Confederate Brigadier General John S. Marmaduke continued his effort to raid Federal supply depots in southwestern Missouri. One of his two brigades under Colonel Joseph C. Porter approached Hartville in accordance with Marmaduke’s original order to capture that town. Porter was unaware that Marmaduke had changed plans and instead unsuccessfully attacked Springfield. The Confederates took Hartville but were disappointed to find just 35 soldiers and 200 muskets there.
Porter’s troops camped for the night about six miles outside Hartville. Meanwhile, Marmaduke withdrew from Springfield with his main force and headed east down the Rolla road to join Porter. Marmaduke split his forces again, sending Colonel Joseph O. “Jo” Shelby to burn a Federal fort at Sand Spring and Colonel Emmett MacDonald to Marshfield.
MacDonald reported, “Here we found rich stores, suitable to the wants of our men, consisting of boots, shoes, hats, caps, socks, gloves, &c. We also captured 6 prisoners, who were paroled on the succeeding morning, and a quantity of fine arms and ammunition.” Marmaduke proudly declared that “the Federals scattered and fled before me.” The Federals at Springfield were too weakened from the fight to pursue.
Brigadier General Fitz H. Warren learned of the engagement at Springfield on January 9 and dispatched 700 Federals under Colonel Samuel Merrill from Houston, about 90 miles east of Springfield. As the Federals moved west, the Confederates moved east. Merrill’s Federals arrived at Hartville on the 10th to find the Confederates already gone. They then proceeded as ordered to reinforce Brigadier General Egbert Brown at Springfield.
Meanwhile, Marmaduke’s three columns converged on Marshfield, unbeknownst to Merrill, on the 9th. Marmaduke planned to move out that night and set up a base at Hartville. Early on the 11th, Marmaduke’s Confederates collided with Merrill’s Federals outside Hartville. The Federals staged a fighting retreat, as Merrill feared the rumors that the Confederate force numbered 6,000 men. The force was much smaller than that, with only Porter’s brigade attacking. Porter could not break the Federal line, so he led his men to safety in Hartville. As they did so, Shelby’s brigade approached the Federals from south of the town. Shelby reported:
“Almost immediately after dismounting, I threw out skirmishers, and advanced the whole line upon the town and upon the woods beyond, knowing that within the dark shades of the timber the crouching Federals were waiting for the spring. After gaining the town, and just upon entering the woods, the brigade received a terrible and well-directed fire, which was so sudden that it almost became a surprise. The men stood all its fury well, and it was not until the tornado had passed did they begin to waver; some fell back, it is true; some stood firm, and others crouched behind obstructions that sheltered them…”
Both sides took turns charging each other, facing “death’s black banner,” but ultimately the Confederate “banner of the bars waves again high over the lurid light of the fight.” Merrill sustained 78 casualties (seven killed, 64 wounded, and seven missing), while Marmaduke lost 111 (12 killed, 96 wounded, and three missing). Among those killed was Colonel MacDonald, who was mourned by his second in command: “Let us drop one tear upon the grave of the departed hero, and pass on to renewed victories and to avenge his death.”
Marmaduke decided to end his raid. Moving in various directions, the Confederates finally recrossed the White River on the 19th, and returned to Batesville, Arkansas, six days later. Marmaduke had sustained about 250 casualties while inflicting the same number on the Federals and capturing and paroling about 300 more. He had destroyed vital Federal supplies and refit his men with much better arms and equipment than they had used to enter Missouri.
Proudly announcing that his mission had been successfully accomplished, Marmaduke reported that the Federals had “countermarched rapidly to save Springfield,” and “a long chain of forts, strong in themselves, built at great expense and labor, which overawed and kept in subjection the country, were razed to the ground, and the heart of the people revived again at the presence of Confederate troops.” But this operation ultimately did nothing to stop the strengthening Federal presence in both Missouri and Arkansas.
- Cutrer, Thomas W., Theater of a Separate War: The Civil War West of the Mississippi River. The University of North Carolina Press, (Kindle Edition), 2017.
- Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fredericksburg to Meridian. New York: Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group (Kindle Edition), 2011.
- Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day. New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971.