The Battle of The Blue

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

Friday, October 14, 2011

Unwanted Glory, Part 2 by Dick Ginnold

  Even before they spoke, Doris knew. This was the Grim Reaper calling.  A chill rose through her body to her head. Her eyes welled with tears. She shivered and struggled for a semblance of composure. Captain Burns was their friend and neighbor. He could see her reaction and took her hand. . “Mrs. Ginnold, I have the sad duty to inform you that Georg was killed in the battle at the Big Blue River. The enemy was overrunning our gun position after an hour of fighting and we finally succumbed. Georg fought valiantly and our battery helped stop the Confederate advance. Most of the platoon was killed and I was captured for a short time.”  “I am deeply sorry, Mrs. Ginnold, and grieve with you. My companion is Major Charlot from the Kansas State Militia...”   “Mrs. Ginnold,” began the Major, “I can only add to Captain Burns statement that your husband fought heroically and that his platoon has helped save our towns and state from a barbarous invasion. The state of Kansas expresses its deepest condolences and our gratitude to your family”. .
   Before the Major’s speech could be completed, Doris felt a terrible pain in her middle and the room began whirling. Her head buzzed and dizziness overcame her. She collapsed on a chair. When she came to, she was sitting at the kitchen table and Captain Burns was wiping her brow with a cloth. She remembered. Georg was dead and gone. The children came in the back door and confusedly milled around, sensing something terrible.  “Mama, what happened to you?”  Doris and the children began crying in unison, as the men stood there. Doris could hardly talk. Georg was gone. Her life was over. “What happened, Mama”, “Did Daddy get hurt? The baby was crying in the corner. 
  Doris felt strength coming to her. She picked up the baby and held her close and gently rocked her. She held out her other arm to the older children. “Children, your father has been killed in battle. He has gone to be with the Lord. “This is a terrible day, but we are together and we will have to help each other. “ The children were not crying as much, but were dumbstruck. Doris had to summon up every bit of courage to keep going. She pulled Mary into her arms and hugged her fiercely. ”Daughter, I am so sorry. I will need your help with the other children. Can you do this for me?” “Yes, Momma”, Mary said. “Then hold Lena and give her some milk.” Doris gave Lena to Mary and reached out and gathered the other children to her. They piled on her lap and sobbing and crying.  The tall soldiers were standing there silently, ill at ease. Doris felt emotions building within her, the heat of anger, the chill and heaviness of terrible grief. She also felt Georg’s mantle falling on her. Suddenly it was clear. She was now the head of her family. She had an inspiration. Doris rose. “Please, gentlemen, children, let us join hands and pray for our strength and for our loved ones “She began the 23rd Psalm: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside still waters. He restoreth my soul. He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His names sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table for me in the presence of mine enemies. You anointeth my head with oil. My cup runneth over. Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. “  
 When she finished, there was total silence. After a pause, the officers slipped away and Doris and the children sat down to table to begin their ordeal.  

                                                    The End
 Doris Ginnold and the family went through major turmoil. There were no widow’s benefits or pensions in the nascent Kansas Militia and the US Army initially denied them benefits on grounds that they were not members of the Union Army. Women had virtually no job opportunities on the frontier. We can surmise that Doris must have been desperate, faced with the sole responsibility of caring for her five children without Georg. Within a few months Doris, with no means of support, married her neighbor, Mr. Wurth. In less than a year, she divorced him. Later, in l866, she married Alonzo Harris, fellow veteran of Georg.
  The possibility of a Minor’s Pension opened up. Doris applied for the support. The application was first denied and then appealed. In a strongly argued opinion, with supporting letters from two Major Generals, in December, l870, a US Army Pension Examiner ruled in favor of Doris. The pension was granted.  By l872, she and Mr.  Harris were apparently no longer together and on a Reno County land record she was described as “a single woman”. Her daughter Mary moved to Colorado with Alonzo Harris, where they married and had several children. Doris must have been increasingly distraught and became ill of undetermined causes. The family moved west to Hutchinson, Kansas, where her oldest son Richard acted as head of the family from the time he was 18. Doris died on May 25, l875.   On her deathbed, Doris Ginnold called in her daughter Lena and instructed her to burn all of her papers and Lena followed her instructions.

 With the burning of her papers, Doris' hope that the story of Georg Ginnolds' death would remain forgotten came to pass.  For over 100 years the sacrifice that Georg and Doris made was erased from the memory banks of the Ginnold family until a cousin of Dick Ginnold discovered the truth, and shared it with the rest of the family.  Unlike the shame brought on by some family secrets, this revelation was and will be rightfully remembered by the Ginnold family with bittersweet pride.
 I think it is fair to say that Doris Ginnold also gave her life that October day in 1864.
                                                           photo courtesy of Findagrave
                                            Doris Ginnold's grave is located in Partridge 
                                                Cemetery near Hutchinson, Kansas

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