By Joseph I. Lambert, Major, Second Cavalry
Copyright 1939 Commanding Officer, Second Cavalry, Fort Riley, Kansas
Capper Printing Company, Inc.

CW2The next company from the regiment to enter the great arena was C at the battle of Wilson’s Creek, Missouri. Since leaving Utah in 1859 it had been almost constantly in the field in Kansas and Nebraska. But in the general drift of the army toward the east, Company C arrived at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, February, 1861. It marched again on June 11th, under Lieutenant Farrand, First Infantry, and arrived at Springfield, Missouri, August 6th to form part of General Lyon’s force.

General Price with about 20,000 Confederates had been trying hard to catch up with General Lyon’s force of only about 5,000 men. Despairing of overhauling them on August 9th, the Rebels went into camp on Wilson’s Creek, Missouri. Fearful of the loss of prestige in the doubtful state of Missouri if he retreated beyond Springfield, General Lyon decided to attack early the next morning. His plan called for dividing his force into two parts in the face of a vastly superior enemy. Major Sturgis commanded one part and Colonel Sigel the other, which included Company C, Second Dragoons. Early on the morning of August 10th Sturgis’ wing attacked the enemy from the front, while Sigel made a wide movement and approached from the rear. The attack was a complete surprise and threw the Confederates into confusion. Advancing slowly with the cavalry in front, Colonel Sigel cut off small parties of the Rebels who were in the outskirts of their camp. This was done so well that the enemy was not aware of their approach until they were within sight of his tents. During the ensuing engagement the cavalry was placed on the flanks.

Meantime, the main force of the army attacked and made good progress in driving the enemy south. While heading a regiment of Kansas troops General Lyon was killed. During the fight in Sigel’s front, a force was seen to approach carrying Union Flags and in Federal uniforms. His troops did not fire upon them, thinking they were a part of Lyon’s force. It was an unfair strategem of the Confederates, and they suddenly opened an intensive fire upon Sigel’s men at close range. There was an utter rout of the little force, which fled panic stricken toward Springfield. The other half of the command under Sturgis was now forced to withdraw, and a bold effort against a superior force had failed.


  1. Companies C and D of the First Dragoons made a brilliant charge during the Battle of Forsyth, July 22, 1861, prior to the engagement at Wilson’s Creek. Capt. David Stanley and Lt. M.J. Kelly, under the command of General Sweeney, led the dragoons across Swan Creek, where they then swept into Forsyth under fire to drive out a small contingent of Southern militiamen. Kelly continued the charge uphill to drive off snipers from the bluffs that held a position overlooking the Union left. No dragoons were killed in the engagement, but Capt. Stanley lamented the loss of his horse in his memoirs of the Civil War.


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