Zagonyi’s Charge, Springfield, MO. October 25, 1861

A colorful incident of the early Civil war days in Missouri was Major Charles Zagonyi’s charge against southern troops at Springfield, October 25, 1861. The Federal forces of Major General John C. Fremont were encamped some 50 miles north of Springfield, October 24, when he ordered Zagonyi, the commander of his special bodyguard, to march on Springfield and capture it from a force estimated then at about 300 to 500.

Zagonyi and a detachment of 100 left that evening, and at daybreak, October 25, they were joined near Bolivar by other units totaling about 150. About 8 miles from Springfield they captured a foraging party. One man, however, escaped and warned the force at Springfield. Zagonyi then detoured to the southwest hoping to surprise the enemy. On emerging from some woods near the Mount Vernon road about 4 p.m., the Federal troops were confronted with a strong State guard force, approximately 800 cavalry and 200 in infantry troops. The Federals immediately came under fire which swept them for 250 yards while they dashed to the shelter of a small stream. Here Zagonyi reorganized his command. Then the Federal horsemen in fan-like formation quickly charged the State troop positions. The State troops fired briskly for a few minutes and then broke, the infantrymen taking refuge in dense thickets and the cavalry retreating through Springfield and beyond.

Zagonyi and his men pushed on into Springfield, cleared the city of State troops and liberated Union prisoners. Then Zagonyi’s troops proceeded north to rejoin the main army, leaving 15 killed, 27 wounded, and 10 missing. Zagonyi’s estimate of 106 State troopers killed is probably too large. After sending news of Zagonyi’s successful charge to Washington, October 26, Fremont entered Springfield, October 27.

The Fremont bodyguard, organized and equipped for guarding the general, was composed of 3 companies of approximately 100 men each. Two of the companies were composed of Kentuckians, and the third of St. Louisans. The war department, however, refused to recognize a force formed for such a purpose, and the unit was mustered out.

Hist, of Greene Co. (1883); John McElroy, The Struggle for Mo. (1909); Mo. Hist. Rev., XXV, No. 4; War of Rebell., Ser. I, Vol. Ill (1881); Ency. Hist. Mo., VI (1901); Herbert Bashford and Harr Wagner, A Man Unafraid: Story of John C. Fremont (1927).

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