A piece of ground where Missourians fought Missourians for a short time on July 5, 1861 is one step closer to being preserved forever.

A piece of ground where Missourians fought Missourians for a short time on July 5, 1861 is one step closer to being preserved forever.

Jasper County officials received word on Tuesday that an application by the Ozarks Regional Land Trust and the Civil War Preservation Trust to buy an easement on 180 acres of land on Civil War Road on Buck Branch Creek north of Carthage was approved for funding by the National Parks Service this year.

The land is owned by James “Pop” Menefee and his family, and they will continue to own and use the land for his cattle ranching operation, but the easement will mean neither they nor future owners of the land can develop it for homes or other buildings.

Menefee runs a grass-fed beef ranch on the property, and will still be able to run that business according to the easement.

The Jasper County Commissioners will serve as a “pass-through agency,” taking the $105,075 on behalf of the two trusts and giving it to Menefee for the easement. The trusts will then own the easement.

This grant was one of seven announced last week by the National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program, preserving about 760 acres of Civil War battlefield land across the nation.

Menefee told the commissioners in August he approached the Civil War Preservation Trust and learned the history of what happened on his land, then decided it needed to be preserved.
“This is one good thing that will last from now on,” he told the commissioners on Aug. 20, 2013. “There will never be a development or a Walmart or anything built on this Civil War battleground and I would like to see this piece stay like it is for my lifetime, for my children, my grandchildren, my great grandchildren and so on. I love my life there and I'd like to keep it that way.”

Historic importance
Menefee's land was the location of one of the key engagements in the Civil War Battle of Carthage on July 5, 1861.

Jasper County Records Center Director and historian Steve Weldon said Bucks Branch was an important engagement in the Battle of Carthage.

It was at Buck's Branch where Col. Franz Sigel's 1,100 troops faced possibly their biggest challenge as they struggled to escape about 6,000 Missouri State Guard troops under Gov. Claiborne Fox Jackson.

Weldon said State Guardsmen on horseback had managed to get to Sigel's rear, blocking his retreat to Carthage, so some of Sigel's men fixed bayonets and charged the horsemen, scattering them and allowing the Union soldiers and their supply train to retreat to Carthage.
“It's important to remember that the State Guard troops were not cavalry, they were soldiers on horseback, and there's a difference,” Weldon said. “A cavalryman is specially trained to fight form horseback. At the same time, the horse also has to be specially trained not to be spooked by gunfire and loud noises. These were farm boys on farm horses and from what we know, they scattered when the Union soldiers fired their muskets and cannon.”

Menefee said in August he talked it over with his wife, who has since passed away, and three children and two grandchildren and the entire family agreed to his plan to put the easement on the land.

In July, David Coonrod, who was then the Ozarks Regional Land Trust executive director, approached the Jasper County Commission about serving as a “pass-through” agency, meaning they would direct the funds from a National Park Service grant to where they needed to go in order to pay the landowners for the easement.

The Washington D.C.-based Civil War Trust, a group dedicated to preserving Civil War Battlefields, will purchase the easement using the National Park Service grant. Under the terms of the easement, the landowner agrees to give up development rights in exchange for money and a tax break,