Fremont Finally Confronts Price

October 7, 1861 – Major General John C. Fremont left St. Louis to lead his Federal Army of the West against the pro-secession Missouri State Guards under General Sterling “Pap” Price.

Gens John C. Fremont and Sterling Price | Image Credit:
Gens John C. Fremont and Sterling Price | Image Credit:

Nearly two weeks after Price’s Guards captured Lexington, Fremont finally assembled his scattered army to confront them. However, Fremont’s subordinates found his organizational skills hardly satisfactory. Brigadier General John Pope, ordered to command the Federal right wing and join his men with those at Boonville, found no troops at Boonville to join with. Pope complained to his father-in-law: “Fremont shows his inefficiency more and more every day and walks about at Jefferson City with his hands to his head as if he were on the verge of insanity. There are no plans and no home of any that are intelligible.”

Unbeknownst to Pope, Fremont did have plans, as unrealistic as they were. Before leaving on the 7th, he wrote to his wife Jessie from Tipton, “My plan is New Orleans. I think it can be done gloriously.” But the army needed to be unified just to get through Missouri. At that time, Fremont’s 40,000 troops were spread out over 70 miles in five divisions. Fremont planned to concentrate his men into a 10-mile line from Leesville to Warsaw, with Federals from Kansas City forming the army’s right flank, and Pope and Major General David Hunter commanding the two wings.

Concentrating the army was one thing; training and equipping it was another. Most of the troops were inadequately fed, trained, and armed, despite the enormous expenditures incurred within Fremont’s department. Moreover, Lincoln administration officials were on their way from Washington to personally inspect Fremont’s army and report on whether Fremont should keep his job.

In spite of this, the army moved forward to face Price, whose Missouri State Guards had withdrawn from Lexington and were headed southwest toward Arkansas. Heavy skirmishing with Guard remnants occurred at Clintonville and Pomme de Terre on the 12th.

The next day, elements of Fremont’s army routed a detachment of Guards on the 13th, capturing 40 and sending the rest fleeing toward Lebanon. Federal Colonel Grenville Dodge, who directed care for the wounded in Rolla, estimated that the Missourians sustained 46 casualties (16 killed and 30 wounded). This battle, which was more of a running fight, became known as “Dutch Hollow,” “Wet Glaze,” or “Monday Hollow.”

Both the Federal army movement and questions over whether Fremont should keep his command continued as the month progressed.


References (various dates); Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 85-86; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 98; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 71-72; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 124-25


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