The Battle of Dry Wood Creek (also known as the Battle of Big Dry Wood Creek or the Battle of the Mules) was fought on September 2, 1861 in Vernon County, Missouri during the American Civil War. The Missouri State Guard troops were successful in their campaign to force the Union Army to abandon southwestern Missouri and to concentrate on holding the Missouri Valley.
Following his victory at the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, Major General Sterling “Pap” Price and his Missouri State Guard occupied Springfield, Missouri. Price then headed northwest with 6,000 poorly trained and under-equipped guardsmen to capture Fort Scott, Kansas. Kansas “Jayhawker” and senator Colonel James H. Lane led a 600-man battalion of Union cavalry from Fort Scott to learn the whereabouts of the rumored Missouri State Guard force.
Lane’s battalion soon encountered Price’s men near Big Dry Wood Creek, roughly 12 miles from the fort. Lane surprised the Confederates, but the Southerners’ numerical superiority soon determined the encounter’s outcome. After a sharp skirmish lasting two hours, they forced the Union cavalry to retire to Fort Scott and captured their mules. Lane secured the fort, then proceeded towards Kansas City. The Missouri State Guard continued on towards Lexington, while Price recruited more guardsmen.
Federal losses were 14 men. Missouri State Guard losses were 4 killed and 16 wounded, all in Brigadier General James S. Rains’ Eighth Division, Missouri State Guard.
The battle site is just south of Deerfield, Missouri, on Highway 54 between Nevada and Fort Scott.