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Battle of Byram's Ford

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Battle of Byram's Ford
Part of the Trans-Mississippi Theater of the American Civil War
Byrams-ford-blue.jpg

The ford
DateOctober 22, 1864 (1864-10-22) – October 23, 1864 (1864-10-23)
Location
Result Union Victory[1]
Belligerents
United States United States (Union) Confederate States of America CSA (Confederacy)
Commanders and leaders
James G. Blunt
Alfred Pleasonton
Joseph O. Shelby
John S. Marmaduke
Units involved
Army of the Border, 1st Division
Pleasanton's Cavalry Division
Army of Missouri, Shelby's and Marmaduke's Divisions
Strength
2 divisions 2 divisions
Casualties and losses
Unknown Unknown

The Battle of Byram's Ford was a minor engagement of the American Civil War, comprising two separate skirmishes on October 22–23, 1864, in Jackson County, Missouri. It formed a part of the larger Battle of Westport, which ultimately resulted in a Union victory and the end of all major Confederate operations in Missouri.

This battle is also sometimes referred to as the "Battle of the Big Blue River".[2]

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  • ✪ Kansas City's Civil War History
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Transcription

Located in Kansas CIty's historic City Market, the Arabia Steamboat Museum boasts the largest collection of pre-Civil War artifacts in the world. These artifacts, recovered from the hold of the sunken Steamboat Arabia, are rich in beauty as well as history. Excavated from a Kansas cornfield, the Arabia carried dishware, jewelry, silks from China and perfumes from France. Among many other fascinating pieces of cargo, a full-scale replica of the Arabia's main deck brings the size and strength of the steamboat to life. This exciting, visitor-friendly museum provides keener insight into the nostalgic past of the steamboat era and gives visitors a sense of Midwestern living prior to the Civil War. The Battle of Westport, fought in and around modern day Kansas City, signaled the beginning of the end for General Price and his Confederate Army. Often called the Gettysburg of the West, this battle, which engaged almost 30,000 troops, was a triumphant victory for the Union army. The Monnett Battle of Westport Fund offers downloadable brochures for a 25-stop walking tour of Westport and a driving tour of the 23 major battle sites, available at www.BattleofWestport.org. Area Westport businesses supply these brochures as well. Today, Kansas City's Loose Park preserves much of the battlegrounds and commemorates the fight with markers that tell the story of this critical battle. The Harris-Kearney House, built in 1855, sits in the middle of modern day Westport along what was once the Santa Fe Trail. The home's original owner, John Harris, was also the proprietor of the Harris Hotel, which is no longer standing. Many well-known names of the day patronized the hotel, like the James and Younger brothers, Buffalo Bill and Wyatt Earp. Union General Samuel Curtis headquartered at the Harris Hotel and, during the Battle of Westport, he stood on the hotel's roof with his binoculars as the fighting raged throughout the town. As Kansas City's oldest brick home, the Harris-Kearney House preserves many of the family's original Civil War-era furnishings, like this beautifully-restored pianoforte. The John Wornall House Museum, once called the most pretentious house in the section, was occupied by both Union and Confederate troops and used as an emergency field hospital during the 1864 Battle of Westport. Now embedded in the bustling community of Brookside, the Wornall House was once the center of a sprawling 500-acre farm on the Missouri frontier. Visitors today can experience the house as if in the 1860s, as the house's interior and furnishings accurately reflect the time period. Gardens located behind the house grow historically-accurate herbs and perennials. The museum features many special events throughout the year for children and adults alike, with special Christmas tours and frequently-changing exhibits. The Battle of Westport Museum, located inside the Swope Park Interpretive Center, sits on what was once Byram's Ford, where a major portion of the battle was fought. The museum features a hands-on education room, with an authentic Civil War soldier's campsite. The Faces of War Room is dedicated to the civilians, families and slaves affected by the Civil War. The museum holds artifacts recovered from the battlefield and tintype photos of soldiers who lived in the Kansas City area and fought for their lives in the Battle of Westport.

Contents

Background

Maj. Gen. Sterling Price's Confederate Army of Missouri was headed westward towards Kansas City and Fort Leavenworth, hoping to capture Missouri for the South and negatively influence Abraham Lincoln's chances for reelection in 1864. Maj. Gen. Samuel R. Curtis's Army of the Border, in and around Westport, was blocking the Confederates' way west, while Maj. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton's provisional cavalry division was pressing Price's rear. Price had nearly 500 wagons with him, and required a good ford over the Blue River to facilitate passage of his supplies. Byram's Ford was the best crossing in the area, and would clearly be a point of great strategic significance during the impending Battle of Westport.

First engagement, October 22

Map of Byram's Ford Battlefield core and study areas by the American Battlefield Protection Program.
Map of Byram's Ford Battlefield core and study areas by the American Battlefield Protection Program.

On October 22, Maj. Gen. James G. Blunt's division held a defensive position on the west bank of the Big Blue River. Around 10 a.m., part of Brig. Gen. Joseph O. Shelby's Confederate division conducted a frontal attack on Blunt's men. This attack was a ruse, because the rest of Shelby's men flanked Blunt's hasty defenses, forcing the Federals to retire to Westport. Price's wagon train then crossed the Big Blue River at Byram's Ford and headed south to the village of Little Santa Fe and safety.

Second engagement, October 23

The Battle of Westport began in earnest on the morning of the October 23. Pleasonton's cavalry was hot on the tail of Price's army, having engaged his rear guard in nearby Independence the previous day. Brig. Gen. John S. Marmaduke's Confederate division had stopped Pleasonton just west of Independence, and now held the west bank of the Big Blue at Byram's Ford to protect Price's rear from an expected Union attack.

Pleasonton began his assault on Byram's Ford around 8 a.m. Initially the Confederates held their own. One of the Union brigade commanders, Brig. Gen. Egbert B. Brown, stalled his attack and was placed under arrest by Pleasonton for disobeying orders. Another of Pleasonton's brigade commanders, Col. Edward F. Winslow, was wounded and succeeded by Lt. Col. Frederick Benteen, who later rode to fame at the Little Bighorn. Despite these setbacks, Federal troopers gained the west bank by 11 a.m. and Marmaduke retired. As Brown's brigade (now led by Col. John F. Philips) forded the river, they came under heavy fire from Confederate artillery. Once they had crossed, they charged Marmaduke across an open field; during this charge, Union troops from Missouri and Arkansas battled Confederates from these same two states. As Marmaduke rejoined Shelby and Fagan, Blunt pounded the consolidated Confederate forces with his own cannon, completing Pleasonton's victory at Byram's Ford and contributing significantly to Curtis's larger triumph at Westport.

Aftermath

With Pleasonton now across the river he was now an additional threat to Price, who was heavily engaged with Curtis's main force at Westport. Defeated by Curtis there and menaced by Pleasonton and an additional Federal brigade under John McNeil, Price had to abandon his Missouri campaign and retreat southward. This brought to a close the last major Confederate military operation west of the Mississippi River, and ended the last major Southern threat to any Northern state.

Battlefield preservation

The Civil War Trust (a division of the American Battlefield Trust) and its partners have acquired and preserved 39 acres (0.16 km2) of the Byram's Ford battlefield.[3]

References

This page was last edited on 23 May 2018, at 16:28
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