The Battle of Carthage was the earliest full-scale battle of the Civil War. It took place on July 5 1861, preceding Bull Run by 11 days. Battle of Carthage State Historic Site contains a quiet meadow and the spring that made the area an encampment for both the Union and Confederate troops during the battle. The area is little changed in its appearance since the battle was fought. A few minutes off of Interstates 44 and 49, the site interprets the battle that set the stage for a decisive showdown a month later at Wilson's Creek.
The battle was a series of skirmishes stretching over 10 miles. 2,000 unarmed men and 4,000 armed Confederate soldiers faced a Union volunteer force of 1,000 armed and well-trained soldiers. The Union leader, Colonel Franz Sigel, wanted to prevent the Confederate group from reaching the southwest portion of the state where they could link up with another force totaling about 10,000 men and possibly conquer the rest of the state. In the end the Union force escaped with minimal casualties and the Confederates won the battle, giving the south an early win in the war.