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 25, 2011

October 24,1864; Crossing over into Kansas

 The men of the 2nd Kansas Militia were awakened at a very early hour on the morning of the 24th. and without a pretense of breakfast, were ordered to continue their march.  They had been divided into three squads by their Rebel captors and as the morning brightened, saw that they were still in the wasteland of the Ozark prairie: portions of four Missouri Counties on the Kansas border that were the focus of General Thomas Ewing Jr's. infamous Order No. 11. made in August of 1863. (the summary depopulation of families suspected to be sympathetic to bushwackers).  Sometime before noon the Confederate wagon train crossed over into Kansas and the prisoners immediately began to notice more houses and improvements.  The fleeing Rebels began to burn anything which could be used for forage by the Union Army and also to slaughter livestock, as they depended almost entirely on the fresh meat and raw corn they came across for their sustenance.*
  Later that afternoon Sam Reader heard one of the guards call attention to a pet bear that was riding in one of the gun carriages.  Although he failed to find the bear, Sam did see something of more interest to him:  several yards off to his left a cannon swept by with the inscription, "Captain W.W.H.Lawrence Topeka Kansas".  It was the brass howitzer of Topeka Battery and that was the last he saw of it.  The pace of the march had slackened a little and the guards now had time to question their captives a little more closely and to barter with them for personal items.  Some of the guards were civil in their discourse with the captives and some were not.  "Say there, aren't you the feller we had prisoner in Arkansas last year?" or "I was a prisoner myself once, a Yankee tied his horse to me and made me walk ten miles - you can stand it well enough if you only think so." or "Do you always have such cold weather in the fall?" or the icebreaker, "You ever been in a fight?" were some of the milder comments when compared to others.  Many of these seemed to be attempts to justify the Confederate cause."You're fighting for nigger equality, don't you know you are?" was a comment often heard from the guards. Or, "You there in the blue jacket, what are you fighting for?" The latter two comments were often liberally sprinkled with curses and abuses on the prisoners.
  Later in the afternoon the men of the 2nd. noticed their guards looking at something in the prairie off to the right.  "What is it?" one of them asked the other.  "Yankees" was the reply and the prisoners noticed something resembling the shape of a cloud on the slope of the hill about two miles distant.  The "cloud" seemed to be moving south.   The men could only hope that the appearance of Union Cavalry meant that their freedom was soon impending.  Meanwhile, the pace picked up again and the command, "Close-up, Double quick!" soon rang out.  The Rebel guards' comments picked up again, "Like hell you'll get home" and "You won't need many clothes where we're taking you".  The afternoon dragged on and the thirst of the prisoners again became their misery.  At sunset they finally came upon a body of timberland near a place called "Trading Post" and could see a portion of the Rebel wagon train apparently halted for the night.  A little further and they were within sight of the Marais des Cygnes River and some of the prisoners were lead down to collect water for the others.  It was here in the gloaming that the first man to escape his Rebel captors did so; Jacob Kline slipped away unlike so many other men from the 2nd. who only contemplated it.  Rations were given to the prisoners and they cooked the beef and ate the corn meal as best they could.  The night was dark as heavy cloud cover formed above and only added to the gloomy prospects of the prisoners. The men from the 2nd had now marched about seventy miles from where they were captured and desperately got what little rest they could as a misty rainfall began to fall around midnight.  Their hopes of being quickly rescued by the Union Cavalry had been replaced by an early awakening and forced march on the morning of October 25th, 1864.
*A large beef herd had accompanied Price's wagon train on his journey through Missouri and was now nearly depleted. 

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