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The Civil War in Missouri

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Located approximately 149 miles from Fayetteville, 165 miles from Kansas City, and 216 miles from both St. Louis and Little Rock, Springfield, Missouri played a pivotal role in the Civil War.

In fact, one of Springfield’s claims to fame—or infamy depending on how you look at it—is that two of the Civil War’s bloodiest battles took place in Springfield: The Battle of Springfield and the Battle of Wilson’s Creek. Today visitors can delve into the history of both of these battles at two popular tourist attractions named after these military conflicts.

The Battle of Springfield Driving Tour is a self-guided tour that takes you through some of the many places where, in January 1863, Union forces defended the area against Confederate attempts to control high-ground access and acquire supplies. Along the way, now marked by 12 historic markers, you can see where defenses were organized, injured soldiers were hospitalized, troops gathered supplies, homes were burned and people’s lives where changed forever.

As Civil War battlefields go, Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield is a beautiful 1,750-acre area that, with the exception of the vegetation, has changed little over the decades and remains in near pristine condition since the war was fought here, and was ultimately the scene of the death of Nathaniel Lyon, the first Union general killed in combat.

Before heading out into the breathtaking vastexpanse, check out the Visitors Center for an historic overview of what this battle meant to the war effort. Avid Civil War and history buffs will appreciate the extensive Civil War research library here as well.

Just north of the Visitor Center is the Wilson’s Creek Civil War Museum (formerly the General Sweeny Museum). Here you will find an outstanding and eclectic collection of artifacts relating to the Civil War conflicts fought west of the Mississippi, a wealth of historic photographs and documents, many of which have been digitized, and other exhibits.

To bring the history of the battlefield to life, be sure to traverse the 4.9 mile paved tour road by car, motorcycle, bicycle or on foot for a self-guided tour. Along the way, visitors will encounter eight interpretive stops at significant battle-related locations, each one with descriptive signage that wends a fascinating story.

On weekends you can also visit The Ray House, which served as a temporary field hospital for Southern soldiers following the battle beginning in the 1850s. The bed where General Nathaniel Lyon’s body was brought after he was wounded, period pieces of the day and antiquemedical instruments and accoutrement that you are invited to touch provide a more intimate viewpoint of all that happened here so long ago. Accessible from the tour road are also five walking trails and a seven mile trail system for hiking and horseback riding.

To learn more about Springfield, Missouri visit Springfield Missouri Travel & Tourism.

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