On this day in 1864, Confederate General Sterling Price invades Missouri and engages Union pickets near Fort Davidson at Pilot Knob. Price’s troops captured the fort within two days and scattered the Union defenders, but also suffered heavy losses. Going into the battle, the Confederate military fortunes were at an all-time low, and Price had hoped the mission would destabilize Missouri just prior to the fall elections and give new hope to the Confederate cause. He also hoped to capture one of the major cities in Missouri and secure supplies for his troops. However, he failed to achieve these goals.
Price mounted his campaign from Pocahontas, Arkansas, and entered Missouri in mid-September. After encountering the Union pickets on September 26, he hurled his 12,000 troops at lightly defended Fort Davidson on September 27. By the following day, the Confederates had driven the 1,400 Yankee defenders away, but the attack was costly. Some 1,000 of Priceâ€™s troops were killed or wounded, and the Confederates gained little in the way of strategic value or political impact.
The rest of Price’s raid didn’t fare any better. He was harassed by state militia and had difficulty raising supplies. Additionally, Union resistance at important points such as the capital, Jefferson City, was much greater than expected. Through October, Price drove north to St. Louis, west to Kansas City, and then south into Texas. Much of his force disintegrated along the way, and in November Missouri voters elected Radical Republicans, who advocated for the abolition of slavery, into office.