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, March 29, 2012

New Collection At

  One of the first resources I discovered when I found out about the story of the 2nd Kansas Militia was a website called Kansas Memory.  Kansas Memory uses primary sources from the Kansas State Historical Society and does a great job organizing these resources by category.  It was at this website where I came across the diary of Samuel Reader - more specifically, the volume of Reader's diary which relates his experiences as a member of the 2nd Kansas Militia. Sam was  the Quartermaster for the 2nd and a lifelong diary keeper. His account provided many essential details for this blog which couldn't be found anywhere else and the Kansas Memory website featured all of its 364 original images.  A text only version of the diary is available, which was a huge time saver for ease in reading.   The drawings which Reader included in this diary greatly enhanced it and I have sprinkled these illustrations liberally throughout the blog - with permission from the KSHS of course. 

   It is a good idea to check Kansas Memory often, as they are constantly adding resources and content.  Yesterday I found yet another hand-written book kept by Sam Reader but it wasn't one of his diaries.  It turns out that Sam was also the secretary for a group of survivors from the 2nd Kansas Militia called " The Society of the Anniversary of the Battle of the Blue". link  This group was organized in May of 1895 at the occasion of the donation of a  monument to the Topeka Cemetery by Guilford Gage.  The Society elected officers and was to meet each year on the 22nd of October to promote keeping the memory of the Battle alive.  The book contains the minutes from each meeting and also vital records such as the roster of the 2nd K.S.M., addresses of survivors and a list of those men who passed away the previous year.  The society apparently faded to obscurity as it lost its members to old age.   
   Lovers of history are fortunate that websites such as Kansas Memory exist.  Without this particular resource, chances are I might have decided not to tackle writing this blog for lack of primary sources.  Lovers of Kansas history are also fortunate that Sam Reader was such a compulsive diarist.  Thanks Sam.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Colonel George W. Veale: One of the Makers of History in Kansas


      George Veale's life story is impressive had he only been an average citizen of Topeka Kansas who performed courageously as the Colonel of the 2nd Kansas Militia during Price's Raid in October of 1864. The fact of the matter was that Col. Veale's accomplishments and contributions to Kansas made his military history just one of many distinctions which clustered around him

  George Veale was born in Daviess County Indiana in 1833 and grew up working on his Father’s farm while attending school about three months a year until he turned 17.   He then studied at Wabash College in Crawfordsville IN for two years before landing a job which would eventually lead him out west; he took charge of a steamboat laden with trade-goods and set out for the river-towns of the lower Mississippi River area.  This experience led him to Evansville, IN where he worked in various capacities for Fielding Johnson, who owned a wholesale dry-goods business.  It was here he met Fielding’s daughter Nancy and they were married in January of 1857.  Fielding Johnson had traveled to Kansas Territory in 1856 and gave his consent for Nancy and George to marry if they would join him there.  And so began their westward journey.

   George and Nancy Veale began their honeymoon by embarking on the Steamer “White Cloud” and traveling down the Ohio River, up the Mississippi past St Louis, then up the Missouri River past Kansas City and landing at Quindaro, Kansas Territory.   Quindaro was a free-state settlement located on the site of present-day Kansas City, Kansas.   Besides becoming a business partner of his Father-in-law, George quickly took the opportunity to become involved in civic life in the bustling new city, editing and publishing a newspaper and was appointed the first sheriff of Wyandotte County. 
   George quickly realized that transportation systems for hauling goods and people weren’t yet fully developed in Kansas and so he decided to help organize some.  He drove ox-teams loaded with goods from his store to nearby Missouri and became part owner of the steamboat “Otis Webb” which carried goods and services to the many towns springing up along the Kansas and Missouri Rivers.  George also signed the call for the first Kansas Railroad Convention in 1860 and was involved in the organization of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway. 
   These first years after George and Nancy Veale arrived in Kansas were prosperous, but danger was lurking in the background: The Border Troubles.  The area was rife with conflict long before the Civil War officially began and although George preferred to stay out of these “troubles” he wasn’t about to let ruffians of any ilk disrupt the progress which he had help achieve.  During the summer of 1861 George raised a company which became part of the 4th Kansas Volunteer Infantry and was commissioned its captain in June of 1861.  Reassigned to the 6th Kansas Cavalry, he rose to the rank of Major and mustered out in 1863 and relocated to Topeka, which was the Capitol of the newly created state of Kansas.  During these times of Border Warfare it became necessary for men to remain close to their families and this point was driven home in August 1863 with the destruction of nearby Lawrence, Kansas.  In May of 1864 George Veale replaced R.A. Randlett as Colonel of the 2nd Regiment of the Kansas State Militia and took control of the small band of farmers, tradesmen and businessman from the Topeka area.  They had no uniforms, weapons or other military equipment but Colonel Veale instilled the importance of being ready to fight in these men - and it stuck.  In October of 1864 when it became clear that the Confederate Army under General Sterling Price would threaten Kansas, the ranks of 2nd K.S.M. swelled to roughly 500 men.  These men became an organized unit under Col. Veale and his hand-picked officers in the three weeks which led up to a Battle which would severly test the Colonel's leadership and skill as a soldier.
  No amount of drilling would prepare Col. Veale and his men for the events of October 22nd, 1864 as they patrolled the area of the Big Blue River near Byrom's Ford, a few miles south of Westport Missouri.  That afternoon around three o'clock, The 2nd Kansas Militia was smashed by a Confederate force many times it's number.  After a pitched battle that lasted nearly an hour, the 2nd K.S.M. was finally dislodged from its holdout at a place called The Mockbee Farm and lost nearly 40 percent of its men.  Veale's men fought with the toughness and bravery of a veteran unit and delayed the Rebels from using any advantage they might have gained earlier in the afternoon when they drove the Union forces north to defend Kansas City and Westport.  While it is conjecture to say that Col. Veale and his 2nd K.S.M. kept General Price from invading Kansas, it is fact that they made the boldest stand and suffered the greatest loss on that day. 

  George greatly felt the loss of his men who were killed, wounded and captured that day at Mockbee Farm.  Two days after the battle, Col. Veale returned to the area and located the rough burial places of 15 of the 24 men who were killed and saw to it that thay had coffins and were re-interred on Kansas soil.  They were re-buried at the Huron Cemetery in Wyandotte County, with Col. Veale paying the entire cost.  When it became certain that Kansas was safe from the Rebel threat the next month, Col. Veale again saw to the removal and re-interment of these men to Topeka, where they were given a heroe's funeral and a special place at the Topeka Cemetery.  In his official report of the battle, George Veale gave testament to the courage of all of his men, writing: “The courage of my men is deserving of the highest praise and valor and coolness displayed by my officers cannot be too highly recommended.” 

   George Veale returned Topeka where he continued to help shape the future of Kansas.  In 1865 he was one of the founders of Lincoln College, which became Washburn University.  He also helped found the National Bank of Topeka and served as its vice-president.  In 1866, because of his tact and sound judgment of land values, he was appointed by the Governor of Kansas to be commissioner for the sale of railroad lands in Kansas.  He owned a newspaper, The Topeka Commonwealth, and was instrumental in the creation of the Topeka Library.  He was a member of the first Kansas legislature under the Leavenworth constitution, serving two terms in the state senate during 1867 and 1868, and served fourteen years in the lower house of the state legislature beginning in 1871.  During the grasshopper plague of the early 1870’s, George Veale let the customers of his hardware store buy at cost & on credit so they could quickly rebuild their farms and their lives.  Colonel Veale built the Veale block on Quincy Street in Topeka and also built many other business buildings on Kansas Avenue, besides more than one hundred residences. He had receipts to show that he had paid Shawnee County more than $100,000.00 in taxes. 
   Colonel Veale gained the title of the Grand Old Man of Kansas. He was revered by all classes of people for the services he rendered his city and State in almost every line of public activity. One biographer has said, “When history’s perspective rearranges the men and events of today and yesterday according to the parts they played in the formation of the State, the name of Colonel George W. Veale undoubtedly will be among those at the top of the list”.  “The name of Colonel George W. Veale, Topeka newspaper man, banker, railroad builder, college founder, lobbyist at Washington, debater, legislator, merchant, philanthropist, Indian fighter, pioneer, soldier, recognized leader in all civic endeavor belongs to the annals of Topeka and Kansas.”            
  Colonel George Veale was all these things and more, but what I will remember him for is his bravery and leadership in battle at the Mockbee Farmhouse on 22 October, 1864.  Rest in peace, brave soldier.