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Civil War Room and Information

The Rebel Raid:  Price's Assault on Jefferson City and March Westward

In January of 1841, Bernard Joseph Ferdinand Rothove (referred to in this text as Ferdinand) emigrated from Germany into the United States via New Orleans, Louisiana. Ferdinand traveled up the Mississippi River to St. Louis and on to Taos, Missouri, via the Missouri and Osage Rivers. Ferdinand lived in Taos until early 1844. In that year, he and Maria Catherina Rackers traveled to St. Louis and were married. The lived in St. Louis until 1861 when they moved back to Taos with their children. It is suspected that this move was due to the fact that their two oldest sons were teenagers and Ferdinand and Maria propably wanted to remove them from the potential of becoming wrapped up in the Civil War.

Ferdinand purchased 107 and 82/100ths acres of bottom land immediately on the north side of the Osage River, just south of Taos, in the northeastern fractional quarter of Township 43N, Range 11W, Section 24. At the time of this move to Taos, Ferdinand was 52 years old, which, in 1861, was considered to be a relatively elderly man. Ferdinand passed away at the age of 58 years old in 1867 and is buried in the Taos Cemetery.

The land that the Rothove family purchased lies on the northern shore of the Osage River, slightly over six miles upriver from Osage City, which was located at the confluence of the Missouri and Osage Rivers. On the south side of the Osage River, immediately across from Ferdinand and Catherine, lies a landing and shoal at the west end of an island named Prince's shoal. The shoals, which were shallow spots along the course of the river, were favorite crossing points of the natural barriers created by rivers and streams. Along the course of twelve miles of the Osage River, there were five important shoals which were near the path of Price's Army which would set him on the direct path to Jefferson City; Prince's Shoal, Rice Shoal, Castle Rock, Bolton's Shoal and Lockett's Shoal. All of these shoals were key crossing points and were likely to be marked by heavy conflict before the Confederate troops could amass on the north side of the Osage and Moreau Rivers, readying themselves for the final assault on Jefferson City.


Ferdinand and Catherine, who had tried to keep their family out of the conflict that was brewing in St. Louis, by buying land on the Osage River south of Taos in Cole County, Missouri and moving to that somewhat remote area, now find themselves and their family in the middle of one of the heated battles of the Civil War on Missouri soil.

Bernard Joseph Ferdinand Rothove land at Prince's Shoal & Landing

Osage River Landings and Crossings - Prince's Shoal & Landing

Bernard Joseph Ferdinand Rothove land at Prince's Shoal & Landing

Osage River Landings and Crossings - Prince's Shoal & Landing

Price assembled a force he named the Army of Missouri, consisting of 12,000 men and fourteen

artillery pieces. His army was divided into three divisions, under Maj. Gen. James F. Fagan,

Maj. Gen. John S. Marmaduke, and Brig. Gen. Joseph O. "Jo" Shelby. However, the infantry units

originally assigned to Price were ordered elsewhere, changing his mission from an invasion into a

cavalry raid. Price's men were a mixture of the best and the worst, a quarter of his force being

deserters who had been returned to duty. Hundreds of Price's men were barefoot, and most lacked

basic equipment such as canteens or cartridge boxes. Many carried jugs for water and kept their

ammunition in shirt and pants pockets. Nevertheless, Price hoped the people of Missouri would

rally to his side. In this he proved to be mistaken, as most Missourians did not wish to become

involved in the conflict. Only Confederate guerrillas joined his army--perhaps as many as 6,000 altogether.

The Northern political situation was certainly on Price's mind as he planned the campaign. He believed Southern victory could be imminent, but with Missouri firmly in Union control, his beloved state would be left out of Confederate independence. Confederate commanders discussed a Missouri expedition for several months. Exactly what form it would take remained a big question. Thomas Reynolds, Missouri's Confederate Governor, insisted the offensive could not be a mere cavalry raid because he wanted to reestablish a Southern government in the state. A Confederate force would have to be strong enough to defeat Federal troops and hold at least some portion of Missouri. Despite Reynolds' hopes, the issue was settled when the War Department ordered Kirby Smith to send all infantry in Louisiana and Arkansas to the Western Theater. Smith was also ordered to create a diversion which would take the pressure off of Confederate operations in Georgia. With no infantry available, the Missouri expedition had to be a cavalry raid.

Authorization for the raid came on August 4, 1864. Smith's orders made it clear St. Louis was the ultimate goal, but Price was also reminded about objectives more easily achieved. Above all else the Confederacy needed men. Even if he had to retreat from Missouri, the expedition would be successful if a sizeable number of recruits were brought into the army. If driven out of Missouri, Price was ordered to seize all the military supplies he could while retreating through Kansas and the Indian Territory.

By September 18, Price had organized his 12,000 man Army of Missouri into three divisions under James Fagan, John S. Marmaduke, and Joseph O. Shelby.

Most of these men were veterans who had survived many hard fought battles. Their experience and discipline would be crucial in the campaign because approximately 4,000 of the troops were unarmed. Union control of Missouri's rivers and railroads however, made it easy for the Federals to concentrate their forces.

Pilot Knob, located in southeast Missouri, in Iron County, protected by Fort Davidson, an earthen stockade and its tiny garrison,. Price studied his options in Pilot Knob on September 27. Even though he feared making a direct assault, the fort seemed vulnerable. Much political advantage could be made by a victory at Pilot Knob and such a victory would illustrate the Army of Missouri's strength. While the Federals successfully defended Fort Davidson, Ewing knew their position was untenable. He realized Confederate artillery on the eights surrounding the fort would force his garrison to surrender and decided to evacuate his position in the night, after detonating the command's surplus black powder. The Battle of Pilot Knob had disastrous consequences for the Confederate invasion. Price lost hundreds of his best men in futile assaults against Fort Davidson. The attack at Fort Davidson cost Price five days.

Fearing St. Louis was too well defended, he continued northward and chose to turn westward, away from St. Louis, after attacking Pilot Knob. Shelby, after withdrawal from Ewing's front, had proceeded north-east along the line of the road, destroying bridges and other property, until reaching Franklin, where he united with the other divisions, which meanwhile, had marched northward along the line of the Iron Mountain Road, destroying everything valuable, consuming all supplies, and conscripting all the semi-secessionists, and as many Union men as they could lay their hands on. By the time Price reached Missouri River, at Washington, there can be no doubt the rebel force Lad increased about four thousand. Price, next advanced on Jefferson City.

By the movement along the lines of railroad, Price was enabled to throw all the force concentrated at St. Louis, several days march to his rear.

This was on the 5th of October. General Sanborn reached the same point next day from Springfield. The force at Jefferson City then numbered 6,000. Four thousand were cavalry, and with eight guns and with the addition of Winslow's Brigade of the 17th Army Corps, formed the Provisional Cavalry Division commanded by Major-General Alfred Pleasanton, in the subsequent pursuit of Price, and the battles of the border. In the meanwhile the rebels were steadily advancing westward, destroying, foraging and conscripting as they marched. The forces gathered at Jefferson City were resisting strenuously the movements of Price.

On the 3d the rebels held Hermann, an important German settlement on the river, where they captured a train and three locomotives. Colonel Chester Harding, Jr., 43d Missouri Infantry Volunteers, with four hundred men, left St. Joseph on the 4th, on the steamer West Wind, with the intention of proceeding to Jefferson City. General Curtis hoped the rebels might still be checked at the Gasconade and Osage Rivers, and to this end counselled General Brown, at the capital of Missouri, to burn the bridges on those streams. Union troops from St. Louis marched in a leisurely manner considering the imminent peril ahead, and the obvious advantage to be gained by attacking the rebels at or near the Osage River, where the force in Jefferson City could cooperate.

The 7th and 8th of October passed. Sharp fighting was reported by General Fisk in front of Jefferson City ; our forces withdrawing to the trenches. The telegraph lines between Sedalia and Lexington were cut on the evening of the 8th, the guerilla Anderson having been reported the previous day at Lexington, with five hundred men. On the 7th of October, Major Samuel S. Curtis, 2d Colorado Cavalry, A. D. C. to General Curtis, took possession of the steamer Benton for Government purposes. Three Companies of the 43rd Infantry Missouri Volunteers, under Major Davis, were on board. Three more companies were on the steamer West Wind, Colonel Chester Harding being in command. Major Curtis was directed to proceed with them to Jefferson City.

On Oct. 5, the Union forces command at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas was advised that the rebel forces under Gen. Price have made a further advance westward, crossing the Gasconade, and are now at the railroad bridge on the Osage, about fifteen miles below Jefferson City.

The following are excerpts from"Shelby and His Men"

or "The War In The West", by John Newman Edwards,
published at Cincinnati in 1867

Unexploded artillery ordinance

from battle at Prince's Landing

From the town of Union, Shelby's Division again led the advance, stormed Linn and captured its' garrison of three hundred seventy-two (372) federals, scouted the country for miles around, and struck terror into the Dutch and militia, surprised almost into idiocy. From Linn, Colonel Shanks was sent, with the old brigade, to destroy the gigantic bridge over the Osage River, which he did in fine style, dispersed and put to the sword its' defenders, fired the wood-work, and beat the blind old piers prone to the water. Then coming swiftly back, he reunited at Westphalia with Shelby, who had taken the town, driven out its' garrison of one regiment and made many prisoners. General Price, coming on slowly, ordered Shelby to force a passage of the Osage and drive in all outlying detachments into Jefferson City. Four miles above the point selected for the essay was stationed a regiment of the enemy, at a little ford named Castle Rock. To this point Gordon was ordered, with instructions to get over nolens volens, disperse the defenders, and march down immediately to attack the flank of the real opposition in front of Shelby.

At the main crossing on the direct road to the State Capitol, General Shelby, silently and unobserved, masked his battery on the edge of the southern shore, formed Elliot in columns to dash across under the cover of guns, then Shanks was to advance with the rest of the brigade while he followed with Jackman in reserve. Heavy fighting was expected at this vital avenue to the city. Nothing could excel the terrible accuracy and rapidity of Collins' fire. The enemy beyond, startled into consciousness of danger by the exploding shells, gave back for one single moment and then abandoned their strong positions on the river. That moment became dreadfully fatal. Elliot sprang away waist deep through the water covered by Collins' fire, gained firm ground beyond and went fighting into the line at a gallop. Shanks followed with no less eagerness and it was time. The Federals massed on Elliot and bore him back slowly but painfully, his best men falling all around him. Shanks ordered a charge along the whole line, rescued Elliot and drove back the defenders of the crossing with heavy loss. The enemy, largely reinforced, "would not drive worth a cent", as poor Shanks afterward expressed it, death almost shadowing his pale brow with its' dark wings, and he reformed his lines for another charge. The word was given, Shanks leading far ahead, his hat off before his own Iron Brigade, and his eyes ablaze with a battle-light, cheered on the fight. It was hot and pitiless while it lasted; but the Confederates triumphed, the enemy's line gave way, and just in the very moment of victory, just as a wild shout of joy went up to sober, ashen skies, Shanks fell dreadfully wounded, a Minnie ball through his dauntless breast. It would have been difficult, I think, to have found another, among living men, both by constitution and temperament, so inaccessible to physical terrors as David Shanks, and when he fell heavily to the earth, shot clean and clear from his saddle, the old light was in his eyes and the old smile upon his face. There he lay, bleeding fearfully upon the cold, damp, ground, the red sun of Autumn shining fitfully upon his upturned face, pale and drawn with agony. Away to the front, that regiment which loved him so, and that brigade which he had seen created; but would never lead any more were rushing on with wild shouts of vengeance. I do not know whether he heard them then, for he seemed to be listening for another eagerly voice and straining his eyes in another direction. Very soon, General Shelby came to the fatal spot, and all Shanks' features, wan and worn with pain were lighted up with a tenderness and joy inexpressible as his loved leader bent over him with a heart too sick for words. There lay the great Federal giant, not four rods away, who had shot him, mortally wounded by Shanks' own hand before he fell. The parting was solemn and deeply sad. A few words of hope he did not feel, a few tears hot and scalding from eyes unused to weep - a long, lingering, fond good-bye, and Shelby rode swiftly away, not daring to look back on where he had left his flower of chivalry, his steadfast and unwavering friend; the chosen leader of the old brigade; the reckless fighter; the tender heart; the generous comrade; the tried warrior; the accomplished soldier and the Ney of the division. Devoted companions like Lute McKinney remained to share his fate, and he was gently carried from the field never to rejoin his command again. But his fall had been well avenged. No more halts, no more reinforcements checked the headlong gallop now, and the Federals, ridden over and dispersed, finally escaped by fragments into Jefferson City.

Gordon, at Castle Rock, with the indefatigable Will Moorman in advance, had hot work too. Encountering three companies on the south side of the Osage, he attacked and drove them into the water, where few escaped death by bullet or drowning. His passage was contested stoutly, but crossing fifty men above and below this point - they came almost simultaneously on the flanks, and the Federals thinking an entire brigade upon them, hastily abandoned the position, pursued by Gordon to the road down which were retreating the enemy driven before Shelby's furious squadrons. Gordon, soon learning how matters stood, came towards Shelby, hemming in between them a battalion of infantry, too hard pressed to retreat rapidly, and destroyed it with scarcely an effort.

General Price, notified of the passage of the Osage, advanced during the night, while Shelby camped in line of battle six miles from Jefferson City, having slept little and fought hard for three days and nights. Even here he received orders to cover the front, and sent Jackmans' brigade forward for the purpose. Before the army had reunited before Jefferson City, Cabell's brigade had burned the railroad bridge at Franklin, over the Merrimac, and repulsed a brigade of Smith's corps; while General Marmaduke, on the fourth of October, burned the bridge over the Gasconade, and captured a large train on the Pacific Railroad, loaded principally with arms and ammunition.

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