On Oct. 25, 1861 Maj. Charles Zagonyi led a spectacular cavalry charge against a much larger Missouri State Guard force defending Springfield. The bloody charge was the sole military action of the Frémont Campaign of 1861. While Zagonyi’s Charge yielded no strategic gains, it did garner nationwide publicity as a rare federal triumph in a bleak period marked by Union defeats at First Bull Run, Wilson’s Creek, Lexington, and Ball’s Bluff in Virginia.
Zagonyi led the personal bodyguard of Maj. Gen. John C. Frémont, who was moving with 38,789 soldiers toward Springfield, intending to take that city from the secessionists and crush the forces of Gen. Sterling Price. But as Frémont neared Boliver, Price was a full 100 miles away at Neosho. There were reports that Springfield was lightly defended by 300-400 State Guardsmen. Zagonyi sought and received permission to lead the bodyguard against the Springfield defenders.