Hello! Time for another field trip update from The Reflective Educator! I continue my tour of local Civil War sites with several stops along the Mississippi River. Given its size and strategic importance, this area of the country was highly coveted by both sides of the war. The Confederates needed it as a supply line, and the Federals wanted it in order to divide and disrupt their enemy’s war efforts.
The small town of New Madrid, Missouri is one of the earliest settlements in my state. At the time of its founding, the area was controlled by Spain and thus was named after a major city of that country. (Just be sure to pronounce it New “MAD-rid” and not “mah-DRID.”) The New Madrid Historical Museum is located on the other side of the levee that keeps the town dry even when the river levels rise. Much of the museum is dedicated to the New Madrid Fault Line, which accounts for many of the earthquakes in our region. There was a nice Civil War exhibit featuring the Battle of Belmont and Island No. Ten.
Crossing the Rivers
After lunch, the tour continued to the other side of the river. We drove through Cairo, the southern most city in the state of Illinois. It was once headquarters to General Grant during the Civil War due to its location at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Sadly, only a few historic buildings hint at this city’s former glory. Fort Defiance State Park is located on the outskirts of the town. Maybe I will add that park to my 2016 tour!
Battle of Belmont
We made it to the Columbus-Belmont State Park in Kentucky around 1:30 in the afternoon. It’s located on the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River, which was very busy with commercial barge traffic. Just goes to show that this mighty river still plays an important part in our country’s economy. The park is the closest you can get to the Battle of Belmont. That’s because Belmont, Missouri no longer exists. In fact, it was just a little steamboat landing back in the 1860’s. The park is actually the location of the Confederates’ position. To stop the Federals, Confederate leader Leonidas Polk first tried to attached a large chain across the river. When that didn’t work, he hauled out the cannons!
One more stop on my summer historical tour – next week I visit Fort Davidson to learn about the Battle of Pilot Knob. 🙂