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Rolla Area
Information


Rolla Was Strategic Site in Civil War Times

Rolla was an important site during the Civil War, because the southwest branch of the Pacific Railroad ended here.

Thousands of Union troops and their supplies came to Rolla by train from St. Louis and then were transferred to wagon trails to go to the battles of Wilson Creek in Springfield, Mo., Pea Ridge, and Prairie Grove in Arkansas, plus a number of other smaller skirmishes.

The railroad had arrived in Rolla in 1860 but the outbreak of the war halted the westward expansion of the line.

The town of about 600 civilians had a large population of Union troops at that time. Since the Union forces seized control of the town early in the war, they had a big impact upon the town and its operation.

The town was a busy place for the visitor. In 1860 sugar sold for 10 cents a pound, tobacco for 30 cents a pound. Whiskey went for 25 cents a gallon. City lots sold for $25 per lot.

The Courthouse was used as a hay storage barn and later as a hospital for wounded soldiers. After the commanding general of the Union Forces, General Nathaniel Lyon, was killed at the Wilson's Creek battle near Springfield, his body was brought to Rolla to be transported back East for burial.

Old town Rolla was located along Main Street near the Courthouse. The business district moved to Pine Street in the late 19th Century.

Following the Union defeat at Wilson's Creek on Aug. 10, 1861, the Union Army fell back to Rolla and began building an earthen fort on the top of a hill alongside the present Highway 63 about a mile from the Courthouse. The rectangular fort had a dry moat around the perimeter with 32-pound field pieces located on each corner of the fort to cover any attack on Rolla from the south. It was named Fort Wyman after Colonel John B. Wyman.

Fort Dette was a more detailed fort that was constructed in 1863 on what is now the campus of the University of Missouri-Rolla. It was constructed in a cross shape with positions for both 24-pound cannons and ports for individual rifle fire.


Article from the Welcome Newcomers publication available at the Rolla Chamber of Commerce. Reprinted with permission of the Rolla Daily News.





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