A new travel guide to historic places and Civil War sites in the Missouri-Kansas border region is now available.

A new travel guide to historic places and Civil War sites in the Missouri-Kansas border region is now available.
Diane Eickhoff and Aaron Barnhart, co-authors of “The Big Divide,” were the guest speakers during the recent Newtonia Battlefields Protection Association’s meeting.

“There are more people interested in history, more people are taking history road trips and ours is the first guide of its kind that not only tells the history of this entire region, not just the Missouri side, but the Kansas side and their shared history,” said Barnhart. “But it also gives you that history through its historic sites and its battlefields.”

Newtonia alone saw two battles during the Civil War: The first battle occurred on Sept. 30, 1862, and saw an unprecedented number of Native American units fight on both sides. The second battle on Oct. 28, 1864, was the last one fought in Missouri, a state that had more Civil War clashes than any other beside Virginia and Tennessee. Approximately 350 soldiers were either killed or wounded in 1862, and 650 casualties were reported in the 1864 battle.

“And Newtonia is a perfect example of the difference because if someone says a skirmish happened and there is no really place of public memory for it, it gets written up in a book and that is about it,” he said. “But what we are more interested in is places of public memory where people can visit and learn more about the story, where they can interact with people like battlefield preservation, people who may have had great-grandparents who were involved in the history, in other words, these places are not theme parks. What they are is they are authentic and they tell a part of our shared American history.”

The authors started the project about two and a half years ago. Eickhoff is an historian, while Barnhart is a journalist who used to work for The Kansas City Star.

“We visited about 200 sites,” she said. “We visited every site that is in there.”

“We chose about 130 that we recommended for this book,” he added. “What Diane really came up with – this was her idea – was the average travel guide is arranged geographically, gives you guides to bed and breakfast, lodging, there are guides that do that. Diane said, ‘let’s help road trippers put together a really great history road trip.’ We organized the guide historically and chronologically.”

There are three chapters devoted to the Civil War.

“The first one is the Battle for Missouri,” Eickhoff said. “The second one is the Guerilla War Along the Border and the third one is From Price’s Raid to Jesse James. It covers the whole Civil War. And back and forth across the border.”

But the book doesn’t stop at the end of the Civil War.

“After the war, the book includes sites like George Washington Carver National Monument, these are things that were unleashed by the energy post war: reconstruction, railroads, homesteading, etc.,” he said.

The book has 256 pages, is illustrated, and can be purchased at Amazon.com or TheBigDivide.com or by calling 816-200-2276.