Confederate Irregulars weakened the lower timbers of the 160 foot long bridge that crossed the Platte River on September 3rd 1861 on the Hannibal & St Joseph Railroad. There was no moon that night when the westbound train from Hannibal, Missouri headed for St Joseph, Missouri crossed the bridge. The supports gave way and the train, locomotive, and cars; including two passenger cars with about 100 passengers plunged 30 feet into the river. The dead, which number about 20, and injured were carried to the Patee House a luxury hotel in St Joseph, Missouri.
The Union Army in the area were ordered to hunt down the Irregulars and execute them. Confederate Major General Sterling Price protested this order stating that under the rules of warfare those captured should be treated as prisoners of war. He argued that the train was a military target because it carried Union soldiers. Union General Henry W Halleck replied that the Confederate Irregulars were "spies, marauders, robbers, incendiaries, guerrilla bands".