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, January 12, 2012

The Forgotten Prisoners of the 4th Kansas Militia

  In an earlier post in this blog, The Battle of Westport and Beyond, a reference was made to the 4th Regiment of the Kansas State Militia: "Among the prisoners taken on October 22nd were twenty men of the Fourth Regiment, KSM "  Unlike the prisoners of the 2nd KSM, an official list was never made for any of the other prisoners that General Price's Army of Missouri took south with them.  In fact there doesn't seem to be  rosters, official or otherwise, for any of the other Kansas Militia units besides the 2nd Regiment.
    The 4th Regiment KSM was from Jefferson County, which bordered the northeast corner of Shawnee County.  Under the command of Colonel William McCain, the 4th was part of the Army of the Border spread out along the Big Blue River on 22 October, 1864. Sometime that afternoon, Col. McCain ordered a small party of 20 or so men south towards Hickman's Mills in an attempt to make contact with the rest of the Army.  The party was surprised by pickets from Jackman's Brigade and taken prisoner, with the exception of Aaron Cook of Co. B.   Richard J. Hinton writes in his book "Rebel Invasion of Missouri and Kansas...1864":
  Aaron Cook was a citizen of Jefferson County, Kansas, and a member of the 4th Regiment Kansas State Militia (Colonel McCain commanding).  This Regiment was ordered from Independence after the engagement near the Little Blue, October 21st, and during the fight were directed to proceed to and hold Byrom's Ford, four miles above the old Independence and Kansas City Road. On arrival here, a party of twenty-one men were sent as scouts and messengers towards Hickman's Mills, where was stationed a militia force under Brigadier-General M. S. Grant, Kansas State Militia. On their return, and when within a mile or two of the Ford, the party were surprised and all but one taken prisoners he escaping by the fleetness of his horse. Aaron Cook was shot down in cold blood after capture, and his body left in the road, where it was found shortly after. In all probability he was murdered by Jackman's Brigade.
   Adjutant Dutton thus writes: "Aaron Cook, taken prisoner by Shelby's men, was one of the early settlers, and a bold, fearless, outspoken champion of the principles of freedom; always active and earnest in the good cause; generous to a fault, but uncompromising in his political faith; a kind husband and father, and left a large family to mourn his sad fate.
 The lone escapee from the ill-fated party was named George B.Winans.  After returning to Jefferson County a few days later, George contacted the editor of The Okaloosa Independent with a brief note and a plea to publish his account of the incident and give a partial list of those men from the 4th who were captured.
  Whether these twenty or so men from the 4th KSM left any written account of their ordeals as they were taken south by Price's Army is unknown at this time.  In all probability most of them suffered the lingering effects of the 200 mile march the rest of their days.
  An interesting by-product of my research into the 4th KSM is that I discovered that I am related by marriage to Aaron Cook.  My GG Grandfather, John F. Bell of Co. D, had a younger sister named Margaret.  Her daughter Julia married George Cook, the son of Aaron Cook about twenty years after he was killed by the Confederates near Byrom's Ford.

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