Explore Missouri’s Civil War History Along the U.S. Grant Trail

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Ulysses S. Grant – commander general of the Union Army during the Civil War and 18th president of the United States – has deep ties to Missouri. After graduating from West Point, he was assigned to Jefferson Barracks near St. Louis – a city he later called home before and after the Civil War.

Shortly after the war broke out in 1861, Grant joined the Union Army and as a colonel, led an Illinois regiment into the Show-Me State. Explore Grant’s time in Missouri and the state’s Civil War history at dozens of stops along the U.S. Grant Trail.

St. Louis – The Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site is located at the site of White Haven, the estate owned by the family of Grant’s wife, Julia Dent Grant. The estate was acquired by Grant following the Civil War. The site, operated by the National Park Service, chronicles Grant’s life and his experiences in Missouri. Other St. Louis sites on the U.S. Grant Trail include Jefferson Barracks Historic Site, the Campbell House Museum, the Bellefontaine Cemetery and the Grant Statue at City Hall.

Hannibal – Learn about Grant’s connection to Mark Twain at The Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum in Hannibal.  Exhibits also highlight the author’s years in the Mississippi River town and his brief time as a soldier during the Civil War. Decades after the war, Twain’s publishing house published Grant’s memoirs, one of the most popular books of the 19th century.

Florida – The town where Twain was born was the site of a Civil War battle in July 1862 when Joseph Porter’s Northwest Confederate Calvary attacked a detachment of the Third Iowa Cavalry. Grant’s regiment occupied Florida for a short time after marching south from its camp near Hunnewell. The cabin where Mark Twain was born is preserved at the Mark Twain Birthplace State Historic Site, located adjacent to Mark Twain State Park near Florida.

Palmyra – The Old Marion County Jail is the site of the “Palmyra Massacre.” Ten men being held overnight at the jail were shot by a firing squad for joining Joseph Porter’s Northwest Confederate Calvary. The event, reported as far away as England, hurt the Union’s cause.

Washington – Exhibits at the Washington Historical Society Museum feature the Civil War experience of German-American soldiers and families that settled in the Missouri River Valley in the 1830s. Grant passed through Washington on his way to take command in Jefferson City.

Mexico – Located in Missouri’s “Little Dixie” region, Mexico has a rich Civil War history. The Audrain County Historical Society is housed in the Graceland Mansion, which Grant visited while he commanded troops stationed in the town in 1861.

Jefferson City – In August 1861, Grant was headquartered for a week in the City Hotel (now a bank) in Missouri’s capital. Although his time in Jefferson City was brief, he mentioned it in his memoirs. Explore Jefferson City and Missouri history today at the Missouri State Museum in the Capitol, the Museum of Missouri Military History and the National Cemetery.

Pacific – A canon sitting atop a bluff at Blackburn Park commemorates the Battle of Pacific. Confederate artillery fired on approaching federals from atop the bluff during the battle. The location marks the closest point to St. Louis that Confederate troops reached during the Civil War.

Ironton – Iowa troops fortified the Iron County Courthouse and were attacked by Confederate skirmishers in the lead up to the battle at Fort Davidson. The damage from the battle can still be seen on brick structure that dates back to 1858.

Pilot Knob – The Battle of Pilot Knob in 1864 was one of the largest and most hard-fought battles waged on Missouri soil. The earthen walls of Fort Davidson, attacked without success by Confederate troops led by General Sterling Price, survives in remarkable condition. The visitors center and museum at the Battle of Pilot Knob State Historic Site provides information about the conflict.

Cape Girardeau – Union troops constructed Fort D in the summer of 1861 under the leadership of Lt. John Wesley Powell. With its original earthen walls still intact, the fort – now part of the Fort D Historic Site – is the only one remaining of four that were built to protect Cape Girardeau. The fort housed as many as six cannons and 100 men but was never attacked during the war. Powell accompanied Grant on a tour of the city’s forts in 1861.

To learn about more stops along the U.S. Grant Trail visit