People usually don’t think of Route 66 in conjunction with the Civil War, but as the U.S. commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, Cuba, Missouri, known as the “Route 66 Mural City” can boast a Civil War attraction.
As part of its outdoor mural project, Viva Cuba, a community betterment organization, commissioned 12 outdoor murals along the Route 66 corridor. One of these is actually a series of Civil War scenes of the Battle of Pilot Knob a Missouri battle that began when Confederate General Sterling Price attacked Fort Davidson, under the charge of Union General Thomas Ewing.
When the clever Union soldiers snuck out of the Fort under cover of darkness rather than surrender, the chase was on. After blowing up the fort so that ammunition and supplies that were left behind would not fall into Confederate hands, Union troops fled cross-country.
The Confederates chased the Union soldiers across the Huzzah River near Steelville, to Leasburg, where the Union soldiers planned on escaping by train. However, Confederate troops burned train tracks in the nearby towns of Bourbon and Cuba, thus trapping the soldiers in Leasburg. With Confederate troops bearing down on them, the Union soldiers once more thought that the end was near. Leasburg and Bourbon are also Route 66 towns that have played their roles in the Civil War.
Then Union troops from Rolla arrived to save the day, and the troops were able to get to Rolla and safety. It is said that the grateful troops danced and sang, “Rally round the Flag Boys” when the rescuing troops arrived.
It is the Battle of Pilot Knob and the following events that the Viva Cuba organization hired Oregon artist Don Gray to depict in its series of Civil War murals on Buchanan Street, just off Route 66 in Cuba.
The striking murals are a great attraction for Route 66 travelers to visit during the 2011 Sesquicentennial Anniversary of America’s Civil War. The Crawford County Historical Society Museum in Cuba is located on N. Smith Street off Route 66 to provide more information on the Civil War and Route 66.
So, this summer you can get your history, and your kicks, on Route 66.
Written by Jane Reed, media coordinator for theViva Cuba Mural Project.