First Battle of Springfield, MO

The First Battle of Springfield or Zagonyi's Charge was a battle of the American Civil War that occurred on October 25, 1861, in Greene County, Missouri.

It was the only Union victory in southwestern Missouri in 1861.

Having accomplished little since taking command of the Western Department with headquarters in St. Louis, Maj. Gen. John C. Frémont formulated a plan to clear Maj. Gen. Sterling Price's Confederates from the state and then, if possible, carry the war into Arkansas and Louisiana. Leaving St. Louis on October 7, 1861, Frémont's combined force eventually numbered more than 20,000. His accompanying cavalry force, numbering 5,000 men and other mounted troops, included Maj. Frank J. White's Prairie Scouts and Frémont's Body Guards under Maj. Charles Zagonyi. Maj. White became ill and turned his command over to Zagonyi. These two units operated in front of Frémont’s army to gather intelligence.

As Frémont neared Springfield, the local state guard commander, Col. Julian Frazier, sent out requests to nearby localities for additional troops. Frémont camped on the Pomme de Terre River, about 50 miles from Springfield. Zagonyi's column, though, continued on to Springfield, and Frazier's force of 1,000 to 1,500 prepared to meet it. Frazier set up an ambush along the road that Zagonyi traveled, but the Union force charged the Confederates, sending them fleeing. Zagonyi's men continued into town, hailed Federal sympathizers and released Union prisoners. Leery of a Confederate counterattack, Zagonyi departed Springfield before night, but Frémont's army returned, in force, a few days later and set up camp in the town.

In mid-November, after Frémont was sacked and replaced by Maj. Gen. David Hunter, the Federals evacuated Springfield and withdrew to Sedalia and Rolla. Federal troops reoccupied Springfield in early 1862 and it was a Union stronghold from then on.

On December 31, 1862, three columns of cavalry under the command of Brigadier General John S. Marmaduke left Lewisburg, Arkansas and trotted north on separate roads toward Missouri and the Union supply line. The main column proceeded north through Forsyth, Missouri to Ozark. A Federal Garrison stationed there fled and the Confederates burned its abandoned fort. A second column, commanded by Colonel Emmett McDonald, destroyed the federal fort at Lawrence Mill on Beaver Creek, north of Forsyth. The third column, under Colonel Joseph Porter passed north through Hartville. All three commands were to converge on Springfield in an attempt to capture the city's lightly defended warehouses of military supplies.