I’ve always had an interest in the American Civil War.
There’s so much fascinating history there. The figure of Abraham Lincoln…the freeing of the slaves…Gone with the Wind and Lee and Grant and Confederate money not worth the paper it was printed on. Brother against brother. Since I was a kid I’ve always wanted to know more. I also always wanted to see a battle reenactment, but I knew I’d have to go to the “real” south to see one. This is Oklahoma. We’re barely the south.
Then I learned about the Battle of Honey Springs, which took place near present-day Rentiesville.
According to the state travel website, the fight that took place on the Honey Springs Battlefield was the largest of 107 documented hostile encounters of the Civil War that occurred in Indian Territory. Additionally, it was one of the few if not the only battle that involved African American, American Indian, Hispanic and Anglo American soldiers. Records show it was the heroics of the African American regiment known as the First Kansas Colored that won the victory for the Union. The Battle of Honey Springs took place July 17, 1863.
This is a big place, and there are trails all over it for walking around and learning more. There are also signs along the way that have information about what happened there.
The director, Christopher Price, was there when we came and invited us into the little interpretive center trailer, where they had videos, a model of the battlefield, and other items of interest – plus gift shop items that held my children’s interest. My children liked the models, especially the horses, but they mostly liked running around in the wooded areas with Price’s sons, who were out of school for the Thanksgiving holiday and spending the day at work with their dad. They were pretending to be soliders for part of it, so that was hands-on education, I think.
The interpretive center was very small, but a new one is currently being constructed. A 5,000 square foot visitors’ center will replace the existing interpretive center soon.
They also hold reenactments each year, and this is going to be a big one, since this year is the 150th anniversary of the battle. Even though it was originally in July, the reenactment will be held November 8-10, 2013. I’ve never been to a reenactment, but I can’t think of many reasons that I won’t be there this November.
This picture came from their facebook page, and shows some reenactment scenes. You can also sort of see the little picture of what the new interpretive center is going to look like.
It’s free to visit the battlefield; hours vary for the interpretive center. It’s always closed Sundays, Mondays and state holidays. Other days, send an email to email@example.com to ensure someone will be there to let you inside.
Here’s a link to a pdf flyer that has more info about the battlefield.
The place was a little hard to find at first. The address is 1863 Honey Springs Battlefield Road in Checotah. We tried putting that in the GPS and it wasn’t particularly helpful. Try these old-school directions instead: From I-40, take exit 264B north on Hwy 69 to the Checotah/Rentiesville exit, turn left onto old 69 and drive north 1.75 miles to the Rentiesville/Honey Springs Rd, then turn right and drive east 2 miles to DC Minner St and turn left. Drive north 1 mile where the road turns east, drive east 1/4 mile then turn back north.