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, February 15, 2012

Wallis True: From Benton County to Big Springs and Back


Wallis True never intended to move to Kansas, but that was how things worked out.  Wallis was 37 years old in 1862 and did very well for himself as a farmer and a blacksmith on his farm, which was located 5 miles south of Bentonville, Arkansas.  He was an ardent Union man during the Civil War and it was because of his beliefs that he was forced to pack up his family and what few possessions they could carry and leave for Shawnee County Kansas in the fall of 1862.
   Ever since the War began the year previous Wallis had been targeted by local groups sympathetic to the Confederate cause: "You're with us or you're against us." - "Join the Rebel cause and your farm will remain safe."  He remained steadfast though and his reputation as a Union loyalist kept Wallis and his family in a perilous and uneasy existence.  Their farm was occasionally raided for corn and fodder by the marauding Rebel Units which haunted the area and Wallis was worried that they would all be killed.  Finally after one of these Bands took seven cows, a pig and three wagon-loads of shucked corn Wallis decided that was all he could take.  He and his wife Golda loaded up their children and a few possessions and headed for Shawnee County under the escort of Union General James G. Blunt and his command.  Soon after arriving in Shawnee County they moved to Big Springs in neighboring Douglas County and waited for the War to end.     

   In May of 1864 Wallis True became a member of the 2nd Kansas Militia: a loosely formed Regiment of men from Shawnee County, most of whom had no military training.  This Unit, which was formed in August of 1863 after the sacking of Lawrence, Kansas, drilled infrequently and was without weapons or uniforms. By the summer of 1864 the threat of Rebel invasion from the east was replaced by news of Indian uprisings to the west.  Although the U.S.  Army sent some cavalry units out to quell the Indian threat, Shawnee County was never in any danger and life went on as usual.

    October of 1864 brought with it The Price Raid and Wallis and many of his neighbors who formed Company F from Big Springs joined the rest of the 2nd Kansas Militia as it left for Jackson County Missouri to defend the Border.  When the 2nd KSM was overwhelmed by Jackman's Brigade at Mockbee Farm, Wallis was among the 70 or so men captured and forced to march roughly 200 miles the next seven days.  Wallis survived the ordeal and returned to his family by the middle of November but was physically never the same man again.

    Wallis True began to suffer from dysentery in the last days of his captivity in southern Missouri.  After he returned to Big Springs he went under the care of Dr. W.H. Brown and waited for the symptoms to disappear, but they persisted and Wallis struggled from loss of appetite and lacked the strength necessary to perform his job as blacksmith.  This "running off at the bowels" as it was called back then would have been a common illness among the prisoners from the 2nd KSM as most of them had to drink contaminated water at some point in their captivity.  Doctors at the time didn't know the proper treatment for dysentery and Wallis continued to suffer, although he tried not to show it.  He was a stubborn man and tried not to let it get the best of him. 

   In 1867 Wallis decided to go back to his farm in Benton County Arkansas and try to reclaim the life he had known before the War.  His house and property were mostly destroyed but with the help of his friends and family he rebuilt it the way it was before.  Wallis' health continued to decline though and he was without a Doctor's care until 1874, when he became completely disabled.  This once strapping blacksmith and self-sufficient farmer would be forced to apply for help from the Government.
   Wallis True finally applied for an Invalid Pension on March 24th, 1879 at the Benton County Courthouse.  He stated in his Declaration for Pension that while in the service of the 2nd Kansas Militia he was taken prisoner and suffered the hardships of being exposed to the weather without proper clothing, was struck with the butt of a rifle above his eye by a guard and had contracted dyspepsia and chronic diarrhea which continued to the present day.  He also said he had never been treated by a doctor while in the service.  But Wallis had waited too long to file; in September of 1883 Wallis' attorney received a letter from the Commissioner of the Pension Office which stated that the cutoff date for filing a claim was July 4th, 1874.
   Although Wallis was ineligible for a pension, he did file for and receive compensation of $240 for his livestock and corn that was stolen by the Rebels in 1862.

   Through all of these travails Wallis True continued to be the cornerstone of his large family and although he never found relief from his illness which he contracted while a prisoner of war, he persevered.  He passed away at his farm in 1907 at the age of 82, still a Union man.