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Missouri Hopes For Boost From Civil War Tourism

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Missouri Hopes For Boost From Civil War Tourism


Missouri Hopes For Boost From Civil War Tourism

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To mark�the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, tourists and Civil War buffs around the country are expected to travel in record numbers this year to famous battle sites, places like Gettysburg and Bull Run. People in Missouri hope the Battle of Wilson's Creek also winds up on the must-see list.

Missouri was on the Western front of the Civil War, yet it had more battles than all but two other states. From St. Louis Public Radio, Maria Altman reports.

MARIA ALTMAN: Jefferson Barracks, a few miles south of St. Louis, was the first federal Army post west of the Mississippi. Before the Civil War, both Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee served here.

Today, it's a county park, but the peace is being disturbed by re-enactors as they prepare to wage battle.

(Soundbite of drumming)

ALTMAN: More than 1,000 Civil War battles were fought on Missouri soil. Re-enactor Frank Aufmuth says they're re-creating one that hasn't been done before.

Mr. FRANK AUFMUTH: We're doing the Battle of Blackwell. But, yeah, there's a lot of battles, too many to name.

ALTMAN: Today, Aufmuth is playing a general. In real life, he's a history teacher and argues that Missouri is a great place to study the Civil War.

Mr. AUFMUTH: We have some of the firsts. We have some of the lasts. I mean, if you can't find a Civil War site in Missouri, you're not looking.

ALTMAN: Getting tourists to come look is Katie Steele Danner's job. The director of�Missouri's Tourism Division says she realizes her state is not the first place people think of when it comes to the Civil War.

Ms. KATIE STEELE DANNER (Director, Missouri Division of Tourism): We know that Americans are interested in the history of the Civil War, and we'd like them to know how important Missouri was in that total history. Over 1,000 battles took place, and in fact, Missouri was a state divided.

ALTMAN: Missouri was one of just four slave states that fought in the Union, and the war here was both bloody and personal, as families and neighbors split their loyalties between the North and South.

Danner says her office is working to attract attention to Missouri through advertising in historical publications and websites. But she acknowledges the competition is stiff in the midst of the 150th anniversary.

The Civil War Preservation Trust, which works to preserve battlefields, estimates more than 20 states are promoting Civil War-related sites. And spokesman Jim Campi says there's a lot of money at stake.

Mr. JIM CAMPI (Spokesman, Civil War Preservation Trust): Your average family of four spends about $1,000 when they visit a Civil War site, you know, when you're looking at lodging, gas, food, souvenirs, etcetera.

ALTMAN: Campi says Missouri is well-positioned to get some of those dollars. He calls Wilson's Creek National Battlefield in southwest Missouri one of the best-preserved in the nation.�The site of the first major battle west of the Mississippi, about 2,500 men were wounded or killed at the Battle of Wilson's Creek on August 10th, 1861.

Ms. CONNIE LANGUM (Wilson's Creek National Battlefield): The Civil War did take place here.

ALTMAN: Connie Langum is an historian at the park. She says it's her personal mission to educate people about Missouri's role in the war.

Ms. LANGUM: We have a long ways to go, as far as to make up for the press that the East Coast receives, you know. But that's typical. Even during the war, it was the East Coast that got the press, because that's where the newspapers were.

ALTMAN: Langum says one reason Missouri had so many battles was its location. Tourism officials hope with nearly one half of the U.S. population living within a day's drive of Missouri, more tourists will come here seeking Civil War history.

For NPR News, I'm Maria Altman in St. Louis.

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