150 years ago today: Belmont

This morning (November 7, 1861) just over 3000 Federal troops under General U.S. Grant landed at Hunters Farm just upstream from Belmont, Missouri.  Supporting the landing, two Federal gunboats sparred with the Confederate garrison on the bluffs above Columbus, Kentucky.  Grant’s command worked their way along the bottom land farm roads, through sloughs and ditches, and into the cornfields to confront a small force of Confederates posted at Camp Johnston.   Confederate Commander, General Leonidas Polk, sent reinforcements under General Gideon Pillow to counter Grant’s move.  Unsuccessful, Pillow’s men fled Camp Johnston.

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Southern edge of the Belmont battlefield today
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Timber Stand where the Village of Belmont Stood
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View of Columbus from Belmont

While Pillow’s men reorganized, the Federals celebrated then came under fire from the many guns posted to the defenses of Columbus across the river.  Fresh Confederate reinforcements, part of which were led by General Benjamin F. Cheatham, landed upstream from the Federal position.  The Confederates then counterattacked to cut off Grant’s retreat.

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Belmont seen from the bluffs at Columbus

Dramatically by some accounts, or desperately by others, Grant’s force cut their way out of the trap.  The force returned to their transports with about 500 less men than they started.  The Confederates, having committed over 5,000 men, suffered slightly higher casualties.

The landscape has changed to the point of being unrecognizable to those who participated in the battle.  And it is not due to encroaching development, but rather to the forces of nature.  The river, which both sides fought to control, has done more to wipe away the scars of battle than any bulldozer or reconciliation speech.

Published by Craig Swain

"Historical marker hunter" and Civil War enthusiast.

2 thoughts on “150 years ago today: Belmont

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