Rural Missouri - October 2013 - (Page 24)

Charge of the Iron Brigade Shelby’s Great Raid ~ October 1863 Confederates expose thin Union defenses in Missouri by Jim Denny Marmaduke’s lackluster spring raids, sensed that his time had come. He was able to gain the reluctant approval of Price and Marmaduke to launch a daring raid deep into enemy-occupied Missouri. ow a self-promoted colonel, William Clarke The opposite of the cautious and plodding MarQuantrill and the greater part of his guermaduke, Shelby had the dash and daring of a true rillas decided to head for Texas wintering cavalry leader. Shelby and his men crossed into Misgrounds a little earlier than usual. On souri on Oct. 2, 1863, and struck quickly. The next Oct. 1, 1863, some 400 guerrillas commenced their day, they surrounded the 180-man garrison at Neosouthward migration. sho and compelled its surrender. By Oct. 6, they had reached the vicinity of BaxWith confiscated fresh mounts and supplies, Shelter Springs, Kan. Here, Quantrill had a stroke of by’s Iron Brigade rode northward through Sarcoxie the grotesque luck that seemed to be a part of his and Bowers Mills. On Oct. 5, the small strange genius. He and his guerrillas garrisons at Greenfield and Stockton encountered the 100-man escort of were captured along with more supMaj. Gen. James Blunt, the hard-bitten plies. Shelby rested that evening near commander of the Army of the FronHumansville. tier. Quantrill’s men opened fire and The various Union militia units launched a headlong charge toward the that attempted to intercept Shelby had hapless Kansas and Wisconsin soldiers. been left in the dust by the wily and Blunt’s green troops panicked and swift-moving cavalryman. Shelby’s bolted for the rear. men were outdistancing the Union On their superior horses, the guercouriers, who galloped to inform superillas rode down and shot the panicriors where Shelby was last seen. stricken Federal cavalrymen from their Meanwhile, Shelby continued saddles as they fled. Within 15 minunmolested through Humansville and utes, 82 dead and dying Union soldiers Warsaw, where they captured another were strewn across the prairie. Gen. rich horde of supplies on Oct. Blunt and 15 of his men barely 6-7. His men captured Tipton on got away. Quantrill could rightly Jim Denny, a Co-Mo Electric member the Pacific Railroad on Oct. 10 boast: “By God, Shelby could not from Lupus, brings the state’s Civil War and spent a good part of the day whip Blunt. Neither could Marhistory to life in Rural Missouri as we destroying as much of the railmaduke. But I whipped him!” commemorate the sesquicentennial of road as possible. At that very moment, the this time in our nation’s history. Order To that time, none of the same Col. Joseph O. Shelby Jim’s book, “The Civil War’s First Blood,” Union forces in pursuit of Shelwas some 80 miles northeast of online at by managed to shave his lead Baxter Springs scattering militia over them to less than 24 hours. But now that Shelforces at Humansville. As Quantrill left Missouri, by threatened vital railheads, the state capital and Shelby had moved in with his Iron Brigade — 1,200 important towns of the Missouri River heartland, handpicked Missouri veterans eager to strike at the thousands of Missouri troops took up the chase. heart of Federal Missouri. Finally, outside of Boonville, the 670 men of the first Two weeks earlier and more than 200 miles farstate militia cavalry began to skirmish with Shelby’s ther south, Shelby had been in Arkadelphia, Ark. rear guard. Following the abandonment of Little Rock, Gen. On Oct. 11, Shelby entered Boonville. After 19 Sterling Price and his army had fallen back to Arkadays of strenuous riding, 350 miles from Arkadeldelphia deep in southern Arkansas. Shelby, hardened phia, his men finally were beside the banks of the by dozens of battles and a participant in Gen. J. S. N Missouri River. Shelby turned west and headed in the direction of Marshall. Now the militia was nipping at his heels and had to be held at bay by repeated rear-guard stands at creek crossings. Shelby could keep this up indefinitely, as long as no Union force blocked his path. He was about to face his greatest challenge, and it would come from a former nemesis, Brig. Gen. Egbert B. Brown. Brown had beaten back repeated charges of Shelby’s Iron Brigade at the Battle of Springfield a little more than 10 months earlier. Now, he had an army of 1,800 men encamped within five miles of Shelby’s force. If he could march a detachment around Shelby’s sleeping army and reach Marshall before Shelby did, he could accomplish what no other Union officer had managed to do — trap Shelby between two armies and destroy or cripple his force. Brown’s plan worked to perfection. When Shelby’s army approached Marshall on the morning of Oct. 13, he found his way blocked by Union soldiers. A thousand Union defenders, commanded by Col. Benjamin Lazear, beat back several charges by Shelby. Finally, Brown arrived with 800 men — the supposed anvil to Lazear’s hammer. But, at the very moment he stood on the verge of military glory, Brown’s nerve failed him and he never gave the command to charge. Maneuvering and constant firing continued for an hour or so. The many steep, brushy ravines where the battle was fought made accurate fire impossible. Hardly anyone was killed or injured on either side. Finally, Shelby staged a “breakthrough” by scattering a few dozen defenders and riding with half his force toward Waverly, his home before the war. The other half of his men, three regiments in all, escaped by riding east then south. The remainder of the raid was rapid retreat back to Arkansas in two separate columns, both under constant Union pursuit. For Shelby, the raid was a triumph. He was promoted — at long last — to brigadier general. He had conducted the longest cavalry raid (1,500 miles, he claimed) that had yet been attempted. He was now acknowledged as the best cavalry officer in the western theater and one of the best in the whole Confederacy. The Union defenders of Missouri had less about which to brag. Shelby had clearly demonstrated how porous their thin defenses were to skilled Confederate invaders. Still, they had finally corralled Shelby and chased his raiders out of the state. Other than that, Shelby’s raid had changed little for either side. The militia was unable to protect Missourians from either guerrillas or raiders. The misery that plagued Missouri during 1863 would descend again in 1864. Missouri’s seemingly endless nightmare would drag on for another horrific year. Both guerrillas and Confederate raiders would be back. Shelby’s Iron Brigade — 1,200 men strong — was eager to strike at the heart of Federal Missouri. Artwork courtesy of Andy Thomas, Carthage, Mo.,

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - October 2013

Rural Missouri - October 2013
Schooled on sailing
A deer dilemma
Therapy for the heart & soul
Out of the Way Eats
Gone RVing
Charge of the Iron Brigade
Hearth and Home
Underwater fun
Around Missouri

Rural Missouri - October 2013