Bucket List Road: Honey Springs Battlefield and Historic Site

8 minutes
After a decade at Oklahoma Today, Editor-in-chief Nathan Gunter is filling in the spots he's missed with his series, Bucket List Road. Catch up on previous entries Intro, Aloha, and Jasmine Moran Children's Museum.

I first met Adam Lynn in 2014, when I spent six days on the road with Oklahoma Today freelance photographer James Pratt traveling State Highway 3, the longest of Oklahoma’s many state highways. You can read that story here.

At the time, Adam was the executive director of the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center in Kingfisher, and I described him in the story as “a young, one-man search engine for anything related to the history of the town he calls home.” For Adam, that was Kingfisher at the time, but, he told me, he had originally grown up in Eufaula. We became friends via social media, and when he moved closer to home to become the executive director of the Honey Springs Battlefield and Historic Site a few years later, I thought, “There’s no better man for the job.”

So the other day, a reporting trip took me within just a few miles of Adam’s workplace, a site about which I’d read much and, in the pre-Google-Maps-on-your-phone era, tried unsuccessfully to find while on a road trip with a friend. This time, I set my little digital navigator and found the place with only a minimum of trouble.

All I knew about the Battle of Honey Springs—and Oklahoma’s history during the Civil War—was that there was a bunch I didn’t know, which is why next year, Brian Ted Jones is writing a feature about it (make sure you get that one by subscribing now!).

The first part of the site that I found was the outdoor memorial, near the site of the historic depot over which the battle was waged.

Indoor and out, the Honey Springs Battlefield and Historic Site puts visitors right where history happened. Photo by Nathan Gunter

Indoor and out, the Honey Springs Battlefield and Historic Site puts visitors right where history happened. Photo by Nathan Gunter

It was raining and cold—our first truly inhospitable day of fall—and I gloried in the weather. Earlier in the day, as I’d driven down State Highway 9 on my way to Eufaula, a bald eagle had taken flight just off the side of the road next to my car, so when I arrived at this battlefield, I was thinking about our country. I was thinking about Whitney Houston’s rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner,” and I was thinking about the Social Media Civil War it sometimes feels we’re involved in. I was thinking about some of the things I’d seen online—especially since the start of the pandemic—where it felt like families were being torn apart by politics, by religion, by mental illness, by despair. In the rain and cold, I put my head down, pointed myself into the wind, and took what some might call a prayer walk or a walking meditation. The trail was short enough that I didn’t get too wet or lose sight of my car.

At the visitors center, I was delighted to greet Adam once again. He’s a brilliant historian and a really nice dude who quintupled my knowledge about Civil War Oklahoma.

Honey Springs Battlefield and Historic Site Executive Director Adam Lynn and "Oklahoma Today" Editor in Chief Nathan Gunter.

Honey Springs Battlefield and Historic Site Executive Director Adam Lynn and "Oklahoma Today" Editor in Chief Nathan Gunter.

Did you know, for example, that there were a hundred and seven military engagements between Union and Confederate troops in Indian Territory between 1861 and 1865? Did you know that the Battle of Honey Springs was the deciding engagement that secured Union control of the Territory for the rest of the war? Did you know that Honey Springs was one of the most culturally diverse battles of the entire Civil War, with battalions of Black Americans, Indigenous people, and white people fighting together and against one another? These are all new-to-me bits of information I learned in my short visit. Luckily, Adam recommended me an excellent book to fill the gaps in my knowledge: When the Wolf Came: The Civil War and the Indian Territory by Mary Jane Warde. I look forward to reading it.

Exhibits cover a wide range of topics, including how tribes were impacted by the Civil War. Photo by Nathan Gunter

Exhibits cover a wide range of topics, including how tribes were impacted by the Civil War. Photo by Nathan Gunter

Photo by Nathan Gunter

Photo by Nathan Gunter

I’ll let Brian Ted Jones fill you in on the rest next summer, but if I’ve whet your appetite, allow me to direct you to the Battle of Honey Springs reenactment this Saturday and Sunday out at the site. They’ll have an Education Day on Friday so families can come and learn about the battle, its causes, and its aftermath. Reenactments follow on Saturday and Sunday. If you’d like to visit and will need a place to stay, may I recommend the gorgeous lodge and cabins at Sequoyah State Park, which isn’t far off, or this handy page from TravelOK.com of overnight listings near Checotah.

A note: Across the street from Honey Springs is another of my Bucket List items: The Oklahoma Blues Hall of Fame, which I didn’t get to visit this week due to time constraints but that I look forward to checking out soon.

Get There
Honey Springs Battlefield Historic Site, 101601 S 4232 Rd Checotah, OK 74426 or TravelOK.com
Written By
Nathan Gunter

Nate is an enthusiastic runner and cyclist and frequently can be seen making his way by foot or pedal through Oklahoma City streets. When not working, Nate is reading, writing, watching movies, playing video games, working in his garden, attending concerts, or taking off on road trips.

Nathan Gunter
Previous Blog

"Weekly Events Calendar, November 1-7, 2021"

Next Blog

"Weekly Events Calendar, November 8-14, 2021"

You May Like

Weekly Events Calendar, November 29-December 5, 2021

The holiday season is in full swing and we've got events all across the state to get you in the spirit. Check out the Weekly Events Calen...

The holiday season is in full swing and we've got events all across the state to get you in the spirit. Check out the Weekly Events Calendar and start planning your best week ever.

By Greg Elwell | 4 min read Read BLOG

Tuesday Trivia: November 30, 2021

OOOOOOOOOOOOklahoma's smaller cities appear on TV and movie screens more often than you'd think. See if you can figure out our latest Tue...

OOOOOOOOOOOOklahoma's smaller cities appear on TV and movie screens more often than you'd think. See if you can figure out our latest Tuesday Trivia.

By Greg Elwell | 1 min read Read BLOG

Bucket List Road: Living Kitchen Farm & Dairy

All this traveling has Editor in Chief Nathan Gunter feeling peckish, so he stopped in for a legendary meal at Living Kitchen Farm & ...

All this traveling has Editor in Chief Nathan Gunter feeling peckish, so he stopped in for a legendary meal at Living Kitchen Farm & Dairy in Depew.

By Nathan Gunter | 7 min read Read BLOG