June 20, 2019, Memphis-
I made it to the hostel here, three hours behind schedule- but the door remained accessible by code, so no worries there.
This morning, I met my cousin, Lisa, for breakfast and an hour’s catch-up on the year gone by. Our old stand-by had closed, so she found a little place closer to her home, which worked even better. We were about the only people here, save the waitress and the cook.
I left Lisa, and the little village, intending to head for a friend’s place in Rolla, then down through the Ozarks and Delta, to the quiet bustle of Memphis.
Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield intervened. This place is worth about two hours, for those whose education on the Civil War stopped with the Mississippi River at Vicksburg, if it even got that far. Wilson’s Creek, MO was the second major battle of the conflict, after the First Battle of Manassas, or Bull Run. It is instructive that the battle was technically won by the Confederate Army, yet at a cost which enervated the Rebels and drained critical resources.
Here are some scenes from this relatively under-visited national monument-about a dozen miles southwest of Springfield, MO.
A young boy and his grandparents were in tandem with me, for the first two stops. The child was quite well-versed in some of the basics of the conflict, which always does my heart good. Those who don’t study history are those most likely to repeat it.
Like many battles in all three wars that have taken place on American soil, this one centered on farming areas, and took place largely in two cornfields. The fencing below was intended to keep animals in. The Confederates used it and the berm behind it, as cover.
This area was farmed, and its corn milled, by John Gibson. The two sides wisely steered clear of attacking the mill, knowing that they would likely need its resource, once THEY won.
A lone sunflower, anywhere, is an anomaly; yet, here it is on the old Gibson farm.
The family moved on to the Ray House, with me right behind them.
This farmstead was used by the Confederates as a field hospital, with Mr. Ray and the Southern officers bringing in the body of Union General Nathaniel Lyon, the first General killed in the line of duty, during the Civil War. His corpse lay in this bed, until it was peacefully transferred to Union hands.
The Rays continued a modicum of life, during the military occupation of their farmstead. Mrs. Ray’s spinning wheel was in constant use.
Imagine this passageway, crowded with wounded and the active soldiers. That was the case, on August 10, 1861 and for weeks afterward.
Down Oak Hill from the house lies a spring house, the refrigerator of the mid-19th Century.
From here, I had the rest of the Battlefield pretty much to myself. Below is a view of Wilson’s Creek, as it may have appeared to CSA General Sterling Price and his regiment, at his headquarters here. Today, a woman was cooling her horse in its serene waters.
Here is a view of the slope of Oak Hill, also called ” Bloody Hill”, for the carnage that ensued here, when the Union troops emerged from the forest, with blood curdling yells, attacking Price’s Texans.
My final stop at Wilson’s Creek was here, where it is seemly to pay respects to all those who were initially interred in mass graves, both in this spot and elsewhere in the area.
We have not had such a devastating conflict since, as bad as the wars that have ensued subsequently have seemed to those who lived through them. More people died in combat, in the first year of the Civil War, than in the entirety of the Vietnam Conflict.
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