Celebrating Ozarks Freedom - Battle of Wilson's Creek

By Brett Martin | bmartin@kolr10.com

Published 07/04 2014 06:59AM

Updated 07/04 2014 07:02AM

REPUBLIC, Mo. -- This 4th of July, we're stepping back in time to take a look back at the history of a piece of land in the Ozarks .. where plenty of blood was shed and hundreds of lives taken...
KOLR10's Brett Martin spent time at the battlefield,  learning about what took place more than 150 years ago and the role it played in U.S. history.

August 9, 1861, Union Army General Nathaniel Lyon and his soldiers marched 10 miles southwest from Springfield.

Dennis Gibbons is a volunteer re-enactor at the battlefield.  "General Lyons forces, we all marched down here overnight, we left Springfield on the 9th, the evening of the 9th. We marched down here in the rain."
"General Lyon made the decision to come down here and invade and try a surprise attack on Confederate forces."

Lyon's forces met Confederate soldiers near sunrise on August 10.

Jeff Patrick, a Park Service ranger at the battlefield tells us; "Its fought under very miserable conditions, its a typical August day in Missouri so its very hot and very humid."
"The battle opened up on Bloody Hill at about 5:30," says reenactor Tom Anglin.
There were about 17,000 soldiers that fought here and that included 32 cannonmen," Gibbons adds.
"Its a very intense fight between the fighting in the Ray cornfield, the Sharp farm and on Bloody Hill, the battle is fought at close range," explains Patrick.

Fought on a hillside of farmland along the banks of Wilson's Creek.

"The fight in the cornfield with John Ray standing on the front porch watching, the battle at Bloody Hill was going on at the same time," says Anglin.

The battle between three sides... The Union, the Confederates and the Missouri State Militia.

"The Union, they were all blue, the Confederates most of them were all gray, the state guard was just whatever they wanted," says re-enactor Stubby Kyle.
"I am representing a Union regular army soldier, I would've been in the first regiment C company, which is what the insignia on my hat stands foot. I am an infantry man which means we marched everywhere we went," Gibbons says.
"They were just old farm boys that had their own belief and it didn't go with either one of them," Kyle says.

Missouri was a union state in government but a southern state in lifestyle.

"For the Confederates, they were unhappy with General Lyon. General Lyon had made the comment that he would rather see every man, woman and child in Missouri killed rather than let Missouri go to the Confederacy. That didn't make him a lot of friends among the populous in Missouri, even though the state had voted to stay in the Union," says Gibbons.

The Battle of Wilson's Creek lasted 6 hours and it started on top of Bloody Hill, four hours in the Union general was killed at the bottom of the hill, two hours after that the Union pulled back, and the battle was over."
"The Confederate started combing the battlefield looking for the wounded and stuff and they found General Lyons body," says Anglin.

Even between enemies, respect was high amongst soldiers.

"At this particular time, this was a Confederate hospital," Anglin says of the old Ray house.
"All their wounded soldiers that were laying on the floor, they gave General Lyons body the bed. After the battle, the Union soldiers were brought up to this home and they were treated equally by the surgeons."

With the death of Lyon and the retreat, gunfire ended and the south won but both sides paying a hefty cost.

"The Union army loses almost a quarter of its strength here where the southerns lose about 12 percent of their strength," Patrick says.
"534 died and depending on where you are reading or what you are looking at, there was anywhere bet 15-2,000 wounded," Anglin notes.

The second battle of the Civil War,  in the middle of nowhere, .was over.... but many more were to come.

"This was the second major battle of the Civil War and the first one west of the Mississippi river, most of the men that fought out here had never seen combat before and this was all brand new to them," explains Anglin.
"Missouri is number three on the list for having the number of battles, little over 400 of them," says Kyle.
"If Union forces are ever going to advance down the Mississippi and carry on the war, they are going to have to do something about Missouri and secure the state," Patrick says, about the critical role Missouri played in the war.

Learn more about the Battle of Wilson's Creek

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