First Land Battle of the Civil War*
* John B. Barnes, “Boonville: The First Land Battle of the Civil War.” Infantry Journal, No. 35 (Dec. 1929): 601-607.

Boonville PP.20

Forces Engaged:* Union 500 vs. Gov. Jackson’s secessionist Missouri State Guard 1,500

Markers: Brochure available at Visitor’s Center indicating locations of site markers.
Stamp Location: Boonville Visitor’s Center, when staff available.
Address: 100 East Spring Street, Boonville, Mo 65233
Phone Number: 660-882-3967
Staff Available: Year round, Mon-Fri: 8:30 am-4 pm
Apr-Oct, Sat-Sun: 10 am-2 pm
Visit Fee: None

Lyon Boonville pic


After failed efforts by General Lyon and Governor Jackson to resolve the secession crisis in Missouri at the Planter’s House meeting in St. Louis on June 11, 1861, Governor Jackson returned to Jefferson City and issued a proclamation calling for 50,000 volunteers to resist federal authority. The next day, General Lyon and 1,500 U.S. troops moved by steamboat from St. Louis to Jefferson City to force Governor Jackson from the capital and eliminate the threat of the Missouri State Guard (M.S.G.) before they could even organize any new volunteers. Upon reaching Jefferson City, Lyon discovered that Jackson and his forces had moved up the Missouri River to Boonville. After securing Jefferson City, Lyon moved up the Missouri River where his forces (approx. 1,700) engaged and defeated the M.S.G. (approx. 1,500) at the Battle of Boonville. During the battle, the M.S.G. initially stood firm, but after Capt. Totten’s U.S. Artillery began bombarding the M.S.G. position, they commenced an unorganized retreat, which produced a Union victory. The result was the first Union victory of the Civil War. Two Union soldiers were killed, 17 wounded; three State Guard troops were killed and 25 wounded.



Barnes, John B. “Boonville: The First Land Battle of the Civil War.  Infantry Journal, No. 35 (Dec. 1929): 601-607.

Carter, R. C. “A Short Sketch of my Experiences during the First Stages of the Civil War.” np, nd. (approx. 1862)  Location: The State Historical Society of Missouri (C2911)

A Soldier’s Account of the Battle of Boonville. Missouri Historical Review, Vol. 19, No. 4 (April 1925): 725-727.


Jun 15, 1861 New York Tribune “Latest War News” [Summary: Jackson and other State officers left Jefferson City for Arrow Rock or Boonville. Secession soldiers followed, burning bridges on their way. Lyon, with a large Federal force has started up the Missouri River, supposedly in pursuit of Jackson.]

Jun 16, 1861 Missouri Republican “From the Southwest” [Summary: Report says 600-700 secessionists have organized under the military bill at Springfield. 1,200-1,500 Union men are armed under Maj. Phelps. Gov. Jackson is a Boonville. It is said he will make a stand there.]

Jun 16, 1861 Missouri Republican “Gen. Lyon at Jefferson” [Summary: An article from the Democrat says Lyon and company is at Jefferson City and was received with an enthusiastic reception by loyal citizens. No secession demonstrations were made. Jackson has left Boonville as is headed toward Arkansas.]

Jun 17, 1861 Missouri Republican “The Escapade of the Governor” [Summary: Report says Jackson is at Boonville preparing for a fight, asking nearby counties to send State troops. Meanwhile Gen. Lyon will push forward as fast as possible with a view to capture the governor.]

Jun 17, 1861 New York Tribune “Latest War News” [Summary: 2,000 State (rebel) troops are at Boonville, preparing a resistance. Telegraph in hands of secessionists and therefore unreliable.]

Jun 17, 1861 New York Tribune “Rebellion in Missouri” [Summary: Confirms that 2,000 State troops are at Boonville and are pretty well provided for a fight. Eight regiments of Illinois troops are stationed in a two-hour march from St. Louis. Col. Curtis’ regiment of Iowa volunteers has a headquarters St. Joseph, MO. His force is distributed along the Hannibal and St. Jo Railroad.]

Jun 18, 1861 Missouri Republican “From Boonville” [Summary: The telegraph is down in Boonville, so the latest news is as of Sunday morning. Says Lyon may be able to enter Boonville from the rear and defeat Jackson’s plans of operation.

Jun 18, 1861 Missouri Republican “The Latest by Telegraph” [Summary: Col. Boernstein makes a proclamation at Jefferson City, saying he and the Home Guards will step in to help keep order since the Governor has fled. They will not interfere with civil law matters, but will be there as support if needed. Also says Lyon is probably in Boonville by now, but communication from there is still cut off.]

Jun 19, 1861 Chicago Tribune “Special Dispatches: Progress of the War” [Summary: Price and 300 of his men dead at Boonville.]

Jun 19, 1861 Missouri Democrat “Late and Important From Jefferson City” [Summary: Early report of Boonville battle.]

Jun 19, 1861 Missouri Democrat “Third Dispatch” [Summary: Brief details on the Battle of Boonville.]

Jun 19, 1861 Missouri Democrat “The Latest News From Boonville” [Summary: Grief and sorrow not for success of federal troops, but for the loss of life.]

Jun 19, 1861 Missouri Republican “Capture of Boonville” [Summary: First report says Boonville taken quickly by Federal troops. Lyon lured the State Troops out into the open field, then opened a murderous fire upon them. Jackson witnesses the fight from a mile distant, then fled.]

Jun 19, 1861 The New York Times “Important from Missouri” [Summary: Exaggerated claims about the Battle of Boonville, Pursuit of Jackson, Movements of troops.]

Jun 19, 1861 New York Tribune “From Missouri” [Summary: Lyon gathers information to determine whether to proceed directly to Boonville, or disembark at Rockport (Rocheport) and attack Jackson from the rear. Various movements of troops.]

Jun 19, 1861 Marshall (MO) Democrat “Events of the Week” [Summary: Editorial covers recent events starting with Lyon replacing Harney through the Battle of Boonville. Claims Lyon repeatedly violated the terms of the Harney-Price agreement. Lyon and Blair have declared martial law at Boonville but concedes the citizens were not bothered unnecessarily.]

Jun 19, 1861 New York Tribune “A Battle in Missouri” [Summary: Gen. Lyon attacked and completely routed the State troops at Boonville, killing three hundred and taking six hundred prisoner. Loss on the Federal size was small, about seventeen. Kegs of powder taken from one of Jackson’s secret depot.]

Jun 19, 1861 Missouri State Journal “Reports from the Interior” [Summary: Denies that the Journal had anything to do with reports that stated the Federal forces at Boonville were repulsed and Lyon taken prisoner.  But it doesn’t believe the Democrat’s and Republican’s reports of the battle which declare the State troops had been defeated. Accuses the two papers of making up and corroborating with each other to circulate false reports.  Claims the subjugation of Missouri by armed forces is impossible.]

Jun 20, 1861 Missouri Democrat “The War in Missouri” [Summary: The Battle at Boonville confirmed.]

Jun 20, 1861 New York Tribune “The Battle in Missouri–The News Confirmed Boonville Captured” [Summary: Gov. Jackson ordered the troops to disband when they saw the Federals approaching, but they did not take heed. Details on Lyon’s plan of attack where he tricked the rebels into thinking he was retreating, then turned around and opened a murderous fire on the enemy. He could have killed more than he did but ordered the firing to stop and took prisoners instead.]

Jun 20, 1861 St. Louis Christian Advocate “News of the Week” [Summary: Questions early reports about the fight at Boonville.  How could 4,000 State troops be put to flight by half their number of Federal forces?  How could 300 hundred of the State troops be killed and only 20 of the Federal’s.  Publishes an erroneous report by the State Journal which reported that Lyon’s forces were cut to pieces at Boonville and he was taken prisoner.]

Jun 21, 1861 Davenport Democrat & News “A Full Account From Boonville”

Jun 21, 1861 The Liberty [MO] Tribune  “Rumors”

Jun 21, 1861 The Liberty [MO] Tribune “Departure of Troops Up the River” [Summary: Troops are heading toward Boonville.]

Jun 21, 1861 Missouri Democrat “The Contest in Missouri” [Summary: Detailed description of the Boonville fight by a eye-witness.]

Jun 21, 1861 Missouri Democrat “The Associated Press Accounts of the Boonville Fight” [Summary: With but few exceptions, Gen. Lyon and his men have made favorable impressions upon the people.]

Jun 21, 1861 Missouri Republican “The Battle of Boonville” [Summary: Particulars of the battle. Lyon is welcomed to the city, forms a Home Guard.]

Jun 21, 1861 New York Tribune “Engagement at Boonville–Official Statement–Proclamation of Gen. Lyon–From Missouri” [Summary: Official confirmation of the defeat of State troops at Boonville, sans a list of killed and wounded. Text of Lyon ‘s Proclamation is published.]

Jun 22, 1861 Clinton (IA) Herald “Battle at Boonville, MO” [Summary: Gen. Lyon routes the rebels, killing 300 and taking many prisoners.]

Jun 22, 1861 Missouri Democrat “Treasonable Correspondence” [Summary: Documents found in camp at Boonville after the battle.]

Jun 22, 1861 New York Tribune “Important From Missouri” [Summary: Gen. Lyon captured many Secessionist documents at Boonville; they contained information on past activities and orders issued by secessionist leaders, and a list of items seized from the Liberty Missouri Federal Arsenal.]

Jun 24, 1861 Missouri Democrat  “The Boonville Fight” [Summary: Correspondent with troops gives details on bravery of companies and individuals.]

Jun 24, 1861 Missouri Democrat “The Case of Missouri” [Summary: A compilation of newspaper articles praising Lyon and others for victory in Boonville.]

Jun 24, 1861 Missouri Republican “Battle at Boonville” [Summary: Report from the Columbia Statesmen says Boonville is the first battle of the civil war in Missouri. Price advised a retreat from the Federal forces just arriving, since they were better equipped, but the men under Jackson insisted on fighting. Neither Jackson nor Price led them. Price went home, ill and Jackson watched from afar. The rebels finally retreated after a short engagement.]

Jun 24, 1861 Missouri Republican “Further from Boonville” [Summary: Brief account from the Hannibal Messenger says fifteen local boys who went to join Jackson expected to be furnished with arms. When they were not, they watched the battle from across the river and went home.]

Jun 24, 1861 New York Tribune “From Missouri” [Summary: The steamer J. C. Swon arrives at the Arsenal in St. Louis from Boonville bringing 300 troops from Jefferson City and the nine wounded from Boonville. Lyon is in command of the U. S. regulars and the Missouri volunteers, embracing Kansas and Iowa troops at Boonville.]

Jun 25, 1861 New York Tribune “The Contest in Missouri” [Summary: A long description of the Battle of Boonville from the Missouri Democrat.]

Jun 25, 1861 New York Tribune “From Missouri–Cannonading at Boonville” [Summary: Several updates as the action in Boonville commences.]

Jun 26, 1861 New York Tribune “Loyalty of Boonville, Missouri”  [Summary: The day after Lyon’s Proclamation to the people at Boonville wherein he requested horses and wagons, he was supplied with all he needed.]

Jun 27, 1861 Iowa Transcript “A Full Account from Boonville” [Summary: Report of Boonville battle, dated June 20.]

Jun 27, 1861 New York Evangelist “Course of Events”

Jun 27, 1861 Hannibal (MO) Messenger “The Fight at Boonville” [Summary: Interesting details about Lyon’s strategy to get the State Troops out in the open, how he could have killed them in large numbers but stopped firing and took them prisoners instead.  Jackson watched the engagement from afar and was severely reprimanded by those of his own party for his cowardice.]

Jun 27, 1861 New York Times “Our St. Louis Correspondence—The Loss of Life at the Battle of Boonville” [Summary: Article reports on the Battle of Boonville and speculates as to what will happen next. “Although we hope everything from the daring of Gen. Lyon, and confidently expect that his plan of surrounding the enemy and compelling him to surrender will succeed, a reverse should not come unexpected.” Says Missouri is virtually under Martial Law, so why not declare it. Lyon could establish a provisional Military Government.]

Jun 27, 1861 Liberty (MO) Tribune “Our Governor in a Battle” [Summary: Editorial really gives it to Jackson for not fighting at Boonville, but watching the battle from afar surrounded by a body guard. Even his own men called him a coward for not fighting alongside them, though he lectured how important it was to fight for their rights against Lincoln’s despotism. Compares his leadership to other figures in history where he pales in comparison.]

Jun 27, 1861 Hannibal (MO) Messenger “The Affair at Boonville” [Summary: The editor feels sympathy for those honest, brave but misguided victims of Jackson’s wickedness after their defeat at Boonville. His sympathy, however, does not extend to Jackson himself.]

Jun 27, 1861 Louisiana (MO) Journal “Battle at Boonville” [Summary: Report corrects earlier false accounts of the Battle at Boonville. Concludes that the State troops were defeated.  Jackson fled without having a plan to take care of his wounded. Some citizens of Boonville came to Lyon under a flag of truce and arrangements were made for Lyon’s troops to come into the city and take care of the casualties. Price was so frightened at the “Lyon’s roar” that he became ill.]

Jun 27, 1861 Glasgow (MO) Weekly Times “The Boonville Battle” [Summary: Compares the reports from the Democrat and Republican. Consensus is 50-75 Federal troops killed.  Lyon remarked to a gentleman of the county that he only saw four companies in the engagement, and their bravery was undisputed.]

Jun 28, 1861 New York Tribune “Movements of Gen. Lyon” [Summary: Lyon left Boonville with his command and Col. Bates’ Iowa regiment and headed toward Springfield where he will meet up with Sigel’s troops and Col. Sturgis’ Kansas troops. John Phelps’ wife arrived from Springfield, saying all is quiet there; Secessionists have fled.]

Jun 28, 1861 New York Tribune “From Missouri” [Summary: Interesting background info about Jeff City and Germans in Missouri. Two newspaper correspondents strayed so far from camp that Gen. Lyon thought they were scouts of the enemy and almost had them shot. Benton County Home Guards organized openly before they received arms and were attacked by rebels. Capt. Totten is out on an expedition to Syracuse, MO in pursuit of Jackson. The Union soldiers are amazed how Lyon and Blair were so composed during the rain of bullets at the Boonville battle. A reporter from the Republican was captured upon allegedly giving info to the rebels. Lyon is still willing to offer the same deal to Jackson, if caught, as he did at the Planter’s House.]

Jun 29, 1861 Missouri Republican “A Conquered Peace” [Summary: Letter from Boonville rejoices that Jackson is gone and will not come back. Recaps Jackson’s secession plan which started six months ago. Praises Lyon and Blair for their intelligent action at Boonville, how they spared civilian lives.]

Jun 29, 1861 New York Tribune “Highly Important From Missouri”  [Summary: False report about a rebel victory at Boonville telegraphed to New Orleans.]

Jun 30, 1861 Missouri Republican “The Boonville Affair” [Summary: Short update on the number of casualties estimated. No official report has been given of the statistics on either side. Lyon spent $20,000 while at Boonville to purchase horses and teams for his expedition into Arkansas.]

Jun 30, 1861 New York Tribune “From Missouri” [Summary: Letter from Camp Cameron, Boonville says rebels scare easily. They can often be routed by rumors of Gen. Lyon ‘s or Gen. Lane’s approach. During the panic of the fleeing rebels at Boonville, Jackson caused ferryboats to sink before all of his men had crossed to safety. He and his men circulate reports that Federal troops are there to free negroes, rob men and outrage women wherever they go. Lyon regretfully, and with sympathy refused a slain Confederate’s family’s petition to bury their son with military honors.]

Jun 30, 1861 New York Times “Our Boonville Correspondence: Our Status in Missouri” [Summary: Lengthy letter gives great details on matters at Boonville and the key players involved. Praises F. P. Blair for his local knowledge, prestige and fearless energy to hunt down secessionists. Sorry that he left for Washington.  Blair and Gen. S. Price have not been on speaking terms since the election of U.S. Senator when Col. Benton and Price were rival candidates. The meeting at Planter’s House was the first time they talked since then. The writer of the letter states that Lyon told him he was deluged with tokens of gratitude after Camp Jackson from those who regarded his action as the salvation of Missouri.  Ex-Gov. Jackson, in his flight from the capital, caused boats behind him to be scuttled before his own men could get across the river, leaving them to fend for themselves.]

Jul 2, 1861 Missouri Democrat “War Correspondence” [Summary: Correspondent “B” at Boonville talks about preparations for a campaign, Planters’ House meeting, Cole Camp and Gen. Lyon . Lyon’s relative visited the camp upon fleeing from Mississippi, forced out by the rebels.]

Jul 3, 1861 Missouri Democrat “The Battles of Boonville and Kansas City” [Summary: The Democrat reprints a report from T.S. Davis, published in the Charleston Mercury. Accuses the Black Republicans of misrepresenting the facts.]

Jul 6, 1861 Missouri Democrat “Departure of Gen. Lyon From Boonville” [Summary: Correspondent “B” says they are about ready to depart from Boonville. He issues Special Order No. 2, which outlines the conduct he expects to receive from his soldiers.]

Jul 6, 1861 Harper’s Weekly “The War in Missouri” [Summary: Short first-hand report of Lyon’s arrival at Boonville. The crowds gathered and cheered.  It was difficult to disembark due to the terrain. The soldiers marched with the American flag and placed it at the State House. Includes illustrations of the ship, Iatan, Jefferson City and a map of the interior of the state of Missouri.]

Jul 6, 1861 Harper’s Weekly “Domestic Intelligence—Battle of Boonville—Governor Jackson” [Summary: Gives a report of the Battle of Boonville from a dispatch to the Republican, June 19th. Comments that Lyon made a sensible proclamation afterward and provides a summary. Mentions that Gov. Jackson has fled the capital and a convention is being proposed to fill his vacancy.]

Jul 8, 1861 New York Tribune “From Missouri” [Summary: Correspondent from Boonville wishes to correct belief that Gen.Lyon had retreated from Boonville before the engagement took place. Also corrects a report on the battle at Cantonment Lyon in Benton county involving Capt. Cook. Lyon is preparing to march to the Arkansas border and wait for cooler weather. The secessionists severely mistreated Cole Camp prisoners.]

Jul 10, 1861 New York Tribune “From Missouri–State of Affairs at St. Joseph–Departure of Gen. Lyon from Boonville” [Summary: Personal testimony from one of Jackson’s men who quit him after the Boonville fight. Says Lyon proved conclusively that he is here to save not destroy, when he ceased firing after victory was won. Lyon and company will leave Boonville within 24 hours. Deserters from Jackson’s army are constantly giving Union men his latest location.]

Jul 12, 1861 New York Tribune “From Missouri” [Summary: Crowds in Boonville cheer when they see Lyon. He is given a bouquet, which he graciously accepts. Many prominent secessionists who ran after Jackson have returned to Boonville.]

Jul 13, 1861 Harper’s Weekly “The Battle of Boonville” [Summary: Report on the battle from a correspondent of the [N.Y.] Herald. Includes an illustration of a scene from the battle.]

Jul 27, 1861 Harper’s Weekly “Departure of General Lyon from Boonville” [Summary: Short article describes the preparations made to leave Boonville to pursue Jackson. Includes an illustration of the departure.]

Jul 31, 1861 Iowa City Democratic State Press “War Correspondence” [Summary: One of the Iowa Boys writes from camp near Boonville.]

May 1, 1880 Lexington (MO) Intelligencer “The Sixth Division of the Missouri State Guard–Part of Its History Given by Mr. J. H. McNamara” [Summary: McNamara gives the first part of a brief history of the division under Mosby Parsons, which begins with the capture of Camp Jackson, up until Lyon surprised McCulloch at Wilson’s Creek.]

Aug 28, 1886 Missouri Republican “Tales of the War–A Sketch of the Career of Col. S. D. Jackman” [Summary: Jackman was one of the first to respond to Jackson’s call for 50.000 militia volunteers. He fought at Boonville, Carthage, Wilson’s Creek and Lexington.]