The Battle of The Blue

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

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

"Is Price Driven Away For Good, Or Will He Return Again This Winter?"

James and Augusta Griffing continued to send each other letters in November of 1864 with the main topic of discussion being the fates of their friends and neighbors from Shawnee County and the 2nd Kansas Militia who were involved in the "Battle of Westport".   I can only imagine Augusta's distress, not only from the interminable wait for word of the casualties but whether her husband would be called on to protect Kansas again.  As the letters are sent back and forth between James and Augusta, it is apparent that the slowness of the mail is adding to this apprehension.

 Lincoln [Kansas]
Late Saturday Evening, November 5, 1864
My Dear Cutie [Augusta],
I received a Topeka paper this evening and I knew you would be anxious – as I have been – to hear. I will just enclose the names as furnished by the papers of those killed, wounded, & taken prisoners [at the Battle of Westport]. You will see that James Alverson is among the killed and a great many of our acquaintances and friends are among the numbers, especially the prisoners. Bro. [Osborn] Naylor is a prisoner. Also Bro. Hoback, Mr. Kiser’s son, Frank Dawson, Luther Palmer, John Markham & a host of others. An individual who was taken prisoner & escaped the second night says that there were in the hands of the enemy 105 prisoners, mostly Kansas Militia and Kansas men. Says the prisoners were stripped of their overcoats and in some instances of their boots & other clothing & robbed of their money. They were kept at the head of the column and a great deal of the time on the double quick. Said they suffered much for the want of food & clothing & had no blankets to sleep on. There are, by this paper, some 61 from Shawnee County yet prisoners. How many may get home alive, God only knows. When a wife only knows her husband is dead, then she knows he is free from suffering so far as this world is concerned, but to know that her husband is in the hands of these inhuman wretches, obliged to drag out a life more intolerable than death itself, seems almost past endurance. ….. Good night my dearest. Your husband, -- James
May the good Lord protect you & the children is the prayer of your absent husband. How thankful should we be that it is so well with us & [that I am] not a prisoner at the mercy of the rebels.
P.S. Do you get all my letters? How many have your received up to the present date? Good night. Kisses for my boys [several O’s] & yourself.

 Owego [New York]
November 6, 1864
My dear James,
Your letter written at Kansas City the day of the battle has been received. I had heard that there had been a battle & that [General] Price had been defeated, but I had no idea that your company was in the midst of it. I am thankful you were not engaged in fighting and hope none of our friends and acquaintance are killed or prisoners, but fear Capt. Hannum’s Company was not well treated. Hope you have written about them and that your next letter will tell of their safety. Did you go over the battlefield? I hope you could. Did you see Henry Winans? And did his company fight? I want to hear you tell all about it. And is Price driven away for good, or will he return again this winter? Or will there be enough of the regular soldiers there to keep him back?  …Give my love to all inquirers. I have written to Carrie [Winans] again. – Augusta

Lincoln [Kansas]
November 8, 1864
My Dear Cutie [Augusta],   You will see that it is election day and a very severe wintry day it is – just about as cold or colder as that day when Bro. Curtis sold their things and it has so much reminded me of that day that I have just written them a letter. The hail has fallen to about the depth of an inch and when driven by the piercing North wind, it did seem as if it would cut holes in one’s face every time. The chickens have not been out of the hen house and [my horse] Fanny has shivered as if she would desire a change. Yesterday’s Leavenworth papers state that [Gen.] Blunt has driven [Gen.] Price almost to the Arkansas line [and] that in a battle southeast of Ft. Scott, the Shawnee Co. prisoners made their escape. I hope such is the case. They have had a [Shawnee] County mass meeting and resolved to disinter the dead and bring them to the Topeka Cemetery and bury them and erect a suitable monument to their memory at the expense of the county. Have you had a letter from Sister Hannum or Naylor since the battle? Or from Sister Winans? If so please tell me what they say as all I know is through the papers. Please write as soon as you get this. I would rather you let no one read this.  Ever your own Husband, -- James
   Although the Battle of the Blue occurred two and one-half weeks earlier, James is still unable to relate to Augusta the fates of his friends from the 2nd KSM who were taken prisoner.  This unanswered question will continue to hang in the air until the beginning of December, when James finally writes to Augusta with an account of his visit with Osburn Naylor, a friend of theirs and fellow church member who was taken prisoner and was slowly dying at his home after the two hundred mile march.

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