This Day In History: The Confederates Win the Battle of Wilson’s Creek (

On this day in history in 1861, the Confederacy defeated a larger Union forces in the State of Missouri. The state was a key battleground between the two sides in the early years of the war. The battle was fought in the south of the state between a band of hastily assembled Confederate forces and Union troopers.

The Union had a  force of 6,400 soldiers that was stationed in Springfield, Missouri. It  was facing two Rebel units that were under the joint command of two Generals. The southerners were poorly equipped and trained at this early stage of the war. The Confederates despite this had the advantage of numbers. The Confederates had a force twice the size of the Union, whose supply lines had been stretched.  However, despite their inferiority in numbers the Union General in the area was determined not to surrender the south fo Missouri to the Confederates without a fight.

General Franz Sigel was sent with 1,200 men to attack the Confederates in a surprise attack. The Confederate base camp was attacked at dawn when they were vulnerable. The Rebel camp broke up in disarray and they seemed to have achieved a perfect victory. The Union pressed home their advantage. However, a Confederate regiment advanced upon the scene and the Union commander mistook it for a Union regiment. The Northern troops advanced and were met by withering southern fire. The commander of the Union troops had fatefully mistaken the Confederates for a Northern Regiment. This was because the Confederates at this stage in the war were often dressed in a variety of uniforms and not in their famous grey.

Flag of Missouri State Guard who fought for the Confedeacy at the Battle.

In intense heat and humidity, the armies battled throughout the morning. The rebels made several charges at the Union lines. However, they were poorly trained and equipped and this meant that they could not exploit their numerical superiority. The Union commander General Lyons was killed during one of the engagements. The Union line managed despite the superior numbers of the Confederates. They were so determined that the Rebels withdrew from the battlefield. However, the Union army was disorganized and their supplies were running low, they were critically low on ammunition. In total, the battle resulted in some 1200 casualties. The Rebels suffered more casualties than the Union forces.  The Federals soon retreated to Springfield and then back to the railhead at Rolla, Missouri, 100 miles to the northeast. Southwestern Missouri was secured for the Confederates for some time and this was of major strategic importance.