Thursday, September 29, 2011

Higginsville, Missouri

To get to the battle of Lexington you practically have to pass through Higginsville, site of Confederate Memorial state park. This is the site of the Confederate Veterans home. From 1891 to 1950 Confederate veterans could live here and be taken care of. When there were enough veterans living here they had a working farm with dairy. Now it is a serene location with a Confederate cemetery, a chapel and some fishing ponds.

This has to be one of the simplest monuments I've ever seen, a plaque on a large boulder.

In the cemetery though is this impressive monument.

I was there a few days after a state wide flap about the Confederate flag and at that time the prevailing idea with the state park system was that they were not going to fly any flag here. It is appropriate for a Confederate flag to fly over Confederate graves but such common sense was not being followed then. Maybe eventually things smoothed over.

Here is the final veteran who lived here.

This grave actually has some of Quantrill's bones. I met a worker near the chapel who said they thought it was his arm. I don't know if there was any proof there or just a guess. If you search on find a grave you'll see that Quantrill's body was buried in Kentucky, dug up for the family (just to view), then spirited off to Ohio (where he was born), but somehow the skull and other bones made their way to Kansas. The skull eventually went to Ohio and the other bones were buried in Higginsville. A very strange story.

If you had a Confederate relative who lived in Missouri after the war they may have ended up living here at one time. On the park's website is a link to a list of applicants to the home, including their regimental info. You didn't need to have served in a Missouri unit, just have served in a Confederate unit and now being elderly in Missouri.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Battle of Lexington

The Battle of Lexington in western Missouri is a nice park to visit. Its a state park that's not too far from Kansas City. Both times I've visited the park it was because I was in Kansas City for something else.

At the time the battle itself was a pretty big deal but quickly faded as larger battles came along. In September 1861 Sterling Price led his army into Missouri hoping to reclaim the state for the Confederacy. The town of Lexington on the Missouri River had Confederate sympathies and was garrisoned by a Union brigade. One of the key features of the battle was Anderson House, which has been preserved as part of the park and can be toured. The fighting swirled back and forth to hold the house, primarily because it offered a protected position for infantry fire against the main Union position at the top of the hill.

The other memorable aspect of the battle is that on the third day the Confederates formed a moving defensive position by rolling large hemp bales towards the Union position at the top of the hill. Bit by bit they moved along until close enough to charge the main lines. They weren't able to capture the Union lines there but it was obvious to their commander, Colonel James Mulligan, that their capture was only a matter of time. The Union was surrounded and running low on supplies, particularly water. So they surrendered. The Union lost about 160 of its nearly 3000 men while Confederate losses were only 100 of its 7000 man force.

Price's victory did not amount to too much as Fremont made a big push to drive Price out of Missouri. The weight of numbers forced Price to retreat to southwest Missouri and the Union then regained control of the Missouri River.

Here is a nice modern monument just outside of the visitor's center.

The previously mentioned Anderson House. The damage in the walls would have come from the Union lines. In this picture its best seen on the second floor on the far left.

Here is a close up view showing some of the damage.

Now we're on top of the hill looking at the Union entrenchments. There is a nice walking trail around the loop of entrenchments.

Here you can barely see the Missouri River.

The self guided tour does not have informational plaques at each stop. Instead it has numbered posts and you need the brochure from the visitor's center. While that is a fine way to do tours hopefully one day when they have more money they will put informational posts up instead. This marker was reached without going through the visitor's center so some people might be missing out on the history of the spot. I do not have my sheet available but believe this spot was used as a description of the Confederate attack coming up the relatively steep slope.

A small graveyard on the edge of the Union trenches.

Though from this headstone it is more likely that the soldiers were reburied in the closest national cemetery.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Cleburne's final resting place

Patrick Cleburne was initially buried at St. John's Episcopal Church near Mount Pleasant, Tennessee. He has commented on the beauty of the place just days before his death at Franklin. After 6 years though it was decided that he should be moved to his adopted hometown of Helena, Arkansas.

He now has a very nice monument that lists some of his better battles. His old headstone was also moved at the time.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Helena cemetery - General Hindman

The other general from Helena of some importance was Major General Thomas Hindman. He was a captain in the Mexican War, served in Congress on the eve of the Civil War and as a general throughout the war.

He was a friend of Cleburne and the two got into many politically motivated brawls in Helena before the war. Hindman's enemies would start a fight with him and Cleburne would often be there to defend his friend.

Hindman saw service at Shiloh, Prairie Grove, Chickamauga and through the Atlanta campign. After the war he fled to Mexico but returned in 1867. On September 27, 1868 he was assassinated, most likely from an old political grudge but the murderer was never caught. He lived 8 hours after he was shot during which time he forgave all his old enemies including whoever had just shot him.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Helena cemetery

The Confederate section of the Helena cemetery is quite nice. At the top of the hill is where Cleburne (a future post) is buried and then all around him are the rest of the Confederates. There is also a monument there and magnolia trees all over.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Battle of Helena

The battle of Helena is one of those battles where the attacker failed because they just couldn't quite execute their plan. In this case it had a lot to do with the Confederates being unable to coordinate attacks and then when things did go their way being uncertain how to follow it up (due to the lack of coordination).

The battle of July 4, 1863 was intended to relieve pressure on Vicksburg, but they did not know that Pemberton had surrendered that very day. A Confederate victory at Helena would have meant very little along the Mississippi River as Grant would have quickly sent men to retake the city. The Confederates also wanted to recapture Helena as it would be a logical base for a campaign against Little Rock, which ended up happening a few months later.

Touring Helena is a little difficult. There was a nice museum downtown that had some Civil War exhibits but there really was no driving tour. I got a map that the staff member drew some directions on, which took us to a marker for Battery C but there seemed to be no way to get on the ridge where the battery actually was. I've since seen some pictures of people by markers on the ridge so apparently things have improved. Maybe back then they did not expect someone wanting to see all of the entrenchments.

During the war Helena was a big deal. Seven Confederate generals came from Helena, the most well known being Patrick Cleburne. My next posts will show the beautiful cemetery in Helena and some of the graves of those generals.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Arkansas Post

Arkansas Post was first formed in 1686 but the location currently being preserved as a national park is a later incarnation as the Arkansas River has changed its course a few times in the last 325 years. It initially was a trading post between the French and Indians, then later the Spanish controlled Arkansas, then the United States, then the Confederacy and after January 1863 it was firmly under US control once again.

These changes of control are shown in the flag display at the park's visitor's center.
Of course it was always a bit more than just a trading post, it also served a military function.

As a trading post it grew and from 1819-1821 it was the site of the first Arkansas territorial capital. Thus it was a bit of a town. Here is a well, that due to being so close to the river still has water in it.

There are also a few markers telling where some important buildings were during the territorial period. Of course some locations have been reclaimed by the Arkansas River.

It was also at Arkansas Post that the first Christian services were held in Arkansas. This picture also shows the bayou nearby. The Arkansas River used to flow there, now this is more of a backwater area.

Besides being interesting because of its significance in the history of Arkansas and frontier trading there was also a Civil War battle here in January 1863. In the fall of 1862 Union General John McClernand had received permission to raise a large force to take Vicksburg. He thought it would be an independent command but later maneuverings by US Grant and Henry Halleck left Grant in command along the Mississippi River. McClernand would end up with a corps, which is what he would have had if he hadn't made a secret arrangement to have an independent command created. But before Grant arrived to take command of McClernand's force he took the opportunity to attack Arkansas Post. McClernand convinced the navy to come along; which was imperative, otherwise the campaign would have likely gone nowhere. He also had Sherman's corps, in all around 33,000 men. The Confederates had about 5,000 at Arkansas Post, also protected by Fort Hindman.

The Union troops landed on January 9, the navy bombarded on the 10th and on the 11th the army and navy combined to attack the fort. The weight of numbers eventually secured the victory for the Union but not until nearly a 1,000 men were casualties. About 4,800 Confederates surrendered.

When Grant heard about the battle he was furious, thought it was a waste of time and men. But then he heard Sherman had supported the idea and his temper cooled. Was it necessary to take Fort Hindman to take Vicksburg? Probably not, but it did clear a Confederate base from his flanks. Also the capture represented about a fourth of all Confederates in Arkansas, which certainly helped the overall war effort some.

There are some earthworks preserved within the national park with a small walking trail that takes you out to an artillery piece.

Fort Hindman has been reclaimed by the Arkansas River. Here is a drawing of the fort.

I believe the park staffer in the visitor's center said the fort is likely where the tree is growing in the water in the left center of the picture. That might be right, or wrong, but is probably close if it is wrong.

There were also info presented about all of the Union gunboats involved in the attack. As you can see this is nothing more than laminated pages stuck up by thumbtacks but its a good display, even if its not the most costly thing the national park service has ever done.