The Missouri in the Civil War Message Board

How Feds Were Positioned in Bill Anderson Ambush

Most accounts of the ambush say the Federals were positioned on both sides of the road, which made me wonder how it was they didn't kill each other. It also made me think maybe a lot of the Federal casualties were friendly fire -- but I also knew the Federal officers were veterans, and who would set up an ambush where you were shooting at each other 50 feet across the road? So
as it turns out actually they were positioned on two sides of the road, which isn't exactly the same thing as both sides.

Anyway, I finally found an account talking about the Fed positioning and see how it was done. I haven't figured out what points of the compass everybody was positioned at, but I do know how they were in relation to each other, so will reference clock positioning.

Lt. James Baker had sent a female spy (wife of one of his troops) into Anderson's camp. Once his position was ascertained, the Feds set up down the way at an "elbow in the road." Baker and his elite provisionals (A&C/4Provisional Enrolled Militia Ord 107) rode up to Anderson's camp, exchanged fire for a bit, then then headed back in the direction of the road elbow ambush point positioned towards 6 o'clock. With Anderson, Clell Miller, Arch Clement and a handful of men right behind Baker, the rest of the bulk of the 200 plus other Rebels were then a bit further behind Anderson et al.

With that front mass moving towards the 6 o'clock elbow point, Lt. Col. Samuel Cox and Capt. Joab Woodruff's company (elements of B&I/33EMM) are patiently hidden at the side of the road at the 3 o'clock position facing 9 o'clock at the road bend, holding fire.

Major John Grimes and elements of at least three companies of the 51st EMM (C, D & F) are positioned in the open on the road at the bend facing 12 o'clock and the fast galloping oncoming Federals and Rebels. Discharged veteran captain, William Folmsbee, formerly of the 1st MSM Cavalry has a large number of other discharged combat veterans with him who are interspersed with the EMM troops to "quiet the nerves of the rest."

Baker and his provisionals ride through Grimes and the 51/EMM troops, make the right turn at the bend in the road, heading towards 9 o'clock. Grimes and his force quickly back off towards their own 6, off the road and into the trees at the bend. Rebs think they've scared them and scattered them and move ahead full speed after Baker, and the trap is sprung.

22 years later Elisha Reed, a veteran civilian recently discharged from the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry (First Bull Run, Antietam, Second Bull Run, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Wilderness, Spotsylvania Court House, Cold Harbor....) was with the Feds 'helping quiet their nerves' that day and glibly noted "The plan worked to a charm."

As Anderson and his immediate force are taking the bend towards 9 o'clock still in pursuit of Baker, Cox and the 33EMM open fire from the 3 o'clock (Rebs left) just as they are at the bend, and then into their flank as they make the right turn.

Said Reed, "Bill and his gang charged on Lieut. Baker and drove him from the woods. He evidently supposed we were all raw militia, mounted on undisciplined horses, and that to stampede a few would stamped our whole force, and then they could chaw us up like a Virginny n---- would cabbage....the line stood perfectly solid until Bill Anderson got clear to our line and then we opened fire...."

Anderson and every Reb with him are unhorsed by the barrage, except for Clement, who is wearing a Federal uniform like most of the other Confederates. Clement sees what just happened and gallops on towards the 9 without slowing down. He quickly collides into the Federal reserve force, screaming and hollering to the effect "don't shoot, Bill Anderson overran us and is massacring us." The suckered reserve force thinks it's Centralia all over again, scatters into hiding, literally taking a couple days to come back in from the brush in utter disgrace. In the meantime they had let Clement through unscathed, who escapes.

Meanwhile back at the bend Anderson has taken fire to the side of his head (two shotgun pellets right behind the ear, or one squirrel rifle bullet in the ear, or one pistol shot in the back of the head, depending upon the source). The rest of the men who went down with him were either dead, or wounded. One of those wounded was a 14-year-old Clell Miller. Cox has to call his men off to save his life and keep him from being executed. Miller eventually goes on to his greater destiny of riding with the James Gang and meeting his death at Northfield Minnesota.

Messages In This Thread

How Feds Were Positioned in Bill Anderson Ambush
Re: How Feds Were Positioned in Bill Anderson Ambu
Battle Site, and Key Vibbard Scrap Day Before
Vibbard/Crowley Farm/Rocky Fork Fight Site
Ambush Site, Anderson Camp Site, Fed Base Site
Re: Ambush Site, Anderson Camp Site, Fed Base Site
Re: Ambush Site, Anderson Camp Site, Fed Base Site
Brashears Road, and back to the teenagers....
Another Site Identifier Clinched It
Camp Site Anderson Was Decoyed Out Of
3D Google Position of Battle and Camp Sites
Need to Sign Into Google to See As Described
Re: 3D Google Position of Battle and Camp Sites