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Dug Springs

Discussion in 'The South & Western Theaters' started by Borderruffian, Aug 3, 2011.

  1. Borderruffian

    Borderruffian 2nd Lieutenant

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    A Civil War engagement known as the Battle of Dug Springs took place in the late afternoon of Aug. 2, 1861. Union Brig. Gen. Nathaniel Lyon was encamped southwest of Springfield when he obtained information that a large Southern force led by Brig. Gen. Benjamin McCulloch was on its way to attack him at Springfield. Rather than wait for the attack and be forced to make a fighting retreat to Rolla, Lyon set his troops in motion on Aug. 1 to intercept the advancing army. The armies met on the following day on the Wire Road just outside of Clever, Mo.
    Missouri’s allegiance to the Union was not certain in the tension-filled early months of 1861. Most Missourians desired neutrality, but a powerful minority, led by Gov. Claiborne Fox Jackson, worked to lead Missouri into the Confederacy. Tension came to a head after Lyon, who had been appointed commander of the Federal arsenal in St. Louis, captured a large body of secessionist troops at Camp Jackson. Pressed to react, the state legislature granted Gov. Jackson the power to create and equip a state guard capable of resisting Federal invasion. Maj. Gen. Sterling Price took charge of the newly created Missouri State Guard.
    In June, after an unsuccessful meeting between the Unionists and Jackson, Lyon led his army up the Missouri River and captured the state capital. Following a defeat at the Battle of Boonville on June 17, the secessionist government, including Jackson, members of his government, and the fledgling Missouri State Guard, fled to the southwest part of the state.
    A Southern Coalition Force Advances on Springfield
    In mid-July of 1861, the Missouri State Guard, under Price, was encamped at Cowskin Prairie in McDonald County. They spent time drilling, organizing, and recruiting before leaving on July 25 to rendezvous with McCulloch at Cassville.
    Altogether the Southern coalition force numbered more than 12,000; however, Confederate cooperation with the Missouri State Guard troops was complicated by the fact that Missouri was still part of the Union. Although the leaders agreed that the best option was to beat Lyon in Missouri, they disagreed on the method and command. Despite the fact that, as a major general, he was the highest ranking officer in the group, Price had no authority over McCulloch and the Confederate troops. For his part, McCulloch was skeptical of the Missouri State Guardsmen, thinking them untrained and undisciplined. Additionally many in Price’s command were still unarmed. After much discussion, it was decided that the combined forces, with McCulloch in command, would advance against Lyon. The army set out toward Springfield via the Wire Road, named for the telegraph wires strung beside the roadway.
    Lyon Hears of the Southern Advance
    Encamped at Springfield with about 5,800 men, including Missouri Home Guards, volunteers and U.S. Regulars, Lyon received intelligence that a large army of Southerners was moving his way. While the secessionist army in southern Missouri had been receiving additional troops, weapons and supplies from the South, Lyon’s Union troops were poorly supplied and reduced in number because the terms of enlistment had expired for many of his volunteers. Lyon had repeatedly written to headquarters in St. Louis to request both supplies and troops, only to be denied. Maj. Gen. John C. Frèmont, newly in command of the Union Army’s Western Department, decided the southeast part of the state was in more pressing need of troops and supplies due to its strategic position on the Mississippi River since the river was a natural route of invasion into the Confederacy.
    With his troops so vastly outnumbered, retreat to Rolla was Lyon’s safest and most realistic option. However, he and his officers did not want to pull back without a fight. It was a risky decision, but with his smaller, quicker army Lyon could conceivably cripple the Southerners before withdrawing.
    According to Lyon’s intelligence, the Southern army was advancing on Springfield in three columns, with the main column moving from Cassville along the Wire Road. He waited until the Southerners were within about two days march from Springfield before he moved his troops. His intention was to attack the strongest column first and then in the event of success turn upon the other columns. Lyon set out with his troops on Aug. 1 and encamped that night about 12 miles southwest of Springfield on Terrell Creek. The next day he continued his advance along the Wire Road.
    The Battle of Dug Springs
    McCulloch assigned Brig. Gen. James S. Rains and his six mounted companies of the 8th Division of the Missouri State Guard along with a company of Arkansans under Capt. Americus V. Reiff, about 400 men, to take the lead in the Southern advance. Rains was given the task because many of his command were from the area and were familiar with the terrain. Rains and his men kept about 10 miles ahead of the rest of the Southerners.
    At about 9 a.m. on Aug. 2, Rains’ pickets came upon Lyon’s advance guard of four companies of Second U.S. Infantry under Capt. Frederick Steele and Lt. W. L. Lothrop, a company of 4th U.S. Cavalry under Capt. D. S. Stanley, and the 2nd U.S. Artillery under Capt. James Totten. The road at this point passed through a narrow valley with dense forest at the top of the ridge, obscuring the size of both forces. Each side had little information about the size of the army they were about to fight.
    After receiving two shots from Totten’s artillery, the Southern pickets retreated to Rains’ camp. Rains ordered his whole guard forward where they met the Union troops about three miles away. For several hours the armies held each other in check, with the Union forces sending small skirmishing parties forward only to be forced back by Southern sharpshooters.
    After about five hours, Capt. James McIntosh, with about 150 mounted men of the regular Confederate Army, joined Rains and his Missouri State Guardsmen. McIntosh conducted reconnaissance to discover the strength of the Union army and he determined that there were not more than 150 Union troops. In truth the Union advance guard was a much larger force than McIntosh thought. After reminding Rains that he was not to engage the Union force, McIntosh pulled back to the main body with his men.
    At about 5 p.m., Steele‘s Union skirmishers spotted an advancing Southern column. The Federals formed a battle line and moved toward the enemy. Shots were exchanged from both sides as the troopers advanced. Suddenly a large force of State Guardsmen emerged from the woods and attacked Steele’s infantry from left and the front, cutting them off from Stanley’s cavalry. In the confusion, one of Stanley’s subordinate officers shouted, “charge!” and a small group of about 25 horsemen surged forward and cut through the State Guard line.
    The surprised guardsmen suddenly panicked, broke ranks and fled back to the woods. Here they regrouped, rejoined the larger force of cavalry and counterattacked. This time Totten’s battery fired their two 6-pound guns. The guardsmen scattered again, abandoning about 200 horses tied in the ravine. Steele’s infantry and Stanley’s cavalry pursued the Southerners for a short distance before Lyon called them back. Rains’ men retreated back to the main Southern army.
    The Aftermath
    Estimates for casualties sustained at Dug Springs are at most 20 Southerners killed and 50 wounded and four Union men killed with 37 wounded. The Confederates called the incident “Rains’ Scare,” and the action caused McCulloch’s already negative opinion of the fighting capabilities of Missourians and their leaders to sink even lower. Nevertheless, the Southerners proceeded with their plan to advance on Springfield along the Wire Road. Had Lyon pursued them after routing Rains’ advance he might have stalled the Southern force, but the numbers were against him. As it was, he made the fateful decision to strike one last time before retreating to Rolla. This time it would be on Aug. 10 in the bloody battle at Wilson’s Creek where the outnumbered Union army was forced to retreat. Lyon, falling in the thick of the fight, became the first Union general to be killed in action.
     

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  3. KLSDAD

    KLSDAD Sergeant

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    Mr. Ruffian:

    Ever been there? Looks like its not too far from Wilson's Creek.
     
  4. KLSDAD

    KLSDAD Sergeant

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  5. Borderruffian

    Borderruffian 2nd Lieutenant

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  6. Borderruffian

    Borderruffian 2nd Lieutenant

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    Here's a map :
    http://missouri.hometownlocator.com/maps/feature-map,ftc,1,fid,717158,n,dug%20spring.cfm

    THE BATTLE OF DUG SPRINGS.

    ON page 533 will be found an illustration of the BRILLIANT CHARGE OF THE UNITED STATES CAVALRY ATTACHED TO GENERAL LYON'S ARMY upon an enormous force of rebel infantry, at the BATTLE OF DUG SPRINGS, on 1st August. The dispatch from Springfield, Missouri, dated August 2, says :
    On Thursday news reached here that the enemy were advancing on us, in three columns, with a force numbering 20,000 men. General Lyon immediately set out to meet them with the Second and Third Missouri regiments from this city, the First and Second Kansas regiments, and the First Iowa regiment ; also with two or three companies of regular infantry and two or three companies of regular cavalry from Camp M'Clellan. About twelve miles west of here General Lyon encamped that evening, on Tyrel Creek, and on Friday advanced to Dug Springs, about nineteen miles southwest of Springfield, where he obtained intelligence of the enemy.
    A fight took place between four and six o'clock that afternoon. A party of two hundred and seventy of General Lyon's cavalry, as previously reported, were crossing a ridge of high land, partially inclosed on the east by a valley, and, when descending the hill, came upon a large force of the enemy's infantry, variously estimated at from two thousand to four thousand, and being unable to retreat, they charged and cut their way through with the loss of only five men. The lieutenant commanding the cavalry was killed, after killing eight of the rebels. Meantime the enemy appeared in large numbers moving along the valley, but they were put to flight by our artillery. Our infantry was not engaged. The rebels retreated southward, to a place called M'Cullough's Store, on the Fayetteville Road.
    The number of rebels found dead on the field amounted to forty, and some forty-four wounded were picked up.
    The correspondent of the Herald thus describes the affair :

    http://www.sonofthesouth.net/leefoundation/civil-war/1861/august/dug-springs.htm

    Topo map:

    http://www.trails.com/topo.aspx?lat=37.01894&lon=-93.49436&s=50&size=s&style=drgsr

    The road is still the Old Wire Road and the Spring is on on your right hand side coming out of Clever.
     
  7. Borderruffian

    Borderruffian 2nd Lieutenant

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  8. 4th-MSM

    4th-MSM Sergeant

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    Sorry about bumping up a thread that's a year old (I didn't want to create a new thread when there was already one about the topic), but seeing that it's just days after the 151st anniversary of the battle, I thought I would upload a photograph I found of the old log springhouse at Dug Springs. It was in an online article from a local library that briefly mentioned the skirmish. The Wire Road can be seen in the foreground. (I haven't been able to find the year of the photograph yet)

    log spring house at the battle of dug springs.jpg

    And here are some pictures of how the battlefield looks now (I would post them directly on the forum, but most are copyrighted photo's). The paved road in the pictures is the Old Wire Road.

    http://bguthriephotos.com/graphlib....a6cd9b8525742f00132224?OpenDocument&Text&Link

    http://www.thecivilwarmuse.com/index.php?page=skirmish-at-dug-springs

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/cwpt/2431259508/
     
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