MUSKOGEE, Okla. (AP) _ Three interpretive trails have opened at the site of a Civil War battle that gave the Union control of Indian Territory.
The trails at the Honey Springs Battlefield are the first of six that are planned and contain 60 percent of the battlefield's significant points of interest, said Friends of Honey Springs President Logan Sharpe.
``It's the first step for the rest of the history of the site and it will open up the area between Muskogee and McIntosh counties for history buffs to visit,'' Sharpe said.
The trails opened on Saturday as more than 80 visitors and re-enactors came to the site's annual memorial ceremony to remember the soldiers who fell during the Civil War battle.
``This ceremony coincides with the first time the park has really been open to the public,'' said Dr. William Lees of the Oklahoma Historical Society. ``These trails open the place up so that what we have here is accessible.''
Officials also got a look at a building that will be used as a visitors center. The building was once a temporary dwelling for Checotah Public Schools and was also used as an out building for an area farm, said Site Superintendent Ralph Jones.
Within the next three years, the battlefield could be recognized by the National Park Service, said Dr. Roy H. Fischer, who was co-founder of the Oklahoma Battlefield Commission with Muskogee's late philanthropist, James Leake.
``It just takes years to get these things going,'' said Fischer, who was at the site's first ceremony in 1963 _ the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Honey Creek.
``It's a piece of history we get to live a little each year and feel like we are a part of it,'' said James McGavock, a member of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans Albert Pike Camp 1367 of El Reno. ``Besides, we had ancestors in the Confederate Army, so its an obligation.''
The Confederates were defeated at Honey Springs by a group whose members considered just laborers.
The 1st Kansas Infantry Volunteers were black slaves fighting for their freedom. They faced two Texas Calvary units at 25 paces and overpowered them in a victory that historians say helped settle arguments about the fighting will of blacks.