You read that right… sort of… Most people do not associate hand grenades with the Civil War. They were, however, used in the sieges at Vicksburg and Petersburg and even in the west at the Battle of Pilot Knob.

The “Ketchum Hand grenade” was patented by William F. Ketchum and looked like a large dart. This design meant for the grenade to land on it’s nose, behind of which held a percussion cap. Unfortunately, they didn’t always land on their noses. Many times they were tossed at the rebels who would “Ketchum” (catch them) in blankets without detonating and then hurled them back whereupon they did indeed detonate.

Obviously, they were not as useful as they appeared. Or were they?

At the Battle of Pilot Knob in September 1864, at the onset of Confederate General Sterling Price’s infamous raid into Missouri, the grenades had a different effect.

The confederates had advanced, fell back, advanced and fell back once again, slowly making ground on the fort and pushing the Union soldiers off the field into the fort. However, on the third and final advance, the Arkansas troops of Confederate General William Cabell’s brigade were able to advance into the moat at the foot of the steep, earthen mound walls of the fort. It was at this point, the Yankees were issued Ketchum Grenades from their powder magazine and began hurling them over the walls of the fort at the advancing Rebels.

The results were disastrous for the Rebels. Union Captain William J. Campbell of the 14th Iowa Infantry would recall,

…we rushed back to the banquette with the grenades and passed them to the men in the front, with orders to throw them into the ditch. Pandemonium instantly broke loose…men were blown above the parapet and fell back dead; the ditches were cleared as if by magic. It struck terror to the enemy’s lines, and they fell back in disorder…

By the time of World War I, the grenade had been modified and Serbian Army Colonel Miloš Vasić perfected the grenade design into the “Vasić” M.12 model” which continued to be used until the end of World War II.

But for many of the common Civil War soldiers, their first encounters with grenades were mysterious. Many of the more educated soldiers had knowledge of ancient weapons similar to grenades, but these common soldiers faced something they had never heard of or seen before – a weapon with significant destructive power at close range. Once again, the Civil War would foreshadow the brutality of wars to come.

 

 

March 10, 1861
The Confederate Congress unanimously adopted the Constitution of the Confederacy. CSA Brig. General Braxton Bragg took command of Confederate forces. General Winfield Scott was briefing President Lincoln on the events at Ft. Sumter and options that were available.

March 10, 1862
Confederate President Jefferson Davis attempted reassure Gen. Joseph E. Johnston that reinforcements were on the way by telling him, “you shall be promptly and adequately reinforced.” Johnston was on the retreat in Virginia.

March 10, 1863
President Lincoln issued a proclamation giving amnesty to Union soldiers who were absent without leave (AWOL) if they reported by April 1st. If not, they would be regarded as deserters and arrested.

March 10, 1864
General Ulysses S. Grant took control of the entire Federal army Grant was not in Washington to receive the order but in Virginia with current commander George Gordon Meade discussing current and future plans of the Army of the Potomac. Beleaguered Maj. General Franz Sigel took command of the Department of West Virginia replacing Brig. General Benjamin F. Kelley

March 10, 1865
Maj. General William T. Sherman‘s army was nearing Fayetteville, NC. after skirmishing with Confederate cavalry. Meanwhile, Gen. Joseph E. Johnston was in a scramble to consolidate what forces he had left available to him. General Robert E. Lee wrote to President Jefferson Davis proposing a law to enlist negro troops as soon as possible, however, the Confederate Congress debated on.

 

On September 24, 1864, Confederate General Sterling Price and his troops arrived in the small railhead town of Pilot Knob Missouri on a trek to regain Missouri for the Confederacy and divert troops from the struggling Eastern Theater of battle. His infamous raid took him from southeast Missouri through the center of the state and then briefly into Kansas whereupon what was left of his army began retreating into Arkansas, sealing that fate of the country west of the Mississippi to the Union.

That was 150 years ago this year. As the sesquicentennial has arrived it is interesting to see what events are being planned across this infamous path that Price travelled. Some portions appear to have embraced their significance and will be planning events, while smaller locations, no less significant however, seem to be passing this anniversary by.

Last year on my Facebook group Civil War in Missouri, Kansas and Arkansas, I made the statement that I had a bold plan of travelling Price’s route on the anniversary of this event. Unfortunately, I am not seeing a whole lot of activity at locations where there should be.

The Reenactment of the Battle of Pilot Knob, however is indeed hosting a major event at the Fort Davidson Historic Site. The event will take place on Friday, September 26th and last to Sunday, September 28th. I have been invited by a Civil War reenactor friend of mine to “put on the wool” and join him in his artillery unit. I’m still working on that but hoping to be able to get my uniform and gear in order before it becomes too late. But regardless, my travel will start at Pilot Knob.

From there the path lead to a small town in south-central Missouri called Leasburg, where the retreating Union army took a stand against the pursuing Confederates. From what I have been told, nothing is being planned at the location, which is a shame.

From there the next major stop would be at Boonville, MO. along the Missouri River. Unfortunately, it does not appear that anything will be happening here as well.

The next stop would be Lexington. So far, no information on an event held here as well.

From there the retreating Confederates would duke it out in Westport, MO, knows as the “Gettysburg of the West”. There will sesquicentennial events there on Saturday October 25th. http://www.battleofwestport150.org/

From this point on the Confederates were on the run and on October 25th would face their final demise at Mine Creek and Marmiton River. There will be a significant 150th event held at the Mine Creek Battlefield SHS near Pleasanton KS Saturday, October 18, 2014. More information will be forthcoming at the Kansas Historical Society webpage.

In full retreat, the Confederates had one final engagement on October 28th at the second battle of Newtonia, MO. CSA General J.O. Shelby held off the Federals and allowed Price and the rest of the Confederates to safely retreat into the Indian Territory and finally to Laynesport AR ending what turned out to be a disastrous endeavor from the outset.

There are other stops along the way that were much smaller engagements, such as Glasgow, or not directly linked with Prices Raid such as Centralia and Richmond that are also having events in 2014. It saddens me that some of the sites of more importance are letting this anniversary pass. The next anniversary, the Bicentennial, I will probably not be around to see (I would be 97). I remember the Bicentennial of the American Revolution in 1976, and I hope that on the Bicentennial of Prices Raid there is more effort put into the significance of the event.