The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

December 26, 2013

Our View: Telling our story

Before it was a fight between North and South, the American Civil War was a western war. Much of what happened in that war happened out here first — on what was then the frontier.

Violence erupted here early when Kansas, ripe for statehood, provoked the question: slave state or free? Missourians had a ready answer that included hijacking their neighbor’s elections “at the point of a Bowie knife and a revolver,” as was said at the time. The frontier is where John Brown grew increasingly radicalized, answering Missourians with razor-sharp rhetoric and broadswords. And it was out here that the seeds were first planted for his raid on Harper’s Ferry.

It also was in the west that African-American units saw their first combat of the war.

And it was here that the western generals who would later win the war — Ulysses Grant, William Sherman, Philip Sheridan — realized that the hard war and scorched earth practices of the frontier had to be brought to the Confederacy in the east to break the South.

And, in the West, armies were marching, cannons were roaring and men were bleeding and dying in the tall grass before the rest of the nation ever heard of a small creek called Bull Run.

Yet so much of what happened here is eclipsed and overshadowed by events back east and often ignored.

However, steps were taken recently to help remedy that.

The National Park Service has authorized a grant of more than $105,000 to help protect part of the land that was fought over north of Carthage on July 5, 1861, a battle that at the time was described as “the first serious conflict between the United States troops and the rebels.”

Aside from the state’s acquisition of a little more than seven acres of land, and the erection of a kiosk at Carter Spring some years back, little has been done — until now — to protect the battlefield and to preserve it for future generations. But now that money will help acquire a conservation easement that will protect 180 acres.

It is a good beginning, but it is only a beginning.

Perhaps the day is not far off, either, when Newtonia will join the list of protected federal battlefields and military parks.

We have an important story to tell the nation. In fact, no understanding of the American Civil War will be complete without appreciating what happened on the frontier and acknowledging its primary place in the drama.

Preserving part of the Battle of Carthage is a big step toward taking the frontier out of the shadows.

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