The Years After
Although Mine Creek was one of a series of battles in a failed regional campaign, many of the participants built on their wartime activities in the later years of the their life. Private Dunlavy and Sergeant Young both received the Congressional Medal of Honor for their efforts. Perhaps the most visible career was that of Benteen. In 1876, he became famous (or infamous) as the commander of the surviving portion of General George Armstrong Custer's ill-fated 7th Cavalry at the Battle of Little Bighorn. Alfred Pleasonton never regained his reputation as a cavalry leader but did have the honor of having a new community in Linn County named after him. The name of the community, however, received a different spelling: Pleasanton. After the war, many of the officers returned to the region. Missourians John Clark and John Marmaduke went on to serve that state as congressman and governor, respectively. Shelby also returned to Missouri after the war. After a brief attempt to establish a colony for former Confederates in Mexico, Price returned to St. Louis where he died in 1867.
Meanwhile in Kansas, war gave way to the more pressing needs of developing agriculture in the prairie state. The farmsteads that Price crossed returned to agricultural use. Several families applied to the Federal Government's Price Raid Commission for compensation on damages incurred during the 1864 raid. By the 1870s, the tracks of the Missouri River, Fort Scott, and Gulf Railroad replaced the old Military Road as the main route along the Kansas-Missouri border. In 1923, the Old Military Road became U.S. Highway 69.
In the years that followed, relics of Price's raid and the battle of Mine Creek occasionally surfaced. Sometimes a plow uncovered a bone or skull from one of the victims. Reunions took place as well. The 20th anniversary in 1884, for example, included a large pavilion where Pleasonton, Benteen, Philips and other surviving Union officers recounted their events. By the Turn of the Century, a local chapter of the Grand Army of the Republic hosted annual encampments on the site. In the 1930s, there were even plans for the War Department to place a surplus cannon at the battlefield site but little came of the effort. By 1940, however, there was a marker at the intersection of highways 51 and 69. To the north, the site of the Battle of Westport, became a rose garden and public park.
During the twentieth century, however, popular memory in Linn County centered on the Marais des Cygnes incident. They connected with the story of Free-soilers massacred by Border Ruffians. They proudly recounted the visit of Free-soil icon John Brown. Locals focused their preservation efforts on the stone house that had been constructed on the site of Brown's "fort" after the event. In 1941 a local chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars donated the site to the state of Kansas. In 1964, after a three-year restoration effort, the Kansas State Historical Society opened the structures as a museum. Price's Raid and the Battle of Mine Creek (which has also gone by several other names including the Battle of Round Mound, the Battle of the Osage, the Battle of Trading Post, and the Battle of the Marais des Cygnes) were important but were secondary in the community's memory.
Efforts to turn the Mine Creek site into a park emerged with the battle's centennial celebration in 1964. That year, the state established a roadside park and monument where Highway 69 crossed Mine Creek. It took another ten years to turn the location of the actual battle into a park. In 1974, the Kansas legislature authorized the state to purchase a 120-acre parcel at the site. Four years later, the state authorized the purchase of an additional 160 acres. That same year, local historian Lumir Buresh published the only full-length book on the Battle of Mine Creek. These acquisitions protected only a part of the original battlefield. Yet local landowners were not always willing to sell or donate their land to the state. To overcome this obstacle, a private organization, the Friends of Mine Creek, organized to provide a non-profit entity to which these land owners could sell. Doing so allowed portions of the battlefield to be acquired without forcing the landowner to sell to the state.
Acquiring the land was only the first step to creating a battlefield park at Mine Creek. The next challenge was to develop the site. Initial development at the site was limited. In the early 1990s, interest in further developing the site resulted in the creation of a committee that included representatives from the Linn County Historical Society, the Friends of Mine Creek, the National Park Service, the Kansas State Historical Society, the Linn County Commission, the Civil War Round Table of Kansas City, the Linn County Economic Development Committee, and other state and local political figures. This committee started the planning process for a visitors center and further development and interpretation. In 1999, the Kansas State Historical Society officially dedicated the visitors center at Mine Creek Battlefield State Historic Park.
In more recent years, the natural history of the region has also received attention. The most important aspect of this has been the creation of the 7,500-acre Marais des Cygnes National Wildlife Refuge. Here, visitors can experience the marshy lands that host the trumpeter swans that originally gave the river its name. As a result, a combination of federal, state, local, and private efforts have worked to make the eastern border of Kansas an educational experience for locals and visitors alike.