June and it is still raining here in the Ozarks. We had planned a day in Carthage and Joplin but it was pouring when we got up so we scratched that. Millie got out a quilt she has been working on and spent our days off sewing.
On the 11th, the lake was up, necessitating the closure of 28 of our campsites. We are hoping to have them back open by the 24th. With the Independence Day holiday coming up, we are pretty well booked up and some folks have reserved as much as 8 months in advance.
We got a nice day finally and visited Wilson’s Creek Battlefield National Park, located west of Springfield. The battle of Wilson’s Creek was fought on August 10, 1861; during the first year of the Civil War. Missouri was mainly a neutral state, but the governor at the time, Claiborne F. Jackson was a strong southern supporter.
A request for 4 regiments of troops by President Lincoln was refused by the governor, who ordered the state military units to seize Camp Jackson near St. Louis and plan for seizure of the U. S. Arsenal in St. Louis.
The arsenal’s commander, Capt. Nathaniel Lyon learned of the plan and had most of the weapons taken secretly to Illinois. On May 10, he marched on Camp Jackson, forcing surrender. He met with the Governor Jackson, trying to resolve their differences, without success. Lyon led troops up the Missouri River and occupied Jefferson City, the state capital.
Following an unsuccessful stand at Boonville, Governor Jackson retreated to southwest Missouri with the State Guard.
Lyon installed a pro-Union state government and moved to southwest Missouri. He had about 6000 soldiers encamped in Springfield on July 13.
The Missouri State Guard under Maj. Gen. Sterling Price was encamped 75 miles southwest of Springfield with 5000 troops. At the end of July his forces expanded to over 12,000 when troops under Generals Ben McCulloch and Nicholas Bart Pearce joined him.
A plan was made for McCulloch and Pierce to march northeast and attack the Union troops. At the same time, Lyon marched out of Springfield, hoping to surprise the Confederate troops. On August 2, Lyon discovered his troops were outnumbered and withdrew back to Springfield. The Confederates followed and camped near Wilson’s Creek on August 6.
Although he was outnumbered, Lyon decided to attack, leading 5400 soldiers out of Springfield on the night of August 9. Ironically, the Confederate leaders had also planned a surprise attack on the Union troops, but rain on the night of the 9th caused the cancellation of the attack, as McCulloch was afraid that the ammunition of his troops would be too wet to be used.
Lyon attacked on the morning of the 10th, driving the Confederates back and occupying a ridge that would be called “bloody hill”. The battle raged for 5 hours. General Lyon was killed that morning and command of the Union troops was turned over to Major Samuel Sturgis. At 11 AM, with their ammunition nearly gone, the Union troops withdrew back to Springfield.
Losses at the battle were heavy for both sides. The Union lost 1317 and the Confederates lost 1222. It is considered one of the bloodiest battles of the war, due to the number of casualties in proportion to the number of troops involved. The Southerners were unable to pursue the Northerners and Missouri remained under Union control.
The Wilson’s Creek battle marked the beginning of the Civil War in Missouri.
We visited the Visitor’s Center at the park and viewed a film on the battle. We also watched an excellent presentation with an electric map. Afterwards, we looked at the exhibits in the center, and then drove the auto tour route which makes a 5 mile loop to the major points on the battlefield.
Our first stop was the Ray house. It is the only surviving house in the park that was associated with the battle. The battle took place across from the house and was used as a field hospital by the Confederates. The small stone springhouse at the bottom of the hill was the family’s water source and is the only other wartime surviving structure.
We stopped at Bloody Hill and walked to the top of the ridge where the battle occurred. After our stop there, we continued out of the park and back to Springfield to have dinner and do some grocery shopping.
There is also a Civil War Museum associated with the park and we will go back there another day.
The rain continued for most of the month. One Sunday evening Patty received a call from the county sheriff’s office, telling her that we were in the path of a storm with strong winds. Dub made a run through the park to let our campers know that they should head for shelter. We packed up the girls in their carriers, grabbed a few necessary items and a flash light and drove to the shower house. Fortunately, the storm skirted around us and everyone was safe.
Two weeks later, we had a tornado warning and again packed up and headed to the bath house. We did have some rain and strong winds, but nothing serious. Even though these were false alarms, we were glad we had warning. When you live in a tin can you have to take notice of these warnings and be prepared.
Next month, more Park Hosting, George Washington Carver National Park and Fort Scott, Kansas.
Take care and we will see you again next month.
(Lots of new photos in the gallery, take a look. We couldn't link to all of them.)