The Civil War began at 4:30 a.m., on the 12th of April, 1861, when the first Confederate shell smashed into Fort Sumter. Within weeks militia were being organized in both the North and the South. The bloody years of war that followed cost the lives of 600,000 men, two percent of the country's population. At the heart of the conflict, the issue of slavery divided states, nationalities, neighbors and even families.
Missouri sat on the border between North and South. Most of Missouri's American-born settlers were from southern states and were southern in sentiment. Generally, they lived on farms, and many owned slaves. But the state also had a large foreign-born population, most of whom were strongly in favor of the Union. A convention was called to determine what course Missouri should take in the war, and the state took a position of armed neutrality.
It was determined that neither North or South should invade the state and that Missouri would raise an army of its own for the purpose of protecting itself against the government of which it was a part and against its neighbor states that had seceded from the Union. The Missouri State Guards were organized. In Fact, the tide of feeling on both sides rose too high to allow the state to remain neutral. Armies, both North and South, entered its borders and thousands of its citizens enlisted, some fighting for the Union, some for the South.
In no other part of Missouri was the loss of property and life more devastating than is Southeast Missouri. While only a few large-scale military operations between uniformed armies occurred, the complex mix of military units operating in the region made it a bloody battlefield for four long years. Northern sympathizers who were not in the regular Union army formed The Missouri Enrolled Militia which engaged in constant warfare with Missouri Confederate militia. Federal troops, intent on preventing a Confederate invasion from the south, moved back and forth through the region. Confederate armies, determined to gain a foothold in Missouri, marched through the Region from the South.
Guerrilla bands, some loyal to the North, others with allegiance to the South, engaged in some of the most widespread, longest-lived and most destructive guerrilla warfare of the Civil War. The war had the effect of brutalizing its participants. Soldiers who, on only months before sat in church pews singing hymns, and who would return to those same pews after the war, found themselves capable of unspeakable atrocities. Individuals and families suspected of opposing sympathies were murdered. Homes and businesses were looted and burned. Civilians and fighters, men, women, and children were swept into the nightmare. Soldiers who returned home after the war often found nothing left. Whole families had fled to safer areas. Homes had been burned, fences torn down and used for firewood and livestock slaughtered or gone wild. Weeds and undergrowth overran what once had been fertile fields.
Fortunately many buildings and sites associated with the Civil War in the Southeast Missouri Region escaped destruction, and remain to help tell the story. Historic sites, monuments, and Civil War battle reenactments help interpret important clashes between Union and Confederate forces. Old churches and cemeteries with unmarked slave graves remind us that before Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, slavery was an important aspect of the economy. We invite you to take a journey back in time to this turbulent era as you explore the highways and byways of the Southeast Missouri Region.
Throughout the war, both federal and confederate troops moved through Bollinger County regularly. The sentiment of much of the population of the county was with the south, making its residents particularly vulnerable to attacks by Union soldiers. Dallas (now Marble Hill), the largest town in the county, and the county seat, was the frequent destination of units from both sides. Passing armies and roving guerrilla bands ravished the countryside slaughtering livestock for food, stripping fields of corn and often burning farms.
A plaque located on the courthouse lawn in Marble Hill recalls Civil War actions in the County. Marble Hill, then called Dallas, was the scene of considerable activity. In January, 1862, Major Jones Rawalt, with 100 Union troops, took 18 prisoners in the town, and from April 2 to 4 of that year, Marble Hill was occupied by Col. S.D. Kitchens, with 120 Confederate troops who held its citizens prisoners. On August 24, 1862, some 300 Confederates under Col. W. L. Jeffers attacked four companies of the Twelfth Cavalry Missouri State Militia led by Major B. L. Lazear, on Crooked Creek in Bollinger County. After a short fight, the Union troops were driven back.
Across the street from the courthouse, the Massey Log House (1869) gives visitors a good impression of what home life was like during the Civil War era. The house is furnished with period pieces and artifacts, including an iron cook stove and original bedstead. The house is open to the public on weekends from Memorial Day until October.
Marble Hill lies along the Old Military Road from Jackson to Greenville, a road much traveled by both Union and Confederate troops during the war. It is along the Old Military Road that visitors will find the grave of the lone Union soldier. During the war a group of Union soldiers traveling the road stopped at a home along the way to ask for milk for a wounded soldier being carried in a wagon. The injured man died a short time later and was buried beside the road. For many years the grave had no marker. One evening a couple passing by the grave noticed something white. They discovered a tombstone with the inscription "W. Woods, Union Soldier. Died For His Country." No one ever learned who had placed the marker. Nearby, in Wayne County, a monument in the Cowen Cemetery marks the graves of seven Confederate soldiers, several with family ties in Bollinger County, who were shot by Union troops in Arkansas after they surrendered on May 28, 1865.
The story of the Patterson family who lived four miles south of Marble Hill, is a vivid reminder of the savagery of the war. Here, along what was once the main trail to Zalma, William Patterson, a Confederate officer, his wife, and their four young children were murdered, and their bodies weighted with rocks and thrown into the deep spring on their farm. The family's house was burned and it was several weeks before the bodies were found. They were buried on a hill near the spring. After the murders, late travelers on the old trail told of seeing a blue light that seemed to float above the spring on dark, stormy nights, and the spring came to be thought of as haunted. Visitors often spent the night in Marble Hill rather than traveling past the spring at night.
Greenbriar Cemetery, in southern Bollinger County, contains a mass grave discovered many years ago. An investigation of the grave determined the plot contained the remains of Confederate solders. Uniforms, coats, buttons and skeletal remains were found. The remains are thought by some to be those of Confederate troops under the command of Captain Daniel McGee who were killed by Union troops in the Mingo Swamp on February 3 or 4, 1863. Although accounts may very, over 20 Confederates were killed in the encounter, while no Union soldiers were injured. Although McGee is documented in the National Archives as being a Confederate officer, Union troops at the time considered him an outlaw.
Cape Girardeau County
Cape Girardeau county occupies a strategic location on the Mississippi River, a major artery used for transporting troops and supplies during the Civil War. The county was the scene of fierce and continued fighting during the Civil War. A number of well preserved structures and sites remain in Cape Girardeau County to help guide visitors through the tumultuous years of the Civil War.
The City of Cape Girardeau was taken possession of by Federal forces under Colonel Marsh and the 20th Illinois Regiment in July, 1861 and remained under Union control throughout the war. Here Marsh built four forts and named them A,B,C, and D. Fort D was the most heavily armed and was the only fort not leveled after the war. The fort, located at the corner of Locust Street and Fort Street, is now a city park. The fort contained both 24 and 32 pound cannons that could fire across the Mississippi River. Only once during the war did Fort D fire upon Confederate gunboats coming up the river. Fort B was located on a hill on what is now the campus of Southeast Missouri State University.
The Common Pleas Courthouse, located on Spanish Street. was erected in 1854. The courthouse is located atop a terraced hill overlooking the Mississippi River. During the Civil War the courthouse served as headquarters for the provost marshal and as a jail for Confederate prisoners. A Union monument and fountain on the grounds feature a statue of a Union soldier. A Confederate war memorial, erected in 1931, was recently moved to the courthouse grounds. The monument, fashioned of Georgia marble, stands over 14 feet high.
Nearby, explore the Old Lorimier Cemetery. Located on Fountain Street, the six acre cemetery was established by Don Louis Lorimier in 1808 and contains the graves of veterans of both the Revolutionary and Civil War. Many of the graves, though, are unmarked.
The Minton House, located at 444 Washington Street, was built in 1846. The brick house with stucco exterior, is one of the oldest houses in Cape Girardeau. The house was occupied at the outbreak of the war by Matthew H. Moore, a prominent lawyer and publisher of the Cape Girardeau Weekly. During the war the house was used as a Union smallpox hospital.
Nearby the City of Jackson was the scene of bustling military activity during the war. At the entrance to the Jackson Cemetery a massive stone monument marks the final resting place of Confederate Colonel William L. Jeffers who enlisted in Jackson in 1861.
Further west, visit Bollinger Mill State Historic Site. The original mill was owned by Samuel and George Daugherty at the outbreak of the war. Staunch southern sympathizers, the Daugherty's supplied rebel troops with flour. The mill was burned by Federal troops in September, 1861. The current three story brick millhouse was built in 1868. The covered bridge, built on two massive stone piers, was begun in 1860, but work on the bridge was interrupted by the war.
Iron county is rich in Civil War sites. At the beginning of the war, the Federal army planned to invade the southern part of the state from their headquarters at St. Louis. The first of these invasions occurred in July, 1861. A regiment under command of B. Gratz Brown was sent from St. Louis and took possession of the town of Plot Knob, which was then the terminus of the St. Louis & Iron Mountain Railroad. Pilot Knob remained a seat of Union military operations throughout the war.
On August 8,1861, Brown was relieved by the 21st Illinois Regiment under Ulysses S. Grant who would later become Commander of the Union army. Grant at this time held a colonel's commission; he had been appointed Brigadier-General, but had not received his commission. Grant made his headquarters at the house of Colonel James Lindsey in Ironton. It was here that he received his commission as a general. It was brought to him while standing under one of the great trees in the yard. A statue of a Union soldier on a native red granite base marks the spot. The statue was erected by the members of his regiment in 1886 on the grounds of what is now the Church of St. Marie du Lac.
The towns of Pilot Knob, Ironton and Arcadia lie in the Arcadia Valley of Iron County. In Ironton, the Iron County Courthouse, built in 1860, still bears the mark of a cannonball fired during the Battle of Pilot Knob. The courthouse was occupied several times by both Union and Confederate forces during the battle, and served as a barracks and hospital.
In nearby Pilot Knob, stands Fort Davidson, the target of the Battle of Pilot Knob in 1864. The fort is a hexagonal dirt earthwork, constructed by the Union Army. The fort stands 300 yards from the base of Pilot Knob Mountain and about 1,000 yards from the gap leading south to Ironton. Fixed armament included four heavy siege cannons, which threw 32 pound shells, three howitzers, which fired 24 pound shells and three 12-inch mortars. The fort was surrounded by a ten foot wide dry moat and had to be accessed by a drawbridge. The assault on Fort Davidson left over 800 Union and Confederate soldiers dead or wounded. Detailed information about the Battle of Pilot Knob is available at the Fort Davidson State Historic Site.
Immanuel Lutheran Church in Pilot Knob served as a Union field hospital during the Battle of Pilot Knob. The frame structure has the original pipe-organ, one-piece alter, pews and pulpit. Along Highway 72 in Arcadia stood the Union Fort Curtis, the site identified now by a granite marker. It commanded the high ground overlooking the junction of the road from Pilot Knob and Ironton to Fredericktown, now the site of the United Pentecostal Church. In 1863 it was abandoned for Fort Davidson because it was too far from the rail terminus and supply depot in Pilot Knob. Confederate officers used this site as an observation post during the battle.
The Liberty United Baptist Church is located 12 miles southeast of Arcadia on route E in the Marble Creek community. The church has original pews and other furnishings and was built soon after the congregation organized in 1857. It was damaged by soldiers during the Civil War.
The people of Madison County found themselves victims of guerrilla fighting and military activity throughout the war. Union Lt. Commander Lindsey Murdock reported, “We tried to make treason odious and compelled all disaffected persons to take the oath of allegiance. In September, 1861, I marched my command into the lower part of Madison County, which was largely occupied by the rebel forces. We raided the farmers capturing their property and taking them prisoners.”
Fredericktown, the county seat, was located on the heavily traveled road from Ironton to Cape Girardeau, and was several times occupied by both Federal and Confederate forces. It was just south of the City of Fredericktown, along the Greenville Road, that the Battle of Fredericktown occurred. A plaque on the lawn of the Madison County courthouse describes the battle and Civil War activity in the county. In St. Michael’s Catholic Cemetery in Fredericktown, visitors will find the grave of Col. Adin B. Lowe, a Confederate infantry commander who died during the Battle of Fredericktown.
At the Masonic Cemetery, on South Main Street in Fredericktown, a monument erected near the graves of fallen Confederate soldiers commemorates the battle. A large brick residence, located at 205 South Main Street, served as Col. Carlin’s headquarters during the Battle of Fredericktown. The handsome two-story structure was built in 1835 and now houses Cordelia’s Bed and Breakfast.
At Mine La Motte, located on Highway OO, three miles north of Fredericktown, visitors will find a monument which identifies Mine La Motte as the oldest lead mine west of the Mississippi. Lead mined at Mine La Motte was used for the manufacture of bullets for every military action of the United States from the American Revolution to the Korean Conflict. Following the Battle of Fredericktown, Union soldiers destroyed several furnaces at Mine La Motte to prevent the lead from falling into southern hands.
Although it experienced some scattered guerrilla activity, Perry County was spared much of the fighting which occurred in other counties of the Region. In a letter to Fort Davidson on September 14, 1864, Capt. Wm. T. Leeper opposed sending companies of men to Ste. Genevieve and Perry Counties because "they (the two counties) have been entirely at peace since the commencement of the war."
If Perry County escaped the bloodshed of the Civil War, it was not exempted from its impact on everyday life. In 1860 Perry County had a population of 9,128 and county residents owned 739 slaves. The economy of the county was largely agricultural, and slaves were used to help farm the land and perform household chores. The Emancipation Proclamation brought an end to slavery, and to a way of life for many county residents.
Visitors to the Brazeau Presbyterian Church, located in eastern Perry County, will find interesting examples of life during the Civil War period. The church was organized in 1819. A church was built on the site in Brazeau in 1833 and was replaced, in 1852, by the present church. The chairman of the building committee owned slaves and they were likely used to help fire the bricks for the structure. The early church roll included five African-Americans. A section of the upstairs balcony was reserved for slaves. The Brazeau Museum, located nearby, houses memorabilia of early life in the town, including a newspaper published the day President Lincoln was assassinated. The museum is open during the spring scenic drive, and upon request.
In nearby Frohna, visitors to the Saxon Lutheran Memorial can catch a glimpse of what living conditions were like for some of the slaves in the county. Here a log cabin, moved to the site from Brazeau, was used to house slaves by their owner. The tombstone of Bennett Murray, in the Campground Cemetery in southern Perry County, reminds visitors that the county was not completely free of guerrilla fighting. Murray was wounded and captured by Confederate soldiers in 1861, but escaped only to be killed by Confederate guerrillas on July 3, 1864.
The Seminary, of St. Mary of the Barrens in Perryville provides another perspective on the war. When the Union of the Confederacy instituted conscription, men owning more than 20 slaves were exempted from serving in the army. The Seminary was already well known and a number of southern landowners sent their sons here, both for an education, and to escape the dangers of the war. Father Abram J. Ryan taught at the seminary at the outbreak of the war. A southern sympathizer, he left his duties at the seminary and became a well-known chaplain in the Confederate army. A statue in Mobile, Alabama commemorates him as the "poet-priest of the Confederacy."
St. Francois County
St. Francois County remained firmly in Union hands throughout the war. The county was important to the Union because of its lead production. The St. Louis Iron Mountain Railroad also ran through the county, permitting rapid deployment of troops from St. Louis if necessary. Despite the heavy concentration of Union troops, there was Confederate guerrilla activity in St. Francois County throughout the war.
Sam Hildebrand was one of the most notorious southern guerrilla leaders to operate in the Southeast Missouri Region. He was born in 1836 in a home that had been built by his father near the Big River in 1832. Hildebrand's reign of terror began following the murder of his brother by Union vigilantes in Ste. Genevieve County at the start of the war. Hildebrand himself was attacked by Union soldiers at his farm in the Flatwoods area of St. Francois County. The wounded Hildebrand was taken to a rebel camp in Greene County, Arkansas where he was commissioned a major by Confederate General Jeff Thompson.
When he recovered, Hildebrand returned to the county and killed the two men he believed to be responsible. In retaliation, Federal troops burned the Hildebrand home and killed his 13 year old brother. Neighbors built a log cabin near the burned-out family home for his mother. Operating from a Confederate base in Arkansas, Hildebrand's knowledge of the area allowed him to make repeated forays into Southeast Missouri, often returning to the small community of Big River Mills north of Bonne Terre for supplies. A network of Confederate sympathizers provided Hildebrand and his men shelter and food, allowing them to escape Union traps.
For several weeks in 1864, Hildebrand and his men commandeered the St. Joe Lead Mines and manufactured lead for General Sterling Price to be used during his invasion of Missouri. Afterwards Price ordered the furnaces blown up so that they would not fall into Federal hands. The lead was stored near Big River Mills. While recovering the lead, Hildebrand's men were attacked by federal troops under Major Samuel Montgomery at Tyler's Mill at Big River. According to Montgomery, twenty one confederates were killed.
Hildebrand's raids earned him a hatred which lasted long after the war ended. Sam Hildebrand was killed in Pinckneyville, Illinois by a sheriff's deputy in May of 1872. He was buried in what is now the Hampton Cemetery in Park Hills. The grave is marked by a simple stone. Hildebrand's brother, William, served in the Union army.
In Park Hills, along old State Route 8, visitors can still view the 164 year old home of Dick Berryman, now a private residence. One of Hildebrand's closest friends, Berryman accompanied Hildebrand on several of his deadly raids into Southeast Missouri. During the war the house served as an underground recruiting center for the Confederate cause. One of Hildebrand's many local hideouts, the cave in St. Francois State Park in northern St. Francois County, still bears his name.
Ste. Genevieve County
Although Ste. Genevieve County escaped much of the violence of the Civil War, emotions ran high on both sides. Lewis V. Bogy, a prominent lawyer and former president of the St. Louis and Iron Mountain Railroad, gave up his law practice in Ste. Genevieve rather than sign the oath of allegiance.
On August 15th, 1861, a large Union force, commanded by Major John McDonald, arrived in Ste. Genevieve, surrounded the town, and remained in hiding until daybreak. Finding no Confederates closer than Pilot Knob, Major McDonald used the visit to relieve the Merchant's Bank of St. Louis, located in Ste. Genevieve, of $58,000 which he took back to St. Louis aboard the steamer Hannibal, openly threatening to return and take his vengeance upon those doing harm to local Union sympathizers.
During the war Federal troops occupied the Ste. Genevieve County courthouse, and, according to local lore, Union troops periodically used the belvedere atop the Southern Hotel as an observation post on the Mississippi River. Ste. Genevieve was at the eastern end of the Old Plank Road which was still used by Union troops. On March 9, 1863, company D of the 23rd Iowa Infantry marched to Ste. Genevieve along the badly-worn old road to embark on the down river trip to Vicksburg.
Events in Ste. Genevieve County also played a role in the emergence of the southern guerrilla leader Sam Hildebrand. While attempting to enlist in the Union army in November of 1861, Frank Hildebrand, Sam's brother, was arrested by Union vigilantes who sought a death warrant from a St. Francois County judge on a charge of horse stealing. The judge insisted on a fair trial, and Hildebrand was taken before Judge R. M. Cole in Ste. Genevieve County. When Judge Cole also insisted on due process, Frank was taken outside town and hung without trial, an event which fueled Sam Hildebrand's hatred of the north, and his determination to have revenge.
In the City of Ste. Genevieve visitors can gain a better understanding of the institution of slavery in the region. Founded in 1732, the use of slave labor had been an integral part of the area's economy for generations before the Civil War. Many of the old families had large farms. The masters lived in town and the farms were worked by the slaves. A field of wheat was cut by ten slaves abreast, swinging their scythes with others following them and shocking the wheat. A number of buildings in the old French Colonial section of the City of Ste. Genevieve have quarters and kitchens typically used by slaves.
The Battle of Cape Girardeau
In April, 1863, Confederate Maj. General John S. Marmaduke initiated one of the most memorable movements of the war which led to the Battle of Cape Girardeau. He invaded Missouri with 5,000 men and ten pieces of artillery from Arkansas. His forces were organized into four brigades striking in two columns. One column, commanded by General Jo Shelby entered the state to the west while the second, commanded by General Carter entered to the east. The two columns met at Patterson on April 20 and took the town but Federal forces, alerted by artillery fire, escaped north in the direction of Pilot Knob.
Carter's column, accompanied Gen. Marmaduke, was to attach and defeat Col. John McNeil and a considerable Union force then holding Bloomfield. Shelby's column captured and occupied Fredericktown on April 22, hoping to defeat McNeil if he tried to escape toward Pilot Knob. While in Fredericktown, Shelby sent a detachment to burn the railroad bridge over Big River, which was accomplished after a severe skirmish. Carter reached Bloomfield on April 21st, and McNeil retreated toward Pilot Knob, as anticipated, with Carter in close pursuit. Upon learning that Shelby occupied Fredericktown, McNeil turned his force and retreated toward Cape Girardeau. Carter followed him to within four miles of the city and sent word to Shelby in Fredericktown for reinforcements. The messengers were captured, however, and it was April 25th before Shelby learned Carter was at Cape Girardeau.
On April 26, Shelby led his troops to Cape Girardeau by way of the Jackson Road and created a demonstration as a diversion while Marmaduke drew off Carter's men by the Bloomfield Road. The demonstration escalated into an artillery duel with Union troops and Marmaduke brought Carter's men around to the Jackson Road to support Shelby. The brunt of the fighting fell on Fort B, the present site of Southeast Missouri State University, which was armed with four twenty-four pound guns. There were four twelve pound guns on a hill to the southwest of Fort B and a line of rifle pits. These were charged by the Confederates. The battle lasted from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. when Marmaduke, finding the town well defended, retreated to Jackson. Accounts of the number killed vary. A marker, located near Broadway and Caruthers Street in Cape Girardeau, reminds visitors of the site of the battle.
The Battle of Fredericktown
In October of 1861, Confederate General M. Jeff Thompson led a force of 3,000 men into Southeast Missouri. On October 15, 1861, Thompson led a cavalry attack on the Iron Mountain Railroad bridge over the Big River near Blackwell in Jefferson County. The bridge was burned and Thompson retreated to join his infantry in Fredericktown. Here he found that strong Union forces were closing in on him.
Col. J. B. Plummer was sent from Cape Girardeau to Fredericktown with about 1,500 Union soldiers, while Col. W. P Carlin advanced from Pilot Knob with about 3,000 men. Learning that Union forces were approaching from east and west, Thompson began a withdrawal from Fredericktown south along the Greenville Road. By midnight, October 20, Thompson's forces had marched twelve miles south of Fredericktown.
At this point, Thompson decided to return with his infantry to attack Union forces along the road from Fredericktown to Jackson. Arriving before dawn on October 21st, Thompson positioned his force along the road, but finding that the Union soldiers had taken another route slightly north of the main road, he repositioned his battery in ambush just south of Fredericktown along the Greenville Road. It was here, on the afternoon of October 21st, the Confederate command was engaged by about half of the Union force sent in pursuit of Thompson.
The Union artillery was hauled out and the Seventeenth Iowa Regiment charged upon the Confederate battery, capturing one gun. The running battle lasted over four hours with the Confederates in halting retreat. Late in the afternoon, the Union troops returned to Fredericktown. The Union forces reported seven soldiers killed and some sixty wounded. The next morning, Union soldiers reported burying 160 Confederate dead, although Gen. Thompson put the number of` Confederate dead at twenty with thirty captured.
Thompson made good his retreat, carrying away about 18,000 pounds of lead taken from Mine La Motte just north of Fredericktown to aid the Confederacy. During the disorder which followed, as Union forces look possession of Fredericktown, the town was fired and several houses were destroyed. A reenactment of the Battle of Fredericktown is now held every other year during September.
The Battle of Pilot Knob
By the summer of 1864 Confederate army had suffered bitter, large scale defeats in the east, and the death of the Confederacy appeared near. West of the Mississippi, there were no great Union armies. The state was defended with mostly inexperienced State Militia forces. 'I've Confederacy desperately needed a victory to boost the morale of its supporters. An invasion of Missouri made sense. Southern sympathy was strong and an invading Confederate army might expect local support. The arsenal in St. Louis would provide badly needed arms and ammunition. After taking St. Louis the Confederate army could move on Jefferson City, and if successful, restore Thomas C. Reynolds, the Confederate Governor-in-exile. Most important, it was hoped that this offensive would help relieve the burden on Confederate armies in the East by forcing the Union to transfer troops to the West.
Maj. General Sterling Price was selected to lead the invasion of Missouri. His army was composed of three divisions of cavalry totaling eight brigades plus several unattached regiments and battalions. One division, commanded by Maj. General James F. Fagan contained approximately 5,100 men and four cannons. A second division, commanded by Maj. General John S. Marmaduke, had approximately 3,800 men and six cannons. Brig. General Joseph 0. Shelby commanded the third division with approximately 3,800 men and four cannons. Price's army was, however, composed largely of untested soldiers, many equipped with inferior weapons. At least one fourth of his soldiers had no weapons. These he hoped to equip with weapons from the Union arsenal once St. Louis fell. On September 16, 1864, Price brought his army together at Pocahontas, Arkansas. Advancing in three columns, Price's army arrived in the vicinity of Fredericktown by September 25.
Acting on information that Union reinforcements had been transferred to St. Louis, Price changed his plan of a direct attack on the city. He decided, instead, to attack Fort Davidson near Pilot Knob assuming that the garrison could be easily taken. Shelby's division was ordered to destroy track and bridges on the St. Louis & Iron Mountain Railroad north of the ort to prevent rapid reinforcement from St. Louis. He then ordered Fagan's Division, followed by Marmaduke's, to march westward to Pilot Knob.
Receiving reports that Shelby's force had been seen near Farmington, Brig. General Thomas Ewing, Jr. was sent from St. Louis to Pilot Knob to determine if Price's entire army might he in the area. He was to evacuate and destroy Fort Davidson if he found he was threatened by Price's whole army. Ewing, accompanied by five companies of the 14th Iowa Infantry Volunteers, reached Pilot Knob on September 26 and assumed command of the fort. With the arrival of the Iowa volunteers, about 1300 men were available for the defense of Fort Davidson. These included Missouri cavalry and infantry units and approximately 150 black and white civilian volunteers from the area.
As Shelby's Division left to destroy tracks and bridges on the Iron Mountain Railroad on September 26, a brigade of Fagan's Division rode toward Pilot Knob on the Fredericktown road. The brigade passed through the undefended Shut-ins gap at the southeast end of the Arcadia Valley and advanced toward Arcadia and Ironton. Union and Confederate troops clashed in the streets of lronton until a Union cavalry charge pushed the rebels back to the Shut-Ins gap. Throughout the night Confederate forces moved through the gap until Fagan's entire division had entered the valley Marmaduke's Division was camped less than ten miles from Pilot Knob. By 1:00 a.m., General Ewing concluded that he faced Price's army but he decided to stay and fight, rather than destroy the fort and retreat.
Tuesday, September 27 dawned cool and misty. By then the Confederate battle line extended three quarters of a mile across the valley just south of` Ironton. The Confederates attacked at dawn. A rebel cannon ball struck the courthouse. The Union infantry retreated to the Ironton Gap where soldiers were placed along the southern base of Shepherd Mountain, on the western slope of Pilot Knob and across the Ironton Gap. Union troops repelled several frontal attacks. Later in the morning General Price arrived. Confederate troops had gained control of the slopes of both Shepherd and Pilot Knob Mountains facing the fort. Price planned an assault on the fort from four sides, supported by fire from two cannons placed on Shepherd Mountain.
The attack began at 2:00 p. m. Union soldiers in the fort survived charge after charge by the Confederate force before nightfall ended the fighting.
Realizing Fort Davidson would probably not be able to withstand an artillery shelling followed by a frontal assault, General Ewing decided to evacuate the fort during the night. Covering the draw bridge with tents and blankets to muffle the sound of the wheels of the guns and the horses' feet, the entire Union force slipped out of the fort, leaving behind a detail to destroy the fort. Gun powder was dumped out and the detail commander tossed lighted torches into the magazine. At approximately 3:30 a.m. the magazine exploded with a blast that was felt twenty miles away.
A reenactment of the Battle of Pilot Knob is held every three years.