Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Battle of Lone Jack, 150 Years Later

"During the summer of 1862, many Confederate and Missouri State Guard recruiters were dispatched north from Arkansas into Missouri, to replenish the depleted ranks of the Trans-Mississippi Confederacy. In Western/West-Central Missouri these included then Captain Jo Shelby, Colonel Vard Cockrell, Colonel John T. Coffee, Upton Hays, John Charles Tracy, John T. Hughes, and DeWitt C. Hunter. Most of these commands were working independently and there was no clear sense of seniority yet established. On August 11 the Federal commander General John Schofield was stunned to learn that Independence, Missouri had fallen to a combined force of Colonel John T. Hughes, William Quantrill, Gideon W. Thompson and Upton Hays. Schofield ordered General James Totten to concentrate his forces to deal with the threat.

The Tater Mess fires at the Missouri Irish Brigade from the garden.

On August 15, 1862 Union Major Emory S. Foster, under orders from Totten, led a 740-man combined force from Lexington to Lone Jack. Other forces were dispatched from Kansas under General James G. Blunt (2,500 men) and Missouri under General Fitz Henry Warren (600 men), but they would not arrive in time for the engagement. Upon reaching the Lone Jack area, Foster received intelligence that 1,600 rebels under Col. Coffee and Lt. Col. Tracy were camped near town and prepared to attack them. The estimate of the rebel command was revised down to only 800 and at about 11:00 p.m., Foster and his men attacked the Confederate camp and dispersed the enemy. The firing of his cannon during this brief skirmish proved to be Foster's undoing, for it alerted Colonel Vard Cockrell and other rebel commands in the area of Foster's position and intent to fight. Foster's men returned to town to rest along the main street, having spent several days in the saddle. Colonel Cockrell conferred with Upton Hays, Lt. Col. Sidney D. Jackman, and DeWitt C. Hunter and determined to give battle the next morning with the intent of overwhelming the much smaller Union force. 

Cockrell's plan was to clandestinely deploy Hunter, Jackman and Tracy's forces in a field to the west of town well before sunrise on August 16 and await the opening of the fight. Hays was to initiate the battle with a mounted attack from the north as daylight approached, whereupon the others would launch a surprise flank attack. Hays did not attack as early as planned, instead reconnoitering the other commands before advancing. As daylight appeared Foster's pickets became aware of Hays' advance. This gave Foster's men a brief opportunity to deploy, spoiling the element of surprise. 

The doorway I was standing in on Sunday, taking pictures from. Two Federal soldiers from the MIB decided to do some shooting out of it. You can almost imagine that those holes in the wood of the blacksmith shop are made form real bullets!

With sunrise exposing them while awaiting Hays' tardy advance, Jackman, Hunter, and Tracy attacked but were held in check. Hays then performed a dismounted attack from the north. Together his force and Tracy's crumpled the Union right flank, forcing the 7th Missouri Cavalry (commanded by Captain Milton H. Brawner) back onto the artillery. The cannoneers now began a desperate fight. Union Captain Long's 2nd Battalion Missouri State Militia Cavalry concealed behind a hedge row of Osage orange trees poured a crossfire on the Confederates, temporarily repulsing them. 

On the other side of the field Hunter's force was stalled by three companies of Captain Plumb's 6th Missouri State Militia Cavalry. A mounted force (possibly Coffee's) approached on Hunter's flank and he mistook them for Federals. The mounted men attacked but were surprised and repulsed by fire from Capt. Slocum's company of the 7th Missouri State Militia Cavalry behind another Osage orange hedge. Hunter, now short of ammunition, abandoned the field for the ammunition train, exposing Jackman's flank. Jackman was also short of ammunition and retired as well. 

Tracy's and Hays' commands renewed their attack to the north, eventually displacing the Indiana artillerists. With no remaining Confederate threat to the south, Captain Plumb now counterattacked to the north, reclaiming the artillery. Jackman and Hunter's resupplied men then returned to the field. Hays attempted to counter attack but a counter-charge by Plumb forced him to retreat. Much of the fighting then devolved into a war of attrition between Confederates on the western side of the street, Union men on the right with their artillery in the middle. The artillerists were soon routed and the guns changed hands several times. Foster recaptured the guns a final time, being severely wounded himself in the process. 

The Tater Mess

After five hours of fighting and the loss of Foster, rebel Col. Coffee and his 800 men reappeared north of town causing Foster’s successor, Capt. Milton H. Brawner, to order a retreat. The men left the field in good order and returned to Lexington. The cannon were hastily spiked or disabled and hidden before the Federals departed. The Confederates secured a victory, but the approach of Union forces including Blunt and Fitz Henry Warren forced the Rebels to withdraw on August 17. General Fitz Warren occupied the town that day. 

Foster was later criticized for attacking on the first day while being outnumbered and for not awaiting reinforcement. However, Fitz Warren's command did not arrive until two days later, and Blunt's three days after Foster arrived. The Federals fought more vigorously because many believed Quantrill's raiders were present and would be brutal to prisoners.

Federal Capt. Brawner reported Union losses as 43 killed, 154 wounded, and 75 missing/captured, a casualty rate of 34 percent and this was almost certainly too low. Rebel Colonel Hunter reported burying 119 Federals and 47 Rebels, but the true losses are unknown. Excluded from Hunter's total were an unknown number of dead Confederates claimed by their friends and families for burial elsewhere.  A recent roll call list of Federals killed at the action as compiled in service records by Wayne Schnetzer reveals 65 killed and at least 29 who later died from wounds received at Lone Jack. The list of known Confederate participation and deaths is less complete, but at least 55 names are listed as killed, with at least 4 others later succumbing to their wounds. 

Colonel Cockrell succeeded in locating the two cannon and removed them from the field and back to Arkansas. One was later credited with firing the shot that disabled the Queen City on the White River. Because they were in possession of the field, the Confederate recruits gained a substantial quantity of needed firearms. As many as half of the recruits were initially unarmed."

Last weekend, I was given the amazing opportunity to attend the 150th Anniversary Reenactment of the Battle of Lone Jack. The battle, which I detailed above, has become one of those sadly forgotten by many in Missouri. But thanks to the efforts of many wonderful and talented people, history once again came to life! 

Below, and above, are photos I took during the event, so please enjoy!

Janet, Belinda, Myself, and Julie in front of the Wetplate Photographers Tent. Janet played the role of a servant, and amazingly so! She was a complete joy to watch perform. Belinda was very very sweet and made me a neckbow for my Tintype, and Julie was my companion most of the day. All three ladies were a joy to get to know!

The Confederate Troops made their way to the battle by marching through the cornfield. The sound of them marching and whooping was chilling. This was taken on Saturday, when I was dressed out, and in front of the house with the spectators.

Some of the wonderful Ladies and children who attended, seated on the porch of the Cave House. On the far right is the woman who played Mrs. cave, who was shot during the battle, and later died of infection.

A member of the Missouri Irish Brigade looking out over the Confederates firing at him. This was taken on Sunday, when I was dressed in everyday clothing, and hiding in the blacksmith shop behind the Cave house. Being an event volunteer had it's perks! I managed to get photos no one else could, due to my unique position.

A nice young man who surprised me in my hideout, where I was shooting pictures. He's firing at the members of the Missouri Irish Brigade.

The same young man, putting caps on his revolver.

The Tintype I had done on Saturday, taken by the amazingly talented Robert Szabo.

Love and Lightning Bugs,
  Photobucket
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