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, October 5, 2011

October 29th, 1864; Neosho Missouri

In grimy, footsore, woeful plight,
But free, and filled with glory.
Distant home has loom’d in sight,
And here I’ll end my story.
From the diary of Samuel Reader

  The remnants of the 2nd Kansas Militia had just spent their first night of freedom huddled together against the autumn chill without food, blankets or fire.   As the faint light of dawn crept over the leafless strip of timber where they had so uneasily slept, the men roused each other and started toward Newtonia, their first steps in a long journey home.  They were without uniforms or weapons and were in grave danger until they were able to find Federal forces and convince them of their identity.  One of the men fashioned a flag of truce using the discarded remains of a white shirt tied to the end of a stick and with this as their calling card, slowly approached a log house near the previous day's battlefield.
    Captain Huntoon cautiously approached the doorway of the house and discovered the place inhabited by a lone Confederate surgeon and 40 or so wounded, dying and dead Rebel soldiers.  He later said it was "One of the loneliest and saddest scenes of suffering I have seen in the course of my life. This surgeon told us that the Federals occupied the battle-field, the Confederates having again fled south in great confusion." 
   Now cautiously hopeful, the freed prisoners continued walking to the northwest.  After a couple miles they encountered a Union scouting party that was searching the field for survivors from the day before.  This ragged group that had been so long marching away from their homes was now on the brink of deliverance.
   The Federal scouting party at first mistook the band as men from Price's Army attempting to surrender, but soon realized their true identity after listening to the stories that the men told of their capture and forced march.  They were immediately taken to General Blunts headquarters at Neosho, about eight miles to the east.  From the official report of Lt. Colonel George Hoyt, 15th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry: "The remaining prisoners of the 2nd Kansas State Militia, under Captain Huntoon, came into camp on the 29th, having been paroled by General Price at Granby.  They were in a most pitiable condition; starved, half-naked, worn-out and barefoot, having been robbed by their captors of all decent articles of clothing.  Everything possible was done for their comfort."
   The first comfort asked for by the men of the 2nd was hot coffee; this along with hard-tack was how they began their assimilation back to normalcy.  After talking to Captain Huntoon, General Blunt organized a relief party including an ambulance stocked with supplies to be sent to the Confederate field hospital that the prisoners had passed that morning. The men would spend the next two days in Neosho, regaining their strength, recovering from their wounds and cleaning off the many miles of road grime as best they could.
    The long nightmare that these men from the 2nd had endured now seemed to be ending - on November 1st they would all be placed on Federal supply wagons and transported to Fort Scott, Kansas.  When they arrived at Fort Scott, they were greeted by General Charles Blair, commander of the Militia there and treated to supper by he and his staff.  The Quartermaster at the Fort was ordered to issue 100 overcoats to the men, the remainder to be carried back to Shawnee County where they were to be given to the prisoners who had escaped previously.  General Blair provided transportation for the returning men of the Second Regiment to Topeka where they finally arrived on November 13th, 1864.  These survivors would have many stories to tell of the battle and their ordeal but as they approached home that cold November day they were not in the mind to tell anyone, ever.

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