Words by Bob Dyer © 1993



Bob Dyer—guitar and vocal; Dave Para—guitar and vocal; Cathy Barton—hammered dulcimer, banjo and vocal; Lee Worman—border pipes; Lloyd Hicks—drums

This original song by Bob Dyer is set to a popular old tune known at the time of the Civil War and called variously “Napolean Crossing the Alps” or “Napolean Crossing the Rhine.” The song tells the story of General Sterling Price's last attempt to take Missouri back from the occupying Union Army in the fall of 1864. As the song says, Price marched out of Arkansas with eight ragged brigades totalling about 12,000 men, led by some of his most competent generals, including Jo Shelby, James S. Fagan, John S. Marmaduke and the “Swamp Fox,” Jeff Thompson. He hoped many more Missouri boys would join him as he marched through the State, but this hoped for support (part of which he imagined to be members of a shadowy Confederate underground sometimes known as the “Knights of the Golden Circle”) never really materialized.

Some observors believe that Price's leadership and tactical skills had deteriorated by this point in time, and it certainly seems that he made several grievous tactical errors during the raid, including the disastrous mistake of attacking Fort Davidson near Pilot Knob, Mo., soon after entering the state. This small garrison defended by a token force under the command of the hated Union General Thomas Ewing, was surrounded by a deep ditch that proved the downfall of several waves of attacking Confederates. Price lost more than a thousand men in this battle and his losses forced him to rethink trying to take St. Louis.

He turned west and made a feint at Jefferson City, but the defenses there were strong and Price got word that he was being pursued by General Alfred Pleasonton so he continued west through Boonville, Glasgow, Marshall and Lexington, crossing the Little Blue River and confronting a formidable army under Union General Samuel Curtis at Westport near Kansas City.

This battle, in which Price was outnumbered by at least two to one, resulted in a resounding defeat and Price was forced to retreat south along the Kansas and Missouri border into Texas. Bushwhacker leaders George Todd and Bill Anderson were killed just prior to the battle, and in the retreat that followed General Marmaduke was captured. The defeat marked the end of any serious Confederate resistance in the West.

The song is followed by Dave and Cathy's own instrumental version of the popular Civil War song, sung primarily by Southerners during the war, “The Yellow Rose of Texas.” This song, like “Dixie,” was a product of the Northern minstrel shows and was apparently written and published in 1853 by an author identified only as J.K. As with a number of other popular Civil War songs, this one too was widely parodied.

In the fall of 1864 Price made his final raid.
He came marching out of Arkansas with his ragged eight brigades.
With Shelby, Fagan, Marmaduke and the Swamp Fox, Thompson, too
He thought he'd take St. Louis from the Union boys in blue.
On his good grey horse, Bucephalus, Price led Missouri's sons
Through Fredericktown to Pilot Knob and grim Fort Davidson.
But there that devil, Ewing, made the rebel soldiers pay,
And Price lost 1500 men before he rode away.

So boys answer when we call; make our legions strong.
Knights of the Golden Circle come and join the Rebel throng.
We'll raise the banner high once more and give the rebel yell;
Come follow us to victory or march with us through hell.

Battered but not beaten Price was forced to change his plans,
He turned west toward Jeff City thinking there he'd make his stand.
But Pleasonton was after him, so Price kept moving on
Through Boonville, Glasgow, Marshall and on up to Lexington.
He marched toward Independence and he crossed the Little Blue,
Outflanking Blunt and Jennison and Colonel Moonlight, too.
But ahead of him was Curtis and behind was Pleasonton,
And Price was now outnumbered by more than two to one.

The days were turning colder and the trees were all aflame
When the last fierce fatal battle just outside of Westport came.
At Brush Creek and at Byram's Ford brave soldiers fought and died,
But the Union's greater numbers finally turned the bloody tide.
So Price limped south toward Texas and now all could sense the fate,
Not only of Missouri but of all the Southern States.
The war would soon be over, all the fighting would be done,
And Lincoln's cause of liberty would finally be won.

© Big Canoe Records, 1993