Year
1861

Union and Rebel forces clash at Carthage, Missouri

On this day, the first large-scale engagement of the Civil War is fought in southwestern Missouri, signaling an escalation in the hostilities between the North and South.

Missouri was the scene of some of the most bitter partisan fighting during the war, and the state was deeply divided after the clash at Fort Sumter, South Carolina in April 1861. The Missouri State Guardsmen, a force of 6,000 men commanded by Confederate Governor Claiborne Jackson and Colonel Sterling Price, were poorly equipped and outfitted mostly in civilian clothing. Their Union counterpart was a force of 1,100, mostly German-Americans from St. Louis, commanded by General Franz Sigel.

Sigel’s force occupied Springfield in late June, and then collided with the Confederates at nearby Carthage on July 5. Outnumbered, Sigel eventually withdrew, but was able to hold off several small attacks. By nightfall, the Union troops had retreated through Carthage and escaped a dangerous trap. Both sides declared victory, and losses were light: 13 Union men were killed and 31 were wounded, while 40 Confederates were killed and 120 were wounded. The forces remained in the area of Springfield, Missouri, gathering strength over the next month. They would fight again in August at Wilson’s Creek, Missouri.

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