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Federal Line of Battle

Tour Stop

From Federal troops perspective looking west along Rocheport Road from the 'Federal Line of Battle' tour stop

Directions: Because the area where Lyon deployed his forces into line of battle is on private property, this tour stop [ Waypoint = N38 57.535 W92 39.477 ] is located on the Rocheport Road just south of the area where the Federal Line of Battle was located in 1861.

  • From the previous tour stop (Missouri State Guard Pickets), continue to drive west on Rocheport Road.
  • After traveling about 0.7 miles, find a safe place to pull to the side of the road.
  • Notice how the Rocheport Road goes down into a ravine before rising up to another ridge about 0.3 miles to the west of this point.
Looking north across Boonville battlefield from the 'Federal Line of Battle' tour stop Looking north across Boonville battlefield from the 'Federal Line of Battle' tour stop
Looking north across Boonville battlefield from the 'Federal Line of Battle' tour stop Looking north across Boonville battlefield from the 'Federal Line of Battle' tour stop
Confederate General John Sappington Marmaduke

Description: You are standing near the area where Union Brigadier-General Nathaniel Lyon got his first view of the enemy's defensive position on the ridge several hundred yards to the west of where you are standing. Because of the trees, it is difficult to see this ridge line from where you are standing. You can see that the road begins a steep drop down into a ravine that separates the two ridges. When the road comes out of the ravine ahead, this ridge is approximately the same elevation as the point on which you are standing.

Union Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon

When pausing in Rocheport, Union Brigadier-General Nathaniel Lyon found out that the Missouri State Guard was establishing a defensive line about four miles east of Boonville. When he had disembarked eight miles downriver from Boonville, Lyon sent out his skirmishers following the Rocheport Road heading into Boonville. After encountering the Missouri State Guard pickets, the Federal skirmishers drove them back and discovered that Marmaduke's defense line about a mile further to the west near the top of a ridge. Earlier, Lyon had received intelligence (incorrect as it turned out) that there were 4,000 Missouri State Guard troops preparing to defend Boonville. So he decided to put his forces into line of battle after discovering the defense line of the enemy. [38]

Union Colonel Francis P. Blair, Jr. in November 1861

Lyon deployed his forces on both sides of the Rocheport Road. Astride the road in the middle of his formation, Lyon place Totten's Battery. To the left, Lyon deployed the two unattached companies of regular U. S. recruits and the First Missouri Infantry Regiment of Volunteers commanded by Colonel Frank P. Blair, Jr. To the right, Lyon deployed the nine companies from the Second Missouri Infantry (Boernstein's) Regiment of Volunteers commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Schaefer. Lyon ordered Totten's Battery to open fire and they began shelling the enemy's positions. Captain James Totten directed most of his fire at the grove and the house on either end of the enemy's position. The artillery fire was effective and the State Guard troops quickly withdrew from their defense line. [39]

Missouri Governor Claiborne Fox Jackson Missouri State Guard General Mosby Parsons

Marmaduke received word from Governor Jackson to fall back to Boonville so he could join forces with Brigadier-General Mosby Parsons, who was said to be approaching Boonville. This withdrawal began in an orderly fashion, as the State Guardsmen backed off of their positions, periodically stopping to fire on the advancing Federals. But the orderly withdrawal soon degraded into a full blown retreat with the untrained troops fleeing. [40]

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