The Battle of The Blue

The Battle of The Blue
Rebel forces charge the Topeka Battery at Mockbee farm, original painting by Benjamin Mileham

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Question of “Support”

   The decision by General M.S. Grant to attack the Rebel forces at Mockbee Farm was seemingly a sound one – the Confederate Army was threatening to invade Grant’s home-state of Kansas and although the Division he was with (2nd.K.S.M.) was not directly supported at the time, messages had been sent to the other Divisions in the vicinity to come to their aid and repel the Rebel advance.    The problem was that although Grant knew that Colonel Veale and his men would stand against the superior manpower of the Rebels, he had only assumed that nearby divisions such as the 15th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry would do the same.  Had Grant known that the Union Division under the command of Colonel Jennison had fled the oncoming Rebel forces at Byrom’s Ford and retreated to Westport he may have realized that the wind wasn’t blowing his way on this day. Brigadier General Melvin S. Grant of the Kansas State Militia was a civilian shop-keeper from Leavenworth, Kansas and had never been in the position which he now found himself – commanding men other than his own Militia to go into battle.  It may have been naïve of him to undertake an assault on an unknown number of Rebels on the assumption that his message would be relayed, received and obeyed by officers he had only met briefly and by a Union Army that was disjointed and disorganized at the moment.  
    General Grant also found himself at the mercy of political events which would limit the effectiveness of his Militia forces.   Governor Thomas Carney of Kansas had been hesitant to call for the formation of local Militias on account of his own battle he was waging for re-election.   Even though Sterling Price’s Army of Missouri was rolling through that state, Governor Carney was afraid that the mobilization of troops could take hundreds of his supporters away from Kansas on election-day.  Major General Samuel R. Curtis finally convinced Carney to issue the order to form Militia units to protect Kansas, but these men had virtually no time to train and were required to use their own weapons and horses. Many of them were in their 40’s and 50’s and had never served in the military.   The  2nd. Kansas Militia from Shawnee County were one of several of these newly formed militias that now found themselves positioned at intervals along the Kansas/Missouri border and were prepared to go into battle against a large Rebel Army that was battle seasoned.   They were seemingly supported by several Divisions of regular Army units and other Kansas Militia and if the call came to fight most of the men from the 2nd.believed that they would be used in a secondary role while the professionally trained units lead the way.  The problem of adequate communication betrayed them though – and this lack of cohesion caused the be placed in the position they now found themselves in – unsupported on the battlefield in front of a growing force of Rebels under the command of Colonel Sidney Jackman that would out-number them tenfold.  The question remained: how would the men of the 2nd fight?

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