Much of the nation will wait until 2017 to commemorate the sesquicentennial of the American Civil War.
The roots of the War Between the States began well before the firing on Ft. Sumter in 1861. The prelude to the bitterest of wars began here, in the frontier state of Missouri. In the border state of Missouri, the conflict over states’ rights and slavery led to a bloody guerilla war in which good guys were har to find and outlaws were celebrated as heroes. Today, The Show-Me State offers travelers no shortage of stories of the bandits who shaped the Civil War and the Wild West era. Located near the border of the Kansas Territory, the city of Nevada became known as the Bushwhacker Capital, frequented by boisterous Confederate sympathizers. In 1863, Federal troops marched into the city and burned it to the ground. Today, the Bushwhacker Museum owns fascinating artifacts from this time period as well as items relating to the general history of the area. Weaponry carried by Union and Confederate soldiers, as well as reproductions of their uniforms, are included in the collection.
Nevada’s Bushwhacker Jail is one of the most architecturally interesting buildings in Missouri. Higginsville is home to the Confederate Memorial State Historic Site, where a monument stands in tribute to the veterans who fought for the lost cause and the memory of the Old South. Among these men lies another, more deadly Confederate – William Quantrill. As leader of a brutal guerilla warfare group, Quantrill is most remembered for his vicious massacre in Lawrence, Kansas, where he and his raiders murdered nearly 200 men and burned much of the town.
Centralia, Missouri, is the site of a massacre perpetrated by the malicious Confederate guerilla, Bloody Bill Anderson, who was said to have worn a necklace of Yankee scalps into battle. In September 1864, Bloody Bill and several hundred bushwhackers swarmed into the village of Centralia, slaughtering 99 Federal soldiers in what became known as The Battle of Centralia. Among the ranks of this guerilla army was was an impressionable young protégé – 16-year-old Jesse James. Jesse and his brother, Frank, became the most famous outlaws in American history, leaving their mark across Missouri. In Liberty, near Kansas City, you can see the Jesse James Bank Museum in the historic Liberty Square. Here, in 1866, two men entered the Clay County Savings Association and stole approximately $58,000 in brand-new greenbacks and gold and silver coins. The robbery would mark the beginning of a 15-year crime spree for the James Gang. The James boys hail from the Clay County town of Kearney, where the family farm served as a haven for bank robbers, killers, thieves and cowards. Today, the James Family Farm looks much as it did more than 100 years ago Frank James served time in two of Missouri’s more notorious jails in Independence and at the Old Cooper County Jail in Boonville. And St. Joseph is where Jesse James met his end an the hands of “the coward Robert Ford”.
(Gunshot) Lone Jack is one of the few Civil War battlefields where soldiers who spilled their blood during the skirmish are actually buried on the battlefield. Lt. Cole Younger, who would later rise to notoriety as a bank robber with the James Gang, fought for the South at Lone Jack. During the battle, he bravely rode along the front lines, distributing ammunition to his fellow Southern supporters. And, he also showed mercy on captured Union Major Emory Foster, saving Foster from certain death at the hands of guerillas. Not all bad guys were guys, either. Legend has it that Belle Star, the Bandit Queen of Carthage, Missouri, controlled Missouri’s outlaw gangs with her pistols and her affections. Her story is on display at the Carthage Civil War Museum. For more tales from Missouri’s colorful Civil War history, log on to www.VisitMo.com for a copy of your Official Missouri Travel Guide.
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