Federal troops moving overland to the Mississippi from the Tennessee River. General Beauregard then ordered the position abandoned as quietly as possible. On February 24, the first members of the Columbus stronghold arrived at Island 10. Two days later, its new commander Brig. Gen John P. McCown arrived to immediately start wok strengthening the Confederate positions from Battery Number 1 to Point Pleasant.

Given adequate resources, McCown was able to transform the defense area into a formidable obstacle for any fleet attempting to pass. Middle of March saw fiver batteries with 24 guns lined the banks above the island; 19 guns were ion the island within five batteries. New Orleans, a floating battery had nine guns and moored at the west end of the island. Two forts had been set u at New Madrid: Fort Thompson with 14 guns on the west, and seven guns at Fort Bankhead to the east where St. John’s Bayou net the Mississippi.

On September 15, 1861, Polk was superseded by General Albert Sidney Johnson to command of Department 2. Polk remains part to the Department but in a subordinate position. Like others in his position, Johnson took no active interest in Island Number 10.

General P. G. T. Beauregard became commander of the Army of Mississippi and in effect became Johnston’s second in command. He became the first Confederate commander to recognize the importance of Island Number 10. He issued orders to abandon the garrison at Columbus moving it to help defend the river at New Madrid. He could not take personal charge of the bends defenses because he fell sick. After his recovery, Beauregard and General Johnston were making preparation for the forthcoming Battle of Shiloh.

With the transfer from Combos to Island Number 10, Major General John Pl McCown was appointed local commander. On March 31, with the fall of New Madrid, McCown was replaced by Brigadier General William W. Mackall.

Although these command changes, the Confederate navy on the Mississippi were commanded by Flag Officer George N. Hollins. As the river lay in two military departments, Hollins had to work with the commanders at New Madrid Bend and with the man in charge of the defense of New Orleans.

They had selected an excellent site to hamper Union efforts invading the South by the river pulling needed troops and equipment from the east. Vessels would have to slow down as they approached the island to make the turns. For the defenders, its innate weakness was their dependence on a single road for supplies and reinforcement. If that road was captured of cut off, the garrisons would be trapped.

Word was received by Union commanders that troop were landing four miles below Point Pleasant on the eastern bank to march across the neck of land to cross to Island Number 10. Estimates are the enemy forces their Number 11,000.

On March 1, 1862, the Union army was able to drive the Confederates into Nigger Wool Swamp and out of Sikeston. Of the 100 combatants two were killed, ten wounded or captured. Now, the important crossroads at Sikeston were in Union hands.

On April 13th, Lindsay Murdoch led a Federal expedition from Cape Girardeau to Jackson, Whitewater, and Dallas. No severe fighting occurred with no organized resistance encountered.

On May 16, 1862, the Confederated forces in the area were General W. J. Hardee was at Greenville with about 3,000 men. General Pillow was quartered at New Madrid with about 5,000 and General Jeff Thompson was at Bloomfield overseeing about 1,500 men.

Colonel Plummer received orders to march to Bloomfield to capture Thompson and his command, however, Thompson has retreated. Oglesby left Bird’s Point by boat for Commerce, marched across Niger Wool Swamp where he fought a skirmish with a few Confederate troops and then marched to Bloomfield taking control of the town.

With the arrival of Union troops at Bloomfield, Thompson fell back about ten miles to Camp Jackson and later to West Prairie in the vicinity of Clarkton. He planned to use the Blanton Plank Road from Clarkton to New Madrid. After Plummer and Oglesby found Thompson had retreated, they made plans to follow him to New Madrid before General Grant ordered them back to their points of departure, Cape Girardeau and Bird’s Point.

Confederate Colonel W. L Jeffers a Mexican War veteran, on April 6, 1862 defeated a company of militia under Captain William Flentge near Jackson. May 6, he defeated a Wisconsin regiment under Colonel Daniels at Chalk Bluff, on the St. Francis River just across the line into Arkansas. In action before this Colonel Daniels had defeated a detachment of Confederated under Colonel Phelan about 12 miles from Bloomfield.

Then Colonel Jeffers led his troops into Dunklin County. Here at the Port of Dunklin County which was the northern point of navigation of Little River, the Union forces captured a small steamer on Little River, the Daniel B. Miller at Hornersville. This was a small stern wheeled packet with a wooden hull. A packet was a steamboat which carried both passengers and freight. Build in 1859 at California, Pennsylvania; she was 109 feet long by 26.8 feet wide with a 4 foot deep hull. Daniel B. Miller and S. B Kitchen of Bloomfield were the owners. Her master was John A. Williams of Cape Girardeau She was typical of the smaller crafts servicing the smaller streams.

After Plummer and Oglesby received reports of Thompsons retreat to New Madrid, they set off in pursuit. With orders arriving from General Grant to return, to their base, Plummer went back to Cape Girardeau with Oglesby returning to Bird’s Point. The Confederate steamers Aargo and Lake City lobed cannon ball into Birds Point then withdrew southward.

Throughout the Civil War, Confederate had irregular troops operating in the field. These guerrillas were charged with interrupting transportation by burning bridges, falling trees across trails, ruining off horses and mules, and by attacking small groups out foraging for food and hay for their animals along with anything else that would harass and delay the Union Army and/or lower moral. Another part of their mission was to keep enemy troops tied up and not used elsewhere.

In the spring of 1862, Sikeston again became a staging area this time. Union Brigadier General Pope sent his artillery across the Mississippi at Commerce. There they were sent by rail to connect with the highway for overland transportation southward in preparation for the Battle of Island Number 10 near New Madrid.

General Pope left Commerce on February 28, 1862. The Cairo and Fulton Railroad carried 12,000 of his troops to Sikeston where they marched south on the Kingshighway. During this march, Colonel William Pitt Kellogg, future governor of Louisiana, was leading the 7th Illinois Cavalry where he encounters rebel sabotage lead by Confederate General Thompson. The confederates had burned several bridges and place obstacles across the road. In this raid, just south of Sikeston, Thompson lead a small force, 85 horsemen with four to six experimental cannons recently manufactured at Memphis. The Illinois troops were reinforced by Brigadier General Schuyler Hamilton’s 2sd Division. Thompson’s troops quickly faded into the Nigger Wool Swamp of Little River Valley.

Union Brigadier General Eleazor Arthur Paine, commander of the 4th Division of the Army of Mississippi, orders repairs to road, the railroad and telegraph lines south of Sikeston destroyed by Confederates under Thompson’s command. Paine formed a garrison of Illinois troop for Sikeston, Bertrand, and Charleston.

On March 31, 1862, there were six Union officers and 143 Union soldier stationed at Sikeston. Paine also would later lead these troops against New Madrid, Island Number 10 and Fort Pillow, was assigned repairing Confederate damage to the King’s Highway south of Sikeston. With the road repaired, massive Numbers of troops could now march on New Madrid and Island Number 10.

Confederate forces under General Pillow, in April, started construction of defensive positions at New Madrid and Island Number 10. The idea was to block navigation of the Union fleet on the Mississippi. Between February 29 and March 2, as Polk withdrew from Columbus, Kentucky, he diverted McCown division of 5,000 men to reinforce the 2,000 men defending the river.

Island Number 10, at one time was the tenth island below Cairo and some 50 river miles south of the junction with the Ohio. A short-lived product of the river, Island Number Ten was an enlarged sandbar roughly one mile long and 450 yards wide at its maximum width that stood about 10 feet above the water.

More important than the island was the course of the river here. Island Number 10 at the southern end where the river does a clockwise turn of 180 degrees. Almost immediately it was followed by a counterclockwise turn that moved the river almost parallel to its original course. These turns were tight; the distance from the southern limit to the first turn to the north of the second was only nine miles by air, or 12 river miles.

On a peninsula 10 miles long and three miles wide, the Confederates defended it with two two-regiments in a temporary fortification at New Madrid. This riverbank was about 30 feet above low water, giving the defense an advantage as they looked down on Union gunboats’ passing below.

Island Number10 also had land batteries and a floating battery of Confederate gunboats. Land based artillery batteries on the Tennessee shore were pointed upstream. In all 50 guns and a small fleet of gunboats protected New Madrid.

The mainland on the south side behind the island connected to Tiptonville, Tennessee. Running along the natural levee, it was good road. However, it was the only easily traveled route as the region was a mixture of sloughs, lakes, and swamps to the nearest high ground some ten miles to the east. Reelfoot Lake was the largest of these wetlands with the southern end near Tiptonville. In the spring, as it was in 1862, high water extended it north to beyond the bend. Nowhere was the water very deep so individual soldiers could wade across. However, an army trying to move heavy equipment would not be able to do so. Thus, Island Number Ten was considered invulnerable to land attack on the Tennessee side. Also it meant the only escape and enforcement route was the Tiptonville Road.

General Pope, in an effort to capture the Confederate stronghold at Island Number 10, made a forced march to New Madrid. The town’s strong defensive placements and the guns of the Confederate gunboats caused him to wait for enforcements. His plans changed when he determined a siege was in order.

March 5, General McCown reported from Camp Clarkton that the Plank Road was protected by two guns at Weaverville on Little River. Any refugees needing protection had it here. At New Madrid General Polk ordered levees constructed of sand bags and earth around the two upper batteries and bail out the water. This was to be done immediately. Burn down any portion of New Madrid which affords protection to the enemy’s sharp shoots.

While waiting for siege guns from Cairo, Pope he sent Colonel Plummer with the 11th Missouri to Point Pleasant, ten miles south of New Madrid. Arriving to find the town well defended, Plummer entrenched his command. Point Pleasant on the right bank of the river was almost directly opposite Island Number 10. The Confederate navy contested the Union troop movement. With the Union soldiers moving out of range, the gunboats retreated.

Point Pleasant was occupied on March 6 by Plummer’s’ brigade. The town was then shelled for three days. Flag Officer Hollins received no support during this time as the Confederate Army remained within their fortifications.

The Union army had siege guns arrive March 12. McCown and Hollins were surprised by this move almost as much as Pope’s winters march from Sikeston. Now the river was in effect closed to the unarmored Rebel gunboats. This armament also prevented artillery companies from reinforcement of New Madrid by shifting troops from Island Number 10.

On March 13, an artillery duel followed at New Madrid between the Confederate gunboats and Pope’s heavy gun from Cairo. The night of the 14th, McCown ordered the Confederates to evacuate New Madrid and Point Pleasant. Now Pope had a base for the Union army to prepare and attack Island Number 10.

The town and two forts, in a heavy rainstorm, evacuated with incident. The departure was so sudden the he guns left in the fort were spiked. As Pope’s scouting reports were wrong, he did not realize the number troop occupying New Madrid was over estimated. Nor did he know the town was without Confederate troops until two deserters under a white flag inform him.

Some to the troops withdrawn from New Madrid after the loss were transferred to Fort Pillow some 70 miles south, by almost twice that by river. McCown was replaced by Brigadier General William W. Mackall. While this appears to be a reprimand for his loss of New Madrid, McCown was actually promoted to major general.

With the gunboat and mortars arriving on March 15, this is usually considered the starting date of the siege. With Pope in New Madrid and Foote upstream, Island Number 10 was between them. From the beginning, the two disagreed on how to carry out the operation to subdue the Rebels around the bend. Pope wanted quick action. Foote wanted to use a bombardment to slowly subdue the island. General Halleck was the general in charge of the area and stationed in St. Louis. Foote was confused about what was expected of him as he was getting what he considered ambiguous or even contradictory orders for Halleck who was distracted by preparation for the advance along the Tennessee River.

As early as March 17th Pope was asking that two or three gunboats run past the island to allow him to cross the river and trap the entire garrison. Foote balked arguing his boats were not invincible, claiming a chance disabling shot could give the Confederate a boat to be used again northern cities. His thinking may have been affected by the wound he received at Fort Donelson, one that was not healing properly, keeping him in pain and on crutches.

As long as the Confederate River Navy, under command of Commodore Hollins controlled Island Number 10 with the steamers, Grampus, (which was sunk during the battle for the island) the Mohawk, Kanawa Valley, and the Champion along with smaller craft the Red Rover, Ohio Bell, Simonds, Yazoo, De Soto, Mears, and Admiral, any Union river approach from the north had to run a dangerous gauntlet. These craft and shore artillery batteries of 45 guns made it exceedingly dangerous for the Federal River Navy to slip around the island.

For the next two weeks, mortars mainly bombarded the island at rather long range. Occasionally, the Confederate batteries answered with their artillery. The mortars had their high expectations shattered. Their damage to the enemy positions did not live up to expectation. In fact, they did little damage. On March 17, during the bombardment with the gunboats taking part, a gun on the USS St. Louis killed three men of the crew and wounded a dozen more when it exploded.

After Foote flatly refused Pope’s request to run gunboats past Island Number 10, a staff member suggested what perhaps a canal could dug to cut to allow Union warships to bypass the enemy batteries. Colonel J. W. Bissell, of the 1st Missouri Engineers, started digging a 12 mile long canal, 50 feet wide, six miles of it went through heavy woods. Using huge U-shaped sass mounted on barges they cut trees four and a half feet below the water line. While the canal was no deep enough for gunboat to use it did prove helpful in allowing transports and supply vessels. Now Pope no longer had to depend on land communications.

March 20th Confederate General Polk ordered all transports about New Madrid not absolutely needed to be sunk on flats and bars near Island Number10 to obstruct the channel.

March 24, 1862 Confederate General Van Dorn, commander of Crowley's Ridge sent steamboats up the St. Francis and Little River to Hornersville. This was to send help if needed and hopefully it will not be necessary, remove the troops if things go wrong. He also claimed to have the Plank Road securer as an escape route.

Pope was still insisting he needed a gunboat cover his projected landing on the Tennessee side of the river. March 29, Foote again called a meeting of the captains in which he confirmed his decision not to support Pope’s demand. The situation was solved when Halleck in St. Louis told Foote to give Pope the support he needed.

Commander Henry Walke, captain of USS Carondolet believed the plan worth the risk volunteering to take his craft through. The necessary orders were given and Carondelet prepared for the run. She was covered with chain, rope, and other loose material that lay at hand a coal barge filled with coal and haw was lashed to her side to muffle here sound, her steam exhaust diverted from the smokestacks. Now ready, she only had to wait for a sufficiently dark night to make her run.

To increase the odds of success, a raid by soldiers from the 42sd Illinois Infantry and sailors in the flotilla, under the command of Colonel George W. Roberts overran Battery Number 1 on the night of April 1 and spiked its guns.

The flotilla, on April 2sd using both gunboats and mortars concentrated fire on the floating battery New Orleans. After being hit several times, her mooring lines parted. She floated downstream. While the New Orleans was in the Confederate river service was renamed W. H. Ivy and was lost in 1864

April 4th the night was moonless and a thunderstorm came up after dark. Conditions for running past the remaining batteries were acceptable. Carondelet made her way downstream. She was not discovered until she was even with Confederate Battery Number 2. Had her smokestacks not blazed up when the soot build up no longer was dampened by escaping steam and caught fire to reveal her position she may have escape detection. With the battery’s fire inaccurate, the Carondelet run the gamut unharmed. Foote was still pressed for another gunboat. Two nights later USS Pittsburg made another success run.

The next day a tornado hit New Madrid. That day Thompson reported his troops destroyed the Plank Road on Sunday last. General Villepigue left Osceola for Hornersville to make sure the Plank Road was destroyed.

Pope’s Army could now cross the river unopposed by Confederate gunboats. This left him in a position where he could suppress enemy fire that may have opposed their landing. On April 7 gunboats were sent to destroy the batteries at Watson’s Landing where his attack was to come. With the heavy weapons quiet, transports carried Union troops across and the landing proceeded without opposition.

Mackall took several hours deciding his next move. By then he realized his situation was hopeless, therefore, the men on the mainland were put in motion for Tiptonville. Pope’s spies realized the importance of this troop movement and reported to the general. Now both armies were in a footrace for Tiptonville instead of the expected battle. Mackall’s major concert was that the Union gunboats would not interfere; however, they did, thus delaying the retreating Rebels. The delayed Confederates were slowed enough that Pope’s men arrive at Tiptonville first. With the defenders trapped with no prospect of victory, Mackall surrendered. On April 9th, the Rebels lost 273 officers and 4,500 enlisted men; men that were not easily replaced.

        After Island Number 10

Not only did the Confederates lose a critical defensive position but also immense quantity of artillery, ammunition, and supplies of every description. These were items they could ill afford to lose. On the human side, they lose was even more critical. Three generals, 273 field and company officers, 6,700 privates, 123 pieces of heavy artillery, 35 pieces of field artillery (all of the very best character and latest patterns), 7,000 stand of small-arms, 10 to 12,000 men, several wharf-boats, loads of provision, an immense quantity of ammunition of all kinds, many hundred horses and mules, with wagons and harness were among the items lost.

With Island Number 10 in Union hands, the Mississippi was open with only Fort Pillow remaining to stop Union forces from taking Memphis. Gunboats, operating with foot soldiers, accomplish a major event of the Civil War. General Pope’s leadership here led to his being selected by Lincoln to command the Army of Virginia.

This was the only major military action in Southeast Missouri during 1862. However, there was constant warfare between the Home Guards and Confederate troops.

December 22, 1862, the 32sd Iowa Regiment, stationed at New Madrid, made an expedition to Clarkton and Kennett seizing property and taking prisoners.

For the most part, the Confederates were successful during 1862. They went about capturing large stores of supplies, killing many enemies, and disturbing Union plans. Things changed in 1863 for the Confederates in Southeast Missouri. After being forced back into Arkansas, many of the Confederate contacts between the two forces came from out of state.

        Battle of Cape Girardeau

While about 9,000 men met at Cape Girardeau on April 26, 1863 and the conflict is called a battle today, in true terms of battle during the Civil War, it was little more than an overgrown skirmish. With 5,000 men the Confederates leady by General Marmaduke meeting Union General McNeil in his pursuit of Rebel forces throughout Southeast Missouri. It was important because it was a turning point because it brought General Marmaduke’s second Missouri raid to a conclusion never to be tried again.

This second raid into Missouri from Northeast Arkansas by General Marmaduke began on April 18, 1863. Marmaduke had several hundred troops that were unarmed and un-mounted. He planned this foray as a means of correcting this situation. Always being short of men, the General was afraid if these men were left behind they might desert.

The Confederates were organized into two columns, each made up of two brigades. Colonel George W. Carter headed one column which consisted of a brigade led by Colonel Colton Green and the other by himself. The second column was led by Colonel Joseph O. Shelby and consisted of Shelby’s “Iron Brigade” commanded by Colonel George W. Thompson and the other brigade led by Colonel Johan Q. Burbidge. The Rebels had between eight and ten artillery pieces.

Colonel Carter’s column advanced towards Bloomfield in an attempt to capture the Federal garrison there commanded by Brigadier General John McNeil. Colonel Shelby’s men, accompanied by General Marmaduke, turned north towards Fredericktown hoping to intercept the Union army trying to escape McNeil’s pressure on Bloomfield. Shelby reached Fredericktown April 22. Because of difficulty crossing Mingo Swamps, Carter arrived at Broomfield April 23rd. He found the town in ruins after the Union army’s departure two days earlier. Hearing the enemy was on the way to Bloomfield, McNeil disobey orders and headed towards Cape Girardeau arriving on the evening of the 24th.

Carter also disobeyed orders. His instructions were only to purse McNeil if they fled towards Fredericktown and Pilot Knob. Indeed, he followed the Union troops towards Cape Girardeau catching ups with them at mid-day on April 25th four miles from town.

Carter sent McNeil a message demanding the Union office surrender and returned a reply within 30minutes. He signed the note Confederate Major General Sterling Price hoping his name would instill enough fear in McNeil to surrender thanking that General Price was in the area. The bluff did not work and McNeil did not surrender. Believing he would soon be attacked, Carter sent word to Cape Girardeau explaining his situation and asks for reinforcements. Hearing that Colonel Carter had disobeyed orders, Marmaduke redirected Shelby’s column to reinforce Carter in any possible action at Cape Girardeau.

In 1861, General Grant approved the construction of four strategic forts around Cape Girardeau. They were knows as Forts A, B, C, and D. Fort A was north of the community on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River set to protect the city against Confederate gunboat. Fort B was sitting on a hill where Southeast Missouri State University is now. Fort C was near the present intersection of South Ellis Street and Good Hoop Street to guard the approaches of the Bloomfield Road, Gordonville Road, (now Independence Street) and Commerce Road (now Sprig Street).

Fort D was located on a south side of the city and also located on a river bluff. Like Fort A, primarily it was a part of the river defenses. This was the largest and most important garrison of the region and the only fort remaining in Cape Girardeau. Fort D. however, did not play a large role in the Battle of Cape Girardeau.

Asa Lt. Colonel of the Freemont Rangers, Lindsey W. Murdoch was commander of Cape Girardeau, including Forts, A, B, C, and D.

On the night of the 25th, expecting an attack, General McNeil evacuated the women and children at Cape Girardeau by steamboat to a location upriver. Also that night, two gunboats and a steamer brought additional troops to reinforce McNeil’s forces. An attack by river was not expected, therefore, McNeil moved the cannons from Fort A and D from along the river to Forts B and C on the western side of town. McNeil forces then totaled about 4,000 men; including support from regiment from Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Illinois some of these troops arriving after the end of the action.

Shelby’s troop arrived at Cape Girardeau early on April 26th. A full division of Confederate assumed a formation on the western edge of the city. Colonel Burbidge’s brigade was in the center with, Shelby on the left, and Carter on the right. The line extended from east of St. Mary’s Cemetery on the north (near present day intersection of Missouri Ave. and Mississippi Street) to Gordonville Road on the south. The center was at Jackson Road.

Around 10:00 a.m. on the morning of the 26th, the battle started. Both sides made a couple of unsuccessful cavalry charges. The Federal troops were driven back by Shelby’s Cavalry with the Confederate being met with heavy field artillery fire along with support from Forts B and C. Sometime shortly after 2:00 p,m., General Marmaduke ordered his troops to withdraw.

Neither side had a clear victory however, as the Confederate withdrew, it was a strategic Union victory as the Confederate forces retreated. Following the conflict Marmaduke retreated to Jackson and then southward toward Arkansas with Union forces following. Colonel Carter, possibly because of his disobeying orders was demoted to commanding a brigade.

The official records reflect casualties and losses as 12 for the union while the confederates were counted as 325. Some historians believe the Confederates losses were similar to the Union loses. As the Union artillery was used, this low number is open to question.

        In the area the Civil War in 1863 was much the same as the year before.  There were no great troop movements, but skirmishes were fought with much property damage and destruction and with much suffering. For the Union, more and more expeditions were being sent out. These journeys into the back county resulted in men being accused of being bushwhackers and guerrillas and were often shot in the field.

Typical of Union action during the year: on March 23rd, Major Rawalt, with a detachment from the 7th Illinois, made an expedition from Point Pleasant to Little River. After a skirmish, he fell back to his headquarters. April 13th, Lindsay Murdoch left Cape Girardeau on an expedition to Jackson, Whitewater, and Dallas. As no organized resistance encounter, no severe fights occurred.

Steamboat Captain Cass Mason, master of the steamer Rowena, on February 13, 1863, near Island Number 10, heading towards the Confederate controlled Tiptonville, Tennessee. Ensign William C. Hanford, acting commander of the U. S. gunboat New Era fulfilled his worst nightmare. The stop was routine. It was to check her papers and cargo.

Searching the Rowena, Union sailors found two ounces of quinine and nearly three thousand pairs of Confederate uniform pants. Ensign Hanford seized the packet and cargo. The Rowena became part of the U. S. Navy’s river fleet. For whatever reason, Mason was not arrested.

The Rowena belonged to Mason father-in-law, James Dozier, who before this did not like his son-in law Mason. Mason got command of Rowena at his daughter Rowena’s pleas. Just before the steamboat was to be returned to civilian ownership, she sank on April 18, 1863 after hitting a snag at Devil’s Island above Cape Girardeau. All civil and business relationship between Dozier and Mason ended; yet, Mason’s wife Rowena continued to live in her father’s house.

Sometime later, Mason became part owner in the steamer Sultana. At the Civil War’s end, the Number is unclear maybe as many as 2,500; recently released Union prisoners from Confederate prison camps were loaded on the Sultana. The legal load limit, including crew, was 476. (This is more passengers than was on the Titanic and the ocean liner was much longer and taller.)

At about 2 A.M. on April 27, 1865, the Sultana was upstream from Memphis about eight miles. The river was in full flood and out of its banks. In the middle of the river, straining to turn upstream, three of her four boilers blew near Mound City, Arkansas, five miles south of Memphis The official records say 1863 people died that morning. Later studies by historians talk about the Number being over or at 2,200, making it the worse maritime disaster in United States history.

        Chalk Bluff

Confederate General Marmaduke led an expedition into Southeast Missouri. His plan did not include an attack on Cape Girardeau. However, Colonel Carter disobeyed orders and led the Confederates in a battle Marmaduke did not want. Because of the strong defenses, the plan failed. However, on the 26th of April, 1863, Colonel Jo Shelby pushed back federal forces outside Cape Girardeau with cannon fire thus delaying federal action while Marmaduke withdrew.

The safety of Arkansas was about 75 miles to the south. He had two Federal armies with a combined strength; he estimated at 4,000 in pursue. Returning south faster than the trip north, they retreated along the military road running along the top of Crowley's Ridge. This road connected Cape Girardeau with Helena, Arkansas. Marshy lowlands bordered both sides of the ridge.

When Marmaduke reached the St. Francis River to cross into Arkansas, the found the ferry had become a victim of the war. He also found the river rain-swollen. Constructing a bridge seemed to be his only option. So Thompson sent a construction force ahead.

J. O. Shelby’s Missouri cavalry and George Carter’s Texas cavalry became Thompson’s rear guard, skirmishing almost continuously with the advance elements of the pursuing Federal forces. Four miles from the St. Francis, the Confederates started digging a series of trenches between the community of Four Miles, and the river hoping to be able to fight a delaying action long enough to get his army across the river..On May 1, advancing Federal troops arrived at Four Mile to be repulsed by Confederate artillery firing canisters.

Meanwhile, the bridge detail was working hard. The river turns southward here. On the Missouri side the land was low, dense, and a river bottom. On the Arkansas side is an almost insurmountable bluff some 70 feet high. In charge of building the bridge was Jeff Thompson, the “swamp fox of the Confederacy.” Before the war he had been an engineer. Using logs and timbers from area barns he constructed a large raft. Using grapevines and ropes as guy wires, a crude, but effective floating bridge was constructed.

On May first, Marmaduke’s troops begin a night crossing. Not only was it dangerous but the construction could not support a heavy load, so the men had to cross single file. To ferry the artillery across the river, a separate raft was used.

The artillery pieces were quickly placed on the high ridge facing the lowlands of Missouri. Horses, being too heavy for the bridge, were forced swim across, many, weak from exhausted never made it. The rear guard crossed early morning in the dark on May 2sd. The support ropes were then cut and the structure broke up as it rushed downstream. The Missouri troops did not follow the Confederates to Jacksonport, Arkansas.

Marmaduke had accomplished nothing except make his men miserably by crossing the mosquito infested Niger Wool Swamp to reach the uplift of Crowley's Ridge. He reported 30 killed, 60 wounded and120 missing while picking up 150 recruits during the raid.  The battle at Chalk Bluff saved Marmaduke’s army and prevented an unsuccessful raid from being a total disaster.

  Late 1863 Until the End


In Bloomfield on October of 1863, what some were calling a mutiny took place among Union forces. Major Samuel Montgomery was arrested charged with planning to turn the town over to Confederate forces. Charges and counter charges clouded the issue; nothing was every settled, nor proved. Bloomfield had strong feeling for the Southern cause. Later, Montgomery married a local girl.

The Cumberland Presbyterian Church at Clarkton was built around 1850. A two story building with the top floor being used as a Masonic Hall had an unusually interruption of services in early February, 1864.

On this peculiar Sunday, while the congregation was worshiping, the building was surrounded by a group of guerillas. Almost an apologist, the leader said he did not want to disturb the congregation, but they wanted to exchange clothing with all the men. As resistance was futile so all the men left the building and exchanged clothing with the guerillas without a fuss.

One young man, more alert than the others, slipped off his boots and hid them before joining the guerillas. He was the only man in the congregation who did not have to chose whether to go home barefooted of wear the worn out footwear of the soldiers.

In September of 1864, the confederates, during Price’s Raid had some 1,500 men in the Sikeston area. This second battle for Sikeston resulted in 23 killed an unknown Number wounded.

 On September 22, 1864, Colonel William Lafayette Jeffers command, with over 500 men attacked Captain Louis Sells’ company of Union soldiers as they moved from Cape Girardeau to reinforce two companies of soldiers in Bloomfield.

One-hundred and nine military incidents in the Bootheel have been found. This Number is probably small. The resource’s of material is small in comparison to what is available.

Skirmishes were the most common contacts. These events were when two small armed forces meet, sometimes unexpectedly. People are killed, supplies are taken, horses captured, and prisoners are sometime taken in these engagement. On the overall picture, the impact is little

Skirmishes took place every month of the year. The most active year in Southeast Missouri was 1862, with 37 events. Skirmishes were 34 % of the Bootheel’s military action.  April was the most active month with 12 with March second recording 10. For May, June, or September no record of a skirmish was found. While the action slowed down during the colder winter months, actives did not cease, each winter month recorded at least one skirmish during the long struggle.

In the vicinities of Bloomfield and Charleston were numerically the most active areas with skirmishes. At war’s end Bloomfield, except for some residences at the town’s edge, were destroyed. These were not the only places the enemies met and fought. A partial list of places would include Cypress Swamp near Cape Girardeau, near Chalk Bluff, and close to New Madrid, and in the Little River swamp.

The four years of conflict saw 21 expeditions; 19% if the military actions. These are the movement of larger forces. Cape Girardeau was the main staging area. These trips were usually into enemy territory. Expeditions were made into Bloomfield several times, to Doniphan, Missouri and Pocahontas, Arkansas. Caruthersville, Eleven Point River, Island Number 10, Benton, Commerce, Hamburg, and Chalk Bluff were destination points for other expeditions. The last expedition was a trip into the Little River Lowland on May 9, 1865 from New Madrid to Little River.

During 1862, the preparations and siege of New Madrid and Island Number 10, eight miles north of New Madrid, at Point Pleasant. There three places were where the biggest single military action in relations to the Bootheel. It was a long term operation, starting with an expedition on February 28 and ending October 23.

Colonel Birthright, with 65 Confederates on the morning of November 5, 1865 attacked Charleston. Union Captain Diehl was seriously wounded with one slightly wounded and the Confederates captured eight men. After robbing the Union men, they were paroled.

Union Colonel Hiller sent 30 men under command of Lt. Elon G. Rathun to destroy this raiding party. With help with men from Charleston, the Union party pursued the attackers towards Sikeston. On November 6, 1864, the Union force caught up with the Confederates four miles east of Sikeston. Twenty Rebels were killed and five captured. Splitting up into two groups, the Confederates headed to Arkansas.

The last year of the war saw seven separate military actions.

On January 4, 1865, the Union Army evacuated New Madrid. With gunboats controlling the Mississippi and patrolling the area, it was considered safe to remove most of the Union troops an assigning them to other duties.

January 4th to the 16, 1865, the Union sent an expedition into Poplar Bluff.  Lieut. Williams Rinne reported that in crossing the St. Francis River, he lost his wagon and ambulance and drowned two mules and five horses in the swamps. He reported 19 rebels killed, 3 severely wounded and five captured, 50 horsed and mules taken. During the 300 mile trip, marched and swam through swamps, ice, and water. On January 24, 1865, there was a skirmish in the Little River Bottoms.

Mississippi County was the site of a skirmish February 13, 1865. Capt. James W. Edwards, on an expedition from New Madrid with ten men were in pursuit of a band of bushwhackers. They caught up with eight of them, killing two and capturing six. They were from Clarke’s command on a mission to steal supplies.

Also in 1865 on March 3rd, there was a federal expedition from Bloomfield into Dunklin County.  On the 4th, some 25 miles below Bloomfield, near Hornersville, the Expedition run into a company of rebels, killing six of them, including their leader, Captain Howard. The Union Army had two men wounded. Reported in pursue of another 75 to 100 men.

The Union Army was being sent reinforcements. They returned with around 100 citizens conscripted for fatigued duty on the fort.

On March 9, 1865, another expedition from Bloomfield was sent towards Indian Ford in Dunkin County. They reported encountering guerrillas lead by Captain Howard and killing the Captain and two men, wounding several.

Returning soldiers returning home found most of Southeast Missouri in ruins from almost continuous action between the Home Guard and Confederate troops. Field had to be reclaimed again. For some, even refine morality again by making an honest livening and substituted for theft and robbery. For the most part, civil authority had been done away with during the way replaced by military power and martial law. Churches and school had to be reopened. Civilization had to be reestablished.

Southeast Misssouri in the Civil War

Missouri’s Importance

Early Civil War Actions

Bloomfield and the Stars and Strips

Battle for Belmont

Failure to Remove Confederates from Southeast Missouri

The Battle for Island Number 10After Island Number 10

Battle for Cape Girardeau

Chalk Bluff

Late 1863 until the End of the War



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    Having grown up on Little River, I have been fascinated with it. Over the past several years, as a local historian, this area has been a special interest. 

     These areas have been treated much like step-children by Jefferson City and Little Rock. They seem to believe nothing has ever happened here.  Our history has been long and varied. Hope you enjoy my trip.  

    Near Puxico is the swampy Mingo Wildlife Refuge. One hundred and fifty year ago, most of the Little River Valley appeared that way. This valley covering two million acres was part of the largest wetland in America.

    Floods frequently intimated the Valley. Between 1815 and 2011, 15 major floods covered or threatened the area.

    Timber companies came in at the end of the 19th Century to clean cut the forest. Louis Houck, a Cape Girardeau lawyer and railroad builder, envisioned a rail network that covered the wetlands.

    Little River Drainage District (LRDD) Corporation was established in 1907 by an act of the Butler County (MO) Circuit Court. 

    Between 1909 and 1928 the LRDD dug nearly 1000 miles of ditches and constructed 30 miles of levees to drain 1.2 million acres of swamp and overflow land in Southeast Missouri. More dirt was moved than in building the Panama Canal.

    One surprise I had was the number of settlements in the area before 1811-1812. Another was the water connection between the Mississippi River and the St. Francis and I had no idea that Little River had enough current to run a grist mill.

    Norman Vickers


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    Little River's Geographic Past