Archy Thomas Memoir

Archy Thomas’ undated memoir reflects on the Battle of Carthage, Missouri on July 5, 1861. While Thomas’ recollection is embellished, it is consistent with the official reports and secondary accounts of the Battle. It is unknown if Thomas was a soldier in the Missouri State Guard or a civilian living near Carthage. His account imply his association with the Missouri State Guard, but he offers little detail about his personal involvement or enlistment with a specific company. Furthermore, he only refers to the Missouri State Guard in the third person, thus disassociating himself from the soldiers. Additional information about the author and his potential connection to the MSG warrants further investigation.

As southern states started to secede from the Union, political tension within Missouri rose. Union Gen. Nathaniel Lyon marched from St. Louis to Jefferson City to confront the pro-Confederate Governor Claiborne Fox Jackson. Jackson, however, vacated the state capitol and marched southward with the Missouri State Guard. Lyon split his force with the intention of cutting off the guardsmen, preventing the arrival of reinforcements from Arkansas and defusing pro-southern sympathies among Missouri civilians. Union and Southern forces meet outside of Carthage on July 5th in what has been noted as one of the first serious ground conflicts between Union and Confederate troops. Reports indicate that many of the southern soldiers did not have weapons, nor were they properly trained for combat. On paper the Union forces retained the advantage, better muskets and better training, yet they were outnumbered nearly six to one.1

Around 8:30am opposing forces exchanged fire approximately eight miles north of Carthage. The MSG took position on the high ground between Dry Creek and North Fork, overlooking the position occupied by Union forces.2 Both sides unleashed artillery barrages, and Thomas noted the booming sound of the cannon fire in his memoir.

State troops filed to the left of the road formed in order of battle, plantng the cannon on the side of the hill with their infantry to support them. when ready the order was given and off went the misiles of death and distruction from the cannons mouth. with the loud roar of distant thunder, in quick succession roar followed roar from each battery and we could see at every fire the state battery made, a swarth open through the columns of the federal troops and again and again discover the officer rally the men, but again and again would the state cannon belch fourth death among them untill they fled
Archy Thomas – Battle of Carthage Memoir, n.d.

The battle progressed into Carthage, and soon house-to-house fighting erupted. Thomas was wounded in the arm, and many of the buildings in Carthage were damaged during the close quarter engagements. Thomas reported the zealous nature of rebel women in Carthage by saying, “One lady running out when the balls were flying thick and heavy shouting hurra for Jef Davis Liberty and independence forever down with the dutch.”3 The Union Troops comprised primarily of German soldiers, and were led by Colonel Franz Sigel. “Dutch” was a common term used to describe the Germans. After nightfall, Sigel and his men were able to retreat to Sarcoxie, MO and elude the much larger Confederate force.

Both sides claimed victory in what was one of the largest engagements yet of the Civil War. Sigel was commended for confronting an overwhelming number of enemy soldiers, while Jackson and Sterling Price took advantage of the Federal retreat to organize and arm their men. Archy Thomas documented these notable events and preserved a rare first-hand account of one of the earliest battles of the Civil War.

The above is about what I saw and heard of course I cannot pretend to give all that was done or said as I could not be at both ends of a large army at once.
– An eye witness of the battle.


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  1. Phillip Steel and Steve Cottrell. Civil War in the Ozarks. (Gretna: Pelican Publishing Company, 1993), 17.
  2. Ward Schrantz, “The Battle of Carthage,” in The Missouri Historical Review vol. 31 (Columbia: State Historical Society of Missouri, 1936), 144.
  3. Archy Thomas. “Civil War Battle of Carthage Memoir.” n.d., R167. The STATE HISTORICAL SOCIETY of MISSOURI RESEARCH CENTER – ROLLA, 4.