Old Trails Region

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A Guide to Civil War History in the Old Trails Region

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An Early Battleground

Visit Key Battlefields from the Civil War’s First Years

 

In the tense months after the firing on Fort Sumter on April 14, 1861, it was an open question as to whether Missouri would stay in the Union or join the Confederacy. Federal forces and troops supporting secession clashed in several key battles in the

Old Trails Region.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Start in Boonville The First Battle of Boonville took place June 17, 1861. Though little more than a skirmish, it is considered by many to be the first battle of the Civil War. The rapid mobilization of Union forces surprised and defeated the secessionists, who abandoned the Missouri River and fled south. A historical marker and interpretive sign are located near 1216 East Morgan St. Boonville was also the scene of three other engagements during the War. Historic Thespian Hall was used as a hospital and barracks. Go west on I-70 from Boonville.

 

Just a few miles north of I-70 on Hwy K (Exit 89) is Blackwater. Bucksnort Trading Company here has Civil War era clothing and paraphernalia. Continue west on I-70 to Exit 49. Go north on Hwy 13 to Higginsville. Just north of town is the Confederate Memorial State Historic Site, once home to the Confederate Soldiers Home of Missouri. Visit the restored chapel and cemetery and learn about the role the Home played in post-Civil War Missouri.

 

Continue north on Hwy 13 to Lexington The Battle of Lexington, Sept. 17-19, 1861, was the third-largest battle of the War in 1861. Gen. Sterling Price and his Missouri State Guards surrounded and captured Federal forces defending the Missouri River crossing. At the State Historic Site, a video and museum explain how it became known as the “Battle of the Hemp Bales.” The Lexington Historical Museum also has Civil War artifacts. Audio Tours highlighting Lexington’s Civil War history are available at the Lexington Tourism Bureau.

 

Go west from Lexington on Hwy 24 to Hwy 131. Go south on Hwy 131 to Hwy 50, then west to Lone Jack. The Battle of Lone Jack was fought Aug. 15-16, 1862, resulting in an estimated 270 casualties. This was a Confederate victory, but the secessionists had to evacuate the area soon afterward, when threatened by the approach of large Union forces. The Lone Jack Civil War Museum has a variety of displays, including artifacts from the battle and photos of men who fought there.

 

Continue west on Hwy 50 to Lee’s Summit, then north on Hwy 291 to Liberty. 0n April 20, 1861, just eight days after the firing on Fort Sumter, secessionists captured the U.S. Army’s Liberty Arsenal. A historic marker is located at the junction of Hwy 291 South, Southview Drive, and Seven Hills Road. On Sept. 17, 1861, in the Battle of Liberty (also known as the Battle of Blue Mills Landing), Union forces unsuccessfully tried to keep pro-Confederate Missouri State Guards from crossing the Missouri River to reinforce Sterling Price at Lexington. James Country Mercantile, 111 N. Main in historic downtown Liberty, is a leading purveyor of Civil War military and civilian clothing and goods.

 

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On the Trail of Shelby & Price

Follow Their Desperate Attempts to Wrest Missouri from Union Control

 

In the fall of 1863, Col. Jo Shelby and 800 Confederate cavalrymen departed Arkansas for a month-long raid through Missouri. A year later, in the fall of 1864, Maj. Gen. Sterling Price led a major campaign to attempt to break the hold of Federal forces in Missouri. Both expeditions passed through the Old Trails Region.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Begin in Glasgow. On Oct. 15, 1864, Maj. Gen. Price’s forces laid siege to Glasgow and shelled it with artillery. The Union garrison retreated after blowing up their munitions depot at city hall, and soon surrendered. A wayside marker with information and a map of the Battle of Glasgow is located at the west end of Market Street where it dead-ends at the Missouri River overlook.

 

Take Hwy 5 north from Glasgow to Hwy 24, then go west on Hwy 24 to Keytesville. The Sterling Price monument, a bronze statue erected in 1915, is located in Price Park in his hometown. The General Sterling Price Museum on Bridge Street features a fascinating array of artifacts, memorabilia and collections. Chariton County Heritage Tours will organize and plan tours of Chariton County’s various historic sites.

 

Continue west on Hwy 24. At Carrollton, take Hwy 41 south to Marshall. On Oct. 13, 1863, Union forces turned back the cavalry raid into Missouri of Confederate Col. Jo Shelby in the daylong Battle of Marshall. The wily Confederate commander successfully withdrew his raiders and escaped. A driving tour of battle sites is available at the Chamber of Commerce.

 

Go northwest on Hwy 65 to Hwy 24, then continue west on Hwy 24 to Waverly. A life-sized equestrian statue of General Jo Shelby commemorates this Waverly resident. At the end of the War, Shelby refused to surrender and led his men into Mexico, after burying their battle flag in the Rio Grande. Continue west on Hwy 24 to Lexington where on Oct. 19, 1864, Price’s army engaged Federal forces and pushed them back west along the road to Independence.

Continue west on Hwy 24. On Oct. 21, the opposing forces engaged again in the Battle of Little Blue River, eight miles east of Independence. A marker is located in a small roadside park at the corner of Hwy 24 and Old Lexington Road. Price again pushed Federal troops back, advancing out of the Old Trails Region through several more engagements, before being defeated at the Battle of Westport on Oct. 23, 1864. The Battle of Westport Museum and Visitor Center in Kansas City’s Swope Park tells the story of this major battle.

 

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Quantrill, “Bloody Bill,”

“Little Archie” Clement and All That

Desperate Attempts to Wrest Missouri from Union Control

 

Throughout the Civil War, guerillas sympathizing with the South marauded through the Old Trails Region and beyond, killing, burning, looting and terrorizing Union supporters and anyone who crossed them. Heroes to some, who offered them aid and support, these “bushwhackers” generally eluded the Federal troops pursuing them. Among the best known were William Quantrill, “Bloody Bill” Anderson, George Todd, Archie Clement and Frank and Jesse James.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Begin at Fayette. The Battle of Fayette occurred on Sept. 24, 1864, when a large force of guerrillas led by “Bloody Bill” Anderson and George Todd assaulted a fortified Union garrison. A wayside marker with information on the battle and a map is adjacent to the Student and Community Center on the campus of Central Methodist University in Fayette. Three days after the Battle of Fayette, Anderson's men halted a train at Centralia (east of the Old Trails Region in Boone County) and, executed the 24 unarmed Union soldiers aboard. Later that day, the guerrillas annihilated a unit of mounted Union infantry and left 116 dead on the field.

 

Take Hwy 5 and then Hwy 40 south from Fayette to Boonville. On Oct. 11, 1864, Anderson, Todd and Quantrill met Gen. Sterling Price and his army of invasion at Boonville. Anderson had human scalps from the Centralia Massacre hanging on his belt, which Price made him remove. Continue south on Hwy 40 through Boonville to I-70 and go west. At Exit 62, get off at Emma. The day before joining Price at Boonville, bushwhackers led by George Todd attacked members of the German community here, known to be Union supporters. Older men and four teenagers took up arms to defend their families. Most were shot, skulls were crushed, and some were burned alive. A recently erected monument near Holy Cross Lutheran Church commemorates the event.

 

Get back on I-70 and get off at Concordia (Exit 58). This German community also suffered depredations from bushwhackers and regular troops throughout the War. A marker in Concordia’s Central Park describes the events. Get back on I-70 and get off at Hwy 13 (Exit 49). Go north to Higginsville. The Missouri Confederate Home Cemetery north of town contains some of the well-traveled remains of William Quantrill, re-interred here in 1992. Continue north on Hwy 13 through Lexington.

 

“Little Archie” Clement, “Bloody Bill’s” ‘head devil,’ was gunned down shortly after the War ended, as he attempted to flee town on horseback. Continue north on Hwy 13, crossing the Missouri River, to Richmond. A few miles west of Richmond, north of Hwy 210 near Orrick, “Bloody Bill” Anderson and his company of Missouri Partisan Rangers were ambushed on Oct. 26, 1864, by 300 men of the Missouri Militia Mounted Infantry. Following Bloody Bill Anderson’s death in the Battle of Albany, his body was taken to the Ray County Courthouse, placed on public display, and photographed. The body was drug around the courthouse square before being buried in the Pioneer Cemetery in Richmond. The Ray County Museum has displays recounting the battle and aftermath.

 

From Richmond, follow Hwy 10 northwest to Excelsior Springs, then Hwy 69 north to Hwy 92, then Hwy 92 west towards Kearney. Northwest of Kearney at 21216 James Farm Rd. is the James Farm and Museum. Jesse James was born here in 1847. Barely 16, he followed his older brother, Frank, into the Civil War. While Frank was a member of Quantrill’s guerillas, Jesse rode with “Bloody Bill” Anderson. When the war ended, Jesse returned home and joined other former Confederate guerillas in a life of outlawry. The James Farm has the most extensive collection of James family memorabilia.

 

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Many are surprised to learn the Old Trails Region was a major battleground during the Civil War.

 

Several important battles

and dozens of skirmishes were fought here. Throughout the Region, historical markers, museums and interpretive

programs highlight this fascinating history.

 

Following are three itineraries covering different aspects of the War in the Old Trails Region . . .

Before you go: Note that some shops, restaurants and attractions are closed on Sundays, Mondays or other days or are only open seasonally. If you have a “must-see” destination, be sure to call ahead to check hours and directions. Bed-and-breakfasts usually require advance reservations.

Old Trails Regional Partnership • 1128 Main Street • Lexington, MO 64067 • 660.259.2230

Contact Us  |  Copyright 2017 Old Trails Partnership. All rights reserved.

Before you go: Note that some shops, restaurants and attractions are closed on Sundays, Mondays or other days or are only open seasonally. If you have a “must-see” destination, be sure to call ahead to check hours and directions. Bed-and-breakfasts usually require advance reservations.