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, October 26, 2011

"Shot Down in Cold-Blood After Capture"

  I came across the title phrase while researching the fate of the survivors of the 2nd Kansas Militia. Not being necessarily familiar with the Civil War in Missouri until a few months ago, I was shocked when I first read this.  Everything I had learned in school textbooks about the Confederate "guerrillas and bushwhackers" was confirmed.  As I dug deeper though I realized the complexity of the Border War didn't allow for such simplifications.  The passions and convictions of the people on both sides would create am environment where such actions were if not commonplace, understood and expected.
  In the mass-confusion of the aftermath of the Mockbee Farm Battle, the opportunity arose for some of the captors, Confederate soldiers in Jackman's Brigade, to act as Judge and executioner.  Perhaps the heat of battle was enough reason - the man targeted to die had been an especially obstinate foe in battle and now it was his turn.  If this was true however, why was the Captain of the gun that killed so many Rebels not slain?  Ross Burns was beaten with the butt of a rifle but his life was spared.  Most likely the targets were picked at random - no specific reason was needed or required.  If there was a sub-conscious thought stream, perhaps it went along the lines of, "These damn butchers have just killed the brave boy who rode beside me - one of them will pay!"  The exception may have been Ben Hughes, a black teamster of the 2nd KSM who was executed as he tried to surrender by having his throat slashed.  Although the death of Ben Hughes was the result of the passion and conviction of Jackman's Missourians, it was also representative of the reason Kansans, both black and white, were willing to give their lives.  Perhaps the state motto of Kansas should have also been, "Live Free or Die."
   Besides Ben Hughes, other members of the 2nd KSM who were shot down after surrender: 
   Lt. William H. DeLong of Co. G was severely wounded in the shoulder during the battle, which prevented him from attempting escape.  He was then shot by his captors several times including one ball which passed through his spine, paralyzing him.  Lt. DeLong was left on the field to die and was discovered late the next day after the Battle of Westport. He was brought to a hospital in Kansas City where he lingered on for nearly a month, finally passing away on November 19th, 1864.
 Captain H.E. Bush of Co. G  was captured after the battle and shot several times in the head and upper body.  Somehow he survived his injuries, perhaps owing to the fact of the poor quality weaponry that his captors were using. He was gathered from the field the next day and brought to Kansas City where he gradually recovered and returned home on Christmas day, 1864.  He resumed farming and stock trading and later became involved in politics and was elected sheriff of Auburn Kansas in 1881. He was also one of the few members of the 2nd KSM to have previous military experience; he served in the 1st N.Y.Light Artillery, Co. D, Army of the Potomac.
 Lt. Col. H.M. Greene was the ranking officer remaining on the field after the Battle and decided to surrender and spare the lives of his remaining men.  He was promptly shot three times and left for dead in the underbrush, where he remained until the next morning.  He was spotted by a group of retreating Confederates who stripped him of his clothing before moving on.  Unable to move, Lt Greene could only wait until someone came along and hear his cries for help. In the meantime he survived by eating berries that were within his reach and covering himself with fallen leaves to ward off the cold of night.  He had no water but for the dew he lapped off of the leaves each morning. Finally on Tuesday October 25th he was rescued by a burial detail gathering bodies from the Battle of Westport.  He eventually recovered from his wounds but suffered physically the rest of his life.  Lt. Greene returned to Topeka and his life of farming and also was a Sunday School missionary,travelling all over Kansas visiting and helping Sunday Schools.
  There are more such stories that have yet to be uncovered - however there is the story of David Fultz of Company I, 2nd KSM - he was also shot and left to die, but not by the Confederates.

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