Flag Meaning
Union Forces

The Confederates Get A Rude Awakening


5:10 am

Lyon's forces advance from north Confederates fall back


Courtesy "The Wilson's Creek Staff Ride and Battlefield Tour" by Major George Knapp and published by Combat Studies Institute. The US Army and the National Guard use battlefields like Wilson's Creek to assist in teaching military history to its officers.


"Mother got all of the children lined up, both white and black and hustled them together with grown-ups into the cellar, colored Mammy Rhode bringing up the rear. The cellar was under the house with an entrance at back, the outside steps being sheltered with enclosed cellarway. The door opened out instead of having to be raised."


He at once called my attention to parties occupying the ridges and corn-fields on the left, asking me if I could drive them back; to which I replied that I would try...(consisting of my own and Capt. Switzler's company of cavalry)...I at once took position on the left...

New York Tribune

Capt. Wright, with three or four companies of mounted home guards, the only ones in the engagement, was sent to the left, across the creek, to cut off a party of horsemen visible on that side, near a house recently vacated by a union man named Hale. Upon their approach, the rebels retired behind the south fence of a corn field, and in the adjoining bush were soon visible swarms of men, whose fire threatened to be disastrous to the home guard cavalry... Through the thin stalks of the broom corn, capt. Wright had seen the ambuscade, and approached only near enough to draw their fire, when he withdrew, to induce them to follow him into the field, where he could charge upon them effectively. He repeated this movement three times, but the enemy were too wily and would only remain behind the fence.

Major Samuel Sturgis

Commander 1st Brigade

General Officers of the Civil War


...Captain Plummer's battalion, with the home guards on his left, were to cross Wilson's Creek and move towards the front, keeping pace with the advance on the opposite bank, for the purpose of protecting our left flank against any attempt of the enemy to turn it.

Capt Joseph Plummer

1st US Inf

General Officers of the Civil War


....the General directed me to follow Captain Gilbert with the balance of the battalion, and, uniting with him, to carry forward the left flank of the attack. I overtook Captain Gilbert with his skirmishers in a deep jungle, where he had been checked by an impassable lagoon. Much time was consumed in effecting the passages of this obstacle.

Under Both Flags

We crossed the creek without trouble, but were opposed on the eastern bank by a jungle of willows and reeds, and had to pull each other through, our shoes being filled with water and sand.


Coming down the prairie right toward me, a little more than a mile distant, were several ranks of blue-coated infantry, marching as if they were in a hurry to get somewhere, in solid columns, with flags flying and their bright muskets reflecting the light of early dawn. And I saw several cannons, each drawn by many fine-looking horses...

 Under Both Flags

Lyon, after dispatching plummer to the valley, pushed on with the main body as fast as the uneven ground and the stubbornness of Cawthorne would allow until he came to a rugged and wooded bank running east and west, and which served as a natural breastwork. It rises about eighty feet above the lowland,....


...this was the first army of the ruthless invader that had yet come in range of my visual organs; and magnified by fear or surprise or both, it appeared to me that the whole prairie was covered with soldiers and cannon. It was a grand and exhilarating sight, but I didn't tarry long to gloat upon its picturesque beauty.

Under Both Flags

Captain Totten was then ordered to unlimber his guns and load for action....a few months before this he was stationed at the capital of Arkansas and was in charge of the arsenal there....being menaced by a formidable mob of Confederates surrendered his company and the property of the government. The unfortunate captain and his men were allowed to proceed north, but before leaving they were required to hold up their right hands and swear that they would not bear arms against the Confederate stated during the war then in progress. The victors at Little Rock, now dressed and drilled as soldiers of the Confederacy, were again in view, and Totten and his men were about to give them an idea of the value they placed upon such an oath.


...I was sent out about daylight with a squad to procure feed for the horses, whilst a part of the company applied themselves to re-adjusting out torn up quarters. Having loaded up our horses with all the fodder and corn we could carry and nearly got back to the place where my mess was located, we observed the most excited bunch of soldiers I had ever seen. Men were running here and there gathering their arms, camp equipage, saddling horses and hurrying into line as fast as possible....I had a couple of bushels of corn tied up in a blanket in front of me on my horse, which I quickly dumped, unlimbered my carbine and rushed into line. Every fifth man led four horses, and they scampered away to the rear, the regiment forming a line as infantry.


Cawthorne was meanwhile forming the rest of his brigade on the northern slope of Bloody Hill. He had about six hundred dismounted men in line.


The First Missouri led into battle, driving everything before them. Major Osterhaus on the right supported the Missouri, and drove the enemy from our right flank.

Capt Joseph Shelby

MSG Cavalry

General Officers of the Civil War


...Poured in upon us a tremendous shower of shell, case-shot, grape, and minie-ball, instantly killing lieut. Col. A.J. Austin and wounding two privates.


We started to advance with alacrity. Artillery had opened upon us at short range. The trees were so thick that we could not see their support but we knew a heavy force was coming, so we were ordered to fall back. As far as I was concerned the order did not have to be repeated. To say I was scared is using mild expression. The first fall or shell sped over our heads cutting off branches of trees, the next hit the ground just to my left and to the next killed Lieutenant Colonel Austin nearby. I was in a panic but managed to keep my legs from running away with me until the order for retreat came. I made record time in overtaking my horse and in company with two or three hundred of the regiment joined Major Comer...

( Lt Col Andrew Jackson Austin, a wealthy store owner from Utica, MO, died leaving a wife and four children)


A brisk skirmish took place, and Cawthorne was driven back over the brow of Bloody Hill, to its southern slope, where he was safe for the time.


As we marched up the hill, it came in my way to step over one of the skirmishes who was shot right in front of us. He was blue-eyed, blonde, fine-looking young man, with a light mustache, who writhed around upon the ground in agony.


...that as we went up the hill that morning to attack the Confederate forces we passed a wounded Confederate picket, who was clearly in great suffering, and with but a few hours of life before him. He was lying in an unnatural and very comfortable position, but apparently too weak to get into a better one. I asked one of our men, who were walking slowly, to step out of the line and make things comfortable for that poor fellow-to let him die in peace. Accordingly, breaking ranks, he took the wounded Confederate, who wore jeans which indicated that he was a native of the country and had not long been in the service, and carried him up in as restful a position as possible. The poor fellow made two bows faintly-one to the soldier who had helped him and the other to me as much as to say 'thank you', but he was too weak to speak.


On the first appearance of dawn some of the boys got up and ran down to the wagon to get something to make a little coffee to drink before we started on the march...the roll was called, and the boys were trying to get some coffee prepared, when mounted men were seen hurrying up to the general's tent, and a young lad called my attention, saying, "There is something up!"


I gave him no time to ask questions, but told him what I firmly believed at the time to be true - that about 20,000 Federal soldiers with at least a hundred cannon were moving down the prairie on a run..

(In fact if Snyder saw every soldier and cannon Lyon had in his attacking force, he saw 10 cannon and about 4200 men)


Looking up, we could, ourselves, see a great crowd of men on horseback, some armed, and others unarmed, mixed in with wagons and teams and lead horses, all in dreadful confusion, scampering over the hill, and rushing down toward us - a panic-stricken drove....(Price)"Order my troops, sir, under arms, and in line of battle at once, and have my horse saddled!"

Col James McIntosh

2nd Ark Mounted Rifles

General Officers of the Civil War


In a moment McCulloch, followed by McIntosh, was in the saddle and on his way to take command of the troops on the eastern side of the creek; and Price, having ordered his infantry and artillery to follow, was galloping up Bloody Hill to take command of Cawthorne's brigade, which was still falling back before Lyon, resisting him all that it could.


....we were suddenly startled by the clatter and rattling of a lot of empty forage wagons thundering down the rocky hill, and the drivers yelling like Indians and urging their jaded teams to the top of their speed.

Brig General Nathaniel Bart Pearce  

Pearce's Brigade

(photo courtesy of Battles and Leaders of the Civil War vol 1)


...6 o'clock...a few minutes before this, Sergeant Hite, of my body-guard dashed up to my headquarters, breathless with excitement, hatless, and his horse covered with foam, exclaiming hurriedly, "General, the enemy is coming!"


Men, horses and other animals, with and without wagons, carriages, etc., were seen rushing hurriedly and confusedly in great numbers down the roads and to the fords on the west and south.....I ordered officers and men to posts and mounted drivers while awaiting orders. A minute or two later, on the hill five or six hundred yards northwest a rush of teams was observed, which rapidly developed into a light battery, that quickly unlimbered and commenced firing, seemingly in the direction of general mcculloch's headquarters, or of the crowd flying down the main road towards sharp's house.....almost simultaneously a second battery or section rushed forward to the right and in front of the first, about 200 yards, unlimbered and commenced firing, apparently in the direction of....Third Louisiana Regiment. I passed my caissons to the rear and ordered "In battery"....

(An online cannon firing demonstration with basic monologue explaining what each soldier is doing and why)

Upon departing Little Rock, Woodruff's Pulaski Battery had been presented a banner by Juliet Langtree who is quoted in the Arkansas Democrat May 30, 1861 as saying in her presentation speech "You are about to leave your firesides, your friends and your homes, to do battle in your country’s cause. The peril of war is upon us, and you are about to meet it. The highest attribute of man is courage to defend the right. Your cause is right—it is just; and may the ‘God of battles’ be with you. You see that on this flag the ‘stars and stripes’ are less than on the old one, yet it is the flag now waving over our southern homes—emblematic of southern rights and defended by southern chivalry. Will you surrender it? Will you not rather die under its folds? Remember also, that while you are gone, you will not be forgotten. Many a mother’s and many a sister’s heart will yearn after you while you are toiling in the arduous campaign. In the heat of day or the darkness of night, those you leave behind you will drop a tear for the soldier, and offer up a prayer for his safety. Take then this flag and let your determination be like that of the Spartan mother’s advice when she presented her son with his shield: ‘Come home with it or come home on it.

New York Tribune

Lieut. Dubois' battery, four pieces, had also opened on the eastern slope, firing upon a force which was retreating toward the southeast on a road leading up the hill, which juts into the southwestern angle of the creek, and upon a battery placed near by to cover Capt. Plummer and his gallant men.

Col Thomas Dockery'

5th Arkansas

photo courtesy of "General Officers of the Civil War"

Spfld Leader Dockery

colonel Richard H. Weightman, an officer of great ability and the idol of the Missouri troops, was a mile and a half down the creek. General Price sent an order to him by Major C.C. Rainwater to form his brigade and move in the direction of the firing....The body guard at the door of the Colonel's tent at first refused him admission....


...we heard a volley of small arms over on General Price's front, and in less than a minute Rain's division of cavalry came down over the hill, some of them half dressed, and many of the horses were loose and ran through our men, who were sleeping on their arms.


...I took a good bathe in the creek...dawn came. I went to the beef cattle yard to help butcher a beef...After finishing the work, we went down the hill to camp...When we got to camp, our company was being called into line. I washed my hands and took my yager and, loading it, filed off without breakfast.


It was my morning to cook the mess breakfast; so at the earliest dawn I was up, started the fire, put oven and lid on the fire to heat, mixed the dough, put in the biscuit, and was in the act of putting coals on the oven lid when boom! Went Totten's Yankee cannon. I don't know to this day whether those coals fell on the lid or the ground. I dropped the broad shovel and sprang to the tent to awake my messmates, but they needed no waking. With wide-eyed haste they were throwing off their blankets, and reaching for their shoes(they slept in their clothes), and in less time than it takes to write this they had their rifles in their hands.....


Orders were given for all in line - that they were fighting. I cursed them and told them that i would not go, that it was a false alarm; that there had been a light rain and that some of them were only shooting off their guns to dry them. I had my breakfast all ready except my coffee which would not boil. They called to me to fall in line with them. I told them no; not until I had eaten. The company marched off and left me there....I looked across the hill....and saw a big puff of white smoke from the muzzle of a cannon. A moment later I heard the report of the cannon. My coffee had not yet boiled, and I took my bread and meat into my hands.


...we were eating our breakfast. "Boom" went a cannon over on the north east of our camp and the shell whistled along down the road close to where we were eating,...


The sound made by a shell, in its passage through the air, cannot be described, and, when once heard, can never be forgotten.

Blue and Gray

The men of the cavalry camp had long been astir, and were just now listening to the crash of Lyon's opening guns, three miles to the north. As a Federal attack was the last thing to enter our minds, the cannonading was supposed to be in honor of a fresh Confederate victory on the Potomac,...


While we were talking and I still eating, a twig from a Sycamore fell down on the camp table, and immediately we heard a report of a cannon on our extreme left, towards Springfield.


The sun rose clear and beautiful on the 10th of August. I had just come off guard duty and, tired and sleepy, had thrown myself on the ground to get a little rest before breakfast, when, almost at the first glint of the sun, a cannon shot broke the stillness of the air....Springing to my feet I saw half a mile to the north the woods blue with Federals.


While at breakfast, the first we knew of the approach of the enemy, a six pound ball from Gen. Lyon's battery, lit in the midst of our camp, and for a moment almost paralyzed our entire camp. But we soon recognized the voice of our grand leader, Gen (sic) Weightman, hollering, to arms. We dropped the roasting ears, gathering up the shotguns and away we went in a trot....

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