Second Battle of Independence
|Second Battle of Independence|
|Part of American Civil War|
|United States (Union)||CSA (Confederacy)|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Samuel R. Curtis||Sterling Price|
|Army of the Border||Army of Missouri|
|Casualties and losses|
The Second Battle of Independence was a minor engagement of the American Civil War October 21–22, 1864 centered in Independence, Missouri, with some of the fiercest fighting taking place at the present-day United Nations Peace Plaza; the "Harry Truman" Railroad Depot; George Caleb Bingham's residence in the city, the Community of Christ church's Temple, Auditorium and "Stone Church"; and the headquarters of the Church of Christ (Temple Lot).
This clash opened the decisive phase of Confederate Maj. Gen. Sterling Price’s 1864 Missouri Campaign, and culminated in his defeat at the Battle of Westport the next day. It was the most dramatic American Civil War action involving Jackson County, Missouri since the Union's devastating "Order No. 11" a year earlier.
The battle should not be confused with the First Battle of Independence, fought in August 1862. That earlier battle resulted in a Confederate victory.
In the fall of 1864, Confederate Maj. Gen. Sterling Price was dispatched by his superior, Lt. Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith, to attempt to seize Missouri for the Confederacy. Unable to attack his primary objective, St. Louis, Price decided to execute Smith's backup plan for a westward raid through Missouri and into Kansas and the Indian Territory. Their ultimate goal was to destroy or capture Union supplies and outposts, which might negatively affect Abraham Lincoln's chances for reelection in 1864.
After victories at Glasgow and Lexington, Price continued his march westward, in the direction of Kansas City and Fort Leavenworth, headquarters of the Federal Department of Kansas. His army, which he termed the Army of Missouri, was organized with Brig. Gen. Joseph Shelby’s division in the lead, followed by Brig. Gen. John S. Marmaduke’s division, with Brig. Gen. James Fagan’s division bringing up the rear.
Union forces opposing Price consisted of militia units and the XVI Corps of Maj. Gen. Andrew J. Smith, augmented by the cavalry division of Maj. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton, detached from William S. Rosecrans's Department of Missouri. In addition, the newly-activated Army of the Border under Maj. Gen. Samuel R. Curtis would engage Price's force. Curtis commanded the divisions of Maj. Gen. James G. Blunt (cavalry), Maj. Gen. George W. Dietzler (Kansas Militia Division), Pleasonton's cavalry, and two infantry divisions detached from Smith's Corps under Colonels Joseph J. Woods and David Moore—about 22,000 men in all.
Following their defeat at Lexington, the small detachment of Union troops engaged in this battle under General Blunt retreated west toward Independence. They set up camp on October 20 behind strong defensive positions on the west bank of the Little Blue River, about five miles east of town, and awaited the main Confederate force. However Blunt's superior, General Curtis, ordered him to abandon these positions save for a small blocking force under Colonel Thomas Moonlight, and return to Independence.
The Second Battle of Independence actually commenced as a connected engagement at the Little Blue River, in the rural easternmost boundaries of the city. It began on October 21, when General Blunt was ordered to return to the Little Blue and reoccupy the same defensive positions he had been directed to abandon only the day before. Upon his arrival, he found that Colonel Moonlight had burnt the bridge over the river as previously instructed, after being attacked by Price's advance guard.
Price's army had arrived on the scene by this time, and fiercely engaged the Union forces. Witnesses reported that the Federals entrenched themselves behind rock walls, and forced attacking Confederates to fight for nearly every inch of ground. Gradually, however, the Union troops were compelled to give way, retreating west through Independence toward Westport. Union rearguard units attempted to impede Price's progress throughout the afternoon of the 21st, as brisk fighting raged through the streets of the city, but all were ultimately compelled to withdraw. Price's troops halted their advance at an unfinished railroad cut on the western side of town's center, and made camp there for the evening.
One casualty of the first day's fighting was Confederate raider George M. Todd, who had participated in the First Battle of Independence in 1862, where he was guilty of summarily executing two captured Union officers.
Periodic gunfire continued throughout the night, as each side probed the other. Union troops continued their withdrawal to the Big Blue River, west of Independence.
At dawn on the 22nd, Maj. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton’s Union force of 10,000 cavalry crossed the Little Blue River, and attacked Independence from the northeast (and thus, from the rear of Price's force) in company with the 2nd Arkansas Infantry (Union). Two of Fagan's brigades were roughly handled by the attacking Federals, being pushed back through the city toward the west, where the main Union force lay. Yet another Confederate brigade attempted to stem the onslaught on the grounds of what is now the Community of Christ's Independence Temple, but was practically annihilated by Pleasonton's force with only a few Rebels escaping.
But final victory would elude the Union. Marmaduke’s division engaged Pleasonton about two miles west of Independence, managing to push the Federals back and hold them until the morning of October 23. The focus of combat now shifted westward from Independence to Westport, in modern Kansas City.
Although Price could claim a victory due to the bravery of Marmaduke and his men, Pleasonton’s bold actions greatly worried him. Concerned for the safety of his supplies, Price accordingly sent his wagon trains to Little Santa Fe on the Fort Scott Road, once he had crossed the Big Blue River. The following day, the 30,000 troops of both armies joined combat at the Battle of Westport, resulting in a decisive Union victory and the end of major Confederate military efforts in Missouri.
- Chapter 13: The Second Battle of Independence (includes eyewitness report written October 23, 1864) The Centennial History of Independence, Mo. by W.L. Webb, Copyright 1927 by the Author
- ibid. Retrieved on 11 July 2008.
- ibid. Retrieved on 11 July 2008.
- U.S. National Park Service CWSAC Battle Summary
- CWSAC Report Update
- The "First" and "Second" Battles of Independence pp. 708–709, 'Historical Dictionary of the Civil War: A-L' by Terry L. Jones, Rowman & Littlefield, 2002.