Battle of Westport at Loose Park
Occurring in Kansas City, MO, the Battle of Westport was the most consequential battle fought west of the Mississippi River during the Civil War. Despite the importance of the battle, many Kansas Citians are unaware that the battle occurred there in the first place. This is because the first signs of any memories of the battle came more than 100 years after the battle. Throughout this entry, the reasons for the lack of memory surrounding the battle will be investigated as well as the origins of the Battle of Westport.
Backstory and Context
The majority of people who live in the Kansas City Metropolitan area do not know what the Battle of Westport is. This means that most people don’t know when, where the battle occurred or why it is significant. This document explains the Battle of Westport in great detail and examines why most people don’t know about the battle.
The Battle of Westport was the largest and one of the last battles to occur west of the Mississippi River in the Civil War. It is referred to as the Gettysburg of the West because of the battle’s similarities to what happened at Gettysburg and because of the similar strategy used in both battles. The Battles of Westport and Gettysburg were both planned by the Confederate War Department as a means of severing Union territory at important location. Gettysburg was the battle in the East while Westport was the battle in the West. The main portion of the Battle of Westport took place on October 23, 1864 with most of the battle being fought within a mile of modern-day Loose Park. The Union outnumbered their invading enemy 2:1 with 20,000 troops compared to the Confederates 10,000 troops. The Confederate plan fell apart almost immediately due to the Union having the superior numbers and having the strategical advantage. The Union was able to open up two fronts on the Confederates, quickly breaking their lines which caused a retreat. Small sects of the Union repellent force attempted to track down the enemy but were mostly unsuccessful. This fateful day ended the attempted campaign in the West for the Confederates. While both sides sustained roughly the same number of casualties, 1,500 men, the loss knocked out close to 20 percent of the Confederate force while only sidelining roughly 10 percent of the Union force.
The area in and around Loose Park was the main arena for the battle. Today, the park is a place known to most Kansas Citians as a beautiful place to spend the afternoon walking the dog or a place to have a picnic with friends. After the battle took place, the land where Loose Park now sits was the former home of the Kansas City Country Club, one of the city’s first country clubs. Eventually, JC Nichols bought the land surrounding the club to create the Country Club Plaza and the country club moved to a separate location on the Kansas side. The land was then sold to Ella Loose, who wanted to create a park out of the site that honored her husband, Jacob Loose. The park has been in the city’s hands ever since and is the 3rd largest park in Kansas City.
There are a handful of Civil War markers in Loose Park that point out landmarks specific to the Battle of Westport and discuss its history. Although the markers have been there for decades, I had have never noticed them until doing this project. The only landmark in the park that I had noticed before was a Civil War era cannon, which I had no idea was related to the battle. Again, I didn’t make the connection between the cannon and the battle until doing this project. This is a common occurrence amongst Kansas Citians as well. Many in the KC metropolitan area do not know that the most influential battle of the Western front in the Civil War was fought in their backyard. After investigating, the majority of the markers about the battle were put in by 1979, more than 100 years after the battle. In addition to that, the Battle of Westport Visitor Center and Museum was established in 2008, almost 150 years after the battle. The lack of knowledge about the battle among Kansas Citians can be attributed to the lack of memory surrounding the battle in the years after it. Had there been more of an effort to establish memorials or remembrances shortly after the battle, there would be more people who knew about the battle. Due to modern improvements to the memory of the Battle of Westport, the battle and its importance to the Civil War has started to be recognized again.
The Battle of Westport was one of the most consequential battles in on the western front of the Civil War. It stopped the Confederate advance into the Union and virtually ended all hopes and plans of a future campaign in the arena. Due to recent efforts to renew interest in the battle, markers and museums have popped up with the soul reason of remembering the battle. Without those efforts, the most important battle fought in Kansas City would continue to go unremembered.
“Battle of Westport Visitor Center.” Battle of Westport Visitor Center and Museum, www.battleofwestport.org/VisitorCenter.htm.
Hart, John. “Under Moonlight in Missouri: Private John Benton Hart’s Account of Price’s Raid, October 1864.” Kansas History, vol. 37, no. 3, Sept. 2014, pp. 180–199. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=109374146&site=ehost-live.
Jenkins, Paul Burrill. Battle of Westport. Franklin Hudson, 1906.
“Monnett Battle of Westport Fund.” Civil War Round Table of Kansas City - Monnett Battle of Westport Fund, cwrtkc.org/monnett_battle_of_westport_fund.
Rafuse, Ethan S. “But for a Horse.” America’s Civil War, vol. 31, no. 5, Nov. 2018, pp. 34–41. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=131380781&site=ehost-live.