Battle of Byram's Ford

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Battle of Byram's Ford
Big Blue River

October 22, 1864


October 23, 1864


Jackson County, Missouri


Trans-Mississippi Theater


Price’s Missouri Expedition


Union victory

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1st Division,
Army of the Border
Provisional cavalry division

Shelby and Marmaduke’s Divisions


James G. Blunt
Major General, USA
Alfred Pleasonton
Major General, USA

Joseph Shelby
Brigadier General, CSA
John S. Marmaduke
Brigadier General, CSA


Maj. Gen. Sterling Price’s Army of Missouri was headed west towards Kansas City and Fort Leavenworth. Maj. Gen. Samuel R. Curtis’s Army of the Border, in and around Westport, was blocking the Confederates’ way west and Maj. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton’s provisional cavalry division was pressing Price’s army’s rear. Price had nearly 500 wagons with him and required a good ford over the Big Blue River to facilitate the passage of his supplies. Byram’s Ford was the best ford in the area and became a strategic point during the fighting around Westport. On October 22, Maj. Gen. James G. Blunt’s division held a defensive position on the Big Blue River’s west bank. Around 10:00 am on the 22nd, part of Brig. Gen. Joseph O. Shelby’s Confederate division conducted a frontal attack on Blunt’s men. This attack was a ruse because the rest of Shelby’s men flanked Blunt’s hasty defenses, forcing the Federals to retire to Westport. Price’s wagon train and about 5,000 head of cattle then crossed the Big Blue River at Byram’s Ford and headed southward toward Little Santa Fe and safety. Pleasonton’s cavalry was hot on the tail of Price’s army. Brig. Gen. John S. Marmaduke’s Rebel division held the west bank of the Big Blue at Byram’s Ford to prevent Pleasonton from attacking Price’s rear. Pleasonton assaulted Marmaduke at Byram’s Ford, around 8:00 am, on the 23rd. Three hours later, Marmaduke’s men had enough and fell back toward Westport. With Pleasonton across the river, he was now an additional threat to Price who was fighting Curtis’s Army of the Border at Westport. Price had to retreat south. (NPS summary)