During the first few months of the Civil War, the Home Guards were organized and consisted of seventy-five men. They were mostly miners and a floating population. They were under the command of Captain George French, Lieutenant Irwin K. Walker and Second Lieutenant Thomas Macklind. They kept their guns in Douglas Hall at the upper end of High Street where they made their headquarters. They called it the “arsenal.”
On Saturday morning, August 10th, 1861, Confederates had been hovering in the vicinity of Springfield Furnace, about six miles south of Potosi. They were commanded by Captain White of Fredericktown and the notorious Benjamin Talbot.
Many citizens thought from various indications that an attack on Potosi would be made Saturday night while the inhabitants were in bed. Instead, a charge was made before dark at about 6PM. Captain White strategically chose this time to attack while most of the Home Guards were at supper and others were out protecting the bridges. This left about 20 Union men guarding the arsenal. Captain White and his band of approximately 120 soldiers charged down the main street of Potosi, screaming the Rebel yell. They halted at Douglas Hall and fired upon it, wounding several of the Home Guards. Those that were at supper fled for safety. Captain White failed to capture the arsenal, however, as the Home Guards returned fire sending three volleys and wounding several of the rebels.
The Confederates fled in the direction of the depot with the Home Guards, even though greatly out-numbered, giving chase and firing upon them again.
A number of the rebels then fled north in the direction of Liberty Township and part south toward Bellevue Valley. The entire episode lasted about 20 minutes.
That small group of courageous Home Guards managed to kill two Confederates, one of them being William Holloman, wound three, including Dr. James Hill, and captured several of them – William Matthews and Mike Lynch. One of the rebel horses was killed and several others were wounded. The Home Guards also captured fifteen to twenty rifles, three navy revolvers and several Arkansas bowie knives that had been left on the field.
Of the Home Guards, Andrew Kearns was mortally wounded. He was shot through the shoulder. Alexander Fortune and and Mr Wilson were shot in the thigh. Ben Kendall, Mr Dekalb and Thomas Renfro were also wounded.
Troops were quickly sent to reinforce Potosi and other areas of Washington County.