When most people think of Missouri during the Civil War, I suspect that Boonville, Lexington, Carthage, Wilson’s Creek, Newtonia, Pilot Knob, as well as guerrilla warfare come fairly readily to mind. But what about the fight at Athens in northeast Missouri? On August 5, 1861, five days before the battle of Wilson’s Creek, elements of the Missouri State Guard led by Martin Green clashed with the First Northeast Missouri Home Guard commanded by David Moore. Confederates initiated the skirmish by attacking the Home Guard camp in Athens, located along the Des Moines River. Fighting lasted for several hours in the town of Athens until the State Guard retreated. Later, a portion of the 1st Northeast Missouri Home Guard became part of the 21st Missouri Infantry commanded by Colonel David Moore. Martin Green lost his life during the siege of Vicksburg.
This information is drawn from a well-done book, Skim Milk Yankees Fighting: The Battle of Athens, Missouri, August 5, 1861 written by Jonathan K. Cooper-Wiele and published by Camp Pope Bookshop. As the author points out, the town of Athens eventually became a near ghost town, and today what remains of the town is part of the Battle of Athens State Historic Site. I’m putting that on my list of places that I would like to visit. By the way, Cooper-Wiele helpfully points out that Athens is pronounced “Aythens”; I wish more authors would provide guides reflecting regional pronunciations.