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The August 10, 1861 Battle of
Wilson’s Creek, Mo. was the second major battle of the Civil War.

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Many ethnic groups played an active role in the war in the Trans-Mississippi Theater.

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Medical care during the war was more advanced than commonly believed.

The Trans-Mississippi Theater Virtual Museum

The Civil War was America’s bloodiest conflict and remains central to understanding our nation’s cultural identity. Participants in the Civil War divided the conflict into three geographic regions or theaters of war. The Eastern Theater embraced the area from the Atlantic coast to the Appalachian Mountains, and was the scene of such famous battles as Antietam and Gettysburg. The Western Theater stretched from the Appalachians to the Mississippi River. Shiloh, Perryville, Stones River, and other important battles were fought there. While everything from the Mississippi River west to the Pacific Ocean was labeled the Trans-Mississippi Theater, almost all significant events occurred in Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, the Indian Territory (modern Oklahoma), Louisiana, and Texas. This was the scene of the battles of Wilson’s Creek, Pea Ridge, Prairie Grove, Westport, Cabin Creek, and many others.

Both during and since the war, attention has most often focused on events east of the Mississippi, the most populous area of the country. This is ironic, for in many ways the Civil War originated on the Kansas-Missouri border, where during the 1850s conflict over slavery spawned “Bleeding Kansas.” The final battle of the war was fought May 12-13, 1865, at Palmito Ranch, Texas. Moreover, the last high-ranking Confederate officer to surrender was General Stand Watie, a Cherokee chief who lay down his arms on June 23, 1865, two and a half months after Robert E. Lee’s capitulation at Appomattox Court House. The issue of emancipation arose first in Missouri, when on August 30, 1861, General John C. Fremont issued a proclamation freeing slaves (Abraham Lincoln rescinded it). The Union’s “Brown Water Navy,” the fleet that opened the Mississippi River and split the Confederacy, was born in St. Louis, with the construction of the nation’s first ironclads. At least 200,000 soldiers, North and South, spent all or part of the war in the Trans-Mississippi. Their actions impacted the lives of over 2 million civilians, in part in relation to a guerrilla war of unparalleled ferocity. The physical destruction in the Trans-Mississippi was widespread, recovery was prolonged, and animosities lingered, giving birth to outlaw violence.