When we go to Springfield for a doctor’s appointment, we try to schedule it early in the day so that we can have a chance to do other things while there. This time we chose to visit the Wilson’s Creek Battlefield – the site of the first Civil War battle west of the Mississippi. We took a picnic with us and as it was a hot, humid day – we could sort of visualize the heat of the day of the battle on August 10, 1861.
The National Park Service has re-created the movements and events that took place on that day in a movie shown in the Visitor’s Center. It was a moving account of one young soldier’s memories of his best friend – and encompassed the different movements of the Union and Confederate troops. Shown in re-enactment, the movie helped to make the history and people involved real to us. JuneBug and Bitty Bug climbed all over a cannon and thought it was neat until they saw the movie with cannons being shot. JuneBug asked me why cannons shoot people. How do you explain war to a 4 year old child? (The movie was not that graphic or explicit by the way!)
Then we followed the automobile trail to the various points and places that were strategic to the battle. Very interesting how much land is involved with artillery and infantry. The battle was fought in corn fields of a couple of families.
One was the Ray family, who owned 440 acres of fields, and whose home is the only original structure left from that time. You can tour inside it – what makes it interesting is that the family was told to hide during the battle, which they did. They huddled in a dark cellar room during the 6 1/2 hours of the battle. I can only imagine the terror of the children, huddled with their parents as cannon balls whistled and screamed in the air, only to hit the earth with resounding noise and terrible shaking and jolting. They were in the cellar – I would be willing to say that they could feel those jolts, the dust was probably hanging in the air of the little cellar after being knocked out of the floor boards above. There were 3 re-grouping pauses in the battle. I can hear them asking each other if it was over yet…and then the next whine, scream and thud of a ball would begin again.
After the battle was over, this family – who was already shaken up and scared to death came from that cellar to their porch – and with horror witnessed the scene of the main battle area on the hill right across the creek in front of their home. Over 500 men died on that hill – with wounded men everywhere. This family immediately turned their home into a hospital, carrying water from the creek to tend to the wounded and trying to minister to as many as they were able.
The hill is forever known as Bloody Hill from that fateful day. The Confederate Army lost 12% of their men, and the Union lost 24% of theirs, one of which was Brig. General Nathaniel Lyon. He was the first Union general to die in battle during the Civil War. (You can still see the family bed in the home where the body of Brig. General Lyon’s body lay until it was transferred by rail to Connecticut where his family was). As many of the dead bodies as possible were taken to Springfield and buried in the cemetery there, where you can go visit those graves. Missouri ranks third in the Civil War for the third most fought over state in the nation due to violent guerrilla war-fare by mounted raiders destroying anything military or civilian that could aid the enemy.
Today, Bloody Hill is a quiet place filled with the beauty of nature. We saw a Great Blue Heron in Wilson’s Creek, along with a doe and two fawns. We actually saw upwards of 10 deer, several with fawns. There are lots of wildflowers and birds.