On the 7th and 8th of that month, nearly 26,000 soldiers fought to determine whether Missouri would remain under Union control, and whether or not Federal armies could continue their offensive south through the Mississippi River Valley.
Major General Earl Van Dorn led 16,000 Confederates against 10,250 Union soldiers, under the command of Brigadier General Samuel R. Curtis. The Confederate force also included some 800 Cherokees fighting for the Confederacy, while half of the Federals were German immigrants.
The park also includes a two and one half mile segment of the Trail of Tears. The Elkhorn Tavern, site of bitter fighting on both days, is a NPS reconstruction on the site of the original. The park is one of the most well preserved battlefields in the United States.