Wilson's Creek National Battlefield preserves the site of Battle of Wilson's Creek, fought on August 10th, 1861. This battle marked the first battle of the Civil War fought west of the Mississippi. Named for a stream that crosses the area the battlefield, the battle was a fierce struggle between the two armies in the first year of the Civil War.
Badly outnumbered, General Nathaniel Lyon hoped to use the element of surprise to defeat an encamped Confederate force just 10 miles outside of Springfield, Missouri. Lyon's initial attack was successful, driving the southerners back, and allowing his army to occupy an area subsequently called "Bloody Hill." However, a nearby Battery opened fire on Lyon's troops, halting their advance and allowing the Confederates, led by General Ben McCulloch, to form a battleline.
The battle went on for approximately five more hours with each side gaining the edge with each charge and countercharge. General Lyon was eventually killed in battle, leading to Major Samuel Sturgis taking charge of the Union forces. With dwindling ammunition, Sturgis was forced to retreat to Springfield ending the battle by 11:00 a.m. The Southerners, though victorious, were not able to pursue the retreating Union army. Loses were heavy, but equal on each side—1,317 for the Union and 1,222 for the Confederates.
For the remainder of the war, Missouri saw so many battles and skirmishes that it ranks as the third most fought-over state in the nation. Although Lyon became the first Union General to die in combat, he achieved his goal of keeping Missouri under Union control. Today the field remains in near pristine condition.
—Matthew Killion, NPCA
If You Go
The Wilson's Creek Civil War Museum, formerly called the Sweeny Museum, houses a collection of original Civil War artifacts that relate to the war west of the Mississippi River. The museum is located just north of the Visitor center. The Battlefield contains many different trails, including a 4.9 mile paved tour road with a self-guided auto tour and a seven mile trail for horseback riding.