The Battle of The Blue

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

Thursday, October 20, 2011

October 23 & 24th 1864; Casualties of the 2nd Kansas Militia

 He died regretted by all. Active, talented, generous, earnest, his cowardly murder, after surrender, is but another evidence of the hellish spirit engendered by slavery.
 An excerpt from: "Rebel Invasion of Missouri and Kansas, and  the Campaign of the Army of the Border, Against General Sterling Price, in October and November, 1864." by Richard Josiah Hinton 

   The fate of the dead and wounded men from the battle at the Mockbee Farm on October 22nd deserves further explanation.  As night fell on the Farm on that Saturday, the dead from both sides lay mostly where they fell in battle and the injured were brought to the field hospital at the home of Boston Adams a short distance away.   The Confederate surgeon in charge was likely Dr. William McPheters but it seems he was short on staff and supplies, and asked the prisoners waiting in the yard if there was a doctor among them.  At this point Captain A.J.Huntoon volunteered his service and worked the remainder of the night.  The men who were in such a critical condition that they were unable to travel were left at the Adams place when General Price's Army fled south and were left under the care of Major Caleb Winfrey, CSA.  Major Winfrey continued to treat the wounded from both sides for the next two days as the Battle of Westport played out.
      There were a few men from the 2nd Kansas Militia who had been shot after they surrendered and left on the field to die; these men would lay on the Battlefield until after the Battle of Westport was concluded the next day.  The head surgeon from the Union Army, Major Samuel B.Davis, had planned to send ambulances to the area around Byram's Ford, including the Mockbee Farm, on the morning of October 23rd.  His plans were delayed until after the Union Army finally drove the Rebels south in the mid-afternoon and by then there were hundreds more injured to care for.  In the meantime, at least one man would be carried from the field by an escaped comrade and taken to a nearby home.
  Private Merrick Race of Topeka Battery was taken prisoner after the final Rebel charge and promised the rights of a prisoner of war.  After he turned his gun over to Jackman's men however, he was shot twice; once through the lungs and the other ball passing through his leg.  He was then left on the field to die but as the twilight turned to darkness, death did not come. Merrick called out for someone to help him and sometime later, he heard a noise and saw a dark figure shuffle toward him.  This person identified themselves as a member of the 2nd KSM, Co. G and that was all.   Merrick felt his head tilt up and a slight trickle of water pass his lips and he tried to swallow, but the pain in his lungs was such that he could scarcely breathe. He did feel a comfort though, knowing that he wouldn't have to die alone.  This was the last thought in his mind until he was awakened by the sound of a heavy gun being fired nearby; he opened his eyes and it was daylight again, and he was laying on a bed inside of a house with a nervous looking woman at his side.  He was in a tremendous amount of pain but he tried to put on his best face so not to alarm the woman any more than she was.  Merrick thanked the woman in a halting voice but attempts to speak resulted in a fit of coughing followed by the release of more blood into his lungs; he felt as if he were drowning.  The woman sensed his suffering and put a finger to his lips and a cold compress on his sweaty brow.  Merrick remained this way until later that evening, when a Union ambulance orderly and another man loaded him on a wagon that was filled with other men who were injured at the Battle of Westport.  The wagon brought the men to a place called the Wornall House, about two miles away, where a field hospital had been set up.  Here Merrick was placed on a bedroll next to the others and a glimmer of hope returned to him.  After a short time Major Davis inspected the wound to the chest and after exchanging a quick glance with the other man in charge, Surgeon Phillip Harvey of the Kansas Volunteer Army, he ordered a large dose of morphine to be administered.  The relief that Merrick felt after he received the morphine was significant and by midnight he was in good spirits. In the back of his mind though, Merrick Race knew that his earthly presence was fleeting, and with his anonymous companion from Co. G by his side, passed away at 2:00 A.M. on Monday, October 24th, 1864.
     The bones of the story of Merrick Race are facts, the softer parts I filled in as a tribute to him.  Merrick was buried near where he died and was later disinterred by an Uncle, who brought his remains to Lorraine County, Ohio.   Merrick was given a military funeral in his hometown, with many friends and family in attendance.

1 comment:

  1. Nicely done. It's these personal stories about the Civil War that are the most interesting to me.