Pocahontas played a part in the last major Confederate offensive of the American Civil War. This action is described below, in the final installment of my “Pocahontas and the Civil War” series.
In the late summer of 1864, Confederate General Sterling Price began what would be the last major Confederate offensive of the Civil War. Headquartered south of Little Rock, Price intended nothing less than the reconquest of Missouri, a state that had been occupied by Union forces since September 1861. His primary goal was the capture of St. Louis.
Price’s expedition was a dismal failure, and he was later court-martialed over it. Price marched north to Missouri with 12,000 cavalrymen and fourteen pieces of artillery in August 1864. The force spent 2 days in Pocahontas as they prepared to attack Missouri.
Price lingered in Missouri for almost two months, attempting to stage a popular uprising. He marched to central Missouri and its wildly pro-Confederate Boonslick area along the Missouri River. Price lingered ten days in Boonslick, recruiting 8,000 local men to add to his 12,000 Arkansas troops, but falling far short of the 50,000 men he had anticipated, and needed, to take Missouri for the Confederacy.
Union forces, initially caught completely unprepared to resist Price, eventually concentrated forces from Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, and Tennessee and ejected him from the state in a series of battles fought along the Kansas and Missouri border.
Below is part of the report from Price’s court-martial.
April 22, 1865
At a Court of Inquiry then held at Shreveport, La.
Major General S. Price appeared before the Court.
The road was a rough and difficult one, and was adopted because of the forage and subsistence that it furnished. Headquarters with General Fagan’s division moved from Batesville, fourteen miles, to
Powhatan, Ark., which point it reached on the 15th September, 1864, where it was joined by Generals Marmaduke and Shelby. Moved from Powhatan to Pocahontas on the 16th, a distance of eighteen miles. At Pocahontas we halted two days for the purpose of reorganizing, many recruits being then in camp, and to distribute ordnance to the different divisions.
At that point two or more brigades were organized and added to Major-General Fagan’s division, under Colonels Dobbin and McCray, and one brigade, under Colonel Freeman, added to Major-General Marmaduke’s division, and a brigade, under Colonel Jackman, to General Shelby’s division. These four brigades were chiefly of recruits from Arkansas and Missouri. At this point, by direction of General Price, I prepared four or five maps indicating the routes by which the different divisions should move on entering Missouri, it having been determined by General Price to move by three routes to Fredericktown, Mo., 140 miles from Pocahontas. General Price directed me to lay the routes down clearly, so that the subordinate commanders could always communicate with him readily and know where he was.
From Pocahontas General Price, with Major-General Fagan’s division, moved direct to Fredericktown by Greenville, the middle route. Major-General Marmaduke moved by Poplar Bluff, Dallas, and Bloomfield, by the longest route to the same point. Brigadier-General Shelby
moved upon the left. This route leads through Patterson. He encountered the enemy in the vicinity of Doniphan and defeated him without loss to himself, capturing a few prisoners and the telegraph office with its instruments. He again engaged the enemy at Patterson, defeated him, capturing a few prisoners without loss to himself. Prior to this engagement the enemy had burned the town of Doniphan. Doniphan is in Missouri, twenty miles from Pocahontas. General Shelby’s engagement at Doniphan was on the 19th, the day after leaving Pocahontas.