This year's Vespers Service will take place at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 5, at the Battle of Carthage State Historic site. If it is raining, the event will be moved to the Carthage Civil War Museum, 205 Grant St.
Every year since 1989, residents of Carthage have paused on July 5 to remember the soldiers who fought and died, some on the streets around the Carthage Square, in the Battle of Carthage.
This year's Vespers Service will take place at 6:30 p.m. today, Wednesday, July 5, at the Battle of Carthage State Historic site.
On July 5, 1861, 1,100 Union soldiers and about 6,000 Missouri State Guard soldiers, heading for Arkansas to join the Confederacy, battled for control of Carthage, then a tiny village of about 500 people living mostly in homes concentrated around the town Square, which is located in the same place it was located at that time.
Steve Cottrell, Carthage historian and author who has written books on the Battle, said the Vespers Service was a tradition started by the late historian Marvin VanGilder, and continued since his death in 2010.
VanGilder and Cottrell, and other Carthage residents, pushed hard to get the Battle of Carthage site designated a historic park by the state in the 1980s.
Cottrell said VanGuilder hosted the first Vespers Service on July 5, 1989 in the park, which has only been designated a State Historic Site the year before.
Beth Bazal, Park Historic Site Specialist at the Harry S. Truman Birthplace Historic Site in Lamar, which oversees the Carthage park, said new picnic tables have been installed at the park and the information kiosk will soon be getting an upgrade with updated panels that have new information.
The battle lasted all day on July 5. Union soldiers under Col. Franz Sigel arrived in Carthage on July 4 and camped around the spring at the current Battle of Carthage State Historic Site, Carter Park and the surrounding area.
Gov. Claiborne Fox Jackson's Missouri State Guard camped in Lamar that same night and soldiers on both sides encountered each other in the days leading up to the battle, so both commanders knew the other was close.
Sigel's men marched north starting early on July 5 and arrived near the current location of Baseline Road and Civil War Road to find arrayed against them on the hill, 6,000 State Guard troops, about 2,000 of which were unarmed.
Sigel's men formed a line and held off the State Guard, allowing their supply train to retreat, while fighting a running battle all the way back to Carthage.
By sunset, the troops were battling their way across the Carthage Square. The final shots were fired as the sun went down near the Battle of Carthage State Historic Site, where the Union soldiers camped the previous night.
State Guard troops set up camp in that same area while Sigel's men marched all night, finally resting briefly at Sarcoxie before continuing his retreat to Springfield.