Price’s Raid

The final major Confederate offensive in the Trans-Mississippi Theater began on September 19, 1864, when Major General Sterling Price led approximately 12,000 cavalrymen from northeast Arkansas into southeast Missouri. His objectives were many — gain recruits, capture St. Louis, install a pro-Confederate governor in Jefferson City, draw Union troops away from other threatened parts of the Confederacy, and possibly influence the upcoming presidential election.

On September 27, a portion of Price’s army unsuccessfully attacked the well-defended Union post of Fort Davidson (Pilot Knob), resulting in more than 1,000 Confederate casualties. Price’s men then continued their march, threatening St. Louis, but finding the city too well defended, they moved west toward Jefferson City.

Price found the state capital too strong to be attacked as well, and continued to head west, arriving in Boonville on October 9. Several days later, the Confederates enjoyed some success by capturing Union supply caches at Glasgow and Sedalia.

In the meantime, the Federals organized their forces to defeat Price. Union General Samuel Curtis and a large force of Union volunteers and Kansas militia waited to the west; a Union cavalry and an infantry division closed in on the rear of the Confederate column. The stage was set for a decisive battle.

Curtis and Blunt adopted a defensive stance near Westport. At the Battle of Westport on October 23, 1864, Price’s army was forced to fight on two fronts – Curtis and Blunt in one direction, Major General Alfred Pleasanton’s Union cavalry division in the other. Incredibly, after fierce fighting, Price was able to successfully withdraw his army and a large wagon train from the battle and begin a retreat south.

Price retreated into Kansas, and on October 25 Union cavalrymen struck two of his divisions as they tried to cross Mine Creek. The Confederate retreat and Union pursuit continued, but Price’s force was still lethal, as it successfully repulsed a Union attack at Newtonia on October 28. The pursuit of Price’s army finally ended on November 8 along the Arkansas River in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), and on November 28 Price reached Clarksville, Texas.

All told, Price’s men covered more than 1,400 miles and fought three major battles, along with numerous skirmishes, with highly debatable results. For the rest of the war, the Confederates remained on the defensive in the Trans-Mississippi.

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