Fort Davidson

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Fort Davidson (1863-1864) - A Union U.S. Civil War Fort established in 1863 near Pilot Knob, Iron County, Missouri. Named Fort Davidson after General John Wynn Davidson . Attacked, abandoned, and destroyed on 27-28 Sep 1864.

Fort Davidson Interior.
Fort Davidson Powder Magazine Crater.
The path in the background is the entrance to the remains of the Fort Davidson earthworks which are covered with brush.


The fort was built in the summer of 1863 as a hexagonal earthwork lined on the interior with wooden planks and surrounded on the exterior by a dry ditch. Each side of the hexagon measured some 150 feet long. Armament included four 32-pounder siege guns and three 24-pounder howitzers en barbette. The fort was normally manned by local Union Militia and volunteer infantry.

In September 1864 Confederate Maj. General Sterling Price mounted a large cavalry raid into Missouri with an eye to creating enough havoc to divert Union troops from the fighting in the east and to perhaps capture St. Louis or other population centers. On his way to the St. Louis area, he decided to attack the weakly defended Fort Davidson. News of the impending attack of Fort Davidson reached Union General Thomas Ewing who then took two companies of Iowa troops to Fort Davidson to reinforce the garrison, bringing the strength up to about 1500 Union troops.

Battle of Pilot Knob Depiction from Museum Display.

On 27 Sep 1864, some 8,000 Confederates mounted an infantry attack on the fort supported by artillery in the surrounding mountains. Poor timing of the attacking Confederate brigades allowed the fort defenders to concentrate their fire on individual brigades as they came into range. The effect was devastating, only one Confederate brigade made it to the fort and it was driven back when the defenders rained hand grenades down on them when they reached the ditch. The attacking Confederates suffered 1,000 casualties in the 20-minute battle while the Union defenders suffered less than 100 casualties. The Confederates retired from the field and determined to renew the attack the next day.

Fort Davidson Defenses during the Battle from a Museum Display.

Overnight the Union forces abandoned the fort and blew up the powder stores. The next day General Price found the fort in ruins and the Union troops are gone.

Current Status

Battle of Pilot Knob State Historic Site Visitor Center & Museum.
Actual Confederate Cannon used in the Battle.

Earthworks still exist on the site of the Battle of Pilot Knob State Historic Site. Visitor Center & Museum.

Location: 118 East Maple, Pilot Knob, Iron County, Missouri.

Maps & Images

Lat: 37.61967 Long: -90.63998

  • Multi Maps from ACME
  • Maps from Bing
  • Maps from Google
  • Elevation: 961'

GPS Locations:

See Also:



Visited: 20 Jul 2021

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