History & Culture

An antique bed is seen inside a historic farm house
The family of farmer John Ray laid out Gen. Lyon's body on this family bed after his death on Aug. 10, 1861. The Ray home also served as a makeshift field hospital for Southern soldiers.

NPS/Kristine Abbey

Early on August 10, 1861, Gen. Nathaniel Lyon and Col. Franz Sigel attacked Gen. Benjamin McCulloch’s and Gen. Sterling Price’s Southern forces, encamped along Wilson Creek.

Lyon engaged Missouri State Guardsmen before dawn, and Sigel's artillery drove Southern cavalry from their encampment in a farm field. Southern troops later attacked Lyon's positions on "Bloody Hill" three times, but failed to break the Union line. During the second assault, Lyon was mortally wounded. McCulloch's men surprised and quickly overran Sigel. Heavy casualties and low ammunition forced Union forces to retreat.

After the battle, Southern forces transformed the farmhouse of John Ray into a makeshift field hospital. Soldiers recovered Gen. Lyon's body and carried it to the Ray house, where the family carefully laid the body out on their best bed.

Wilson’s Creek was a tactical victory for the South, but the Southerners could not seize the advantage that victory could have given. The Southern win did focus greater national attention on the war in Missouri. The state ultimately saw more strife than any other in the Trans-Mississippi Theater of the Civil War.

Last updated: October 27, 2020

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