(a.k.a. Battle of Dry Fork)

Carthage PP.18

First full-scale Napoleonic-type battle of the Civil War (two weeks before the Battle of Bull Run). A classic example of a fighting retreat.

Forces Engaged: Union 1,100 vs. Gov. Jackson’s secessionist Missouri State Guard 6,000


Marker Location: 111 W. Chestnut St., Carthage, Mo. 64836
Stamp Location: Battle of Carthage Civil War Museum
Website:, &
Address: 205 Grant Street, Carthage, Mo 64836
Phone Number: 417-237-7060
Staff Available: Tue-Sat: 8:30 am-5 pm; Sun: 1-5 pm; closed Mondays and holidays
Visit Fee: None


BATTLE MAP:…/…/battle-carthage-july-5-1861

The Battle of Carthage, also referred to as the Battle of Dry Fork Creek, was the earliest full-scale battle of the Civil War, preceding Bull Run by 11 days. Colonel Franz Sigel led his Union troops against the Rebel MSG, which led to a Federal retreat. Battle of Carthage State Historic Site contains a meadow and the spring that made an encampment area for both the Union and Confederate troops, the Union before the battle and the Confederate after.

“Approaching to within eight hundred yards wrote one who was present, Sigel disposed his forces for attack. The artillery was allotted: on our left two six-pounders; center, two six-pounders and two twelve-pounders; two six-pounders on our right. The enemy, occupying the highest ground in the prairie, had in position one six-pounder on the right and left, and in his center one twelve and two six-pounders. The fight commenced at half-past nine, when large bodies of infantry began to appear. The firing of the enemy was wretched. I have seen much artillery practice, but never saw such bad gunnery before. Their balls and shells went over us, and exploded in the open prairie. At 11 o’clock we had silenced their twelve-pounder and broken their center so much that disorder was apparent. At about 2 o’clock the cavalry attempted to outflank us, on both right and left. As we had left our baggage trains three miles in the rear, not anticipating a serious engagement, it was necessary to fall back to prevent their capture. Colonel Sigel then ordered two six-pounders to the rear, and changed his front, two six-pounders on the flanks, and the twelve and six-pounders in the rear, and commenced falling back in a steady and orderly manner, firing as we went.

Rains, JamesJames S Rains

The retreat was without serious casualty, until we approached the Dry Fork Creek, where the road passes between bluffs on either side. The cavalry of the enemy, eight hundred strong, bad concentrated on the opposite side of the creek, to cut us off. Colonel Sigel ordered two more cannon to the right and left oblique in front, and then by a concentrated cross-fire poured in upon them a brisk fire of canister and shrapnel shell. The confusion which ensued was terrific. Horses, both with and without riders, were galloping and neighing about the plain, and the riders in a perfect panic. We took here two or three prisoners, who, upon being questioned, said their force numbered about 5,500, and expressed their astonishment at the manner in which our troops behaved.”

Several brief conflicts occurred at the creek crossings. A stand at Carthage would have been made but for fear of the exhaustion of artillery ammunition, which already was running low. The enemy disputed the passage at the village, when a severe encounter followed, in which the rebels suffered so severely as to prevent them from any further pursuit in that masterly retreat before immensely superior numbers. The Federal army fell back upon Sarcoxie. It was a most fortunate escape, indeed, for during the evening of the 5th, and the morning of the 6th, Jackson, Parsons and Rains were joined by Price, Ben McCulloch and General Pierce—whose united commands of Texan and Arkansas troops amounted to about 5,000, with heavy reinforcements on the way. This extraordinary conjunction of notable Southern leaders gave promise of desperate work. If defeated, the Secessionists’ power in Missouri would be broken; if successful in overcoming Lyon and Sweeney, or in compelling their retreat, the way to Jefferson City and the Government would be opened. Lyon at once comprehended his great danger and moved with all celerity upon Springfield, whither Sigel’s little band of heroes also retired by way of Mount Vernon, soon after the affair at Carthage.[1]

[1] Victor, The History, Civil, Political & Military of the Southern Rebellion, Vol. 2: 283-284.


The War of the Rebellion: the Official Records, Series 1, Volume 3; pages 14-37. [Link to Page 14]


The War of the Rebellion: the Official Records, Series 1, Volume 3; pages 38-40. [Link to Page 38]


Lademann, Otto C. “The Battle of Carthage, Mo. In War Papers: Read before the Commandery of the State of Wisconsin, Vol. 4; Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, Vol. 49, Burdick & Allen (1914): 131-139. [Summary: A member of the 3rd Missouri Volunteer Infantry Regt., the author describes the disposition of the Union troops but lacks a description of the entire battle.]


Jul 10, 1861 Missouri Republican “Battle Near Carthage” [Summary: Account of the battle from the Fort Scott (KS) Democrat. Heavy loss of State Troops, Federals driven back, Sigel’s regiment reportedly cut to pieces.]

Jul 11, 1861 Glasgow (MO) Weekly Times “Military Affairs in Missouri” [Summary: A short report of the Battle near Carthage with info from the Fort Scott Democrat. Says to take this version with a grain of salt.]

Jul 11, 1861 Iowa Transcript  “From Missouri” [Summary: Rebel forces increasing in Independence; Battle of Carthage; False Alarm as Jackson’s men were thrown into a panic thinking Lyon was approaching; Short bio on Lyon, whose “remarkable energy excites so much admiration.”]

Jul 11, 1861 Missouri Democrat “War News –Col. Sigel’s Engagement with the Rebels” [Summary: Full Particulars of the battle at Carthage.]

Jul 11, 1861 Missouri Democrat “Later and More Intelligent Account of the Fight” [Summary: Narrative from Lieut. Tusk about the battle near Carthage.]

Jul 11, 1861 Missouri Democrat “From the Southwest” [Summary: Sweeny dispatched messengers to Colonels Sigel and Salomon, who were encamped at Neosho, to move to Carthage.]

Jul 11, 1861 Missouri Republican “Battle on the Fifth” [Summary: Messenger from Jackson’s army says the Federal troops retreated with great loss. Loss is small on the part of the State troops.]

Jul 11, 1861 Missouri Republican “The Carthage Battle” [Summary: Detailed report on the Battle of Carthage with information from Lieut. Tosk, who acted at Sigel’s adjutant in the engagement.]

Jul 11, 1861 New York Tribune “From Western Missouri–Great Battle Near Carthage” [Summary: Information from the Fort Scott Democrat gives details on the battle between Jackson and Rains’ forces, numbering 10,000 against Sigel’s, numbering 1,500. Ends with the statement that Sweeny had reinforced Sigel and were pursuing State troops near Vernon.]

Jul 11, 1861 New York Tribune “The Latest War News” [Summary: A somewhat incoherent report from Kansas City about the battle near Carthage.]

Jul 12, 1861 Liberty (MO) Tribune “Battle in Southwest Missouri” [Summary: Report about the Battle of Carthage from the Fort Scott (KS) Democrat.]

Jul 12, 1861 New York Tribune “The Battle Near Carthage–Additional Details” [Summary: Excellent maneuvering by Col. Sigel. Admirable behavior of Federal troops. Corrects some earlier erroneous reporting.]

Jul 13, 1861 Missouri Republican “Untitled” [Summary: No new info on Carthage; Rolla is now occupied by Col. Wyman’s command.]

Jul 14, 1861 Missouri Republican “From the Southwest” [Summary: Capt. Smith arrives and confirms Tosh’s report on the battle of Carthage, as far as the Federal losses. He also reports on what happened after the fight.]

Jul 14, 1861 Missouri Republican “Later from the Southwest” [Summary: A letter written by Lieut. Clark dated Mt. Vernon, July 8, provides later advice on the Carthage fight. Another battle had been expected.]

Jul 14, 1861 New York Tribune “Further from Western Missouri–Battle of Carthage” [Summary: Capt. Smith gives some details: McCullough was in the fight with Arkansas troops. Jackson and Price were present but took no active part. One hundred of Sigel’s troops were captured at Neosho. McCullough refused request to shoot them.]

Jul 15, 1861 Missouri Democrat “From Springfield, Mo.” [Summary: Account of the Carthage battle by a spectator, who is revealed later to be John M. Richardson, Esq., formerly Secretary of State.]

Jul 15, 1861 Missouri Republican “The Madness of the Hour” [Summary: Editorial blames Gov. Jackson for Missouri’s troubles, especially for inviting Indians and Arkansas troops to invade Missouri. “If Gov. Jackson had done nothing else to deserve condemnation, this single act of inviting savages to assist him in his design to carry on civil war in his own State—his invitation to Arkansas to make inroads upon our own territory—ought to call down curses upon him forever.” Includes a July 10 letter from Southwest Missouri about the battle near Carthage.]

Jul 15, 1861 Missouri Republican “Letter from Springfield” [Summary: Letter to the editor about the Battle of Carthage.  Blames Jackson and others for the state being invaded by Indians and troops from Arkansas.  This letter is included in the editorial above, “The Madness of the Hour.”]

Jul 15, 1861 New York Tribune “From Missouri” [Summary: Capt. Smith says Gen. Lyon’s command would reach Springfield on Thursday (July 11). The entire federal force–made up of the commands under Sweeny, Sigel, Solomon, Brown and Phelps–are at Springfield. State forces at Neosho, going South. Federal loss in Carthage battle was 10 killed, 43 wounded. Rebels state their loss at 700 killed.]

Jul 16, 1861 Missouri Democrat “The Battle of Carthage and the Condition of Missouri” [Summary: The New York Times says, “It was a more brilliant affair than we had supposed it would turn out to be from the contradictory and apparently exaggerated accounts previously received.”]

Jul 18, 1861 Glasgow (MO) Weekly Times  “The Battle of Carthage” [Summary: Letter from a Confederate soldier to his father says the Boonville Battle was child’s play compared to Carthage.]

Jul 18, 1861 Missouri Republican “Official Account by Col. Sigel of the Battle of Carthage” [Summary: Official report submitted to General Sweeny is published with names of killed and wounded and highly interesting particulars.]

Jul 18, 1861 Howard County Banner (Fayette, MO) “The Fight at Carthage” [Summary: Short article says the Battle of Carthage was a complete victory over the Federals. The estimate the State loss less than 20 killed and 40 wounded and the Federal loss between 150-175 killed and the same number wounded.  It reports that McCulloch pursued Sigel and his men and took them all prisoners.]

Jul 18, 1861 Missouri Republican “Sigel’s Command–The Battle” [Summary: Report of the Battle at Carthage from the Springfield Mirror.]

Jul 20, 1861 Missouri Republican “Letter from Col. Hughes” [Summary: Hughes’ July 6 letter to Miller with his account of the battle of Carthage is published. It differs from Sigel’s in the estimated loss of the Federal troops. See article below for more on this.]

Jul 21, 1861 Missouri Republican “Which is Right?” [Summary: Pronounces Hughes’ statement false regarding his report on the Battle of Carthage.]

Jul 21, 1861 New York Tribune “From Missouri and Arkansas” [Summary: Lyon is marching toward Springfield with 6,000 men, including Maj. Sturgis’ command and 24 pieces of field artillery and much ammo. Jackson and McCulloch are said to be at Camp Walker, near Yellowville, AR, ten miles south of Missouri. Capt. Cook captured a messenger from Jackson, carrying various letters. One said Jackson begs for more men and admits having lost 500 killed at Carthage.]

Jul 22, 1861 New York Tribune “From Missouri–Movement of Troops–Battle of Carthage” [Summary: Very informative letters from the correspondent on the march with Lyon from July 13-15. Gives a long account of the Battle of Carthage based on info from Dr. Melcher, who explains how a rebel captain was angered by the mention of Lyon . Describes the sentiment of the people during the march from Boonville to Springfield. There is great Union feeling in Springfield. Praises the Iowa First. Messenger from Lyon’s camp says he is only waiting on more provisions before making an attack.]

Jul 26, 1861 Missouri Democrat “The Killed at Carthage” [Summary: Update on the number in Sigel’s official report.]

Jul 28, 1861 Missouri Republican “Honor to Whom Honor is Due” [Summary: Corrects a typographical error in Sigel’s report of the Battle at Carthage regarding Lieut. Col. Hassendeubel skill.]

Aug 3, 1861 Missouri Democrat “Interesting From the Southwest” [Summary: Extract from a private letter confirms the previous reports of the number killed at Carthage.]

Aug 3, 1861 New York Tribune “From Missouri” [Summary: Col. Salomon’s and part of Col. Sigel’s regiments arrived in St. Louis from the Southwest. The troops will be disbanded, as their time of service is up. Gen. Lyon officially expressed his appreciation for the generalship shown by Sigel and soldierly qualities of his men in the Battle of Carthage. Lyon’s command is down to 6,000, as three-months men have left. Many will probably re-enlist. McCulloch and Jackson, having ravaged the land are slowing moving back northward.]

Aug 3, 1861 Harper’s Weekly “The Battle of Carthage” [Summary of the battle from the Missouri Republican. Includes a sketch made on the spot.]

Aug 12, 1861 New York Tribune “From the Southwest–Wretched Condition of the Secession Troops in Missouri–Reign of Terror in the State” [Summary: A Texan gives observations traveling through Missouri: Jackson’s army is one of the most confused bodies of men he has ever seen, made up of old men and boys, half armed, poorly organized and undisciplined. Gives a summary and after-math of the Battle of Carthage. The rebels complained about Sigel throwing shot with so much precision. Many said they would shoot Jackson over Lincoln in target practice.]

Aug 24, 1861 New York Tribune “Later From Missouri–Rebels Moving Westward–Battle of Carthage” [Summary: 6,000-10,000 men of McCulloch’s army have left for the North. Thousands of Union men have been forced to leave their homes. Correspondent writes from Camp Rolla, says Sturgis is in command there now, not Sigel. The charge in which Lyon fell was not participated in by all the regiments, only the 2nd Kansas and a few companies of the Kansas 1st. Says they did not call out to Lyon to lead them, as they had Col. Mitchell. Lt. Col. Blair took over for Mitchell when he fell–Official rebel account of Carthage battle (Gen. Price’s report to C.F. Jackson).]

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 8, 1885 Missouri Republican “Tales of War–Light Battery Service in 1861” [Summary: Capt. W. P. Barlow, who was a lieutenant in Guibor’s battery, writes a description of the early service of that organization, including the Battles of Carthage and Wilson’s Creek (Oak Hills).]

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.]

Mar 26, 1887 Missouri Republican “Tales of War–Col. Sigel’s March to Carthage and Return” [Summary: Otto Lademan, Captain 3rd Missouri Infantry gives an account. This is a different article than the MOLLUS article “The Battle of Carthage, MO ,” in War Papers, Volume 4.]