Many of you westerners like me might very well be familiar with the Battle of Westport, the largest fight in terms of manpower west of the Mississippi River. It's been unsung for a very long time unless you're a Kansas City/Westport resident, but I feel it needs to begin to recieve a little more attention both education and preservation-wise. It is my hope to develop a comprehensive website with information on the battle itself as well as the status/condition of the grounds which I can identify that are directly related to the battle itself.
In order to drum up some interest in others, and possibly recruiting some help if any is interested (and is available in the remote area), I wanted to share the following with you, which I feel is a fairly sad story.
The following images are of Byram's Ford on the eastern edge of what was the Westport battlefield, where Sterling Price's Missouri State Guard crossed late in 1864 to begin the Battle of Westport, and where eventually, pursuing Federals from Independence would cross to engage Marmaduke's pro-Southern forces. The pictures I've taken are from what would have been the perspective of Winslow's Brigade during most of the Battle at Byram's Ford (or the Battle of the Little Blue).
The following is a photograph of the only remaining plaque on the battlefield (which is now an industrial complex). The only other hint of the battlefield's existence is a moss-covered rock wall/monument which was dedicated in the 70's by the Kansas City Civil War Round Table.
The map shows correctly the position of Winslow's Brigade on the field, as well as the State Guard defending the field from behind the rock wall (which still stands in tact in the original position).
According to the numerous reports I've read, the Federals crossed directly at the ford, which was covered in ice during the battle due to an extremely cold 1864 fall in northwestern Missouri. The Federals came under heavy Parrot fire from the Rebel batteries and Winslow's Brigade was cut to pieces in the ford and directly on the other side. Some of the most terrible/grim reports I've ever read from the war came from the crossing of this small river on that day, and now the following is all that is left of the crossing:
The water is considerably down this month from what it must have been like in 1864, though what upsets me is the incredible amount of garbage around the general area. There is not a single marker describing what happened at this point, and in fact there is only one overgrown trail which is at the back of a large industrial building, marked off by chains. Nowhere is there a mention of Winslow's crossing, nor of the dozens of brave Federal soldiers that fell on the point. It appears that no attempt to preserve the land has even been taken since the early 70's when an organized relic hunt had been organized by the state government.
The next photograph is that of what Winslow's Brigade would have seen (minus the industrial buildings and modern additions) after crossing the ford and climbing the muddy banks to reach the edge of the woods and the field in front of them which they had to cross to reach the rock wall which Marmaduke's State Guards were hidden in, already beginning to destroy the Federal ranks.
As you can see, the industrial complexes take away from the viewable terrain greatly, and the only remaining "authentic" view is in the alleyway between the two buildings. BTW, I think it should be mentioned that both of the buildings in this photograph are currently for sale and have been for years, although there is large amounts of garbage piled behind both of them.
After passing the industrial complexes, one can see the Pepsi Co. plant that now sits on top of where most of Marmaduke's State Guardsmen were positioned, though the rock wall which the men used for cover still stands. This next photograph shows the only remaining portion of the battlefield that still exists as it did in 1864 (minus the railroad tracks). This shot shows the rock wall (hidden in the trees) as well as the last leg of the field that Winslow's brigade had to cross, where many many Federal dead must have been strewn shortly after the fight was over and the Confederates fell back towards what is now Loose Park in Westport and the brunt of the rest of the battle.
It is my hope to write multiple parts to my report on Byram's Ford and the status of the rest of the Westport battlefield, as its importance to both local and national history is great I think, and its truly a shame to let the history of that battle that occured here go unmentioned. As I stated previously, if anyone is interested in possibly helping me gathering information/photographs, etc. or possibly brainstorming possible preservation efforts for the area, let me know, as I'd be incredibly interested in operating with some of the like-minded individuals around here (Kansas City area).
As for this thread, I'd like to ask for your suggestions on possible preservation efforts which I might be able to accomplish with help in order to preserve what I can of this battlefield, and attempt to restore some of it to its original state.
Thank you for your time.