Skirmishing broke out that afternoon near Ironton with Union forces rallying to push back the rag-tag Confederate troops of Major General James Fagan. That night the Union forces withdrew into town, and late that night Major James Wilson and Captain William Campbell went out to learn the enemy’s strength.
They started counting campfires. There were hundreds, and the truth dawned. Sterling Price’s entire army was camped in the Arcadia Valley of Missouri, readying an all-out attack on Wilson’s small unit and fort. Wilson and his men would be outnumbered ten to one the next day, fighting a desperate rebel army. In Price’s attack the next afternoon, a tragic page in the history of the war was written in twenty minutes at Pilot Knob.