1861 August 10th

August 10 1861 Saturday

Battle of Wilson’s Creek, MO (CWSAC Decisive Battle – Confederate Victory)

Wilson‘s Creek Campaign

Confederate Invasion of New Mexico

Illinois. Union Brigadier-General Benjamin Mayberry Prentiss reported from Cairo that as many as 10,000 Confederate troops were concentrating at New Madrid on the Missouri side of the Missouri River.

Missouri. Union Brigadier-General Ulysses Simpson Grant led a Union force in a skirmish at Potosi.

Missouri. Union Expedition to Benton, Commerce, and Price’s Landing ended.

Wilson’s Creek, Missouri, also known as Oak Hills, or Springfield. Union Brigadier-General Nathaniel Lyon’s Army of the West, marching in two widely separated columns commanded by himself and Colonel Franz Sigel, attacked the Confederate army of Brigadier-General Benjamin McCulloch and Missouri State Major-General Sterling Price (Missouri State Guard) at Wilson’s Creek, about twelve miles southwest of Springfield.

Lyon’s force moved forward at 4am from its brief bivouac and drove back the outposts of Colonel James S Rains. They advanced to the west bank of Wilson’s Creek while Captain J B Plummer moved his battalion of Missouri Home Guards as a flank guard along the opposite bank against a Confederate force seen moving from the Ray House towards a distinctive cornfield. Plummer was strengthened by 300 men from the 1st US Infantry. The Union army was supported by sixteen guns in Captain James Totten’s Battery of the 2nd US Artillery and Dubois’s battery. The Confederates had fifteen guns under Captains Guibor, Bledsoe, Woodruff, and Reid.

The pro-Confederate Missourians were caught by surprise. Lyon’s force overran the enemy camps and took the high ground at the crest of a ridge which would become known as Bloody Hill. Early Union hopes for a rout were dashed, however, when the artillery of the Pulaski Arkansas Battery unlimbered and checked the advance, giving Price’s infantry time to organise new lines on the south slope of the hill. By 6.30am Price had drawn up a strong Confederate line on Oak Hill.

After an hour of fighting, Price had been driven off Oak Hill down to Wilson’s Creek and the Ray House, where he re-formed for a counterattack. A strong counterattack by Colonel Louis Hébert’s 3rd Louisiana and Colonel James McQueen McIntosh’s 2nd Arkansas Mounted Rifles routed the Union force, inflicting a loss of 80 men. An attempt by Confederate Colonel E Greer’s 3rd Texas Cavalry to envelop the Union left along Skegg’s Branch was halted by Totten’s artillery.

Meanwhile, Sigel was approaching on a flanking march from the south with two infantry regiments, two troops of cavalry, and a battery. By 5.30am Sigel had reached Tyrel’s Creek. He placed his battery on the high ground east of Wilson’s Creek to fire into the Confederate camps.

Hearing the sound of Lyon’s guns, Sigel attacked with his 1st US Infantry at about 5 am and routed the Confederate cavalry facing him and moved towards Sharp’s House. At Sharp’s House, he was counter-attacked by McCulloch’s own brigade, including Hébert’s 3rd Louisiana “Pelican Rifles” and Colonel Thomas J Churchill’s 1st Arkansas Mounted Rifles. Sigel mistook the grey uniforms worn by Hébert’s men for those of the 1st Iowa from Lyon’s force and assumed that Lyon had already carried the field. Reid’s Confederate battery brought the Union line under enfilade fire and McCulloch achieved a devastating rout of Sigel’s troops, overrunning five of his six guns in the process. By 11 am Sigel had fled the field and McCulloch was able to bring his forces to bear against Lyon’s column in superior numbers.

On Oak Hill, Lyon repelled two Confederate counterattacks but at about 10.30 am Lyon was wounded twice before being killed on Bloody Hill while rallying his men for a countercharge. Regular Army officer Major Samuel Davis Sturgis (1st US Cavalry) replaced Lyon in command. Although they still held a defensible position atop the hill, the Union army’s supplies were low and morale was worsening. By 11 am the Union forces had already repulsed three separate Confederate charges; ammunition and men were nearly exhausted,

A third Confederate attack was launched at about 11 am but Sturgis could not induce the 1st Iowa to obey an order to counter-charge. At about 11.30 am the Confederates broke off the fight and withdrew for the fourth time.

Sturgis also decided to withdraw rather than risk facing a fourth Confederate attack, because his men were exhausted and low on ammunition. The Union army retreated to Rolla, with about 4,500 surviving men in the ranks. Although the Confederates held the field, they were too disorganised and ill-equipped to pursue the retreating Union forces but they soon occupied Springfield.

The Union commander of the Department of the West, Major-General John Charles Frémont disclaimed all responsibility for the defeat at Wilson’s Creek and Sturgis received sharp criticism for his withdrawal. Nevertheless, when Sturgis received his commission as Brigadier-General, it was backdated to the date of Wilson’s Creek because of his successful extrication of the remnants of the force against superior numbers. .

Wilson’s Creek was the first major battle west of the Mississippi. The Confederate victory buoyed southern sympathisers in Missouri and created a springboard for a northward advance that would carry Price and the Missouri State Guard as far north as Lexington. It also made it possible for a large proportion of the Confederate and Arkansas forces to leave Missouri for action east of the Mississippi.

Union losses were reported as between 1,235 and 1,317 out of 5,400 men (223 killed, 721 wounded, 291 missing or 258 killed, 873 wounded and 186 captured or missing). The Confederates lost 1,095 to 1,230 out of 10,000 to 11,600 men (257 killed, 900 wounded, 27 missing or 279 killed, and 951 wounded). (CWSAC Decisive Battle – Confederate Victory)


Union Western Department: Brigadier-General John Charles Frémont
Army of the West: Brigadier-General Nathaniel Lyon
1st Brigade (West): Major Samuel Davis Sturgis
2nd Brigade (West): Colonel Franz Sigel
3rd Brigade (West): Lieutenant-Colonel George Leonard Andrews
4th Brigade (West): Colonel George Deitzler

Confederate Western Department: Major-General Leonidas Polk
District of the Indian Territory: Brigadier-General Benjamin McCulloch
“Western Army”: Brigadier-General Benjamin McCulloch
Missouri State Guard: State Brigadier-General Sterling Price
Arkansas State Troops: Brigadier-General Benjamin McCulloch

Union Organisation

USA: The Army of the West was discontinued after the death of its commander, Brigadier-General Nathaniel Lyon in the defeat at Wilson’s Creek.

USA: Brigadier-General Nathaniel Lyon was killed at the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, Missouri.

Lyon, Nathaniel / Connecticut / Born 14 July 1818 Ashford, Connecticut / KIA Wilson’s Creek, Missouri 10 August 1861
USMA 1 July 1841 11/52 Infantry / Cadet USMA 1 July 1837 / 2nd Lieutenant USA 2nd US Infantry 1 July 1841 / 1st Lieutenant USA 16 February 1847 / Captain USA 11 June 1851 / Brigadier-General Missouri Militia 12 May 1861 / Brigadier-General USV 17 May 1861 / Brevet Captain USA 20 August 1847 WIA Chapultepec 13 September 1847
Department of the West 23 April 1861-28 April 1861 / Department of the West 31 May 1861-3 July 1861 / Army of the West 2 July 1861-10 August 1861 / 3 July 1861 -24 July 1861 Western Department

USA: Samuel Davis Sturgis promoted Brigadier-General USV 7 March 1862 to rank from 10 August 1861.

Sturgis, Samuel Davis / Pennsylvania / Born 11 June 1822 Shippensburg, Pennsylvania / Died St Paul, Minnesota 28 September 1889
USMA 1 July 1846 32/42 Dragoons-Cavalry / Cadet USMA 1 July 1842 / 2nd US Dragoons 1 July 1846 / 2nd Lieutenant USA 1st US Dragoons 16 February 1847 / Regt Quartermaster 1 April 1851-1 March 1852 / 1st Lieutenant USA 15 July 1853 / Captain USA 1st US Cavalry 3 March 1855 / Major USA 3 May 1861 / 4th US Cavalry 3 August 1861 / Brigadier-General USV 7 March 1862 to rank from 10 August 1861 / Lieutenant-Colonel USA 6th US Cavalry 27 October 1863 / Mustered Out USV 24 August 1865 / Colonel USA 7th US Cavalry 6 May 1869 / Retired USA 11 June 1886 / Brevet 2nd Lieutenant USA 1 July 1846 Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel USA 10 August 1861 Brevet Colonel USA 29 August 1862 Brevet Brigadier-General USA 13 March 1865 Brevet Major-General USA 13 March 1865 / CIA Buena Vista 20 February 1847 Exchanged 28 February 1847
1st Brigade Army of the West 24 July 1861-10 August 1861 / 1st Brigade 5th Division Western Army September 1861-October 1861 / Chief of Staff Western Department November 1861 / District of Kansas 10 April 1862-5 May 1862 / Sturgis’ Brigade Military District of Washington August 1862 / Reserve Corps Army of Virginia August 1862-3 September 1862 / 2nd Division IX Corps Army of the Potomac 3 September 1862-7 February 1863 / 2nd Division IX Corps Department of Virginia 6 March 1863-19 March 1863 / 2nd Division IX Corps Department of the Ohio 19 March 1863-21 May 1863 / District of Central Kentucky 4 June 1863-14 June 1863 / 1st Division XXIII Corps Army of the Ohio 24 June 1863-10 July 1863 / Cavalry Army of the Ohio 10 July 1863-15 December 1863 / Cavalry Corps Army of the Ohio 15 December 1863-10 April 1864 / West Tennessee Expedition District of West Tennessee 1 June 1864-13 June 1864

Commander in Chief: President Abraham Lincoln

Vice-President: Hannibal Hamlin

Secretary of War: Simon Cameron

Secretary of the Navy: Gideon Welles

Atlantic Blockading Squadron: Silas Horton Stringham
Gulf Blockading Squadron: William Mervine
Pacific Squadron: John Berrien Montgomery
West Indies Squadron: Garrett J Pendergrast
Western Gunboat Flotilla: John Rodgers
Potomac Flotilla: Thomas Tingey Craven

General–in-Chief: Winfield Scott

Military Division (Department) of the Potomac: George Brinton McClellan

  • Department of Northeastern Virginia: Irvin McDowell
    • Army of the Potomac: Irvin McDowell
  • Department of Washington: Joseph King Fenno Mansfield

Department of the East: John Ellis Wool

Department of Florida: Harvey Brown

Department of Kentucky: Robert Anderson

Department of the Ohio: William Starke Rosecrans

  • Cheat Mountain District: Joseph Jones Reynolds
  • Cheat River District: Charles J Biddle
  • District of Grafton: Benjamin Franklin Kelley
  • Army of Occupation: William Starke Rosecrans

Department of the Pacific: Edwin Vose Sumner

  • District of Oregon: George Wright

Department of Pennsylvania: John Adams Dix

  • Army of the Shenandoah: Vacant

Department of the Shenandoah: Nathaniel Prentiss Banks

Department of Texas: Vacant

Department of Virginia: Benjamin Franklin Butler interim John Ellis Wool awaited

Western Department: John Charles Frémont

  • District of Ironton: Ulysses Simpson Grant
  • District of North Missouri: John Pope
  • Southern District of New Mexico: Benjamin Stone Roberts

Confederate Organisation

Commander in Chief: President Jefferson Finis Davis

Vice-President: Alexander Hamilton Stephens

Secretary of War: Leroy Pope Walker

Secretary of the Navy: Stephen Russell Mallory

Military Adviser to the President: Robert Edward Lee

Department No 1: David Emanuel Twiggs

  • “Forces in New Orleans” “Army of Louisiana”: Braxton Bragg

Department of Fredericksburg: Daniel Harvey Hill

  • District of Aquia: Daniel Ruggles

Department of Norfolk: Benjamin Huger

Department of North Carolina: Theophilus Hunter Holmes

  • Defences of North Carolina: Theophilus Hunter Holmes

Department of the Peninsula: John Bankhead Magruder

  • Army of the Peninsula: John Bankhead Magruder

Department of the Potomac: Joseph Eggleston Johnston

  • Army of the Potomac: Joseph Eggleston Johnston

Department of South Carolina: Daniel Harvey Hill

Department of Southwestern Virginia: William Wing Loring

Department of Texas: Earl Van Dorn

  • Defences of Galveston: John Creed Moore

Department of West Florida: Braxton Bragg

  • “Forces in Pensacola”: Braxton Bragg

Western Department: Leonidas Polk

  • District of Upper Arkansas: William Joseph Hardee
  • Western Army: Benjamin McCulloch

District of East Tennessee: Felix Kirk Zollicoffer

Defences of Savannah: Alexander Robert Lawton

Indian Territory: Benjamin McCulloch

Forces in Richmond: Thomas Turner Fauntleroy

Army of the Kanawha: Henry Alexander Wise

Army of Liberation: Gideon Johnson Pillow

Army of the Northwest: William Wing Loring

Union Generals

Note: Italics, awaiting confirmation of the commission

Major-General USA

Winfield Scott
George Brinton McClellan
John Charles Frémont

Major-General USV

John Adams Dix
Nathaniel Prentiss Banks
Benjamin Franklin Butler

Brigadier-General USA

John Ellis Wool
William Selby Harney
Edwin Vose Sumner
Joseph King Fenno Mansfield
Irvin McDowell
Robert Anderson
William Starke Rosecrans

Brigadier-General USV

Samuel Peter Heintzelman
David Hunter
Erasmus Darwin Keyes
Andrew Porter
Fitz-John Porter
William Buel Franklin
William Tecumseh Sherman
Charles Pomeroy Stone
Don Carlos Buell
Thomas West Sherman
Nathaniel Lyon KIA
John Pope
George Archibald McCall
William Reading Montgomery
Philip Kearny
Joseph Hooker
John Wolcott Phelps
Ulysses Simpson Grant
Joseph Jones Reynolds
Samuel Ryan Curtis
Charles Smith Hamilton
Darius Nash Couch
Rufus King
Jacob Dolson Cox
Stephen Augustus Hurlbut
Franz Sigel
Robert Cumming Schenck
Benjamin Mayberry Prentiss
Frederick West Lander
Benjamin Franklin Kelley
John Alexander McClernand
Alpheus Starkey Williams
Israel Bush Richardson
James Cooper
James Brewerton Ricketts
Orlando Bolivar Willcox
Michael Corcoran
George Henry Thomas
Ambrose Everett Burnside
Henry Hayes Lockwood
Louis Blenker
Henry Warner Slocum
James Samuel Wadsworth
John James Peck
Ormsby McKnight Mitchel
George Webb Morell
John Henry Martindale
Samuel Davis Sturgis

Brigadier-General USA (Staff)

Montgomery Cunningham Meigs (Quartermaster-General)
Henry Knox Craig
Lorenzo Thomas (Adjutant-General)
James Wolfe Ripley (Ordnance)

Confederate Generals

Note: Italics, awaiting confirmation of the commission

General ACSA

Samuel Cooper
Albert Sidney Johnston
Robert Edward Lee
Joseph Eggleston Johnston
Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard

Major-General PACS

David Emanuel Twiggs
Leonidas Polk

Brigadier-General ACSA

Braxton Bragg

Brigadier-General PACS

Alexander Robert Lawton
Milledge Lake Bonham
Benjamin McCulloch
William Wing Loring
Charles Clark
John Buchanan Floyd
William Henry Talbot Walker
Henry Rootes Jackson
Theophilus Hunter Holmes
Henry Alexander Wise
Earl Van Dorn
William Joseph Hardee
Richard Stoddert Ewell
David Rumph Jones
Benjamin Huger
John Bankhead Magruder
James Longstreet
Edmund Kirby Smith
John Clifford Pemberton
Thomas Jonathan Jackson
Henry Hopkins Sibley
John Henry Winder
Richard Caswell Gatlin
Daniel Smith Donelson
Samuel Read Anderson
Gideon Johnson Pillow
Benjamin Franklin Cheatham
Felix Kirk Zollicoffer
Daniel Harvey Hill
Jones Mitchell Withers
Richard Heron Anderson
Robert Augustus Toombs
Samuel Jones
Arnold Elzey
William Henry Chase Whiting
Jubal Anderson Early
Isaac Ridgway Trimble
Daniel Ruggles

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