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Wilson's Creek Battlefield - Civil War

Updated on September 10, 2014

Wilson's Creek was a turning point in the Civil War for Missouri

This lovely home set in the rolling hills, surrounded by trees and the creek was not so pretty on August 10, 1861. The Ray family, busy going about their business, would find that life changed in an instant and was never the same. As with many families, the Civil War was literally fought on their doorstep.

This battlefield has changed over the years and trees have grown where the corn fields once stood. The highway that ran in front of the house is now a dirt road preserved for all time. However, in 1861 it was a well traveled road, not only for stage coaches but also for the Pony Express that stopped at the Ray house. The family was doing well and quite comfortable. While the other houses were leveled with the barrage of cannon balls, this house remained basically unscathed. There is a cannon ball hole or two but when it became the hospital, at least the shelling stopped.

My son and grandson are standing in front of the house and shown through several of the other photos taken on our tour of the Battlefield.

A brief history

John Ray, his wife Roxanna built the house in 1852 and raised 9 children. The house is the only one still standing. John Ray watched the battle from his front porch while his wife, children, and the help hid in the cellar. When the shelling stopped, the family came out of hiding to find the house, yard and fields full of dying Southerners.

This assault on the pro-Union troops was originally planned following a dispute in St. Louis between General Lyon and Governor Jackson, the Missouri Governor who was pro-Confederate. Lyon and Jackson had already battled over the armory in St. Louis.

The battle lasted for more than five hours and ended with a Confederate win. For the Ray family, the battle was just beginning. The Confederate Army took their livestock and stored food. The fields that the battle was fought on were destroyed and the family was left destitute. Even the Pony Express Route that had helped provide an adequate income was gone and they never really recovered. They were fortunate that the house survived as all the neighboring homes were destroyed.

General Lyon was killed during the battle. Although he lost his life, he achieved his goal to keep Missouri under Union control.

View from the Ray front porch - Sean and Niles

The Ray children must have stood on the porch just as my grandson Niles and grandnephew Sean did for this picture. Before the war, this was where the Ray children played. It is hard not to contrast the carefree children standing on the porch in 2011 with the 9 children who played on the same porch in 1861. Our children have not been touched by war on our soil but the Ray children saw life change for them in an instant. 150 years later, we can visit this site but cannot imagine the horror that it must have been for the children to see the wounded men dying there. We all take something away from these sites. In Gettysburg I was struck with the tremendous loss of life from the three days of the battle. Here, it was about the children. Our kids can study the history and the reasons for the war but for me, it was the sadness for the Ray children who learned much too early about the tragedy that war brings to all.

Cannons aimed at the Ray house

Wilson's Creek
Wilson's Creek
Bloody Hill: The Civil War Battle of Wilson's Creek
Bloody Hill: The Civil War Battle of Wilson's Creek

Bloody Hill was the second battle of the Civil War. In the cornfields outside of Springfield, this battle was a deciding factor in the direction taken by Missouri.


The changed landscape

Today it is a parking lot to stop to check out the cannons. In 1861, there were no trees and there were acres of corn fields. This is where the battle was waged. It is called Bloody Hill.

Things that were set in motion in St. Louis culminated on the Wilson's Creek Battlefield

I was not aware of the Kosciusko neighborhood in St. Louis, Missouri, when we visited Wilson's Creek. Although I have been to the Arch in St. Louis, I had no idea this neighborhood, sitting in the shadow of the Arch was historically significant in the Wilson's Creek Battle that defined the role of Missouri in the Civil War. It's a story in itself and one worth researching.

Campaign for Wilson's Creek: The Fight for Missouri Begins (Civil War Campaigns and Commanders Series)
Campaign for Wilson's Creek: The Fight for Missouri Begins (Civil War Campaigns and Commanders Series)

Missouri hoped to remain neutral during the Civil War but there were events swirling around them that made the impossible. Important read for anyone interested in the War.


Just where is Wilson's Creek National Battlefield? - Off of ZZ on Farm Road 182 in Battlefield, MO

ZZ and Farm Road 182, Battlefield, MO:
ZZ and Farm Road 182, Battlefield, MO

get directions

The 2011 Reenactment at Wilson's Creek Battlefield - 150 years later

We missed the reenactment because our vacation was over and we had to go home but this photo was taken by my son as a participant. It almost seems real.

Wilson's Creek National Battlefield

For homeschoolers, ask at the desk for the learning packet. It is a very detailed guide on the battle and the events that lead up to it. School tours are automatically given the packet but it is also available to homeschooled children.

My son and nephew at the 2011 Reenactment - Chris and Jeremy came in on horseback

In the Wilson's Creek Battle, the soldiers did not wear uniforms as the battle was the second of the war.

Wilson's Creek Reenactment 150th Anniversary

Wilson's Creek Reenactment 150th Anniversary, Part 2

Battle of Wilson's Creek reenactment 2011

Wilson's Creek Reenactment August 2011 #1

The Battle of Wilson's Creek 2011 HD


Much of my family is in Springfield, Missouri. Wilson's Creek Battlefield is where they play and ride horses on the designated trails. As you can see from the photo's, they were also a part of the 150th anniversary reenactment. My niece was married there in 2000, dressed in full costume and rode in on horseback. The area is incredibly beautiful and today so peaceful it is hard to believe that on that day about 1200 lives were lost on both sides. Time has repaired the landscape and hopefully, the souls that fought so hard for what the believed, regardless of the side they supported.

Feedback is welcomed

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    • hirephp lm profile image

      hirephp lm 

      7 years ago

      nice lens

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great lens. Too often the Civil War gets short changed when it is taught; boiled down to its absolute barest components and glossed over as quickly as possible in the rush to close out the first segment of US history. Truly a great loss to every student in the country.

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 

      7 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      Very interesting! I love the photos you've included here.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      A very impressive presentation of the Wilson's Creek Battlefield and how rich that your son and nephew where on active duty for the reenactment...those pictures do look too real, I got that sinking feeling looking at the battle in action. Wonderfully done and blessed.

    • MariaMontgomery profile image


      7 years ago from Central Florida, USA

      A really nice history lens. Thank you for the information. I was not familiar with that battle. So many lives lost.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      what a great history lens!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Thanks for posting nice lens!

    • M Schaut profile image

      Margaret Schaut 

      7 years ago from Detroit

      I love these kind of activities. Better than role playing, one can learn a LOT just by participating. Excellent page!

    • senditondown profile image


      7 years ago from US

      We get to Springfield a few times a year. Will have to check the battlefield out.

    • julescorriere profile image

      Jules Corriere 

      7 years ago from Jonesborough TN

      Happy New Year and Congratulations on making the top 100 Community Favorites for 2011!

    • PNWtravels profile image

      Vicki Green 

      7 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

      Great information about the Wilson Creek Battlefield. I don't live in an area with any civil war battlefields but try to visit as many as I can when occasionally traveling to areas where they are located. I would love to see a re-enactment at one of the battlefields some day.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great job on the lens. I am on a mission today to find civil war lenses and yours is the best so far.

    • Auntiekatkat profile image


      7 years ago

      Congrats on being nominated for Community Favorite Lenses of 2011. A wonderful lens. Fortunately we both share one thing it was easier to vote than for most as mine was my "why-I-am a- vegetarian was nominated as well. A proud moment for all of us. Good luck in the voting.

    • MCB2011 profile image


      7 years ago

      I've been to Missouri and am aware of the rich historical heritage. This is an amazing lens. Thank you.

    • profile image

      Dianne Loomos 

      7 years ago

      It's hard to imaging being such a close spectator of the Civil War. Congrats on making the top 100!

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Reminded me of a trip we had tracing the First World War in Europe. It was sad.

    • JoyfulReviewer profile image


      7 years ago

      Nice historu lesson. Congratulations on being one of the final 100 favorite Squidoo lenses of 2011!

    • BuckHawkcenter profile image


      7 years ago

      You are in my neck of the woods here! I have visited the battlefield and studied it's history.

      Well done description.

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 

      7 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      I enjoyed reading about Wilson's Creek Battlefield. We have reenactments here and they are so interesting. Congrats on being in the Top 100 Community Favorites.

    • goldenrulecomics profile image


      7 years ago from New Jersey

      Wonderful lens. My wife and I talk about visiting some of the southern Civil War battlefields but we haven't seen anything south of Antietam except for Fort Sumter. If we ever make that long-anticipated road trip I think Wilson's Creek will definitely be part of the itinerary.

    • BuddyBink profile image


      7 years ago

      A pivotal battle missed by many. Nicely done.

    • Paul Ward profile image


      7 years ago from Liverpool, England

      Well deserved purple star for Wilson's Creek Battlefield

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great Lens! I have never heard of this place and I have lived in MO all my life. It is now on list of day trips. Thanks

    • LeCordonDude profile image


      7 years ago

      WOW!! GREAT lens!! :0) American History Is Cool!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Congratulations on your purple star ~ it's well deserved!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      enjoyed your article this morning. It is sometimes hard to find a lens with original content, with their own photos and especially their own story. I just recently was award a purple star award and have an opportunity to nominate someone else, you've got my nominee! Keep up the good work, I'll look forward to stopping and viewing other lens from you.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      enjoyed your article this morning. It is sometimes hard to find a lens with original content, with their own photos and especially their own story. I just recently was award a purple star award and have an opportunity to nominate someone else, you've got my nominee! Keep up the good work, I'll look forward to stopping and viewing other lens from you.

    • LyricalVenus profile image


      7 years ago

      Wow, very educational, and great pictures.

    • clouda9 lm profile image

      clouda9 lm 

      7 years ago

      A sad day in American history. Thanks for sharing your photos and knowledge about the Wilson Creek Battlefield.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      7 years ago from Central Florida

      Having grown up in Kansas, I read in school about the border struggles between Kansas and Missouri becoming states and the pre-Civil War skirmishing. I hadn't heard of this one though.

    • patinkc profile image


      7 years ago from Midwest

      The new photos are a great addition! They make it so personal. And real history! The map is helpful, also.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      What a loss. War is a nightmare.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Thanks for bringing this piece of history to life for me! Really interesting lens. Great work!

    • patinkc profile image


      7 years ago from Midwest

      I lived near there when I was in high school and my brother lives near there now. Nice photos with your story. How about adding a Google Map to this lens?


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