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How do you get to the Civil War Battlefield at Belmont?

The Civil War battle at Belmont, Missouri is one of the least studied of the state's Civil War engagements. There are no monuments or markers which call attention to the site. In fact the one persistent question about the battle is, "How do I get there?"

This engagement, which occurred on November 7, 1861, early in the war, was a fairly large battle, with 225 men killed and nearly 800 wounded. The battle receives most of its attention from the fact that it was the first military engagement directed by Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant. From his base in Cairo, Illinois Grant moved south on both sides of the Mississippi. The purpose was to clear southeast Missouri and western Kentucky of the Confederate military presence.

With more the 3,100 troops on transports protected by two gunboats, Grant decided to land and attack Confederate troops at the small community of Belmont, Missouri. He landed his troops at approximately 8:30 a.m., and moved his men through thick woods, drove the Confederates through their camps to a position where they were protected by the guns on the Columbus bluffs across the river. While the Union troops burned and looted the enemy's camp, General Sterling Price sent 10,000 men across the river to support the beleaguered troops huddled next to the river. The Confederates landed with little notice by the celebrating federal force, and pursued Grant's retreating army right back to the transports, encouraging them to make a quick withdrawal. For the Union it was a narrow escape.

Overall, the battle was bloody and hard-fought, but inconclusive for both sides. Grant lost over fifteen percent of his entire force, a heavy casualty rate by Civil War standards. Military historians generally credit Grant with learning much from this battle which he would carry with him to later engagements. There was little long-range effect of the battle for southeast Missouri, and due to the isolated location, there has been little commemoration of the battle.
A standard response to the question, "how do I get to the Civil War battlefield at Belmont?" is often, "go to East Prairie, and ask." But, the general area of the battle can be reached by traveling east on Highway 80 out of East Prairie. The highway ends very near the location of the battle.
Center for Regional History
Carnahan 301   MS2950
573-651-2555
regionalhistory@semo.edu
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Last modified   07/18/2009

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