“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Newtonia in Newton County, Missouri — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)

First Battle of Newtonia

A State Divided: The Civil War in Missouri

First Battle of Newtonia Marker image. Click for full size.
By Dale Johnson, April 30, 2013
1. First Battle of Newtonia Marker
First Battle of Newtonia
At or near this location, the First and Second Battles of Newtonia were fought. The First Battle of Newtonia occurred on Sept. 30, 1862 when Union forces attempted to dislodge a large force of Confederates who were encamped a few miles south of Newtonia, The day-long battle witnessed hard fighting on both sides. At the day’s end, the Union forces were compelled to withdraw, leaving the Confederates in possession of the field. The Confederate victory was the result of superior numbers and their ability to bring up nearby reinforcements.

Background: First Battle of Newtonia
By the fall of 1862, the Arkansas-Missouri border separated areas of Confederate and Union control. Confederate soldiers in northern Arkansas were starved for food and forage so troops began advancing into southwest Missouri. In the region around Newtonia, lead could be procured from the mines at nearby Granby while flour and meal could be ground at Matthew Ritchey s Mill in Newtonia.

By early September, a sizable force of Confederates had gathered at Camp Coffee a few miles south of Newtonia. Col. Joseph Shelby was there with 1,500 Missouri cavalrymen. Soon, he was joined by Col. Douglas Cooper who had ridden in from Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) with a brigade of mounted Texans, and another brigade of Indians. In all, 4,000 Confederates had gathered at Camp Coffee.

The movement of Confederate units into southwest Missouri caused the Union high command to fear that Federal control of southwest Missouri was in jeopardy. Brig Gen. James BIunt sent Brig. Gen. Frederick Salomon from Fort Scott, Kans., south to Sarcoxie to find the Southerners. Once the enemy was located, Salomon could be reinforced by troops from Springfield, under Brig. Gen. John Schofield, and the combined force would then drive the Confederates back into Arkansas.

The First Battle of Newtonia begins: Union Attack
On Sept 29, a federal combat patrol, commanded by Col. Edward Lynde, encountered an enemy force, the 31st and 34th Texas Cavalry, occupying the town of Newtonia. Lynde, with the 9th Kansas Cavalry, and Col. Arthur Jacobi, of the 9th Wisconsin Infantry, had orders to establish an observation post near Newtonia. But they were also ordered to avoid bringing on a general conflict with the Confederates. The Union commanders needed a few more days to gather their superior forces for an offensive against the Rebel incursion.

At dawn on the morning of Sept. 30, Jacobi, who had encamped near Newtonia, entered the open prairie north of town. Ignoring orders to not bring on a battle, Jacobi decided to harry the enemy with his small force of just 500 men. He ordered Capt. Mefford, reinforced by the 9th Kansas, to try to capture an outpost of enemy pickets on his left flank, while his artillery shelled the enemy position in Newtonia, some 1,500 yards away. Lynde arrived on the scene and decided to send two artillery units, supported by a battalion of the 9th Kansas Cavalry, to a position on the far right of his line within 600 yards of the enemy. From this position the federals were able to switch from cannon balls to shell and canister. The Yankee battery delivered a deadly hail of fire on the 31st Texas Cavalry, who were concealed behind stone fence walls, several brick houses, and Ritchey’s stoutly built stone barn in Newtonia.

At the same time, the 9th Wisconsin Infantry was sent forward to attack and attempt to dislodge the Texans, while the artillery shifted still closer to cover the advance. Meanwhile, the 34th Texas had to fall back to protect their artillery. The 31st Texas, left the protection of their stone walls and charged the advancing 9th Wisconsin, but were compelled to fall back in the face of superior numbers after brief hand fighting.

Confederate Counterattack
Just as the Federals seemed to be getting the best of the Texans in the fighting at Newtonia, the 22nd Texas arrived on the scene from Granby and fell on the rear of the Federal artillery units, threatening to cut them off (Map 3). At the same time Gordon’s 5th Missouri and Walker’s 1st Choctaw and Chickasaw Mounted Rifles reached Newtonia at full gallop (Map 3). The Missourians veered to the right and attacked Mefford and the 9th Kansas while Walker’s Indians swung left and attacked the 9th Wisconsin. Lynde, now surrounded on three sides, ordered a retreat. The artillery managed to hold off the enemy as they fell back, but the 9th Wisconsin, armed with only revolvers and sabers, stood no chance against the attacking horsemen. Many of the troopers were killed while the rest surrendered. For another four miles, the Confederates pursued the retreating remnants of Lynde’s command.

The Afternoon Battle
As the morning phase of the Union assault on Newtonia was in its final phases of collapse, the advance column of Salomon’s relief brigade reached the open prairie north of Newtonia. A lull of several hours then ensued until Salomon arrived on the field at 3:30 p.m. and disposed his forces on either side of a nine-gun battery of artillery, which began to bombard the town, forcing the Confederates to fall back. Steven’s Texas and Jean’s Missouri cavalry regiments then advanced against the Union left held by the 3rd Indian Home Guard. A volley from the Indians sent them reeling back. The Indians then pressed forward up a hollow to a place where they were able to deliver a hot fire against a sector of the Confederate line. Folsom’s 1st Choctaw Regiment crept up on the hollow concealing the 3rd Indian Home Guard and engaged them in a desperate struggle in which several officers were killed. Salomon sent the 10th Kansas forward to reinforce the Indians, while the Union artillerists sent repeated volleys into the lines of the advancing 1st Choctaw and Cherokee regiment, which caused them to fall back. The 3rd Indian Home Guard then countercharged before being forced to retire in the face of Confederate artillery and charge by a combined force of Texans and Choctaws. Copper then arrayed his entire force of Confederates in line of battle and advanced on Salomon’s position.

A second brigade of reinforcements that Salomon was expecting still had not shown up, so he felt compelled to withdraw his force in the face of the advance by a superior Confederate force. In the gathering darkness, the second relief column, under Col. Hall, finally arrived to cover Salomon’s retreat; seeing fresh enemy forces arriving on the field, and not wishing to bring on a night engagement, Cooper pulled his men back.

The Confederate victory at Newtonia was gained at the cost of 78 casualties: 12 killed and 63 wounded. For the Federals the cost was much higher, including the loss of four entire companies of the 9th Wisconsin. The day’s action had given the Confederates a badly needed victory, but it was a short lived one. Just four days later, on Oct. 4, the Federals massed three divisions under Generals Schofield, Blunt and Totten and appeared before Newtonia. After a artillery barrage, the force advanced on the town. Col. Cooper declined the offer of combat and withdrew his force through Pineville back into northwest Arkansas.

Brig. Gen. Frederick Salomon
Col. Douglas Cooper
Col. Joseph Shelby
Map 1. Federal and Confederate troop concentrations in the Fall of 1862.
Map 2. The first phase of the First Battle of Newtonia began when a Federal combat patrol located Confederate forces in Newtonia and deployed to attack the enemy despite orders to not bring on a conflict.
Map 3. The Federals launched their attack with artillery fire and advances against the Confederate right and center. The 31st Texas launched a brief counterattack against the 9th Wisconsin but were driven back.
Map 4. A Confederate counterattack is launched when units from Granby and Camp Coffee converge on the Federals and force them to retreat.
Map 5. The afternoon phase of the battle climaxed when the Federal 3rd Indian Home Guard clashed with Confederate Choctaw and Cherokee units in deadly combat. As the Confederates massed to charge, the outnumbered Federals withdrew.
Historic photograph of Matthew Ritchey’s stone barn, which sheltered Confederate forces during the First Battle of Newtonia. Courtesy of Newtonia Battlefields Protection Association
Erected by Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
Location. 36° 52.67′ N, 94° 11.012′ W. Marker is in Newtonia, Missouri, in Newton County. Marker is on Mill Street east of Market Street, on the right when traveling east. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 520 Mill Street, Stark City MO 64866, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 11 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Second Battle of Newtonia (here, next to this marker); The Battles of Newtonia Commemoration (approx. 0.2 miles away); Haas Warehouse Building (approx. 10.1 miles away); Haas Building (approx. 10.2 miles away); 20th Century Wars Memorial (approx. 10.2 miles away); Secession Convention at Neosho (approx. 10.2 miles away); Newton County World War II Memorial (approx. 10.2 miles away); Confederate Capitol of Missouri (approx. 10.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Newtonia.
Also see . . .  First Battle of Newtonia Historic District. National Register of Historic Places (Submitted on August 20, 2013, by Dale Johnson of Hudson, Wisconsin.) 
Categories. War, US Civil
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on May 3, 2013, by Dale Johnson of Hudson, Wisconsin. This page has been viewed 476 times since then and 97 times this year. Photo   1. submitted on May 3, 2013, by Dale Johnson of Hudson, Wisconsin. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.
Editor’s want-list for this marker. Wide shot of marker and its surroundings, photo of Richey mansion. • Can you help?
Paid Advertisement