Thursday, August 27, 2015

Battle of Athens State Historic Site

St. Louis Trip, Day 1 - Friday, July 24, 2015
Just over the border in Missouri, we stopped at the Battle of Athens State Historic Site.  A storm caught up with us here with tremendous claps of thunder.  It was almost as if we could hear cannons roaring.  It started raining, so our visit was a comparatively short one.  We didn't want to do much walking in the rain.
The Battle of Athens was the northernmost battle west of the Mississippi in the Civil War.  It was fought between the Missouri Home Guard (Union) and Missouri State Guard (Confederates).  Athens was a town of over 500 people.  The building above is a very nice picnic shelter, modeled after the Athens General Store, one of 6 grocery stores open in Athens prior to the war.
At the time of the war, Athens had 5 churches, 50 businesses, and a school.  The town was a steamboat port on the Mississippi, and a grain, livestock, and manufacturing center.

However, the people of Athens had strongly pro-Southern sentiments, which resulted in hardship for them after the war.  Athens did not succeed in getting a railroad to come through town, and by 1900, the town had a population of only 50.
The Battle of Athens was fought on August 5, 1861.  Pro-Union forces under David Moore had attacked the Confederate cavalry at the village of Etna in late July.  Moore had then fallen back, seizing and occupying the town of Athens with about 500 men, whom he quartered in the homes and businesses of supporters of the Confederacy.  At the time of the battle, some of the men were on leave, and others were moving the sick, so only 333 were able to report for duty.  However, these were well-armed with rifles and bayonets.
The Confederate State Guard, an army of 2000-3000 men (including two of Moore's sons), under Colonel Martin Green, surrounded Athens on three sides.  They had three rather ineffectual cannons (while Moore's men had no artillery).  One "cannon" was a hollowed-out log that burst with the first shot; the others were a 6-pounder and a 9-pounder.  The cannons damaged some homes, but had little impact on the battle.  The state guardsmen were armed with squirrel rifles and shotguns, and many were inexperienced as soldiers.

At first, some of the Unionists retreated, but after a Confederate major was wounded, the Home Guard counterattacked with a bayonet charge, which sent the Confederates into full retreat.  The defeat was a terrible blow to the State Guard in Northern Missouri.  
On the wall of one house, there was a board with photos of some of the men who fought in the battle and their stories.  There were also old photos of the town and battle.

In a display, there was ammunition--probably used by the Home Guard--that was uncovered during excavation.  We also saw the "Rebel Anvil," dated 1834.  It was used by the State Guardsmen the day before the battle to cut up chains, cast iron, and pots and pans to be used as shrapnel in the cannons.

The Southern Rights flag above is a replica of the one used by the State Guard at the Battle of Athens.  The original flag was captured by Moore's men, and a couple years ago we saw it at the State Historical Museum of Iowa (see here), where it is currently on display.
The Battle of Athens State Historical Site was an interesting place to visit, and I'm sure it would have been even more interesting had we braved the rain to take the whole tour and visit all the buildings.

But, this was our 8th (and final) attraction of the day.  We continued our drive south till we reached Bowling Green, Missouri.  There we checked in at a hotel, ate dinner, relaxed, and slept.
"Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees."
--Stonewall Jackson's last words
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24 comments:

  1. i cannot imagine fighting a war with such limited resources. it is a pretty area, still.

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  2. Interesting post, so much history in your part of the country... I could see spending an afternoon in this place on a sunny day of course!

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    1. It did look like it would be a great place to walk around, see everything, and maybe enjoy a picnic lunch.

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  3. 8th attraction in one day! Wow.. a marathon of sightseeing! Interesting thunder/cannons analogy. What has always struck me about war is the wasted lives and human suffering, but of course, that waste extends so much further. The bitterness that existed for years between neighbours is truly sad. It looks like such a peaceful spot now. I hope that bodes well for the future.

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    1. Yes, the Civil War was tough since it divided families, friends, and neighbors.

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  4. I feel so sad reading about those events and more so after the war when this pretty town was ignored and passed over.
    Still, as a rural area it has so much beauty and peacefulness now.

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    1. True, in a sense, the land seems to be resting. I'm glad they preserved it as a historical site.

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  5. My dear Bethany, I truly appreciate the history that you share on your blog. I seem to always learn something new from you.

    May you have a beautiful and blessed weekend!

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  6. Wow, Bathany a nice pice of history. Hugs from Poland.

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  7. A pretty place, but not a pretty war. Thanks for the information- I would love to see the rebel anvil- cool!

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    1. I did get a photo, though not a good one. I'll email it to you.

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  8. I had a post along a similar theme today!
    I hope to see you at http://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2015/08/bennett-place-bit-of-history.html, and please join us each week for Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday)!

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    1. Neat that we both decided to have civil-war related posts today! Thanks for the link and invitation.

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  9. Another interesting stop! We have gone to several Civil war sites and always find them interesting and so sad Thanks for the info and the wonderful pictures.

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  10. Wonderful historical post! Your images are great. I've never visited sites like these even though I've traveled south. I'm going to have to do that next time I travel to your country. Too bad about the rain. We haven't found a way to control the weather yet :)

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    1. Ha! Wouldn't it be neat if we could have an on/off switch for rain? The problem though might be if too many people had the switch, and disagreed on whether it should rain or not! I've watched one or two Get Smart episodes where KAOS figured out ways to control the weather...it wasn't a good thing. (Especially the time when they put up a giant fan at the North Pole to send the world into another ice age...) Oh well...

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  11. I would enjoy visiting this place....always like historical sites.

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    1. Books are a great way to learn history, but visiting where history happened adds something special in my opinion. :)

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  12. Hi Bethany, Another fine report here. The effort that you put into your posts really makes them shine. I wonder if you ever considered being a history teacher? :-) You have the ability to make history interesting and that is unusual. Thanks, as always, for sharing.

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    1. No, I'd never thought of that. :) Thanks for your compliment. I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

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