Battle of Pilot Knob Historic Site Reenactment, formerly Fort Davidson Historic Site
Missouri Civil War Travel & Tourism
Where the Civil War Began | History of the Civil War in Missouri
Near St. Louis in the Arcadia Valley Region and Black River Area

Civil War Travel, Vacations and Tourism.  Where the Civil War Began.  Visit civil war sites and experience civil war battle reenactments on your vacation to our region.

2017 Battle of Pilot Knob Reenactment
The Reenactment will be held September 23 & 24, 2017
Plan to attend the next Reenactment!

Information to help you plan your Missouri Civil War History Vacation

Click here for the story about the Battle of Pilot Knob


Read below to understand why this region was so important to both sides.

Visit the Missouri Civil War sites in the Arcadia Valley Region and Black River Area of Iron County and Reynolds County MO, only 80 miles from St. Louis.  One of the bloodiest battles, the Battle of Pilot Knob, took place at Fort Davidson in 1864.  Explore places to stay, lodging and campgrounds near Fort Davidson and the Battle of Pilot Knob. Make your lodging reservations now.
Lodging for the Battle Reenactment
Missouri Civil War History ~ Where did the Civil War Begin?
Why was this Missouri region so important to both the Union and the Confederate forces?
       Did you know?


More Civil War battles or engagements were fought in Missouri than in any other state besides Virginia and Tennessee?
In 1861, the year the war started, 45 percent of all battles
and all casualties were in Missouri?
More Civil War generals are buried at St. Louis than at Arlington or West Point?

Battle of Pilot Knob Reenactment, 2010, Fort Davidson Missouri
                                                                                   Battle of Pilot Knob, Photo by Scott Sanders, Black River Fine Images

Watch the video about the Missouri Civil War from
The Missouri Division of Tourism

A Brief History of Iron County and Reynolds County Missouri, Arcadia Valley Region

Iron County, Missouri
Europeans had been drawn to the early "Upper Louisiana" territory in the 1730s due to the prospect of mining lead.  Close by, the area which later became Iron County, was inhabited by Native Americans who used it as their hunting ground.  Known as "Lost Cove" by the Delaware Indians, William and Joseph Reed were the first settlers to arrive in 1798.  Ephraim Stout built a log house in the valley (as early as 1805-1807) along the creek which still bears his name. It was not until 1836 that the vast iron ore resources of Iron County were discovered.  Mining jobs brought many settlers to the region and in 1857 Iron County became a county in Missouri with its county seat in Ironton. It was also in 1857 that the St. Louis and Iron Mountain Railroad was completed all the way to Pilot Knob, foreshadowing a series of events that led to one of the most important battles of the Civil War in Missouri - The Battle of Pilot Knob State Historic Site at Fort Davidson. Today, the hallowed ground of Fort Davidson honors the over 1200 brave Confederate soldiers who were killed or wounded and the 100 Union soldiers who were killed, wounded or missing in the two days of battle in the Arcadia Valley. Today, you can visit these historic towns and villages in Iron County Missouri where history is preserved and graceful antebellum homes, historic churches and mercantile buildings are a reminder of days gone by.  (To tour these historic towns and villages, click here.)

Arcadia Valley Region, Iron and Reynolds Counties, MO

Shepherd Mountain Hiking Trail
(The trail is in the areas of old iron mines and also the fighting between civil war Confederate General Marmaduke's units and members of the 14th Iowa Infantry. The area where the Confederates placed a cannon is also near the trail.)
Click to download map

Shepherd Mountain Trail

Reynolds County, Missouri
Reynolds County was organized in 1845, however long before this designation, many early pioneers braved the risk, hardship and sacrifice in search of their dream. . .a more productive and rewarding life in our Ozark Region.  In 1812 Henry Fry, who is said to have come from Kentucky as the first pioneer, settled on the Middle Fork of the Black River area in what is now Reynolds County.  After the Louisiana Purchase, there were ongoing discussions in established states east of the Mississippi, about when the new "Missouri Territory" would become a state of the Union. At the same time, land in our region was being offered to veterans of the War of 1812. Pioneer families from the hills of Kentucky and Tennessee began to slowly and steadily move to our region.  The civil war era presented tumultuous times for these early settlers, in some cases pitting brother against brother and fathers against sons.  Many notable historic landmarks and the remains of early settlements are present in Reynolds County including Fort Barnesville, on the National Register of Historic Places. 

Notably, after the famous Gads Hill Train Holdup in 1874, Jesse James and his gang made their escape up the Black River along the Lesterville Road, seeking food and lodging from farmowners along the West Fork of the Black River in Reynolds County. According to news accounts, "in all instances they behaved very genteelly" and paid all their bills "lavishly." (To tour these historic towns and early Missouri settlements, click here.)

The story of how Missouri became embroiled in the Civil War conflict and why.

Since 1857, the nation had been deeply divided by the Dred Scott decision, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the Lecompton Constitution, and John Brown's 1859 raid on Harper's Ferry. When it came time for the 1860 presidential election, the pro-slavery Southern states knew the Republican Party was against the expansion of slavery into US territories, and Southern Democrats believed Lincoln’s stand against slavery would ruin the South. So, although it was regarded as rebellion, seven Southern states—South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas---declared their secession from the Union, as soon as Lincoln's victory was announced. These seven states formed the Confederate States of America and elected Jefferson Davis President. Davis took his oath of office in Alabama just before Lincoln’s inauguration.

Both sides began to build their armies. The first battle of the war was in April 1861 when the CSA gained control of Fort Sumpter, causing four more states to secede from the Union—Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina and Tennessee. The five slave-holding border states—Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, West Virginia and Delaware—belonged to the Union, but their citizens were divided in allegiance. Missouri was a friend to both sides, sending men and supplies to both the Confederate and Union forces, it had a star on both flags and state governments on each side as well.

The First Major Action Bringing Civil War to Missouri

Governor Claiborne Fox Jackson

When the Union Army under Nathaniel Lyon seized the arsenal at Camp Jackson
in St. Louis (located at present day St. Louis University) and moved its supplies to Illinois, pro-Southern Democratic Governor Claiborne F. Jackson called out the Missouri State Militia, under Brig. Gen. Daniel M. Frost. Lyon perceived their maneuvers as an attempt to seize the arsenal and attacked the Militia, parading them as captives through the streets of St. Louis.

Nathaniel Lyon d General Daniel M. Frost

The next day, on May 11, 1861, the Missouri General Assembly authorized the formation of a Missouri State Guard commanded by Sterling Price. Exactly two months later, Lyon met with Jackson and demanded that Missouri honor Lincoln’s call for troops. Jackson refused and was escorted (and eventually evicted) from office.  The State Guard endured attacks by federal forces and ultimately, Claiborne Jackson and his State Guard troops were chased to southwest Missouri. The Battle of Wilson’s Creek, near Springfield, was the first battle in which Missourians sought formal help from the CSA. With more than 2,300 Union casualties, one of whom was Lyon, the Confederate Army won the battle. But they were too disorganized and ill-equipped to pursue the retreating Union regiments, and Price soon began a withdrawal of State Guard units from Missouri.

Missouri endured a trying period of bushwhacking guerrilla warfare from 1862 to 1864, which often pitted neighbor-against-neighbor. During this time, small regiments of troops from both sides were stationed throughout the state, including Fort Davidson at Pilot Knob, a Union fort, and nearby Fort Barnesville, which is believed to have been built and occupied in 1863.  It is believed that the Union 13th Cavalry was camped at the village of Barnesville. This was known as a picket, meaning their main camp was elsewhere other than the fort. A small group of soldiers would have been placed at the fort for guard duty while the others were busy carrying out raids to keep control of this area and the extremely crucial military trail to Pilot Knob. The Confederates desperately wanted to regain control of this area and the trail to Pilot Knob.  There is not much recorded history on the fort at Barnesville (near present-day Ellington).  It was discovered in 1997, and although there is no evidence of a battle there, through the diligence of a local historian, Gerald Angel, Fort Barnesville was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1998 and is on the civil war tour of our region.  For more on Fort Barnesville, **see below.

Although, or perhaps because, the Confederacy was clearly losing the war, in 1864 Price renewed his attempt to put Missouri under Confederate control by reassembling the Missouri Guard.  Unfortunately for the Confederacy, and for Price, he was unable to repeat the victorious streak he had in 1861. Price’s Raid began in the southeastern portion of the state where he advanced northward to the end of the St. Louis and Iron Mountain Railroad at Pilot Knob, in the Arcadia Valley.

There he attempted to defeat the army at Fort Davidson in the Battle of Pilot Knob, He lost nearly 1000 men, and ultimately, the battle. From there he struck northward where he found St. Louis to be too heavily fortified with Union troops and set out westward, parallel with the Missouri River. The Federal soldiers attempted to stop his advance—resulting in some minor and major skirmishes—The advance culminated in the Battle of Westport (in present-day Kansas City) and the defeat of the Southern army.

Since Missouri never actually seceded from the Union, it wasn’t forced to suffer the worst aspects of Reconstruction, and Democrats, who had been pro-slavery prior to the war, returned to being the dominant power in the state by 1873.

Reenactments of the Battle of Pilot Knob

Tour other Missouri Civil War Sites in our region

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Civil War Battlefield Near St. Louis, Missouri in Arcadia Valley
Battle of Pilot Knob Reeactment at Fort Davidson Historic Site

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Last updated: 07/27/2017
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