None dared ignore the importance of the Missouri River. It was a valuable artery of commerce and strategically divided the state. The federal government moved to hold the river by stationing troops at various locations along its course. Lexington, a principal western city in a state with a strong Southern heritage, was one of these points.
On Sept. 12, 1861, Maj. Gen. Sterling Price arrived with advanced proportions of his Missouri State Guard. The size of Price's army was approximately 15,000. Awaiting him were 3,500 Union soldiers commanded by Col. James Mulligan of the Illinois Irish Brigade. His troops had been preparing for conflict by building a complex maze of pits and double-row trenches. Mulligan received orders to hold Lexington at all hazards. Although he knew Price had superior numbers and ammunition, Mulligan was confident that he would receive the reinforcements he had requested. To Price's ultimatum for surrender, Mulligan responded, "If you want us, you must take us…"
Through written histories and eyewitness reports by soldiers and citizens, students will be able to explain why Lexington was the focal point for conflict, analyze military tactics used during the battle, gain an empathetic understanding of the common soldiers and understand repercussions of the battle to both the North and the South.