About Wilson’s Creek Battlefield
Wilson’s Creek Battlefield was the site of the second major battle of the American Civil War. The Battle of Wilson’s Creek, also known as the Battle of Oak Hills, took place in Springfield, Missouri, on 10 August 1861. It was the first such conflict to take place west of the Mississippi River.
History of Wilson’s Creek Battlefield
At the beginning of the American Civil War, Missouri declared that it would be an ‘armed neutral’ during the conflict. After a number of events which led to tensions escalating, the Missouri State Guard was created, theoretically to defend the state from perceived threats on either side of the war.
Democratic Missouri governor Claribone F. Jackson outwardly supported the truce, but secretly requested that Confederate forces enter Missouri to ‘liberate’ Missouri from federal control. Unionists complained, and with the truce being undermined, a battle plan was formulated.
At Wilson’s Creek Battlefield, the Union Army of the West, led by Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon, was defeated by Brigadier General Benjamin McCulloch’s Confederate troops. Lyon was killed, which was the first Union general killed in action.
In spite of this victory, Missouri continued to be under Union control. The battle did, however, effectively give the Confederates control over southwestern Missouri, and buoyed up Southern sympathisers to the cause.
Wilson’s Creek Battlefield Today
Today, Wilson’s Creek Battlefield is a US National Park which includes a Civil War Museum and self-guided tours of the site. There is a 5 mile long self-guided tour which contains eight interpretative stops at significant locations. This tour includes a specially built pedestrian lane for walkers, runners, and cyclists.
On the site is The Ray House, which dates from the 1850s and served as a temporary field hospital for southern soldiers following the battle. It is also where General Lyon’s body was brought and placed in a bed for examination. The house is open between Memorial Day and Labour Day, though visitors should check opening time availability in advance.
There are also more extensive trails for biking and horse riding, and a creek – there’s a huge emphasis on outdoor activities at the site – as well as natural resources for children and adults alike to explore the site’s natural heritage alongside its bloody history.
Walking around the site is popular, with hiking trails varying in length from 1/4 to 3/4 of a mile.
Wilson’s Creek Battlefield is very well-preserved. Virtual tours are also available.
Getting to Wilson’s Creek Battlefield
From the centre of Springfield, Missouri, the site is reachable in around 20 minutes the via MO-413 S road.