Rodeo, New Mexico
January 1, 2005
Independence Day 1861: For the Confederacy, Missouri Governor Claiborne Jackson and 4,000 armed State Militia (plus 2,000 unarmed volunteers), retreating to join friendly Confederate forces in Southwest Missouri and Confederate Arkansas. For the Union, Colonel Franz Sigel, German revolutionary, or "forty-eighter" (referring to the failed 1848 German revolution espousing communist ideas of Marx and Engels), led mostly German-American troops of 1,100. Needless to say, the "forty-eighters" were no longer very welcome in Germany, so a slew of them immigrated to the U.S. They staunchly backed Abraham Lincoln and the Union cause.
The Union plan was to have been a double attack on Claiborne’s Confederate forces, frontal by Sigel, and from the rear by Union General Nathaniel Lyon and his 3,900 troops. But Lyon’s troops were delayed by rain-swollen rivers and supply problems. When Claiborne learned that his militia greatly outnumbered Sigel’s, he decided, rather than continue his retreat, that he’d stay to fight. The battle began on the morning of July 5th, about 9 miles north of Carthage, and became a moving battle that lasted all day and into the night. In Sigel’s words, "Our rearguard took possession of the town to give the remainder of the troops time to rest, as they had, after a march of 22 miles on the 4th and 18 miles on the 5th, been in action the whole day since 9am, exposed to intense heat, almost without eating or drinking. The enemy, taking advantage of his cavalry, forded Spring River at different points, spread through the woods, and partly dismounted, harassed our troops from all sides." In the end, Claiborne’s larger forces were simply too much for Sigel’s, who retreated 2 ½ miles beyond Carthage before Claiborne’s men gave up the chase. Union casualties included 13 killed and 76 wounded, while Confederate forces sustained 30 killed and 125 wounded. Though some Civil War researchers have taken issue with this "victory" and termed it more of a "draw", the outcome was a strong morale booster for the Confederacy.
Re-enactments of this battle were held in 2000 and 2003. The Civil War Museum in downtown Carthage, on 205 S. Grant, (phone number 417/237-7060) gives more details and depth to the story.
From journal Spirits of Carthage, Missouri