Battles of Newtonia Missouri
Newtonia is a very small town, population 200, about 60 miles southwest of Springfield. The two Civil War battles fought there will always be known more for the fact that Native American Indian soldiers fought against each other than they will for their overall significance to the war effort.
First Battle of Newtonia
The first battle of Newtonia occurred on September 30, 1862. Confederate Colonel Douglas H. Cooper commanded a force of approximately 5,000 troops, including over 3,000 Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians. The 4,500 Union troops were led by Union Brigadier General Frederick Salomon, under General Blunt’s command. Salmon’s troops also included approximately 3,000 from the 3rd Indian Home Guard, made up of men from several different Native American Indian tribes.
The battle consisted of a series of attacks and counter-attacks by each side. In the end, a late afternoon charge by the rebels was successful and forced the Union troops to retreat. Confederate cannon’s firing on the retreating column unnerved the Union soldiers and the retreat turned into an unorganized rout.
Casualties at the First Battle of Newtonia are estimated at between 245 and 400 for the Union and only 78 for the Confederacy. The Confederate victory at Newtonia prompted General Blunt to start his whole division toward Newtonia. Colonel Cooper, after hearing of Blunt’s advance, abandoned his position in Newtonia and left Missouri.
Second Battle of Newtonia
The Second Battle of Newtonia was fought very near the site of the first on October 28, 1864. In the second battle, a force led again by General Blunt attacked a force of retreating Confederates led by General Sterling Price. Price’s army was trying desperately to get out of Missouri after losing battles at Westport and Mine Creek.
Blunt, with around 1,000 men caught up with and attacked Price’s retreating troops near Newtonia. Price quickly ordered his main force to retreat again. Price assigned General Joseph (J.O.) Shelby and his cavalry to harass the Union forces which hopefully would allow Price’s main force to escape. Shelby did his job and by the time Union reinforcements arrived from Fort Scott, Shelby and fought Blunt to a stalemate and gave General Price plenty of time to pull his full army toward Arkansas.
In Newtonia, a visitor can see the Mathew H. Richey House, which was used by both the Union and Rebel forces during both battles. It also served as a field hospital after the fighting. Next to the Richey house is a shelter under which there are several storyboards telling the story of the battles that occurred in the location. The house is open by appointment only.
In addition, down an overgrown path due north of the Richey house, a visitor will see what is labeled as a “Civil War Cemetery”. The cemetery is kind of creepy as you must drive down this small path to get there and most of the grave markers are unreadable. The Civil War Cemetery is very isolated, and many graves are simply marked by metal crosses with no names or any other details. While not overly “historic”, it was kind of a cool play just go and walkthrough, albeit a bit spooky.