Sedalia and Glasgow, October 15, 1864: The Dichotomy of the war in Missouri on display

For the middle week of October 1864, Major-General Sterling Price’s Army of Missouri continued its march, somewhat sluggish march, across the center of the state.  After the fight at Boonville on October 11, Price moved westward the next day.  Putting eleven miles on the march for October 12, Price’s headquarters then moved fourteen miles on the 13th and another eight miles on the 14th.  Near Jonesborough, Price ordered several concurrent operations in an effort to gather more supplies.  He sent Brigadier-General John Clark’s brigade to the north side of the Missouri River with the objective of Glasgow.  Brigadier-General Joseph Shelby led part of his division to a point opposite Glasgow in support.  Brigadier-General M. Jeff Tompson led his (Shelby’s old Iron  Brigade) southward to Sedalia.  A battalion of cavalry desended upon the Pacific Railroad outside Otterville to destroy a span over the LaMine River (east of Sedalia, red arrow).


The product of these wide ranging columns was two battles, fought on October 15, at Sedalia and Glasgow.  Like much of Price’s campaign that fall, the elements within those actions show the dichotomy that existed with the war in Missouri – a formal, conventional war alongside a bitter, ugly, and deeply partisan war.  For every “good” interaction between the combatants and civilians, there always seemed to be one matching “bad,” and often bloody, interaction.  And even where proper military order was maintained, there always seemed to be a caveat of exception.  That was true at both Sedalia and Glasgow.

To the south, Thompson was successful at Sedalia.  Using his artillery to negate the blockhouses defending the town, Thompson forced the garrison into retreat.  He then set about securing supplies.  But his troops got out of control, as he later wrote:

As soon as the town was in our possession I used every means in my power to control the men, to prevent pillage, and also to secure as much valuable material as was possible for the army; but in spite of every effort there was considerable plundering of the stores, but I am confident the private houses were respected…. Colonel Slayback’s command was used as a provost guard, but the other regiments, having been broken in their charges, were less manageable, but still I am proud to say no outrage or murder was committed. The prisoners that we captured were paroled, as mentioned in a special report to corps headquarters.

At least Thompson could write with pride that his command had not devolved into a rabble.  Though it took considerable effort on his part.

The move on Glasgow was also successful.  Shelby described the action at there in his report filed after the campaign (and Shelby, you will notice, had a way with words):

Traveling hard all night Glasgow was reached an hour before daylight, and just as the distant east gave token of the coming day I opened with infantry and artillery upon the sleeping Federals, the silent town, and the rough and rugged fort. The surprise at first was complete, but the enemy, taking breath and courage, opened a merciless fire of sharpshooters upon the battery and upon the infantry drawn up along the shore.

Shelby had Captain Richard Collins’ Missouri Battery deploy to overlook the town from the south bank and support the assault to good effect:

Yet Captain Collins, who never seems at home save in the rage and roar of battle, by the splendid aim of his guns and the rapidity of their serving, drove the enemy from his hiding-places, and there was a lull in the tempest of lead. It was expected that General Clark’s attack would be simultaneous with mine, and that the object of my movement should be to cover the real assault; but he did not arrive until two hours after I commenced the fight. My ammunition was considerably expended. Yet, when his guns were heard from the north I again returned to the work with renewed energy, sending at the same time to you for re-enforcements and ammunition, intending to cross the river myself if there should be any failure from the other side. With this view I called for volunteers to cross to the other side in a yawl and get up steam in a large boat lying opposite, which was responded to by Captain McCoy and Captain Carrington, of my staff. They crossed in plain view of the enemy, found the boat in serviceable condition, and came back to report, the bullets plowing and hissing in the water all around them. This was a most gallant exploit, and one which is deserving of the highest praise. Before, however, additional help arrived the town surrendered to General Clark. Colonel Jackman, acting in conjunction with him, displayed his usual courage and made a most brilliant and successful charge, driving everything before him.

With Glasgow in hand, the Confederates went about securing the needed supplies.  Staying a few days, Price’s detachment secured over 1,000 small arms along with clothing and horses.  Generally, the men under Shelby and Clark behaved well.  They kept order and paroled the soldiers captured from the town’s defense.  In fact, Captain George A. Holloway, a Federal staff officer in transit and caught up in the action, later reported, “I must testify to the uniform, kind, and gentlemanly treatment we received at the hands of the Confederate officers….”

But all that good will was balanced by what happened six days later in Glasgow when William “Bloody Bill” Anderson arrived.

Benjamin Lewis was a wealthy tobacco planter and a slave owner.  But he remained a staunch unionist.  To that point, he’d freed his 150 slaves in 1863 as a show of support for the Emancipation Proclamation.  Anderson singled out Lewis both for his wealth and his support of the Federals.  Before receiving a “ransom” of $5,000, Anderson had brutally beaten Lewis, had his horse trample him, and raped one of Lewis’ servants.

The story was one more chapter in the horrific wartime exploits of Anderson, and one of many tales which left bitter memories for Missourians well past the war’s end.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 41, Part I, Serial 83, pages 431, 656-7, and 665.)

Published by Craig Swain

"Historical marker hunter" and Civil War enthusiast.

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