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Website to guide area Civil War travelers

The broken sword of Lt. Col. John Knapp will be part of a Missouri History Museum exhibit on the Civil War.
(Missouri History Museum)
The broken sword of Lt. Col. John Knapp will be part of a Missouri History Museum exhibit on the Civil War.

Civil War buffs who want to make St. Louis a part of their itinerary during the sesquicentennial of the war have a new website to help them plan their trip.

The Missouri History Museum and the St. Louis Conventions and Visitors Commission unveiled the Freedom's Gateway Web site today.

Missouri - and especially St. Louis - played complex roles in the conflict, says museum president Bob Archibald. Though Missouri was a slave state, it did not secede from the union. And St. Louis, along with other pockets, supported abolition.

"It's two stories, and maybe many more than that," Archibald says. "It's political stories, it's military stories, it's the story of the widow, it's the story of the bushwhacker, it's the story of all these people who are acting for one reason or another and creating great tragedy and great bloodshed. I don't think people know those stories."

The website is meant to be a one-stop shop where travelers and locals can learn about events throughout the area that will tell those stories, as well as learn more about the region's place in the Civil War landscape.

CVC president Kitty Ratcliffe is especially excited about drawing so-called "heritage travelers," who she says stay at a destination longer.

"There are nearly 93 million American adult travelers that include a heritage or cultural experience during a trip, and then spend nearly a thousand dollars per stay, one-third more than the other average leisure travelers," she says.

In addition to the website, the the museum will stage an exhibit of Civil War artifacts from the region. Archibald expects the exhibit, which will open November 11, to be one of the most popular attractions.

The broken sword pictured above will be part of that exhibit. It belonged to Lt. Col. John Knapp, a commander of the secessionist Missouri Volunteer Militia.  Knapp, angered that Camp Jacksonhad fallen to a Union force led by Capt. Nathaniel Lyon, broke his sword over the fence rather than surrender it to Union forces. 

Ettie Berneking contributed reporting.

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.