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The Battle of Mine Creek

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Paper Prints approximate image size is: 14x21

PRICE’S MISSOURI RAID OF 1864

On September 19, 1864 General Sterling Price led his “Army of Missouri” back into his beloved state. Consisting of 12,000 mounted men from Missouri, Arkansas and Texas, the invading army marched into southeastern Missouri with the objective of capturing St. Louis. Blunted by a small Union force and losing the element of surprise at Pilot Knob, Price soon realized that St. Louis was too strongly defended and turned his army west towards the state capital, Jefferson City. However, Union forces quickly responded by reinforcing the city so Price’s army continued west towards Boonville, Lexington and Westport.

During the three-day Battle of Westport, the Confederate Army was defeated and almost cut off by two Union armies consisting of regular volunteer regiments, raw Kansas Militia and veteran Missouri State Militia Cavalry. Price’s army retreated down the Kansas-Missouri border into Kansas, which was not well defended. Pursuing Union cavalry made contact with the encamped Confederate army early in the morning on October 25, 1864, nine miles north of Mine Creek at Trading Post, Kansas.

THE BATTLE OF MINE CREEK

During this five week campaign the Confederate Army had acquired a large number of recruits and supplies which slowed its pace of march and Price gave issued orders to protect the 500 wagons in his supply train at all costs. As Price joined the command of Gen. Jo Shelby proceeding south to attack Ft. Scott, the rear of the supply train became mired in the only suitable ford across Mine Creek. The Confederate rearguard was commanded by Gen. John Marmaduke who requested that Gen. James Fagan’s division be deployed to assist his division in defending the remaining wagons crossing Mine Creek.

Approximately 7,000 mounted Confederates and eight artillery pieces were deployed north of the creek in a defensive line that was almost one mile long. Two brigades of Union Gen. Alfred Pleasonton’s cavalry division, some 2,800 strong, viewed the Confederate defenders from a slight rise to the north. Col. Frederick Benteen commanded the Fourth Union Brigade and requested that Col. John Philips support the attack with his First Brigade. Philip’s brigade consisted of Union Missouri State Militia and was deployed to the west as the right of the Union battle line. Benteen presented his brigade in column of regiments to the east as the left of the Union battle line. During the Battle of Mine Creek, more than 10,000 mounted troopers participated in the largest cavalry battle west of the Mississippi River in Civil War.

CONSEQUENCE OF THE BATTLE OF MINE CREEK

The Battle of Mine Creek effectively destroyed General Price’s Army of Missouri as an effective fighting force. Gen. Marmaduke, Gen. “Tige” Cabell, eight colonels and many field officers were either captured or were casualties. All eight Confederate artillery pieces engaged in the battle were captured. After two more rearguard actions at the Battles of the Little Osage River and Charlot’s Farm, Missouri on October 25th, Price ordered the destruction of half of his supply and ammunition trains near Deerfield, Missouri. Over 600 Confederate prisoners were marched from Ft. Scott, Kansas to Warrensburg, Missouri where they were placed in railroad cattle cars and shipped to St. Louis and prison.

THE PAINTING

The Union charge began at approximately 11:00am on a bright, sunny, October morning. The center of the Confederate battle line was occupied by a four-gun battery on the Ft. Scott Road with Marmaduke’s division deployed to the right and Fagan’s division to the left.

The painting depicts the Union attack at the center of the Confederate battle line. Elements of the 4th Iowa and 10th Missouri Cavalry strike the center of the line and turn the right flank of Marmaduke’s division. Most of the Confederates are armed with single shot infantry muskets and shotguns, which quickly become clubs, as they cannot be reloaded on horseback. Many of the weapons are discarded as the troopers become dismounted and attempt to cross the creek safely. 

The Union combat veterans are better armed and equipped. The 4th Iowa and 2nd New Jersey are armed with sabers; revolvers and seven- shot Spencer repeating carbines. The remainder of the Union troops is armed with a variety of breech loading carbines and revolvers. Philips brigade consisted of the partisan guerrilla warfare that raged throughout Missouri and eastern Kansas during the entire Civil War. To compound the confusion of the battle, many of the Confederates were wearing parts of captured Union uniforms. Several Confederate artillerymen attempted to save their guns by pulling them back towards Mine Creek because they could not retrieve their horses to limber the guns and move them to the rear. There, on the north side of Mine Creek with the support of 500 dismounted comrades they were able to stem the Union attack for about 20 minutes before they were captured or killed.

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