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History The Civil War Battle of Clark's Mill
 

 

The Battle of Clark's Mill

On November 7, 1862, between 1200 and 1500 well-armed Confederate combat soldiers moved into our part of south central Missouri. They carried four 6-lb. cannons with them, cannons that shot six-pound cannon balls. Their mission was to destroy all mills, blockhouses, and other structures in this area. Their aim was to destroy anything that could aid the Union Army. At 10 a.m. on November 7, 1862, they attacked Union soldiers at the little town of Vera Cruz.

 
Historical map of the Vera Cruz area showing the positions of the forces and the terrain.

Confederate soldier Confederate Forces

Colonel John Q. Burbridge of the Fourth Regiment, Missouri Cavalry led the Confederate Rangers. Also with him were Colonel Colton Greene of the Third Missouri Regiment and Colonel William Jeffers of the Eighth Regiment, Missouri Cavalry. They were all a part of General John S. Marmaduke's division of the Army of the West.

Union soldierUnion Forces

On August 12, 1862, local supporters of the Union organized a company of Missouri Home Guards at Vera Cruz, Company H, under the command of Captain John H. Coats. Two companies of the Illinois 10th Cavalry regiment were sent south from Marshfield to train these new soldiers. They were Companies C
and M, under the command of Captain Hiram Barstow.

Bushwackers
These 10th Cavalry Union soldiers were also there to stop the bushwackers and other troublemakers in the area. Bushwackers were small groups of independent fighters. They were not necessarily loyal to North or South. They fought for food and valuables they could take from civilians as well as soldiers. Border states like Missouri suffered the worst civilian casualties. Their people included some loyal the North and some loyal to the South. In these states there was no single power to enforce law and order.
The Battle
Since August nothing much had happened to the Union soldiers in Vera Cruz. They were down by Bryant Creek in two blockhouses and in the county court house.

Then, on November 7, 1862, Confederates led by Colonel Greene arrived on the bluffs overlooking the small town. They had moved north from Arkansas into Missouri, up the North Fork of the White River to Tecumseh. They had continued up Bryant Creek to Vera Cruz, the Douglas County seat.

At 10 a.m., from the bluffs, they began bombarding the blockhouse and the courthouse. The battle lasted five hours. It was mostly cannon fire. The Illinois Cavalry had only two small 2 1/2 lb. Woodriff-type cannons. They were out-gunned by the four Confederate 6-lb. cannons.  They surrendered when they ran out of ammunition. Colonel John Burbridge moved into town at 5 p.m. The Confederates took the Union soldiers' valuables and and let them go.

The Illinois 10th Cavalry soldiers had to walk back to Marshfield. The Confederates had taken their horses. Nine had been killed and 37 wounded. None of the local Missouri Home Guard soldiers died or got hurt. But one civilian was killed, William Martin, County Commissioner.

It is thought that the Confederates went back down Bryant Creek and destroyed the blockhouses at Rippee. Then they probably went over to Rome and destroyed the blockhouses there. A couple of months later, in January, 1863, they fought at the Battle of Hartville, MO.

   

For more about Civil War cannons, see Hutchison Memorial Ceremony

Vera Cruz today is a popular river access area with historical roots.
 
   
 
  Source: Cinita Brown, retired Ava schoolteacher, and local historian and author, from records in the Douglas County Historical Society collection. Graphics and map from the poster for the battle re-enactment in November, 1994, sponsored by the Ava Area Chamber of Commerce and the Douglas County Historical Society.
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