Early in the Civil War control of the state of Missouri hung in the balance. Union and Confederate forces gathered near Springfield and both organized surprise attacks for the morning of August 10, 1861. Rain overnight caused Confederate General Sterling Price to cancel his plan, but Union General Nathaniel Lyon went through with his in the face of overwhelming odds. The strategy worked briefly but cost Lyon his life. Even though the Union army retreated that day, seven months later they prevailed during the Battle of Pea Ridge in northern Arkansas, successfully keeping Missouri in the Union.
Museum, film, driving tour, Ray House, cannons
Missouri stayed in the Union throughout the war despite the $10-million in property damage caused by guerrilla fighters, making it the third most fought-over state. Start your visit by watching a short film, then peruse the excellent museum before taking the five-mile driving route that provides an overview of the battle at eight interpretive stops. The paved road is heavily used by locals for jogging and biking, so drive carefully.
A portion of the infamous Trail of Tears crosses through this park following the route of the telegraph wire south towards Elkhorn Tavern in Arkansas’ Pea Ridge National Military Park. There are also hiking and equestrian trails through the park’s 1,926 acres.
Rebuilt at its original location, there is a reconstruction of the Ray House, which was used as a Confederate hospital. Nearby split-rail fences add to the bucolic ambiance.
$20 per vehicle or America the Beautiful pass
Paved, but gate closes tour road exactly at 5 p.m.
Within five miles there is a private campground near Interstate-44, plus a variety of state parks within an hour’s drive.
Pea Ridge National Military Park (Arkansas)
Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site (Missouri)
George Washington Carver National Monument (Missouri)
Explore More – How many Union soldiers were buried in the sinkhole near Totten’s Battery on Bloody Hill (then in 1867 were moved to a National Cemetery in Springfield)?