In the summer of 1861, the Union and the Confederacy struggled for control of Missouri. Brig. Gen. Nathaniel Lyon’s Army of the West was camped at Springfield, Missouri, with Confederate troops under the command of Brig. Gen. Ben McCulloch and Maj. Gen. Sterling Price approaching. On August 9, both sides formulated plans to attack the other. About 5:00 am on the 10th, Lyon, in two columns commanded by himself and Col. Franz Sigel, attacked the Confederates on Wilson’s Creek about 12 miles southwest of Springfield. Rebel cavalry received the first blow and fell back away from Bloody Hill. Confederate forces soon rushed up and stabilized their positions. The Confederates attacked the Union forces three times that day but failed to break through the Union line. Lyon was killed during the battle and Maj. Samuel D. Sturgis replaced him. Meanwhile, the Confederates had routed Sigel’s column, south of Skegg’s Branch. Following the third Confederate attack, which ended at 11:00 am, the Union forces withdrew. Sturgis realized, however, that his men were exhausted and his ammunition was low, so he ordered a retreat to Springfield. The Confederates were too disorganized and ill-equipped to pursue. This Confederate victory buoyed southern sympathizers in Missouri and served as a springboard for a bold thrust north that carried Price and his Missouri State Guard as far as Lexington. In late October, a rump convention, convened by Governor Claiborne Fox Jackson, met in Neosho and passed an ordinance of secession. Wilson’s Creek, the most significant 1861 battle in Missouri, gave the Confederates control of southwestern Missouri.
text provided by the American Battlefield Protection Program
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