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Interpretive Sign: The Powder Magazine (18 on map)

Tour Stop

Panoramic view of the crater left after the Federals blew up the powder magazine
Interpretive Sign: The Powder Magazine Directions: The interpretive sign [ Waypoint = N37 37.191 W90 38.398 ] is located next to the remains of the crater formed when the powder magazine inside of Fort Davidson exploded. Continue walking clockwise to the entrance, enter Fort Davidson, and walk towards the crater and read the text on the sign.

Description: The text on the interpretive sign:

This crater marks the site of the powder magazine. The underground structure was 40 feet long, 12 feet high and 12 feet wide. It was covered with 15 feet of earth to protect it from enemy fire. Some 20 tons of gunpowder and ammunition were stored here during the battle.

At midnight, the defenders silently evacuated the fort. Equipment that could not be taken was piled against the magazine and the Union dead were laid nearby. An hour later a party of volunteers lit a fuse to the magazine and galloped for safety.

"… suddenly the heavens were lighted up by a grand column of fire ascending hundreds of feet … and making the whole region reverberate with a sound as though a mighty thunderbolt had riven Pilot Knob … "

The startled Confederates did not realize that the fort had been evacuated. Maj. Gen. Price presumed that an accident had ignited the magazine and that the fort would surrender in the morning.

Federal Colonel Thomas C. Fletcher (Wilson's Creek National Battlefield) Colonel Thomas C. Fletcher, 47th Missouri Volunteer Infantry, described the council of war that took place the night after the battle on September 27th. [122]

"We had left in the magazine at the fort about twenty tons of powder and a large quantity of fixed ammunition. General Ewing detailed Sergt. Daniel Flood, of the Third M. S. M. Cavalry, to apply a slow match to it. When we had gone about a mile outside the enemy's lines, suddenly the heavens were lighted up by a grand column of fire ascending hundreds of feet above the mountain tops and making the whole region to reverberate with a sound as though a mighty thunderbolt had riven Pilot Knob from its base to its peak."

Federal Brigadier-General Thomas Ewing, Jr. (National Archives) The Federal commander at Fort Davidson found himself in a precarious situation after the fighting ceased with nightfall on September 27th. Brigadier-General Thomas Ewing, Jr., who decided to evacuate and blow up the powder magazine, described the tactical situation in his official report. [123]

"I had Colonel Fletcher arrange for having the magazine (which was large and filled with every variety of ammunition) blown up in two hours after we left, or as soon as our exit should be discovered by the enemy."

Captain Henry B. Milks, Company H, Third Missouri State Militia Cavalry, commanded the men who would be responsible for blowing up the powder magazine. Captain Milks remembered the Brigadier-General Ewing spoke to him on the night of September 27th. [124]

"About ten p. m. the General sent for me. He was alone in his tent, and he whispered in my ear, as nearly as I can remember his words: 'The command will evacuate at twelve o'clock. You will detail a lieutenant and twenty men to remain as guard till one o'clock. You will see that the magazine is blown up or destroyed, and you will report in person as soon after as possible.'

"The command moved out on time. Lieutenant Copp, Sergt. W. H. Moore, of my company, and I went down into the magazine, knocked open powder kegs, and made a pile of powder as large as a haycock in the center of the magazine. The room was forty feet long, twelve feet high, and twelve feet wide. A section through the center was filled from bottom to top with kegs of powder and fixed ammunition. No fuse being at hand, a trail was laid from the pile of powder out over the drawbridge. It was then twenty minutes before one … Lieutenant Hendricks, Lieutenant Copp and I, with twenty men, stood, mounted, outside the fort about seventy-five feet from the magazine, waiting for Moore to come and set off the trail. Our time was up and still all remained as silent as death … In an instant, a flame flashed from the entrance. Every man set spurs to his horse and we had only galloped about seventy-five yards when the explosion took place and the heavens were illumined with bursting shells."

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