Preceding the Battle of Bull Run by 11 days, the Battle of Carthage, fought on July 5, 1861, was one of the earliest engagements in the Civil War. Battle of Carthage State Historic Site is the location of one of the last skirmishes of the battle, and the campsite for both armies -- the Union troops the night before the battle and the Confederate troops the night following the battle.
The battle itself was a mobile engagement that was spread out over a distance of 10 miles. Col. Franz Sigel and his army of 1,100 well-drilled, fully armed men were sent to southeast Missouri to stop Gov. Claiborne Jackson's army of 4,000 armed and 2,000 unarmed soldiers from banding up with Confederate troops in nearby Arkansas. On July 5, the troops met about nine miles north of Carthage and the skirmishes began. The most severe fighting took place at crossings of Dry Fork Creek, Buck Branch and Spring River. After the smoke cleared and the sun set, the Confederate Missouri State Guard was victorious, however, the Union troops skillfully escaped a superior force with minimal losses.