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, February 7, 2014

Lt.Col. H. M. Greene: "Man in the Wilderness"

In a previous post "Shot Down in Cold Blood After Capture" I wrote about some of the men of the 2nd Kansas Militia who attempted to surrender after the Battle at the Mockbee Farmhouse and were shot at point blank range by their Confederate captors.  One of these unfortunates was Lt. Col. Henry Martyn Greene, the ranking officer of the 2nd K.S.M. remaining on the field after the battle.  Greene had tried to rally his men in the moments after the Rebel line had over-run and out-flanked his Command, but quickly realized that his remaining 100 or so men would all be killed by the 2000+ Confederate soldiers that surrounded them.  While attempting to surrender, Lt. Col. Greene was shot multiple times and left to die in the underbrush.  Due to the severity of his wounds I had initially presumed that Greene was rescued where he lay for three days after being shot, but after visiting his grave on the Find A Grave website link I discovered that this was not the case.

                                                     photo courtesy of Kathleen from Find A Grave
The truth turned out to be that not only was Lt. Col. Greene overlooked by the burial details who scoured the field for bodies after the Battle of Westport, but he had missed his own funeral as well. 
    Henry Greene's wounds were such that he could barely move and he had also been stripped of some of his clothing by retreating Confederates. For three days he must have gone through a surreal hell, drifting in and out of consciousness, lapping the morning dew from overhanging leaves and groping for the late season berries which still clung to the vine. It brings to mind Richard Harris in the movie "Man in the Wilderness", in which Harris' character, Zachary Bass is mauled by a grizzly and left for dead by his comrades.  Like Bass, Henry Greene's comrades also presumed him dead and like Bass, Greene surprised them.  
   As Lt. Col. Greene lay hanging between life and death for three long days, dramatic events were transpiring. Battles were fought, bodies were gathered and buried, remains were dis-interred and reburied. Somehow Henry passed through these 72 hours and found himself still alive - and realized that if he wanted to remain that way he would have to save himself. And so he crawled out of the brush and slowly began to drag himself toward a farmhouse a mile distant. The following account was from a biography written shortly after his death in 1900: 
 He presented a melancholy sight, his face covered with blood and dust and hair matted with blood from the wound in his head. It happened that the farmer was a Union Man and he gave him the kindest treatment, conveying him to Westport, where he was taken to a surgeon. On telling the surgeon who he was, he was told that Colonel Greene had just been buried, but he succeeded in convincing the man of his identity after a time.  His wounds were treated, the balls extracted, and he was given the best attention possible.
  Although he never fully recovered from his wounds, Henry Greene did retain the indomitable spirit for which he was named Lt. Colonel.  A list of his accomplishments after the War: Co-founder of Lane University, Minister for The United Brethren and later The Presbyterian Church, Superintendent of the Kansas Home for Imbecile Children, Editor of the Lawrence Journal and later the Lawrence Daily Record, and through all this he served in the Kansas State Senate.  He was also a member of the I.O.O.F. and the G.A.R.  Henry did not believe in sitting around on his ass.
   The Rebels who attempted murder that long ago day near the Mockbee Farmhouse had no idea that it would take something more than bullets to end the days of Lt. Colonel Henry Martyn Greene.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

John Freeland, Company B: A Daring Escape

  John Sedwick Freeland found himself in a dangerous predicament: he had just been taken captive by Confederate forces after a pitched battle at the Mockbee farmhouse and was trying to follow the instructions of his desperate captors, who had already killed several unarmed prisoners after the battle.  Would he risk that fate or attempt escape?  He had only a split second to decide. 
  John Freeland was a native of Owens County Indiana, where he was born of pioneer stock in 1826. Seeking cheaper land to the west, John migrated to Illinois in 1847 and then to Kansas in November 1854, settling in Shawnee County.  He was one of the first to arrive at the Monmouth Township and his farm eventually grew to 160 acres.  In 1857 John returned to Illinois to marry his sweetheart, Mary Jane Lindsey and the couple returned to Shawnee County and the farm where they would raise 10 children together. 
  In October 1864 John and his neighbors were called upon to defend Kansas from the threat of the Confederate Army under General Sterling Price.  John became a private in the 2nd Kansas Militia, Company B and was sent across the Missouri-Kansas border to the Big Blue River, where the 300 men of the 2nd would be on guard for the Rebel invasion.  
  On 22 October, the 2nd Kansas Militia was the only thing that stood between the Confederate Army and the Kansas border as the rest of the Union Army had fled north to protect Westport, Missouri.  John Freeland and the rest of the 2nd Regiment were out numbered  and finally out-flanked by the streaming Rebel horde after a battle lasting nearly an hour and order quickly dissolved into chaos .  Rebel Cavalry rode among the fleeing Kansans, attempting to round them up for capture. Some men were disarmed and shot at point-blank range and at least one negro teamster had his throat cut.  In the middle of this storm was John, still holding the reigns of his horse.  What happened next was described in the book, " William G. Cutler's History of Kansas" which featured a biographical sketch of John:   "Made his escape in a novel way. He still held to his horse after capture and having his equipment covered by a citizen's coat that he wore, the Confederates being hotly engaged and wanting all their men, put him on guard duty guarding the prisoners, thinking him one of their men. He accepted the charge willingly, and while their attention was engaged by the action going on, he stole away with his horse and a good shot-gun that a rebel gave him to guard the prisoners, going through a cornfield, and made his escape."   Thanks to his audacity and quick thinking, John spared himself the innumerable hardships he would have suffered had he remained a prisoner.  

                                               J.S Freeland's home in Monmouth Kansas
                                                                              photo courtesy of  Sherrie Warner

  John Freeland remained in Shawnee County another forty years, improving his farm and raising his family.  In the early 1900's John and MaryJane moved to Kingfisher, Oklahoma, following two of their daughters and their families.  John died there in 1922 at the age of 91.
   While researching John Freeland I came across some reminiscences he gave to the Kansas State Historical Society concerning slavery in the Kansas Territory in the 1850's.  This is an interesting insight into Kansas history in John's own words.  Link

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.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Private John P. Majors, Co. D: “I Wish the Federal Line Would Wash Right Over Us”

                                             John Pollard Majors (courtesy of Jon Totten)
  John Majors was a natural born wanderer who traveled halfway across the continent in order to join the 2nd Kansas Militia in the summer of 1864.  Unlike most of the other men of Company D from Indianola Kansas, John migrated to Kansas at the beginning of the War for the specific reason of fighting for his country.
  The journey of John Majors began in Wayne County Kentucky, where he was born in 1822.  Like many others at the time, John’s family sought the cheap land and freedom of the western frontier and when he was still a child they had migrated up the Mississippi River to Morgan County, Illinois.  After John’s father died in the early 1840’s, the family moved once again upriver to Mahaska County Iowa where the Majors family claimed a large land tract in the Scott Township.  During a land dispute that erupted between the Major’s and other local citizens, John and his older brother Jacob were taken by a mob to Knoxville Tennessee where they were tarred, feathered and told they must abide by the rules of the land claim association. Undaunted, John returned to Iowa where he met Ezilda Norton and they were married in 1848.  The couple traveled by wagon to California during the Gold Rush but returned to Mahaska County after a short time penniless. After the birth of their first two children, John and his wife decided to try California again - this time with John taking over as Postmaster of Visalia.  John however grew restless with the start of the Civil War and by the early 1860’s the Majors family had travelled back toward the conflict, settling in Burlington Kansas.  
  John had a profound desire to protect the Union and when he heard that a Militia had been formed in nearby Shawnee County he traveled north from Burlington and arrived in Topeka in the middle of June, 1864. He enlisted in the 2nd Kansas Militia, Company D under the command of Captain Sterling Miles.  John Majors was prepared to give his life for the Union cause but instead received what could be thought of as a much crueler fate.
 On the afternoon of 22 October,1864 after the 2nd KSM was defeated at the Battle of Mockbee Farm, John Majors found himself and about 75 other men prisoners under the command of Confederate General Jo Shelby.  These men spent an uneasy night next to the Confederate field hospital and were forced to flee the next day along with the Rebel Army as it drove south toward the Arkansas border. The prisoners were forced to run most of their waking hours and many had inadequate shoes or clothing. John and the others were given very little food or water during the march and by 25 October several had already become seriously ill from fatigue and dehydration. John noticed however that the pursuing Federal forces had gotten very near to the rear of the fleeing Confederate Army and his spirits began to lift. “I wish the Federal line would wash right over us; I’d die right here to see it done.  These words were recalled by fellow prisoner Sam Reader and attributed to John Majors. John's wish was not to be however and the men from the 2nd were hurried south faster than ever, listening to the sounds of the Battle of Mine Creek fade off in the distance.
  Just after noon on October 28th, John and his comrades straggled into Newtonia Missouri, nearly two hundred miles south from where they had started six days earlier. Although a few had escaped, there were still about 75 men who remained captive and most of these could barely walk.  Just as Federal troops once again attacked Shelby’s Division, the General himself appeared and ordered the prisoners to be paroled.  Everyone hastily signed an oath saying they would not take up arms against the Confederacy and then without further ado were left to themselves, barely alive but free.  A Federal search party found them the next day and it seemed to the prisoners from the 2nd Kansas Militia that their ordeal had come to an end.
                             I found this scan of John Majors parole paper on 
    John Majors returned to his family in Burlington Kansas by mid November but was never the same man again.  He, like most of the others who had survived the long march, was suffering from some type of chronic illness; in John’s case “jaundice and general debility” were the symptoms.  It is likely he contracted hepatitis at some point during his captivity and his body began to fail him little by little.  He passed away on the evening of 3 April, 1877 at the home of his brother in Stewartsville, Missouri.  Much later, John’s wife Ezilda filed for a widows pension but it was refused; the government could find no record of John’s service.
  John Majors volunteered for the 2nd Kansas Militia to help preserve the Union which he so dearly loved.  Although he suffered and died as a result of it, I believe that deep in his heart he was satisfied with the result of his sacrifice and I hope he shall always be remembered for it.   

Monday, July 30, 2012

Robert McNown, Co. D: "His Body Was Found Well to the Front"

   During the course of creating this blog I have come across descendants of soldiers of the 2nd Kansas Militia, including those of Robert McNown from Company D.  Robert was an early homesteader in Kansas, arriving at the pro-slavery town of Indianola in 1854.  Although nothing is left of the town these days, Robert left his mark on the area by way of his stubborn conviction that Kansas should be a free-state, a conviction that eventually cost him his life. Among Robert McNown's descendants are the McNown and Zwickel families, who provided most of the information for this biography.

  Robert McNown was born on the Isle of Man in 1814 and moved with his family to Rawdon, Quebec, Canada when he was still a child.  Robert left home about age 18 and found work on a British whaler; due to the severity of discipline aboard that vessel he left for a French whaler where he learned his trade well and soon became first mate.  Deciding to settle down, Robert came to Racine, Wisconsin where he met Sarah Drought and married her on 9 March, 1845.  Weary of the harsh winters in Wisconsin, Robert travelled to Kansas in 1854 and selected his claim, which grew to be 320 acres just east of the Indianola town site.  The main structure on the property was a rectangular two room log cabin – a holdover from the Delaware Indian Reservation and the dwelling which would serve the McNown family for many years. 
   By 1858 the entire McNown family had arrived in Kansas and soon realized they lived amongst many who believed Kansas should be admitted to the Union as a slave state.  Robert had very strong anti-slavery sentiments and was jailed briefly in 1860 for his stance on this subject.  With Kansas' admission to the Union as a free state in 1861, it seemed that Robert and his family could now get down to the business of working and growing their farm.  By October 1864 however, the Civil War was still raging and the Confederate Army, led by General Sterling Price, had invaded Missouri and was heading directly towards Kansas.  Robert joined Company D of the 2nd Kansas Militia and left with about 300 of his Shawnee County neighbors for Jackson County Missouri, where they were placed to defend the border.  As with his brother John at Shiloh two years earlier, Robert was killed on the field of battle at the Battle of the Big Blue River near the Mockbee farmhouse on 22 October, 1864.  Late in the afternoon of 23 October, burial parties moved through the battlefield and reported that they found the body of Robert McNown well to the front, which did not surprise those who knew him.  Robert and fourteen other men from the 2nd killed in battle that day eventually were returned to Topeka and buried in a special section at the Topeka Cemetery, reserved for those who paid the price of freedom that long ago day.  He left behind his wife Sarah and nine children, a tenth child born after his passing.  info.courtesy of the McNown/Zwickel families 

                                          photo courtesy Kansas State Historical Society 
Photo taken on the property of Sam Reader in 1904 includes the son of Robert McNown: From left, John McNown (14 years old at the time of his fathers death), John Armstrong (Topeka Battery), Sam Reader (Company Quartermaster), Henry Winans (2nd Lt. Co. H), and Jacob Orcutt, 5th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry

Friday, June 29, 2012

Samuel Marshall, Company B: Another Muster Role Discovery

                                                        Sam Marshall in the 1870"s
                                                                           photo courtesy of Jeff Phillips

   A few months ago a gentleman named Greg Marshall contacted me about his Great Grandfather, a man named Samuel Marshall.   Greg had come across an obituary for Sam that stated,  In November 1862, he removed to Topeka and reenlisted with Captain Hunton, Co B, Kansas Second State Militia.  While Greg was researching the 2nd KSM he came across this blog and was hopeful of finding Sam's name on the roster. Although Sam's name wasn't there, he did notice a Captain Huntoon in Co. B and sensed he was on the right track.  After exchanging e-mails with me, Greg wisely contacted the Kansas State Historical Society and ordered the muster role for the 2nd Kansas Militia, Co. B.
   The muster role revealed that Samuel Marshal had indeed been enlisted in co. B on 10 October, 1864 and also that he been detached for service at Topeka – meaning that he was one of thirteen soldiers from company B assigned to remain at Topeka and protect the city should the Rebels break through into Kansas.  These men were part of a large force of Militia that stayed in or near the City and were chosen due to the lateness which they arrived at Topeka or because they did not possess a reliable horse.  Sam and the rest of the Militia remained at their posts until they finally received word on Monday, 24 October that the Rebel Army had fled south.  As the balance of the 2nd KSM straggled home, Sam and his fellow soldiers gave what assistance they could to these men and their families - the sense of unity and loss was very palpable as Topeka struggled to recover from the blows it suffered at the Mockbee Farmhouse.     
   The following brief biography is a tribute not only to Samuel Marshall, but the many other men and women who remained at Topeka during Price’s Raid in October,1864 when the fate of Kansas hung in the balance.
    Samuel Marshall was born on December 11, 1837, near Oberlin, OH, into a family that had emigrated from Lincolnshire, England, two years previously.  In 1842, the family moved to southern Wisconsin and acquired farmland northeast of Lake Geneva.  As a young man, Samuel traveled to California during the Gold Rush with his older brother and later accompanied his father to New York City.  In 1857, Samuel came to Kansas, living briefly in Leavenworth, Lawrence, and Topeka, before settling in Breckinridge County, now called Lyon County.  In April 1860, he was married to Martha Jane Courtney.  The couple had two daughters, Allah Nora and Emma Jane, before moving to Topeka in 1862. 
  Samuel enlisted in Company B, 2nd  Regiment, Kansas State Militia, on August 24, 1863, and was called to active duty on October 10, 1864, as the Militia was called up in response to the approach of Price’s Confederate army from Missouri.  Muster roles reveal that Sam was detached from his unit and stayed at Topeka to protect the city in case the Confederates broke through and attacked.
  After the war, Samuel and his family moved briefly back to Wisconsin, where a son, Robert Edgel was born, and then returned to Topeka, where a third daughter, Minnie, was born.  In 1868, both Minnie and Martha Jane died.  
   In 1869, Samuel married Margaret Grabendike in Topeka and began a second family with the birth of Hattie Belle in 1972.  In that same year, the Marshalls moved to Osage City, about 40 miles south of Topeka in Osage County.  They had two more children, Edwin Charles, born in 1874, and William Loren, born in 1878. In Osage City, Samuel farmed, traded in real estate, and operated a livery stable and a brick kiln.  Here is an item from a local newspaper about his house:
“The brick walls are said to be three or four courses thick, the bricks probably having been made in Marshall’s own nearby brick-making plant.  Locally made bricks were also used for several Osage City Business Buildings still in use today [1962].  . . . Marshall built his house so that it was warm and dry.  He built the kitchen and dining room partially underground, with two large rooms altogether above ground.  The Marshall home and his brick factory, with its drying kiln, were both close to Salt Creek [south of Osage City].”
  Margaret died in 1913 and Samuel in 1914. Both, along with Edwin, were buried in Osage City Cemetery, as were Hattie and William in later years.  
   Thanks to Greg Marshall for not only submitting the main body of Samuel’s bio but providing the impetus for me to acquire the muster roles of the 2nd Kansas Militia.  Without these roles coming to light the names of the "other" Men of the 2nd KSM would have remained buried in a microfilm canister.

 From thePAYROLL of Captain Huntoon’s Company B of the (cavalry) second Regiment, Kansas State Militia, Colonel George W. Veale, from the 10th day of October, 1864 to the 30th day of October, 1864

 “Detached service at Topeka:”

 1st Corporal Jacob Willets
Pvt. Byron Jewell
Pvt. George Ludington
Pvt. Samuel Mulligan
Pvt. Samuel Marshall
Pvt. Hiram McArthur
Pvt. A. Palmer
Pvt. W.H. Ragland
Pvt. Gabriel Wright
Pvt. William Young
Pvt. David Young
Pvt. Samuel Reese
Pvt. Patrick Tighe