Rural Missouri - November 2011 - (Page 22)

I Thompson had only intended to deliver a quick blow to slow the federals while his men retreated southward. But an intense firefight developed in a cornfield that left many guardsmen, including one of their most promising commanders, Col. Aden Lowe, dead on the field. As Plummer’s men pursued the retreating state guardsmen, a regiment of Indiana cavalry troops rode straight into an ambush that felled a major, captain and two enlisted men. Grant and Thompson fight for control of the Mississippi Thompson retired to the swamplands with 18,000 pounds of needed lead. Grant, meanwhile, could now turn his attention to the daunting Confederate fortifications at Columinto Arkansas as Grant shifted his headquarters by Jim Denny bus. Looming above the Mississippi River were south from Ironton to Cape Girardeau to Cairo. earthworks that bristled with 143 cannons includBut lurking along shadowy margins of the ing a monster gun, “Lady Polk,” that fired a swamplands of southeast Missouri was the n the fall of 1861, Maj. Gen. John C. Fremont, 128-pound round. This post was manned first division of the Missouri State Guard, a in control of the western front of the Civil War, by 19,000 Confederates commanded by ragtag collection of “swamp rats” led by needed a commander for the department of Maj. Gen. Leonidas Polk. Grant needed the colorful M. Jeff Thompson. Noted southeast Missouri. He wanted this new comto figure out a way to strike his first for his ringing proclamations and mander to accomplish two goals. First he needed blow against this enemy. He was itchmanifestos, Thompson, the “Swamp to clear southeast Missouri of enemy armies. At the ing for a fight. The small Confederate Fox,” had succeeded in same time, he needed to fortify Cairo, camp at a tiny hamlet called Belmont, giving the impression Ill., and ready the troops stationed just across the river from Columbus, that he posed a far greatthere for offensive movements against looked like a good candidate for his er threat than he really the Confederacy. The man selected t first battle. did with his poorly armed was Ulysses S. Grant. In the early hours of Nov. 7, 1861, and under-equipped band Dogged by a pre-war reputation for 3,000 federal soldiers were loaded onto of some 2,000 infantry and drinking and for failure in his civiltransports at Cairo and steamed down to 500 cavalry. ian enterprises, Grant did not stand Gen. Ulysses Bird’s Point, where they disembarked and On Oct. 15, he made his out in any way as a man of the future S. Grant marched through a forest with tangled grandest gesture when he in the still-young war. But he gained undergrowth toward the enemy, some 2,500 strong, launched a surprise attack on a comcommand of Illinois volunteers and who were just ahead. As Grant’s men came to the pany of Illinois soldiers guarding the marched into Missouri in July 1861. edge of the forest, they were assaulted by four Conlarge, three-span railroad bridge across From the beginning, Grant’s West federate infantry regiments, which came charging Big River on the strategically vital Point training served him well. Military across a cornfield. Sheltered by woods, the federroute of the St. Louis and discipline was quickly instilled als mauled the hapless Confederates with Iron Mountain Railroad. in his volunteers. He showed an Jim Denny, a Co-Mo Electric member heavy rifle fire. They broke and ran toward His men then rode ability to make things happen from Lupus, brings the state’s Civil War the protective bank of the Mississippi. away with a haul of once he arrived on any scene. He history to life in Rural Missouri as we Grant’s men then began to loot the captured weapons immersed himself in the myriad commemorate the sesquicentennial of abandoned camp, while their inexpeafter setting the of small details that eventuthis time in our nation’s history. See rienced officers delivered patriotic orabridge ablaze. The ally produced an efficient army. page 31 to order “The Civil War’s First tory. Meanwhile, thousands of ConWithin a month of his arrival in Blood,” his book on the war in Missouri. bridge was quickfederate reinforcements were being ly repaired, but Missouri, Grant was promoted to ferried across the river, and Grant’s the attack caused considerable alarm the rank of brigadier general. On Sept. 4, 1861, with force was nearly surrounded. To restore in St. Louis, only 40 miles away. Fremont’s appointment in hand, Grant established order, Grant set fire to the Confederate Once again the wily Thompson had his headquarters at Cairo. tents and rallied his men, who fought caused panic in the Federal high comGrant was exactly where he wanted to be. Cairo, their way back to their transports. mand. His surprise attack seemed to threatcrouched behind levees, was located squarely at the Despite the escape, the price for this en the disruption of the vital rail connection most strategically important location in the western Gen. M. Jeff seemingly pointless battle was high. Both between St. Louis and the lead and iron mintheater of the war. Not only did the Ohio and MisThompson sides had some 600 wounded and 100 killed. ing regions to the south. sissippi rivers meet there, but this location was the Grant lost 20 percent of his force. Yet his men Thompson’s raid put the Swamp Fox squarely staging area where the war to win Union control of returned from this technical defeat exhilarated and in Grant’s crosshairs. He immediately dispatched the Mississippi River would begin. Within a day of battle hardened, convinced the rebels had been out5,000 troops from Cape Girardeau and Pilot Knob to his arrival, Grant sent soldiers up the Ohio to occufought. Despite criticisms, Grant never apologized drive the bothersome Thompson back to his watery py Paducah, Ky., a countermove to the Confederafor his decision to bring on the Battle of Belmont. haunts. cy’s occupation of Columbus, Ky., two days earlier. It seemed that President Lincoln didn’t mind The Battle of Fredericktown was fought on Oct. The clearing of Confederate forces from southeither. For the first time since the death of General 22, when the federal column, led by Col. Joseph east Missouri largely had been accomplished, due Nathaniel Lyon, he had at least one aggressive genPlummer, encountered Thompson’s troops, some in significant part to the pressure Grant was applyeral in the West who could be counted on to take 1,200 men, arrayed on either side of the Greenville ing. Confederate Gen. William J. Hardee and 3,000 the war to the enemy. road a mile south of Fredericktown. troops penetrated as far as Greenville, but withdrew Grant takes command Battle of Belmont ~ Nov. 7, 1861 images courtesy of Jim Denny Union troops descend on the Confederate camp during the Battle of Belmont in this drawing from Harper’s Weekly. Despite suffering what technically was a defeat, the Union Army gained confidence here under the command of Gen. U.S. Grant. For the first time since the death of Gen. Nathaniel Lyon, Lincoln had an aggressive leader in the West. 22 WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP http://WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP

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

Rural Missouri - November 2011
Table of Contents
In search of Missouri mills
Co-ops take action
Best of rural Missouri
Out of the Way Eats
Second chance ranch
Grant takes command
Hearth and Home
News Briefs
The hillbilly approach to the Woodstock nation
Around Missouri

Rural Missouri - November 2011