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 26, 2011

"Shot Down in Cold-Blood After Capture"

  I came across the title phrase while researching the fate of the survivors of the 2nd Kansas Militia. Not being necessarily familiar with the Civil War in Missouri until a few months ago, I was shocked when I first read this.  Everything I had learned in school textbooks about the Confederate "guerrillas and bushwhackers" was confirmed.  As I dug deeper though I realized the complexity of the Border War didn't allow for such simplifications.  The passions and convictions of the people on both sides would create am environment where such actions were if not commonplace, understood and expected.
  In the mass-confusion of the aftermath of the Mockbee Farm Battle, the opportunity arose for some of the captors, Confederate soldiers in Jackman's Brigade, to act as Judge and executioner.  Perhaps the heat of battle was enough reason - the man targeted to die had been an especially obstinate foe in battle and now it was his turn.  If this was true however, why was the Captain of the gun that killed so many Rebels not slain?  Ross Burns was beaten with the butt of a rifle but his life was spared.  Most likely the targets were picked at random - no specific reason was needed or required.  If there was a sub-conscious thought stream, perhaps it went along the lines of, "These damn butchers have just killed the brave boy who rode beside me - one of them will pay!"  The exception may have been Ben Hughes, a black teamster of the 2nd KSM who was executed as he tried to surrender by having his throat slashed.  Although the death of Ben Hughes was the result of the passion and conviction of Jackman's Missourians, it was also representative of the reason Kansans, both black and white, were willing to give their lives.  Perhaps the state motto of Kansas should have also been, "Live Free or Die."
   Besides Ben Hughes, other members of the 2nd KSM who were shot down after surrender: 
   Lt. William H. DeLong of Co. G was severely wounded in the shoulder during the battle, which prevented him from attempting escape.  He was then shot by his captors several times including one ball which passed through his spine, paralyzing him.  Lt. DeLong was left on the field to die and was discovered late the next day after the Battle of Westport. He was brought to a hospital in Kansas City where he lingered on for nearly a month, finally passing away on November 19th, 1864.
 Captain H.E. Bush of Co. G  was captured after the battle and shot several times in the head and upper body.  Somehow he survived his injuries, perhaps owing to the fact of the poor quality weaponry that his captors were using. He was gathered from the field the next day and brought to Kansas City where he gradually recovered and returned home on Christmas day, 1864.  He resumed farming and stock trading and later became involved in politics and was elected sheriff of Auburn Kansas in 1881. He was also one of the few members of the 2nd KSM to have previous military experience; he served in the 1st N.Y.Light Artillery, Co. D, Army of the Potomac.
 Lt. Col. H.M. Greene was the ranking officer remaining on the field after the Battle and decided to surrender and spare the lives of his remaining men.  He was promptly shot three times and left for dead in the underbrush, where he remained until the next morning.  He was spotted by a group of retreating Confederates who stripped him of his clothing before moving on.  Unable to move, Lt Greene could only wait until someone came along and hear his cries for help. In the meantime he survived by eating berries that were within his reach and covering himself with fallen leaves to ward off the cold of night.  He had no water but for the dew he lapped off of the leaves each morning. Finally on Tuesday October 25th he was rescued by a burial detail gathering bodies from the Battle of Westport.  He eventually recovered from his wounds but suffered physically the rest of his life.  Lt. Greene returned to Topeka and his life of farming and also was a Sunday School missionary,travelling all over Kansas visiting and helping Sunday Schools.
  There are more such stories that have yet to be uncovered - however there is the story of David Fultz of Company I, 2nd KSM - he was also shot and left to die, but not by the Confederates.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

October 23 & 24th 1864; Casualties of the 2nd Kansas Militia

 He died regretted by all. Active, talented, generous, earnest, his cowardly murder, after surrender, is but another evidence of the hellish spirit engendered by slavery.
 An excerpt from: "Rebel Invasion of Missouri and Kansas, and  the Campaign of the Army of the Border, Against General Sterling Price, in October and November, 1864." by Richard Josiah Hinton 

   The fate of the dead and wounded men from the battle at the Mockbee Farm on October 22nd deserves further explanation.  As night fell on the Farm on that Saturday, the dead from both sides lay mostly where they fell in battle and the injured were brought to the field hospital at the home of Boston Adams a short distance away.   The Confederate surgeon in charge was likely Dr. William McPheters but it seems he was short on staff and supplies, and asked the prisoners waiting in the yard if there was a doctor among them.  At this point Captain A.J.Huntoon volunteered his service and worked the remainder of the night.  The men who were in such a critical condition that they were unable to travel were left at the Adams place when General Price's Army fled south and were left under the care of Major Caleb Winfrey, CSA.  Major Winfrey continued to treat the wounded from both sides for the next two days as the Battle of Westport played out.
      There were a few men from the 2nd Kansas Militia who had been shot after they surrendered and left on the field to die; these men would lay on the Battlefield until after the Battle of Westport was concluded the next day.  The head surgeon from the Union Army, Major Samuel B.Davis, had planned to send ambulances to the area around Byram's Ford, including the Mockbee Farm, on the morning of October 23rd.  His plans were delayed until after the Union Army finally drove the Rebels south in the mid-afternoon and by then there were hundreds more injured to care for.  In the meantime, at least one man would be carried from the field by an escaped comrade and taken to a nearby home.
  Private Merrick Race of Topeka Battery was taken prisoner after the final Rebel charge and promised the rights of a prisoner of war.  After he turned his gun over to Jackman's men however, he was shot twice; once through the lungs and the other ball passing through his leg.  He was then left on the field to die but as the twilight turned to darkness, death did not come. Merrick called out for someone to help him and sometime later, he heard a noise and saw a dark figure shuffle toward him.  This person identified themselves as a member of the 2nd KSM, Co. G and that was all.   Merrick felt his head tilt up and a slight trickle of water pass his lips and he tried to swallow, but the pain in his lungs was such that he could scarcely breathe. He did feel a comfort though, knowing that he wouldn't have to die alone.  This was the last thought in his mind until he was awakened by the sound of a heavy gun being fired nearby; he opened his eyes and it was daylight again, and he was laying on a bed inside of a house with a nervous looking woman at his side.  He was in a tremendous amount of pain but he tried to put on his best face so not to alarm the woman any more than she was.  Merrick thanked the woman in a halting voice but attempts to speak resulted in a fit of coughing followed by the release of more blood into his lungs; he felt as if he were drowning.  The woman sensed his suffering and put a finger to his lips and a cold compress on his sweaty brow.  Merrick remained this way until later that evening, when a Union ambulance orderly and another man loaded him on a wagon that was filled with other men who were injured at the Battle of Westport.  The wagon brought the men to a place called the Wornall House, about two miles away, where a field hospital had been set up.  Here Merrick was placed on a bedroll next to the others and a glimmer of hope returned to him.  After a short time Major Davis inspected the wound to the chest and after exchanging a quick glance with the other man in charge, Surgeon Phillip Harvey of the Kansas Volunteer Army, he ordered a large dose of morphine to be administered.  The relief that Merrick felt after he received the morphine was significant and by midnight he was in good spirits. In the back of his mind though, Merrick Race knew that his earthly presence was fleeting, and with his anonymous companion from Co. G by his side, passed away at 2:00 A.M. on Monday, October 24th, 1864.
     The bones of the story of Merrick Race are facts, the softer parts I filled in as a tribute to him.  Merrick was buried near where he died and was later disinterred by an Uncle, who brought his remains to Lorraine County, Ohio.   Merrick was given a military funeral in his hometown, with many friends and family in attendance.

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

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Unwanted Glory, Part 1 by Dick Ginnold

I found this story online while researching the men from the 2nd KSM who had been killed in action. It turns out the writer is named Dick Ginnold and is the Great Grandson of Georg Ginnold of Topeka Battery.  This is a fictionalized account of the events surrounding Georg and his family in October, 1864.   

   The North Wind drove a cold rain towards Doris and her children as they picked their way back home along on the muddy path next to Topeka’s Main Street. Doris tensed with her responsibility, like a mother hen with her 5 chicks. Eleven year old Mary watched her 9, 7, and 4 year siblings and Doris carried baby Lena in a front pouch, a trick picked up from the Pawnees.   Just a few feet away from the family, a U.S. Cavalry supply train with marching  infantry was passing towards the battle lines at the Missouri border. Doris’ husband Georg and his artillery battery were already there.  Most of the soldiers tramping along the muddy street were no more than young boys, led by a few grizzled veterans. It was late October, 1864 and the weather was turning cold and ugly. Distinctions between the blue uniformed officers and the motley crew of volunteers were being erased by the rain and mud, merging everyone in a slow, grayish column marching towards the battle.  As she and the kids moved along, Doris felt the cold and rain soaking through her garments and worried for her children. She thought of Georg, awaiting the battle with the Confederates. He had volunteered in response to the Governor’s second call to muster less than 3 weeks ago. Georg was 32, three years older than her, and a respected carpenter in the growing town of Topeka. They came to America from Prussia 12 years before, Georg without a trade and she disowned because of their love. They had moved West and settled in Kansas to build their family and their life. The war had followed them and now they were all swept up in the conflagration.  Perhaps because he had an air of leadership, Georg was assigned to a gun battery and was made a corporal , though he had no military experience. The platoon received no training except to fire a few practice rounds before they were rushed to the front.  Ordinary Kansans, carpenters, haulers, bakers and tradesmen were facing  General Price’s Confederate force of 20,000 cavalrymen which was on the verge of entering Kansas at the Big Blue, just 40 miles away. There were already rumors of  a pitched battle and casualties yesterday. Doris prayed for Georg’s safety..  
  Mary and her brother Richard were carrying home a bucket of water from the town  well. Doris cautioned them: “Children, stay away from the road. Walk carefully and  don’t spill. This water has to last. “ Richard asked: “Ma, will Papa be home soon?”
She answered: “No, son. Your father can’t come home until the enemy has been  defeated. He is protecting us, just like Captain Burns, Mr. Gage and the other fathers. ”
   Doris and the kids arrived at their little square house, with pine plank siding, a single window, and a stovepipe chimney poking through the rough shingle roof. Georg had built an addition to the rear with a small bedroom for Doris and him.  The rest of the house was a single room, with a wood stove in the middle. There was an outhouse in the muddy back yard.
   “Mary, help the children off with their coats and hang them to dry, ” Doris ordered.  “I’ll heat the soup and make dumplings,” she added. She changed the baby, put some dry clothes on her and passed the baby to Tillie, her seven year old: “Tillie, watch Lena and give her a bottle and rock her”. She passed the front door and looked at herself in the small mirror on the wall.  She still had the dark hair and flashing dark eyes Georg loved, but she hated the shadows under her eyes and her drawn, worried face. Life was taking its toll.
    Doris walked to the stove and took a piece of wood to stoke the fire. She noted the dwindling stack. Doris dreaded chopping wood with the huge ax. Each time she feared that she might strike her foot or hit a curious kid. If Georg didn’t come back soon, she would take up the offer of help from Mr. Wurth, the widower who lived alone next door. 
    As Doris prepared dinner, she tried to count her blessings. Mary was like a little  mother with the smaller children and the baby. Doris couldn’t make it through this time without her help. Richard was also a comfort, a good boy. But Georg was the key to the family’s happiness. He had a bright belief in the future and made the rest of the family enthusiastic, no matter how hard times were. He passed on his skills to the boys, played games with all the kids and began each day with a cheery “Good morning” to all. He was a necessary counterpoint to Doris’ growing anxiety and depression. The kids loved Georg and missed him. They understood a little about the war and Georg’s danger. Even the smallest were being especially good and helpful, as if this might get their father back sooner.  
   As Doris set the table, her earlier pensive, dark mood returned. She felt a chill  and a tight, worry band around her head.  The rich smell of the boiling soup and the crackling of dumplings frying in lard brought her back to earth.
 “Mary”, Doris ordered, “please get the kids ready for dinner. “ Take care of Lena and then take the rest of the kids to the outhouse, before it gets too dark.” “As you say, Mother”, replied Mary. Doris looked up at a few small leaks in the roof, starting to drip through the tar covering. They would have to place pans as long as the rain continued.  She needed a man around the house! Lord help us when real winter begins, she thought. Doris was setting the table when there was a sharp knock at the front door. Doris was flustered. Who could it be at dinner time? She wiped her apron with a cloth and smoothed her hair. She walked to the door and opened it. Captain Burns, Georg’s platoon leader, was there, looking muddy and disheveled, with a bandaged head. A higher officer was standing behind him.

                                                                                                                to be continued...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Topeka Kansas, November 13th 1864; Finally Home

   On November 13th, the remainder of the 2nd Kansas Militia returned to Topeka, a little over two weeks since they had been paroled in Newtonia Missouri.  The citizens of Topeka had lived through a series of emotional highs and lows over the course of the last month: the threat of the Confederate invasion of Kansas, the enthusiastic response to Governor Carney's call to arms, the interminable wait to see if the Rebel Army would break through Federal Forces at Westport.  The joy and utter relief of finding out the Rebels had been defeated and Shawnee County was saved, only to find out that their brave boys and men had been savaged at the Big Blue River.  The slow passing of the hours waiting for word of who lived and who died, the tears of happiness and sorrow as the facts of war slowly trickled in. 
   The mood was somber as the wagons came into view, family and friends nervously awaiting the arrival of their loved ones.  Questions would be hard to ask, and the answers would be harder yet.  Most of the men had suffered injuries that could be seen, and many were to feel their effects the rest of their lives; but the events they had witnessed would be little discussed or even thought of.   The best thing would be to try and fall back into the patterns of their old lives as quickly as possible, preparing the fields for the upcoming season or getting caught up on the work that had been neglected while they were absent. 
   Shawnee County was now safe from the threat of encroaching slavery and the unsavory elements that came along with it.  As its citizens quickly got back to the business of living, it would only be slowly and painfully that the stories of the men who fought to preserve it would emerge, for in their minds there could be no glory in their sorrowful tales, only pity.

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.