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, December 22, 2011

The Letters of James and Augusta Griffing:"Excuse the Dirt, Grease and Writing"

                                                 James and Augusta Griffing in 1855
                                                      photo courtesy of W.J.Griffing
  I recently discovered a website which features the personal letters of James Griffing, a Methodist Minister who in the fall of 1864 was living in the now defunct town of Lincoln in Nemeha County Kansas.  These letters provide an insight into the lives of the men of the 2nd KSM and their families around the time of the Battle at Mockbee Farm which so many were wounded, killed or captured.
   James had his wife Augusta had recently rented out their homestead in Shawnee County and moved to temporary quarters in Lincoln, Kansas. After a Cheyenne uprising on the central Kansas plains threatened  the family's safety it was decided that Augusta and her three children should return to the Griffing's home state of New York . This meant that they would have to venture through the volatile state of Missouri which was rife with guerrilas and outlaws.  The plan was carried out anyways and by August 1864 Augusta and the children were safely in Owego, New York.  James meanwhile was called to join the Nemeha Home Guards in response to the Cheyenne threat and when Price's Army invaded Missouri, he mobilised with his unit toward the Border area should the Confederates threaten Kansas.  James served with the 22nd Regiment of the Kansas State Militia, Co. G and was encamped with his unit at Kansas City when he took time to write to Augusta.
  In camp, Kansas City
October 23, 1864
My Dear Wife [Augusta],
We came here last evening. [General] Price is reported to have entered Westport last evening and [is] said to have a force of from 20 thousand to 40. If so, and as he is pretty well surrounded, I am looking for a pretty severe contest today. Our company may be in the midst of a most terrible slaughter. The thing has become more of a reality than I was expecting when I started. I hope everything will be for the best.
 Half past two o’clock. I commenced writing [you] this morning [when] an order came that we must drop everything and march at once. So we came over to the breastworks which Col. Jennison had thrown up for the protection of Kansas City. Col. Jennison was driven in by the rebels last evening into the entrenchments where we are at present quartered. They are at present fighting a tremendous battle five miles south of this [location]. The wounded are being brought in, in large numbers. We can see the smoke of the battle very plainly, but the wind is quite unfavorable, and the continued talking and cheering as the dispatches come in prevents our hearing much of the thunder of the artillery.
Still later. Our men have cut off his long train of commissaries, taken a large amount of his pillage, and Price is going South just as fast as he can. An order has come requiring just as many of our men as possible to get horses and pursue him. I have not yet been down to the hospital to see the wounded. Our regimental surgeon, Dr. Hidden, just told me they were generally slightly wounded; he thought but few cases would prove fatal. You can form no idea of the amount of Militia here – especially the infantry. I was just down where the Topeka boys were camped. They told me the Topeka battery was taken by the enemy yesterday and Col. Veale’s cavalry company was cut off from the main body, and they had not as yet heard from them.
 Next morning. Dreary from standing guard most of the night. News comes that the enemy are retreating [as] fast as they can go with our men in hot pursuit, fighting him with the artillery and cavalry. A great many hundred have already been killed and taken prisoners. Yesterday, whilst a portion of the men were packing up to leave on the retreat, they were surprised by a battery planted in their front which mowed down a large number of them. Our Captain, who was ordered down to assist in guarding prisoners, says he thinks we will be ordered home again today. I do hope it will be so that I can go out to the battlefield before I return. Returning cavalry militia state that the “Rebs” are scattered quite thickly over the ground. Preparations are making for a drill so I will leave this and hope to write again soon. Hoping I may be able to tell you good news about the Topeka Cavalry, as Capt. [Joshua B.] Hannum’s Company was away then. Now I would like to hear how you all are this morning. Ever your own affectionate husband, -- James   NB. excuse the dirt, grease and writing as it has been done mostly as I could catch it on my knee in camp.

 Owego [New York]
October 27, 1864
My dear husband [James],
I hope to hear soon that the militia are not engaged in fighting. I cannot bear to think that you have got to be in battles. It is dreadful to think of the poor families left desolate & alone this time of the year. I am glad we are here if there is to be trouble in Kansas. People have said ever since I came that they would not think of going back this winter & now they think it would be foolish & unwise. Ever your affectionate wife, -- Augusta
 The letters in the next post between James and Augusta discuss the fate of those they knew from the 2nd KSM.

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