Sterling Price - Facts

September 20, 1809 - September 29, 1867

Key facts about Sterling Price, an antebellum governor of Missouri, United States Congressman, and prominent Confederate commander in the Western Theater of the American Civil War.

Portrait of Sterling Price

On May 12, 1861, Sterling Price negotiated an agreement with Union General William S. Harney, known as the Price-Harney Truce. [Wikimedia Commons]

Full Name:

  • Sterling Price

Birth Date:

  • September 20, 1809

Birth Location:

  • Prince Edward County, Virginia


  • Pugh Williamson Price and Elizabeth (Williamson) Price


  • Hampden–Sydney College


  • Farmer
  • Merchant
  • Military officer
  • Politician

Career Summary:

  • U.S. Congressman
  • Missouri Governor
  • Brigadier General (USVA – Mexican-American War)
  • Major General (CSA)


  • Martha Head (1833)


  • Old Pap

Place of Death:

  • St. Louis, Missouri

Date of Death:

  • September 29, 1867

Place of Burial:

  • Bellefontaine Cemetery, St. Louis, Missouri


  • Sterling Price was the third son and the fourth of five children of Pugh Williamson Price and Elizabeth (Williamson) Price.
  • Sterling Price was educated in local schools before attending Hampton-Sydney College in 1826 and 1827, where he studied law.
  • In 1831 Sterling Price accompanied his family when they relocated to Fayette, Missouri. A year later, Price moved to Keytesville, where he eventually became engaged in several commercial enterprises, including tobacco farming.
  • On May 14, 1833, Sterling Price married Martha Head, daughter of Judge Walter Head who had also emigrated from Virginia to Missouri. Their marriage produced seven children, five of whom lived to adulthood.
  • Sterling Price’s political career began when Chariton County voters elected him to the Missouri General Assembly from 1838 to 1840 and again from 1840 to 1844.
  • Missouri voters elected Sterling Price to a six-year term in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1844. He was seated from March 4, 1845 until August 12, 1846 when he resigned to volunteer for service in the Mexican-American War (1846–1848).
  • During the Mexican- American War Sterling Price was commissioned as a colonel and was assigned to occupation duty in New Mexico, where he was named military governor.
  • In January 1847, Sterling Price suppressed a rebellion of Native Americans and Mexicans known as the Taos Revolt.
  • On July 20, 1847, Sterling Price was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers.
  • In 1848, Sterling Price led an unauthorized expedition into Mexico and occupied the city of Chihuahua after a victory over Mexican forces at the Battle of Santa Cruz de Rosales (March 16, 1848).
  • After a brief stint as military governor of Chihuahua, Sterling Price mustered out of the volunteer army on November 25, 1848.
  • After the Mexican-American War, Sterling Price returned to Missouri where he was elected as the state’s governor in 1852. During his four-year term from 1853 to 1857, Price supported the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which endorsed the concept of popular sovereignty to resolve the growing national controversy over the expansion of slavery into the territories.
  • Sterling Price speculated heavily in the construction of the Chariton and Randolph County Railroad Company and as a result was nearly ruined during the Panic of 1857, which hit the railroad industry especially hard. Price averted complete financial disaster when political allies secured him a position as state bank commissioner.
  • In March 1861, Sterling Price presided over Missouri’s Secession Convention, which opted to remain in the Union despite the secessionist leanings of Governor Claiborne Jackson.
  • Sterling Price changed his position regarding secession after Federal Captain Nathaniel Lyon paraded captured members of the Missouri State Guard through the streets of St. Louis on May 19, 1861, inciting a riot that resulted in the death of twenty-eight civilians.
  • In May 1861, Missouri Governor Claiborne Jackson, placed Sterling Price in charge of the Missouri State Guard, with the rank of major general.
  • On May 12, 1861, Sterling Price negotiated an agreement with Union General William S. Harney, known as the Price-Harney Truce.
  • Sterling Price took part in the Confederate victory at the Battle of Wilson’s Creek on August 10, 1861.
  • Sterling Price commanded the Confederate victory at First Battle of Lexington (also known as the Battle of Hemp Bales) on September 11, 1861.
  • Sterling Price took part in the Confederate defeat at the Battle of Pea Ridge (March 6–8, 1862).
  • Sterling Price was wounded in the arm during the Battle of Pea Ridge (March 6–8, 1862).
  • Sterling Price was commissioned as a major general in the Confederate Army on March 6, 1862.
  • Sterling Price took part in Major General P. G. T. Beauregard’s unsuccessful defense of Corinth, Mississippi, during the spring of 1862.
  • During a quarrelsome meeting with Sterling Price in 1862, Confederate President Jefferson Davis rejected Price’s request that he and his men be allowed to take the war back to Missouri. Price threatened to resign his commission, but Davis convinced him to stay on.
  • Major General William S, Rosecrans’s Army of the Mississippi, defeated Sterling Price’s forces at the Battle of Iuka on September 19, 1862.
  • Sterling Price took part in Confederate Major General Earl Van Dorn’s failed attempt to recapture Corinth, Mississippi at the Second Battle of Corinth (October 3–4, 1862).
  • In March 1863, Sterling Price was reassigned to Arkansas, commanding a division in Major General Theophilus Holmes’s District of Arkansas.
  • Sterling Price took part in Major General Theophilus Holmes’s failed attack on federal fortifications at Helena, Arkansas, on July 4, 1863.
  • After the Battle of Helena, Sterling Price assumed command of all Confederate forces in Arkansas.
  • Sterling Price abandoned Little Rock, Arkansas to Major General Frederick Steele on September 11, 1863.
  • Reinforced by General Kirby Smith, Sterling Price defeated forces commanded by Major General Frederick Steele during the Camden Expedition in the spring of 1864.
  • On September 19, Sterling Price led 12,000 cavalrymen on a raid into Missouri. A little over six weeks and a dozen or more battles later, Price limped back into Arkansas with only 6,000 survivors.
  • As the Civil War wound down in the spring of 1864, Sterling Price led some of his men into Mexico, hoping to establish a Confederate colony south of the border.
  • In 1867, Sterling Price returned to Missouri, impoverished and in ill health.
  • Sterling Price died in St. Louis, on September 29, 1867.
  • Sterling Price’s funeral, held at the First Methodist Episcopal Church, on October 3, 1867, was one of the largest in St. Louis history.

Citation Information

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  • Article Title Sterling Price - Facts
  • Date September 20, 1809 - September 29, 1867
  • Author
  • Keywords Sterling Price
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date June 13, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update January 12, 2024