History - Missouri Civil War

Missouri was the site of more Civil War battles and engagements than any other state besides Virginia and Tennessee. In fact, in 1861, the year the war began, nearly 45 percent of the fighting and most, if not all of the casualties occurred in this state. In addition, Missouri provided nearly 200,000 troops to both sides of the war effort, which represented more soldiers in proportion to its population than any other state.


Missouri’s geographic location was important to military communication and travel, with three major waterways, the Missouri, the Mississippi, and the Ohio Rivers, either touching the state or running directly through it. Missouri also had raw materials to make weapons, and agricultural products to feed the troops and their horses.

Brigadier General Nathanial Lyon

Nathanial Lyon, a West Point graduate and veteran of the Mexican War, was assigned to guard the federal arsenal of weapons in St. Louis in February of 1861. At that time, although the population of Missouri was relatively neutral in the dispute between the North and the South, there was concern that Claiborne F. Jackson, Missouri’s pro-Southern Governor, would call for the state to secede from the Union and attempt to seize the military supplies for use by the Confederate troops.

After several displays of his power, General Lyon met with Governor Jackson in St. Louis. When the men failed to reach an agreement, Lyon declared war against Jackson and the Missouri State Guard.

The governor fled first to Jefferson City, and then retreated to Boonville. Lyon moved his troops up the Missouri River through Hermann, and captured Jefferson City on June 13. He then defeated the Missouri State Guard at Boonville on June 17th.

In July, Lyon and 6,000 Union troops were encamped at Springfield, Missouri planning to continue their assault on the Confederate troops that had fled to the southwest corner of the state. At the same time the Missouri State Guard under the command of Sterling Price and Confederate troops under General Benjamin McCulloch decided to consolidate their efforts to defeat Lyon.

Painted by Alonzo Chappel,

credited to Johnson Fry & Co. Publishers, New York

Their combined Confederate forces numbered about 12,000 as they made plans to attack Lyon and his troops at Springfield. On the morning of August 10, 1861, the two sides met a few miles south of Springfield, in what would become known as the Battle of Wilson’s Creek. Lyon was shot in the head, leg, and chest, and was killed while trying to lead his outnumbered troops. After six hours of fighting, the Union had suffered 1,317 killed, wounded and missing, and the Confederate Army lost 1,230.

Although the Union Army suffered a defeat at Wilson’s Creek, Nathanial Lyon’s swift action and pro-Union stance were credited with weakening the effectiveness of the Confederate forces and he became the North’s first military hero.

General Lyon was the first Union General

to die in battle during the Civil War at the

Battle of Wilson’s Creek on August 10, 1861

Virtue & Co. Publishers, New York



General George McClellan

From November 1861 to March 1862, George McClellan was the general in chief of all the Union armies. He was well known as a favorite of the troops and as a highly skilled organizer. He had mixed success in his military career, however, because he constantly overestimated the strength of the enemy forces he was facing, and his carefully devised plans were often not executed or executed too late to be effective.

In 1864, McClellan was nominated for President by the Democratic Party, but lost the election to Lincoln. He later served as governor of New Jersey for 1878 to 1881.

Painted by Alonzo Chappel,

credited to Johnson Fry & Co. Publishers, New York



General John Fremont

John Fremont was named the commander of the Western Department on July 3, 1861. He was already well known in America as an explorer, and a leader in the Mexican War for which he gained the nickname, “Pathfinder”. He served as one of California’s first senators, and his antislavery position caused him to be chosen as the Republican Party’s first presidential nominee in 1856.

After the Union’s loss at Wilson’s Creek, Fremont was determined to gain an advantage over the secessionists, and he issued a proclamation at the end of August 1861, declaring that southern sympathizers carrying arms would be shot and their slaves would be freed. While this pleased the antislavery Republicans, Lincoln felt it was too divisive a position and removed Fremont as leader of the Western Department only 100 days into his assignment.

Painted by Alonzo Chappel,

credited to Johnson Fry & Co. Publishers, NY



General John Sappington Marmaduke

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Marmaduke resigned from the U.S. army and later accepted a commission in the Confederate army, distinguishing himself at Shiloh in 1862, and was sent to Arkansas and Missouri as brigadier general. Commanding the cavalry on Sterling Price’s raid into Missouri in 1864, he was captured at Marais des Cygnes River and was held prisoner until the end of the Civil War. Marmaduke was elected governor of Missouri in 1884.


In October of 1864, during his drive through Missouri as part of Price’s Raid, Marmaduke’s men camped at the site of the Husmann-Manwaring Nursery, just outside of Hermann in Gasconade County, Missouri. Husmann later wrote that the Confederates destroyed many vines and fruit trees and emptied all of his barrels of cider and wine into the Missouri River before continuing their journey.



The Battle of Hermann

While all available militia regiments were called in to reinforce the troops in Jefferson City and Rolla in late September of 1864, Hermann was left with few defenders. When Price’s Confederate armies approached Hermann, the older men that remained in town used multiple shots from single cannon to confuse the Confederates and cause them to assume that the town was well guarded. The famous cannon remains in Hermann as a memento of the war.


Hermann Farm is operated by a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charitable foundation dedicated to preserving and presenting the history and heritage of rural Missouri for the education and enjoyment of current and future generations. Acknowledgements.