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Price's Lost Campaign

The 1864 Invasion of Missouri

Mark A. Lause

Publication Year: 2011

In the fall of 1864, during the last brutal months of the Civil War, the Confederates made one final, desperate attempt to rampage through the Shenandoah Valley, Tennessee, and Missouri. Price’s Raid was the common name for the Missouri campaign led by General Sterling Price. Involving tens of thousands of armed men, the 1864 Missouri campaign has too long remained unexamined by a book-length modern study, but now, Civil War scholar Mark A. Lause fills this long-standing gap in the literature, providing keen insights on the problems encountered during and the myths propagated about this campaign.


Price marched Confederate troops 1,500 miles into Missouri, five times as far as his Union counterparts who met him in the incursion. Along the way, he picked up additional troops; the most exaggerated estimates place Price’s troop numbers at 15,000. The Federal forces initially underestimated the numbers heading for Missouri and then called in troops from Illinois and Kansas, amassing 65,000 to 75,000 troops and militia members. The Union tried to downplay its underestimation of the Confederate buildup of troops by supplanting the term campaign with the impromptu raid.


            This term was also used by Confederates to minimize their lack of military success. The Confederates, believing that Missourians wanted liberation from Union forces, had planned a two-phase campaign. They intended not only to disrupt the functioning government through seizure of St. Louis and the capital, Jefferson City, but also to restore the pro-secessionist government driven from the state three years before. The primary objective, however, was to change the outcome of the Federal elections that fall, encouraging votes against the Republicans who incorporated ending slavery into the Union war goals. What followed was widespread uncontrolled brutality in the form of guerrilla warfare, which drove support for the Federalists. Missouri joined Kansas in reelecting the Republicans and ensuring the end of slavery.


Lause’s account of the Missouri campaign of 1864 brings new understanding of the two distinct phases of the campaign, as based upon declared strategic goals. Additionally, as the author reveals the clear connection between the military campaign and the outcome of the election, he successfully tests the efforts of new military historians to integrate political, economic, social, and cultural history into the study of warfare. In showing how both sides during Price’s Raid used self-serving fictions to provide a rationale for their politically motivated brutality and were unwilling to risk defeat, Lause reveals the underlying nature of the American Civil War as a modern war.


Published by: University of Missouri Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-x

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pp. 1-6

By the fall of 1864, the American Civil War had entered its final and most desperately brutal months. Trench warfare mired the vast armies in Virginia while the hellish turn of events in Georgia aimed at breaking the morale and spirit of the civilian population. In futile desperation, large Confederate armies shook free of the Federal death grip for a final rampage through the Shenandoah...

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Prologue: The Sacred Soil of Missouri: The State, the Army, and the Department

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pp. 7-26

For decades before the Civil War, Americans had wondered at the large earthen embankments and pyramids along the Mississippi and Missouri valleys. Finding the contemporary native peoples ignorant about these often very extensive monuments and works, the whites speculated about Vikings, Phoenicians, or even the biblical Lost Tribes dwelling briefly in an alternative...

One: The Beginning

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1. Of Conquest and Liberation: From Arkansas into Missouri

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pp. 29-45

On Monday, September 26, a column of blue-clad riders galloped down the gravel road between Shut-in Gap toward the village of Arcadia disrupting lunch for a small group of pickets watching from a roadside shade tree. Although the others mistook the riders coming toward them as militia on their way to Fort Davidson, Sergeant Azariah Martin, a Kentucky-born...

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2. September 27: From Pilot Knob through Potosi to Centralia

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pp. 46-64

By late Tuesday afternoon, one soldier looked out over the field around Fort Davidson to see a sight “not to be forgotten by those who were there. The dead, the dying, the wounded, piled up here and there with the fragments of destruction all around.”1 The scene cut particularly deep because of the remarkable natural beauty of the seemingly timeless terrain that framed its strange...

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3. Sounding the Alarm: The Road to Rolla

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pp. 65-82

Late Thursday, September 29, the engineer George Curry rolled his locomotive into Pacific west of St. Louis with unmistakable news from an unexpected direction. His trip had taken hours longer than it should have, with a particularly harrowing stop to restore the track where the Confederates had removed half a dozen rails. During these makeshift repairs, a lost second lieutenant separated...

Two: The Primary Goal

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4. The Mysteries of St. Louis: Myths and Realities in the City’s Defense

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pp. 85-102

A traveler familiar with antebellum St. Louis would have had seen many differences during a wartime visit. Armed uniformed soldiers or armed militia guarded the depots, blockhouses at the railroad bridges, and all the major roads. A train passenger coming from the west toward Jefferson Street saw a giant earthen fort covering more than a city block looming out the right window....


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pp. 103-111

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5. At the Gates of the Metropolis: Pacific and Union

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pp. 112-128

Saturday dawned on a body of armed uniformed Confederates back in St. Louis County for the first time in over three years. Most were almost certainly young Arkansans, hungry and tired after a hard night of rapid marches and short fights. An officer had sent them to destroy track or picket the road toward the city. Although they must have been cautious initially about their assignment...

Three: The Secondary Goal

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6. The Turning Point: From the Bourbeuse to the Gasconade

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pp. 131-143

By the time General Sterling Price’s Confederate army reached the town of Union, it began abandoning the last of its plans to reassert the sovereignty of Missouri against the Federal occupiers. By the time it reached Union, though, its members felt no need to make such a claim by hoisting the Confederate banner over the Franklin County courthouse. Rather, when Private Donald...

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7. The Westward March: From Boeuf Creek to the Osage River

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pp. 144-158

Monday’s “heavy cannonading” from Hermann electrified those residents several miles west with Captain Charles D. Eitzen’s militia at the Gasconade River bridge. In quieter times, he had made a good living dealing in lumber and iron, though he had faced death at that bridge nine years before when it collapsed beneath the weight of a trainload of luminaries celebrating the opening...

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8. The Capital: From the Osage River to Jefferson City

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pp. 159-176

Thursday and Friday, October 6 and 7, 1864, gave the village of Taos, huddled between the Osage and the Moreau, a mild taste of what earlier befell its namesake. Seventeen years before, events in the pueblo in New Mexico had made Sterling Price’s military reputation and provided the Missouri community with its name. Now, thousands of Price’s armed Missourians tramped the...

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Epilogue: Shaping the Memory of a Civil War Campaign

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pp. 177-194

People who saw the ubiquitous Indian mounds as proof of native brutality and their own civilization responded accordingly to the Confederate invasion. As Sterling Price’s army rampaged across the state, rumors terrified whites that savage Indians had returned to exact their terrible revenge. Perhaps because Stand Watie’s Cherokee raid near the Kansas line took place the same day that...

Appendix A: Timetable of the Missouri Campaign, August 29–October 8, 1864

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pp. 195-202

Appendix B: Engaged Units

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pp. 203-210


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pp. 211-256


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pp. 257-264

E-ISBN-13: 9780826272638
E-ISBN-10: 0826272630
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826219497
Print-ISBN-10: 0826219497

Page Count: 280
Illustrations: 10 illustrations
Publication Year: 2011

Edition: 1