2017 Battle of Pilot Knob Reenactment
The Reenactment will be held September 23 & 24, 2017
Plan to attend the next Reenactment!
Information to help you plan your Missouri Civil War History Vacation
here for the story about the Battle of Pilot Knob
Read below to understand why this region was so important to both sides.
story of how Missouri became embroiled in the Civil War conflict and
the Missouri Civil War sites in the Arcadia Valley Region and
Black River Area of Iron County and Reynolds County MO, only
80 miles from St. Louis. One of the bloodiest battles,
the Battle of Pilot Knob, took place at Fort Davidson in 1864.
Explore places to stay, lodging and campgrounds near Fort Davidson and the Battle of Pilot Knob. Make your lodging reservations now.
War History ~ Where did
the Civil War Begin?
Why was this Missouri region so important to both the Union
and the Confederate forces?
Did you know?
Civil War battles or engagements were fought in Missouri
than in any other state besides Virginia and Tennessee?
1861, the year the war started, 45 percent of all battles
and all casualties were in Missouri?
Civil War generals are buried at St. Louis than at Arlington
or West Point?
Watch the video about the Missouri Civil War from
The Missouri Division of Tourism
Brief History of Iron County and Reynolds County Missouri, Arcadia
Iron County, Missouri
had been drawn to the early "Upper Louisiana" territory
in the 1730s due to the prospect of mining lead. Close
by, the area which later became Iron County, was inhabited by
Native Americans who used it as their hunting ground.
Known as "Lost Cove" by the Delaware Indians, William
and Joseph Reed were the first settlers to arrive in 1798.
Ephraim Stout built a log house in the valley (as early as 1805-1807)
along the creek which still bears his name. It was not until
1836 that the vast iron ore resources of Iron County
were discovered. Mining jobs brought many
settlers to the region and in 1857 Iron County became a county
in Missouri with its county seat in Ironton. It was also in
1857 that the St. Louis and Iron Mountain Railroad was completed
all the way to Pilot Knob, foreshadowing a series of events
that led to one of the most important battles of the Civil War
in Missouri - The Battle of Pilot Knob State Historic Site at Fort Davidson.
hallowed ground of Fort
Davidson honors the over 1200
brave Confederate soldiers who were killed or wounded and the
100 Union soldiers who were killed, wounded or missing in the
two days of battle in the Arcadia Valley. Today,
you can visit these historic towns and villages in Iron County
Missouri where history is preserved and graceful antebellum
homes, historic churches and mercantile buildings are a reminder
of days gone by.
tour these historic towns and villages, click here.)
Shepherd Mountain Hiking Trail
(The trail is in the areas of old iron mines and also the fighting between civil war Confederate General Marmaduke's units and members of the 14th Iowa Infantry. The area where the Confederates placed a cannon is also near the trail.)
Click to download map
Reynolds County, Missouri
County was organized in 1845, however long before this designation,
many early pioneers braved the risk, hardship and sacrifice
in search of their dream. . .a more productive and rewarding
life in our Ozark Region. In 1812 Henry Fry, who is said
to have come from Kentucky as the first pioneer, settled on
the Middle Fork of the Black River area in what is now Reynolds
County. After the Louisiana Purchase, there were ongoing
discussions in established states east of the Mississippi, about
when the new "Missouri Territory" would become a state
of the Union. At the same time, land in our region was being
offered to veterans of the War of 1812. Pioneer families from
the hills of Kentucky and Tennessee began to slowly and steadily
move to our region. The civil war era presented
tumultuous times for these early settlers, in some cases pitting
brother against brother and fathers against sons.
Many notable historic landmarks and the remains of early settlements
are present in Reynolds County including Fort
Barnesville, on the National Register of Historic
after the famous Gads Hill Train Holdup in 1874, Jesse James
and his gang made their escape up the Black River along the
Lesterville Road, seeking food and lodging from farmowners along
the West Fork of the Black River in Reynolds County. According
to news accounts, "in all instances they behaved very genteelly"
and paid all their bills "lavishly."
tour these historic towns and early Missouri settlements, click
1857, the nation had been deeply divided by the Dred Scott decision,
the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the Lecompton Constitution, and John
Brown's 1859 raid on Harper's Ferry. When it came time for the
1860 presidential election, the pro-slavery Southern states
knew the Republican Party was against the expansion of slavery
into US territories, and Southern Democrats believed Lincoln’s
stand against slavery would ruin the South. So, although it
was regarded as rebellion, seven Southern states—South
Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana
and Texas---declared their secession from the Union, as soon
as Lincoln's victory was announced. These seven states
formed the Confederate States of America and elected Jefferson
Davis President. Davis took his oath of office in Alabama just
before Lincoln’s inauguration.
Both sides began to build their armies. The
first battle of the war was in April 1861 when the CSA
gained control of Fort Sumpter, causing four more states to
secede from the Union—Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina
and Tennessee. The five slave-holding border states—Missouri,
Kentucky, Maryland, West Virginia and Delaware—belonged
to the Union, but their citizens were divided in allegiance.
Missouri was a friend to both sides,
sending men and supplies to both the Confederate and Union
forces, it had a star on both flags and state governments
on each side as well.
The First Major Action Bringing
Civil War to Missouri
When the Union Army under Nathaniel Lyon seized the arsenal
at Camp Jackson in
St. Louis (located at present
day St. Louis University) and moved its supplies to Illinois,
pro-Southern Democratic Governor Claiborne F. Jackson called
out the Missouri State Militia, under Brig. Gen. Daniel M.
Frost. Lyon perceived their maneuvers as an attempt to seize
the arsenal and attacked the Militia, parading them as captives
through the streets of St. Louis.
The next day, on May 11, 1861, the Missouri
General Assembly authorized the formation of a Missouri State
Guard commanded by Sterling Price. Exactly two months later,
Lyon met with Jackson and demanded that Missouri honor Lincoln’s
call for troops. Jackson refused and was escorted (and eventually
evicted) from office. The State Guard endured attacks
by federal forces and ultimately, Claiborne Jackson and his
State Guard troops were chased to southwest Missouri. The
Battle of Wilson’s Creek, near Springfield, was the
first battle in which Missourians sought formal help from
the CSA. With more than 2,300 Union casualties, one of whom
was Lyon, the Confederate Army won the battle. But they were
too disorganized and ill-equipped to pursue the retreating
Union regiments, and Price soon began a withdrawal of State
Guard units from Missouri.
Missouri endured a trying period of bushwhacking guerrilla
warfare from 1862 to 1864, which often pitted neighbor-against-neighbor.
During this time, small regiments of troops from both sides
were stationed throughout the state, including Fort
Davidson at Pilot Knob, a Union fort, and nearby
which is believed to have been built and occupied in 1863.
It is believed that the Union 13th Cavalry was camped at the
village of Barnesville. This was known as a picket, meaning
their main camp was elsewhere other than the fort. A small
group of soldiers would have been placed at the fort for guard
duty while the others were busy carrying out raids to keep
control of this area and the extremely crucial military trail
to Pilot Knob. The Confederates desperately wanted
to regain control of this area and the trail to Pilot Knob.
There is not much recorded history on the fort at Barnesville
(near present-day Ellington). It was discovered in 1997,
and although there is no evidence of a battle there, through
the diligence of a local historian, Gerald Angel, Fort
Barnesville was added to the National Register of Historic
Places in 1998 and is
on the civil war tour of our region. For more on Fort
Barnesville, **see below.
Although, or perhaps because, the Confederacy was clearly
losing the war, in 1864 Price renewed his attempt to put Missouri
under Confederate control by reassembling the Missouri Guard.
Unfortunately for the Confederacy, and for Price, he was unable
to repeat the victorious streak he had in 1861. Price’s
Raid began in the southeastern portion of the state where
he advanced northward to the end of the St. Louis and Iron
Mountain Railroad at Pilot Knob, in the Arcadia Valley.
There he attempted to defeat the army at Fort
Davidson in the Battle of Pilot Knob, He lost
nearly 1000 men, and ultimately, the battle. From there he
struck northward where he found St. Louis to be too heavily
fortified with Union troops and set out westward, parallel
with the Missouri River. The Federal soldiers attempted to
stop his advance—resulting in some minor and major skirmishes—The
advance culminated in the Battle of Westport (in present-day
Kansas City) and the defeat of the Southern army.
Since Missouri never actually seceded from the Union, it wasn’t
forced to suffer the worst aspects of Reconstruction, and
Democrats, who had been pro-slavery prior to the war, returned
to being the dominant power in the state by 1873.