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October 22 was packed with events as the Confederate commander, Maj. Gen. Sterling Price, struggled to escape being trapped by two Federal armies, one in front of him and the other rapidly closing in on his rear.
Maj. Gen. Samuel R. Curtis, the Federal commander in Kansas, had established a defense line along the Big Blue River. Curtis deployed his forces from where the Big Blue flows into the Missouri River upriver to Russell’s Ford, a distance of over 12 miles. Curtis deployed his forces to guard the river crossings but neglected to post troops on some little-known fords.
Having spent the previous night encamped just southeast of Independence, General Price devised a plan to escape the Federal pincers. While feinting an attack at the Main Crossing, Price sent his best division, commanded by Brig. Gen. Jo Shelby, to gain control of Byram’s Ford. Once this was accomplished, the wagon train could cross the Blue River at Byram’s Ford and head down the Harrisonville Road on its way to New Santa Fe.
On Saturday morning, General Shelby sent his Iron Brigade, commanded by Brig. Gen. M. Jeff Thompson, down the Byram’s Ford Road and attacked the entrenched Federals at Byram’s Ford.
Col. Charles R. Jennison commanded the Federal forces in the defense works on the west side of Byram’s Ford. Jennison had a strong defensive position and was able to hold off the Confederate attack for several hours on Saturday.
With the Confederate wagon train on its way to the ford, Shelby needed to breach the Federal defenses. General Shelby ordered detachments upriver and downriver to find a way to cross over and attack the Federal flanks. One detachment, commanded by Col. Alonzo W. Slayback, moved one mile downriver where they found an unguarded cattle ford. Slayback crossed to the west side, headed south, and hit the Federal left flank just as Shelby was pressing the attack at Byram's Ford. Jennison was unable to hold off these attacks and pulled out, withdrawing toward Westport.
As the Federals withdrew west, General Shelby ordered Col. Sydney D. Jackman’s Brigade to move south to make sure the approaching wagon train would be able to safely cross at Russell’s Ford. Jackman encountered and quickly routed a Kansas State Militia regiment on the Mockbee Farm.
Now General Thompson’s brigade crossed Byram’s Ford and chased after the retreating Federals. Colonel Jennison made a fighting withdrawal west toward the Kansas state line until Thompson received orders to end his pursuit and withdraw back to Byram’s Ford. But then as Jennison moved toward Westport he was attacked by Jackman’s Brigade, fresh from the fight at the Mockbee Farm.
Jennison’s command was saved when Col. Thomas Moonlight arrived at the State line with reinforcements. Now, the Federals outnumbered the Confederates and began to push them back east. The fighting stopped about 2.5 miles west of Byram’s Ford when darkness arrived.
The last fighting of day took place back in Independence. The Federal cavalry under the command of Maj. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton finally caught up with Price’s rear guard east of Independence in the late afternoon on October 22.
Brig. Gen. William L. Cabell was in command of the Confederate rear guard. Pleasonton’s advance hit the Confederates at 2:00 p.m. about three miles northeast of Independence. The Federal cavalry pressed the Confederates forcing them to make a fighting withdrawal through Independence. General Cabell was almost captured during the street fighting that ensued. Cabell withdrew down the Byram’s Ford Road with the Federals in hot pursuit. The fighting continued until 10:30 p.m., but Cabell’s brigade crossed Byram’s Ford and continued south to catch up with the wagon train.
At the end of Saturday, October 22, the Federals under General Curtis had realigned and controlled the ground north of Brush Creek and west of the Big Blue River. General Pleasonton was in control of Independence and the ground east of the Big Blue River. The Confederates under General Price controlled the ground west of the Big Blue River and south of Brush Creek.
This audio was narrated by James C. Edwards.
This audio was written and produced by theCivilWarMuse.