30 December 2007 by Published in: General musings 11 comments

I’m a cav guy. That’s no secret. In fact, cavalry operations interest me most of all. I find the evolution of tactics fascinating, and I likewise find the changing role of the cavalry in the Civil War to be one of the most interesting studies of the evolution of military doctrine I’ve yet found.

By 1864, as a consequence of changing technology, weaponry, tactics, and the emergence of competent leadership, cavalry doctrine had changed substantially from where it was at the beginning of the war. By late 1864, large mounted forces began acting as independent commands, almost like a mounted army. Each side featured one such force. Maj. Gen. James H. Wilson’s mounted army tore the guts out of the Deep South in the winter and spring of 1865, establishing the prototype for the modern armored force.

The Confederate force was commanded by Maj. Gen. Sterling Price. Price cobbled together a 12,000 man army in the summer and fall of 1864, mounted the entire force, and set off on a raid into Missouri that was intended to threaten St. Louis. His command included the cavalry forces of J.O. Shelby and John Marmaduke, both pretty good horse soldiers. Unfortunately, Price was no Marshal Murat, and he suffered three major defeats during this campaign, at Pilot Knob, Westport, and Mine Creek. During the latter two actions, Westport and Mine Creek, Maj. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton, who had been banished to the West in the spring of 1864 after he testified against George Gordon Meade before the Committee on the Conduct of the War, played an integral role in those Union victories.

During this time in the Eastern Theater, Pleasonton was never known as a battlefield commander, and he certainly was never known as a lead from the front kind of guy. However, when he got to the west, he suddenly became a very effective battlefield commander, and in the engagements at both Westport and Mine Creek, he did extremely well, managing significant battlefield victories over Price’s forces. These actions were clearly Alfred Pleasonton’s finest moments in the Civil War. In fact, the town of Pleasanton, Kansas (misspelling and all) was named for him.

J. D., Mike Nugent and I like to have the occasional cav fest, as we like to call them. We go and do some very serious battlefield stomping, focusing pretty much exclusively on cavalry actions/battlefields. We study the terrain and the tactics, and we learn as much as we can while we’re on the ground. We’re looking to do a Price’s Raid cav fest some time during 2008. We can fly into Kansas City from Columbus for next to nothing on Skybus, rent a car, and spend several days stomping these battlefields. We’re also going to try to squeeze in a visit to the U. S. Cavalry Museum at Fort Riley, Kansas, a place none of us has visited but all wish to.

It seems to me that a study of Price’s Missouri Raid with a visit to Fort Riley will make for a truly excellent cav fest.

Scridb filter

Comments

  1. Bill Shepherd
    Mon 31st Dec 2007 at 12:29 am

    Eric : sounds like an excellent opportunity to learn about these cavalry operations that do not receive much attention, but should. And it would be a good opportunity for the “buffs” in this part of the country (Illinois, Missouri,Kansas, Iowa et al) to make the drive to the battlefield and spend a weekend stomping around with the experts. Looking forward to further details.

  2. Mon 31st Dec 2007 at 10:20 am

    Eric,

    Indeed – Pleasonton, regardless of the courtsmartial imbroglio he got himself involved in “out there,” shone in the West. I really look forward to stomping those grounds and putting the story together.

    J.D.

  3. Don
    Mon 31st Dec 2007 at 11:36 am

    Eric,

    Sounds like a very enjoyable stomp, I hadn’t even heard of a couple of those engagements until this year.

    I think you’ll really enjoy the cavalry museum at Fort Riley. I went several years ago and enjoyed it immensely. If I knew then what I know now, it could have been a much more instructive visit. There’s a lot there to see.

    If you have the time, the museum at Fort Leavenworth is nice also, but most of their cavalry information focuses on the 9th and 10th Cavalry. There’s a very nice monument to them near the Eisenhower Library.

    It’s shame the Fort Riley museum doesn’t have more memorabilia, but the cavalry units that are still active have a lot of it. The units own the material, of course, but it would be nice if a happy medium could be found. Particularly since the museums of both active regiments have been in boxes for the last couple of years due to unit moves.

  4. Charles Bowery
    Tue 01st Jan 2008 at 6:06 am

    Eric,
    I think you will enjoy the Westport phase of the stomping- some critical parts of the action took place over what is now a beautiful Kansas City park near Country Club Plaza, with some nice monuments to the action. The Plaza has an outstanding Irish pub too!

    If you have never been to Ft. Leavenworth, it’s certainly worth a stop- an Army post in the classic style, especially the oldest section along the river.

    While you are there, Fort Smith in southeastern Kansas is also worth your time- a great example of an antebellum frontier Army post.

  5. Dave Powell
    Tue 01st Jan 2008 at 6:55 am

    I re-enacted Pilot Knob some years ago. Lots of fun.

    Price’s raid is really a dark time for the Confederates in the west. It was a bit of a forlorn hope, like Hood’s Nashville campaign, that started off well and became an increasingly desperate affair.

    As an Illinoisian, these places are right next door, for me – compared to VA and PA, anyway…

    Another player in this campaign is a guy I have studied extensively – William Starke Rosecrans.

    I see a convergence of interests here.

  6. David Swafford
    Sat 22nd Mar 2008 at 10:19 am

    Came upon your site and discussion as I was looking for information about Price’s Raid. My great, great grandfather on my dad’s side saw action in Price’s Raid, being first a part of Company D, 3rd Missouri State Militia Cavalry and later on in Company K, 6th Missouri State Militia Cavalry.

    I am from Kansas City and would like to comment on a couple of things from the above discussion. The park where Civil War action took place near the Plaza is called Loose Park, located on Wornall Rd. Loose Park (and the Plaza) is just south of Old Westport, so there’s plenty to see in that area of town.

    The reference to a fort in southeastern Kansas should be Fort Scott, not Fort Smith. I believe Fort Smith to be in Arkansas. There’s an old military road in eastern Kansas that went north-south between Fort Scott and Fort Leavenworth. There are signs here and there marking this route.

    Best regards,
    David Swafford

  7. Sandy Marien
    Fri 02nd May 2008 at 11:28 am

    I am looking for information about Sterling Price’s family. My aunt was married to a descendant of his and we have some artifacts. My aunt passed away and we are trying to understand the information passed on by her. Many conflicting comments. Supposedly, Katie Price is the daughter of Sterling Price. Only 4 of 5 living children are mentioned in our research and Katie is not one of them. We have an inscribed silver coin cup that is from Katie’s father and supposedly from the saddle of Sterling Prices’ saddle. Please direct me for further info. Thanks

  8. Kevin Hagen
    Fri 19th Dec 2008 at 10:28 pm

    I’m looking for information on General Price’s Body Guard Battalion. A blood relative of mine, Leonard Willis Wills, enlisted in Company C of the 3rd Missouri Cavalry in 1862 but later was a part of Co A of Price’s Body Guard under LTC Campbell (according to his Confederate pension application). I know a little about the 3rd CAV (MSM) but nothing about the body guards.

  9. john calhoun stewart
    Sun 20th Sep 2009 at 7:40 pm

    my grandfather jonas p. stewart fought with gernal price inthe battles in mo. i still have the gun he carried in the battles. thank you john c stewart.

  10. Fri 18th Nov 2011 at 1:52 pm

    I love this site, it helps me with my civil war project I’m doing. Thank you!! :))

  11. Robert E. Woody
    Tue 09th Jul 2013 at 2:18 pm

    Nice read. I live in Pleasanton and have spent hundreds of hours on the Battlefield. I like to go out on the Timber Loop about 6:30 in the morning and walk. I hope you were able to make your trip.

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