The American Civil War divided the nation. Many key battles took place in Missouri. From battlegrounds to cemeteries to artifacts, visit our commemorative sites to learn about the Show-Me State’s role in the Civil War. Throughout Missouri, history lives on.
Monuments at Historic Locations Reveal the Past
In St. Louis, the Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing showcases the vital importance of the Underground Railroad. This site, where a group of slaves attempted to cross the Mississippi River to find freedom in Illinois, is thought to be the first place in Missouri where Underground Railroad activity occurred. Although it is a small area, the site’s significance is enormous. (Accessed on the St. Louis Riverfront Trail, an 11-mile paved trail along the Mississippi River, between the Gateway Arch and the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge, three miles north of downtown St. Louis; can be accessed from the Prairie Avenue trailhead.)
In Fredericktown, the Old Abe War Eagle Trail and Monument honors the 8th Regiment, Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. The trail starts at the historic Madison County Courthouse. In the southeast corner of the courtroom, view the monument to “Old Abe” – the live eagle the 8th Wisconsin Infantry carried with them through all of their battles.
In Marshall, the monument dedicated to the Dennis Brothers depicts the Civil War's impact on families. This equestrian statue represents the struggle of the war which divided the Dennis brothers – Austin Dennis fought for the South; Davis Dennis fought for the North. An accompanying monument lists the area’s Civil War veterans.
In Jefferson City, visit Lincoln University and the Soldiers Memorial Plaza and the Soldiers Memorial Plaza. One of the first historically black colleges in the United States, the university was established in 1866 for the special benefit of freed slaves. The school was founded by the Civil War soldiers of the 62nd and 65th United States Colored Infantries and their white officers. The Soldiers Memorial Plaza is home to a monument dedicated to those soldiers.
Major Civil War Sites Tell Missouri’s Story
At the Battle of Athens State Historic Site, 11 miles north of Kahoka, you’ll walk in the footsteps of Union soldiers who, in 1861, vanquished the pro-confederacy Missouri State Guard. During a guided tour, you learn the fascinating background of this historic event—the northernmost Civil War battle west of the Mississippi River. The site offers camping, picnicking, hiking, fishing and boating.
In Cape Girardeau, tour the legendary Fort D, which was designed under the direction of John Wesley Powell, who would go on to explore the Grand Canyon. Of the four forts built in 1861 to protect the vital city of Cape Girardeau, only Fort D survived the constant attacks by Confederate forces. Be sure to check out the original cannons, each of which had the capability of firing a 32-pound cannonball.
Battle of Pilot Knob State Historic Site in Pilot Knob claims its page in history as the site of Fort Davidson. Following an incredibly intense two-day battle in 1864, Union troops prevailed over Confederate forces. The site includes the fort’s earthen battlements, cannons and burial trenches. Watch the story unfold in Fort Davidson's visitor center, where you can view a video and several exhibits.
In 1861, fierce combat took place at Wilson’s Creek, on the eastern edge of the town of Republic. The visitors center at Wilson's Creek National Battlefield contains museum exhibits and details about the battle. You’ll learn why this was a pivotal battle in Missouri – nationally, it was the second major battle of the Civil War. A five-mile, self-guided driving tour and several walking trails take you to various battle sites and historic buildings.
At the Battle of Lexington State Historic Site in Lexington, tour the Oliver Anderson House. The building changed hands between the North and the South several times during the intense three-day siege in 1861. Although meticulously restored, the home retains damage from rifle and cannon fire as evidence of its Civil War days. The 100-acre site includes a Visitor Center with many interesting exhibits, as well as gardens and orchards. When it was built in 1853, the Oliver Anderson House was considered: “The largest and best-arranged dwelling west of St. Louis.”
Cemeteries Offer a Lasting Tribute
In north St. Louis, two adjacent cemeteries offer tremendous Civil War history. There is no place on earth where more Union and Confederate generals lie at rest in such close proximity. More generals who commanded armies during the Civil War lie there than are buried at Arlington National Cemetery and West Point combined.
- Bellefontaine Cemetery, founded in 1849, holds many noteworthy individuals, including: William Clark, Adolphus Busch, Thomas Hart Benton and William Burroughs. There are several architecturally significant monuments among the 314 acres, and more than 86,000 burial sites. These beautifully maintained cemeteries feature landscaped grounds, stunning mausoleums and magnificent shrines.
- Calvary Cemetery is the second oldest cemetery of the Archdiocese of St. Louis and the largest in Missouri. It contains the graves of Dred Scott, General William Tecumseh Sherman, playwright Tennessee Williams and many noted persons identified with the beginning of St. Louis.
The Springfield National Cemetery in Springfield encompasses only 18 acres. It was established in 1867 as a resting place for Civil War Confederate soldiers. It has been expanded to all veterans and holds the remains of soldiers dating back to the Revolutionary War. Several special monuments stand in memoriam to fallen heroes, the earliest of which was erected in 1888 in memory of General Nathaniel Lyon, who was killed at the Battle of Wilson’s Creek.
At Lexington’s Machpelah Cemetery, visitors see the gravesites of the soldiers who fell at the Battle of Lexington. Stop by the Lexington Tourism Bureau to pick up a guide on this historically significant cemetery and to learn more about the battle itself.
Established in 1808, Old Lorimier Cemetery in excess of 6,500 burial sites, including more than 1,200 Civil War soldiers.
At Bloomfield Civil War Cemetery in Bloomfield, each marker includes a brief account of where, when and how that soldier died.
Search Out More Missouri Civil War History
There are many Civil War battlefields to visit, museums to explore and monuments to view in the Show-Me State. In fact, the state of Missouri ranks third in the number of Civil War battles, engagements and skirmishes endured. For more information contact the Missouri Civil War Heritage Foundation and search Missouri’s only official tourism website, VisitMO.com.