Missouri soil was fertile ground for igniting the War Between the States.
The scars of the Civil War remain on our state as a reminder of the most divisive period in our nation’s history. MissouriLife’s Civil War Discovery Guide brings you Missouri’s Top 50 Civil War sites. We invite you to explore all fifty and discover and commemorate the spirit of our past. The listing isn't in any particular order, except that we have grouped them by general region. For example, we start with the northwest corner
1. St. Joseph. The Union used the St. Joseph-based Pony Express to communicate with allies in California. Jesse James also called St. Jo home.
2. Kearney. Federal soldiers tortured Jesse James’s stepfather at the James Farm in Kearney. The act led James to vow revenge on the Union. James is buried in nearby Mount Olivet Cemetery.
3. Liberty. A clash near Liberty on September 17, 1861, resulted in 126 casualties and helped the Confederates consolidate northwest Missouri.
4. Kansas City. Union General Thomas Ewing signed Order No. 11 in the Pacific House Hotel in Kansas City’s River Marketplace on August 25, 1863. The Order forced nearly twenty thousand residents in four western Missouri counties from their homes.
5. Westport. Known as “The Gettysburg of the West,” the October 23, 1864, Battle of Westport ended with three thousand casualties.
6. Independence. Brigadier General John S. Marmaduke’s troops held back Union forces in a skirmish just west of Independence.
7. Lexington. Confederate forces captured a Union garrison during the Battle of Lexington September 18 through 20, 1861. The Battle of Lexington State Historic Site boasts one hundred acres of preserved battlefi eld and the 1853 Oliver Anderson House.
8. Higginsville. A cemetery and chapel remain at the site of Higginsville’s Confederate Soldiers Home of Missouri.
9. Lone Jack. The Civil War Battlefield and Museum and Cemetery in Lone Jack offers displays depicting the Battle of Lone Jack August 16, 1862.
10. Harrisonville. The small town of Harrisonville became a Union stronghold and a command center for enforcement of Order No. 11, which forced thousands of Missourians near the Kansas border from their homes.
11. Kirksville. Two Kirksville battles in early August 1862 helped establish Union control of northeast Missouri. Led by Colonel John McNeil, Union troops pursued Colonel Joseph C. Porter and his Confederate Missouri Brigade to Kirksville, where Porter and his men hid in homes, stores, and fields. In a three-hour battle, the Union secured the town and captured many of Porter’s men. Three days later, another Union contingent routed Porter’s remaining forces, dismantling his command. A collection of letters written by brothers Samuel and Clark Zeigler while stationed in Arkansas with the Union Army is in Truman State University’s Pickler Memorial Library.
12. Athens. The August 5, 1861, Battle of Athens was the northernmost skirmish west of the Mississippi River. The Battle of Athens State Historic Site preserves several period homes and a local mill. Especially notable is the Thome-Benning House, which was struck by Southern artillery fire during the battle and became known as the “Cannonball House.” The site also offers interpretive displays and exhibits on the battle and community. Athens Cemetery is within the site, as well.
13. Palmyra. Under the command of Brigadier General John McNeil, a firing squad executed ten Confederate prisoners in Palmyra in retaliation for the abduction of former Union soldier and alleged Union spy Andrew Allsman. Known as the Palmyra Massacre, the executions earned McNeil the nickname “The Butcher of Palmyra,” and his actions were criticized in newspapers around the world. In reaction to the incident, the Confederate Army saw an increase in enlistments and reenlistments. In 1907, a granite monument was erected to the memory of the ten murdered men. Markers in Palmyra also explain the story of the massacre. For information, call 573-769-2223.
14. Hannibal. Hannibal is best known as the childhood home of writer and humorist Mark Twain, who briefly served in the Confederate Army. Union forces occupied Hannibal throughout the war, though most residents were Southern sympathizers. The town also was a stop on the Underground Railroad; slaves seeking freedom reportedly used nearby Mark Twain Cave as a hiding place, as did abolitionists and outlaw Jesse James. Twain-related sites include the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum, Becky Thatcher House, Grant’s Drug Store, and a new Mark Twain Museum.
15. Cole Camp. Museum exhibits tell the story of the Home Guard’s defeat of June 19, 1861, in the Battle of Cole Camp, one of the first battles of the war.
16. Otterville. The 1861 earthen embankments and trenches are thought to have been built in anticipation of a battle that never happened. For information, call 660-882-2721.
17. Boonville. The First Battle of Boonville, the first in Missouri, unfolded as Union Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon caught up with the Missouri State Guard outside Boonville and took control of the town.
18. Arrow Rock. Secessionist Governor Claiborne Jackson died in Arkansas in 1862 but was interred at Sappington Cemetery outside Arrow Rock when the war ended.
19. Marshall. An interpretive marker tells the story of the Battle of Marshall, the final confrontation of Confederate Colonel Joseph O. Shelby’s daring raid into Missouri.
20. Glasgow. A marker describes the October 15, 1864, Battle of Glasgow, during which a Confederate detachment raided Union stores in search of a cache of rifles. For information, call 660-338-2377.
21. Keytesville. General Sterling Price’s hometown of Keytesville pays homage to the Confederate leader and Missouri Governor with a museum and monument. For information, call 816-288-3204.
22. Salisbury. The Chariton County Historical Society and Museum in Salisbury houses Civil War artifacts.
23. Fayette. “Bloody” Bill Anderson’s raid on Fayette was repelled by Federal forces barricaded in the courthouse in the Battle of Fayette.
24. Centralia. Markers describe the September 27, 1864, Centralia Massacre by “Bloody” Bill Anderson’s bushwhacker forces.
25. Mexico. Shortly after Ulysses S. Grant joined the Union army, he was placed in command of the 21st Illinois Volunteer Infantry and stationed at Mexico in July 1861.
26. Columbia. The State Historical Society of Missouri possesses paintings by Missouri Civil War artist George Caleb Bingham, including his famous Order No. 11.
27. Jefferson City. The capital is home to the Missouri State Museum’s Civil War artifacts and the Cole County Historical Museum.
28. Danville. “Bloody” Bill Anderson and his crew rode into Danville on October 14, 1864, to destroy the homes of Union sympathizers. Missouri legislator Sylvester Baker survived the raid, but the Baker Plantation House still bears scars from bullets and sabers. The house is located at the intersection of Boonslick Road near Danville, Missouri, just off I-70 at exit 170. It is private property now but can be seen from the road, and it is on the National Historic Register.
The following sites are in the St. Louis area:
29. Bellefontaine Cemetery. Union Major General John Pope, Confederate Major General Sterling Price, and Union boat builder Captain James B. Eads are among the notables buried in Bellefontaine Cemetery. For information, call 314-381-0750.
30. Calvary Cemetery. Union General William Tecumseh Sherman is buried in Calvary Cemetery, as are Union General John Wesley Turner and Dred Scott. For information, call 314-381-1313.
31. Camp Jackson. In May 1861, General Daniel Frost of the Missouri Militia set up Camp Jackson on what today is the St. Louis University campus. The camp’s close proximity to the Federal Arsenal at St. Louis raised Union suspicion, and General Nathaniel Lyon ordered a march on the camp May 10, 1861. The outnumbered Frost surrendered without a fight, but riots broke out as the Union rounded up the militiamen.
32. Old Courthouse. The first two trials in slave Dred Scott’s lawsuit for freedom were held in the Old Courthouse in 1847 and 1850. The building is part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial.
33. St. Louis Arsenal. The St. Louis Arsenal’s large cache of weapons was sought by both sides in the war and was at the heart of the Camp Jackson affair. Today, the old arsenal grounds house the St. Louis Air Force Station.
34. Eads Boatyard. Inventor, engineer, riverman, and Union Captain James B. Eads built the first ironclad warships used by Union forces. His first contract was for seven ships, including the St. Louis. Today, Bellerive Park offers a river view similar to that of Eads Boatyard in Carondelet in 1861.
35. Jefferson Barracks. The first permanent military base west of the Mississippi River, Jefferson Barracks served as a Union training camp. Several museum buildings, including a laborer’s house, stables, and ammunition storage facilities, contain exhibits.
36. White Haven. Julia Dent Grant’s childhood home and her home with Ulysses S. Grant early in their marriage is preserved as Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site. The property includes five buildings and exhibits.
37. Ironton. Best known as the site of General Ulysses S. Grant’s headquarters, Ironton is home to a Grant memorial statue. The nearby Fort Davidson State Historic Site offers a visitor center with an electronic scale model of the September 1864 Battle of Pilot Knob. One of the largest battles in Missouri, the clash left one thousand men wounded. The site preserves the Union post of Fort Davidson and the battlefield. Extensive displays include period weapons and battlefield artifacts.
38. Fredericktown. Union troops led by colonels J.B. Plummer and William P. Carlin successfully pushed Brigadier General M. Jeff Thompson and his Confederate forces out of Fredericktown in an October 21, 1861, battle. The town cemetery offers a good vantage point to view the battlefield.
39. Cape Girardeau. The city and surrounding areas were home to several conflicts, most notably the April 26, 1863, Battle of Cape Girardeau. The battle site is marked, and the city’s only remaining original fort, Fort D, has been restored and is now a park. The town also is home to Union and Confederate memorials.
40. Bloomfield Stars and Stripes, the newspaper that keeps service members and their families informed, was first published in Bloomfield in November 1861. The town houses a museum dedicated to the paper.
41. Belmont. On November 7, 1861, Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant led a drive to force Confederate troops out of their camp at Belmont and across the Mississippi River to Kentucky. Grant and his forces pushed the Confederates out and destroyed supplies and equipment, but the Confederates regrouped, and Union troops ultimately withdrew in the Battle of Belmont. For information, call 573-649-3057.
42. New Madrid Island No. 10 was a Confederate stronghold in defense of the Mississippi River. Nearby New Madrid was a weak spot. On March 3, 1862, Union troops led by Brigadier General John Pope laid siege to the city. Unable to hold both, Confederate forces deserted New Madrid on March 14. The Union continued its push, eventually forcing surrender of Island No. 10 on April 8 to open the Mississippi all the way to Fort Pillow, Tennessee. The victory was essential to the Union’s water strategy. A nearby plaque commemorates the battle.
43. Nevada. Known as the “Bushwhacker Capital” during the Civil War, Nevada is home to the Bushwhacker Museum and Bushwhacker Jail, both of which house permanent exhibits of the area’s Civil War involvement.
44. Carthage. The First Battle of Bull Run is called the first land battle of the Civil War, but the Battle of Carthage took place 17 days earlier on July 5, 1861. An interpretive display stands at the site of the last skirmish in the day-long battle.
45. Diamond. As an infant, peanut innovator George Washington Carver and his slave mother were kidnapped by Confederate raiders. Carver eventually was returned to Diamond, where he was raised by the plantation owner. Part of that plantation now comprises the George Washington Carver National Monument.
46. Neosho. Southern sympathizer Governor Claiborne Jackson and the ousted Missouri legislature made a provisional capital at Neosho. On October 30, 1861, the group held the Secession Convention at Neosho to pass a bill calling for Missouri secession.
47. Newtonia. The First Battle of Newtonia, waged September 30, 1862, ended with a hasty Union retreat. The second on October 28, 1864, saw Union troops chase Confederate General Sterling Price out of Missouri. Interpretive displays highlight the town’s history.
48. Pea Ridge, Arkansas. Just over the Missouri border, nearly six thousand soldiers, most of them Confederate, died in the March 1862 Battle of Pea Ridge. Missouri soldiers fought on both sides in this decisive battle that saved Missouri for the Union. The 4,300-acre Pea Ridge National Military Park offers a driving tour of one of the best preserved battlefields in the country.
49. Republic. Union General Nathaniel Lyon died in the August 10, 1861, Battle of Wilson’s Creek, the first major engagement west of the Mississippi River. Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield near Republic offers extensive displays.
50. Springfield. A series of twelve markers in Springfield depict Union Major John Zagonyi’s successful charge of the city on October 25, 1861, and Confederate Brigadier General John S. Marmaduke’s unsuccessful attack on January 8, 1863.