First combat west of the Mississippi
The village of Hampton, Va., is burned by Confederate troops Aug. 7, 1861 to impede its seizure by federal forces from Fort Monroe, the Union-held fortress used to blockade Virginia's lower Chesapeake Bay. Confederate Col. John Bankhead Magruder ordered the burning after months of wrestling with Union foes for control of Virginia's southeastern coastal approaches to Richmond, capital of the Confederacy. Accounts state Magruder came to believe the Union planned to quarter troops and escaped slaves in Hampton and quickly ordered fires lit. The Philadelphia Inquirer later described "a forest of bleak-sided chimneys and brick houses tottering and cooling in the wind, scorched trees and heaps of smoldering ruins." Days later on Aug. 10, 1861, Union forces met with their second major defeat after First Bull Run — at Wilson's Creek in Missouri. The first major battle west of the Mississippi River also killed the first Union general in combat, Nathaniel Lyon. Though Missouri had voted to stay in the Union, Gov. Claiborne Jackson continued to advocate secession. He refused a federal call to supply regiments for the Union and plotted to seize the federal arsenal at St. Louis. Learning of the plan, Lyon had most of the weapons secretly moved, futilely sought to resolve differences with Jackson and later pursued rebel forces into southwestern Missouri. Lyon's surprise attack on Confederates at Wilson's Creek began strongly but lost momentum amid bloody charges and countercharges as his forces finally withdrew, outnumbered. One Confederate general, N.B. Pearce, later wrote his troops under gunfire showed "no signs of wavering or retreat." The state — prized by both sides for abundant resources and proximity to the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, saw much fighting in years to come.