Brigadier General Egbert Benson Brown, military leader in Missouri during the Civil war, was born in Brownville, New York, October 24, 1816. He later moved with his family to Tecumseh, Michigan. In his youth Brown went to Toledo, Ohio, where he was elected mayor when he was 33 years old. Later he went to the West coast, entered service on a whaling ship, and spent 4 years on the Pacific Ocean.

By the beginning of the Civil war, Brown had become superintendent of a railroad and was living in St. Louis. A Unionist, he raised a regiment of infantry in St. Louis. November 29, 1862, Brown was made a brigadier general of the Missouri volunteers, having earlier received command of the southwest division with headquarters at Springfield. Brown had the responsibility of defending Springfield and the southwestern border of the State. Two of the most threatening raids that he repulsed were those of General John S. Marmaduke, General Joseph O. Shelby and others against Springfield, January 8, 1863, and of Shelby at Marshall and Sedalia during October 10-26, 1863.

The combined Union forces in Springfield numbered between 800 and 2000 in January, the latter number including reinforcements that came during the battle. The Confederates had about 5000 men. In spite of his smaller force Brown successfully defended Springfield, losing only one of the 4 forts built in a square for the town’s defense. By night Marmaduke had had enough.

When Brown began his campaign against Shelby later that year, his forces were scattered over a territory 120 miles square. In 7 days he concentrated a force of around 1820 men, marched more than 300 miles, killed and wounded about 400 of the enemy, captured nearly 100 prisoners and a wagon train of small arms and ammunition. He carried on an almost continuous fight through 100 miles of thickly wooded country.

At the October 23, 1864 Battle of Westport, Missouri, while commanding a brigade of cavalry, he ran afoul with division commander Major General Alfred Pleasonton, who had him arrested and relieved of his duties for allegedly failing to obey General Pleasonton’s attack order. he sat without a command until January 1865, when he was appointed commander of the District of Rolla. He served through the end of the war, and left the Army with one shoulder totally disabled and a bullet in his hip in November 1865.

Brown’s life after the war

After the close of the war Brown was appointed pension agent in St. Louis, and in 1869 he retired and moved to a farm near Hastings, Illinois. From 1881 to 1884 he served on the Illinois State board of equalization.

Brown outlived his wife and children and died February 11, 1902 at the age of 87 at his granddaughters home in West Plains, Missouri and is buried next to his wife Mary in Kinder Cemetery in Cuba, Missouri.

The Battle of Leasburg was fought in Leasburg, MO. (which is located about 30 miles east of Rolla, MO. and 79 miles southwest of St. Louis) on September 29-30, 1864. On the night of September 27, 1864, Union troops under the command of Brigadier General Thomas Ewing Jr., were forced to evacuate their position at Fort Davidson in Pilot Knob, MO. (which is in the south-eastern portion of Missouri) after valiantly fending off the advances of Confederate General Sterling Price and his 13,000 soldiers as they prepared to embark on his infamous raid of Missouri in 1864.

General Ewing and his soldiers opted to make, and were successful, a daring and bold escape under the cover of darkness and between the enemy lines, even detonating the powder magazine in Fort Davidson, in an effort to make their way to Rolla, where reinforcements were available. Price was livid when he awoke at dawn and found the fort completely abandoned and the powder magazine destroyed. In his anger he directed Generals John Marmaduke and J.O. Shelby to pursue the Federal soldiers.

Captain W.C.F. Montgomery of Battery H, Second Missouri Light Artillery, gave a report on November 14, 1864, that included the following excerpt that explains the movements from Pilot Knob to Leasburg,

That night at 12 o’clock General Ewing ordered me to fill the limber chests of the pieces, select the best horses, leave the caissons, and get ready to march immediately. We were soon ready to march; we drew the caissons near the magazine where they would likely be blown up, leaving 100 rounds of ammunition in them that we could not carry. At 3 a. m. Wednesday, September 28, we silently drove out, taking with us all the horses and mounted cannoneers on them. We marched thirty-one miles that day, stopped at Webster, rested till midnight, when we started, feeling our way in the darkness of the night, raining and blowing so it was a difficult matter to travel. We then had thirty-five miles to march to Leasburg on the Pacific Railroad. At 8 a. m. the rebels attacked our rear guard, driving it in. Lieutenant Simonton formed his section in the road ready for action, but the enemy never came in sight. We marched three miles farther and we were again attacked from both sides and from the rear. We formed the battery in the edge of the field, firing lively from two sections, driving the rebels all out of sight. We then marched within three miles of Leasburg, when we were again attacked. We formed the battery on the hill-side, fired a few shots from Lieutenant Simonton’s section; we again marched for Leasburg, infantry in line of battle. By this means we kept them back till we reached the station, were we formed our line and took up quarters for the night; sheltered the horses in the ditch by the track. By this time it was dark, and the rebels still firing at us from the brush; there was no time lost in preparing breast-works to shelter the infantry, who were so worn out that they were unable to march farther. At 9 p. m. the train came in from Saint Louis. We were ordered to dismount the guns and load them into the cars. The pieces, carriages, and harness were soon loaded. By this time it was discovered that the road was cut above and below. We could do nothing more for a move, so we commenced to unload and mount the guns again and made the necessary preparations for a morning attack. At 10 a. m. the enemy came in sight but made no assault except skirmishing, which they kept up continually. At 12 p. m. we started for Rolla, Mo.; reached that place the same evening.

As stated, the Confederates were ordered to pursue General Ewing and his soldiers. Confederate Assistant Adjutant-General of Major General Sterling Price’s Army, Lieutenant Colonel L.A. MacLean, wrote to Brigadier General William L. Cabell and informed him that,

GENERAL: I am directed by Major-General Price to say that you will move forward your force as rapidly as possible and destroy effectually the railroad and telegraph east of Franklin Station; then move upon Franklin and take the place, and march to Union and report from that point (Franklin County). Should you find the command at Franklin Station too strong for you, you will rejoin this command. Please report progress by courier.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

L. A. MACLEAN,
Assistant Adjutant-General.
HEADQUARTERS MARMADUKE’S DIVISION,

On Southwest Branch of the Pacific Railroad,
Sullivan’s Station, September 30, 1864-10 p. m.

When they finally arrived at Leasburg, Major General Marmaduke reported that,

COLONEL: I came up with the enemy yesterday at 11 a. m. and pursued them to Leasburg Station, on Pacific Railroad, thirty-five miles above Rolla, where during last night they fortified a strong position. I did not deem it advisable to attack them, and have to-day marched to this point, twenty-four miles from the point for the junction of our forces. I will join you to-morrow night. The enemy numbered about 1,000 and six pieces of artillery.

Respectfully,

J. S. MARMADUKE,
Major-General.

P. S.-I have broken the railroad below Leasburg, between this point and Leasburg, and here. Will continue to break it as I march. I hear of no Federal forces except the force pursued (General Ewing’s, now at Leasburg) and 2,000 or 3,000 militia, under McNeil, at Rolla.

Respectfully,

J. S. MARMADUKE,
Major-General.

However, this would not materialize for Marmaduke. ┬áSoutheast of Leasburg, the Confederate cavalry caught up with Ewing’s rear guard and what is known as the Battle of Red Haw took place on October 5th. The fighting allowed the main body of Ewing’s troops to make it to Leasburg. At Leasburg the Confederates made a valiant attempt to break the Union entrenchment, but Ewing’s entrenchment in Leasburg was well fortified, a train coming from St. Louis with “two car-loads of hard tack and two of ammunition” supported them while the Confederates were down to approximately six-hundred men and artillery with little to no ammo left to utilize in attempting to break the Union entrenchment.

The Confederates realized that storming the breastworks would result in more losses for them and would gain them little in terms of furthering the rest of Price’s raid. The rebels decided to “leave a small force to make a show of siege, and go on and join Price’s column.” What was left of the Confederate’s left in pursuit allowed Ewing and his troops to make their continued retreat to Rolla.

Had Shelby and Marmaduke pressed on at Leasburg, they would have probably broken the Union lines, but again, to very little gain with the amount of casualties that would have come of the attack. Ironically, back in St. Louis, Major General William Rosecrans saw this as a sign of “whipping the rebels” and in a dispatch stated that,

You are doing well. Say to Generals McNeil and Sanborn what I telegraphed General Brown. Take advantage of everything; strike the hardest kind of blows. The great object is to get them where we can hurt them, and then mow them. The last, not less than 800 to 1,000, put off the fight at pilot Knob, and did not dare storm Ewing’s little breast- works at Leasburg.

W. S. ROSECRANS,
Major- General.

Ultimately, what the Battle at Pilot Knob did was to throw a monkey wrench into Price’s grand scheme, and this jaunt to chase the small detachment of Union soldiers who had bested him at Pilot Knob days before, was a fools errand. Being stopped yet again at Leasburg, was yet another sign that Prices Raid of 1864 was doomed from the start.

Missouri saw many battles during the Civil War being only third behind Virginia and Tennessee. The Battle of Pilot Knob (Fort Davidson) was the beginning of Confederate General Sterling Price’s final raid to secure Missouri for the Confederacy in 1864. It also marked the beginning of the end of his raid and would be a harbinger of what was to come for the rest of his campaign.

Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith, commander of the Trans-Mississippi Army hastily put together a final raid into Missouri to be commanded by former Missouri Governor and Confederate Major General Sterling Price. Price’s objective was to seize St. Louis, capture the armory, enlist southern sympathizers and then to march on to Jefferson City, seize the capital and install Thomas Reynolds as governor and thereby claim the state for the Confederacy.

However, Price had a ragamuffin band of men to support Him. Of his 12,000 strong army, 3,000 were deserters captured at gunpoint along the way, and most of his men had no supplies or even shoes. When he arrived in Missouri many of his troops didn’t even have weapons.

Union General Rosecrans fortified St Louis and sent General Thomas Ewing Jr, infamous for his General Order No. 11 in the west, who was in command of the district of St Louis down with a detachment of the 14th Iowa to Ft Davidson in Pilot Knob to ascertain the overall composition of Price’s army. One of Price’s division commanders, Joseph O. Shelby felt any action against the tiny fort was pointless and that they should move directly on St. Louis. However, the other two division commanders, James Fagan and John S. Marmaduke, felt leaving an armed garrison in the rear was a mistake. Price agreed with Fagan and Marmaduke and they made plans to seize the tiny fort.

On the afternoon of September 26, 1864, a Union scouting party ran into an advance group of Fagans Confederates near Shut-Ins gap. The Rebels pushed the Union soldiers back to Ironton and heavy fighting broke out. The Union soldiers pushed on their own and forced the Rebels back to the gap. Nightfall and a heavy rain ended the fighting for the day.

At dawn fighting again broke out and the Union soldiers were pushed back to Ironton and then further repelled back to the fort in Pilot Knob. Confederate soldiers swarmed into the open valley while Union forces tried to hold them back from the spurs of the two mountains and with artillery fire from the fort.

The fort lay in between two mountains, Pilot Knob to the east and Shepherd Mountain to the west leaving a wide open valley in between which they would have to cross. Price, under the recommendation of one of his colonels decided on a frontal assault rather than securing the two mountains with large artillery. This would be a deadly mistake.

As the rebels closed in on the fort, Union Major James Wilson and his troops were cut-off on the spur of Pilot Knob and captured. Wilson and five of his men would be marched to Union and eventually executed by the Confederates. The rest of the Union soldiers now had no choice but to retreat to the confines of the fort. Price sent a messenger to Gen Ewing demanding his surrender which Ewing curtly refused.

Around 2:00PM The rebels then advanced across the field and suffered heavy losses under a barrage of Union artillery and musket fire and then fell back. The smoke became so thick that Union soldiers could only see the legs and feet of the oncoming Rebels. The Rebels then made a second charge coming within 30 feet of the fort only to again be repelled by heavy fire from the fort. The Confederate’s then made a third and final advance on the fort, this time making it into the moat surrounding the fort and began to scale the walls. However, Union soldiers fused artillery shells as grenades and began tossing them over the side, blowing up bodies as high as the fort walls. The rebels retreated and the battle ended around 5:00PM. However, the loss of life for the Confederates was major, well over 1,000 rebels lost their lives.

Ewing convened a council of war in his tent that evening and realized that in the morning Price would place his large artillery on both peaks and the fort would be overrun. He planned a daring midnight escape through the rebel lines and made his way west towards Rolla, leaving a small detachment to blow up the powder magazine in the fort. In the morning when the rebels awoke they found the fort empty. Price was livid and sent Shelby and Marmaduke after Ewing. Skirmishes were fought along the way, but Ewing finally made it to Rolla.

The victory for the Confederates came with a very high price in lives. Price knew advancing to St Louis now was futile, and he had wasted manpower and resources chasing Ewing. Price would make his way across the state, ultimately ending in final defeat at Westport. However, the battle at Ft Davidson by a small number of Union soldiers against a much larger Confederate force, earned it the title of the “Thermopylae of the West”.