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Battle of Boonville

​Confederate Commander

Col. John S. Marmaduke

Forces Engaged: 750



Captured or Missing:

Total: 50

Confederate Officers


Confederate Order of Battle


Confederate Official Records

June 17, 1861

Cooper County, Missouri

Union Victory

Operations to Control Missouri (1861)

​Also Called: First Battle of Boonville​

​Union Commander

Brig. Gen. Nathaniel Lyon

Forces Engaged: 1,700



Captured or Missing:

Total: 31

Union Officers


Union Order of Battle


Union Official Records


Fort Jackson Seized


Brig. Gen. Frost's Protest


Gen. Harney's Letter


St. Louis Riots

In the summer of 1821, Missouri entered the Union as a slave state. However, it was hard to gain statehood as the Northern States were scared about the inequality between free and slave states. 33 years later, the Kansas-Nebraska Act established these territories. With the act, there was bloody fighting between the border of Kansas and Missouri. This fighting was only a small taste of what was to come during the war.

          With the start of the war, Missouri was divided about secession, but the state’s official position was neutrality. Governor Jackson was pro-Southern and wanted the state to secede. However, weeks after the start of the war, Capt. Nathaniel Lyon learned of a plot to seize the Union Armory in St. Louis. With a strong militia, including German immigrants who were strongly against slavery and secession, Capt. Lyon was able to keep the weapons from the Missouri militia. Later while humiliating the Missouri militia by parading them down Main Street, a riot started. By nightfall, there were 62 wounded and 28 dead. Due to the St. Louis riots, any chances of Missouri staying neutral were in jeopardy. However, the next day Gen. Harney announced a truce with Gov. Jackson.

          As the next few weeks went by, the State’s neutrality was fragile. Gen. Price and Gov. Jackson asked and received permission for peace talks in St. Louis. On the 11th of June, Gen. Lyon (promoted to Brig. Gen.) met the pro-Southern committee.  Gen. Price and Gov. Jackson met for several hours trying to dictate what Gen. Lyon and the Union troops could do in Missouri. With this Gen. Lyon stormed out of the meeting stating, “This means war”.

          Within hours, Gen. Lyon’s troops were preparing to march and two days later he left for Jefferson City with 2,000 troops. Upon arriving in Jefferson City, he found the city deserted of officials and troops. Gen. Lyon instructed Boernstein to secure the city while continued upriver toward Boonville.

          Meanwhile, Gov. Jackson ordered Col. Marmaduke to stand at Boonville to meet the Union troops. Col. Marmaduke felt this was a bad idea and urged the governor not to “put untrained soldiers” against the enemy. The governor insisted that Col. Marmaduke insisted the fight be at Boonville. Col. Marmaduke asked for reinforcements from Gen. Price, but did not receive any troops. Gen. Price was overcome by the news and having a severe case of diarrhea went to his home in Chariton County.

          Col. Marmaduke did not want to fight at Boonville, but being a military officer felt compelled to stay. However, he did cross the Osage River where he would have better ground.

          As the Union troops attacked, the Missouri militia fled leaving supplies of shoes, coats, and carpetbags. The whole engagement lasted two hours. The Union troops were warmly greeted as they marched down the main street of Boonville.

          The Battle of Boonville by itself is very insignificant, but it opened up the Missouri River to Union control for the war.


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