Sterling Price

Sterling Price
11th Governor of Missouri
In office
January 3, 1853  January 5, 1857
Preceded by Austin Augustus King
Succeeded by Trusten Polk
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from Missouri's 3rd district
In office
March 4, 1845  August 12, 1846
Preceded by John Jameson
Succeeded by William McDaniel
Personal details
Born (1809-09-20)September 20, 1809
Prince Edward County, Virginia
Died September 29, 1867(1867-09-29) (aged 58)
St. Louis, Missouri
Political party Democratic
Alma mater Hampden–Sydney College
Military service
Nickname(s) "Old Pap"
Allegiance  United States of America
State of Missouri
 Confederate States of America
Service/branch  United States Army
Missouri State Guard
 Confederate States Army
Years of service 1831–1846, 1848–1861 (Missouri State Guard)
1846–1848 (USA)
1861–1865 (CSA)
Rank Brigadier-General (USA)
Major-General (MSG)
Major-General (CSA)
Battles/wars Missouri Mormon War
Mexican-American War
American Civil War

Sterling Price (September 20, 1809  September 29, 1867) was a soldier, lawyer, planter, and politician from the U.S. state of Missouri, who served as the 11th Governor of the state from 1853 to 1857. He also served as a United States Army brigadier general during the Mexican-American War, and a Confederate Army major general in the American Civil War. Price is best known for his victories in New Mexico and Chihuahua during the Mexican conflict, and for his losses at the Battles of Pea Ridge and Westport during the Civil War–the latter being the culmination of his ill-fated Missouri Campaign of 1864. Following the war, Price took his remaining troops to Mexico rather than surrender, unsuccessfully seeking service with the Emperor Maximillian there. He ultimately returned to Missouri, where he died in poverty and was buried in St. Louis.

Early life and career

Sterling "Old Pap" Price was born near Farmville, in Prince Edward County, Virginia, into a family of Welsh origin. His father was Pugh Price, whose ancestor John Price[1] was born in Brecknock, Wales, in 1584 and settled in the Virginia Colony. His mother was Elizabeth Williamson. Price attended Hampden–Sydney College in 1826 and 1827,[2] studying law and working at the courthouse near his home. He was admitted to the Virginia bar and opened a law practice.

In the fall of 1831, Price and his family moved to Fayette, Missouri. A year later, they moved to Keytesville, Missouri, where he ran a hotel and mercantile. On May 14, 1833, he married Martha Head of Randolph County, Missouri. They had seven children, five surviving to adulthood -[3] Edwin Williamson, Herber, Celsus, Martha Sterling, and Quintus.

During the Mormon War of 1838, Price served as a member of a delegation sent from Chariton County, Missouri to investigate reported disturbances between Latter Day Saints and anti-Mormon mobs in the western part of the state. His report was favorable to the Mormons, stating they were not guilty of any offenses and that in his opinion the charges had been brought by their enemies.[4] Following the Mormon capitulation in November 1838, Missouri governor Lilburn Boggs to Caldwell County ordered Price a company of men to protect the LDS from further depredations.[5] He was elected to the Missouri State House of Representatives from 1836–1838, and again from 1840–1844, and was chosen as its speaker. He was then elected as a Democrat to the 29th United States Congress, serving from March 4, 1845, to August 12, 1846, when he resigned from the House to participate in the Mexican-American War.[2]

Mexican-American War

Price raised the Second Regiment, Missouri Mounted Volunteer Cavalry and was appointed its colonel on August 12, 1846.[6] He marched his regiment under Alexander Doniphan to Santa Fe, where he assumed command of the Territory of New Mexico after Gen. Stephen W. Kearny, departed for California. Price served as military governor of New Mexico, and put down the Taos Revolt, an uprising of Native Americans and Mexicans in January 1847.

President James K. Polk promoted Price to brigadier general of volunteers on July 20, 1847.[6] He was named military governor of Chihuahua that same month, and he led 300 men from his Army of the West at the Battle of Santa Cruz de Rosales on March 16, 1848, defeating a Mexican force three times his size.[2] This was the last battle of the war, taking place days after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo had been ratified by the United States Congress on March 10. Although reprimanded by Secretary of War William L. Marcy and ordered to return with his army to New Mexico, Price was not punished. He was honorably discharged on November 25, 1848, and returned to Missouri as a hero.[7]

Governor of Missouri

Price now became a slave owner, and raised tobacco on the Bowling Green prairie. Popular because of his war service, he was easily elected Governor of Missouri in 1852, serving from 1853 to 1857. During his tenure, Washington University in St. Louis was established, the state's public school system was restructured, the Missouri State Teachers Association was created, the state's railroad network was expanded, and a state geological survey was created.[8] Although the state legislature passed an act to increase the governor's salary, he refused to accept anything except than the salary when he had been elected.[9] Price became the state's Bank Commissioner from 1857 to 1861. He also secured a rail line through his home county, now forming part of the Norfolk and Western Railway.

Civil War service

General Sterling Price in his U.S. uniform before the Civil War

Early months

When the Civil War began, Price was opposed to Missouri's secession. He was elected presiding officer of the Missouri State Convention on February 28, 1861, which voted against the state leaving the Union. The situation changed drastically, however, when Francis Preston Blair, Jr. and Capt. Nathaniel Lyon seized the state militia's Camp Jackson at St. Louis. Outraged by this virtual declaration of war on the state, Price sided with the secessionists. Pro-Confederate Governor Claiborne Fox Jackson appointed him to command the newly reformed Missouri State Guard in May 1861, and he led his young recruits (who nicknamed him "Old Pap") in a campaign to retain Missouri for the Confederacy. The most famous battle of the conflict was the Battle of Wilson's Creek, which occurred on August 10, when a Missouri State Guard force allied with Confederate troops under the command of Brigadier General Benjamin McCulloch defeated Union troops in the Army of the West, under the command of General Lyon, who was killed.[10] After this victory, Price's troops launched an offensive into Northern Missouri, where they defeated Federal forces commanded by Colonel James Mulligan at the First Battle of Lexington. However, additional United States troops forced Price and Jackson's men to retreat, leaving most of the state to the Union.

Pea Ridge, Iuka, and Corinth

Main article: Battle of Pea Ridge

Still operating as a Missouri militia general (rather than as a commissioned Confederate officer), Price was unable to agree with his Wilson's Creek colleague, Brigadier General Benjamin McCulloch, as to how to proceed following the battle; this led to the splitting of what might otherwise have become a sizable Confederate force in the West. Price and McCullough became bitter rivals, leading to the ultimate appointment of Maj. Gen. Earl Van Dorn as overall commander of the Trans-Mississippi district. Van Dorn reunited Price's and McCullough's formations into a force he named the Army of the West, and set out to engage Unionist troops in Missouri under the command of Brig. Gen. Samuel R. Curtis. Now under Van Dorn's command, Price was commissioned in the Confederate States Army as a major general on March 6, 1862.[6]

Outnumbering Curtis's forces, Van Dorn attacked the Northern army at Pea Ridge on March 7–8. Although wounded in the fray, Price pushed Curtis's force back at Elkhorn Tavern on the March 7, only to see the battle lost on the following day after a furious Federal counterattack. Price next crossed the Mississippi River to reinforce Gen. P. G. T. Beauregard's army at Corinth, Mississippi. Price was able to seize the Union supply depot at nearby Iuka, but was driven back by Maj. Gen. William S. Rosecrans at the Battle of Iuka on September 19, 1862. A few weeks later, on October 3–4, Price (under Van Dorn's command once more) was defeated with Van Dorn at the Second Battle of Corinth.

Van Dorn was replaced by Maj. Gen. John C. Pemberton, and Price, who had become thoroughly disgusted with Van Dorn and was eager to return to Missouri, obtained a leave to visit Richmond, the Confederate capital. There, he obtained an audience with Confederate President Jefferson Davis to discuss his grievances, only to find his own loyalty to the South sternly questioned by the Confederate leader. Price only barely managed to secure Davis's permission to return to Missouri—minus his troops. Unimpressed with the Missourian, Davis pronounced him "the vainest man I ever met."[7]

Arkansas and Louisiana

Price was not finished as a Confederate commander, however. He contested Union control over Arkansas in the summer of 1863, and while he won some of his engagements, he was not able to dislodge Northern forces from the state. In early 1864, Confederate General Edmund Kirby-Smith, in command of the Western Louisiana campaign, ordered General Price in Arkansas to send all of his infantry to Shreveport. Confederate forces in the Indian Territory were to join Price in the endeavor. General John B. Magruder in Texas was instructed to send infantry toward Marshall, Texas, west of Shreveport. General St. John R. Liddell was instructed to proceed from the Ouachita River west toward Natchitoches. With a force of five thousand, Price reached Shreveport on March 24. However, Kirby-Smith detained the division and divided it into two smaller ones. He hesitated to send the men south to fight Union General Nathaniel P. Banks, whom he believed outnumbered the Confederate forces, a decision which drew the opposition of General Richard Taylor. But the western campaign was nearing its conclusion.[11]

Price's Raid in the Trans-Mississippi Theater, 1864 (upper left, in red)

Price's Missouri Raid

Main article: Price's Raid

Despite his disappointments in Arkansas and Louisiana, Price managed to convince his superiors to permit him to invade Missouri in the fall of 1864, hoping to yet seize that state for the Confederacy or at the very least imperil Abraham Lincoln's chances for reelection that year. Confederate General Kirby Smith agreed, though he was forced to detach the infantry brigades originally detailed to Price's force and send them elsewhere, thus changing Price's proposed campaign from a full-scale invasion of Missouri to a large cavalry raid. Price amassed 12,000 horsemen for his army, and fourteen pieces of artillery.[12]

The first major engagement in Price's Raid occurred at Pilot Knob, where he successfully captured the Union-held Fort Davidson but needlessly slaughtered many of his men in the process, for a gain that turned out to be of no real value. From Pilot Knob, he swung west, away from St. Louis (his primary objective) and toward Kansas City, Missouri and nearby Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Forced to bypass his secondary target at heavily fortified Jefferson City, Price cut a swath of destruction across his home state, even as his army steadily dwindled due to battlefield losses, disease, and desertion. Although he defeated inferior Federal forces at Glasgow, Lexington, the Little Blue River and Independence, Price was ultimately boxed in by two Northern armies at Westport, located in today's Kansas City, and forced to fight against overwhelming odds. This unequal contest, known afterward as "The Gettysburg of the West", did not go his way, and he was forced to retreat into hostile Kansas. A new series of defeats followed, as Price's battered and broken army was pushed steadily southward towards Arkansas, and then further south into Texas, where Price remained until the war ended. Price's Raid would prove to be his last significant military operation, and the last significant Confederate campaign west of the Mississippi.

Notable battles

Some of Price's notable battles during the Civil War are listed here in order of occurrence, and indicating whether he was in overall command and where the battle was won or lost:

Battle Command Result
Battle of Carthage, Missouri not in command won
Battle of Wilson's Creek, Missouri in command won
First Battle of Lexington, Missouri in command won
Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas not in command lost
Battle of Iuka, Mississippi in command lost
Second Battle of Corinth, Mississippi not in command lost
Battle of Helena, Arkansas not in command lost
Little Rock Campaign, Arkansas in command lost
Battle of Prairie D'Ane, Arkansas in command lost
Battle of Pilot Knob, Missouri in command lost: Price took the fort, but the Union force escaped
Battle of Glasgow, Missouri in overall command, though not commanding on the battlefield won
Battle of Little Blue River, Missouri in command won
Second Battle of Independence, Missouri in command won
Battle of Westport, Missouri in command lost
Battle of Mine Creek, Kansas in command lost

Post-war activities and death

Instead of surrendering at the war's end, Price led what was left of his army into Mexico, where he unsuccessfully sought service with the Emperor Maximilian. This episode of Price's life later became an inspiration for the John Wayne and Rock Hudson film The Undefeated. Price became leader of a Confederate exile colony in Carlota, Veracruz, but when the colony proved to be a failure, he returned to Missouri.

While in Mexico Price started having severe intestinal problems, which grew worse in August 1866 when he contracted typhoid fever. Impoverished and in poor health, Price died of cholera (or "cholera-like symptoms") in St. Louis, Missouri. The death certificate listed the cause of death as "chronic diarrhea".[13]

Price's funeral was held on October 3, 1867 in St. Louis, at the First Methodist Episcopal Church (on the corner of Eighth and Washington), and the funeral procession, with his body carried by a black hearse drawn by six matching black horses, was the largest funeral procession in St. Louis up to that point. He was buried in Bellefontaine Cemetery.[14]

Modern assessment of Price's Missouri campaign

In his paper "Assessing Compound Warfare During Price's Raid", written as a thesis for the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Major Dale E. Davis postulates that Price's Missouri Raid failed primarily due to his inability to properly employ the principles of "compound warfare", which requires an inferior power to effectively utilize regular and irregular forces in concert (such as was done by the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong against the French and Americans during the Vietnam War) to defeat a superior army. He also blamed Price's slow rate of movement during his campaign, and the close proximity of Confederate irregulars to his regular force, for this outcome.

Davis observes that by wasting valuable time, ammunition and men in his relatively meaningless assaults on Fort Davidson, Glasgow, Sedalia and Boonville, Price offered Union General Rosecrans time he might not otherwise have had to organize an effective response. Furthermore, he says, Price's insistence on guarding an ever-expanding wagon train of looted military supplies and other items ultimately became "an albatross to [his] withdrawal".[15] Price, said Davis, ought to have used Confederate bushwhackers to harass Federal formations, forcing the Unionists to disperse significant numbers of troops to pursue them over wide ranges of territory—which in turn would have reduced the number of effectives available to fight against Price's main force. Instead, Price kept many guerrillas close to his army, even incorporating some into his ranks, largely negating the value represented by their mobility and small, independent formations. This in turn allowed Union generals to ultimately concentrate a force large enough to trap and defeat Price at Westport, effectively ending his campaign.

While the scope of Davis' research is necessarily limited to Price's Missouri expedition, it does provide some overall insight into his tactical and strategic mindset, together with a sense of some of his strengths and weaknesses as a general. While devoted to the Southern cause, Price generally saw Confederate military operations solely in terms of liberating his home state of Missouri. Although he achieved victories during all phases of the war, his strategically most important battles (other than Wilson's Creek) all ended in defeat.

The CSS/USS General Sterling Price

USS General Price on 1 January 1864

During the Civil War, a wooden river steamer built at Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1856 as the Laurent Millaudon was taken into Confederate service and renamed the CSS General Sterling Price. Participating in actions near Fort Pillow, Tennessee on May 10, 1862, she damaged two Federal gunboats before being temporarily put out of action. The General Price was sunk during the Battle of Memphis, raised, repaired, and served in the Union Navy under the name USS General Price although she was still referred to as the "General Sterling Price" in Federal dispatches. As a Union ship, she served in the Vicksburg and Red River campaigns. Price was sold for private use after the war.

In memoriam

See also


  1. Archived December 12, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. 1 2 3 Dupuy, p. 612.
  3. Dictionary of Missouri Biography (Univ. of Missouri Press, 1999).
  4. LeSueur, Stephen C. The 1838 Mormon War in Missouri. University of Missouri Press, 1987. pp. 84–85.
  5. LeSueur, p. 233.
  6. 1 2 3 Eicher, p. 440.
  7. 1 2 Sterling Price. Retrieved on 2009-11-22.
  8. Governor's Information: Sterling Price. Retrieved on 2009-11-22.
  9. Pictorial and Genealogical Record of Greene County, Missouri, entry: "General Sterling Price". Retrieved on 2009-11-24.
  10. The Battle of Wilson's Creek Civil War Trust. Retrieved April 9, 2016.
  11. Winters, John D. (1963). The Civil War in Louisiana. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. pp. 328–329, 336, 361, 382. ISBN 0-8071-0834-0.
  12. Sterling Price (1809–1867). Retrieved on 2009-11-26.
  13. Welsh, Jack D. (1995). Medical Histories of Confederate Generals. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press. p. 177. ISBN 0-87338-505-5.
  14. Shalhope, Robert E. (1971). Sterling Price: Portrait of a Southerner. Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press. pp. xi,290. ISBN 978-0-8262-0103-4.
  15. Davis, Dale E. Assessing Compound Warfare During Price's Raid. Ft. Leavenworth: U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, 2004, pg. 55.
  16. Sedalia (MO) Democrat, p. 10, 17 September 1939.
  17. Portis, Charles (1968). True Grit: A Novel. New York, New York: Simon and Schuster. pp. 58, 78, 95. ISBN 978-0-671-20301-6.


Further reading

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
John Jameson
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Missouri's at-large congressional district

Succeeded by
William McDaniel
Political offices
Preceded by
Augstin Augustus King
Governor of Missouri
Succeeded by
Trusten Polk
Preceded by
Thomas H. Harvey
Speaker of the Missouri House of Representatives
Succeeded by
Claiborne F. Jackson
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 12/4/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.