Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Battle of Westport

The Battle of Westport was the biggest battle fought west of the Mississippi River in the Civil War and took place on October 22 and October 23, 1864. It was fought at Westport, Missouri near Kansas City. The Confederate forces were led by General Sterling Price who had been a popular Governor in Missouri. The Union had General Samuel Curtis leading the army with headquarters in Kansas City and General Alfred Pleasonton leading the calvary.

Price led his Army of Missouri back to the state via Arkansas in early September 1864. He had the three fold mission of diverting Union forces from the East where Confederate armies were struggling, winning the state back from the North and turning public opinion against the Republicans with the hopes of hurting them including President Lincoln in the next election. Price had a six week run before the last decisive conflict. He had entered the state 12,000 strong but his numbers were down to 8,500 by Westport.

Price knew he was being pinned between the Union army with 17,000 before him and the calvary of Pleasonton with 4,100 approaching from behind. The tactic was to first attack the Curtis led troops and then turn to face the calvary. The Confederates were fresh off victories at Lexington and Independence in the previous few days and had one more on October 22. The Kansas calvary led by Col. Charles "Doc" Jennison were the Union force that met the Confederate calvary under General Jo Shelby and tried to stop them from crossing the Big Blue River at Byram's Ford. The Union were able to hold off the initial assault before the Confederates crossed further down river and then flanked Jennison's forces which made them retreat to Westport where the bulk of Curtis' army was.

The morning of October 23 started out well for Price and the Confederate troops as they drove the Union across Brush Creek. They could not continue the advance because the did not have the supplies to continue including Shelby's calvary running out of ammunition. Pleasonton's calvary was attacking from one side and Curtis's troops turned the Confederates and soon they were in full retreat to the southwest. To aid their escape Price's men set the prairie grass ablaze allowing them to get away under the cover of the smoke. The two union forces stopped pursuit as they were exhausted and reluctant to continue fighting. When it was over about 1500 were dead on each side.

American Civil War page

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