2021: History Boy Summer (Part 10) Battle of Mine Creek Historic Battlefield

Shortly after my trip to Lexington, Missouri, early on in this series, I purchased a couple of kindle books related to the American Civil War in Missouri and Kansas – one being a book on the Battle of Mine Creek. This book gave me numerous ideas for places to go and ultimately was probably the actual catalyst for me doing this history series. Truthfully, I was somewhat unaware of exactly how many Civil War battles had gone on near me. As a child, we went to Lexington quite a bit and Fort Osage, and that was about it. Even my college class relating to the Civil War was entirely about the typical top ten large scale battles including Shiloh and Gettysburg with everything else largely ignored. In fact, I think that particular professor ONLY talked about Wilson’s Creek, regarding Missouri, as if that was the only important battle we had. That was, if he wasn’t ranting in some manner about how he didn’t particularly like Ken Burns, or the PBS Civil War documentary series that he was apparently forced to show us clips from against his will. What a missed opportunity that he had, he could have easily booked extracurricular trips to a number of these sites, or assigned it to us for extra credit, but alas the past is in the past. I’m glad that I had the will to start up this project and educate myself on all of this. I feel that I have a greater appreciation for the content and a firmer understanding.

Ever since reading that book on the Civil War Sesquicentennial Collection, I have wanted to take a car trip down to Pleasanton, Kansas and visit Mine Creek, it was just hard to find the time until recently. To maximize my trip, I planned a short detour to the site of the Marai Des Cygnes massacre site, and the Battle of Island Mound Historic Battlefield all in one trip. All three of these are within 20 miles of each other, making it beneficial to attempt multiple stops to maximize your time. So, was the wait worth it?

Battle of Mine Creek Historic Battlefield; Near Pleasanton, Kansas

Background

According to the website for the Battlefield:

“On October 25, 1864, on the banks of Mine Creek, two Union brigades of approximately 2,500 troops defeated approximately 7,000 Confederates from General Sterling Price’s Army of Missouri. Federal Colonels Frederick W. Benteen and John H. Philips led the attack in one of the largest cavalry battles of the Civil War and a major battle fought in Kansas. Their dramatic story comes alive at Mine Creek Civil War Battlefield.”

And now our old buddy Wikipedia:

The Battle of Mine Creek, also known as the Battle of the Osage, was fought on October 25, 1864, in Linn County, Kansas as part of Price’s Missouri Expedition during the American Civil War. Major General Sterling Price of the Confederate States Army had begun an expedition in September 1864 to restore Confederate control of Missouri. After being defeated at the Battle of Westport near Kansas City, Missouri on October 23, Price’s army began to retreat south through Kansas. Early on October 25, Price’s army was defeated at the Battle of Marais des Cygnes. After Marais des Cygnes, the Confederates fell back, but were stalled at the crossing of Mine Creek while a wagon train attempted to cross.

Union cavalry commanded by Colonel John F. Philips and Lieutenant Colonel Frederick W. Benteen caught up to Price’s army while it was stalled at the creek crossing. Confederate cavalry commanded by Major General James F. Fagan and Brigadier General John S. Marmaduke attempted to defend against the Union assault, but were soundly defeated. Many Confederate soldiers were captured, including Marmaduke. Later on the 25th, Price was again defeated at the Battle of Marmiton River. After Marmiton River, Price destroyed many of his wagons. On October 28, the Union defeated Price again at the Second Battle of Newtonia, and the shattered Confederate army reached Texas in December. The site of the battle was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 as the Battle of Mine Creek Site, and the Kansas Historical Society created the Mine Creek Battlefield State Historic Site in 1974. Mine Creek is considered to be one of the largest battles between mounted cavalry during the war.

Reading

I’m sure you’ve noticed that I’ve referenced this Battle of Mine Creek book for practically every later Kansas or Missouri-related Civil war Battlefield that I’ve gone to so far. That is because it is one of the most informative short books that I have come across detailing Major-General Sterling Price’s ill-fated Missouri campaign in its entirety. I do have a more specialized book on sterling price that I plan to read in the future, but honestly who knows when that’s going to happen? Until then, I will keep using what I would characterize is the best $10 I’ve ever spent on my kindle this year so far. It discusses The Battle of Independence, the Battle of Little Blue River, The Battle of Westport, and finally the Battle of Mine Creek all in one. If information like that is something you’re looking for, please click above for my review which has purchase information within. If you have another book that you would recommend regarding this battle, please let me know – I’d love to read it.

The Trip

There isn’t really one particular good route to get to this area for me, if I go across the city into Kansas and then South that route usually takes longer than it should due to large amounts of road construction. If I drive South through Missouri, it’s usually a little less crazy but it takes longer. As I stated before, if one is going to go to Pleasanton, I would recommend multiple stops on a coordinated trip to visit a handful of sites in the area. Had I known about it, I would have stopped in the former town of Trading Post, Kansas, which is very near this site and boasts a cemetery containing the people that died in the Marais Des Cygnes Massacre and a museum. As far as I can tell, this site was closed when I drove past, and I was unaware of the notorious nature of the cemetery itself. Perhaps another day!

I did get a little nostalgic driving through Kansas, considering I was originally from Louisburg, and noticed a lot of town names that I remember from childhood. Sadly my former hometown looks absolutely nothing like what it did when I was younger, so visiting usually just makes me irritated nowadays. it makes me sound like some kind of Luddite angry about the March of progress or something, but I miss the small town vibe that I grew up with.

The only bad part of my trip was the fact that this area of Kansas had obtained unseasonably large amounts of rain in the past few weeks prior to us visiting. the actual battlefield, which has a nature walk component leading a patron to the actual Creek itself, was basically submerged in water when we got there. I initially attempted to go out there, not realizing exactly how bad it was, only to see that there was about a foot of standing water in most of the prairieland. While an unfortunate thing, it did not ruin the trip as I was still able to enjoy witnessing the battlefield and looking at the maps on these self-guided tour placards.

It was also interesting to note that the video component of the trip was actually a history channel documentary from a television show called investigating history entitled “The Lost Battle of the Civil War”. While that title is blatantly silly, insinuating that the battlefield was discovered by The History Channel or something, it was pretty informative and I was able to track down a copy for myself on Amazon. It was interesting to see that it was filmed at the actual battlefield itself, using local reenactors.

Conclusion

Considering the site contained all the bells and whistles that a modern museum should generally have, including a video component, a Fairly robust museum collection, and the promise of a guided tour of the battlefield itself (that we were sadly unable to do) I would consider this one of the more well-kept and well-maintained Civil War battlefields that I have gone to on this series of trips.

Some of the Battle Sites in Missouri are sadly much less well-kept and are noticeably struggling with funds in comparison to this Kansas one. I can only imagine that this is the difference between the site being a federal win versus a confederate win, with the former getting more tourism and money and the latter being the target of scorn from numerous people. While that fact is a shame, I was glad to see such a well put together museum in such a relatively short distance to me. And for the notoriety of this site being one of the largest cavalry battles in all of the American Civil War, and ultimately the reason that Missouri did not become a slave state nor a member of the Confederacy makes this site pretty important in my opinion. Yeah, it didn’t have hundreds of thousands of soldiers in it with an insane body count, but I wish more Civil War scholarship would get away from that anyway.

Definitely recommended!

This article is part of my summer series History Boy Summer, which you can keep up with by following this LINK.

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