Skirmish at West Plains, MO

12 Pound Mountain Howitzer

12 Pound Mountain Howitzer

The Battle of West Plains, February 19th, 1862

On the morning of February 19th, 1862, 262 mounted U.S. cavalrymen from the 3rd Iowa Cavalry and the 6th Missouri Cavalry commanded by Colonel Woods and Major Drake slipped into the north side of West Plains and took position at the top of the hill at current day Olden Street looking toward the wooden structure courthouse where the current Howell County Courthouse now stands.

Colonel Woods sent detachments to surround the downtown area, attempting to cut off the anticipated retreat of the group of Confederates commanded by Colonel Coleman camped in and around the courthouse. Major Drake then unlimbered a 12 pound mountain howitzer about 800 yards from the courthouse and fired a combination of solid round shells and canister shot at the confederates who initially tried to take cover in the courthouse. The wood structure was no match for the solid shells and the outgunned confederates quickly began to scatter. After a short time and some additional skirmishing, many of the confederates escaped to the west. Although Colonel Coleman escaped, 6 confederate soldiers were killed and 8 wounded in the short skirmish. 60 men were captured along with 40 horses. 20 of the Confederates were released after a shot time. No Union casualties were reported.

The 3rd Iowa and 6th Missouri regiment went on to serve in the Battle of Pea Ridge and the Battle of Vicksburg. There is a small monument to the 6th Missouri on the Vicksburg battlefield. Guerilla style warfare continued in the West Plains area, and the remains of the town were burned in 1863, not to be resettled again until after the war.