Actions around Jefferson City, Missouri


October 1864

The following is extracted from an article appearing in the January 1996 issue of the M. M. Parsons' Camp Newsletter, The Governor's Guard.   The article was written by Parsons' Camp member Jeffrey C. Smith.  Many thanks to Compatriot Smith for allowing it to be reproduced here.


On the 5th, the Southern forces passed Linn, advancing on Jefferson City, on a 14 mile march. Shelby's Division took Westphalia, where a Union regiment had been reported but could not be found.

On the following day, Colonel David Shanks, commanding Shelby's Brigade, was sent by Brigadier Gen. Shelby to destroy yet another Pacific Railroad bridge - this time over the Osage River between Linn and the Capital City. Shelby’s division continued to advance, crossing the Osage [River] six miles below Castle Rock, at Bolten Shoals, on the same day. Resistance here was vigorous; according to Price’s report, "The enemy disputed the passage warmly, but in vain."

At Castle Rock later that day, colonel B. Frank Gordon (5th Missouri Cavalry Regiment, Shelby’s Brigade) forced another crossing of the Osage and Shelby’s entire division bivouacked just seven miles from Jefferson City.

Resistance grew more desperate the next day as the Southerners closed in on Jefferson City. General Rosecrans, the Union commander, had already summoned the militia as well as troops from northern Missouri, Warrensburg, and Fort Leavenworth to reinforce the city.

Fagan and his division crossed the Osage early in the morning and encountered the enemy "in large force" about five miles from the city near Berry Springs (remember the city was much smaller then). Fagan’s men drove the Union Forces back to the Moreau. Here the Federals were reinforced, but to no avail. After a struggle, the Yankees broke and ran and Fagan’s men seized the heights south, and in full view of the city. The city could see them too, and many stood on the rooftops to see a trail of refugees, then the Southerners. Other citizens left the city westward as fast as they could go.

"Pap" move the rest of his army closer, marching up Green Berry Road, establishing positions as night fell, just two miles south of the city where food and water were to be found. That night, he ordered Brigadier General Shelby to burn the bridges and destroy the rail lines west of the city toward California, Missouri.

Price also made the unusual move of appointing Brigadier General M. Jeff Thompson to command Shelby’s Brigade, which had been commanded by Colonel David Shanks until his wounding and capture the previous day. This was unusual because, despite his repeated protestations, Thompson did not hold a confederate commission and was serving still as a member of the Missouri State Guard. Thompson did very well in his new "conventional warfare" role, and ended the fight at Jefferson City commanding Shelby’s rear guard.

Price met that night with his generals and with disappointed Missouri Governor Thomas C. Reynolds, who had accompanied Price’s army north, at the Bartholomew Wallendorf house, just off Frog Hollow Road, which had been built in 1860. Spies had told Price that there were 12,000 Federals in the city under Union General McNeill, 3,000 more across the [Missouri] river by the North Missouri Railroad, and 7,000 more on the way from St. Louis. Since that was nearly twice his number, and they were in a prepared position, Price decided to follow his original orders and continue to the west along a line from Boonville to Sedalia to Lexington then to Independence, without taking the state capital.

The picket lines of the two armies were so close that the men could see and hear each other. The result was ragged rifle fire off and on throughout the night. The battle lines were about four miles long, stretching east, south, and west of the city. Fagan’s men were on a wooded height west of the [old] Fairgrounds, and Shelby’s were west of the city.

The 7th found Price’s army south of Jefferson City, with only Fagan’s division engaged. He was able to drive the enemy from several strong fortified lines, despite reinforcements and repeated rallies. Finally, [the enemy] fell back into the city’s fortifications, where they were too strong to be assaulted successfully.

A plaque, originally paced by the United Daughters of the Confederacy at the intersection of Moreau Drive [same road as Green Berry] and Hough Park Road, marked the nearest Confederate advance to the Capital City. The plaque has since been moved to Moreau Drive and Fairmount Boulevard, [more accurately] near the original site.