Westport, Battle of

October 23, 1864

The Battle of Westport was fought on Oct. 23, 1864, in what today is Kansas City between the Union forces of Maj. Gen. Samuel R. Curtis and the Confederate troops of Maj. Gen. Sterling Price.

The fight is sometimes referred to as “the Gettysburg of the West’ because it was one of the largest to be fought west of the Mississippi River, with more than 30,000 soldiers involved.

The Union forces outnumbered the Confederates, and their victory forced Price to retreat, ending the last significant Confederate operation west of the Mississippi.

Price had led his troops into Missouri in September, with the hope of capturing the state and turning it against Abraham Lincoln in the presidential election of 1864. He was headed for St. Louis, but changed his plan after failing to overcome a small Union force in the Battle of Pilot Knob in the southeast part of the state.

Instead, Price turned his 12,000 men west to threaten Jefferson City. After light skirmishing there, Price continued west with a force that had been reduced to 8,500 by battle casualties, disease and desertion.

After battles at Lexington and Independence, Price approached Kansas City to find Curtis’s Army of the Border blocking his way, while Maj. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton’s cavalry division was closing on his rear.

Price chose to attack Curtis and, during a four-hour battle, his men hurled themselves at the Union forces to no avail. Unable to break the Union lines, Price retreated south.

Although never capturing Price or the tattered remnants of his “Army of Missouri,” the Battle of Westport rendered Price incapable of mounting future operations in the state.