At Wilson's Creek Battlefield
Geo: 36.0632, -94.1579
After some much needed relaxation at the Weaver Inn in Mansfield, it was time to head out en route to new sites and a new state! Breakfast on Sunday did not start until 8 so I did not get on the road until 8:30. My total trip today was projected at 162 miles so I had plenty of time to stop along the way as needed.
My first stop today was Wilson's Creek National Battlefield. This is a national park site and is located just outside the town of Republic MO. It took me a little under an hour to drive to the park and it was easy to find, which I always appreciate. The exhibits in the museum are free, however there is an entrance fee for the tour road. The fee is $15 if you choose to drive the 4.9 mile loop and is good for 7 days and also valid at Pea Ridge in Arkansas. If you want to walk the tour road, it's only $7 but I would suggest doing that on a cool day as the route does have hills and is almost 5 miles with no rest rooms or water fountains. I visited the
park for an hour and 45 minutes, but you could stay longer if you took all of the short hikes from the tour stops. I did not do all the walks as I knew I needed to be on my way before lunch as I did not have any food with me.
The Battle of Wilson's creek was the first battle in Missouri during the Civil War. It was also the first battle in which a Union general was killed. The battle occurred on August 10, 1861 and, as I learned from one of the rangers, it was 108 degrees that day! It was in the mid 70s in the morning and I was warm walking on the sunny paths. I can't imagine the armies walking in the heavy wool uniforms in that weather, let alone dealing with the added heat from the guns and cannons. Blech! There are 8 tour stops and the road is one way. I really like the parks that have the one way roads. It makes it easier to pull in and out of the stops and I think it makes the whole visit more pleasant.
The second stop on the road was the Ray House. This
house is an original structure from the 1850s. The Ray family lived here during the battle and their home was then used as a field hospital as the battle wore on. The house has two front bedrooms and a rear kitchen. The family was made up of 13 people, plus a hired hand, plus their slave. Everyone except John, the husband, went into the cellar during the battle. That's a lot of people in one tiny space! In addition to the wounded, the body of General Nathaniel Lyon was also brought here after it was discovered by the Confederates at the end of the battle. Again, it was 108 degrees, he had died around 9:30 am and wasn't brought to the house until evening. Gross! The bed he was laid on is still in the house and is the only original piece, besides a spinning wheel. The house was lived in up until the late 1950s when the Park Service purchased it, however electricity and running water were never added. I always enjoy visiting historic buildings that have not been modernized. It's much easier to get a feel for how people lived. I also found this to be one of
Pea Ridge Battlefield
View of the entire battlefield from a Confederate camp location.
the more interesting stops on the tour road, which is why I have spent so much time writing about it and not the battle itself.
All the other stops explain what was happening at that point during the battle, the positions of each army and who moved where after the skirmish occurred. The focal point of the battle was Bloody Hill, where approximately 1700 were killed or wounded, including General Lyon. There is a monument at the spot where they believed he was killed. The sign says they now think he was probably shot at this spot and later died farther up the hill, near where the present day parking lot for this stop is located, after being shot again. In all, the battle lasted until 11 am, 2600 were killed and the Union Army was forced to withdraw. They would re-group and move on. One of the next major battles for control of this area happened 7 months later at Pea Ridge in Arkansas and that was my next stop!
The drive between the two battlefields was very scenic. The rolling hills gave way to scrubby fields being grazed by cattle. I even saw a couple Texas longhorns! There were some very large homes on some of the properties and I saw few crops so I assume this area is more of a beef producing area. I'm not quite sure what people in this part of the country do besides go to church. I saw more churches on my drive than I thought possible! I was looking for a local place for lunch, but ended up at a Hardee's, which was ok and quick. As I drove, I noticed the route I was on was part of the driving route for the Trail of Tears. I would learn more about it at Pea Ridge.
I was super excited to get a picture of the Welcome to Arkansas sign but my camera was too slow and I missed it. I now have 7 states left to visit! Entering Arkansas, the route got hillier and really quite beautiful. Lots more dead armadillos. I learned they are nocturnal and therefore I probably would not see a live one. The reason they are so often road kill is because they curl into a ball instead of running out of the way! I was keeping an eye out for signs for Pea Ridge and it's a good thing I was looking or I would have sped right past the turn off. There is not much warning for the turn and you really have to slow down quickly and pull to the side to make it.
This park has a seven mile tour loop with 10 stops. There is a museum and a 30 minute video, which I did not watch because I didn't feel I had the time. It was already 1:00 and I wanted to make sure I had time to enjoy the park. The first stop on the loop is related to the Trail of Tears. It marks depressions in the earth that are remnants of the road traveled by thousands of American Indians during 1838-1839. More hard history at Pea Ridge. The battle here lasted from March 7 to March 8th and saw the Union Army come away victorious and kept Missouri in the Union for the remainder of the war. Stop 7 has a really nice overlook of the entire battlefield. The views are gorgeous and unspoiled now by the battle that raged over 150 years ago. Several of the signs mention the Union Army of 10,000 was fully visible at one time to the Confederates. That must have been a terrifying sight for them! In the end, both armies moved back east to fight in other campaigns that are more well known. However, these are still important sites as they helped to preserve the Union in the west. There are more Civil War sites in this area than I realized and I would highly recommend the two I visited to anyone near this area. Places like Gettysburg and Antietam and Fort Sumter may receive more attention, and visitors, but it is the smaller places such as these that are, in some ways, more important to visit. They allow you the breathing room to absorb the landscape and reflect on what these men went through because you don't have to drown out the noise of the other tourists to do so. If you listen, you can almost hear the echos of the battle.
The rest of my drive was less scenic. I ended up in Bentonville, home of Walmart, and then back on an interstate for the first time since Friday. I took I-49 south to Fayetteville. I'm staying at the Comfort Inn and Suites and so far it's comfortable, but not super quiet. There must be an elderly person in the room next to me as the talking is on the louder scale. I was not the only person at the Weaver Inn last night, but you wouldn't know it from how quiet it was. That will not be the case here.
In researching Fayetteville and where to eat, I found the top rated restaurant on Trip Advisor served all kinds of grilled cheese. This would have been the perfect dinner spot, but they are closed on Sundays. I found that to be true of several other places I found. So I looked on the map to see what was around my hotel and found a restaurant called Slim Chickens. It's an original to the area and chicken tenders are one of my favorite things so I thought I would check it out. DELICIOUS!!! I had the 3 piece tenders basket and subbed in fried pickles for the french fries because they are more southern. I went with honey mustard as my dipping sauce and iced tea for my drink. I am now full! But I also got dessert to bring back in case I'm hungry later. Today was a day of eating not so good for me things, but they were all so good. I'll try to eat salad tomorrow😉
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