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.