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, May 23, 2012

Oh Moses, Who Art Thou?

  As I was researching Moses Banks of the 2nd Kansas Militia and why he was added to the muster role of "Company D of the colored troops, irregular service" after his death, I discovered something strange on the muster role for Co. D from Indianola.  The far right hand column of the role entitled "remarks" listed among those killed at the Mockbee farmhouse a private named Moses Kellis.  I knew that this man was never listed among those killed that day and was not among the wounded or prisoners for that matter.  I now began to search for traces of this man in the various places that I seek facts about those who lived long ago:,, Find A Grave. Nothing.  Next I Googled him and again came up empty.  The only paper/cyber trail that Moses Kellis seemed to have left was as a member of the 2nd Kansas Militia in a handful of books devoted to Kansas history. These books appear to have acquired the roster of the 2nd KSM from the same muster roles that I did - It seemed as if Moses Kellis had never existed, save the one document.  One last fact about the muster role of Co. D: Moses Banks name was not on it.
   I was left to conclude that Moses Kellis and Moses Banks were one and the same.  But why would this man enlist in Co. D of the 2nd Kansas Militia on 10 October,1864 under an assumed name?  Why would his real name then be added to the muster role of a different Company a year and a half after he was killed in battle?  Who filed this affidavit?
   There are several possible answers to these questions but my theory is this: Moses Banks was a recent freedman, in all likelyhood escaping slavery in Missouri.  When it became clear that Kansas was in danger of invasion by the Confederates, he decided that he wanted to be part of the fighting.  Had he enlisted in the "Colored" Militia from Shawnee County he knew that he would have been relegated to serving with the Home Guard and not been in the thick of the action.  He talked to the Captain of Company D (Sterling Miles) and convinced Captain Miles to take him on as a regular private, not as a teamster or a cook.  But why did Moses Banks sign on as "Moses Kellis"?   Because he knew he would be venturing back to a place where, if captured, he would be considered mere property. In other words, Moses Banks decided that he would give his life for his freedom but he would never be the property of another man again.  Should he be captured, his alias would make it harder to trace his former owner.
   Moses Banks did ultimately give his life that day at Mockbee Farm and now a problem arose for the family he left behind: how would they receive compensation for the death of a phantom?  Moses' family would be eligible not only for the pay he had accrued while he was alive but also a widow's pension. Thus on 25 May,1866 his name was added to the muster role of the "Colored" Militia from Shawnee County, based on the affidavit of someone who knew the true facts of Moses Banks enlistment.  I believe the former Captain of Co. D Sterling Miles came forward - not only so Moses' family would be compensated for his service, but so his name would be rightly recognized among the men who had died so their neighbors would have the right to live free.

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