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HAUNTED BATTLEFIELDS GHOST STORIES AND GHOST PHOTOS

Wilson's Creek National Battlefield Ghost

Battle of Wilson's Creek--Aug. 10, 1861--Union (Gen. Lyon) ... Conf. (Gen. McCulloch) ...
CREATED/PUBLISHED: c1893.
by Kurz and Allison

 

Wilson's Creek was the first major Civil War battle fought west of the Mississippi River, and the scene of the death of Nathaniel Lyon, the first Union general killed in combat. Although a Southern victory, the Southerners failed to capitalize on their success. With the exception of the vegetation, the field has changed little and remains in near pristine condition. Its a beautiful park with a very bloody history.

Established as Wilson's Creek National Battlefield Park on April 22, 1960, it was redesignated a National Battlefield on December 16, 1970. As with all historic areas administered by the National Park Service, the battlefield was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966.

The Battle of Wilson's Creek (called Oak Hills by the Confederates) was fought ten miles southwest of Springfield, Missouri on August 10, 1861. Named for the stream that crosses the area where the battle took place, it was a bitter struggle between Union and Confederate forces for control of Missouri in the first year of the Civil War.

When the Civil War began in 1861, Missouri's allegiance was of vital concern to the Federal Government. The state's strategic position on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers and its abundant manpower and natural resources made it imperative that she remain loyal to the Union. Most Missourians desired neutrality, but many, including the governor, Claiborne F. Jackson, held strong Southern sympathies and planned to cooperate with the Confederacy in its bid for independence.

When President Lincoln called for troops to put down the rebellion, Missouri was asked to supply four regiments. Governor Jackson refused the request and ordered State military units to muster at Camp Jackson outside Saint Louis and prepare to seize the U.S. Arsenal in that city. They had not, however, counted on the resourcefulness of the arsenal's commander, Captain Nathaniel Lyon.

Learning of the governor's intentions, Lyon had most of the weapons moved secretly to Illinois. On May 10 he marched 7,000 men out to Camp Jackson and forced its surrender. In June, after a futile meeting with Governor Jackson to resolve their differences, Lyon (now a brigadier general) led an army up the Missouri River and captured the state capital at Jefferson City. After an unsuccessful stand at Boonville a few miles upstream, Governor Jackson retreated to southwest Missouri with elements of the State Guard.

Ray House Ghost Photo sent us by Dale J. Ferrand.

Ray House Ghost Photo sent us by Dale J. Ferrand.

The Ray House and the Battle

Early on the morning of August 10th, the Ray family quickly discovered that what started, as a normal day would soon turn into a nightmare. Three of the Ray children, herding horses in the valley near the springhouse, were warned by a soldier on horseback that "there's going to be fighting like hell in less than ten minutes." Alerting their parents to the soldier's warning, Roxanna took her children, Aunt Rhoda (their slave) and her children, and hired-hand Julius Short into the cellar, while John watched the ensuing fighting in his own cornfield between U.S. Regulars and Arkansas and Louisiana troops. Soon the Confederates forced the Regulars from the field, but when they attempted to pursue, Union artillery fire from Bloody Hill drove the Confederates back past the Ray House. The Union battery continued to fire on the retreating enemy, and in the process struck the Ray chicken house.

Southern surgeons raised a yellow flag, (recognized on the battlefield as a symbol of a field hospital), and the gunners ceased fire. The Ray House itself was not struck by musket or cannon fire during the battle.

As soon as the battle ended, the family emerged from the cellar to find their farm house was now a hospital, and immediately began to assist medical personnel in treating the wounded and dying. The children made many trips to secure water from the springhouse for the suffering soldiers.

Later, the body of General Nathaniel Lyon was brought to the house and examined before it was removed to Springfield under a flag of truce. Roxanna supplied a counterpane, or bedspread, to cover the body. While most of the wounded were quickly removed to Springfield, one soldier would convalesce with the Rays for several weeks before he could be moved. In addition, most of the family's livestock and crops were gone, ted and foraged by hungry soldiers.

 

 


Why Wilson's Creek?
After installing a pro-Union state government and picking up reinforcements, Lyon moved toward southwest Missouri. By July 13, 1861, he was encamped at Springfield with about 6,000 soldiers, consisting of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 5th Missouri Infantry, the 1st Iowa Infantry, the 1st and 2nd Kansas Infantry, several companies of Regular Army infantry and cavalry, and three batteries of artillery.

Meanwhile, 75 miles southwest of Springfield, Major General Sterling Price, commanding the Missouri State Guard, had been busy drilling the 5,200 soldiers in his charge. By the end of July, when troops under Generals Ben McCulloch and N. Bart Pearce rendezvoused with Price, the total Confederate force exceeded 12,000 men. On July 31, after formulating plans to capture Lyon's army and regain control of the state, Price, McCulloch, and Pearce marched northeast to attack the Federals. Lyon, hoping to surprise the Confederates, marched from Springfield on August 1. The next day the Union troops mauled the Southern vanguard at Dug Springs. Lyon, discovering he was outnumbered, ordered a withdrawal to Springfield. The Confederates followed and by August 6 were encamped near Wilson's Creek.


The Battle
Despite inferior numbers, Lyon decided to attack the Confederate encampment. Leaving about 1,000 men behind to guard his supplies, the Federal commander led 5,400 soldiers out of Springfield on the night of August 9. Lyon's plan called for 1,200 men under Colonel Franz Sigel to swing wide to the south, flanking the Confederate right, while the main body of troops struck from the north. Success hinged on the element of surprise.

Ironically, the Confederate leaders also planned a surprise attack on the Federals, but rain on the night of the 9th caused McCulloch (who was now in overall command) to cancel the operation. On the morning of the 10th, Lyon's attack caught the Southerners off guard, driving them back. Forging rapidly ahead, the Federals overran several Confederate camps and occupied the crest of a ridge subsequently called "Bloody Hill." Nearby, the Pulaski Arkansas Battery opened fire, checking the advance. This gave Price's infantry time to form a battle line on the hill's south slope.

Wilson's Creek Battlfield Ghost sent to us by Melinda Hymel.

For more than five hours the battle raged on Bloody Hill. Fighting was often at close quarters, and the tide turned with each charge and countercharge. Sigel's flanking maneuver, initially successful, collapsed altogether when McCulloch's men counterattacked at the Sharp Farm. Defeated, Sigel and his troops fled.

On Bloody Hill, at about 9:30 a.m., General Lyon, who had been wounded twice already, was killed while leading a countercharge. Major Samuel Sturgis assumed command of the Federal forces and by 11 a.m., with ammunition nearly exhausted, ordered a withdrawal to Springfield. The Battle of Wilson's Creek was over. Losses were heavy and about equal on both sides--1,317 for the Federals, 1,222 for the Confederates. The Southerners, though victorious on the field, were not able to pursue the Northerners. Lyon lost the battle and his life, but he achieved his goal: Missouri remained under Union control.


The Civil War in Missouri
The Battle of Wilson's Creek marked the beginning of the Civil War in Missouri. For the next three and a half years, the state was the scene of savage and fierce fighting, mostly guerrilla warfare, with small bands of mounted raiders destroying anything military or civilian that could aid the enemy. By the time the conflict ended in the spring of 1865, Missouri had witnessed so many battles and skirmishes that it ranks as the third most fought-over state in the Nation.

The Confederates made only two large-scale attempts to break the Federal hold on Missouri, both of them directed by Sterling Price. Shortly after Wilson's Creek, Price led his Missouri State Guard north and captured the Union garrison at Lexington. He and his troops remained in the state until early 1862, when a Federal army drove them into Arkansas. The subsequent Union victory at the Battle of Pea Ridge in March kept organized Confederate military forces out of Missouri for more than two years.

In September 1864 Price returned to Missouri with an army of some 12,000 men. By the time his campaign ended, he had marched nearly 1,500 miles, fought 43 battles or skirmishes, and destroyed an estimated $10 million worth of property. Yet the campaign ended in disaster. At Westport on October 23, Price was soundly defeated in the largest battle fought west of the Mississippi and forced to retreat south. His withdrawal ended organized Confederate military operations in Missouri.

Army of the West Missouri State Guard Casualties
1,235 and McCulloch’s Brigade Casualties 1,095

Civil War Museum

The newly acquired Wilson's Creek Civil War Museum (formerly the Sweeny Museum) contains an outstanding collection of artifacts relating to the war west of the Mississippi, including the sword belt and sash of Arkansas General Patrick Cleburne and the flag of the Confederate "Cherokee Braves."

The site of the battle has been protected as Wilson's Creek National Battlefield. The National Park Service operates a visitor center featuring a museum, a thirteen-minute film, a six-minute fiber optic battle map presentation, and a Civil War research library open to the public. Living history programs depicting soldier life, cavalry drills, musket firing, artillery demonstrations, period medicine, and period clothing are generally held on Sunday afternoons Memorial Day through Labor Day.

With the exception of the vegetation and the addition of interpretive hiking trails and a self-guided auto tour route, the 1,750 acre (7 km²) battlefield has changed little from its historic setting, allowing visitors to experience the battlefield in nearly pristine condition. The home of the Ray family, which served as a Confederate field hospital during the battle, has been preserved and restored and is open periodically throughout the summer, with Park Service interpreters dressed in period clothing.

The Missouri Secession controversy refers to the disputed status of the state of Missouri during the American Civil War. During the war, Missouri was claimed by both the Union and the Confederacy, had two competing state governments, and sent representatives to the governments of both sides. This unusual situation, which also existed to some degree in the border state of Kentucky, was the result of events in early 1861.

The traditional site of General Lyon's death was marked by a pile of stones soon after the battle, and quickly became a tourist attraction and historic site. Dozens of men who fought in the 1861 Battle of Wilson's Creek (such as Franz Sigel) became general officers during the Civil War. Five Medals of Honor were awarded for gallantry at Wilson's Creek, including one to Lorenzo Dow Immell of Battery F, 2nd U.S. Artillery (Totten's Battery). Benjamin McCulloch, the overall Southern commander at Wilson's Creek, did not wear a uniform. He preferred to wear a suit of black velvet instead.

 

Ghost of the Battlefield

Many say the spot where the ray house is very haunted. Reports of groaning and moaning sounds are often heard and recoded as EVP's.

Operating Hours & Seasons

Daily, except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day.

Visitor Center hours are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., seven days a week. Museum hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Note: The museum is closed on Monday and Tuesday during November, December, January and February.

Park (tour road) hours: Memorial Day through Labor Day, 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.; April-May and September-October, 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.; November through March, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Wilson's Creek National Battlefield

Fees & Reservations

Entrance Fee

Details
The entrance fee to the park is $5.00 per adult to a maximum of $10.00 per vehicle. The receipt is honored for seven days. An adult is defined as anyone 16 years old and older. A Wilson's Creek annual park pass is available for $20.00. The Golden Age, Eagle, Access and National Park Passes are honored. Contact the chief ranger for tour bus fees. Reservations for school groups or other educational groups should be made at least two weeks prior to the visit. Fees are waived for school and educational groups. A special use permit is required for commercial filming, group reservations, and other uses of the battlefield that deviate from the usual use by visitors. The picnic pavilion is available on a first-come basis, but can be reserved for a fee. Contact the chief ranger for details.

The Sweeny Museum, located just north of the visitor center, features an outstanding collection of original Civil War artifacts relating to the war west of the Mississippi River. A 5-mile paved tour road provides a self-guided auto tour with eight interpretive stops and access to five walking trails. A seven-mile trail system for horseback riding and hiking is accessible from the tour road. The Ray House, a temporary field hospital for Confederate soldiers, is open on weekends (subject to staff and volunteer availability), Memorial Day through Labor Day. Living history programs depicting Civil War soldier life, cavalry drills, musket firing, artillery demonstrations, and Civil War medicine are also held at the park.

6424 W. Farm Road 182
Republic, Missouri 65738
E-mail Us

Phone

Visitor Information
(417) 732-2662 ext. 227
Fax

(417) 732-1167

Spring and Fall are moderate in temperature and humidity. Summer, particularly July through August, is typically hot and humid. Winter, November through February, is cold with occasional light snow, but seldom does a snow cover last more than two or three days.

ALSO SEE: THE TOP TEN MOST HAUNTED BATTLEFIELD LIST

Though the battles have long ago ended and the sound of cannons and muskets is but a distant memory, there are some souls who are still waiting for the call to “Retreat” – and for them, it may never come!

Make plans to visit a Haunted Battlefield today!

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