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  • Explore old mining caves by boat tour or scuba diving in Bonne Terre, MO just 15 minutes north of Farmington.
    Explore old mining caves by boat tour or scuba diving in Bonne Terre, MO just 15 minutes north of Farmington.

Farmington Missouri Civil War History

Farmington stayed out of the Civil War for several years, but in September of 1864, a large group of 12,000 Confederate soldiers invaded MissourFarmington, Missouri, was founded in 1798 by William Murphy, who was interested in finding a new site for his family. With the help of a resident Native American, he located a spring and built a homestead after obtaining a Spanish land donation.The Murphy family was instrumental in the town’s growth, and the area peacefully expanded until the Civil War broke out in 1861. Farmington stayed out of the war for several years, but in September of 1864, a large group of 12,000 Confederate soldiers invaded Missouri.With Major General Sterling Price in charge, the Confederate soldiers traveled toward the northern part of the state on their way to St. Louis. When the immense army reached the south end of the city, and the location of Iron Mountain Railroad in Pilot Knob, they found Fort Davidson.

A mere 1,500 Union soldiers protected the fort with Brigadier General Thomas Ewing Jr. in charge.

With 3,000 unarmed men and an estimated 6,000 rookie soldiers, Major Price saw an opportunity to supply weapons for his men while gaining experience for his new recruits. Therefore, he attacked the railroad line causing the Union troops to scramble for safety.

The small Fort Davidson was not big enough to hold all 1,500 Union soldiers. However, more and more army men retreated to the fort with its high hexagon walls and thick stone protection. Furthermore, the fort’s reinforcement included a deep dry moat with entrance allowed only by a drawbridge.

Fort Davidson’s construction included the brilliant defense design of two narrow rifle ditches that stretched out from the fort’s walls. Furthermore, the fort’s location in cleared fields increased its protection. The empty landscape provided gunners with 300 yards of visual defense that included four enormous siege guns, six field artillery items and three howitzers.

Major Price expected the fort to fold with one quick attack and instructed his troops to strike the fort from several directions. One division attacked a small Union division positioned on the back side of Pilot Knob Mountain while another group traveled to the top of Shepherd Mountain with orders to set up their cannons and launch an attack on Fort Davidson as the soldiers on the Pilot Knob Mountain side struck the fort.

Major Price also sent a third set of troops to journey around the lower section of Shepherd Mountain. Lastly, a fourth unit was ordered to storm the fort by racing through the valley in the middle of the two mountains.

When the Confederate soldiers attacked the fort, the Major’s timing was off, which gave the Union troops the opportunity to fire their weapons at the racing Confederates. As a result, smoke and blood filled the valley with only one unit arriving at the fort, but even after their onset, they couldn’t climb the fort’s high walls and died from grenade blasts.

Approximately 1,200 troops lay dead and wounded after the smoke dispersed. However, Major Price ordered the rest of his soldiers to build ladders and planned for them to climb over the fort’s walls. Meanwhile, General Ewing made the decision for his remaining soldiers to leave the fort due to limited supplies.

With canvas laid over the drawbridge to silence the horse’s hoofs, the Union troops fled the fort and left it empty for the Confederates to find.

Major Price’s men buried the dead in one of the rifle ditches making a mass grave. The area is now a historic site that stands as a remembrance for the men who died.

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