Marmaduke’s Raid & Shelby’s Raid

In late December 1862, Brigadier General James G. Blunt applied considerable pressure to Northwest Arkansas by pressing southward with 8,000 troops and 30 pieces of artillery. Major General Thomas C. Hindman, Confederate commander of the army in Northwest Arkansas, ordered Brigadier General John Sappington Marmaduke to move rapidly and “strike the enemy in the rear or flank, in order to withdraw the heavy masses (infantry, cavalry, and artillery), under Blunt, then moving toward the Arkansas River, back into Missouri.”

While leading a portion of his cavalry division north into Missouri in early January, 1863, Marmaduke learned the supply depot at Springfield, Missouri was weakly garrisoned. Up to this point, Marmaduke’s force consisted of two independent columns; the first, under his immediate command, and a second, under Colonel Joseph C. Porter. The two columns left at separate times from Arkansas and planned to rendezvous at Hartville, Missouri. Believing he could capture Springfield, Marmaduke turned away from Hartville. Marmaduke attacked Springfield on January 8, 1863. Marmaduke had hoped to surprise Springfield’s garrison, but Union Captain Milton Burch’s Company H, 14th Missouri State Militia Cavalry Regiment, while scouting near Dubuque, Arkansas, on January 6, 1863, had detected Marmaduke’s movements.

Burch’s warning message to Union Brigadier General E. B. Brown at Springfield allowed for the Enrolled Missouri Militia to concentrate their forces at Springfield. Heavy fighting began around 1pm when Confederate Colonel Jo Shelby launched regiment-sized attacks in succession against the Union’s east flank, left center, right center, west flank, and a second time against the right center as he probed for weaknesses in the Union battle line. Confederate forces then charged at various points in the Union line with little success. Realizing that his force was too small to defeat the Union garrison, Marmaduke disengaged his Confederate forces about 11 p.m. He retreated from the battlefield on the morning of January 9.

Marmaduke reestablished communication with Porter the following day and ordered him to Hartville. On the road to Hartville, Marmaduke bypassed Union forces sent to reinforce Springfield. Union troops converged on Hartville taking position on the high ground west of the courthouse. Colonel Shelby and Porter’s commands launched an immediate attack on Union forces before conducting any reconnaissance work, and the result had devastating effects.

Confederate forces attacked repeatedly but were repelled. As the Confederates discovered the precise location of the Union battleline, the Confederates began concentrating their fire from the buildings in town. A portion of the Union line began to break and elements retreated, including the Union’s artillery. Confederate commanders noted the Union withdrawal, and presumed victory. The Union position west of the courthouse, however, was covered by ample brush and trees for coverage. While some Union forces indeed retreated from the battlefield, the 21st Iowa Infantry did not receive the order to retreat, so they held their ground in the bush. As Colonel Porter and his column reached the courthouse they realized their mistake as the enemy, only 50 yards away from his men, opened fire. Porter was wounded in the leg and hand and died from his wounds on February 18.

Confederate forces were plagued by poor coordination and inadequate reconnaissance during Marmaduke’s 1863 raid. Their inability to capture supplies at Springfield, followed by poorly conceived attacks and high casualties at Hartville, left the Confederate command demoralized and ready to retreat to Arkansas. However, upon reflection Marmaduke reported that the impact of his actions in Missouri should be considered at least a partial success. He noted, “I think I may safely state that the object of the expedition was fully accomplished, and more. Blunt’s Army of the Frontier countermarched rapidly to save Springfield; a long chain of forts, strong in themselves, built at great expense and labor, which overawed and kept in subjection the country, were razed to the ground, and the heart of the people revived again at the presence of Confederate troops.”

By early fall 1863, Confederate fortunes in the Trans-Mississippi Theater still appeared bleak, however. Marmaduke had failed to capture Springfield, Missouri, Sterling Price’s attempt to take the Mississippi River town of Helena had been defeated, and the Arkansas capital of Little Rock had fallen to Union General Frederick Steele. Missouri Colonel Joseph Shelby proposed to change the strategic outlook by leading a bold cavalry raid into Missouri. Such a raid would keep Federal troops in Missouri occupied and unable to assist other Union operations, and would give hope to Confederate sympathizers in the state. On September 22, Shelby rode out of Arkadelphia, Arkansas, and crossed into Missouri on October 2. He found reinforcements along the way, so that by the time he approached the town of Neosho his force numbered about 1,200 men. Shelby compelled the Federal garrison at Neosho to surrender, burned Bower’s Mill, then continued to march north to Greenfield, Stockton, Humansville and Warsaw, destroying or capturing anything of military value. At Tipton, his men tore up the Missouri Pacific Railroad. The initial Union response to Shelby’s Raid was sluggish, with the fast-moving Confederates easily eluding their pursuers. At Boonville on October 11, however, Shelby’s rear guard clashed with pursuing Federals led by General E.B. Brown. The Confederates moved to Marshall, and there discovered that Brown had divided his force to strike them from both front and rear.

Shelby divided his force as well to deal with both Union threats. The Battle of Marshall ensued on October 13. Brown moved his men to outflank and surround the Confederates, but Shelby’s force split in two and managed to break through the encircling Federals. Both columns, although pursued, successfully retreated south, and on November 3 arrived in Washington, Arkansas. Shelby’s Raid lasted 41 days and covered 1,500 miles. Shelby claimed to have used and destroyed a large amount of Union supplies and destroyed $800,000 in rails, ties, telegraph wires, bridges and piers. The great cavalry commander was soon promoted to brigadier general, but his daring raid did not cause any permanent harm to the Union cause in Missouri.

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