Sunday, November 6, 2016

Wilson's Creek National Battlefield

We have visited Springfield, Missouri three times now, and each time we have had an incredible time. Lex recently competed in a district level piano competition and his score earned him a spot in the state competition, which happened to be in Springfield. He played mid day on Sunday, so we headed to Springfield first thing Saturday morning and made a weekend out of it.

Just one of the beautiful landscapes on the battlefield grounds.

On previous trips to Springfield, we have gone to the Bass Pro Shoppe, Historic Jefferson Avenue Footbridge (over the railyard), Lamberts (home of the thrown rolls), Springfield National Cemetery, and Wilson's Creek National Battlefield.

On this trip, the main thing we wanted to do was revisit the battlefield because the first time we went, it was pretty cold and we couldn't see as much as we wanted to. On this day, however, in early November, the weather was perfect!   Mid sixties and sunny - we did not want to stop being outdoors. Perfect day for this kind of place. The only bad part was that we still did not see everything we wanted to see. If I lived close to here, I would totally buy an annual pass. The trails and the landscape are worth every penny. The historical significance is an added bonus. For just a single visit, it costs $15 per carload. If you want to walk or bike through the park (both are definitely feasible, but walking would be exhausting with all the different stops), it's around $7 per person.

Click here for downloadable maps to the area. There is one map for the Battlefield road trail and another that's for recreational trail use. 
 So our first stop was at the guest center. You have to go here to pay. The park rangers were incredibly welcoming. You can watch a mini-movie of the battle, but we turned that down. We did look through the little museum of artifacts, though.

Wilson's Creek Battle was the second major battle in the Civil War. Although there were a lot of casualties, the Confederates didn't capitalize on their victory here and the the battle turned out to have little impact on the overall war.

This little digital reenactment was really cool. It was a miniature model of the battlefield. You pressed a button to hear a digital retelling of the battle and watched lights on the model light up to indicate where the troops were. It was really interesting and good to see before we headed out for exploring on the battlefield.

There are 8 stops on the drive through the battlefield. Some require more of a hike than others which is why you could spend hours here. The first stop is the site of Gibson's Mill (the building is no longer there).

It's a short hiking loop, but we made it longer because we kept finding other areas we wanted to check out and ended up walking well over a mile before we found our way back to the car. 

The sky was just beautiful.

 And so was the trail. It was incredible to me that with as nice of a day as it was that there weren't many more people here. Just a few here and there.

 The trail runs right past Wilson's Creek.

The site of the mill is below.

Here's the alternate route we took back to our car instead of looping back through the woods. It was so pretty out here.


 These lumber fences were all over the place.


 Eli was exhausted so he and I took a break while Jeremy and Lex got the car and came back to get us. We enjoyed sitting in the grass looking at the sky while we waited.

A little cemetery was close by.

Our next stop was the Ray House. It may have been my favorite part of our exploration. There was a park ranger there (pictured below) who was telling the story of the family that lived in this house. They knew Confederate Soldiers were in the area, but woke up one morning to find that the Union Soldiers had come down from Springfield overnight for a sneak attack. Mr. Ray watched the battle unfold from his front porch, while his wife, children, and slaves hid in the cellar. His house was later used as a hospital for both Union and Confederate soldiers.

This guide knew so much about the area and the battle.

From the front porch.

Across the road there is where the battle took place. Could you imagine being that close?

 The house has been partially restored. Two pieces of furniture are original to the house (tracked down through auction records).

All the other furniture is true to the time period.

The spinning wheel was one of the original pieces.

And so was this bed.

 Here are the stairs to the cellar where the family hid during the battle. I wished we could have gone down there, but as you can see, it's covered with Plexiglas.

Another beautiful view.

The spring house is above. The story goes that the children were there getting water when they ran into soldiers who told them to go home because the battle was about to start.

At another spot, here's a building you can get to via a little hike, but we didn't go on this one. Next time, though.

Eli in particular was intrigued by the cannons.

One of our last stops was Bloody Hill, although once again, we didn't hike the whole way down the hill, which leaves something for us to discover on our next visit. Bloody Hill of course gets its name from all the causalities that happened here. General Lyon was the first Union General killed in the Civil War, right here on this battlefield.

More cannons and a beautiful sky.

And one last shot of the fall landscape.

All in all, this was an incredible day! We can't wait to go back and explore some more. If you're around Springfield, I would highly recommend spending a few hours here.