Discussion Missouri river

Lusty Murfax

Sergeant
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Location
Northwest Missouri
The sports rivalry was one of the longest running in the history of American college athletics, until the U of Missouri joined the SEC. But the fan hate got pretty intense at times, as you have documented here. I have a friend who's a rabid Missouri Tiger fan. He once posted on a social media outlet that August 21 (the date of Quantrill's raid on Lawrence) was the anniversary of Missouri's most DECISIVE road victory over Kansas. That's pretty cold! I wonder how many college students today even understand how all this hate got started.

But tying this in to the original topic, I can say that the Missouri River did not stop Kansas Jayhawkers from raiding into the Missouri counties north of Independence. Of course, they were federally affiliated, so they had no problem getting ferries or steamers for their crossings. When Missouri guerrillas operated in small bands, I think they were usually able to move through their home and neighboring counties fairly easily. I honestly don't know how so many of them managed to cross in the summer of 1864, but they did. We know that Anderson referred to Rocheport, Missouri (on the north bank) as his capitol. We know that he raided Fayette, Centralia, and Danville, all on the North side. We know that Todd operated on both sides of the river through that summer, so they found a way somehow.

But if you stand on the bank or the bluff tops of the Missouri even today, you can clearly see that it continues to be a very formidable physical barrier. I have boated and canoed on it from the mouth of the Lamine River to Rocheport, and can attest that it has strong, tricky currents and it's fast. It is one of the swiftest large rivers on the planet.
The River today is very different than it was in the mid-19th century. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began narrowing and channelizing the River back during the depression. The River today is deeper and the current faster than it was before channelization. There are no shallow fords left in the lower river basin. A visit to one of the oxbow lakes, such as Big Lake up in Holt Co. offers one an idea how the River appeared prior to channelization.
 

Booner

2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
May 4, 2015
Location
Boonville, MO.
The River today is very different than it was in the mid-19th century. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began narrowing and channelizing the River back during the depression. The River today is deeper and the current faster than it was before channelization. There are no shallow fords left in the lower river basin. A visit to one of the oxbow lakes, such as Big Lake up in Holt Co. offers one an idea how the River appeared prior to channelization.
Your right Lusty. The Missouri river we see today is not the same river it was 100 years ago.

The Missouri Dept. of Conservation has estimated the river, before man started their efforts to control it, was at least twice as wide as it is now, and much shallower. When man started their efforts to control the lower portion of the river (from Omaha NE to St. Louis, MO), they wanted to narrow it and deepen it's flow so it could maintain a 6 foot draft. Deepening the draft also increased it's rate of flow. Later that draft was changed to a 9 foot, but that shows how shallow the lower river was or could be in some places. When Nathan Boone, son of Daniel Boone, led Gov. troops from the Boonslick region to establish Fort Osage upriver, they crossed from the northern side of the river to the south side at where Arrow Rock is now. They rode their horses across the river and the water only came up to the horses belly. Again, before man began their efforts to control the river, it had the tendency to flood twice a year; in April when the snows on the Great Plains melted, and then again in July when the normally heavier Rocky Mountain snow melt occurred. These floods caused the river channel to constantly shift between the river bluffs and left behind oxbow lakes, swamps, and low marshy areas.

The ancestral MO River was formed 50-60 million years ago when the Rocky Mountains began to form. It's thought that the river, or at least parts of it actually drained into the Hudson Bay. The flow of the river, especially the lower river, changed during the various glacial periods and the lower river was formed into what we know today as the river by the huge amount of glacier melt water from the last Ice Age, roughly 10,000 years ago. It scoured through the limestone layers to form the bluffs we see today and emptied into the MS river near St. Louis. The glacier also changed the direction of flow of all of the feeder streams in northern MO. Prior to the last glacier, the ancient rivers of Northern Mo drained east in the MS river. After the glacier period, they flowed south into the MO river. I can't imagine the volume and velocity of water that it took to form the MO river bluffs. The river we have today has to be a mere trickle of what it was 10,000 years ago.
 

Patrick H

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Mar 7, 2014
The River today is very different than it was in the mid-19th century. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began narrowing and channelizing the River back during the depression. The River today is deeper and the current faster than it was before channelization. There are no shallow fords left in the lower river basin. A visit to one of the oxbow lakes, such as Big Lake up in Holt Co. offers one an idea how the River appeared prior to channelization.
It's not even the same river today that it was in the mid-twentieth century. I am old enough to remember sitting on my bluff top and watching the Corps of Engineers contractors build wing dikes and pilings to direct the flow of the current. I remember several islands and split channels which no longer exist, except in very high water. I referred to the cut-off lakes in an earlier post. The Missouri was a capricious beast, and still is. But it is now significantly shorter (nearly 50 miles, I believe) between St. Louis and Kansas City, and it's artificially narrower--confined (at least most of the time) between levees that didn't exist during the Civil War. Its channelization has been called the environmental rape of the twentieth century. The engineer who built the first bridge over the Missouri was quoted as saying "I spent a few years of my career building a bridge over the river, and the rest of my career trying to keep the river under the bridge!"
 
Joined
Jun 27, 2017
Missouri suffered a true civil war in all its cruelty. So what role did the Missouri river play. Was it a dividing line in the state between secessionist/unionist. Did it aid in the union victory in the state. If the confederates had secured control of the state south of the river how would that have impacted the war.
You inadvertently bring up a subject which is the least considered yet most important factor in the outcome of the CW--the riverine systems.

First you have the South's enormous coastline with almost zero navy to defend it versus a North with an existing navy and the capacity to fairly rapidly expand its navy.

Second you have the mighty Mississippi literally bisecting the South. It provides a superhighway for the North to invade up the unprotected bowels of the South while simultaneously offering the same access down the unprotected gullet. You might note how little time it took the North to take the Confederacy's biggest city, New Orleans. Plus how quickly the North began its progress down the river. Eventually the South was literally split in half.

If that was not enough, the riverine systems west of the Alleghany's also provided easy access by way of the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers. I am ashamed to admit that I was in my 50's before I realized how close the Shiloh battlefield was to the Alabama line. Or to put it another way how close the river allowed the invaders from the north to get to where they could very easily have proceeded south again bisecting what was left of the South while simultaneously taking the 2 great seaports of Mobile and Biloxi, further strangling supplies coming into the South. (It was truly a great strategic failure to continue the advance which could not reasonably been thwarted and instead focused on the Chattanooga/Atlanta axis of advance.)
 
Joined
Sep 17, 2011
Location
mo
Think because of the lack of gunboats on the river guerrillas and MSG could sometimes simply commandeer a riverboat at a landing or wharf to have them shuttle them across.

And while river has been channelized and is deeper, back then it would have swamp areas around it in places also
 

Booner

2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
May 4, 2015
Location
Boonville, MO.
Where is the choke point on the river. The best place to dominate traffic on the river.
Hmm. Good Question.
I would suspect it would be around St. Louis. A simple fort at where the MO empties into the MS river would control all of the traffic going into the MO river. The only area of the river that had persons of Southern interests along it's banks was in the state of MO. The Union built a fort that overlooked the river early during the war upriver at St. Joseph, Mo. and St. Louis was under Union control before the war started.

I would assume that once the state come under martial law, that there was some sort of loyalty check for those who operated on the river. There was no need for any gunboats, all the Union would have to do is put a 6 pound cannon on boats loyal to the cause and you have a "gun boat."

And St. Louis was, as far as I know, the only place that was capable of boiler repair.
 

Borderruffian

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 4, 2007
Location
Marshfield Missouri
Hmm. Good Question.
I would suspect it would be around St. Louis. A simple fort at where the MO empties into the MS river would control all of the traffic going into the MO river. The only area of the river that had persons of Southern interests along it's banks was in the state of MO. The Union built a fort that overlooked the river early during the war upriver at St. Joseph, Mo. and St. Louis was under Union control before the war started.

I would assume that once the state come under martial law, that there was some sort of loyalty check for those who operated on the river. There was no need for any gunboats, all the Union would have to do is put a 6 pound cannon on boats loyal to the cause and you have a "gun boat."

And St. Louis was, as far as I know, the only place that was capable of boiler repair.
I'd say your right St Louis would be the best place on the river .I too think that had the only boiler repair facility, although I think there were some facilities farther west , but not large ones or extensive ones like in St Louis.
 

Borderruffian

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 4, 2007
Location
Marshfield Missouri
Think because of the lack of gunboats on the river guerrillas and MSG could sometimes simply commandeer a riverboat at a landing or wharf to have them shuttle them across.

And while river has been channelized and is deeper, back then it would have swamp areas around it in places also
I believe a portion of Porters Command commandeered a river boat to get south of the river after Moores Mill.
 

Lusty Murfax

Sergeant
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
Location
Northwest Missouri
Hmm. Good Question.
I would suspect it would be around St. Louis. A simple fort at where the MO empties into the MS river would control all of the traffic going into the MO river. The only area of the river that had persons of Southern interests along it's banks was in the state of MO. The Union built a fort that overlooked the river early during the war upriver at St. Joseph, Mo. and St. Louis was under Union control before the war started.

I would assume that once the state come under martial law, that there was some sort of loyalty check for those who operated on the river. There was no need for any gunboats, all the Union would have to do is put a 6 pound cannon on boats loyal to the cause and you have a "gun boat."

And St. Louis was, as far as I know, the only place that was capable of boiler repair.
In regards to choke points, there are a few notable sites that include a sharp bend in the River channel at the foot of a bluff. Ft. Osage near Sibley just below Jackass Bend in Jackson County and Glasgow in Howard Co. come to mind. There are no sites along the River similar to Vicksburg.
 

Patrick H

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Mar 7, 2014
Where is the choke point on the river. The best place to dominate traffic on the river.
I believe the best point would have been the fords and ferry crossings. @Booner mentioned that one of the most used fords was upstream from Boonville at Arrow Rock. It was being used from the earliest period of settlement, and was where the Santa Fe Trail crossed the river. The lower river has tall bluffs on either side, which would have provided good sniper hides. Steamers were frequently harassed by guerrillas, but I've always read of them firing from the river banks. Keep in mind that the river doesn't always flow past a bluff. The river valley is wide (at least 2 - 3 miles and more in some places.) During the civil war, this valley had a main channel and a maze of islands, split channels and cut-off sloughs and those features were constantly moving and changing. It is difficult to say if there was ever a permanent "choke point." Snags and sleepers in the channel (sunken trees) would have provided temporary choke points, but they constantly moved and changed, too. Sunken steamer wrecks would have been more permanent obstacles, until the river changed course. Many of those are still buried out in the middle of crop fields today.

When Shelby captured Boonville in 1863, some militia happened to be crossing toward the town in a small boat. A citizen yelled to them that "the whole town is full of rebels." The boat crossed back towards the north bank as fast as possible, but not without receiving some ineffective scattered small arms fire from the troopers. I would not call this a choke point, but it demonstrates how easily traffic could be stopped by anyone determined enough to do it.
 
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