Civil War Sites Statewide

By Melyn Johnson

 

        The Civil War had an interesting history in Oklahoma and left many memorable sites that are worth exploring across the state. For example, General Stand Watie, the only Native American Confederate Brigadier General and a slave-holding Cherokee, is buried northeast of the town of Jay. 

The Battle of Honey Springs, near Rentiesville, is a battle of significance often overlooked in Oklahoma. Civil War historian Ed Bears says troops on both sides included Native Americans, African Americans, and Anglo Americans. The Battle of Honey Springs was in both size and importance the Gettysburg of the Civil War in Indian Territory, for it marked the climax of massed Confederate military resistance and opened the way for the capture of Fort Smith and much of Arkansas. It is also significant because it was one of the earliest engagements of the Civil War in which African-Americans proved their qualities as fighting men.

General Blunt heaped praise on the African-Americans who fought with him at Honey Springs. He said of them in his official report on the battle: "The First Kansas (colored) particularly distinguished itself; they fought like veterans, and preserved their line unbroken throughout the engagement. Their coolness and bravery I have never seen surpassed; they were in the hottest of the fight, and opposed to Texas troops twice their number, whom they completely routed. One Texas regiment (the 20th Cavalry) that fought against them went into the fight with 300 men and came out with only sixty." The fateful attack by African-American soldiers at Fort Wagoner, South Carolina, under the command of Robert Gould Shaw (which the movie “Glory” is based upon), occurred only one day after the battle of Honey Springs.

The Federal victory at Honey Springs opened the way for occupation of Fort Smith and the later Union victories in the Red River valley.

That is a taste of the Civil War history that took place in Oklahoma.  To learn more about this rich heritage, there is also:

·        The Battle of Locus Grove near Locust Grove;

·        Bayou Menard Battlefield, seven miles east of Fort Gibson;

·        Cabin Creek Battlefield, north of Patton, and Cabin Creek Battlefield Historic Site with interpretive markers north of Pensacola;

·        FortBlunt/ Fort Gibson Historic Site including the fort and other buildings;

·        FortCoffee, east of Spiro;

·        FortDavis, one mile east of Bacone;

·        FortGibson National Cemetery near Fort Gibson;

·        Fort Wayne, on OK-20 about one mile west of Arkansas state line;

·        George Murrell House (a plantation home) near Park Hill, http://www.okhistory.org/outreach/homes/geomurrell.htm;

·        Honey Springs Battlefield Site, northeast of Rentiesville, http://www.honeysprings.org;

·        WebbersFalls where there is a marker at the site and one across from the city hall and you can visit the Webbers Falls Museum, View Profile.

Although many of the battle sites have little there today, the historians at Fort Gibson, Fort Towson, and Honey Springs are all passionate about the history on those grounds and are excellent guides. The National Cemetery at Fort Gibson is something that all Oklahomans need to see. And a must stop is Uniforms of Antiquity at 1107 E Poplar in Fort Gibson. This is where historically accurate historical uniforms are made, often times for movies.

        For Civil War Re-enactments, click on www.TravelOK.comto find a list of annual events such as the Fort Washita Civil War Weekend near Durant with living history and re-enactors; the Battle of Round Mountain re-enactment near Yale; and four Civil War Life Programs at Honey Springs Battlefield near Rentiesville.