Friday, October 15, 2010

Battle of Wilson’s Creek

In the 1861 Battle of Wilson’s Creek, Union General Nathaniel Lyon's Army of the West was camped at Springfield, Missouri with Confederate troops approaching commanded by General Ben McCulloch. On August 9, both sides formulated plans to attack the other. About 5:00am on the 10th, Lyon, in two columns commanded by himself and Colonel Franz Sigel, attacked the Confederates on Wilson's Creek southwest of Springfield. Rebel cavalry received the first blow and fell back. Confederate forces soon rushed up though and stabilized the positions.

The Confederates attacked the Union forces three times that day, but failed to break through the Union line. Lyon was killed during the battle and General Samuel D. Sturgis replaced him. Meanwhile, the Confederates had routed Sigel's column to the south. Following the third Confederate attack, the Confederates withdrew. Sturgis realized, however, that his men were exhausted and his ammunition was low, so he ordered a retreat to Springfield. The Confederates were too disorganized and badly equipped to pursue.

This Confederate victory buoyed southern sympathizers in Missouri and served as a springboard for a bold thrust north that carried the Missouri State Guard as far as Lexington. In late October 1861, a convention met and passed an ordinance of secession. Wilson's Creek, the most significant 1861 battle in Missouri, gave the Confederates control of southwestern Missouri.