America's Best History Spotlight

On this page we're going to Spotlight the lesser known historic sites and attractions that dot the history landscape across the USA and are worth a visit if you're in their area. And while they may be lesser known, some are very unique, and will be that rare find. You'll be, at times, on the ground floor, or maybe even know something others don't. It'll be fun. Visit them.

Battle of Belmont

Battle of Belmont, Missouri

U.S. Grant had been a soldier during the Mexican War, an itinerant farmer, and somehow had gotten to know Abraham Lincoln during his days as a traveling judge. Therefore, when Grant rejoined the Army during the first year of the Civil War, he had little command experience. However, by August 28, 1861, he had been put in command of southeastern Missouri. A series of events soon unfolded. Neutral Kentucky was invaded by General Leonidas Polk by taking the town of Columbus, Kentucky, directly across the Mississippi River from Belmont, Missouri. After considering an attack by river, Grant decided he could not best the formidable positions of the Confederates. However, some Confederates decided to test him at Belmont, crossing the river to string a chain to stop any Union gunboats from traveling south. Image above: Drawing of the Battle of Belmont, 1894, Frank Leslie's Illustrated. Courtesy Library of Congress.

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Info, What's There Now, History Nearby

Battle map of the Battle of Belmont

Battle of Belmont, Missouri

General Fremont did not want Grant to attack; he preferred containment of the Confederates from moving further west, and told Grant to deploy from Cairo, Illinois on November 6, 1861 with the mission of containment. However, Grant heard that the Confederates attempt was to attack Missouri citizens who backed the Federal Army, so he headed straight for Belmont instead.

Today, you can visit a very small section of the battleground, in a state park on the Kentucky side where Confederates had built defenses, but it's still worth a visit to learn about the strategy that Grant would employ and how this led to larger things for the General.

The Kentucky fortifications at Columbus were completed in September 1861 by Confederate General Leonidas Polk as Fort DeRussy with 143 cannons. The park commemorates the significance of this point in controlling the river, with Polk's giant chain, one mile long, at the position of Columbus and Belmont. Belmont, Missouri, no longer exists, overwhelmed by the river. Columbus is not much larger, with a population below two hundred and dwindling, and has been subject to flooding over the decades. The state park sits on a bluff two hundred feet above the river with much of the Confederate buildings and earthworks taken by the Mississippi, too, although some of the earthworks remain.

Image above: A map of the Battle of Belmont, 1895, Charles H. Arms, U.S. War Department. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons. Below: Montage of two Confederate Generals involved in the Battle of Belmont; Lt. General Leonidas Polk (left), circa 1863-4, T. Lilienthal; and Brigadier General Gideon J. Pillow, 1870 author unknown. Polk courtesy Alabama Digital Archives via Wikipedia Commons; Pillow courtesy Wikipedia Commons.

Confederate Generals Polk and Pillow

Where Is It

Waco Mammoth National Monument is located at 6220 Steinbeck Bend Drive, Waco, TX 76708. Waco itself is located in the north-central section of the state, one hundred and eight-five miles northwest of Houston, and just under one hundred miles south of the Dallas/Ft. Worth area.

What is There Now

Columbus Belmont State Park

In 1925 after the river receded, a good portion of Polk's chain was recovered. It is the main attraction of the park. The park was dedicated by the state in 1934. The anchor weighs four to six tons. The Civilian Conservation Corps built a monument to hold it and the remaining chain. Also in the park is a huge cannon dedicated to Polk's wife. "Polk's Wife" weighed 15,000 pounds and was ten feet long. It bombarded Union troops at the Battle of Belmont until its last fired shot exploded the cannon itself and killed eighteen Confederate soldiers.

Today a museum in a farmhouse that had been a Confederate hospital serves as its visitor center. There is a campground overlooking the Mississippi River, miniature golf, hiking trails along the Confederate earthworks, a snack bar and mini-golf on the one hundred and fifty-six acre parkland.

When Open and How Much

The Columbus-Belmont State Park is open daily May to Septeber, and on weekend in April and October. Admission costs $4.00 for adults and $3.00 for children and seniors. Unsure of the extra charges for the mini-golf and camping (likely) or other activities.

Fees subject to change.

Columbus-Belmont State Park

History Nearby

This area long the Mississippi River between Missouri and Kentucky holds a variety of attractions, but non real close to Belmont, which does not exist, or Columbus, which is holding on. Wickliffe Mounds State Historic Site is not too far north of Columbus, there's more Civil War sites such as Perryville, Wilson's Creek, and more as well.

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