Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery preserves St. Louis’ fascinating role in U.S. military history.

Civil War in St. Louis

Experience the places, historic characters and true tales that detail St. Louis’ fascinating role in America’s Civil War. Participants will discover fresh, seldom reported stories that showcase historic sites and bring compelling tales about the Civil War’s “Western Front” to the forefront.

1. Bellefontaine Cemetery

Founded in 1849, the 314-acre burial park contains the gravesites of hundreds of historic figures. The most prominent is William Clark of Lewis & Clark fame. Civil War-era personalities buried here include Clark’s Confederate colonel son, Meriwether Lewis Clark; Edward Bates, U.S. Attorney General under Abraham Lincoln; Major General Don Carlos Buell who led Federal troops in the battle of Shiloh; CSA General Sterling Price; inventor and engineer James B. Eads; Roswell Field, attorney for Dred Scott; and the little known Given Campbell, a CSA captain who literally witnessed the end of the Civil War. Campbell commanded a 10-man escort for CSA President Jefferson Davis’ flight to Mexico when Davis was captured by Federal troops on May 10,1864. The capture marked the end of major fighting.

Adolphus Busch Mausoleum at Bellefontaine Cemetery and Arboretum

2. Calvary Cemetery

Pay your respects to former slave Dred Scott and Civil War general William Tecumseh Sherman at Calvary Cemetery. Other well-known Civil War-era personalities interred here include: Daniel Frost, who headed the southern militia during the Camp Jackson incident in St. Louis; Missouri Governor Thomas C. Reynolds, a Confederate sympathizer who, as long as Missouri remained in Union hands, remained a governor without an actual state to govern; and John Wesley Turner, a Union officer who participated in the march to Appomattox Courthouse, where he and other troops of the Army of the James directly intercepted Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia.

3. Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing

Along the banks of the Mississippi River, a historical marker notes the first nationally designated Underground Railway site in Missouri – the Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing. Named for an African-American abolitionist, fugitive slaves used this river access as an escape route to the free state of Illinois prior to the Civil War. Free black Mary Meachum, the widow of the Reverend John Berry Meachum, used the basement of her St. Louis home as a stage on the Underground Railroad for slaves seeking freedom in the north. Years earlier her husband had established a “Freedom School” on board a boat in the middle of the Mississippi after an 1847 law forbade the education of black children.

A celebration at the Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing.

4. Eads Bridge

St. Louis’ first span across the Mississippi – and the first structural steel bridge in the world.

The Eads Bridge was St. Louis’ first span across the Mississippi and the first structural steel bridge in the world.

5. Laclede's Landing

Along the banks of the Mississippi River, St. Louis’ Laclede’s Landing entertainment district is where 19th-century riverboat warehouses have been re-purposed into restaurants, offices and entertainment venues. It was here in 1837 that a U.S. Army engineer and first lieutenant named Robert E. Lee was assigned to oversee the construction of a pier in the Port of St. Louis to keep the Mississippi current from diverting away from the harbor.

A few miles to the south of Laclede’s Landing, inventor and engineer James B. Eads produced the Union’s first ironclad gun boats. Long before the famous Walk of Fame 39 clash of the Merrimac and the Monitor, Eads had 4,000 men working on the Union fleet in his south St. Louis shipyard. Eads’ first ironclad boat, the St. Louis, was launched in October 1861 and was the first of its kind to be bombarded by the South.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the cobblestone-paved Lacledes Landing sits on the banks of the the Mississippi River

6. Gateway Arch Naional Park

No trip to St. Louis is complete without a visit to the Gateway Arch. Officially titled the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, the Arch is a national monument honoring Thomas Jefferson, his Louisiana Purchase and the Native Americans, explorers and settlers who shaped the American West. Both the Civil War and the Buffalo Soldiers, the first peacetime all-black regiments in the regular U.S. Army.

The Museum beneath the Gateway Arch.

7. The Old Courthouse

The Old Courthouse is temporarily closed and undergoing renovations as part of the final component of the $380 million CityArchRiver project, the largest public-private partnership in the history of the National Park Service.

St. Louis’ stately domed Old Courthouse is perhaps the single most important location in the U.S. relating to a cause that jump started the Civil War. It was there in 1847 that an enslaved man named Dred Scott filed suit for the freedom of himself, his wife Harriet and their two daughters. St. Louis’ Old Courthouse is listed in the National Park Service’s National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.

One of the most important historic sites in the U.S., the Old Courthouse in downtown St. Louis is where the notable Dred and Harriet Scott cases were first heard in 1847.

8. The Field House Museum

This St. Louis row house is best known as the boyhood home of Eugene Field, the “Children’s Poet,” whose works include “Little Boy Blue” and “Dutch Lullaby” (“Wynken, Blynken, and Nod”). Field’s father, Roswell Martin Field, was a well-known St. Louis attorney. In 1853, the elder Field filed a lawsuit on behalf of Dred and Harriet Scott, two slaves seeking their freedom.

The Field House Museum in St. Louis at Dusk.

9. St. Louis Walk of Fame

In The Loop: The sidewalks along Delmar Boulevard, the main street in St. Louis’ lively The Loop neighborhood, shimmer with more than 140 brass stars and biographical plaques of the St. Louis Walk of Fame. Among the Civil War-era notables so honored are: Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman, engineer James B. Eads who designed and built ironclads for the Union at his St. Louis shipyard, abolitionist journalist Elijah Lovejoy and freedom-seekers Dred and Harriet Scott

Dinner Suggestion – Fitz’s American Grill and Bottling Works in The Loop: This soda pop microbrewery is home to Fitz’s Premium Root Beer, a St. Louis tradition since 1947.

Here’s a bit of root beer-related Civil War trivia: Harriett Tubman, the former slave then free black woman who was an American abolitionist and spy for the Union Army, supported herself and her humanitarian efforts by selling her homemade root beer to the Federal troops.

The St. Louis Walk of Fame honors notable St. Louisans.

10. Missouri History Museum

Peek into St. Louis’ fascinating past via galleries teeming with stories and artifacts from the Civil War, the city’s French fur-trading days, the Louisiana Purchase/Lewis & Clark days, the 1904 “Meet Me in St. Louis” World’s Fair-era and more. A Civil War gallery explains St. Louis’ unusual situation as a Union stronghold within a slave state. Enjoy shopping at the museum’s Louisiana Purchase gift shop and grab snacks or drinks from the restaurant’s adjacent snack bar.

Explore the storied history of St. Louis at the Missouri History Museum.

11. Driving Tour of Forest Park

Driving tour of Forest Park: St. Louis’ 1,300-acre Forest Park is an emerald green oasis of parkland, picnic grounds, ball fields, lakes and cultural attractions. The Saint Louis Zoo, Art Museum, The Muny, Science Center, and the Missouri History Museum are located in the park. A treasure-trove of Civil War monuments dot the landscape including:

  • Edward Bates statue – This was the first statue in the City to honor a Civil War hero and this one was a civilian, not a soldier.
  • General Franz Sigel Statue – Born in Germany, Franz Sigel came to St. Louis in 1858 as a teacher at the German Institute. At the start of the Civil War, Sigel organized a regiment of Union volunteers, mostly German immigrants, which became the 3rd Regiment, U.S. Volunteers.
  • Francis “Frank” Blair Statue – Frank Blair was a major general and corps commander in the Union Army and a member of both the House of Representatives and Senate.
Across an aerial view of Forest Park, you can see downtown St. Louis.

12. Grant's Farm

The log cabin home hand-built by U.S. Grant is nestled within Grant’s Farm, a ride-through wildlife preserve operated by Anheuser-Busch Companies. A fence made of Civil War gun barrels surrounds a portion of the estate near the cabin. During the regular operating season (April – October), a visit to Grant’s Farm includes a tram ride through a 160-acre animal preserve, where more than 30 exotic species freely roam. The estate also includes the Bauernhof Courtyard for refreshments, an animal display area, elephant and bird shows, and the Tier Garten animal feeding and petting area.

Kids can feed goats at Grant's Farm.

13. Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site

The Victorian home of Civil War General U.S. Grant is open for interpretation by National Park Rangers. White Haven, one of the oldest homes in the St. Louis area, was the family residence of Julia Dent Grant, wife of the 18th president of the United States and the man credited with saving the Union. The Grants lived at White Haven from 1854 to 1859 and was where President Grant planned to retire to after his term in office ended. Only 10 acres remain of the original 1,000-acre plantation, but the National Park Service has preserved the site and has restored the remaining structures to their 1875 appearance.

At the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site, you can take a guided tour of White Haven.

14. Missouri Civil War Museum

The historic Jefferson Barracks’ 1905 Post Exchange Building now houses Missouri’s largest and finest Civil War museum, library, and educational center. It is the nation’s fourth largest Civil War museum and will be among the largest Civil War research libraries in the U.S. The MCWM’s focus is entirely on Missouri’s role in the American Civil War.

15. Jefferson Barracks

Jefferson Barracks was established in 1826 and served as a major military installation and had troops participating in every major U.S. military campaign from the Black Hawk Wars through World War II. More than 12,000 Union and 1,000 Confederate victims of the Civil War have been laid to rest at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery.

Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery has a long military history.