Eight large educational panels will be placed in South St. Louis County along the trail connecting 35 miles of roadway that will stretch from Pacific to Jefferson Barracks. The panels will describe aspects of Grant’s life in St. Louis and in Missouri as well as other Civil War themes. The second phase of the project will produce maps and other literature for travelers wishing to follow the trail and to promote the many cultural resources lying on and near the trail.
“St. Louis was a microcosm of the national turbulence that resulted in America’s Civil War. Ulysses S. Grant’s determination to preserve the Union and end slavery began with the outbreak of war in 1861 and led him to the highest military and political offices in the nation,” said Pamela Sanfilippo, Site Historian at Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site.
Grant’s ties to St. Louis started in 1843 as a young Second Lieutenant stationed at Jefferson Barracks, and lasted until shortly before his death in 1885, Sanfilippo said. “This trail offers travelers the opportunity to learn more about the important roles Ulysses S. Grant and St. Louis played during this pivotal time in our nation’s history.”
Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th President of the United States, was chosen to headline the trail because of his well-known connections to the St. Louis area before and after the Civil War and because his Civil War career started in Missouri. From July to November, 1861, Grant commanded troops that moved steadily from north Missouri to the Boot-heel. Troops under his command fought two battles in Missouri during that time equaling the number of battles fought in the entire state of Virginia during the same period.
Missouri was the epicenter of military activity during the first year of the Civil War. In 1861, forty-five percent of all battles in the country occurred in Missouri. Organizers hope to capitalize on that fact for the sesquicentennial or 150th anniversary of the war when Civil War buffs begin traveling in spring and summer 2011. The St. Louis County leg is slated to be joined by other trail segments north and south to create a significant tourist draw for Midwest travelers and Civil War enthusiasts.
Promoters also hope to shine light on some other lesser-known Civil War sites on the Trail. One such site, in the heart of Lemay near St. Andrews Church, is where the Northern hero of Gettysburg, Union Major General Winfield Scott Hancock, recuperated from a serious wound he received in that battle. Hancock’s father-in-law owned the estate at the time, and Hancock’s association with the property was recognized when the “Hancock Place School District” was so named.
The first panel in St. Louis County will be located at the Father Dickson Cemetery in Crestwood, where James Milton Turner is buried. Turner, who is most famous for his activities in the field of education, was also the first African American born in slavery to serve as a U. S. Ambassador to a foreign nation. He was appointed to this post in 1871 by then President Ulysses S. Grant.
Panels are slated to be placed in St. Louis County Parks and also at the premier Grant venues in St. Louis County such as Jefferson Barracks and the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site, near Grant’s Farm.
This effort is not affiliated with the Grant Trail biking and walking trail that has been established by St. Louis Trailnet. It will however closely track the route of that trail east from Interstate 44 and Big Bend, and give motorists an opportunity to enjoy many of the same highlights featured on that trail.
The organizations that are involved in the endeavor include the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site; the Jefferson Barracks Heritage Foundation, the Jefferson Barracks Community Council, the Father Dickson Cemetery Association, Missouri’s Civil War Heritage Foundation and St. Louis County Parks. The group has secured funding for the initial phase of trail development from the St. Louis County Port Authority and the Gertrude and William A. Bernoudy Foundation.