Location: Jackson County
Campaign: Priceís Missouri Expedition (1864)
Date(s): October 22-23, 1864
Principal Commanders: Maj. Gen. Samuel R. Curtis [US]; Maj. Gen. Sterling Price [CS] Maj. Gen. James G. Blunt and Maj. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton [US]; Brig. Gen. Joseph Shelby and Brig. Gen. John S. Marmaduke [CS]
Forces Engaged: Army of the Border [US]; Army of Missouri [CS] 1st Division, Army of the Border and provisional cavalry division [US]; Shelby and Marmadukeís Divisions [CS]
Estimated Casualties: 3,000 total (US 1,500; CS 1,500)
Description: Maj. Gen. Sterling Priceís Missouri Expedition had changed course from St. Louis and Jefferson City to Kansas City and Fort Leavenworth. As his army neared Kansas City, Maj. Gen. Samuel R. Curtisís Army of the Border blocked its way west, while Maj. Gen. Alfred Pleasontonís provisional cavalry division was closing on their rear. Price decided that he needed to deal with the two Union forces and decided to attack them one at a time. With Pleasonton still behind him, Price chose to strike Curtis at Westport first. Curtis had established strong defensive lines and during a four-hour battle, the Confederates hurled themselves at the Union forces but to no avail. The Rebels could not break the Union lines and retreated south. Westport was the decisive battle of Priceís Missouri Expedition, and from this point on, the Rebels were in retreat.
Price had nearly 500 wagons with him and required a good ford over the Big Blue River to facilitate the passage of his supplies. Byramís Ford was the best ford in the area and became a strategic point during the fighting around Westport. On October 22, Maj. Gen. James G. Bluntís division held a defensive position on the Big Blue Riverís west bank. Around 10:00 am on the 22nd, part of Brig. Gen. Joseph O. Shelbyís Confederate division conducted a frontal attack on Bluntís men. This attack was a ruse because the rest of Shelbyís men flanked Bluntís hasty defenses, forcing the Federals to retire to Westport. Priceís wagon train and about 5,000 head of cattle then crossed the Big Blue River at Byramís Ford and headed southward toward Little Santa Fe and safety. Pleasontonís cavalry was hot on the tail of Priceís army. Brig. Gen. John S. Marmadukeís Rebel division held the west bank of the Big Blue at Byramís Ford to prevent Pleasonton from attacking Priceís rear. Pleasonton assaulted Marmaduke at Byramís Ford, around 8:00 am, on the 23rd. Three hours later, Marmadukeís men had enough and fell back toward Westport. With Pleasonton across the river, he was now an additional threat to Price who was fighting Curtisís Army of the Border at Westport. Price had to retreat south.
Result(s): Union victory
"The Battle of Westport was the largest battle fought west of the Mississippi River. It was nicknamed the "Gettysburg of the West" and "Missouri's Gettysburg". Like Gettysburg, the Battle of Westport was a failed Confederate attempt to sever Union territory at the point of attack. This battle was the last big battle in this state and ended the Civil War in Missouri."
Quotation from: Josephy, Alvin M The Civil War in the American West. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf 1991 pp. 383-4).
Source Heritage Preservation Services, National Park Service: http://www2.cr.nps.gov/abpp/battles/mo026.htm
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