Archaeology of the first battle of Boonville, Missouri, June 17, 1861

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Title

From These Honored Dead: Historical Archaeology of the American Civil War


On June 17, 1861, over a month before the Battle of Bull Run, several thousand men fought a brief battle a few miles east of Boonville, Missouri. With its low cost in terms of human life and injury, the battle's strategic consequences far exceeded the scale of the engagement. The First Battle of Boonville pitted a force of Union soldiers against the newly formed Missouri State Guard. The myth of the battle is that the Missouri State Guard failed as a military unit and beat an ignominious retreat from the field that became derisively known as the “Boonville Races.” Archaeological investigations of the battle suggest the story is more complex than the historical record avers. The historical archaeology presented in this paper clarifies the battle events and their outcome.



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