Despite Missouri being in the middle of a cold snap, we decided to venture out at the beginning of the month to visit Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield. Not only did we want to get out of the house for some adventure/fresh air, we also know that our time before the boys come is limited and we want to get those stamps in our passport books.
Wilson’s Creek is considered the second major battle of the Civil War and the first major battle west of the Mississippi River. It’s also one of the best preserved battle fields (or so they claim). Wilson’s Creek was the perfect location to visit with a small child and as a pregnant woman because it’s a driving loop that has various stops along the way. That meant that we could get out and walk around if we wanted, or we could sit in the warm car and read from our brochure about each stop on the tour.
We chose to get out and walk the mile loop for Gibson’s Mill Trail. It leads to a site along a little river that had once been the mill for the area. E loved running through the woods ahead of us, and it was nice to let her go without having to run after her or worry about cars. We did have to carry her a few times, but that’s to be expected with a toddler. I wish there had been someone to carry me, because I could feel the boys getting lower and lower the more we walked. (Third trimester problems)
The second stop was the home of the postmaster, so we got out and walked a few yards to see that as well. Unfortunately, the house isn’t open to the public, but we were able to look in the windows and see how the house would have been during the time of the Civil War.
After our second stop, E passed out in the car (and this mama was not into walking anymore), so we just read the signs at each stop-off point. To be honest, the first three seemed to be the only ones that had something physical to see. The rest of the points were mostly “at this point such and such a thing happened in the battle”. I didn’t feel like we were missing out much by not leaving the car.
One of the things that I found so crazy about Wilson’s Creek is that the post master (who’s house was still on the land) watched the battle from his front porch! Scary to think that a battle in a major war could be so close that you would choose to just pull up a chair. There wasn’t much the post master could do anyway, but I just cannot even imagine what his family must have been going through to live through that.
Generally, I like battlefields that have a walking tour, but I was really happy with the layout of Wilson’s Creek. There’s no way E or I could have walked more than a mile or so and the despite the sun being out, it was still pretty chilly. However, there are a total of 7 miles of hiking and horseback trails as well as a bike lane, so there’s a lot for those who like to get in a good workout. We saw quite a few runners on the 2.8 mile driving loop. We’ve been to quite a few of the battlefields in the NC/SC area, and this one had the most land available for recreation by far!
There was also a really great display inside the visitor center that explained a lot about this battle. You can read more about the history here if you’re a history nerd like me! Even though Missouri was loyal to the Union, the state’s governor refused to send troops to support the Union and told his militias to seize the arsenals. However, the commander of the arsenal (Caption Nathaniel Lyons) secretly had all the guns and ammo moved across the Mississippi River to Illinois. In a matter of months, he was promoted from Captain to Brigadier General (can you even imagine that happening in today’s army?!)
Another interesting thing is that both sides considered this battle a victory. Despite the death of General Lyons, the Union considered the battle a victory, because Missouri remained loyal to the Union. The South considered it a victory because they actually won the battle and it was a huge morale booster for the Confederate troops. Missouri became the third most fought after state during the Civil War. I could go on and on (again, history nerd), but I’d like you to come back and visit my page again 🙂
This is a great National Historic Site to visit. If you are military, it’s free with your ID, and it’s only a few dollars to pay to access the loop by car (I think free if you walk or bike it). It’s also quite close to Springfield, so you can definitely see the Battlefield in the morning and then enjoy all Springfield has to offer in the afternoon. A perfect day trip in my opinion!
Have you been to Wilson’s Creek? What’s your favorite National Park/Monument/Battlefield to visit?