Battle of Compton’s Ferry
The Battle of Compton’s Ferry (also known as Little Compton Ferry) was an action during the American Civil War, occurring along the Grand River in southwest Livingston County, Missouri. The battle lasted from August 10 to August 13, 1862.
Colonel John A. Poindexter and his force of 1200 to 1500 Confederate recruits were caught at Compton Ferry along the Grand River by forces under Union Col. Odon Guitar. In seven days, Guitar’s forces pursued Poindexter’s for 250 miles and attacked the guerrilla forces three times. They were confronted at Switzler’s mill, Little Compton (Compton’s Ferry), and on the Muscle Fork of the Chariton River. Here the Federals caught the rebels in the act of crossing the river, causing great havoc and sending them into headlong retreat. Two Union artillery pieces fired a total of eight rounds producing the rout. A large amount of materiel was recovered.
During the battle, 150 Confederate soldiers were wounded, killed, or drowned. Another 100 soldiers were taken prisoner. The Union forces fared much better, with only 5 men being wounded and 10 horses being killed. Guitar’s forces numbered 550.
Accounts of the battle were gruesome. As soldiers attempted to escape, many discarded their guns and plunged with their horses into the river. Some of the horses were able to return to shore, but many drowned. A number of soldiers with their baggage, horses, mules, guns, and wagons were captured.
The converging Union forces of Guitar and Benjamin Loan continued to pursue Poindexter’s men immediately after this action, dealing them a crippling blow at the Battle of Yellow Creek. The wounded Colonel Poindexter was captured September 1—wearing civilian clothing.
The result of this battle and the subsequent battle at Yellow Creek was the effective suppression of Confederate recruiting efforts and major guerrilla operations north of the Missouri River in the northwest portion of the state.
Following the battles at Compton’s Ferry, Yellow Creek, and other sites, Governor Gamble promoted Colonel Guitar to Brigadier-General of Enrolled Missouri Militia.
- “Col. John A. Poindexter”, Gloria M. Atwater
- The Union Army: A History of Military Affairs in the Loyal States 1861-65 – Records of the Regiments in the Union Army – Cyclopedia of Battles – Memoirs of Commanders and Soldiers. Volume V Cyclopedia of Battles – A to Helena. Federal Publishing Company. 1908 – via Google Books.
- Moore, Frank, The Rebellion Record, Vol. V, pages 577-78.
- Switzler, William Franklin; Campbell, Robert Allen; Conant, Alban Jasper; Swallow, George Clinton (1881). Switzler’s Illustrated History of Missouri, from 1541 to 1881. St. Louis, MO: C.R. Barns, Editor and Publisher – via Google Books.
- For a more in-depth discussion of the campaign against Poindexter see Gerteis, Louis S., The Civil War in Missouri: A Military History. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 2012. ISBN 978-0-8262-1972-5. pp 141-143.