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The Battle of Belmont: Summary & Facts

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  • 0:03 November 1861
  • 0:42 The Battle of Belmont
  • 2:10 Outcome of the Battle…
  • 2:58 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christina Boggs

Chrissy has taught secondary English and history and writes online curriculum. She has an M.S.Ed. in Social Studies Education.

You're probably familiar with famous Civil War battles like Gettysburg and Antietam, but how much do you know about the Battle of Belmont? This lesson explores main facts about this lesser known conflict.

November 1861

In the last few days of 1860, the United States was shocked by South Carolina's secession from the Union. The Southern state declared its independence, leading the charge for a number of other states in the South to follow. By April of 1861, the country was at war after shots were fired at Fort Sumter. While both the North and the South had begun to prepare themselves for battle, neither side was truly prepared for the struggles of civil war. At first, both sides struggled to claim a victory or make any sort of headway. In instances like the Battle of Belmont, it was unclear who the victor of the battle actually was.

The Battle of Belmont

In the first week of November 1861, Union Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant had a plan. With about 3,000 troops from Iowa and Illinois, he schemed to head down the Mississippi River by steamship, right into Confederate territory. At the time, Confederate General Leonidas Polk had a stronghold on the river that allowed the Southern army to control travel up and down the Mississippi. Polk suspected that Grant would attack and ordered his troops to sit on both sides of the river to defend their position.

On November 7, 1861, Grant and his troops made their way down the river, landing about three miles north of Belmont, a town in Missouri. Grant planned a two-prong attack. He sent General Charles Smith with a small detachment of troops to attack Paducah, Kentucky. Grant hoped that the assault on Paducah would confuse Polk and create a diversion. While Smith attacked Paducah, Grant and his troops made their way to Fort Johnson in Belmont.

Polk was no fool and quickly realized that Grant's main assault was on Belmont. At first, it seemed that Grant's troops had captured Fort Johnson. The Union soldiers had no problem defeating the Confederate troops stationed at Fort Johnson, as well as the 2,000 troops that Polk sent to reinforce the fort later that day. While in possession of the fort, Grant and his men looted or destroyed whatever materials they could get their hands on. Although Grant had assumed the Battle of Belmont was a Union victory, Polk was not done fighting. Five Confederate regiments arrived in Belmont, right as Grant and his men were ready to leave the area as victors.

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