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Thinking Out Loud: Found At The Battle of Moore's Mill

An 1862 Civil War battle in Callaway County resulted in the deaths of 70 Confederate and Union soldiers. A recent search of that site resulted in finds that illuminate the guerilla warfare that was often seen in Missouri during the War Between The States.

Credit Dr. Cinnamon Brown /Westminster College
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Metal detectors used in the 2013 scouring of the Callaway County landscape where the 1862 Battle of Moore's Mill occurred.

While Missouri isn't often thought of as a major theater in the Civil War, Dr. Brown said that the state had many smaller battles that were often bloodier than major battles. "When you think of the Civil War you think of epic battles like Gettysburg and Vicksburg. That's not really happening in Missouri because it is so divided... There was 1,200 distinct [Missouri] battles during the Civil War. That puts Missouri behind only Virginia and Tennessee for the most Civil War battles throughout the entire war." Brown said that 45 percent of all casualties that happened in the Civil War in 1861 happened in Missouri.

The Battle of Moore's Mill pitted a 700-member strong Union regiment led by General Odon Guitar against the 200-odd Confederate troops led by Northeast Missouri native Colonel Joseph Porter. Despite being pursued by Union troops for weeks, Porter planned an ambush of the Confederate troops at Callaway County's Brown Springs. After the unsuccessful ambush Porter's troops retreated to near Calwood where they engaged with Guitar's squad in a four-hour battle on the afternoon of July 28, 1862.

Using funds from a National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program grant, Brown and others were able to conduct the first-ever exploration of the Moore's Mill battlefield. On two cold days in 2013, volunteers walked the private property with metal detectors and shovels. Under up to two feet of soil the academics and Civil War enthusiasts found deer skulls, spent bullets and even the remains of a cannonball.

Despite the passage of over 150 years, the battlefield site remains similar to the landscape on which almost 1,000 men fought. "It looks pretty similar to what you may have seen in the 1860s. It's still a very rural area [with] a lot of farmland. Moore's Mill is named after an actual mill that was further down on the Auxvasse Creek," said Brown. "One of the really great things when we did the archaeological dig was that we found that the site - after years of farming and erosion - looks pretty similar to how it did in 1862."

As a result of the recent investigation into remaining artifacts at the site, new interpretative signage was placed at the site of the Battle of Moore's Mill. To visit the site go Northeast from Fulton on Route Z. Turn right on State Highway JJ at Calwood. The updated historical marker is on the left after about one mile.

Listen for new episodes of Thinking Out Loud each Tuesday evening at 6:30 on 91.3FM KBIA.

Trevor serves as KBIA’s weekday morning host for classical music. He has been involved with local radio since 1990, when he began volunteering as a music and news programmer at KOPN, Columbia's community radio station. Before joining KBIA, Trevor studied social work at Mizzou and earned a masters degree in geography at the University of Alabama. He has worked in community development and in urban and bicycle/pedestrian planning, and recently served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Zambia with his wife, Lisa Groshong. An avid bicycle commuter and jazz fan, Trevor has cycled as far as Colorado and pawed through record bins in three continents.
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