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News of 150 Years Ago—July/August 1861


July/August 1861

One of the early engagements in Missouri occurred at near a small town in western Missouri called Cole Camp.

From The Missouri Democrat, Monday, July 1, 1861.



List of the Home Guards Killed.

State of Affairs in Benton, Pettis and Morgan Counties.

Judge Tirey Murdered by Jackson’s Marauders.

Boonville, June 25, 1861.

Editors Missouri Democrat:
Capt. Cook, pursuant to an order of Gen. Lyon, had enlisted in Benton and adjoining counties, about seven hundred Union men—three hundred for the active service, and four hundred Home Guards. On the 19th, there were about five hundred in camp. The headquarters were at a great barn, belonging to J. H. Meyer, near Cole Camp. The camp was surrounded by a strong line of sentinels, and by scouting parties, so well guarded that no attack was apprehended. Most of those sleeping in the barn even left their muskets outside, as there was hardly room for them inside.

Suddenly, at three o’clock in the morning, they were attacked by one hundred mounted men and two hundred and four infantry, with two small cannon…..

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From The Missouri Democrat, Saturday, July 6, 1861.

More about the Cole Camp Affair.



BENTON COUNTY, Mo., June 25, 1861.

Editors of the Missouri Democrat:

According to promise made you when I left St. Louis, I avail myself of the first opportunity of communicating any facts occurring in our vicinity. When I reached home I found my men anxiously waiting, and in much danger from the numerous guerilla parties scouting through the country, disarming men and endeavoring to press the young men into the service of the State under Jackson. The danger of impressments, and still greater danger of violence to the persons and property of loyal citizens made it apparent, in fact necessary, that those who stood most in danger should go into encampment, with such arms and equipments as were at hand. Accordingly, on the 18th inst., I ordered the men to remain and go into drill preparatory to receiving government arms….

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After the Union victory at Boonville and the successful occupation of Jefferson City, Gen. Nathaniel Lyon moved his Federal troops southwest towards Springfield, Missouri, in pursuit of the Missouri State Guard force of Sterling Price and ousted Missouri Governor Claiborne Fox Jackson. First contact with the enemy was by the troops of Col. Franz Sigel (whose name the reports had difficulty spelling correctly) between Springfield and Carthage, Missouri, at a place called Dry Fork.

From The Missouri Democrat, Wednesday, July 10, 1861.

Last Night’s Dispatches.


A Big Battle Between Seigel’s Command and the Rebels.


He Drives them Back at the First Onset.


In a Masterly Retreat, he makes Fearful Havoc among the Rebels.


Later and Doubtful Accounts.

Seigel’s Command Reported Badly Cut Up.
The Rebel Loss Reported at from 1,000 to 2,000.
Gen. Lyon, Col. Brown, and Col. Sturgis Coming Up.
Gen. McCulloch Sends Troops to Aid Governor Jackson.

KANSAS CITY, July 9.—We are indebted to the editor of the Kansas Journal for a copy of the Fort Scott (Kansas) Democrat of the 7th, which contains the following account of a battle between the Missouri State troops under Gov. Jackson and Gen. Rains, numbering by their accounts, from 10,000 to 13,000, and the United States forces under Col. Sigel numbering 1,500 in all.

Our informant says, on Wednesday, the 3d inst., the State troops left Rupes point, and moved south to Murray’s, six miles.

Friday morning, at 8 o’clock, they broke up camp and marched south, in the direction of Carthage, the county seat of Jasper county. At Dry Fork, seven miles north of Carthage they were met by Col. Seigel with 1,500 men who immediately gave them battle….

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The Battle of Carthage was the first major battle of the Civil War after President Lincoln invoked the war power in his message to Congress on July 4, 1961.

From The Missouri Democrat, Thursday, July 11, 1861.


Col. Sigel’s Engagement with the Rebels on the 5th.


SIGEL’S FORCE 1,100 TO 1,200 MEN.






Sigel’s Loss Eight Killed and Thirty-Five or Forty Wounded.


A special messenger arrived this evening on the Pacific railroad train, bringing dispatches from Col. Sigel to Col. Harding, at the arsenal.

The following extract of Col. Sigel’s dispatches were written out for us at Rolla.

The report, it seems, tells a glorious tale for Col. Sigel. He has made a wonderful fight and gained a great victory.

The rumors that Colonels Brown and Salomon are killed, are all unfounded.

CAMP SWEENY, July 10, 1861.

Editors Missouri Democrat:
I write in haste, to give you the substance of the reports of an engagement between Colonel Sigel’s command and the rebels. A messenger just arrived gives the following:

On the morning of the 5th inst., Col. Sigel, with a portion of his regiment, a part of Col. Salomon’s, and the artillery belonging to his command, consisting of about 1,100 to 1,200 men, attacked a body of traitors, 6,000 strong, under Rains and Parsons, about seven miles east of Carthage, on the prairie. Many of the enemy were mounted, and they had five pieces of cannon.

Col. Sigel began the attack about 9½ o’clock, A. M., with his battery, breaking the center twice and silencing the enemy’s artillery after one and a half hour’s firing. The rebels had three flags, one of the State of Missouri which was left unharmed, the two others were secession flags, and were twice shot down, when they were raised no more….

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The DEMOCRAT and other Union papers strained to put a positive spin on what was really a Union defeat.

From The Missouri Democrat, Friday, July 12, 1861.


Splendid Military Movements.


It is conceded by all military men that the retreat of Col. Sigel’s command before the superior rebel forces under Gen. Rains and Parsons, in the neighborhood of Carthage, Mo., on the 5th of July, was one of the most masterly military maneuvres the war has yet exhibited. Indeed, it is claimed by many officers of large experience that a more admirable display of military science has never been witnessed in this country. It at once places Col. Sigel in the front ranks of the military men of the day and fully justifies the reputation which he brought with him to this country from the old world. Gen. Lyon undoubtedly knew his man when he entrusted Col. Sigel with the important command of the advance by the way of Rolla and Springfield into the Southwest of the State. He knew that upon the rout of the rebels in the interior of the State, their only outlet and way of escape was through the Southwest, and, duly appreciating the eminent qualifications of Colonel Sigel, he at once entrusted him with the command of a body of troops whose business it should be to harass, and if possible cut off the fugitives in the neighborhood of Springfield and Carthage. Col. Sigel, it seems, promptly reached his destination, gave courage and organization to the Home Guards of the southwest sections of the State, and as the sequel has proved, gave the rebels a taste of the spirit and skill of the German soldiery, from which they never will recover, and which they will be lo[a]th to test in any manner again….

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From The Missouri Democrat, Thursday, July 18, 1861.


Official Report of Col. Sigel to Gen. Sweeny at Springfield.

SPRINGFIELD, MO., July 11, 1861.

SIR: After having arrived at Sarcoxie, twenty-two miles from Neosho, at 5 o’clock P. M. on Friday, the 28th of June, I was informed that a force of 700 to 800 men were encamped at Pool’s Prairie, about six miles south of Neosho, under the command of General Price. I also received a report that Jackson’s troops, Parsons in command, camped fifteen miles north of Lamar of Thursday, the 27th and Friday, the 28th, and that they were there first informed of government troops being in Springfield on their march to the west. Rains’s forces were reported having passed Papinsville on Thursday evening, the 27th, and being a day’s march behind Jackson on the 28th.

I immediately resolved to march first against the troops at Pool’s Prairie, and then, turning to the north, attack the forces of Jackson and Rains, and to keep open my communications with Gen. Lyon’s troops, who were said to have had an engagement on the 28th of June at Ball’s Mills, on the banks of the Little Osage river, about fifteen miles north of Nevada City, and to whom I had sent several scouts, of which only one returned, but without bringing reliable intelligence. Scarcely had our troops left Sarcoxie on the morning of the 29th, when I received information that the camp at Pool’s
Prairie was broken up on the same morning, and that the troops had fled towards Elk Mills, thirty miles southwest of Neosho, in the direction of Camp Walker, near Maysville, which place is not far from the southwest corner of the State of Missouri….

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The importance of the Western Theater was demonstrated by the designation of a “Western Department” by the Union military.

From The Missouri Democrat, Wednesday, July 10, 1861.

General Fremont’s Field of Operations.

The following order, assigning Gen. Fremont to the command of the new Western department, was propagated to-day:


WASHINGTON, July 3, 1861.

The State of Illinois, and the States and territories west of the Mississippi river, and on this side of the Rocky Mountains, including New Mexico, will in future constitute a separate military command, to be known as the “Western Department,” under the command of Major General Fremont, of the United States Army, Headquarters at St. Louis. By order,

L. THOMAS, Adjutant General.


From The Missouri Democrat, Friday, July 26, 1861.

Arrival of Major-General Fremont.

The event of yesterday, quiet but significant was the arrival of Maj. Gen. John C. Fremont, the favorite “Col. Fremont” of the people, to take command of the Military Department of the West. By invitation, Gen. Fremont took quarters at the mansion of his sister-in-law, Mrs. Brandt, corner of Eighth street and Chouteau avenue, where he will probably reside while in the city. He is accompanied by some six gentlemen, military officers of distinction, some of whom have served in the Crimean and Italian wars, and all of whom will doubtless render efficient service to the American cause in Missouri. They are designated to us as Gen. A. Asboth, Capt. Charles Zagonye, and Messrs. Casselman, Jas. W. Savage, S. C. Wood, and E. M. Davis. At present they are entertained at the Everett House.


One of General Fremont’s early actions was to authorize the raising of a regiment of engineers, “The Engineer Regiment of the West”, also known as Bissell’s Engineers. The unit later became the 1st Missouri Engineer Regiment.

From The Missouri Democrat, Friday, July 19, 1861.

The Engineer Regiment of the West.

Major General Fremont has specially authorized the raising of an Engineer Regiment from the States of Missouri, Iowa and Illinois, to act as a corps of Sappers and Miners, and to serve during the war. The work of organizing the regiment is well assigned to J. W. Bissell, Esq., Assistant Adjutant General of the United States Reserve Corps. That gentleman’s known qualifications as an engineer and a man of energy, are ample guarantee for the success of the enterprise. He has already raised a battalion of three companies, consisting of mechanics and picked men, who will at once be mustered into service….

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Along with notices about major military figures, the DEMOCRAT took note of the movements of less prominent although locally known personalities like one Ulysses S. Grant, Colonel of the 21st Illinois.

From The Missouri Democrat, Friday, July 12, 1861.

The Twenty-First Illinois Regiment on the Retreat—Ordered down the River—Afternoon and Night in Camp—Another Secessionist Taken—President’s Message in Camp.

[Correspondence of the Missour Democrat.]

OPPOSITE NAPLES, July 9th, 1861.

The regiment yesterday crossed the river and made an advance of some four miles, reaching place of encampment about 11 A. M. The farm houses in every direction were by the soldiers besieged for pies, cornbread, milk, chickens and the like, for camp dessert. Being less fatigued than usual, an uncommon lively spirit seemed to possess the “boys,” who now prefer to call themselves soldiers, having at least been on the march. Everything that occurred in camp was greeted with enthusiastic cheers, which rebounded through the woods most eloquently. Orders were given to prepare for marching at 2:30 A. M. this morning, and you would have thought by the strong participation in food and sleep during the afternoon that full preparations were being made for the strict obeyance of orders. But halt; about face; change. About 6 P. M. the word “We are ordered to Cairo,” started through the camp, and if permitted to stop in one place was soon caught up in another and vociferated onward with a vehemence which showed that there was no mistake in the boys’ earnest desire to see the enemy and try his strength and metal. The dispatch, however, proved to be an order to Col. Grant, to the effect that if he had crossed the river, to turn back to either Naples or Meredosia, and await the conveyance of camp equipage and baggage down the river. Accordingly this morning a retreat was made to present encampment, arriving about 10 A. M.

The following appeared in this morning’s Illinois Journal, which was also greeted with cheers, loud and long.

“Col. Grant’s regiment, which left this city on the Fourth, received orders to take steamboat at Meredosia and proceed with dispatch to Ironton, Mo., the terminus of the Iron Mountain Railroad.”…

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From The Missouri Democrat, Saturday, August 17, 1861.

Camp Correspondence.


From Gen. Grant’s Headquarters.

[The following letter has been delayed on its arrival, but in view of the interesting news from the Southeast, contains items of importance.―EDS. DEM.]

[Special Correspondence of the Missouri Democrat.]

IRONTON, Aug. 12, 1861.

Located at the terminus of the Iron Mountain Railroad, in a small valley which extends along between hills, whose peaks tower to the hight [sic] of 400 or 600 feet on either side, and which are so rough and rocky that they are almost impassible even by the pedestrian; with but few roads passing out from our lines on either side, these strongly guarded by heavy pickets, and many of them commanded by heavy pieces of artillery; our position is one which can be held against a vastly superior force, and is one of special interest at this time…

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While major military action continued in southwest Missouri, distressing news arrived from the East around Washington. The main Union force there ventured out to engage the enemy at Manassas and suffered an embarrassing defeat at Bull Run.

From The Missouri Democrat, Tuesday, July 23, 1861.


Last Night’s Dispatches.



Frightful Slaughter on Both Sides.


WASHINGTON, July 22.—Our troops, after taking three batteries and gaining a great victory, were eventually repulsed, and commenced a retreat on Washington. The retreat was in good order, with the rear well covered by a good column. Our loss is from 2,500 to 3,000. The fortifications around Washington are strongly reinforced by fresh troops.

After the latest information was received from Centreville at 7:30 last night, a series of events took place in the intensest degree disastrous. Many confused statements are prevalent, but enough is known to warrant the statement that we have suffered in a degree which has cast a gloom over the remnants of the army, and created the deepest melancholy throughout Washington. The carnage was tremendously heavy on both sides, and on ours is represented as frightful….

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So confident had the people in Washington been of an easy Union victory, many packed picnics and rode in carriages out to the country to watch the fight. This prompted a number of satirical accounts such as this one, reprinted from the Boston Herald.

From The Missouri Democrat, Friday, August 2, 1861.


Have you heard of the story so lacking in glory,
About the civilians who went to the fight,
With everything handy, from sandwich to brandy,
To fill their broad stomachs and make them all tight.

There were bulls from our State street, and cattle from Wall street,
And members of Congress to see the great fun;
Newspaper reporters (some regular sporters,)
On a beautiful Sunday went to Bull’s Run….

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Southern Missouri was not the only region of the state to suffer unrest. At the end of July, local forces from each side engaged at the town of Athens near the Iowa border.

From The Missouri Democrat, Wednesday, July 31, 1861.



Iowa Citizens Called over the Border to Aid Loyal Missourians.

[Correspondence Burlington Hawk Eye.]

LEON, July 23, 1861.

In Gentry and Worth counties, Missouri, there are some six or eight hundred secessionists, most of them a bad class of citizens. They had been holding public meetings at various points for drill; many inflammatory speeches were made to the people, accompanied with violent threats against the Union men. Threats were made to burn the town of Athensville, in Worth county. This town is eight miles south of the Iowa line; the Union sentiment predominates decidedly at that point. The secessionists, numbering perhaps two or three hundred, were reported advancing towards Athensville, with the intention of destroying the town. The Union men dispatched messengers to Iowa for assistance. As is usually the case, as the reports spread they increased in magnitude. The citizens of Iowa immediately flew to the relief of the loyal citizens of Missouri. When all arrived there must have been at least 1,500 men from Iowa, armed in every conceivable manner, and perhaps about 4,000 of the Union men of Missouri acting as soldiers, but poorly armed….

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After Union forces occupied Jefferson City and the pro-secession Governor and legislators fled, the pro-Union members of the Missouri Constitutional Convention reconvened to consider the status of the state in July. The convention declared the Governor’s office and state legislative offices to be vacant and appointed Hamilton R. Gamble as provisional Governor on August 1. The DEMOCRAT approved.

From The Missouri Democrat, Friday, August 2, 1861.


During the session of the State Convention we have frankly indicated the line of policy which in our view was most likely to secure the ends desired by the Union men of the State. The vindication of the loyal State of Missouri from the distress and disgrace into which the machinations of traitors high in office had plunged it, was a task as honorable as it was arduous. The removal from office of those whose treason stood flagrant and confessed, the inauguration of a new State administration, and such further steps as should secure the fair and untrammelled exercise by a loyal State government of the powers thus committed to them by the people through their delegates in Convention—these in brief were the duties plainly before that body….

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With Sigel and Lyon’s forces consolidated at Springfield, Lyon moved to engage Confederate forces southwest of the city. The two sides met first at a place called Dug Spring.

Semi-Official Account of the Battle at Dug Spring, Nineteen Miles South of Springfield.



SPRINGFIELD, August 3, 1861.

Editors of the Missouri Democrat:

Another battle has been fought in the Southwest, preliminary to a general engagement, which is momentarily expected.

On Friday, the 2nd inst., Gen. Lyon, hearing that Ben. McCulloch and his Southern hordes were approaching a ravine known as Dug’s Spring, the enemy was discovered in large force and marshaled in battle array. Our force was 8,000, that of Ben. McCulloch 15,000. The engagement was opened by Lyon’s artillery, which was promptly replied to by the enemy.

After some hard fighting, in which the artillery of Lyon proved its superiority, the enemy retreated with a loss of forty killed and forty-four wounded. Our loss is eight killed and thirty wounded. We took eighty stand of arms, fifteen horses and wagons, and other trophies….

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Although greatly outnumbered, Lyon determined to attack McCulloch and Price and decided to divide his army so as to attack at opposite ends of the Confederate encampment. Initial reports of the Battle of Wilson’s Creek were overly optimistic.

From The Missouri Democrat, Wednesday, August 14, 1861.


Glorious Victory for the Federal Troops.


Gens. McCulloch and Price of the Rebel Forces Killed.

The Federal Army Passed the Night on the Field.


90 Rebels Taken Prisoners.

The Louisiana and Mississippi Regiments Annihilated.


He Retires to Springfield Sunday Morning.

A special messenger by a special train from Rolla to Gen. Fremont, arrived at headquarters this morning, and gives the following verbal report of a glorious fight, which took place between Gen. Lyon and Gen. McCulloch’s forces, on Saturday last. Early on Saturday morning Gen. Lyon no longer awaiting the onset of the enemy, marched out from Springfield to give him battle, his fighting forces amounting to about 5,500 men. He came up to him on Davis creek, in Green’s prairie, a few miles southwest of Springfield, where he had taken a strong position on some rolling ground.

At twenty minutes past six o’clock in the morning, General Lyon fired his first gun at them, when the battle immediately began. A severe cannonading was kept up for two or three hours, when the fire of Captain Totten’s artillery proving too severe for the enemy, they gradually fell back towards their encampment on Wilson’s Creek….

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From The Missouri Democrat, Thursday, August 15, 1861.

The Great Battle at Springfield.



Gallant Bearing of our Volunteers.

The Killed and Wounded.


Generals Price and McCulloch not Killed, but unable to Pursue.

SUNDAY, Aug. 11, 1861.

Night before last a little army of fifty-two hundred men moved in two columns on a march of twelve or fifteen miles to attack a body of rebels twenty-two thousand strong. In a military point of view, the move was one of doubtful propriety, not to say absolute rashness. The larger force were, with the exception of three thousand men, well armed and equipped, and they had a very large body of cavalry. But the question of evacuating Springfield, the key of the entire Southwest, had already been discussed and settled in the negative. It was decided that the loyal citizens of Green and the surrounding counties should not have cause to say we had left them without a struggle, abandoned themselves, their families, their all, to a heartless and desperate foe, until the enemy had felt our steel and tried the mettle of our troops. That mettle proved itself worthy of the great cause in which it was engaged. The Union troops who fought and won the battle of yesterday need no higher mark, no brighter name than the laurels earned justly entitle them to. They fought like brave men, long and well….

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The losses at Wilson’s Creek resulted in some reorganization of Union forces in the West. One of these was the conversion of the 1st Missouri Regiment of Volunteer Infantry into the 1st Missouri Light Artillery.

From The Missouri Democrat, Tuesday, August 20, 1861.

Reorganization of the Missouri First Regiment.

By order of Gen. Fremont, the gallant Missouri First, which has won for itself imperishable renown on the battle fields of Boonville and Springfield, is to be reorganized and made a distinctive artillery regiment, with 72 guns. Captains Cole and Harry Stone will open a recruiting office in the city to-day, of which proper notice will be given. The regiment when fully and thoroughly equipped will be one of the very best in the service. Every officer in the old regiment has distinguished himself for courage and gallant conduct in the field, and gentlemanly bearing in the camp, and the whole regiment—officers and men—are justly the pride of the city.

The new regiment will comprise some 2,000 men, and will still be commanded by the same officers—or what is left of them—Col. Blair at the head.


Developments in military technology overseas were frequent subjects of articles.

From The Missouri Democrat, Thursday, July 18, 1861.

History of the Rifled Cannon.

[From the New York Times.]


The rifled cannon is not as recent a discovery as people are generally inclined to suppose. There is now one at Berlin bearing upon its escutcheon the date of 1664, the year in which it was built. It is made with forged iron, has thirteen grooves inside, and a screw at its breech. Models of the same kind and forged in the same country, are also to be seen at Munich and in other German cities. Studies on the construction of rifled cannon were not made in Germany alone, but were also the object of much attention in England and France. Writers on gunnery speak of two-pounder rifled gun, tried for the first time in England in the year 1776 for the purpose of reducing to obedience the American rebels. These small ordnance threw projectiles at the distance of 1,100 yards, with a deviation of about two feet in their range….

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As new regiments formed and were mustered into federal service, the presentation of a regimental flag prepared by local women’s groups was a commmon ceremony when the troops were about move out to join a larger army unit for training or a campaign.

From The Missouri Democrat, Tuesday, August 9, 1861.


The village of Allenton, situated on the Pacific railroad, was the scene, on Saturday last, of a merry and most patriotic gathering. The ladies of the place had prepared a beautiful silk flag for presentation to the Home Guards stationed there, under command of Capt. Robert Allen. The day was bright and clear and deliciously hot. Nearly the entire population, old and young, convened in a shady grove near the encampment of the soldiers. The latter, being drawn up in file, Miss Emma Myers, on behalf of the ladies of Allenton, presented the flag with an appropriate address, to which the captain responded briefly, but with good effect….

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