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The Battle of Boonville

June 17, 1861, Boonville, Missouri

Union Forces Commanded by
Brig. Gen. Nathaniel Lyon
Strength Killed/ Wounded/ Missing / Captured
±1,700 ± 31
Confederate Forces Commanded by
Col. John S. Marmaduke
Strength Killed/ Wounded/ Missing / Captured
± 500 ± 50
Conclusion: Union Victory

This early Union victory at Boonville established Union control of the Missouri River and helped douse attempts to place Missouri in the Confederacy.

Claiborne F. Jackson, the pro-Confederate Governor of Missouri, wanted the state to secede and join the Confederacy. Brig. Gen. Nathaniel Lyon wanted to suppress Jackson’s Missouri State Guard, commanded by (ex-Governor) Sterling Price. Reaching Jefferson City, the state capital, Lyon discovered that Jackson and Price had pulled his ill-armed men back towards Boonville rather than fight at a disadvantage.

Lyon wasn’t going to let his prey get away. He reembarked on steamboats, transported his men to below Boonville, marched to the town, and attacked the Confederates. In a short fight, Lyon dispersed the Confederates, commanded on the field by Col. John S. Marmaduke, and occupied Boonville.

This early victory established Union control of the Missouri River and helped douse attempts to place Missouri in the Confederacy. It was especially important since most of the Southern sympathizers in Missouri were in the Missouri River Valley – precisely where Lyon won the battle.

Civil War Harper's Weekly, July 6, 1861
A DISPATCH to the St. Louis Republican, dated Jefferson City, June 19, gives the following version of the battle at Boonville:

The United States troops landed at a wood-yard, about five miles this side of Boonville, and one mile below the encampment of the State troops; the latter had a battery near Boonville pointed toward the river, but it was circumvented by the United States troops, and proved perfectly useless. Immediately after landing, the United States troops advanced upon the State troops, who met them in a lane, and here the firing commenced. After a short skirmish the United States troops retreated into a wheat-field, whither they were followed in hot haste by the State troops, who undoubtedly thought they had the advantage over the enemy, but it appeared that this movement on the part of the United States troops was only a stratagem. They had no sooner taken a stand in the wheat-field than they opened a most destructive fire upon the State troops, killing many, and utterly confusing and disconcerting the remainder. After the lapse of a very short time the State troops were totally routed, and fled in every direction. Governor Jackson was about a mile off, surrounded by Captain Kelly's company as a body guard. It is reported that he was severely reprimanded during the engagement by men of his own party for lack of discretion and cowardice. As soon as he saw the result he and Captain Kelly's company, and Monroe Parsons, according to some accounts, took a boat and went up the river. General Price's absence is accounted for in the following way: On Sunday morning the report was brought to the Governor by some of his picket-guards that seven boats were coming up the river, loaded with United States troops. A consultation was at once had between the Governor and General Price, the result of which was that Governor Jackson sent orders to the troops to disband, as they could not sustain themselves against such a force. General Price then left for home. The troops, however, were exceedingly displeased with the Governor's order, and said they were determined to have a fight. Colonel Marmaduke, from Saline County, who commanded them, became disaffected and resigned. A few hours afterward the report about the seven steamboats proved to be untrue. The Governor then agreed to revoke his order, and recommended his troops to sustain their position, and prepare for resistance to the United States troops. He also issued a proclamation stating that the command had been given to one Mr. Little. What the sequel was is related above.

No one has any reliable news as to the number of killed and wounded, and those taken prisoners. It is stated, however, that Lyon once had the State troops in a position whence he could have mowed them down with terrible effect, but that he ordered the firing to stop just at that time, and proceeded to make prisoners

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