On this day in 1960, President Eisenhower signed the law into effect making Wilson’s Creek a national battlefield monument
In southern Greene County, there is peace.
You can’t hear traffic. The wind howls through the trees, birds chirp, and a creek churns through the hills.
But as soon as you hear the name of this creek, your opinion of this place will change. This is Wilson’s Creek and in 1861 peace was far from here.
“The Battle of Wilson’s Creek is the second major battle of the Civil War,” superintendent of Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield Sarah Cunningham said. “It’s also the first major battle west of the Mississippi.”
“It was a five or six-hour bloody battle that took place,” Cunningham said.
A few hours into the fight, General Lyon was killed while positioning his troops. He becomes the first Union general killed in action in the Civil War.
“For years, veterans of this battle would come back to remember,” Cunningham said, “and commemorate the battle that occurred here.”
Those veterans would lay rocks at the spot where their leader, General Lyon died. In 1928, the rocks were replaced with a stone marker made by the University Club of Springfield. But to see it, visitors would have to trespass on the private land.
“Schoolchildren would go to school and they would bring pennies, nickels, anything that they could save,” Cunningham said, “and contribute to the preservation of the Battle of Wilson’s Creek.”
In 1951, the Foundation purchased the 37-acres of land known as Bloody Hill. Over the next few years, the property would grow in size but not in status.
With 16 Civil War sites as National Parks, the government didn’t need another. The Pea Ridge National Military Park in Arkansas was added in 1956. One account mentioned the National Parks thought Pea Ridge was enough to tell the story of the war west of the Mississippi.
“On April 22, 1960, President Eisenhower signs into law the establishment of Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield,” Cunningham said.
Over the decades, a tour road was built around the site as well as a horse riding trail and walking trails. Signs were placed telling stories about this battle and taking you to the points of interest.
In 2021, a $3.5 million renovation was made to the Visitor’s Center and Museum.
The Arts in the Park Music Series is back on Saturday nights in May at Wilson’s Creek. It’s also planning a large event over Memorial Day weekend. And, the National Parks just launched a Wellness Challenge you can do while at Wilson’s Creek. Just visit the Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield website for more information.