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The Carthage Press
  • Gathering remembers Battle of Carthage

  • About 25 people gathered on Thursday at the Battle of Carthage State Historic Site on west Chestnut Avenue to remember the Civil War battle that changed Jasper County forever.


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  • About 25 people gathered on Thursday at the Battle of Carthage State Historic Site on west Chestnut Avenue to remember the Civil War battle that changed Jasper County forever.
    The battle, which was one of the first engagements between Union and Rebel armies, took place on July 5, 1861, almost three weeks before the much-more-famous Battle of Bull Run in Virgina, which is widely credited as being the first battle of the Civil War.
    Author and historian Steve Cottrell, who has written a book about the Battle of Carthage, led the Vespers Service and remembered the efforts of the late Carthage Press Editor and area historian Marvin VanGilder, who also studied the battle and led the effort in 1988 to create the Battle of Carthage Historic Site as a state park.
    VanGilder led Vespers Services at the State Historic Site for years prior to his death in 2010. Cottrell paraphrased VanGilder's speech at the final Vespers Service he was able to attend in 2009.
    Cottrell told the history of the battle, which was a nine-mile running fight between a 1,100-man Union force under Col. Franz Sigel and a 6,000-man force of almost untrained Missouri State Guardsmen who were fleeing to Arkansas to join the Confederate armies massing to invade Missouri.
    The Missouri State Guard was commanded by Gov. Claiborne Fox Jackson and the Battle of Carthage was the only time in American history a sitting state governor led troops in battle.
    The State Historic Site is the spot where the Union Army camped near Carter Spring on July 4, 1861, the night before the battle.
    The two forces met near the spot where Civil War Road and Base Line Road intersect about eight miles north of Carthage.
    Sigel, realizing he was greatly outnumbered, conducted a fighting retreat back down what is now Civil War Road and through the city of Carthage, including a gunfight on the Carthage Square in which the Jasper County Courthouse, which served as a hospital for both sides, was damaged.
    That brick courthouse was burned to the ground, along with the rest of Carthage, in 1863.
    The final shots of the battle were fired at the State Historic Site when part of Sigel's artillery fired on the advancing State Guard to slow them down and allow the Union forces to retreat to Sarcoxie.
    After the Union forces retreated, the Missouri State Guard set up camp at the same place where the Union soldiers camped the day before.
    The Battle of Carthage State Historic Site is administered by the Missouri State Parks System by Pam Myers, Historic Site Administrator based at the Harry S. Truman Birthplace in Lamar.
     

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