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The Charge of Shelby's Iron Brigade

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Paper Prints approximate image size is: 14x21

SHELBY'S MISSOURI RAID OF 1863
The Battle of Marshall

On September 22, 1863 a column of 800 Confederate cavalry troopers, with two pieces of artillery and 12 wagons, rolled out of their camp near Arkadelphia, Arkansas, beginning one of the most daring cavalry raids of the Civil War - Shelby's Missouri Raid of 1863.

The raid was commanded by Col. Joseph O. Shelby, a wealthy hemp rope manufacturer from Waverly, Mo. It was hoped a raid into Union-occupied Missouri would ease the Union stranglehold on central Arkansas, in addition to obtaining new recruits and badly needed supplies. Shelby also planned a boost to Confederate morale by attacking Missouri's capitol, avenging the loss of Little Rock to Union forces on Sept. 10.

Near the Arkansas-Missouri border, Shelby and his "Iron Brigade" were joined by Hunter's and Coffee's commands, increasing his strength by 600 men.

The column proceeded swiftly, arriving at Boonville on Oct. 11, having traversed 600 miles in 20 days. There Shelby was advised an attack on Jefferson City was too risky and several enemy columns were converging on him.

Despite the risk of being trapped along the Missouri River, Shelby felt he could still obtain badly needed recruits and supplies. Also, he and his men's homes lay to the west. They were anxious to see their families. The next morning Shelby headed west toward Marshall. The pursuing enemy columns followed.

At the Lamine River Shelby ambushed a column led by Lt. Col. Bazel Lazear.  In the evening, he fought an artillery duel with the command of Brig. Gen. Egbert Brown near Jonesborough.

That evening, Brown and Lazear united, with Brown assuming command. Frustrated, Brown implemented a bold plan. At 3:00am Brown sent Lazear, with 1,020 men and two guns on to Marshall to block Shelby. At sunrise, Brown, with 950 men and four guns, planned to attack Shelby from the rear. If his plan worked, Brown might capture Shelby and his entire command!

THE BATTLE OF MARSHALL

The Battle of Marshall began at 7:00am on October 13 when Shelby met Lazear's skirmishers along the Marshall-Arrow Rock Rd., east of the bridge on Salt Fork Creek. Shelby had not expected Marshall to be occupied. A rumor spread that the force Shelby now confronted was that of Brig. Gen. Thomas Ewing. (Shelby would not learn the truth until after the Civil War that the men before Marshall were Brown's, not Ewing’s.)

Shelby enjoyed early success against Lazear, pushing him west to the edge of Marshall. There Lazear's men rallied and drove Shelby back down the Marshall-Arrow Rock Rd. For the next three hours Shelby made several attacks along Lazear's line, but Lazear held firm.

At 8:30am Brown appeared with his remaining force at Salt Fork Creek. Shelby had assigned Maj. D. Shanks’ battalion to stop Brown. Shelby hoped to defeat Ewing in his front, then turn against Brown.

As the fight wore on, Brown worried Shelby might escape to the west. He subsequently sent an additional 600 men and two guns on to Marshall, under Col. John F. Philips. Shelby had already planned for his exit by constructing a bridge across a ditch to the north so his wagons and guns could pass. When news arrived that Shanks was falling back from Salt Fork Creek, he knew he must force his way out or risk capture.

Orders were passed to Shelby's scattered units to fall in line as his column moved north on a spur of the Marshall-Miami Rd. As the column emerged from the cover of a tree line, it turned northwest across a cornfield where it met the skirmish line of the 7th Mo. Militia Cavalry. Shelby's lead unit, Elliott's Battalion, tore through the skirmish line as the rest of the column attempted to follow. Not all of Shelby's men were able to do so.

Several of Shelby's units were slow in getting started. This created a slight gap near the middle of the column. It was spotted by Maj. G.W. Kelly who led his 4th Mo. Militia Cavalry crashing through the units of Hunter, Hooper, Shanks and the artillery. Shelby could not make a stand long enough for the units to fight their way through. He was forced to move to the north, while the units cut off would make their escape to the east and south. Thus ended the battle of Marshall.

Casualties during the five-hour fight were light. Shelby suffered an est. 25 killed and 40 wounded. Brown probably did not suffer more than 10 killed and 20 wounded.

THE PAINTING

Andy Thomas has presented us with a study of the most dramatic event of the fight - Shelby's breakout!

The view is to the southeast with Thorp’s Scouts leading Elliot’s Battalion across the cornfield. Shelby’s column extends back along the spur of the Marshall-Miami road (near modern day Lincoln Ave.) and is the road visible in the background. Stragglers of various units are to the left of the road. The Marshall-Arrow Rock road, not visible, followed the crest of the ridge.

To the far right, the 4th Mo. Militia Cavalry can be seen at the beginning of its charge. Shelby can be seen near the front left, riding a sorrel horse. He carries his arm in a sling, still suffering from a wound he received in July.

Thomas works out of Maze Creek Studio in Carthage, Missouri. This print is part of his Trans-Mississippi Series.

 Written by 

Gil Bergman

 

 “GIL BERGMAN is producing histories of two of the units which fought at Marshall. His great-grandfather was a veteran of the battle.”

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