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 12, 2012

Roswell Rose, Co. D: A Family Link and a Discovery.

  Prior to February of 2011, I had no idea that the 2nd Kansas Militia existed or that my Great Great Grandfather, John Francis Bell, had been a private in Company D from Indianola Kansas.   That all changed when I was contacted by a fellow member named Mike Deming.  Mike sent me an e-mail which suggested a link between us: it appeared that his Great Grandmother was the sister of my Great Great Grandmother and that the families were neighbors in Elmont Kansas for many years.  As I studied the two family trees, Mike also mentioned that his Great Grandmother Cynthia Rose had been married to a man named Roswell Rose and that Roswell had fought in a Civil War battle called "The Battle of the Blue".   This fact didn't really mean very much to me; I didn't even know where the battle had been fought. I decided to follow up on Roswell though; I began by Googling the name "Roswell Rose" and a wonderful thing appeared on my computer screen - it was a file contributed by a U.S.Genweb archivist from the book, "History of Shawnee County, Kansas and Representative Citizens".  More specifically it was chapter seven, which was entitled, "Repelling the Price Raid—Second Kansas State Militia—Preparations for War in Topeka—The Home Guards—The Battle of the Blue—Colonel Veale's Regiment in the Conflict—Capt. Ross Burns and His Famous Battery—The Gage Monument." Link   As I read and reread the file, I experienced a strange sensation.  I knew that my ancestor John Bell had been in the Civil War and I was sensing a connection here. Up until this point the only thing I knew about John's service was that he "Was in the Civil War," something that my Grandfather (also named John Bell) had told a family member before he died in 1996.  I kept searching through the file and found Roswell Rose's name in Company D of the "Second Militia Regiment".  I glanced up the page slightly I noticed another name in Company D - "Bell" jumped off the page at me, the first name in the row. Up one row and to the right I saw the initials J.F. and put it together - "J.F.Bell".  I was nearly certain that I had found my G.G.Grandfather John Francis Bell.  I began to read the story of the 2nd Kansas Militia closely now and I realized that this was a special unit, at least as far as Kansas History is concerned.  It appears that they had sacrificed themselves to protect their adopted home state and that many had been killed, wounded and captured. As these thoughts all raced around my mind it occurred to me how lucky I had been to have been led to this discovery. Soon afterward I found the eye-witness account of the "Battle of the Blue" written by Samuel Reader and thus this blog was born.  
    Mike Deming continued his correspondence with me and had much to share.  He provided me not only with the story of the Rose family but many old photos, including one of J.F. Bell and his family taken in the 1880's.  The Rose and Bell families eventually lost contact with one another, but thanks to Mike they have been reunited and their history brought to light.

                            Roswell Rose with his children in front of their home in Elmont Kansas, about 1898
                                                       photo courtesy of Mike Deming

                      The following biography of Roswell Rose was written by Mike Deming.

                                               Roswell Rose (1833-1914) Co. D
   Roswell was born in New York State in 1833.  His family moved to the La Porte County area of Indiana between 1833 and1838. His father died about 1839 and his mother remarried. Roswell spent time as an indentured servant about age 18 for an unknown period of time learning to be a barrel maker and obtaining some schooling.   He and the two older brothers, Elisha and Milton moved to Shawnee County, Kansas about 1857 homesteading near Soldier Creek.  He farmed and worked as a bookkeeper, toll bridge keeper, freighter for several years and enlisted with the Kansas State Militia probably in October 1864, but may have been in the unit as early as 1862.  He served with the KSM Second Regiment in company D, a cavalry unit.  He had to furnish his own horse and was present at the “Battle of the Blue”.  He and parts of the Company did see some action, but when things looked grim for the Second they were ordered to leave with haste and it was every man for himself. He headed for home, but his horse was stolen before he arrived at Indianola.  Roswell married in 1865 having eight children of which six survived to adulthood.  Roswell died in 1914 in Topeka, Kansas.   

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Alfred S. Roberts, Co. F and the Battle of Locust Grove

 As I started researching the lives of the men of the 2nd Kansas Militia, I discovered "William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas".  While reading through the bios of  many of these men, I realized the battle in which they fought at the Mockbee farmhouse had  been given a name back in the 1800's: it was then called  "the Battle of Locust Grove".   With the passage of time this moniker has all but disappeared and the "Battle of the Blue" has been the title given to this battle and the many other actions and skirmishes that took up most of 22 October 1864 near the Big Blue River, Missouri.  The "Battle of Locust Grove" eventually became lost in the bigger picture of the Battle of Westport, fought the following day at nearly the same place.  The fact that Union forces won the Battle of Westport was  partly due to the stubborn resistance of the 2nd Kansas Militia at the Battle of Locust Grove the day previous. 
   The subject of this sketch from Cutler's History of Kansas is Alfred Roberts, who was a private in Co. F and fought at the Battle of Locust Grove. Alfred migrated to Kansas in 1856 and was witness to the border "troubles" which plagued the Kansas/Missouri border in the years preceding the Civil War.  No doubt he had many stories to tell.
ALFRED S. ROBERTS, farmer and stock-raiser, Section 22, P. O. Big Springs, Douglas County. Owns 170 acres, fifty under cultivation, fifty in pasture, sixty in meadow and eleven in timber. He has thirty head of cattle. Came to Kansas in the spring of 1856 with his parents, his father locating on the section west of this. When he was of age he bought and improved a quarter section west of his father, but sold out and went to Chautauqua County in 1869, and remained there eight years, improving a tract of land and dealing extensively in stock, but having lost two children and his family being in poor health, he sold out and went to Colorado for his health. Came back to Leavenworth County, bought eighty acres of land, improved it, sold out and came to his present location in 1880. Has held all the different positions on the school board as well as township. Was in the State militia during the Price raid and was with his command at the engagements on the Big Blue and Locust Grove, in Missouri. He made his escape by having a good horse and taking desperate chances. Mr. R. was born in Ohio, January 7, 1841, and came from there to Kansas. He was married August 23, 1868, to Miss Ellen Crum, and has one child, Rosa. He is a member and elder of the Christian Church. Mr. Roberts' farm was the scene of a bloodless affray during the troublous times of 1856. A party of Texas Rangers came suddenly over a hill on the east side of his farm, but halted at seeing a few men and boys who had met hunting for stray horses. Among them was Mr. R., who on seeing the Rangers started to run, thinking they would make a charge on them, but the Texas Rangers, thinking they were the advance of Lane's men and that they were trying to draw them into pursuit, made a precipitate retreat, never stopping until they had reached the Kansas River.