From 1821 to 1880, the Santa Fe Trail was the main commercial route connecting Missouri and Santa Fe, New Mexico. Prior to the Mexican War, the trail was used by Mexican and American traders across the international boundary. In 1846, the Army of the West used the trail to invade New Mexico. After the war ended in 1848, the trail became a national road connecting the United States to the new southwest territories. The trail was used by stage coach lines, gold seekers heading to the California and Colorado gold fields, adventurers, fur trappers, and emigrants. The trail declined when the railroad reached Santa Fe in 1880. The Santa Fe National Historic Trail extends from the site of Old Franklin, Missouri to Santa Fe, New Mexico, crossing Kansas, southeastern Colorado, and the Oklahoma panhandle along the way. Numerous historic sites are found along the trail route. Some of these sites, such as Pecos National Historic Park, are managed by the National Park Service. Others are owned and managed by other Federal agencies. Many sites, however, are ‘certified’ by the National Park Service in a partnership agreement between the Park Service and a private land owner, agency, or private organization. These certified sites are open and available at the discretion of the landowners and may require prior permission before your visit. Contact the trail administrators at the address below for touring information.
In an effort to capture Missouri for the Confederacy, General Sterling Price and about 12,000 Confederate soldiers invaded that state in 1864. When his attempt to capture St. Louis failed, Price turned his attention to Kansas. Following the Missouri River, Price’s army made its way towards Kansas City. Alerted of the pending invasion, Kansas Governor Thomas Carny called out the Kansas State Militia which was combined with Federal troops under General Samuel R. Curtis to form the Army of the Border. The battle was joined on October 19th, 1864 at Lexington and the Battle of Big Blue on October 22. After initial victories, the Confederates were defeated at Westport and forced to retreat south. Guarding the rear of this retreat, General John Marmaduke was attacked by pursuing Union Cavalry on the north bank of Mine Creek. The charging Union Cavalry numbered only 2,500, but was able to affectively destroy the Confederate force that numbered 7,000. After this crushing defeat at the battle of Mine Creek, Confederate General Price was eventually forced to withdraw into Arkansas, essentially ending the Civil War in the west. Today, signs mark the location of important events in the battle.
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