Local historian Marvin Wilhite gave an account of the battle between the Confederate troops of then Col. Joseph Shelby and the Union forces under the command of Gen. Egbert Brown.
Wilhite shed some light on the myths surrounding the battle, using a combination of accounts, including official Union and Confederate records.
When the battle took place in Oct. 13, 1863, Marshall consisted of just a few streets and only 200 permanent residents. The battle took part near today's Eastwood Street, which at that time wasn't part of the town.
"All those houses from Odell, with the exception of two or three farm houses, weren't there," he explained.
Shelby's raid into Missouri started Sept. 22, 1863, from Arkansas. He came through the southwest corner of Missouri and traveled through Warsaw, Tipton, Otterville and Boonville.
"From Boonville he started to run from the Union Army," Wilhite said. "By that time they had caught up with him."
After a small skirmish near Jonesboro (now Napton), Shelby's men camped out about three miles east of Marshall.
Egbert sent two units to Marshall at about 3 a.m. on Oct. 13. Shelby's troops started at daylight and headed toward town. The Confederates met Union pickets when they reached an area now known as Montague Hill.
"He thought he was surrounded by thousands and thousands of soldiers," Wilhite explained. "He thought Brown with 4,000 soldiers was behind him and he thought the ones in front of him, that he was running into their pickets was Ewing with 4,000."
Shelby had about 1,400 men, said Wilhite, adding various accounts have put the number from 800 to 2,500 troops.
In actuality there were about 700 men in front of Shelby and about the same behind him, Wilhite explained.
Much of the actual fighting took place in an area near where Eastwood School is located today. Hazelnut brush, ditches, gullies and trees gave soldiers plenty of places to hide.
"The Eastwood that you are looking at today, was not the Eastwood Street that existed back then," he said. "It's not the nice, smooth street."
In the end, seven Confederate soldiers died, while no Union soldiers were lost. About 21 Confederate soldiers were captured and imprisoned, although most escaped within three or four weeks.
During the battle, Gen. Brown went up to observe troops from the rotunda of the courthouse. Wilhite said several cannon balls were shot into Marshall and hit the Presbyterian Church, Flynn's Grocery Store and a horse standing on the courthouse lawn.
"The account says as soon as this occurred, Brown got out of the courthouse, because I think Shelby was zeroing in on him and another shot or two and he would have probably hit him anyway," he said.
Eventually, Shelby realized he was surrounded and headed west toward Miami, but another Union force met them, dividing the Confederate troops in half.
"It was several days later before they were able to come back together," Wilhite said of Shelby's troops. "It looks like they came together down in Cedar County."
Prior to Wilhite's talk, Brian Ivlow exhibited and explained many of the weapons of the time. Ivlow is a member of the board of directors of Friends of the James Farm, the birthplace of Civil War guerrilla and outlaw Jessie James.
He displayed a long line of Civil War-era firearms, demonstrating how they were loaded and fired.
"In Missouri, a lot of the firearms used, because it wasn't so much an organized Army unit, were personal weapons, hunting guns, farm guns, shotguns, things like that," he said.
During a break between the two speakers, the large crowd was treated to food comparable to what Civil War soldiers lived on during the battle.
A scale replica of a Civil War era cannon provided by Marshall Public School Superintendent Ryan Huff was also on display.
Organized by the Marshall Cultural Council and sponsored by the Missouri Humanities Council, this event was the third event in a series, which leads up to Battle of Marshall re-enactment planned for Sept. 13-15 at Indian Foothills Park.
The next event will be Saturday, Feb. 9, at 1 p.m. at Windmill Gallery. Virginia Huston will present "Pennytown and the Lives of African Americans in Saline County," and Wilhite will lecture about "Temp Murray: A Post-Slavery Success Story." There will also be storytelling by Gladys Claire Coggswell.
Contact Marcia Gorrell at email@example.com