Prairie Fire and the Battle of Island Mound

Prairie Fire and the Battle of Island Mound (HM156M)

Location: Butler, MO 64730 Bates County
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Country: United States of America
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N 38° 14.04', W 94° 26.44'

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In the 1860s, the vast, rolling tallgrass prairies of the Osage Plains stretched for miles. Maintained by periodic fires for approximately 5,000 years before European settlement, prairie once covered approximately 78 percent of Bates County, Mo. Historically, the creeks and rivers in the area harbored stately bur oaks and post oaks, both fire-tolerant species able to withstand the regularly occurring prairie fires that swept through the area. By the mid-1860s, small homesteads and family farms dotted the prairie landscape, taking full advantage of the rich prairie sod and winding waterways. Outside of the farmed areas, the natural history and fires associated with tallgrass prairie remained an integral part of life for area settlers.

Prairie Fire as a Weapon
The landscape features here, including the prairie and wetlands associated with the Marais-des-Cygnes River, played a signficant role in the events of the Battle of Island Mound, the first time black troops faced combat in the Civil War. Troops from both sides were well-versed in the flammability of prairie grasses.

On Oct. 29, 1862, following a full day of skirmishes between Southern guerrillas and the First Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry, the Southern forces set fire to the prairie, pushing Kansas troops back to the Toothman Farm. The Kansans intentionally lit a back fire to burn the grasses, removing the fuel feeding the Southern fire. This created a "blackline" that halted the flames set by the Southerners and protected their camp at the Toothman farm. Throughout the day, the prairie fires caused utter chaos and confusion, described in later reports as "a hellish backdrop of smoke and flame" as hand-to-hand combat ensued.

[Top right photo caption reads]
The staff at Prairie State Park regularly maintain over 3,500 acres of native tallgrass prairie with prescribed fire, continuing the ancient natural process that results in a vibrant landscape each spring.
HM NumberHM156M
Year Placed2012
Placed ByMissouri Department of Natural Resources
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Tuesday, October 21st, 2014 at 11:11am PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)15S E 373913 N 4232759
Decimal Degrees38.23400000, -94.44066667
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 38° 14.04', W 94° 26.44'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds38° 14' 2.40" N, 94° 26' 26.40" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)660
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 100-198 NW 5001 Rd, Butler MO 64730, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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