BATTLE OF WESTPORT – OCTOBER 23, 1864
INTERIOR DEPT. SUMMARY: Maj. Gen. Sterling Price’s Missouri Expedition had changed course from St. Louis and Jefferson City to Kansas City and Fort Leavenworth. As his army neared Kansas City, Maj. Gen. Samuel R. Curtis’s Army of the Border blocked its way west, while Maj. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton’s provisional cavalry division was closing on their rear. Price decided that he needed to deal with the two Union forces and decided to attack them one at a time. With Pleasonton still behind him, Price chose to strike Curtis at Westport first. Curtis had established strong defensive lines and during a four-hour battle, the Confederates hurled themselves at the Union forces but to no avail. The Rebels could not break the Union lines and retreated south. Westport was the decisive battle of Price’s Missouri Expedition, and from this point on, the Rebels were in retreat.
Principal Commanders: Maj. Gen. Samuel R. Curtis [US]; Maj. Gen. Sterling Price [CS]
Estimated Casualties: 3,000 total (US 1,500; CS 1,500)
Result: Union victory
WIKIPEDIA BATTLE SUMMARY: The Battle of Westport, sometimes referred to as the “Gettysburg of the West,” was fought on October 23, 1864, in modern Kansas City, Missouri, during the American Civil War. Union forces under Major General Samuel R. Curtis decisively defeated an outnumbered Confederate force under Major General Sterling Price. This engagement was the turning point of Price’s Missouri Expedition, forcing his army to retreat. The battle ended the last major Confederate offensive west of the Mississippi River, and for the remainder of the war the United States Army maintained solid control over most of Missouri. This battle was one of the largest to be fought west of the Mississippi River, with over 30,000 men engaged.
In September 1864, Sterling Price led his Army of Missouri into Missouri, with the hope of capturing the state for the South and turning the Northern people against Abraham Lincoln in the presidential election of 1864. Major General William S. Rosecrans, commanding the Federal Department of the Missouri, began assembling troops to repel the invasion. Rosecrans’s cavalry under Major General Alfred Pleasonton set out in pursuit of Price’s force, accompanied by a large detachment of infantry from the Army of the Tennessee under Andrew J. Smith. After his defeat at the Battle of Ft. Davidson, Price realized that St. Louis was far too heavily fortified for his rather small force (12,000 men), so he turned west to threaten Jefferson City. After light skirmishing there, Price again decided that this target was also too heavily fortified and moved further west toward Fort Leavenworth. As he marched on, disease and desertion coupled with battlefield losses to whittle Price’s force down to 8,500 men.
Major General Samuel R. Curtis, commander of the Federal Department of Kansas, now faced the threat of Price’s army moving into his department after learning of Confederate movements from spies including Wild Bill Hickok. Curtis accordingly assembled his troops into a force that he named the Army of the Border. James G. Blunt was recalled from Indian campaigns to lead its 1st Division, composed mostly of volunteer regiments and some Kansas militia. Curtis was only initially able to muster about 4,000 volunteers; he asked Kansas governor Thomas Carney to call out the state militia to bolster his forces. Governor Carney immediately suspected Curtis of attempting to draw the militia away from their voting districts, as election time was nearing. Carney was unconcerned with Price’s force far away in Missouri, and felt it posed no threat to Kansas. However, once Price had turned west toward Jefferson City, Carney relented and Maj. Gen. George Dietzler took command of a division of Kansas Militia that now joined Curtis’s Army of the Border. [Source: Wikipedia]