Clark Mountain Musings

Friday, December 30, 2005

The Story of Fort Benton in Patterson, Missouri

Patterson, MO is south of Sam Baker State Park and is located 7 miles east of Piedmont.

Fort Benton is a Civil War Fort, built by Union troops on the hill behind the old school in Patterson, Missouri, between 1861-1863. The Fort measures about 150 feet square and is similar to Fort Davidson in Pilot Knob. The internal packed earth walls may have been 5 foot high using 2 inch thick vertical planks on the inside. Outer walls were of packed earth, about 5 feet high and 5 feet thick. Gunny sacks filled with earth topped the wall (or parapet).

Along the inner walls steps led up to platforms, where riflemen knelt to fire. The powder magazine, a wooden roofed dirt cellar, may have been Northeast of the center of the Fort.A Short History About Fort Benton - Though Wayne County was always pro-Confederate, the Union army established the first outpost and telegraph line between the Arkansas border and Pilot Knob in the strategic area in Wayne County known as 'Patterson Valley'.

They used a hill south of their headquarters as a lookout point. They could survey the valley in all directions. The soldiers named it 'Fort Hill'. In 1863, Federal Brigadier General William P. Benton oversaw completion of the fort at Patterson. Afterwards, it was named Fort Benton. The Union Headquarters at Patterson served as dispatch center for orders from Fort Davidson and Barnesville. Sometimes there were thousands of troops quartered in the parade grounds.

There were two battles at the fort; the first in April of 1863, the second in September of 1864.The First Raid - In his report, Confederate General Marmaduke said his command consisted of 5,000 men, 8 old pieces of field artillery and 2 light mountain pieces. Of the 5,000 men, only 3,800 were armed. Their arms consisted of shotguns and Enfield, Mississippi or squirrel rifles. Marmaduke planned to capture the regiment at Patterson and then strike Bloomfield. Four days before the battle, Federal General Davidson had telegraphed Federal Colonel Edwin Smart at Fort Benton to fall back to Pilot Knob if attacked in force.

So, when part of Marmaduke's command disobeyed instructions for a silent approach and used artillery, Smart, hearing the cannon, quickly loaded his wagons with weapons and equipment and escaped to Pilot Knob. Marmaduke took the fort, but later returned to Arkansas leaving the Union Army in control of Wayne County.The Second Raid - Confederate General Shelby in his report says: "I pushed on then rapidly for Patterson,...and on the morning of the 22nd., I surrounded and charged in upon the town. It's garrison, hearing of my advance, retreated hastily, but not before many were captured and killed, and some supplies were taken.

All the government part of Patterson was destroyed, together with its strong and ugly fort."The dead were buried in unmarked graves in the Northeast corner of the Patterson cemetery. The local story is that on the night of September 22nd., men in tattered gray uniforms, local citizens, and men in new blue uniforms met in the woods and traded news - most of it bad. The next day, men of both the blue and the gray rejoined their units and marched to their deaths in the holocaust at Pilot Knob.

(The prededing excerpts come from the pamphlet "Who Can Save Fort Benton", for the Fort Benton Project and sponsored by the Wayne County Historical Society.)

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