Print this page

Federals Disembark East of Boonville

Tour Stop

Federal troops disembarking from river boats

Directions: This tour stop [ Waypoint = N38 57.699 W92 38.582 ] is located on Rocheport Road about 0.3 miles southwest of the Merna Parking Area in Overton Bottoms North Unit of the Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge.

  • From the previous tour stop (Battle of Boonville Historical Marker), turn around to get headed west on E. Morgan Street.
  • After about 0.6 miles, turn left (south) onto Main Street.
  • After about 0.7 miles, turn left (east) onto Missouri Highway 87 / Bingham Road.
  • After about 1.6 miles, turn left onto Missouri Highway 98.
  • After about 1.9 miles, you should turn right to stay on Missouri Highway 98.
  • After about 2.2 miles, turn left (north) onto Merna Drive (gravel).
  • After about 0.7 miles, turn right (east) onto Rocheport Road (gravel).
  • After about 0.3 miles,.there is a convenient place to pull off the side of the road at the bottom of the hill. Stop and get out of your car.
  • To continue on to the Merna Parking Area, continue up the hill and bear right to stay on Rocheport Road. Note: At this point, Rocheport Road degrades significantly. You may not be able to reach the Merna Parking Area in a vehicle not designed for off road travel. If you continue on another 0.3 miles or so, the Merna Parking Area should be on the left.
Looking west up Rocheport Road from the 'Federal Disembarkment' tour stop Looking east down Rocheport Road toward the 'Federal Disembarkment' tour stop
Union Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon Union Colonel Henry Boerntein

Description: After you turned right from Merna Drive onto Rocheport Road, you began a descent towards the Overton Bottoms along the Missouri River. The difference in elevation between the river and the high ground at the intersection of Merna Drive and Rocheport Road is about 150 feet. In 1861, Rocheport Road made a gradual ascent from the Missouri river up through the bluffs as it headed west towards Boonville, Missouri. If you look to the west in the direction from which you drove, you can get an idea of the route taken by the Federals as they marched from the Missouri River towards Boonville.

It was in Jefferson City that Union Brigadier-General Nathaniel Lyon received information from a Boonville Unionist that the Missouri State Guard was building fortifications at Boonville. The Unionist also relayed the information that reinforcements were on their way from Tipton. Lyon decided to continue his rapid pursuit of the secessionists. Having taken control of the evacuated Jefferson City on June 15th, Lyon would leave three companies behind under the command of Colonel Henry Boerntein to occupy the State Capital. On June 16th, Lyon put his forces back on the steamboats and headed upriver towards Boonville. The size of Lyon's force now numbered about 1,700 men. By 6:00 A.M. on June 17th the Federals had reached the town of Rocheport around 10 miles downriver from Boonville. It was here in Rocheport that Lyon received additional news that the Missouri State Guard was preparing their defense of Boonville about four miles east of the town. [32]

Union Colonel Francis P. Blair, Jr. in November 1861 Union Major John M. Scofield taken when he was a Major-General

When the steamboats were about eight miles from Boonville, they came upon an island in the river that completely hid them from view of Boonville. Adamson describes what happened after reaching this point on the Missouri River: [33]

“Sheltered by the island, Lyon, Blair and Schofield were taken ashore to study the terrain. They found themselves on a broad meadow of bottom lands that ran, about one and a half miles wide, between the river and a tall, steep bluff that swept in both directions. Along the bluff, the river road ran in a fairly straight line. However, as it wen westward, the road was pushed closer and closer toward the river by the steadily encroaching heights. Finally, as the bluff almost reached the river, its wall fell off in a series of wide terraces. They rose gently enough for the road to climb them.”

Lyon disembarked his forces at a point eight miles down river from Boonville. He left Captain Richardson's company from Blair's First Missouri Volunteer Regiment on board the A. McDowell steamboat with an 8-inch howitzer. Lyon instructed them to continue upstream to within the howitzer's range of the State Guard camp and begin shelling the camp. [34]

The Muse South African