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, December 7, 2011

The Missing Six of the 2nd Kansas Militia

  The final resting places of the "missing six" men of  the 2nd Kansas Militia are unaccounted for and in all likelihood lost to history.  They were perhaps quickly buried in the aftermath of bloody battle, their graves unmarked and forgotten.  Some of their bodies may have been collected by family members and brought back to the family farm where the gravesite was eventually lost to development.  Although these men and the others who sacrificed for Shawnee County at the Big Blue River have nearly faded to obscurity, I will attempt to exhume whatever bits and pieces of their lives that I can.  These scant facts are an effort to pay them the tribute they so richly deserve.
   The story of David Fultz has been brought to light recently but his gravesite remains a mystery. It is likely that his body was removed from the field by family members and buried near the family farm in southeast Shawnee County.  He left behind a wife named Elizabeth and three children.
   Elias Roberts of Co. I originally hailed from New Jersey before moving out west to Ohio and later Iowa, where he farmed and started a family.  By 1860 Elias, his wife Martha and their three children had relocated to Lone Jack in Jackson County Missouri.  This was an extremely dangerous area to raise a family - Lone Jack was in the heart of the Border War region and by 1863 Elias and his family moved over into Shawnee County Kansas and farmed in the Tecumseh Township.   Shortly thereafter Elias was killed at Mockbee Farm but his gravesite remains unknown at this time.  It is possible that his sacrifice faded into obscurity even within his own family history, as was the case with many others who died that day.
  The spirit of the obscure American wanderer was embodied by William Waln, who was also from Co. I.  After William was killed at the Battle of the Blue, he was identified as "William Wann" in every source that listed the dead of the 2nd KSM.  After I failed to track down that name, I came across a Widow's Pension File that revealed his true name.  More research revealed that he was born in Highland Co. Ohio in 1818 and migrated to Marion Co. Iowa by the late 1840's.  According to census records, William and his wife Leah had at least two children in Iowa before moving to Indiana and having two more.  By 1864, William was serving in the 2nd Kansas Militia and became a (misspelled) footnote to history. The whereabouts of his gravesite remain unknown.

   Moses Banks served in Company D from Indianola Kansas, just north of Topeka.  He is listed as "colored" in various sources and died at the Battle of Mockbee Farm.  Moses may have been a former slave but at this point his origins are not known.  It is known that Kansas was a destination of free African Americans in the early 1860's because of its admission to the Union as a free state. When Governor Carney called out the Militia in October, 1864 all men between the age of 18 and 60 were called to service including African Americans.   Nearly one thousand blacks answered the call (in addition to the roughly 2,000 that were already serving) with most of these men forming separate regiments.  The 2nd KSM did have a few "colored" men serving, probably filling roles such as Teamster and Blacksmith.  Moses Banks gravesite is unknown at this time; there was an pension application made in July of 1867 for a minor dependant in Moses name so perhaps somewhere there is a descendant.
    Ben Hughes was an African American Teamster who was believed to have been murdered at the Mockbee Farm battlefield while attempting to surrender.  Ben's origins and personal life are also unknown but the circumstances of his death were widely used to exemplify the cruelty of the Confederates under Colonel Sidney Jackman. It would be nice to believe that such a martyr were given a proper soldiers burial - his gravesite remains unknown.
   Dennis Ray was not listed as a man of color but was listed among the dead from Company D.  There doesn't appear to be any census records for him but I did come across a Dennis Ray in the "U.S. Civil War Draft Registrations" Records.  He was listed as living in Timber Hill, Bourbon County Kansas and his occupation was listed as blacksmith.  The final resting place of Dennis Ray is unknown.

   The fact that these three men of African descent died at the Battle of the Blue is interesting to me because they weren't actually supposed to be fighting.  Their roles were of a support nature and therefore it seems likely to me that they could have chosen to be among the first to retreat and thus escape when it had become apparent that the Rebel forces would overcome them.  That they didn't run when they had the chance gives an indication of their true character.
   The mystery as to the locations of the gravesites of these six men may never be solved but it doesn't really matter if they are remembered by future generations for their bravery and sacrifice. 
  There was another man of color who served in the second KSM - his name was Nelson Ritchie and not only did he survive the Battle of Mockbee Farm but thrived to become highly successful.  His story will be told another time.

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