A self-guided driving tour through modern-day Kansas City will expose you to a mini Civil War history lesson.
Established in the 1970s, this 32-mile tour leads visitors through the streets of Westport and the historic Country Club Plaza; to Jacob L. Loose Memorial Park, where much of the actual Battle of Westport took place; continuing to the Battle of Westport Visitors Center, in Swope Park. The tour includes a section of the Marlborough Heights and Red Bridge areas, and concludes at 96th Terrace and Wornall Road, in south Kansas City.
Most visitors begin the route at Marker One, located at Westport Road and Pennsylvania Avenue, in the historic Westport District. The marker stands upon the site of Federal Gen. Samuel R. Curtis’s headquarters in the Harris House Hotel, across the street from Kelly’s Westport Inn Irish Pub (the oldest structure still standing in Kansas City). Westport is a haven of restaurants, bars and nightspots.
From Westport, the tour follows Broadway, past Mill Creek Park and the J.C. Nichols Fountain, into the world famous Country Club Plaza shopping, entertainment and dining district.
The trail follows majestic Ward Parkway before ascending the rugged bluffs of Sunset Hill, which rises up from Brush Creek toward Loose Park. Originally the site of the Kansas City Country Club (from which the Country Club Plaza gets its name), the land was purchased by Loose; following his death in 1923, his wife, Ella, donated the 80-acre tract to the people of Kansas City.
Loose Park contains markers depicting the respective positions of Union and Confederate troops during the battle, as well as a row of artillery at the south end of the park, along 55th Street.
Traveling south from Loose Park, the tour comes to the John B. Wornall House, which was used as a field hospital, often struck by artillery shells. Wornall, who owned slaves but did his best to maintain neutrality, was the victim of numerous raids and robberies by both pro-Union and pro-secessionist forces prior to and during the war. At one point, bushwhackers attempted to hang Wornall from the balcony of his 1858 Greek Revivalist mansion.
From Wornall House, the tour heads east through the heart of Brookside, a suburban neighborhood surrounding a central shopping district built in the 1910s and 1920s, to Forest Hill Cemetery, site of Gen. Shelby's Last Stand, today marked by a monument. Many of Shelby’s troops are buried there. From Forest Hill, the tour comes to the Battle of Westport Visitor Center at the west entrance to Swope Park. The Visitors Center is open April thru October, Thursday through Saturday, 1 p.m.-5 p.m.; it is located a few minutes from the Kansas City Zoo.
For information about events commemorating the Battle of Westport, contact the Westport Historical Society online; you may call 816-561-1821.
The Battle of Westport is just one of many Civil War tours in Missouri. Other Missouri Civil War sites of note include: Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield, in Republic, near Springfield, and the Battle of Lexington. A collection of Missouri Civil War-related tours and events is available online, at the Missouri Civil War 150 website.
A map of this route is available on the Battle of Westport Visitors Center's website.
For more information about Civil War sites in Missouri, continue exploring VisitMO.com. You can order a free copy of the Official Missouri Travel Guide on the website's home page, and by dialing 800-519-4800. Yes, there is a free iPhone app: Official Missouri Travel Guide.