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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Near Butler in Bates County, Missouri — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)
 

Prairie Fire and the Battle of Island Mound

 
 
Prairie Fire and the Battle of Island Mound Marker image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., October 27, 2012
1. Prairie Fire and the Battle of Island Mound Marker
Inscription.

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
Prairie Fire and the Battle of Island Mound Marker image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., October 27, 2012
2. Prairie Fire and the Battle of Island Mound Marker
Looking north across the restored tallgrass prairie
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.
 
Erected 2012 by Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
 
Location. 38° 14.04′ N, 94° 26.44′ W. Marker is near Butler, Missouri, in Bates County. Marker can be reached from Marth Road (County Road 1002) near Cooper Road (County Road 5001). Click for map. Marker is on the grounds of Battle of Island Mound State Historic Site. Marker is in this post office area: Butler MO 64730, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 6 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Bates County, Missouri in 1862 (about 700 feet away, measured in a direct line); The Toothman Farm (approx. 0.2 miles away); Battle of Island Mound Memorial
Prairie Fire and the Battle of Island Mound Marker image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., October 27, 2012
3. Prairie Fire and the Battle of Island Mound Marker
Looking WSW toward County Road 5001 near treeline
(approx. 0.2 miles away); First Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry Regimental History (approx. 0.2 miles away); The Battle of Island Mound: A Demonstration to the Nation (approx. 0.2 miles away); The Battle of Island Mound (approx. 0.2 miles away); Replica of the Statue of Liberty (approx. 5.7 miles away); Butler History Murals (approx. 6 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Butler.
 
Also see . . .
1. Prairie Fires. (Submitted on October 28, 2012, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
2. The Battle of Island Mound. (Submitted on October 28, 2012, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
3. First Kansas Colored Infantry. (Submitted on October 28, 2012, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
4. Battle of Island Mound State Historic Site. (Submitted on October 28, 2012, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
5. Prairie State Park, Missouri. (Submitted on October 28, 2012, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
 
Categories. African AmericansEnvironmentPatriots & PatriotismWar, US Civil
 
Map on Prairie Fire and the Battle of Island Mound Marker image. Click for full size.
By Walter Schroeder, undated
4. Map on Prairie Fire and the Battle of Island Mound Marker
[Caption reads] The green area on the map shows the vast prairie in presettlement Missouri. Bates County, Mo. is circled in black and Barton County, Mo., where Prairie State Park is located, is circled in red.
Photo on Prairie Fire and the Battle of Island Mound Marker image. Click for full size.
By Allison Vaughn, undated
5. Photo on Prairie Fire and the Battle of Island Mound Marker
[Caption reads] Each July, the tall purple spikes of blazing star dominate the landscape at Prairie State Park in Southeast [sic- Southwest] Missouri. Wildflower displays were once common on the Bates County prairies.
Battle of Island Mound State Historic Site Sign image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr.
6. Battle of Island Mound State Historic Site Sign
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 468 times since then and 12 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on , by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.   6. submitted on , by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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