Battle of Springfield Historical Marker No. 1
This historical marker is the first of series of twelve in the downtown area that describe various points in the Battle of Springfield, which took place on January 8, 1863. Also known as the Second Battle of Springfield (the First Battle of Springfield occurred on October 25, 1861), it was unique in the Civil War in that it involved house-to-house fighting. Springfield, which was an important Union supply depot during the war, was defended by a force of around 2,100 men commanded by General Egbert B. Brown. The force was comprised of around 1,300 troops as well as armed civilians, convalescing troops, and state militiamen. The Confederate force of around 1,800 to 2,100 troops and calvary was led by Brigadier General John S. Marmaduke. The Confederates failed to recapture Springfield and the city remained under Union control for the rest of the war. Next to the marker is another one that provides an overview of the battle and its aftermath.
This is the first of twelve historical markers that describe the Second Battle of Springfield.
Backstory and Context
As noted above, Springfield was a key supply depot for the Union. It was from here that supplies from St. Louis were sent to a Union force in northern Arkansas called the Army of the Frontier, which had been there since early December. The Confederates wanted to recapture Springfield to cut off the supply line and force the Army of the Frontier to retreat from Arkansas. To prepare for the battle, Brown ordered arms and ammunition to be given to wounded soldiers and local militiamen, and ordered his troops to occupy the city's defenses, which included five earthen forts and college building surrounded by a stockade.
On the morning of January 8, Marmaduke's force approached Springfield from the south in two columns (a third, which had 700 men, was supposed to as well but its commander did not receive the orders to do so). Brown sent two regiments of the state cavalry militia to engage and delay the Confederates and retreated back to Springfield by around 1p.m. Over the next several hours, the Confederates attacked the Union line, hoping to find a weakness. Some of the fiercest fighting occurred at Fort No. 4, which was 160-foot wide redoubt surrounded by a trench and included two cannons mounted there during the night before. The Confederates attacked it repeatedly but failed to take it. A key reason was that Brown ordered the 10 houses in the cannon's line of fire to be burned down and the smoke disrupted the Confederate attack. They did capture the stockaded college building, which was undefended, and used it as a staging area.
In one neighborhood around the intersection of South Main and West Mt. Vernon, fighting occurred house-to-house and in backyards and alleys. Union forces suffered a number of casualties and retreated toward Walnut Street. The Confederates prepared to attack towards the center of the city but Union reinforcements arrived and pushed the Confederates back, retaking the land they had just lost. The Confederates made one last attack, on the Union's right flank, but it failed as well. The battle ended around nightfall and Confederate forces left the city in the morning. The victory enabled the Union to continue using Springfield as a vital supply depot for the Army of the Frontier.
The numbers of the killed and wounded vary in the sources but it appears approximately 19 Union troops were killed and 146 were wounded. The Confederates lost 45 men and 105 were wounded. A few days later on the 11th, Marmaduke's force was defeated at the Battle of Hartville.
"Battle of Springfield A State Divided: The Civil War in Missouri." The Historical Marker Database. Accessed May 9, 2022. https://www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=173594.
"Battle of Springfield." The Historical Marker Database. Accessed May 5, 2022. https://www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=170770.
"Battle of Springfield." Community & Conflict: The Impact of the Civil War in the Ozarks. Accessed May 5, 2022. https://ozarkscivilwar.org/archives/345.
The Historical Marker Database