Andrew Tinkham’s Drawing of Springfield, Missouri, 1861 Image courtesy of Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield Andrew Tinkham enlisted May 25, 1861, as a private in Company F of the First Kansas Infantry, which was organized at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, between May 20 and June 3, 1861. Unlike other volunteer troops which fought at Wilson’s Creek, the [...]
Collections in the Battle of Wilson’s Creek Category
Captain Asbury C. Bradford kept this journal of enrolled soldiers, equipment and actions of Company E, 2nd Regiment, 8th Division, Missouri State Guard. The 2nd Regiment was organized in July 1861, and this journal documents activities from August through November 1861. Bradford also kept a few journal entries about troop movement and activities of the MSG, along with sketches of the Battles of Wilson’s Creek and Dry Wood.
Coleman Bruce wrote to his children William and Martha Jane Jackson regarding the political tension within Missouri and the United States. While Bruce’s children supported the Union, he cited in his letter several injustices committed by Northern men. Bruce’s use of derogatory terminology conveyed his feelings about the Union troops. He also, commented on poor market values for crops and recent news from the Battle of Wilson’s Creek. Bruce even stated that Sample Orr, an 1860 Missouri gubernatorial candidate, robbed a Springfield bank of $24,000. Allegedly, the money was taken to Rolla to remain in Union hands. Little documentation on this event exists. Bruce encouraged his children to share this letter with their friends and family, perhaps in an attempt to persuade others to support the Confederacy. The letter draw attentions to the impact the War had on family dynamics as well as the crumbling economic condition in the country.
A Confederate Girlhood, the memoir of Louisa Cheairs McKenny Sheppard, reflects upon the life of a young lady raised in the Ozarks during the Civil War. While her reminiscence is decidedly sentimental, it is a compelling representation of wartime and economic struggles and refugee life. Louisa was twelve when the War began, and she recalled the impacted it had on Springfield. Her family eventually fled Missouri for her uncle’s plantation in Mississippi. Over time the family moved to Arkansas, and did not return to Springfield until after the War. A Confederate Girlhood is a recollection of Louisa’s youthful adventures and a tribute to her beloved grandmother.
Douglas R. Bushnell was born 17 June 1824 at Norwich, Connecticut. He was educated as a civil engineer, and moved to New Hampshire as a young man to begin a career in railroad engineering in that state and in Vermont. Bushnell moved to Illinois in 1855 with his wife and family. In May 1861, Bushnell enlisted in Company B of the 13th Illinois Infantry. Bushnell participated in campaigns in Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama and Tennessee.
Elizabeth Thompson ran general store with her husband James in Clay, Missouri. James was a cattle header and farmer. At the beginning of the Civil War the Thompsons sold goods to confederate soldiers; however, in August 1862 the Provost Marshall forced them to take an Oath of Allegiance to the United States. After declaring their allegiance to the U.S. the Thompsons then sold supplies exclusively to the Union troops. While business owners and farmers may have felt personally aligned with a certain party, they had to support the controlling army in their area or face dire consequences. The Thompson family papers highlight the struggles the War placed on small business owners in Southwest Missouri.
On August 17, 1861 Missouri Governor Hamilton R. Gamble ordered a proclamation establishing the Missouri State Militia for defense of the State against guerrilla activity. Gamble soon realized the need for additional troops, and on July 22, 1862 he issued General Order Number 29 organizing the Enrolled Missouri Militia (EMM). General Colley B. Holland assumed command of the 4th Military district, consisting of the counties in southwest Missouri, on October 30, 1862. Based in Springfield, Missouri, roughly 2,500 men reported for duty, operating under the jurisdiction of the State of Missouri. Holland’s documented all activities related to his command in the enrolled Missouri Militia order book for the 4th Military District in Southwest Missouri, from November 1862 through May 1863. His reports cover the Battles of Springfield and Hartville and also include details about depredation in Southwest Missouri and the extensive guerrilla activity that took place in the region.
James H. Wiswell was a teenage solider in the Union Army from Vermont. Wiswell enlisted in Company C, 4th US Cavalry, and served in Kansas and Missouri. He fought under the command of General Nathan Lyon and participated in the Battles of Dug Springs and Wilson’s Creek in 1861. His letter to his sister Naomi revealed the conditions of military life and the toll the defeat at Wilson’s Creek had on his company.
As the patriarch of a prominent Union family in the Ozarks, John S. Phelps was one of the most important figures in the Civil War history of southwest Missouri. His experiences as a politician and soldier illustrate how complicated the war was in the bitterly divided Trans-Mississippi Theater.
Commanding the Greene and Christian County Home Guards, Phelps wrote two letters to Colonel Franz Sigel relaying intelligence about the movements of the Missouri State Guard in the summer of 1861. Phelps led a regiment named for him in heavy fighting at the Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas in March 1862 and then served as the Military Governor of Arkansas. Phelps returned to his home in Springfield after the war. In 1865, he successfully defended James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickock who had killed Dave Tutt on the public square in Springfield. Phelps became the governor of Missouri in 1876.
Lyman Gibson Bennett enlisted in the 36th Illinois Infantry in 1861. Prior to the War he trained as a surveyor and civil engineer, working for the railroad. The military utilized Bennett’s skills as a cartographer, and assigned him to survey battlefields, road systems, and fortifications. Bennett’s diaries document his daily duties as both a soldier and an engineer for the military. His regiment participated in the Battle of Pea Ridge, which he describes in vivid detail. Bennett was discharged from the military in August 1864.
In 1865, Bennett joined the engineering department of General Samuel R. Curtis as a civilian. He mapped the 1864 battlefields of Sterling Price’s Missouri Expedition. Bennett was then assigned to survey fortifications in Nebraska and Colorado, and eventually served as an engineering officer on the Powder River Expedition of 1865. Bennett’s diaries provide colorful insight to his perception of the Ozarks and its inhabitants.
The Missouri General Assembly met at the Newton County Courthouse in Neosho, Missouri on October 21, 1861 to formally secede from the Union. Legislators passed Missouri’s ordinance of secession on October 28, dissolving all political ties between the State of Missouri and the United States of America. The legality of the assembly, and thus, its resolutions, hinges on the presence of a quorum. This Senate Journal is the only surviving evidence from the Neosho convention, and it does not include a roll of members present.
Nathaniel Lyon was born on July 14, 1818 in Ashford, Connecticut. Having a strong military family background Lyon joined the U.S. Military Academy and after his graduation served as an officer in the Seminole and Mexican wars. Once these wars ended, Lyon continued his service in Kansas and later Missouri where he would fight vigorously to stop Missouri from succeeding from the Union. Lyon is most remembered for his capture of Camp Jackson in St. Louis in 1861 and for his service at the Battle of Wilson Creek, where he became the first Union General to be killed in the Civil War. Lyon’s death inspired many federal soldiers and his military tactics help preserve Missouri from falling into Confederate control, giving him the title of the “Savior of Missouri.”
O. A. Williams, a surgeon for the Missouri State Guard, wrote to John Willsen about finalizing his accounts. The letter is undated but its context places it shortly after the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, August 10, 1861. Williams comments on the number of amputations he completed, and how nearly every building in Springfield was converted into a hospital. While only one letter from Williams is present, it provides insight to this thoughts after the exhausting day of August 10, 1861.
Partheny Horn was a strong southern supporter who in 1863, who along with a group of other Missouri women left the state seeking refuge in Texas. Partheny and her family lived in Cedar County, Missouri before the war. She recalled her brother’s departure into service and the trials she and the other woman faced on their harrowing journey to Texas. Horn’s memoir provides a fascinating account of their experiences and documents the physical and mental strength of women during the War. Horn authored the memoir fifty years after the war ended, thus her description are not entirely historically accurate. The memoir does, however, offer a very unique and invaluable perspective of the war’s impact on southern women in Missouri.
Randolph Harrison Dyer wrote to one of his sister two days after the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, describing the general activities of the engagement. Dyer was a veteran from the Mexican-American War serving in the 1st Missouri Mounted Volunteer Cavalry in New Mexico. Dyer described troop movement, positions and the opening shots of the Battle outside of Springfield, Missouri. Dyer’s service records could not be found, and his letter offers little detail about his regimental affiliation.
The Stirman Davidson Collection is a spirited group of letters written to Rebecca Stirman Davidson, of Fayetteville, Arkansas. The bulk of the letters are from her brother Erasmus “Ras” Stirman, while serving in the Civil War. The letters tell the story of Erasmus service in the Confederate Army, his fears and doubts about winning the War, and leading his company of sharpshooters into certain death. Erasmus loved meeting new women, and his letters to Rebecca are full of candor and humor, often telling a larger tale of the social and cultural customs of the era to which he opportunistically flaunted. Erasmus’ successes in the military, coupled with his family’s access to political and societal privilege, combine to tell a wonderful story of upper class life in the Civil War of the Ozarks.
Sterling Price was a strong military leader and politician. He served in the U.S. military in the Mexican War and was elected Governor of Missouri in 1852. Price firmly believed in the southern antebellum way of life, though he did not believe that Missouri should secede from the Union. As the impending war grew closer, Price’s opinion of Missouri’s status changed and he was selected to command the Missouri State Guard in 1861 in defending Missouri from Federal troops.
Thomas L. Snead was a soldier and a politician during the Civil War. He served under both Governor Claiborne Fox Jackson and Sterling Price. In 1886, he wrote The Fight for Missouri which chronicles the events in Missouri from the 1860 elections to the Battle of Wilson’s Creek. The Thomas Snead collection consists of several letters written about The Fight for Missouri. Most of these letters contain praise for Snead’s accomplishments, and note his ability to write a full and unbiased history of the events that unfolded. This collection is a valuable compendium to The Fight for Missouri, providing interesting insight to Missouri soldiers and politicians as they reflect on the war 20 years later.
William E. Woodruff , Jr. was born into one of the most prominent families in Arkansas on June 8, 1832. His father, William Woodruff, Sr., was the editor of the state’s best known newspaper, The Arkansas Gazette. Woodruff commanded the Totten Artillery in Little Rock during the winter of 1860-61. The unit was named in honor of Dr. William Totten, a local physician, whose son, Captain James Totten commanded the United States Arsenal there. Captain Totten helped train Woodruff’s men, then surrendered the arsenal to state forces during the secession crisis. Renamed the Pulaski Light Battery, Woodruff led his command in action against Captain Totten at the Battle of Wilson’s Creek on August 10, 1861.
Shortly after Totten’s surrender of the arsenal, Woodruff wrote to Colonel C. Peyton requesting equipment for fifty men in his company.
William H. Mengel, a native of Germany, lived in California, Missouri before the War. Mengel was pressed into service as a teamster for the Missouri State Guard in May 1861. He was released a after a little less than a month and he enlisted in the 1st U.S. Reserve Corps, Missouri Home Guards. Mengel was taken prisoner at the Battle of Lexington, where he fought against the Missouri State Guard. After being paroled, he joined the 26th Missouri Infantry, and was sent to Mississippi and Tennessee. Mengel was eventually mustered out of service in January 1865.
William J. Rountree was born in Springfield, Missouri on October 17, 1847. Rountree lived in St. Louis until his father decided to venture west in search of gold, at that time he was sent to live with his grandfather in Springfield. William’s grandfather, Joseph Roundtree, was one of the earliest settlers to Greene County and helped build the first schoolhouse in the area. Rountree describes in his autobiography the events that led up to the outbreak of the Civil War in Missouri and how he and his family were directly affected. Rountree recalls the Battle of Wilson’s Creek and the occupation of Springfield by both Confederate and Union forces. He enlisted into the Union army when he was sixteen, noting the army was so desperate for men they overlook the fact that he his was underage. Rountree’s autobiography gives a first-hand account of a young man who lived in Springfield through the war.