Oklahoma’s bloodiest battle, 200 to 300 soldiers killed in action, some of the fallen still lay near where they fell

RENTIESVILLE, Okla. - The trails of this state park meander through forest and field, the green of spring.

More than a century and a half conceals the history of the place and of a Civil War battle that took place here in July, 1863.

"There was a total of 9,000 troops that fought here," said historian Adam Lynn. "It was a four-hour engagement."

Lynn is the director of the Honey Springs Battlefield Memorial and Museum. His passion is the Civil War and the unique engagement that took place here between Native American regiments on both sides, of black infantry unites who weren't even full authorized to fight and regular Americans struggling between North and South.

The black infantry, Lynn said, "were placed right in the middle of the Union lines."

Of the battle itself, Lynn said "It is thought to be one of the most culturally diverse conflicts to take place during the Civil War."

Their objective was the control of the Texas Road whose ruts still run through these woods.

Lynn points to an overgrown trail, "Prior to the battle, there would have been hundreds of wagons traveling through here."

The battle raged across a toll bridge over Elk Creek, a trading post along the road.

The outcome, a Union Victory, established control of the entire Indian Territory.

"Union victory here led to federal control of all Indian Territory for the remainder of the Civil War," Lynn said.

Union commanders credited the 1st Kansas Colored Infantry for holding their line and winning the day over a numerically superior Confederate force.

Lynn said "they were the very first African-American citizens to fight in the Civil War for the North."

The battle was truly unique pitting Cherokee brother against Cherokee brother.

Somewhere between 200 and 300 soldiers fell here, many of their graves grew over, their exact locations forgotten.

Lynn said "This is the largest battle to ever take place in Oklahoma and the most who've ever fallen."

People across Oklahoma pause on Memorial Day to remember citizens who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

The largest grave site might not be marked with white crosses or wreaths.

It's here somewhere near the original battlefield, unmarked but not forgotten.

"History happened here," Lynn said. "It's hallowed ground."

For more information on the Battle of Honey Springs or the state park there, click here.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.