Friday, August 5, 2011

Unionists win battle of Athens, Missouri

  • In Missouri, US General Nathaniel Lyon pulls out of Dug Springs as he receives reports that Confederate troops are advancing in large numbers.  A skirmish occurs at Kirksville, Missouri, and small battle at Athens (pronounce Aythens), Missouri. The Battle of Athens occurs in northeast Missouri near southeast Iowa along the Des Moines River across from Croton, Iowa. Colonel Martin Green's force of about 2,000 secessionist 2nd Division Missouri State Guardsmen with three cannons tries to capture Athens from about 500 Unionist 1st Northeast Missouri Home Guard commanded by Col. David Moore. Moore calls out his regiment at 5am when pickets warn of the secessionists' advance. With many men home visiting family without orders and after moving his sick over the river to Iowa, Moore is left with 333 men to fight 2,000. Green's much larger force surrounds Athens on three sides, with the river to the Unionists’ backs. Lieut. Col. Charles S. Callihan commanding the Union left flank faces Major Shacklett's cavalry and James Kniesley's three gun battery. The Unionists have no artillery, but Kniesley's guns are not much better, only a 6-pounder, a 9-pounder, and a hollowed log, a few solid shot and improvised canister. They have no impact in the battle except to spook a cavalry scout’s horse. The first cannon shot flies over the Unionists and the Des Moines River into the Croton, Iowa, rail depot. The second shoots through the Benning home and into the river. The log cannon blows apart on the first firing. The 2,000 poorly equipped, untrained, and untested secessionist State Guardsmen advance, generally firing their shotguns and squirrel rifles, while Moore’s 333 men are much better armed with Springfield rifled muskets and bayonets. Captain Hackney's Home Guard drives the State Guard away from Stallion Branch while US Lt. Col. Callihan’s men flee for the river with one of the Home Guards cavalry units at the sight of Major Shacklett's large force advancing. The others hold their positions, and the advance falters in a cornfield. After Shacklett is wounded in the neck, his men fall back. Seeing this, Moore fixes bayonets and countercharges, sending the State Guardsmen into a headlong retreat including Kniesley’s artillery. The Iowa militia watches from across the river and fire a few shots from long range with no effect. The Unionist Home Guardsmen win. Moore has three dead and twenty wounded. Missouri State Guard losses are unknown, but Moore captures twenty men, most of them wounded. Moore estimates 31 Missouri State Guard killed and wounded, and captures 450 horses with bridles and saddles, hundreds of arms, and a wagon load of long knives. The defeat demoralizes secessionist state guard efforts in Northeast Missouri. The Union victory has the distinction of being the most northerly of Civil War Battles fought west of the Mississippi, and also of being the only such battle fought along the Iowa border./1861
  • The USS Vincennes/Jamestown under Commander Charles Green captures and burns the Confederate prize bark Alvarado, a blockade runner, off the coast of Fernandina, Florida./1861
  • Off the coast of Puerto Rico, the Confederate privateer Jefferson Davis captures the large American brig Santa Clara./1861
  • In Washington, President Lincoln approves a Congressional resolution to observe a day of public humiliation, fasting, and prayer and also approves the new income tax of 3 per cent on income exceeding $800 per year and other taxes./1861

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