A push to preserve Kansas City's largely-forgotten Civil War battle sites

The Battle of Westport was the largest battle west of the Mississippi

KMBZ News Staff
October 21, 2019 - 9:32 am
Civil War reenactors fighting with rifles and bayonets.

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Kansas City, MO - The Battle of Westport took place 155 years ago this Wednesday, October 23rd.

The engagement of the American Civil War is sometimes referred to as the Gettysburg of the West.

It was the largest Civil War battle fought west of the Mississippi River, with close to 32,000 men in blue and in gray involved, said Dan Smith, chairman of the Monnett Battle of Westport Fund.

Most sites of the 1864 battlefield have been covered by the city's urban core - streets, homes and businesses. "It is as if Gettysburg were covered by Philadelphia," Smith said.

Loose Park, just south of Kansas City's Country Club Plaza, was the site of a major engagement during the battle.

"The battle site covers an enormous size of ground, five miles from north to south, basically the Brush Creek or The Plaza down to Indian Creek, or I-435, and from the state line to seven miles east to the Blue River," Smith said.

The Monnett Fund is working to preserve Byram's Ford, the site of a multi-day skirmish called the Battle of the Big Blue River that stretched from the river crossing in the east to what is now the Brookside neighborhood to the west, along what is now the 63rd Street corridor.

"The Byram's Ford site is one of those small portions of the battlefield that we can actually restore to its 1864 appearance and remind people of what took place there," Smith said.

The 22,000-strong Union Army of the Border, was led at Westport by Major General Samuel Curtis. The Confederate Army of Missouri's leader was Major General Sterling Price. The South had about 8,500 fighting men.

Exact numbers are difficult to pin down, but some estimates put the number of dead, wounded and captured at between 800 and 900 men. 

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