On December 31, 1862, three columns of cavalry under the command of Brigadier General John S. Marmaduke left Lewisburg, Arkansas and trotted north on separate roads toward Missouri and the Union supply line. The main column proceeded north through Forsyth, Missouri to Ozark. A Federal Garrison stationed there fled and the Confederates burned its abandoned fort. A second column, commanded by Colonel Emmett McDonald, destroyed the federal fort at Lawrence Mill on Beaver Creek, north of Forsyth. The third column, under Colonel Joseph Porter passed north through Hartville. All three commands were to converge on Springfield in an attempt to capture the city's lightly defended warehouses of military supplies.
On the night of January 7, 1863, Federals from the Ozark garrison reached Springfield, informing the local commander, Brigadier General Egbert Brown, that thousands of Confederate cavalry were only a couple of hours away, headed for Springfield. Panic ensued as Brown alternately considered a full scale retreat and destruction of all supplies at Springfield or defending the town. Eventually Brown's subordinates convinced him to make an effort at defense. He therefore sent word to the surrounding communities, calling forth the Missouri State Militia and the Enrolled Missouri Militia, with orders to march immediately to Springfield. Throughout the night of the seventh, the Federals issued arms and ammunition to soldiers and civilians alike. They rigged makeshift cannon and prepared warehouses of supplies so they could be set afire easily in the event of defeat.
Although Springfield was lightly garrisoned, it had one distinct advantage. It was surrounded by a network of four completed earthen forts which commanded the high ground. To provide a clear field of fire south of Fort No. 4, located on the east side of South Avenue at the edge of the town, Brown ordered a number of homes burned.
As the morning of January 8, 1863 dawned, the Confederate columns under Marmaduke and MacDonald approached Springfield from the south. The weather was cold. The sky was partly overcast, and the sun shown balefully down upon the field of battle. Since Porter's column had yet to arrive, Marmaduke occupied the morning with skirmishes to feel out the Union lines and develop their strength. Finally at 10:30 a.m., the Confederates dismounted and launched an assault upon Fort No. 4. They advanced across open fields seeking such shelter as they could get from tree stumps, piles of rock and the charred remains of the homes burned by Union forces. Despite repeated valiant efforts, the assault on the fort failed.
Marmaduke then resolved to take Springfield by an oblique attack from the west. The Confederates were drawn by the cover offered by a ravine that led uphill toward town from what is now the intersection of Grand Avenue and Grant Street. At the head of this draw stood a two-story brick academy surrounded by a stockade. Used by the Federals as a prison, it stood just west of what is now the intersection of Campbell Avenue and State Street. Severe fighting erupted around the stockade. The Confederates were able to seize the building and use it as their own fortress to return the fire from Fort No. 4. In this attack, Union troops supporting the fort were pushed back to College Street, over a mile from their original position. This phase of the assault saw the most severe casualties, hand-to-hand fighting, and the capture of a cannon by the Confederates.
With the sun sinking toward the horizon, Marmaduke launched a final assault against Fort No. 4 from the west. The Union forces again repelled the attack. As night fell, the Confederates withdrew to the Phelps Farm (now Phelps Grove Park). The Battle of Springfield ended, and the Union supply depot was safe. Of the approximately 2,000 Federal troops and 2,000 Confederate troops present, almost 100 were killed or later died from their wounds, and 300 to 400 were wounded. The absence of Porter's column, delayed by a skirmish at Hartville, had greatly impeded Marmaduke's efforts, and the Confederate raiders soon returned to Arkansas