Symposium Spotlight: Perception on Lesser-Known Battles

Ever entertain yourself by Googling history that you already know the answer to? Or try to test the public knowledge of a subject by seeing what comes up in an internet search?

It’s fascinating, and at least a couple of our editors are known to begin “taking the public history pulse” with this tool. So…what comes up with the keywords “Lesser-Known Civil War Battles”?

The top result when we searched one July night was an article on TopTenz, dating back to Sesquicentennial days. Still enlightening, here’s how they ranked “10 Decisive American Civil War Battles You Never Hear About.” 

10. Battle of Pea Ridge, March 7-8, 1862

9. Battle of Glorieta Pass, March 26-28, 1862

8. Battle of Malvern Hill, July 1, 1862

7. Battle of Perryville, October 8, 1862

6. Battle of Honey Springs, July 17, 1863

5. Battle of Olustee, February 20, 1864

4. Battle of Monocacy, July 9, 1864

3. Battle of Fort Stevens, July 11, 1864

2. Battle of Westport, October 23, 1864

1. Battle of Nashville, December 15-16, 1864

We’re thinking that many of you are familiar with these battles. And it’s surprising that Nashville ranked #1…

Now, we invite you to make your own list. What are the top-ten lesser-known battles/skirmishes of the Civil War? How do you define lesser-known? We’re getting ready some great discussion like this at the Symposium in just a couple weeks.

8 Responses to Symposium Spotlight: Perception on Lesser-Known Battles

  1. Shocked that Prairie Grove did not make the list. First because of its own obscurity due to the theater itself as well as the fact that each of the other theaters had major battles the same month (Fredericksburg, Stones River, & Chickasaw Bluffs). As far as decisiveness, the campaign featured perhaps the greatest forced march of the war & had profound strategic implications for the trans-Mississippi theater that even impacted the Vicksburg campaign.

  2. Port Gibson, with good intel, Pemberton could have moved a substantial force to defeat Grant who’s forces were not fully joined, and maybe saves Vicksburg. With the victory, Grant’s army was able to get fully south of Vicksburg, making the city’s capture inevitable.

  3. The list above is impressive, and one or two battles make my list, as well. There were thousands of battles and skirmishes during the Civil War, all of which were important to the participants (but most had insignificant impact on the ultimate outcome of the war.) My list includes “actions” that involved no fighting, but the result was significant:
    10 – Raid at St. Albans VT 19 OCT 1864 (most northerly land battle of the war); 9 – Battle of Iuka 19 SEP 1862 (US Grant falsified his Report of the Battle to reward Ord and punish Rosecrans); 8 – Battle of Blue Mills Landing 17 SEP 1861 (Failed Union attempt to stop over 60 wagons full of supplies reaching Rebel forces besieging Lexington MO); 7 – Siege of Lexington MO 12 – 20 SEP 1861 (botched efforts and miscommunication resulted in Union surrender of forces to Price); 6 – Battle of Pea Ridge ARK 7 – 8 MAR 1862 (Curtis drives Rebels away from SW Missouri, helping secure the State for the Union); 5 – Occupation of Columbus KY by Rebels under Polk 3 SEP 1861 (Polk jumped the gun and invaded neutral Kentucky; the resulting strong position overlooking the Mississippi River possessed over 140 guns and became known as “Gibraltar of the West”); 4 – US Grant occupies Paducah 6 SEP 1861 (Moving a few days after Polk, Grant spoiled the Rebel effort to form a strong line of defence along the natural boundary of the Ohio River, while securing a staging site to launch attacks against Forts Henry and Donelson); 3 – Night Raid on Santa Rosa Island 8/9 OCT 1861 (possibly the first night infantry action of the war, Braxton Bragg sent over 1000 picked troops to harass Billy Wilson’s 6th New York and test the defences of Fort Pickens; Bragg’s night-fighters were next available at Battle of Shiloh, but…); 2 – Battle of Forts Jackson and St. Philip 18 – 28 APR 1862 (Farragut and Porter take aggressive action against Rebel forts and gunboats, resulting in capture of the South’s largest city, New Orleans); 1 – Benjamin Butler lands his Massachusetts troops at Annapolis 22 APR 1861 (this unexpected, bloodless action by Butler saved the Naval Academy and the USS Constitution, and secured the National Capital at Washington.)

  4. Just for the heck of it, how about the Battle of Mill Springs? It was the first Union victory, got George Thomas’ Civil War career started off on the right foot, and put the CSA “behind the 8 ball” in Kentucky, which would remain the case for the duration.

    1. I agree. Mill Springs is one of the under-appreciated Union victories, in that it put Albert Sidney Johnston on the back foot. Subsequent events derailed General Johnston’s intention to “secure Kentucky, and fight in Missouri.”

  5. Arizona’s Battle of Picacho Peak. Some of the remains of the men killed there now reside in California’s Presidio Cemetery.

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