The Battle of Newtonia

September 30, 1862 – Confederates tried reentering southwestern Missouri from Arkansas, resulting in a fierce skirmish.

Since the Battle of Pea Ridge in March, General Theophilus H. Holmes had superseded Major General Thomas C. Hindman in command of the Confederate Trans-Mississippi Department due to Hindman’s unpopular and allegedly dictatorial rule over both the department and the people within it.

The Confederates were primarily based in Arkansas, while the Federals were mainly in Missouri. The Federals launched occasional incursions into Arkansas, while Holmes envisioned regaining Missouri for the Confederacy.

Gen Thomas C. Hindman | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

In September, Hindman, now serving under Holmes, moved about 6,000 Confederates to Fort Smith to reenter Missouri and capture Springfield. Hindman advanced into southwestern Missouri and occupied Pineville, but Holmes recalled him to help manage affairs at the department’s Little Rock headquarters. Hindman left General James Rains in command at Pineville and returned as ordered.

Federal officials responded by reinstating the Department of the Missouri, which absorbed the jurisdictions of the Departments of Kansas and the Mississippi, both of which were disbanded. The new department consisted of Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, the Indian Territory, and Alton, Illinois.

Major General Samuel R. Curtis was assigned to command the new department, headquartered in St. Louis. Under Curtis, the Confiscation Acts were stringently enforced by Federal provost marshals, and hundreds of Missourians were jailed under martial law. Curtis’s force consisted of three divisions:

  • Major General Frederick Steele’s at Helena, Arkansas
  • Major General John Schofield’s in southwestern Missouri
  • Brigadier General James G. Blunt’s in Kansas

Brig Gen S.R. Curtis | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Curtis directed Schofield to stop the Confederate threat in southwestern Missouri while Blunt provided support from Fort Scott, Kansas, if needed. Blunt sent Schofield two brigades. From Pineville, Rains dispatched Confederate cavalry north to reconnoiter around Newtonia. About 200 Confederates under Colonel Trevesant C. Hawpe established a base at the town.

On the 29th, Colonel Edward Lynde’s 150 Federals and two howitzers reconnoitered around Newtonia, where Confederates had established a base. That afternoon Lynde’s superior, Brigadier General Frederick Salomon (under Blunt), heard firing from Federal headquarters at Sarcoxie, 15 miles from Newtonia. He sent another two Federal companies and three howitzers to support Lynde.

The Federals arrived the next morning, increasing the force to about 4,500 men. Lynde drove the Confederates into a cornfield, where an artillery duel took place until the Confederates ran out of ammunition. The Federals pushed Hawpe’s men into the town until they were reinforced by Colonel Douglas H. Cooper’s Texas and Indian cavalry. Cooper’s men helped knock Lynde back about three miles.

During that time, Salomon arrived on the scene and directed his men to move around the enemy flank and take Newtonia from the rear. The Confederates fell under murderous enfilade fire until reinforced by Colonel Joseph O. “Jo” Shelby’s 5th Missouri Cavalry. Salomon pulled his men back to a wooded ridge as Cooper massed for a counterattack.

The Confederate reinforcements ultimately crumbled Salomon’s flanks, forcing his men to fall back. Confederate artillery panicked the troops, with some running all the way to Sarcoxie. Cooper pursued until nightfall. The Federals sustained about 400 casualties. Cooper reported losing 12 killed, 63 wounded, and three missing. Although the Confederates were victorious, they could not stay in southwestern Missouri much longer because Blunt was about to join forces with Schofield.

—–

References

Faust, Patricia L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 407-08, 502, 530-31; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 213, 215-16; Josephy, Jr., Alvin M., War on the Frontier: The Trans-Mississippi West (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 149-50; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 269-71; Sommers, Richard J., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 292-93; Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 8, 500, 747; White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q362

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