St. Louis’ Jefferson Barracks museum, cemetery offer look at American history

Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery

Civil War history has always intrigued me. I admit I am far from an expert on anything related to the war, but I enjoy learning about its events and players. One such player was Jefferson Barracks, near St. Louis. The fort opened for business in 1826, replacing another fort along the Mississippi River. Explorer William Clark (of Lewis and Clark fame) was among the people searching for the right location.

The fort was named in honor of former President Thomas Jefferson, who had died a year earlier. The fort has remained in operation – longest running military establishment west of the Mississippi River – since opening in 1826. It served the active military through 1946. Today, it is home to the Army and an Air National Guard unit.

Jefferson Barracks

Future President of the Confederate States Jefferson Davis served as Secretary of War during the Mexican-American War in the mid-1840s. President Franklin Pierce dispatched Davis to Jefferson Barracks to put together a unit to battle the Mexicans.

Later, during their pre-Civil War days, both Generals US Grant and Robert E. Lee served at the base.

Jefferson Barracks is also home to the Civil War Museum. The museum houses several artifacts related to the Civil War. Weapons, tools and uniforms are among the items on display.

Among the items that jumped out at me were two military school uniforms. They looked identical, except for the buttons. The southern school – Furman – had gold buttons, while The US Military Academy at West Point (US Army) had silver buttons.

Academy uniforms on display at Jefferson Barracks

We also viewed a series of different military uniforms.

Different uniforms on display at Jefferson Barracks

I always enjoy seeing the soldiers’ hats from earlier periods.

Soldier hat from Civil War era on display at Jefferson Barracks

The Civil War was the first military action documented by photographers. Cameras from the era are on display.

Cameras from the civil war era on display at Jefferson Barracks

Women’s fashions are also on exhibit. You can view a day dress, as well as a formal dress.

Fashion on display from the civil war era at Jefferson Barracks

Weapons, such as pistols, rifles and swords, can be seen.


A uniform jacket and a couple of other pieces of memorabilia on display were used in the movie “Gone with the Wind.”

Uniform used from Gone with the Wind on display at Jefferson Barracks

During the war, the barracks served as a Red Cross hospital, serving both northern and southern wounded soldiers.

Two large flags honor veterans from both sides of the Civil War.

Two large flags representing both sides on display at the Jefferson Barracks

During World War I, the parade grounds were used for paratrooper training. The goal was to have a successful paratrooper landing. Jefferson Barracks was the site of the first successful military parachute attempt.

Jefferson Barracks was site of first paratrooper training

Nearby the base is the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. It overlooks the Mississippi River and serves as the final resting place for veterans and relatives. The first person buried there was a daughter of a soldier in 1827.

Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery overlooks the Mississippi River

During the Civil War, both Union and Confederate soldiers were buried there. The cemetery has the most military graves from the Civil War in Missouri.

Unknown soldier markers from all wars at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery

The cemetery has veterans and active duty people from every American war since the mid-1800s. We found names and Unknown soldiers from the Civil War, Indian Wars, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the recent and current Persian Gulf wars.

Markers from all wars found at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery

Visiting cemeteries and showing respect is a way of keeping people’s memories alive. We find that you can learn a bit of history from these people.

If you like history or just like interesting spots, you should stop by the Civil War Museum at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis, as well the national cemetery.