In 1861, Americans were preoccupied by the question of which states would join the secession movement and which would remain loyal to the Union. In Missouri, it was largely settled at “Wilson's Creek” on August 10, 1861, in a contest that is rightly considered the second major battle of the Civil War. As with most Civil War battles the engagement was named differently by the Confederacy. In the South it has come to be called “The Battle of Oak Hills”. This was the second major battle of the Civil war and is sometimes referred to as the Bull Run of the west.
On August 9th 1861 Union forces under the command of Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyons (top photo) was camped at Springfield Missouri. Confederate troops under the command of Brigadier General Ben McCulloch( bottom photo) were approaching. Both sides formulated plans to attack the other and at 5 a.m. on August 10th General Lyons attacked the Confederate forces 12 miles south of Springfield at Wilson’s Creek. The Confederate Calvary initially fell back but was soon reinforced by other troops and stabilized their position.
A bit later in the morning the Confederates attacked the Union lines a total of 3 times, successfully routing a column to the south of the main battle and taking the life of General Lyons. Around 11:00 a.m. the confederates withdrew from the field and Major Samuel Sturgis, General Lyons replacement, recognizeing that his men were exhausted and his ammunition was low, retreated to Springfield. The Confederates, also exhausted and somewhat disorganized did not pursue.
Casualties war more than 1200 for the Union forces and nearly1100 for the confederates and marked the first death of a Union General with the loss of General Lyons.
This Confederate victory buoyed southern sympathizers in Missouri.
In late October, a rump convention, convened by Governor C.F. Jackson met in Neosho and passed out an ordinance of secession. Wilson's Creek, the most significant 1861 battle in Missouri, gave the Confederates control of southwestern Missouri.