BATTLE OF LITTLE BLUE RIVER – OCTOBER 21, 1864
On October 21, 1864 400 men of the 11th Kansas Cavalry and four pieces of artillery under the command of Colonel Thomas Moonlight fought here from sunrise until late afternoon against General Sterling Price’s Confederate forces. Starting at the river crossing the fighting raged across the hills to the ridge one mile to the west. This action by the 11th Kansas and other Union forces sent from Independence delayed Price allowing Major General Alfred Pleasonton’s Union forces to close on the Confederate army the next day in Independence.
INTERIOR DEPT. SUMMARY: Price’s march along the Missouri River was slow, providing the Yankees a chance to concentrate. Maj. Gen. William S. Rosecrans, commanding the Department of the Missouri, proposed a pincer movement to trap Price and his army, but he was unable to communicate with Maj. Gen. Samuel R. Curtis, commander of the Department of Kansas, to formalize the plan. Curtis was having problems because many of his troops were Kansas militia and they refused to enter Missouri, but a force of about 2,000 men under the command of Maj. Gen. James G. Blunt did set out for Lexington. He met the Confederate troops at Lexington on the 19th, slowed their progress, but was defeated and retreated. On the 20th, Blunt’s troops arrived on the Little Blue River, eight miles east of Independence.
The Union force prepared to engage the Confederates again in a strong defensive position on the west bank. Curtis, however, ordered Blunt into Independence while leaving a small force, under Col. Thomas Moonlight, on the Little Blue. The next day, Curtis ordered Blunt to take all of the volunteers and return to the Little Blue. As he neared the stream, he discovered that Moonlight’s small force had burned the bridge as ordered, engaged the enemy, and retreated away from the strong defensive position occupied the day before, crossing the river. Blunt entered the fray and attempted to drive the enemy back beyond the defensive position that he wished to reoccupy. The Yankees forced the Confederates to fall back, at first, but their numerical superiority took its toll in the five-hour battle. The Federals retreated to Independence and went into camp there after dark. Once again, the Confederates had been slowed and more Union reinforcements were arriving.
Principal Commanders: Maj. Gen. Samuel R. Curtis [US]; Maj. Gen. Sterling Price [CS]
Estimated Casualties: Unknown
Result: Confederate victory
Marker Location: 21594 E. Old Lexington Rd., Independence, Mo. 64056
Stamp Location: National Frontier Trails Museum
Website: www.ci.independence.mo.us & www.jchs.org
Chamber of Commerce: ichamber.biz
Address: 318 West Pacific, Independence, Mo 64050
Phone Number: 816-325-7575
For battle information, contact: The Civil War Round Table of Western Missouri, https://cwrtwm.org.