Second Battle of Independence
Description: Maj. Gen. Sterling Price’s army rode west in the direction of Kansas City.
On the night of the 21st, he camped at Independence and resumed his westward march the next morning with Brig. Gen. Joe Shelby’s division in the lead followed by Brig. Gen. John S. Marmaduke’s division, with Brig. Gen. James Fagan’s division bringing up the rear. While Shelby’s men met success at Byram’s Ford, the other two columns did not fare as well. Maj. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton’s Union force crossed the Little Blue, beat up a Rebel brigade in Fagan’s command, and occupied Independence. Marmaduke’s division then met Pleasonton about two miles west of Independence, hit the Federals hard, pressed them back, and held them at bay until the morning of the 23rd. Pleasonton’s actions, however, frightened Price and his army, and influenced them, after they had crossed the Big Blue, to send their wagon trains to Little Santa Fe on the Fort Scott Road.
The Second Battle of Independence was a minor engagement of the American Civil War, occurring October 21 and 22, 1864 in Jackson County, Missouri. The battle formed a part of Confederate Maj. Gen. Sterling Price’s 1864 Missouri Campaign, which culminated in his defeat at the Battle of Westport one day later.
This battle should not be confused with the First Battle of Independence, which was fought in 1862. That battle resulted in a Confederate victory.
In the fall of 1864, Confederate Maj. Gen. Sterling Price was dispatched by his superior, Lt. Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith, to attempt to seize Missouri for the Confederacy. Unable to attack his primary objective, St. Louis, Price decided to execute Smith's backup plan for a westward raid through Missouri and into Kansas and the Indian Territory. Their ultimate goal was to destroy or capture Union supplies and outposts, which might negatively affect Abraham Lincoln's chances for reelection in 1864.
After victories at Glasgow and Lexington, Price continued his march westward, in the direction of Kansas City and Fort Leavenworth, headquarters of the Federal Department of Kansas. His army, which he termed the Army of Missouri, was organized with Brig. Gen. Joseph Shelby’s division in the lead, followed by Brig. Gen. John S. Marmaduke’s division, with Brig. Gen. James Fagan’s division bringing up the rear.
Union forces opposing Price consisted of militia units and the XVI Corps of Maj. Gen. Andrew J. Smith, augmented by the cavalry division of Maj. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton, detached from William S. Rosecrans's Department of Missouri. In addition, the newly-activated Army of the Border under Maj. Gen. Samuel R. Curtis would engage Price's force. Curtis commanded the divisions of Maj. Gen. James G. Blunt (cavalry), Maj. Gen. George W. Dietzler (Kansas Militia Division), Pleasonton's cavalry, and two infantry divisions detached from Smith's Corps under Colonels Joseph J. Woods and David Moore--about 22,000 men in all.
Following their defeat at Lexington, the small detachment of Union troops engaged in this battle under General Blunt retreated west toward Independence. They set up camp on October 20th behind strong defensive positions on the west bank of the Little Blue River, about five miles east of town, and awaited the main Confederate force. However Blunt's superior, General Curtis, ordered him to abandon these positions save for a small blocking force under Colonel Thomas Moonlight, and return to Independence.
The Second Battle of Independence actually commenced as a connected engagement at the Little Blue River, east of the city. It began on October 21st, when General Blunt was ordered to return to the Little Blue and reoccupy the same defensive positions he had been directed to abandon only the day before. Upon his arrival, he found that Colonel Moonlight had burnt the bridge over the river, as previously instructed, and retreated.
Railroad cut in Independence, Missouri where Confederate forces halted on October 21st
Price's army had arrived on the scene by this time, and fiercely engaged the Union forces. Witnesses reported that the Federals entrenched themselves behind rock walls, and forced attacking Confederates to fight for nearly every inch of ground. Gradually, however, the Union troops were compelled to give way, retreating west through Independence toward Westport. Union rearguard units attempted to impede Price's progress throughout the afternoon of the 21st, as brisk fighting raged through the streets of the city, but all were ultimately compelled to withdraw. Price's troops halted their advance at an unfinished railroad cut on the western side of town, and made their camp in Independence for the evening.
One casualty of the first day's fighting was Confederate raider George Todd, who had participated in the First Battle of Independence in 1862, where he was guilty of summarily executing two captured Union officers.
Periodic gunfire continued throughout the night, as each side probed the other. Union troops continued their withdrawal to the Big Blue River, west of Independence.
At dawn on the 22nd, Maj. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton’s Union force of 10,000 cavalry crossed the Little Blue River, and attacked Independence from the northeast (and thus, from the rear of Price's force) in company with the 2nd Arkansas Infantry (Union). Two of Fagan's brigades were roughly handled by the attacking Federals, being pushed back through the city toward the west, where the main Union force lay. Yet another Confederate brigade attempted to stem the onslaught on the grounds of what is now the Community of Christ's Independence Temple, but was practically annihilated by Pleasonton's force with only a few Rebels escaping.
Fagan's battle line, on grounds of the modern Independence Temple
But final victory would elude the Union. Marmaduke’s division engaged Pleasonton about two miles west of Independence, managing to push the Federals back and hold them until the morning of the 23rd. The focus of activity now shifted westward from Independence to Westport, in modern Kansas City.
Although Price could claim a victory due to the bravery of Marmaduke and his men, Pleasonton’s bold actions greatly worried him. Concerned for the safety of his supplies, Price accordingly sent his wagon trains to Little Santa Fe on the Fort Scott Road, once he had crossed the Big Blue River. The following day, the 30,000 troops of both armies joined combat at the Battle of Westport, resulting in a decisive Union victory and the end of major Confederate military efforts in Missouri.