Missouri and the nation are in the midst of marking the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. Battles will be re-enacted, books will come out, and everyone is having several opportunities to revisit history and learn how the war divided Missouri in an especially bitter and complicated way. Here are just 10 things to see and do.
|10 The Battle of Lexington re-enactment this weekend.||
This also is known as the Battle of the Hemp Bales. Confederate forces under Maj. Gen. Sterling Price marched on Lexington, where Col. James A. Mulligan commanded a garrison of about 3,500. There was a skirmish outside town on Sept. 13, 1861, after which Union troops retreated to town and Price waited for supplies and reinforcements. Price attacked on the 18th, gaining ground, and on the 20th his men made their final assault behind mobile breastworks – of hemp. Mulligan surrendered, and the battle helped consolidate Confederate control of the Missouri River valley west of Arrow Rock.
There are events all weekend downtown and at the Battle of Lexington State Historic Site – bus tours, a Chautaqua tent, a film festival, even a vintage baseball game. There’s a parade at noon downtown Saturday. The Anderson House will be open. The battle will be re-enacted from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Sunday. Many events are free. Call 866-837-4711 or go to VisitLexingtonMo.com.
|9 The Battle of Lone Jack.||
It’s a short drive, just east of Lee’s Summit on U.S. 50. Some 1,500 to 3,000 Confederate troops defeated 806 Union troops there on Aug. 16, 1862. A small museum tells the story clearly and completely. Coming up: “Walk With the Civil War Spirits” from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Halloween. Call 816-805-1815 or go to www.historiclonejack.org/.
|8 “Divided Loyalties: Civil War Documents from the Missouri State Archives."||
A traveling exhibit making its way around the state for the four-year duration of the sesquicentennial. In January through March 2012 it will be at the National Archives – Central Plains Region, 400 Pershing Road in Kansas City. More at www.sos.mo.gov/mdh/CivilWar/DividedLoyalties.asp.
|7 The driving tour of the Battle of Westport in Kansas City, the largest battle of the war fought west of the Mississippi.||
The battle was fought Oct. 21-23, 1864. Union forces held off attacks by troops under the command of Maj. Gen. Sterling Price, who had been trying to take control of the state. There were about 1,500 casualties on each side. The battle ended Price’s expedition, and Confederate forces in the state were in retreat after that point.
|6 Order No. 11 and other topics.||
“What Archaeology Can Reveal About General Order No. 11” is a presentation at 7 p.m. this coming Thursday at the Missouri State Archives, 600 W. Main St., Jefferson City. This is part of a Civil War speaker series. Ann Raab has done excavation work in Bates, County, one of the four counties – including Jackson County – where Gen. Thomas Ewing’s infamous Order No. 11 in August 1863 essentially depopulated rural areas, leading to widespread looting and destruction, as well as hard feelings that endured for generations. The presentation is free, and seating is first come, first served. Others coming up: “‘Bloody Bill’ Anderson’s Raids on the Lafayette County Germans” on Oct. 20 and “Lincoln and Citizens’ Rights in Civil War Missouri: Balancing Freedom and Security” on Nov. 10.
|5 First Battle of Independence.||
On Aug. 10, 1862, hundreds Confederate troops – including guerrilla leader William Quantrill – assembled in Blue Springs. At dawn the next day, they attacked Independence, moving through town to a Union Army camp of several hundred just off the Square to the west, killing and capturing some and scattering many. The commander of the garrison, Lt. Col. James T. Buel, tried to hold on to one building with about 150 men but was forced to surrender. It was the worst Union defeat in the area since Lexington a year earlier. There’s a marker on the south side of the Truman Courthouse in the middle of the Independence Square.
|4 Second Battle of Independence, October 1864, part of the Battle of Westport.||
Gen. Price had been sent to try to take over Missouri but was thwarted in his attempts to move on St. Louis, so he turned west toward Kansas City and then Fort Leavenworth, hoping to at least cause mayhem for the Union. His forces won a fight in Lexington and moved on west. A federal force defeated at Lexington had dropped back to the Little Blue River and set up defenses on the west side, only to be ordered to come all the way to Independence – and then in less than a day was sent back to the river, where Price hit hard. The battle raged at several places, and some of the fiercest fighting was at what today are the Temple and Auditorium sites of the Community of Christ and the Truman Depot. There are half a dozen markers, starting with one on U.S. 24 at the Little Blue River and ending where Lexington, Crysler and Winner all come together just west of the depot.
|3 The Confederate Memorial State Historic Site in Higginsville, Mo.||
The Confederate Soldiers Home of Missouri opened in 1891, and more than 1,600 veterans and their families lived there. The last, John T. Graves, died in 1950 at age 108. Today, there are exhibits, a cemetery and a restored 106-year-old chapel. In April through September, the office and chapel are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. In October through March, the office is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and noon to 5 Sunday; the chapel is open by appointment only. Call 660-584-2853 or go to http://mostateparks.com
|2 Hit the road, read up on history.||
Stand at the battle site in Vicksburg, Miss., and look down to the Mississippi River, and you’ll understand the challenge Gen. Grant faced in laying siege. Gettysburg, where 7,000 died in three days in July 1863, changed the direction of the war. Closer to home, the Battle of Wilson’s Creek near Springfield in 1861 led to more than 1,000 casualties on each side and gave Confederates control of southwestern Missouri, but it was the Battle of Pea Ridge in Arkansas seven months later that essentially secured Missouri for the Union. All are good to visit.
|1 Practice the golden rule of gardening: Patience.||
“A House Dividing,” an exhibit at the Missouri State Museum at the state Capitol. I took in this exhibit this week, and if you’re in the neighborhood of Jefferson City, it’s worth checking. It gets just a modest part of the overall Missouri State Museum – essentially the first floor of the Capitol – but relates how divided the state was, the complex decisions people faced and the toll the war took on families.
One prominent example: The state’s eighth governor, Meredith Miles Marmaduke, was a Democrat but strong Union supporter, while a son, John Sappington Marmaduke, became a Confederate general who fought, among other places, at the second Battle of Independence. (Twenty years after the war, he became Missouri’s 25th governor). The elder Marmaduke also lost two sons in the war.
One display lays out the math of the presidential election of 1860, revealing a good deal about Missourians’ conflicted attitudes and strong – but fruitless – desire to remain neutral. Four candidates were on the ballot:
Stephen A. Douglas, a Northern Democrat (favoring letting individual states vote on slavery and keeping Congress out of it), carried the state with 35.5 percent, but he took only 29.5 percent of the vote (and 12 electoral votes) nationwide.
John C. Breckinridge, a Southern Democrat (wanting the federal government to protect and extend slavery), came in second to Lincoln in electoral votes with 72 although he took just 18.1 percent of the vote nationwide and 18.9 percent in Missouri.