ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOX) — 150 years ago our nation was in greater turmoil than anything we see today.
As you’ve heard this week on KMOX the Civil War came early to Missouri in what’s known as the Battle of Wilson’s Creek — the second major engagement of the war.
Repercussions were heard even after the cannons fell silent.
After half a day of fighting more than five hundred men were dead, another 2,000 wounded or missing.
“Dead and wounded left on the battlefields, they had trouble transporting them to hospitals, providing them care, getting them back to St. Louis,” says Missouri History Museum Curator Jeff Meyer. “Wounded men riding on these wagons, just being jolted as they’re riding back across the terrain.”
The Confederate forces lost about 12-percent of their men — the Union army, more than twice that.
While the Confederates had the victory, the Union still held Missouri.
“Guerilla fighting pervaded Missouri and it was a struggle to control it for the duration of the war,” explains Meyer.
Historian Gerald Perschbacher says Missouri remained as divided as the nation. “The Missouri River became the dividing line and became the transportation highway, by river, for the Union.”
This weekend, reenactors head back to Wilson’s Creek.
“I want to feel the heat. I want to see the dust. I want to hear the guns fire. I want to see the cannons blare. I want to see the flags unfurl.” Perschbacher will be stepping into the well-worn shoes of his ancestors — German immigrants who signed on with the Union. Men who had come to the states to be free.
Union forces were outnumbered but led by charismatic commanders, including Brigadier General Franz Sigel. Sigel was heading an attack on the Confederates from the rear, when he saw what he thought were friendly forces that had broken through the other side. “Not everybody dressed in blue or gray to signify what side they were fighting on,” explains Perschbacher. “They started shooting and it completely threw Sigel’s group off guard and so Sigel’s group retreated,” leaving the other half of union forces to flounder on what was later called Bloody Hill. Confederate commanders were divided, half the forces left the state, and the remaining army couldn’t pursue their advantage.
Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield plays out the historic fight again through this Sunday.
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