BATTLE AT BYRAM’S FORD – OCTOBER 22-23, 1864
(a.k.a. Battle of the Big Blue River)
INTERIOR DEPT. SUMMARY: Maj. Gen. Sterling Price’s Army of Missouri was headed west towards Kansas City and Fort Leavenworth. Maj. Gen. Samuel R. Curtis’s Army of the Border, in and around Westport, was blocking the Confederates way west and Maj. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton’s provisional cavalry division was pressing Price’s army’s rear. Price had nearly 500 wagons with him and required a good ford over the Big Blue River to facilitate the passage of his supplies. Byram’s Ford was the best ford in the area and became a strategic point during the fighting around Westport. On October 22, Maj. Gen. James G. Blunt’s division held a defensive position on the Big Blue River’s west bank. Around 10:00 am on the 22nd, 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 and about 5,000 head of cattle then crossed the Big Blue River at Byram’s Ford and headed southward toward Little Santa Fe and safety. Pleasonton’s cavalry was hot on the tail of Price’s army. Brig. Gen. John S. Marmaduke’s Rebel division held the west bank of the Big Blue at Byram’s Ford to prevent Pleasonton from attacking Price’s rear. Pleasonton assaulted Marmaduke at Byram’s Ford, around 8:00 am, on the 23rd. Three hours later, Marmaduke’s men had enough and fell back toward Westport. With Pleasonton across the river, he was now an additional threat to Price who was fighting Curtis’s Army of the Border at Westport. Price had to retreat south.
Principal Commanders: Maj. Gen. James G. Blunt and Maj. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton [US]; Brig. Gen. Joseph Shelby and Brig. Gen. John S. Marmaduke [CS]
Estimated Casualties: Unknown
Result: Union victory
Marker Location: (GPS) N39 00.911, W94 31.651
Stamp Location: Battle of Westport Visitor Center
Address: 1855 Harris House, 4000 Baltimore, Kansas City, Mo.
Phone Number: 913-345-2000 & 816-561-1821
WIKIPEDIA BATTLE SUMMARY: 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.
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.
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. [Source: Wikipedia]