Where is it?
Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield is located at 5242 S. State Hwy ZZ,
The park features:
- Visitor center with gift shop
- Self-guided auto tour
- Hiking and horseback riding trails
- Civil War research library – by appointment only
When using Google Maps for directions to this park, be sure to use the address above in Republic, Missouri. This public service announcement is brought to you by our wild goose chase through Springfield, Missouri’s industrial district.
Here is a link to the park’s website: Wilson’s Creek
Why is Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield significant?
The Battle of Wilson’s Creek, which took place on August 10, 1861, was the second major battle of the Civil War and the first battle west of the Mississippi River. Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon was killed in the battle and was the first Union general to die in action in the Civil War. Confederate troops, who outnumbered the Union troops by almost double, won the battle giving the Confederacy control of southwestern Missouri.
Trivia: Nearly as many men died in Civil War prison camps as died in the Viet Nam War.
Did the battle at Wilson’s Creek result in Missouri’s secession?
No, although the state remained deeply divided throughout the Civil War. While some Missourians wanted to secede from the Union to join the pro-slavery Confederate States, others chose to side with the pro-abolitionist Union. Missouri, according to Wikipedia, “…sent armies, generals, and supplies to both sides, maintained dual governments, and endured a bloody neighbor-against-neighbor intrastate war within the larger national war.”
The Ray House
An excerpt describing the Ray family and their house from the National Park Service’s wayside information board:
“The Ray House is the only park structure on its original site that dates back to the Battle of Wilson’s Creek. Postmaster and farmer John Ray built it in the 1850s. For ten years it served as the Wilson’s Creek Post Office, a stopping place on the old Wire Road that connected Springfield, Missouri with Fort Smith, Arkansas. In 1861, twelve people were living here: John and Roxanna Ray, their nine children, and a mail carrier. Their slave “Aunt Rhoda” and her four children occupied a small cabin to the rear of the house. On August 10, 1861, they found themselves in the path of war.”
The Ray family used the cool springhouse as a place to store perishable foods, and it also provided them with water. Their house served as a Confederate field hospital during and after the battle. Water from the springhouse was vital to the wounded soldiers as well as to the surgeons tending to their injuries.
Trivia: Senator John J. Crittendon of Kentucky had two sons who became generals during the Civil War – one for the North and one for the South.
The Battle of Wilson’s Creek began and ended at Bloody Hill. Union soldiers managed to hold their ground for a while, but they were dreadfully outnumbered. Finally, with a quarter of their men lost after five hours of courageous fighting, the Union soldiers were forced to retreat. Among the dead was their leader, Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon. Lyon was a fearless warrior though. He was shot in the knee and in the head, and his horse was also killed. Even after suffering two life-threatening wounds, he mounted another horse and continued to lead his men in the battle. A third and final shot to the heart was the mortal wound.
In the chaotic aftermath of the battle, Lyon’s body was somehow forgotten on the battlefield. Confederate soldiers found his body and took it to the Ray house where they placed it on a bed in their living room so a surgeon could assess the wounds. (The bed is on display in the park’s museum.) Lyon’s final resting place is in a family cemetery in Eastford, Connecticut, although he was initially buried on a farm in Springfield, Missouri. Click here to read some interesting personal recollections of Lyon’s post-mortem and first burial.
Trivia: The Gettysburg Address is one of the greatest and most famous speeches of all time, but it contained just 272 words and was only two minutes long.
Thank you for joining us on our visit to Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield!
Need more road trip inspiration? Click on these great destinations:
Antietam National Battlefield
Gettysburg National Military Park
Travel safe, and we will see you on the road.
Mike and Kellye
As always, we strive to be as accurate with our information as possible. If we made a mistake, it was unintentional. (Hey, we’re only human!) We aren’t paid for our recommendations, and we only recommend our own tried and true vendors and venues. Our suggestions are for places that we’ve heard good things about but haven’t visited personally, and our opinions are our own.
49 thoughts on “Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield”
It’s hard to imagine a war in your own yard, then casualties brought into the house! Fascinating history.
Thank you, Joy! I can’t even imagine…
Including disease but excluding civilians the Civil War killed more Americans than all other U.S. wars combined. That is a very interesting story behind the Ray house. Civilians often find themselves as innocent bystanders and victims of war.
They didn’t teach much about the Civil War when I was in school, but Mike and I are learning so much by visiting these parks. All part of trying to visit all 423 of the national park sites.
In 2018 I did a WWII Battle of the Bulge tour from Bastogne, Belgium. The guide witnessed the battle from his home. He was eight at the time. German soldiers slept in their house. His father was killed by artillery fire while getting water from their well. I imagine the Ray family had similar harrowing experiences to tell as first hand witnesses to the Battle of Wilson’s Creek.
Yes. It would’ve been terrifying.
Thanks for sharing! I always enjoy learning more about the history behind the places you visit!
Thank you, Vanessa!
I understand many families were divided by the war. Thanks for sharing!
So interesting to learn about the Civil War at Wilson’s Creek, such an interesting place to visit and I adore your photo of the thistle!
Incredible that these civil wars split families which happened with our 3 civil wars in 1140’s , 1450’s and 1642
Very informative. The Gettysburg Address is an amazing speech with such powerful words that live on today. Thanks for the history lesson, and the thistle photo is a real beauty.
Great piece Kellye and my second Civil War battlefield of the week following Grand Misadventures’ recent post on Stones River National Battlefield. Love the story behind Ray House and the fact that it still stands, what incredible heritage. I had never read the Gettysburg Address, it is indeed powerful and the brevity adds to that I think. Please check out this link the you have a moment: https://leightontravels.com/recommended-by-leighton-travels/
Aw, Leighton, I am so very honored to be included in your recommended/favorites post. As you know, you are one of my favorites too – at least I hope you know. I value your opinions, so I am going to follow the other bloggers you recommended that I didn’t know about until now. Hugs to you and Sladja. I wish safe travels for you as you leave Georgia and wherever your next adventure takes you. Cheers! (That’s a West Texan’s way of trying to talk British to you! – LOL) (This is a third try because my first and second comments on the “recommendations page” apparently didn’t post – gotta love WP!)
Cheers Kellye, spoken like a true Brit. 😉
I had never heard of this place except for some bits and pieces. Very interesting.
Such a terrible battlefield. We have ours here in Nova Scotia.
Thank you for reading, Anita!
Wonderful write up and history lesson. It’s hard to imagine being right in the middle of the Civil War!
Thank you, Lyssy! I can’t imagine having a terrible battle in my yard, then being overtaken by wounded and dying in my house!
Enjoyed this tour, which of course is chock-full of American history. I didn’t know much about the Civil War in the West – very interesting and informative.
Thank you, Bruce!
Wilson’s Creek is indeed a significant battlefield – places like this should not be forgotten (we have a few here in SA ourselves). Thanks for sharing the history with us.
It’s our pleasure! We look forward to following your posts!
And we look forward to yours!
I had a notification that you ‘liked’ my comment but I don’t see the comment here. I hope you did indeed get it? I had been speculating how Aunt Rhoda felt about the battle being fought on her doorstep, and about the Union defeat. I’m guessing no one asked for her views 🙁
I’m having trouble getting my comments to post. I think my reply was that the enslaved people had no voice at all – such a sad era…
Very true. And at least this comment thread has worked!
These places are always so thought provoking – I love the delicate thistle; little spots of beauty at a site which has seen many horrors.
Thank you, Hannah!
I had never heard of this battlefield before! Putting that on my list next time I go to Missouri. These battlefields are always so moving to visit.
The museum in the visitor center at Wilson’s Creek is worth the visit alone. I think they’re refurbishing an antebellum mansion next to the park to house the museum in the future.
I never knew that nearly as many men died in Civil War prison camps as died in the Viet Nam War. I can’t image what it was like to find all those dead bodies on their land. Thank you for a great history lesson! 💕
Thanks for reading our post, Diane!
I like reading posts and learn things. Thank you for sharing this piece of history.
Thanks for reading, Melodie!
Great information. I never think of Missouri when I think of the Civil War yet I did know they had populace on not sides. Nice to learn something new! Lori
Thank you, Lori!
This is some really sad history especially having to witness it right in front of you. Thank you for sharing this information and for the vivid pictures that always accompany your great work!
Thank you, J.
An interesting, and sad piece of history. I love your trivia notes! Always nice to learn something new. Happy travels! Christie, xx
Thank you, Christie!
History was never my favourite subject while in school, but I have more of an appreciation for it now as we travel. Visiting some of these historic sites like this one is a great way to learn more about our history, even the bad bits.
Thank you! I’ve always thought that students should get to defer history classes until they are at least 30. Then they will appreciate it much more. Traveling is definitely a learning experience for us.
Thanks for sharing this piece of history!
Thank you for reading our post, Vanya!
Hi. Great read. I visited this park many times when we lived near Springfield. Beautiful views, sad stories. I always thought the Ray house was unique. All alone up there on that hill.
Thank you, Jessica! We really enjoyed that park.