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.