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Trans-Mississippi Musings

Lyon leaves Boonville for Springfield

Posted by The Muse (themuse) on Jul 03 2013
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 The Civil War Muse has a virtual tour of the Battle of Boonville.

Brigadier-General Nathaniel LyonAfter his quick, decisive action in the days before the Battle of Boonville, Brigadier-General Nathaniel Lyon was finding it more difficult to head south and chase after the retreating Missouri State Guard. His forces had grown to 2,400 after being joined in Boonville by the First Iowa Volunteer Infantry Regiment. The logistics of marching from Boonville to Springfield was creating problems for Lyon. He needed to requisition supplies and the wagons to get the supplies to Springfield. Major Samuel Sturgis left Kansas City with 2,200 Kansas volunteers in order to link up with Lyon's force in Clinton, Missouri. Lyon did finally leave Boonville for Springfield on July 3, 1861. Lyon sent a message to his Assistant Adjutant-General, Chester Harding, Jr., in St. Louis describing the problems he had in obtaining supplies for his men.
I hope to move to-morrow, and think it more important just now to go to Springfield. My force in moving from here will be about 2,400 men. Major Sturgis will have about 2,200 men, and you know what force has gone to Springfield from Saint Louis, so that you see what amount of provisions we shall want supplied at that point. Please attend to us as effectually as possible. Our line should be kept open by all means. I must be governed by circumstances at Springfield … Our operations are becoming extensive, and our staff officers must keep up with our emergencies. We need here a regular quartermaster and commissary. Cannot something be done for us from Washington?
The march from Boonville to Springfield was hard on the volunteers. Private Eugene Fitch Ware was was 19 years old when he was accepted into Company E of the First Iowa Infantry Volunteer Regiment. The State of Iowa accepted the regiment on April 20, 1861 on a 90-day enlistment that would expire on July 20th. This regiment would join Lyon's Army of the West in Boonville following the Battle of Boonville. Ware later described the wretched conditions and rations for Lyon's army after it reached Springfield.
On July 19th … when the bugle called in the morning it was pouring down, and none of us had slept. We were all as wet as drowned rats, and it kept on drizzling. The evening before we had drawn rations, and all we got was a sack of flour, 98 pounds, and a quart of salt; no meat, no coffee, “no nothing." … Everything was so wet … our mess got its share and … made it up into dough for what [was] called … salt-rising bread,“ but we could not get a fire and … ate the raw dough.
Major Samuel D. SturgisLyon's force would reach Springfield on July 13,1861. Lyon immediately sent a telegram back to St. Louis because he had failed to find the supplies that he had ordered sent to Springfield to meet him when he arrived.
I have about 5,000 men to be provided for, and have expected to find stores here, as I have ordered. The failure of stores reaching here seems likely to cause serious embarrassment, which must be aggravated by continued delay, and in proportion to the time I am forced to wait for supplies … Shoes, shirts, blouses, &c, are much wanted, and I would have you furnish them, if possible, in considerable quantities.
Lyon had another problem. Lyon also sent a telegram to the War Department warning that a large part of his effective force would soon disappear because about 3,000 of his men were 90-day volunteers.
My effective force will soon be reduced by discharge of three-months' volunteers to about 4,000 men, including the Illinois regiment now on the march from Rolla. Governor Jackson will soon have in this vicinity not less than 30,000. I must have at once an additional force of 10,000 men, or abandon my position. All must have supplies and clothing.

Image Credits

Nathaniel Lyon [WICR 31752 in the collection of Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield. Image courtesy of the National Park Service]
Samuel Sturgis [LC-DIG-cwpb-04696, image courtesy of the Library of Congress]


Piston, William G. and Richard W Hatcher III. Wilson's Creek: The Second Battle of the Civil War and the Men Who Fought It. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000. [p. 58-59, 69, 74-75]
United States War Department, The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series 1, Volume 03. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1880-1901. [p. 388-389, 394]
Ware, Eugene Fitch. The Lyon campaign in Missouri. Topeka, Kansas: Crane & Company, 1907. [p. 224]

Last changed: Jul 07 2013 at 6:39 AM