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, July 27, 2011

General Price's Headquarters at Boston Adam's Place

 From the diary of Samuel J. Reader:

 The men of the 2nd. KSM who escaped the charge of Jackman's Brigade were lucky indeed, as many more of them could have been killed, wounded or captured.  As it was, they re-grouped near the Kansas /Missouri border and licking their wounds, were ordered to march to Olathe, Kansas where they remained until the fate of Price's Army was sealed.
   Just after 4 o'clock P.M., the men of the 2nd. who had just surrendered to the Confederates under General Jo Shelby were now being assembled under the watch of the Rebel provost guard, commanded by Lt. Sentille.   As they were being brought in from various points on the battlefield, all was a mass of chaos; Rebel horsemen dashing about as the prisoners were gradually brought to a central location.   A heap of verbal abuse was laid upon the men as they were stripped of anything that could be of value to their captors: shoes, boots, warm clothing and personal items.  Many of the men had suffered minor injuries but were able to stay in line as they began to move toward the northwest and an unknown location.  The more severely wounded, both Union and Confederate, were placed in supply wagons awaiting the set-up of a field hospital. Many of the men taken prisoner were showered with verbal abuse and profanity as they marched along, which in retrospect was understandable considering that many of these Rebels had just witnessed the violent deaths of many of their friends.  At one point a Confederate Officer rode past the men of the 2nd. shouting, "Kill them!  They shoot our boys down in cold blood every time - let's serve them as they serve us!"   The officer in charge of the prisoners interjected, "No, these men shall not be harmed as long as I have charge of them."  The men from the 2nd. knew they were still in peril but the only thing for them to do was march.
   The route of the prisoners took them back past the battle-field and it was there that they passed a ghastly spectacle.  Sam Reader remembers the scene:  "The head was thrown back, leaving the mouth wide agape, with streaks and stains of dust and blood, here and there, upon the distorted face.  The wound was evidently in the head, from the fact that blood was trickling from the mouth and nostrils.  But the eyes presented the most startling appearance.  They were wide open, and turned upward in their sockets until nothing but a narrow portion of the iris was visible.  One could almost imagine they were searching within, to discover the leaden messenger that had cut short the thread of life.  The man had no doubt resisted capture, and fought to the last; or had been shot down in cold blood after surrender.  It was probably Harvey Young, as his body was found near this spot by our burial party, a few days afterwards.  I knew him well but did not recognize the blood stained distorted face as his."     The prisoners were now crowded on at a rapid pace, with threats issued by the guards in order to keep the line closed.  When someone said they were thirsty and knew of a spring nearby, the guard laughed and said, "Sure, and there will be a group of bluecoats there waiting to bushwhack us."  The afternoon now wore on into evening, and the shots from a major skirmish could be heard from the northwest as the men were now being marched in a more easterly direction.  Soon they passed a large group of Rebel Cavalry and more questions and abuse were heaped upon them; the appearance of a negro prisoner caused much excited comment by this group: "What's that nigger doing here?" and "Kill him, shoot him!".  The Confederate guard kept the line closed up however and they kept marching east and away from the sounds of the abuse and the late afternoon battle between the Rebel front and the Union rear under Col. Thomas Moonlight.  With the onset of dusk the air had become considerably cooler and some of the Rebel guard began to demand the overcoats or jackets from the men of the 2nd., leaving some in only shirt-sleeves.  The guards told them they would be given blankets when they reached Rebel headquarters at a place called the Boston Adams house.  Upon their arrival a short time later, there were no blankets, but campfires in the yard between the house and the stone fence.  It was here the 90 or so men of the 2nd. Kansas Militia would spend their first night as Confederate prisoners and it was also this place that would serve as General Sterling Price's headquarters and the Confederate field hospital.*  As the sounds of battle to the west died off that night, no one could know that the largest engagement between the Union and Confederate forces in the Western Theatre of the Civil War would occur the next day, sending not only the Confederate forces fleeing southward for hundreds of miles, but the men of the 2nd. KSM who were their prisoners as well.
*John Armstrong from Topeka Battery would somehow slip away during the night and hide in the underbrush until the clashing armies left the field the next day.

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