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Skirmish at Crane Creek

Tour Stop

Directions: The tour stop at Crane Creek [ Waypoint = N36 55.437 W93 35.334 ] is located near the town of Crane, Missouri 65633.

MDC Wire Road Conservation Area SignIf you are leaving from Springfield, Missouri:

  • Proceed west on I-44 and take exit 69 heading south on the James River Freeway/MO 360.
  • After about 3 miles, take the Sunshine Street / US 60 Highway exit and turn right, heading south.
  • After about 12.3 miles, bear left onto State Highway 13.
  • After about 8.5 miles, turn right onto County Road 13 / Old Wire Road.
  • Crane Creek will be about 0.9 miles ahead.

Wire Road bridge over Crane CreekIf you are leaving from Joplin, Missouri:

  • Proceed east on I-44 and take exit 46 for MO-39/MO-265 heading south toward Mt Vernon/Aurora.
  • Follow MO-39 for about 10.5 miles to Aurora, Missouri and turn right onto S Elliot Street.
  • After just 0.2 miles, turn left (east) on MO-60/E Church Street.
  • After 2.0 miles, turn left onto MO-265 S/US-60 E.
  • After 3.8 miles, turn right and stay on MO-265 S.
  • After 3.1 miles, turn right at MO-265 S/MO-413 S. Now you should be heading south.
  • After about 4.5 miles, turn right onto County Road 13 / Old Wire Road.
  • Crane Creek will be about 0.9 miles ahead.

You will find it convenient to park in the parking area for the Missouri Department of Conservation's Wire Road Conservation Area [ Waypoint = N36 55.482 W93 35.295 ].

Description: You are standing near where a skirmish took place between Missouri State Guard Major General Sterling Price's rear guard and the pursuing Federal Cavalry under the command of Colonel Calvin A. Ellis.

Wire Road looking east from Crane CreekWire Road at Crane Creek Looking South

Price's Army was struggling on its march south. His soldiers hadn't slept much in the two days since they had abandoned Springfield, Missouri. When they reached the valley of Crane Creek, Price ordered them to camp there until he could figure out what the Federals were up to.

Curtis had the Federal 1st Missouri Cavalry Regiment, commanded by Colonel Calvin A. Ellis, out in front of his two infantry divisions. This regiment was supported by the Missouri Cavalry Battalion, commanded by Major William D. Bowen. The battalion also had four twelve-pounder mountain howitzers. When Ellis came upon the Missouri State Guard positions, he ordered the howitzers to open fire on the Southerners.

At 7:00 P.M. on February 14th, Curtis sent the following message to Sigel, urging him on:

“The enemy was attacked by my cavalry ... at Crane Creek. Whether he will stand there or not is very uncertain, but I think it will be hard for his train and heavy artillery. He will probably move on through. I will try to attack him in rear to-morrow, but will delay if he stops until you can reach him. I regret that I can get no report from you, but hope you got my reply to yours this morning. ... I hope you are able to reach the enemy or strike his flank at McDowell's, since he is now probably passing Crane Creek.”

Curtis was livid with Ellis and almost had him arrested for disobeying orders. But Curtis decided against that and continued his pursuit of Price's Army. Perhaps so he could redeem himself, Curtis kept Colonel Ellis's 1st Missouri Cavalry leading the way for his army.

Wire Road at Crane Creek Looking SouthWire Road west of Crane Creek Looking South

N36 55.437 W93 35.334

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