Monday, March 9, 2009

The Battle of Wilson's Creek

By: Rachel Potter

The Battle of Wilson's Creek was fought ten miles southwest of Springfield, Missouri on August 10, 1861. When the Civil War began in 1861, Missouri's loyalty was of great significance to the Federal Government. At the War's outset, Missouri's acrimoniously conflicting factions fashioned armies to decide which side the state would be on. The governor, Claiborne F. Jackson, held strong Southern sympathies and intended to collaborate with the Confederacy in its proposition for self-government. Lincoln had asked Missouri to form four regiments but Jackson refused. He instead determined to take a Federal arsenal nearby. Regrettably for the Rebels, Captain Lyon, the arsenal’s commander, heard of the arrangement and transferred the majority of the weapons to Illinois. He then marched out men to seize Camp Jackson and compel it to surrender. This he did quite effortlessly.

On August 9, both sides formulated plans to attack the other. About 5:00 am on the 10th, Lyon, in two columns controlled by himself and Colonel Franz Sigel, attacked the Confederates who were near Wilson's Creek about 12 miles southwest of Springfield. The Confederates attacked the Union forces three times that day but failed to fracture the Union line. Lyon was killed in the battle. He had been wounded twice (in the leg and head) before finally being killed at about 10:30. It was about this time that the third Confederate charge was in progress. Major Samuel D. Sturgis replaced him. Following the third Confederate assault, which ended at 11:00 am, the Confederates withdrew. Maj. Sturgis also ordered a withdrawal. This contentious choice was apparently provoked by Sturgis' lack of assurance in the aptitude of his exhausted troops, who were almost out of ammunition, to resist another attack.