Mine Creek Battle Site and Museum

(Frank) Here we are again. (Deb) Now, we’ve been talking about some awesome history, as always in the state of Kansas. October marks the anniversary of the Battle of the Blue and then eventually the Battle of Mine Creek which is one of the largest cavalry engagements of the Civil War, I think it’s the second largest and happened right here on Kansas soil, down near Pleasanton, just north of Fort Scott. If you’ve never been down to that site– keeping those sites open is a challenge for the Kansas State Historical Society and so call ahead or go on the website to make sure they’re open. But this site, even if they’re not open, the museum there, you’ve got an incredible walking path and so the fall of the year, this is an awesome time to get out and walk well marked paths. Fortunately, the battleground is pretty much as is. It’s still there, it’s been preserved thankfully, and this is a great one you can take the kids, you can go at your own pace, you can get out and walk and enjoy the fall air and learn a little history at the same time. (Frank) Yes, the Civil War battlegrounds were not all that big, even though there were thousands many times that were involved. The battleground when you look at it, and you go, “Really?” (Deb) How many horses, how many people? (Frank) From here to there and this was a Cavalry battle, and it was recounted by civilians that were there and of course, some of the soldiers. It’s a great story, and I hope you’ll enjoy it. (Frank) This year marks 152 years since the largest Civil War battle on Kansas soil, and one of the largest cavalry engagements of the Civil War. We turn to the Kansas State Historical Society for a personal story of that day. On the morning of October 25, 1864, the settlers who lived along Mine Creek in eastern Kansas awoke to the rumblings of war. Barbara Jane Dolson, young wife of a Union soldier serving the state militia at Marais des Cygnes, was at home with her mother on the Palmer Family Farm. As the women prepared breakfast and minded the children, they soon came to realize that they were not alone. The Confederates came first. Rebel officers compelled Barbara Jane and her mother to feed their men with the meager fare of the women’s own table. All along the path of the 15-mile long Confederate wagon train; in fact, women and children surrendered their food and clothing to enemy soldiers who then teased them for crying. Soon, though, the scene changed. Confederate men passed the Palmer homestead more and more swiftly, and the line became a disordered mob. For not far behind the rebels rode the Union cavalry, intent upon halting the destructive march of their foe. Before long, the pastures of the Palmer land, as well as the land of their neighbors from the town of Trading Post south along the old Ft. Scott road teamed with men and horses. The women of Mine Creek greeted these men in Union blue with more hospitality than they did the ragged, grey Confederates. In his later writings, Mine Creek Union Army veteran Captain Richard Hinton reminisced: In front of a log cabin stood an old lady, with several children clinging to her skirts, fearless of the leaden shower which ceaselessly pattered against the cabin wall; with dress disordered and grey locks floating in the wind, the old lady shouted while we whirled past, ‘God bless you, boys! God bless you boys! Hurrah for the Union! Hurrah for Kansas! Give it to ‘em!..’ The sight was inspiring. The blessing came like a draught of wine. Inspiring it must have been; for in the ensuing battle, though 300 Confederate soldiers lost life or limb that day, and 900 lost their freedom, only eight Union soldiers died, with 100 wounded in the field. Indeed, as the battle raged on around her, Barbara Jane describes standing in the doorway of her father’s home, watching the melee: “…soon the rattle of musketry was so great I could hear nothing else. I could see the cannons a mile away belch out their flames and smoke, but could not hear them for the noise of the small arms all around me.” How horrifying to feel the ground quake beneath the horses’ hooves, to hear the thunderous war raging all around, to see the spurting blood, and to wait; such is so often the lot of women during war. Fortunately for Barbara Jane, her wait was relatively short: the battle had lasted a mere 30 minutes. But in that time a Confederate wagon train had foundered in Mine Creek, and the Confederacy had lost the war in the West.