The Battle of The Blue

The Battle of The Blue
Rebel forces charge the Topeka Battery at Mockbee farm, original painting by Benjamin Mileham

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Captain A.J.Huntoon meets the Enemy

 "The earth is covered thick with other clay,
 Which her own clay shall cover, heaped and pent,
 Rider and horse, - friend, foe, - in one red burial blent."
                                                                 Lord Byron 

 The yard in front of the Boston Adams Place filled with the men from the 2nd. KSM as October 22nd. 1864 drew to a close.    They were cold and hungry but not yet defeated as they pondered their fate that night and most of the men in the yard were uninjured with the exception of a few of the men of Topeka Battery who were brought there to be tended to by their comrades.  They tried to keep warm around campfires that were fed by the Confederate Provost Guard, who used fence-boards to fuel the flames and kept a constant watch over their prisoners as they had been instructed to by Brigadier General Jo Shelby.   The ranking member of the KSM taken prisoner was Captain A.J.Huntoon of Co. B and he was quickly taken to General Shelby, who directed him brought inside to meet with the Confederate Commander, General Sterling Price. General Price immediately began to question Captain Huntoon about the force that had engaged his men that afternoon but doubted the veracity of Captain Huntoon's statement that that it was a battalion of Kansas Militia.  He seemed to believe that they were veteran soldiers and that Captain Huntoon must have a motive for lying.   The Captain went on to tell General Price that the entire Militia of the State had been ordered out and there were about 30,000 of them.  (The latter being a lie; Captain Huntoon knew only that there were about thirty regiments in the militia organization.)  The questioning continued for about half an hour before General Price ordered the Captain back out into the yard with the other prisoners.
     A steady stream of injured Rebel soldiers were brought into the house for treatment of their wounds and about midnight someone came out into the yard and asked if anyone of the captives was a surgeon in the Federal Army.  Captain Huntoon replied that he was a doctor in his hometown and was told that there was a prisoner inside who wanted to see him.  He found this man to be John Branner from Topeka Battery who had been shot in both arms.  The Confederate doctor had wanted to amputate one of the arms but Captain Huntoon examined the arm and was able to save it, despite the shortage of medical supplies.  At about 2:00 A.M. Captain Huntoon heard a Rebel Officer call for the Commander of the Union gun to be brought in for treatment; someone had remembered Ross Burns of Topeka Battery and perhaps due to the way he comported himself during the previous day’s battle, his fractured skull was treated and his life spared.  Captain Huntoon spent the rest of the night taking care of the wounded from both sides before being released to the Provost Guard at daybreak.  The Captain later reported that at least 20 Rebels died that night and there were 50 more still remaining.   
   The men of the 2nd had watched the movement of the huge Rebel wagon train all night and now at dawn they were assembled at the rear of this behemoth as it prepared to travel south.*  Without any of food or water since their capture and with many of them wearing no shoes and inadequate clothing, they were preparing to make a journey which would test their mortal souls – a journey which would also coincide with the largest battle of the War fought on Kansas soil and a journey few of them would ever want to recall as long as they lived.

 *This is an inaccurate statement.  In fact, the wagon train of General Price never crossed at Byrom's Ford but had turned south towards Hickman's Mills, away from the Federal Army and where the river crossing was easier .  What the prisoners had seen and heard was the Rebel Army organizing for the coming battle.  

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