By Susan Redden
CARTHAGE, Mo. —
An area where some of the first blood was shed during the Civil War could soon be protected.
Jasper County Commissioners on Tuesday agreed to look into sponsoring a grant that could allow a 200-acre tract north of Carthage to be preserved under the American Battlefield Protection Program of the National Park Service.
The proposal was outlined by David Coonrod during a meeting of the Jasper County Commission. Coonrod is executive director of the Ozark Regional Land Trust, a not-for-profit organization that works to help private landowners with conservation projects. Coonrod said the Civil War Trust had asked his group to help with a conservation easement.
Located near Civil War Road and Route D north of Carthage, the land “is an important part of the Battle of Carthage,” Coonrod said.
Missouri State Guard troops led by Missouri’s secessionist Gov. Claiborne Fox Jackson fought and defeated federal troops commanded by Col. Franz Sigel in a rolling battle on July 5, 1861. That battle began nine miles north of Carthage and continued into and through the town that evening.
Though casualties were light, the battle of Carthage is considered “the first large-scale land battle of the Civil War,” according to The Encyclopedia of the American Civil War. The New York Times on July 15, 1861, called the battle “the first serious conflict between the United States troops and the rebels.”
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources maintains a kiosk near Carter Spring in Carthage, where federal troops camped the night before the battle and state guard troops camped the next night, but little of the battlefield has been protected despite its historic significance.
The 200-acre tract along Buck’s Branch is now owned by the Menefee Ranch. The Menefee family plans to sell a conservation easement on 194.8 acres, which would be bought by the Civil War Trust, then granted to the Ozark Regional Land Trust, which would monitor and enforce the terms of the agreement. The family would continue to hold title to the property, but the easement would be included with any future property sale and protect the land in perpetuity.
Public access to the land is yet to be determined.
Coonrod said the Civil War Trust intends to use a federal grant from the National Park Service to cover part of the purchase price, with the remainder to be covered by the Civil War Trust and a landowner donation. The landowner would get a tax benefit and would give up the ability to further develop the property, he said.
Although the county would serve as the sponsor of the grant application, Coonrod said, it would not bear any costs.
Though they took no action, commissioners suggested they would favor the project.
Darieus Adams, Western District commissioner, noted the county already owns land north of Joplin that is being preserved as a Civil War site.
Jim Honey, Eastern District associate commissioner, said the easement would be an addition to the Carthage area’s Civil War history.
“There’s already a marker on Civil War Road there at Buck’s Branch,” he added.
In 2006, the Battle of Carthage Inc. announced it had acquired an option to purchase 260 acres where part of the 1861 battle was fought. The landowner had agreed to donate 60 acres if the remainder could be purchased, but the group wasn’t able to raise the $800,000 asking price.