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, April 29, 2011

The Second Regiment Departs Kansas

                                         The 2nd. crosses into Missouri, 21 October 1864 

 As General Price's Army of Missouri continued to advance toward Kansas,  the newly-formed 2nd. Militia from Shawnee County said good-bye to their families on October 12th and rode east to the border, which they reached in two days.   Here at a place called Shawneetown, the men turned in their old carbines for nearly new Enfield rifles, which no doubt brought home the reality that they were truly going into battle.  As they waited for nearly a week before receiving the order to cross over into Missouri, they had time to ponder the fact that although they now carried adequate weaponry, their mounts were of dubious quality.  The horses that the men of the 2nd. were preparing to ride into battle on were mostly farm horses that had never heard a gunshot, much less had a gun shot from the top of them.  According to Quartermaster Sam Reader, " My steed, however, Was not at all satisfactory as a war horse.  He was hard in the mouth, fractious and unreliable.  Fire arms were his especial terror, and his courage in general was of very low grade."  
   The waiting game at the border had perhaps lulled the men of the 2nd. into believing that they wouldn't be seeing duty at the front of the battle, but were to be kept at arms length in case of emergency.  By the morning of Friday, October 21st. though, supplies and rations were handed out and it seemed that the time to head into Missouri had come.  The weather had turned cold and though there was a light snow the night before, it had disappeared as evening approached and the Companies of the 2nd. formed a marching line.  In addition to the 2nd., which consisted of seven companies of mounted men, were five companies of the Kansas 3rd.Regiment, one company of the 19th Rgt. and Burn's Topeka Battery, consisting of one 24 pound Brass howitzer.  The whole force numbered approximately 500 men.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Prelude to battle: General Sterling Price invades Missouri with 12,000 troops

   As the Civil War dragged on, the citizens of Shawnee County and the rest of Kansas had hoped the need to defend their homes would never come, but that was not to be the case.  In August of 1864, a decision was made by the Confederates to capture Missouri in hopes of reversing a string of Union triumphs and stopping any momentum they could for the re-election of President Lincoln later that fall, which would have been a huge blow to the Rebel cause.  The leader of this "raid" was to be Mexican War veteran Sterling Price, who gathered together for this campaign over 12,000 troops, many of them without shoes or weapons.  Also sent to Missouri would be 500 wagons and fourteen pieces of artillery.  By the middle of September, the "Army of Missouri" headed north from Arkansas and skirmished almost daily with pro-Union Missouri militia before their first real battle at Fort Davidson in eastern Missouri on September 27th.  Despite suffering huge losses, Price's army continued on toward their primary target,St Louis, which was too heavily fortified to attack and then the Missouri capital of Jefferson City, which was also well defended.  The strategy was now to head westward and gain momentum by sacking smaller towns before finally over-running Kansas City, Missouri and Fort Leavenworth. As this relentless advance continued, The commander of the Kansas Militia, Major General George Deitzler, was instructed to muster support for the Union defense: (the following is an excerpt from the book, "HISTORY OF SHAWNEE COUNTY, KANSAS AND REPRESENTATIVE CITIZENS"  by James L. King:
  "Martial law was declared in Kansas, October 10, 1864, in anticipation of a
raid by the Confederates under command of Gen. Sterling Price, and, in response
to the call of Governor Thomas Carney, the Second Regiment of Kansas State
Militia was organized in Shawnee County, October 12th. George W. Veale was made
colonel of the regiment, which contained 561 men. Most of the men were mounted,
upon their own horses and ponies, and the wagons and supplies were largely their
own property. Accompanying the regiment was a battery of one 24-pounder brass
howitzer, and 22 men, commanded by Capt. Ross Burns. Its ammunition was carried
in a lumber wagon contributed by Edward Pape. The artillery team of four horses
was furnished by John Armstrong and William P. Thompson. The regiment was
ordered into immediate service at Olathe, joining the command of Gen. M. S. Grant."
 This group of home-spun farmers would soon be called on to perform deeds more heroic than any of them dared imagine.