Civil War Refugees in Missouri

America's Civil War significantly impacted Missouri, then a ''Slave State.'' Refugees, from the northern-border area, are seen here arriving in St. Louis. They had been impacted by Price's Raid (which occurred in 1864).

What was Price's Raid (also known as Price's Missouri Expedition)? What was its purpose?

Sterling Price, a popular Confederate General and former governor of Missouri, was the leader of an 1864 raid in Missouri intended to help the rebel side of the war wrest the state from Union control. The focus of the effort was to regain political control by electing Confederate-favoring people to Missouri’s Legislature.

The planners wanted pro-secessionist politicians (who were forced out of Missouri by Union troops when the Civil War began) to return and take-over the state’s government. For whatever reason, they thought military action would influence voters to see the rebels as a better way to run Missouri than the pro-Union provisional government (which had been appointed by the state’s 1861 convention).

Although many of the troops involved in the planned raid had no weapons, the planners thought they could fix that problem by having the men seize weapons and other supplies when they reached St. Louis (where there was a federal arsenal). After securing St. Louis, the troops would travel to Jefferson City, Missouri’s capital—via steamboat—and hold that town until the 1864 elections were over.

Presumably—at least in the planner’s minds—the new government would be pro-South, not pro-North. If the Confederate-favoring troops participating in the raid could appropriate enough weapons, they would use those weapons to drive Union forces from the State.

A side motive, for the planners, was to help Robert E. Lee. Wouldn’t it be great, they reasoned, if some of the Union forces—which the Confederate general and his men were fighting in the eastern states—could be diverted to Missouri (where they would fight against the newly armed raiders)?

Plans, however, are only as good as the individuals who carry-out the mission. In the case of this raid, the men who would lead the troops had personal differences.

General Price and Major General John S. Marmaduke did not always see eye-to-eye. Price listened to less-experienced men (who favored his attack ideas) instead of to the more-experienced Marmaduke (who opposed Price's ideas).

Marmaduke, for example, wanted to mount a speedy raid on St. Louis (before Union troops could effectively defend the city and its federal arsenal) while Price wanted to first attack Fort Davidson).

Had Price listened to Marmaduke, perhaps the 1864 raid that bears his name could have succeeded. Instead, at the end of all the effort, Price and his starving troops—now numbering around 6,000 instead of the initial 15,000 - 20,000 men—were forced to retreat.

What happened in Missouri’s 1864 election? The state’s government remained in pro-Union hands.

The Missouri History Museum provides highlights and details regarding Price's Raid (as quoted below):

  • In 1864, the Missouri legislature was gearing up for a new election.
  • Confederate leaders believed that if they could take the capital, Jefferson City, return the exiled Confederate politicians there, and hold elections, that the state would elect a Southerner, putting the state legally in the hands of the South for the next four years. 
  • General Sterling Price was chosen to lead this raid because of his popularity in the state.
  • They would first take St. Louis and stock up on supplies. Once St. Louis had been secured they would go by steamboat to Jefferson City and hold the city until elections could bring a pro-South government to power. 
  • Then, depending on the strength of their recruited army, they would attempt to drive Union forces from the state. 
  • Price and his troops gathered at Pocahontas, Arkansas. They left with each of three columns taking a slightly different route toward St. Louis on September 19, 1864.
  • Two of Price’s generals, John Marmaduke and Joseph Shelby, advocated the immediate taking of St. Louis. They were concerned that delay would make St. Louis unassailable.
  • Despite these concerns Gen. Price moved forward with his plan to attack Fort Davidson.
  • The Union troops at Fort Davidson were led by General Thomas Ewing and numbered roughly 2,000. After inflicting heavy losses on Price’s army, Ewing was able to escape with his forces. 
  • Price then turned his focus to Jefferson City. As he moved west he received word that Jefferson City had been heavily reinforced. Price would again have to rethink his plans. He decided to move farther west, toward Kansas City. 
  • All the while, federal troops from Kansas and Missouri were organizing to trap Price before he could make it to Kansas City. 
  • The army of General Samuel Curtis (head of the Army of Kansas) was ahead of Price in Westport, and General Alfred Pleasonton closed in on his rear. Price was fully outnumbered. After major losses at Westport and with no choices left, Price and his tattered army retreated.
  • The retreating army marched into Kansas with General Pleasonton and his cavalry close behind. Price made his way back to Arkansas with 6,000 troops of his original 15,000–20,000. 
  • Price’s raid would be the final major offensive in Missouri during the war. Its failure would lead to Abraham Lincoln and the Republicans retaining power in the 1864 election.

Price's raid was also the Civil War's "last major Confederate campaign in Northern territory."

Click on the image for a better view.

0 Question or Comment?
click to read or comment
3 Questions 2 Ponder
click to read and respond
0 It's Awesome!
vote for your favorite

Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5155stories and lessons created

Original Release: Mar 07, 2017

Updated Last Revision: Sep 01, 2017

Media Credits

Henry L. Stephens created this illustration. It is online via the Library of Congress.


To cite this story (For MLA citation guidance see easybib or OWL ):

"Civil War Refugees in Missouri" AwesomeStories.com. Mar 07, 2017. Dec 15, 2018.
Awesome Stories Silver or Gold Membership Required
Awesome Stories Silver or Gold Membership Required
Show tooltips