The Battle of Fort Davidson, also known as the Battle of Pilot Knob, was the opening engagement of Price's Missouri Raid during the American Civil War. This engagement occurred on September 27, 1864, just outside of Pilot Knob in Iron County, Missouri. Although outnumbered by more than ten-to-one, the Union defenders managed to repulse repeated Confederate assaults on their works, and were able to slip away during the night by exploiting a gap in the Southern siege lines. The attacking Rebels took possession of the fort the next day, but Price's useless waste of men and ammunition ended his goal of seizing St. Louis for the Confederacy.
In September of 1864, the Confederate Army of Missouri under Major General Sterling Price crossed from Arkansas into Missouri, with the initial goal of capturing St. Louis. Moving north to Ironton, near the terminus of the Iron Mountain Railroad from St. Louis, they came upon a Federal outpost at nearby Pilot Knob known as Fort Davidson. Fort Davidson, with its garrison of 1,500 men and seven guns, made a tempting target for Price. Price had a total of 12,000 men under his command, but 3,000 of his men were unarmed; capturing the fort and its cache of arms would certainly prove beneficial. As Price prepared to seize it, he received word that Union troops were moving south to intercept him. Ordering detachments to destroy the railroad to the north at once, he invested the fort with his three divisions on the evening of September 26.
Union Brigadier General Thomas Ewing, commander of the District of St. Louis and brother-in-law to William T. Sherman, had arrived at Fort Davidson on an inspection trip when he learned that the railroad behind him had been cut. Despite being outnumbered ten-to-one, he decided to stand and fight. The fort provided a strong defensive position, with hexagonal walls nine feet high and ten feet thick, surrounded by a dry moat nine feet deep. Two long rifle pits ran out from the...