Rural Missouri - June 2011 - (Page 12)

The Missouri Lyon hunt Battle of Boonville ~ June 17, 1861 In 20 minutes, skirmish puts Missouri in Union hands by Jim Denny info@ruralmissouri.coop O nor was becoming nearly paralyzed by Missouri’s tortured political process. He could get none of the tools he needed to lead Missouri to secession. A military bill proposing the creation of a state ne hundred and fifty years ago this month, guard was defeated in the legislature. In late March, the third battle of the Civil War was a convention similar to those held in the Deep fought along the Missouri River hills a few South states, voted 98 to 1 against secession. Jackson miles east of Boonville. The date was June wanted to capture the St. Louis Arsenal, but Blair 17, 1861. Bull Run, known to some Easterners as the and Lyon quickly secured it with their home guards. first battle of the Civil War, was still 36 days off. But After the firing on Fort Sumter, at Boonville, two armies were about to which led Lincoln to issue a call to the square off in a high-stakes contest that states for 75,000 volunteers, Jackson would decide no less a question than defiantly refused. Blair immediately whether Missouri would stay in the offered to fill Lincoln’s quota for Union or travel down the uncertain troops and was authorized to enlist road of secession. and arm 10,000 men. That morning, Gov. Claiborne Fox Within weeks, several thousand Jackson was poised to fight a battle volunteers — 80 percent of them he stood little chance of winning. He German-Americans — carried muskets was outnumbered and outgunned. The issued from the St. Louis Arsenal. Blair price for losing this battle would be and Lyon now had the biggest army in expulsion from his elected office and Missouri. They weren’t about to surhis capital. Once expelled, would he render that advantage to Jackson, who ever make his way back? nonetheless provoked them by For his foes — Rep. Frank setting the annual state militia P. Blair Jr. and Gen. Nathaniel A Co-Mo Electric Cooperative member encampment, Camp Jackson, Lyon — victory on the fields of from Lupus, Jim Denny spent more than Boonville would mean military 30 years as a historian with the Missouri in St. Louis, within striking distance of the arsenal. control of the rich agricultural Department of Natural Resources. Now On May 10, Lyon and Blair heartland of the state, along with retired, Jim will bring the state’s Civil marched 6,000 of their newly its machinery of government at War history to life in Rural Missouri as enlisted soldiers to surround Jefferson City. They would gain we commemorate the sesquicentennial Camp Jackson and captured mastery of both the Missouri of this time in our nation’s history. 690 officers and men and their River and Mississippi River along weapons, along with two siege guns sent by Jefferall but its extreme southeastern border. All of the son Davis. Riots that followed left some 37 civilians state’s railroads and most of its rich mineral resourcdead. The Blair-Lyon duo had captured Jackson’s es would also be put to the service of the Union best army and quelled secessionism in St. Louis. war effort — providing the folks back East ever got But out-state Missourians erupted in outrage. around to fighting a war. Many wavering Unionists, including Sterling Price, Even if the Battle of Boonville proved to be nothwent over to the secessionists. Jackson finally got his ing more than a minor skirmish in a military sense, military bill passed and was given the long-awaited it would be a victory of gigantic proportions for the approval to assemble and outfit the state guard. future Union domination of Missouri. Hundreds of volunteers began enlisting. Jackson Should Jackson lose the battle, Jefferson Davis would have his army — if Blair and Lyon gave would likely be deprived of a Confederate state vast him enough time! in riches and populated with tens of thousands of A long month dragged by while an uneasy men of Southern heritage to swell his armies. With truce lingered between mutually distrustful a victory at Boonville, Abraham Lincoln would gain federal and state authorities. But that was a vital border state. If he could keep Missouri and all the time Jackson was going to get. Kentucky in the Union, ultimate victory was posOn June 10, an explosive meeting sible; without them, the Herculean task of saving the took place at Union might prove far more difficult. the Planter’s At the beginning of the fateful year of 1861, few oddsmakers would have given the Blair-Lyon team much chance of almost single-handedly keeping Missouri in the Union in the face of opposition by a pair of seasoned politicians like Claiborne Jackson and his running mate for lieutenant governor, Thomas C. Reynolds, who were bent on secession. The election of 1860 swept Jackson and Reynolds into the state’s top executive offices. Frank Blair was the outsider, but he had a brother in the Lincoln administration. He was the lone Republican elected to the U.S. Congress from Missouri. Blair owed his seat in Congress to the strong German-American voting bloc in St. Louis that was passionately anti-slavery and eager to enlist in the home guard units he was beginning to form in St. Louis. In early February 1861, Capt. Nathaniel Lyon, a fierce and combative New Englander, arrived in St. Louis to team up with Blair and build Missouri’s illustration courtesy of the Library of Congress best-armed and most disciplined military force. That Blair had no statewide electoral mandate for any of his actions freed him from the constraints An 1861 political cartoon portrays Union commander Nathaniel Lyon as a real lion chasing Missouri secessionist that seemed to bind up Jackson. The new goverGov. Claiborne F. Jackson and Gen. Sterling Price from Boonville. Lyon’s victory ensured Union control of Missouri. House in St. Louis. Jackson and his newly appointed state guard commander, Sterling Price, were there trying to extend the tenuous neutrality. Lyon finally ended the meeting by declaring, “This means war.” Jackson and Price hurriedly returned to Jefferson City, issued a call for 50,000 troops and prepared to evacuate the capital and move upriver to Boonville, a friendlier place for Southerners. Lyon and Blair reached Jefferson City on June 15 to find the Capitol building deserted. Three companies were left to begin the military occupation of Jefferson City while Lyon and Blair, with 1,700 men, steamed toward Boonville, 50 miles upriver. They landed a few miles below the state guard encampment east of Boonville. The soldiers disembarked, marched out across the floodplain and up into the river hills along the Rocheport Road. They knew an enemy was waiting ahead to give battle. What these soldiers didn’t know was that there was scant enthusiasm in the state guard camp for bringing on this battle. John S. Marmaduke, the young, West Point-trained commander (and the governor’s nephew), urged withdrawal south, to a better defended place nearer the Confederacy. They needed more men, more guns, more drilling, and they had no artillery. But Jackson, now that he finally had some troops, could not bear the thought of abandoning the heartland of Missouri to Lyon and Blair without a fight. Marmaduke mustered 600 brave men who had brought their hunting guns. The makeshift soldiers formed a rough line in a wheat field, behind a fence along a lane, near a brick farmhouse. Soon, rows of uniformed troops bearing gleaming muskets appeared. In their center was Totten’s battery of artillery that immediately opened fire. Cannonballs smashed into the brick house. Repeated volleys of musket fire rang out. Three guardsmen fell with mortal wounds. A round of return fire brought down four of Lyon’s infantrymen. Briefly, for those men, it was war, with bullets whizzing by and cannonballs exploding. But then the defenders fell back and were soon running for their lives in headlong retreat. The Battle of Boonville was over. It only lasted 20 minutes. All of the equipment and supplies of the guardsmen fell into Lyon’s hands, including 1,200 pairs of shoes and the temporary state guard armory. Much more than that, Lyon and Blair had won Union control of Missouri. Later, Confederate congressman Thomas L. Snead lamented, “Insignificant as was this engagement in a military aspect, it was in fact a stunning blow to the Southern Rights people of the State, and one which did incalculable and unending injury to the Confederates.” 12 WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP http://WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - June 2011

Rural Missouri - June 2011
Contents
Comments
Columns
In the beginning
The Missouri Lyon hunt
Mail Bag
Beaver Creek Paylake & Fish Fry
Out of the Way Eats
Drowned
Hearth and Home
News Briefs
In the middle of everywhere
Marketplace
Around Missouri
Restoring Stover
Neighbors
Just4Kids

Rural Missouri - June 2011

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