210 – Sedalia in the Civil War

Two years after the Rileys settled in Pettis County, Missouri, war broke out between North and South in 1861. Sedalia had been founded in October 1860, just six months earlier.

Border states like Missouri allowed slavery but did not secede from the Union.

Missouri was central to the conflict. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 had allowed Missouri as a slave state, while guaranteeing free states for the northern territories of the Louisiana Purchase. But the Kansas-Nebraska act of 1854 took away those protections and stirred the flames anew.

Missouri was ground zero

Guerrilla warfare plagued Missouri from the start of the conflict in Missouri, but intensified in early 1862 as the weather warmed.

Wikipedia – Enrolled Missouri Militia

Southern sympathizers in Missouri aided guerilla raiders like William Quantrill. Recruiters canvassed Missouri for enlistees. To combat the growing menace, Union General Halleck issued this order in March 1862.

All persons are hereby warned that if they join any guerrilla band they will not, if captured, be treated as ordinary prisoners of war, but will be hung as robbers and murderers.

General Order #2 – March 13, 1862 – Gen. Henry W. Halleck – Wikipedia – Enrolled Missouri Militia

Enrolled Missouri Militia (EMM)

The order did little to stem the recruiting and guerilla warfare. In July, a more drastic measure was taken, the Enrolled Missouri Militia.

General Schofield issued General Orders No. 19 requiring loyal men to enroll in the militia, required registration of all who had previously taken up arms against the United States, and for them to surrender their weapons. The disloyal and Confederate sympathizers would not be required to enroll in the militia, but would have to declare their sympathies, which many were unwilling to do and instead enrolled.

Wikipedia – Enrolled Missouri Militia

Put simply, every man must register, loyal or disloyal. The loyal would become members of the militia. The disloyal must register and turn in their weapons.

Obviously, no one wanted to turn in their weapons, so even disloyal citizens joined the militia. They would deal with the issue if and when they were ordered to active service.

The EMM had no uniforms. They were encouraged to provide their own clothing. They also were not given arms. One example is the 80th EMM led by Capt. William J. Buxton. He claimed that only 23 of his men had arms, and they varied from squirrel rifles to shotguns. He was left with 32 men who were unarmed. 

The EMM soldiers even encountered shortages in food and supplies. In response, the government encouraged EMM soldiers to take things from disloyal individuals. This practice became problematic, as innocent people were often abused. 

Life as a Home Guard or Enrolled Missouri Militia
Enrolled Missouri Militia – drill in St. Joseph, Missouri – 1863

John Riley enrolled

On August 8, 1862, John Riley enrolled in the Missouri Militia. He was a private in Company E, 40th Regiment, under Captain Spedden.

Enlistment – John Riley – Enrolled Missouri Militia – 1862

We don’t know where John’s sympathies lay. One family story claims John Riley was a captain in the Confederate army. That’s not true. But it could indicate southern sympathy. On the other hand, John did enroll and serve in the EMM militia. So, we just don’t know.

In 1862, John was age 40. He was working his farm near Georgetown, just north of Sedalia. He had five children at home, and Ann was pregnant with another. These aren’t the attributes of someone who enlists in regular army for multi-year duty. John probably had fingers crossed that he didn’t get ordered to active service.

Active duty

John’s luck ran out. We can see on his enlistment record that he was ordered to report to Georgetown for active service on October 8, 1863.


Shelby’s Raid

Joseph O. Shelby

Things had not gone well for Confederate forces in Arkansas in 1863. They had lost Little Rock, and Union forces had taken Vicksburg and opened the Mississippi River. The Confederates had lost the battles of Pea Ridge and Prairie Grove in Arkansas.

Colonel Joseph Shelby proposed a bold plan to his superiors. He would lead a fast-moving and devastating raid through Missouri. The objectives were to recruit southern sympathizers in Missouri, damage as much Union property as possible, and to draw Union troops to Missouri to keep them away from Chattanooga.

Shelby’s Raid – October 1863

Shelby received approval of his plan from General Sterling Price and left with 750 troops the next morning. He crossed from Arkansas into southwest Missouri. He attacked a federal fort at Neosho, Missouri and forced a surrender, gaining a significant trove of weapons, ammunition, and 400 horses.

His troops moved fast, and Shelby drove them hard. A day later he forced federal troops near Greenfield to surrender and burned the courthouse.

Shelby continued north. He had picked up additional recruits, so his force was now a thousand.

They attacked local Missouri militia at Humansville on October 6 and captured 30 wagons filled with commissary supplies. The following day, Shelby attacked the federal garrison at Warsaw, Missouri, where he captured 30 wagonloads of arms and food

Shelby’s Raid – The Civil War on the Western Border

Union forces react

Union commanders began to deploy troops to engage with Shelby, but they didn’t know where he was going.

Federal troops were converging from three directions, Kansas City on the west, Boonville in the center, and Eastern Missouri. They hoped to encircle Shelby with a combined force of 2,800 men.

Militias were quickly activated. On October 8, John Riley’s Company E and the 40th Regiment of Enrolled Missouri Militia were ordered to service in Georgetown.

With no uniforms, the militia wore white hatbands to distinguish their units.

Enrolled Missouri Militia – with white hatbands

The Battle of Marshall

Federal troops engaged Shelby’s raiders in the Battle of Marshall on Tuesday, October 13. This may be where John Riley’s unit was sent, as Marshall was just thirteen miles north of Georgetown. Realizing that he was encircled and outnumbered, Shelby began to plan his retreat.

Throughout the night of October 13-14, Shelby kept his men moving toward Waverly. They reached there by dawn, still closely pursued by the federals. Upon reaching Waverly, Shelby decided that he had to try to get back to Arkansas. The Unionist pursuit continued as Shelby drove southwest toward Carthage, Missouri, which he and his men reached on October 19. The following day, Shelby’s raiders crossed the state line into Arkansas

Shelby’s Raid – The Civil War on the Western Border

The aftermath

Jo Shelby was promoted to brigadier general in the Confederate Army as a result of this successful raid. Shelby claimed to have traveled 1,500 miles, inflicted 600 casualties, and captured or destroyed $1 million worth of goods during the raid.

Wikipedia – Shelby’s Raid (1863)

Was John Riley involved in fighting Shelby’s troops? We don’t know.

Shelby’s troops were retreating as fast as they could. On October 20, Shelby crossed back into Arkansas. And on October 20, John Riley and the Enrolled Missouri Militia members in Pettis County were released from active duty after just 13 days in service. John went home.

John may have been activated at other times. His 40th Regiment saw several activations.

40th Regiment, Enrolled Missouri Militia (Union.) They were enrolled between 28 July 1862 and 4 September 1862. They were ordered into service between 29 July 1862 and 5 November 1862. They were discharged between 1 December 1862 and 2 April 1863. They were ordered into service between 9 February 1863 and 8 October 1864. They were discharged between 3 June 1863 and 1 November 1864.They were ordered into service on 1 October 1864. They were discharged on 31 October 1864.  They were led by Colonel John D. Crawford and Colonel Rush R. Spedden. 

40th Regiment, Enrolled Missouri Militia (Union) – familysearch.org

Nibbles Extra Credit – The capture of Sedalia

In October 1864, a year after Shelby’s raid, Confederate’s took the town of Sedalia. Here’s the story.

Confederate Major General Sterling Price, who was a former Governor of Missouri and had commanded the Missouri State Guard in the early days of the war, had launched an invasion into the state of Missouri on August 29.

Wikipedia – Capture of Sedalia

On October 7, 1864, the Confederates approached Jefferson City, which was held by about 7,000 men, mostly inexperienced militia.

Needing weapons and supplies and hearing the rumor that the Union army had thousands of mules and cattle in Sedalia, General Jeff Thompson organized a force of about 1,500 men to raid Sedalia.

The Confederate soldiers captured two Union stragglers near Georgetown who claimed to be former Confederates forced into Union service. Perhaps these two relayed the information to Union troops, who quickly mobilized the militia.

Early on the morning of October 15, Thompson’s Confederate troops attacked. By then town was defended by almost 800 home guard and the activated militia. It didn’t take long for the attackers to send the militia fleeing.

Confederate artillery fire scattered the remaining Enrolled Missouri Militia soldiers, and the men of the 7th Missouri State Militia Cavalry surrendered the town.  Confederate soldiers chased the militiamen as they fled across the prairie, inflicting an unknown number of casualties.

Wikipedia – Capture of Sedalia

Sacking Sedalia

After the fighting ended, the Confederates looted Sedalia. They focused on destroying government property and stealing 2,000 mules and cattle.

Some eyewitnesses reported seeing Confederates riding barefoot and carrying their boots filled with stolen whiskey.

The Union suffered one man killed and 23 wounded. Several hundred Union soldiers were captured, but Thompson did not have the ability to keep them as prisoners or issue them standard written paroles. Treatment of the prisoners varied between how Thompson classified them: a few hundred were classified as home guard and released, while 75 Enrolled Missouri Militia and 47 Missouri State Militia were given nonstandard verbal paroles, including threats if they reneged on the terms.

Wikipedia – Capture of Sedalia

The Aftermath

By October 19, the Confederate force was in Lexington, Missouri, where they encountered Union forces in the Second Battle of Lexington. From there, the Confederates moved toward Kansas City, where they were soundly defeated on October 23 at the Battle of Westport.

Battle of Westport – October 23, 1864

The end of the war didn’t bring an end to the divisiveness of neighbors. Sounds like today.

In November 1866, the county officers were elected and all of them were Radicals. The talk and conduct of citizens previous to the election had been extremely reckless and bitter. The registration law was in force and ex-Confederates could not vote.

History of Pettis County, Missouri – 1882


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