“Sterling Price”


"Sterling Price he was a brave man, He will clean out Dixie Land." "Sterling Price he marched to Lexington And there he took old Mulligan." "Sterling Price he wheeled his men about And cut the Dutch into sauerkraut" "Rinktum-polle-rodel-day."


Sterling Price (1809-1867), a former governor of Missouri and Confederate commander of Missouri troops, was not initially anti-Union, but the behavior of Union partisans caused him to turn Confederate.

Price started raising militia forces, and these formed the larger part, but not all, of the Confederate army at the Battle of Wilson's Creek. After the Confederates won that battle, Price was able to advance and capture the garrison of Lexington (some 3000 men under Mulligan, who could have been saved had any of the other local Union officers obeyed orders), but it didn't change the strategic situation much; Price retreated into Arkansas soon after.

Even allowing for its fragmentary state, this item is rather confused. As noted, Wilson's Creek came before Lexington. At that battle, the Union commander, Nathaniel Lyon, had tried a divergent attack, splitting off Franz Sigel's brigade (which was regarded as "Dutch," i.e. German) for an attack on the Confederate rear while the main body attacked from the other direction.

This strategy failed. Sigel was quickly routed, whereupon the remaining federal forces, outnumbered by something like 5:2, were forced into a slugging match. They were better soldiers than the utterly raw confederates, and so were able to keep the field until their ammunition ran out, but then retired.

The confusion, though, arises from the fact that it was the troops of Ben McCulloch (the other Confederate commander at Wilson's Creek) which routed Sigel. But I know of no other battle in which Price defeated a primarily German force, unless perhaps it was the affair at Carthage (July 5, 1861), where Price induced Franz Sigel to retreat without a real fight.

I have the strange feeling that "Old General Price" and "Sterling Price" are a single piece, one being adapted from the other -- but since we don't have a single complete stanza of either, and only one tune, this is beyond proof. - RBW

Historical references

  • Aug 10, 1861 - Battle of Wilson's Creek
  • Sep 20, 1861 - Capture of James A. Mulligan (1830-1864), then a colonel, and his force at Lexington

Cross references


  1. Belden, p. 355, "Sterling Price" (1 fragmentary text)
  2. Roud #7769
  3. BI, Beld355A


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1904 (Belden)
Keywords: Civilwar battle
Found in: US(So)