The Battle of Westport
In this tour stop, I will review what is not just one tour stop but several. The Battle of Westport Driving Tour takes the visitor through key locations in the battle around the Kansas City Country Club Plaza area and other areas east and south of the Plaza.
The year is 1864 and the war is not going well for the Confederacy. The Confederate Army in Arkansas had long been rumored to be planning a strike into Missouri to take back the state for the South. This “invasion” by past Missouri Governor and now Confederate General Sterling Price, began in southeastern Missouri in the fall of 1864.
General Price and his 12,000 troops marched into southeast Missouri in September with a plan to take St Louis. After determining that St. Louis was too heavily fortified, he decided to move his army west and take Jefferson City instead. On his journey west, Price was being followed by Union General Alfred Pleasanton. At Jefferson City, Price decided that the city was also too heavily fortified and decided to keep going west, where he would target Westport.
The cliff notes version of the battle is this. The Union Army commanded by General Samuel Curtis, was comprised of Pleasanton’s 5,500 as well as 15,000 troops commanded by James Blunt made up of regulars and Kansas Militia troops. By the time they reached Westport, Price’s Confederate troops had been whittled down to about 8,000 due to disease and desertion on the long trip up from Arkansas and were outnumbered 3-1. For the Confederates, General Jo Shelby, known as one of the greatest cavalry officers west of the Mississippi, commanded the main Confederate force around Loose Park. John Marmaduke, who would eventually become a post-war Governor of the state of Missouri, commanded the rear guard for Price’s army.
On October 23, 1864, after a very see-saw battle on Brush Creek, the Union Army, now attacking the rebels on three sides, prevailed and Price ordered a retreat. General Shelby and his cavalry delayed the Union pursuit as the bulk of the Confederate Army retreated down to Little Sante Fe which today is roughly at 122nd and State Line Road. At Little Sante Fe, they met up with the wagon train of the supplies and headed south. Estimates on wounded vary, but it is generally accepted that the Union lost between 400 and 1,000 troops, while the rebels lost around 1,000. Union troops would pursue Price, his army, and his wagons, all the way down into the Indian Territory of what is now Oklahoma. The Battle of Westport fundamentally ended the Civil War in Missouri in terms of true military actions.
The driving tour is a challenge. The first part of the tour starts in the Plaza area, and if nothing else, is a great way to drive past the mansions in that area. In the Plaza and Loose Park area, the markers are fairly easy to find, but it would still be very difficult to do alone. The second part of the tour takes you further east into the Prospect and Swope Park areas which are a little sketchy. There were several markers in the latter section of the tour that we could not find, even though we drove around the area looking for them for quite some time.
Overall, the driving tour took us about 3 – 4 hours and much of that time was spent trying to find markers that were very likely not even there. Many of the markers are also located on busy streets where there is no parking that would allow you to get out and read the marker.
Overall, I found the tour confusing and frustrating and would not recommend it unless you are a hardcore history buff and have an afternoon to commit to it.