The Battle of Wilson’s Creek was a prominent battle of the American Civil War that is known for being the first major battle to occur in the area deemed to be the Trans-Mississippi Theatre. The Battle of Wilson’s Creek was fought between Federal forces and the Missouri State Guard on August 10, 1861. It is also often referred to as the Battle of Oak Hills or the Bull Run of the West. A total of 1,317 suffered casualties from battle on the Federal side: 258 of those were killed, 873 were wounded, and 186 were deemed to be missing. On the Confederate/Missouri State Guard side of the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, 1,232 casualties or losses were incurred: 277 of those were killed, 945 were wounded, and roughly ten were deemed to be missing.
The Battle – Battle of Wilson’s Creek
The Battle of Wilson’s Creek began on the morning of August 10, 1861, when the Union held a surprise attack on the opposing forces. The Union army was led by Nathaniel Lyon, as well as Franz Sigel and Samuel Sturgis. On the other hand, the Confederate army was led by Sterling Price, Ben McCulloch, and Nicholas Pearce. After striking, the Union army took the high ground on what would soon be named Bloody Hill. Unfortunately, once stationed on Bloody Hill, the Union troops had no clear route for their next attack as the artillery of the Pulaski Arkansas Battery had unlimbered. While trying to figure out their best plan for attack, the Confederate soldiers had enough time to organize their next move.
While Lyon attempted many attacks on the Confederate army, each was not successful. At the same time, Price began to fight back against the Union. Yet, the Confederate army’s attacks were weak because of low ammunition, and they were consistently defeated.
While Lyon’s force was at Bloody Hill, Sigel’s was far away, leaving the two Union forces with no way to communicate. As a result, some of Sigel’s attacks were successful while others were not. The Union continued to become weaker and weaker in the Battle of Wilson’s Creek after Sigel, and his force of men fled. Lyon was wounded twice and shot in the heart of Bloody Hill, killing him. At this point, Major Sturgis was in charge of the Union forces. Unfortunately, due to the many counterattacks from the Confederates, the Union forces did not have nearly enough supplies to continue fighting and would absolutely not have been able to win against the Confederates.
The Battle of Wilson’s Creek site has still been preserved in Missouri today, now named the Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield. There is a visitor center on the battlefield where tourists and travelers can walk through the museum, read their way through the Civil War research library, and watch a short film on the battle there. The visitor center also holds living history programs on the battlefield that aim at teaching visitors about soldier life, including cavalry drills, musket firing, artillery demonstrations, period medicine, and period clothing.