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Missouri officer candidates visit Wilson’s Creek civil war battlefield
Missouri officer candidates visit Wilson’s Creek civil war battlefield

Missouri National Guard Officer Candidate Andrew Lough speaks during the Wilson's Creek visit.
WILSON’S CREEK, Mo. (April 22, 2010) — A small group of soldiers listened in as Perry Hoffman, a senior candidate with Officer Candidate School Class 48 of the Missouri National Guard, spoke about Confederate Gen. Sterling Price’s strategy during the crucial battle that took place at Wilson’s Creek on Aug. 10, 1861.

“Is there anything you would do differently, based on today’s Army values?” asked Capt. John Myers, who lives in Richland, the class’s senior instructor from the 140th Regional Training Institute at Fort Leonard Wood.

Hoffman, of Rolla, quickly responded by pointing out that Price had prepared his soldiers effectively, especially in response to a surprise Union attack. Hoffman said he would react in the same way because Price’s leadership allowed the Confederate forces to form a line and effectively fight back against Union forces.

Hoffman’s account exemplified the type of training the five officer candidates participated in during April drill. These candidates were expected to analyze the leadership of commanding officers from both Union and Confederate forces during the Civil War battle. They reflected on whether they would make different decisions in today’s Army based on the actual outcome of the battle.

“Studying the decisions of past leaders helps me understand the types of decisions I may have to make in the future,” said Officer Candidate Bill Bailey, who has been in the National Guard for three years.

It also strengthened skills that the future officers will use when instructing their soldiers.

“The training at Wilson’s Creek helps candidates understand strategies of war and gives them a chance to evaluate real battles,” said Myers. “It also gave candidates an opportunity to practice their speaking and teaching abilities.”

Wilson’s Creek is just a two-hour drive from Fort Leonard Wood, where the candidates usually conduct training. The battle was the second major clash of the Civil War, and it ultimately helped keep Missouri in the Union.

The training, though important, was also a way to alleviate stress for the candidates who had finally reached the last stage of their officer training. The April drill was their first as senior candidates, and the tour was completed in a relaxed environment, rather than in a stressful, demanding situation that the candidates have been in for the past year.

“The training today has been a break from our normal routine,” said Bailey. “It was fun to see real terrain on which the Civil War was fought, especially in an area close to home.”

Officer Candidate Andrew Lough, of Rolla, said he appreciated the historical significance of Wilson’s Creek.

“The training today encouraged me to take more interest in history,” he added. “Learning military history is significant because it gives leaders a great chance to analyze battlefield tactics by looking at key individuals and roles from past battles.

The Battle at Wilson’s Creek was a significant battle for the state of Missouri during the Civil War. Although it resulted in a loss for Union forces, which were badly outnumbered, it convinced Abraham Lincoln’s administration that more forces were needed in Missouri. Union forces ultimately prevented Confederate soldiers from taking Missouri.

The candidates, who started their training in February 2009, are scheduled to graduate in September 2010.

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