Lancaster, Ohio: If you were to ask any lady or gentleman of the South who were the “Big 3” in the Civil War Army, I think they would always go back to General Lee and Major General Jackson. The third should be Longstreet, but many folks don’t care for his post war politics. So some may substitute Longstreet for Forrest or somebody else, but just between you and me, it probably should be Longstreet. Were you to ask a gentleman from the North, unless they were specifically schooled up you could get a wide variety of answers. But they really should answer Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan. The reason why you should get those answers is quite simply because both Sherman and Sheridan implemented the will of General Grant with such a manner that the violence of it brought an early end to the war.
I have read where many people online refer to Sherman as a “War Criminal.” I have also heard these same type of people refer to Grant as a “butcher” and General Sheridan is largely thought of the same way. But let’s be honest, in pursuit of victory in World War II, the 8th Air Force intentionally bombed German factory workers’ living quarters, and there was that whole firebombing of Dresden just to ensure the will to fight on the German people was as shattered as their military forces.
Militarily speaking, total war was the quickest and most humane form of warfare possible to bring the Civil War to its conclusion. So that said, my first venue on the way to tour the Maryland Campaign took me to Lancaster, Ohio and the childhood home of one William Tecumseh Sherman. The home was a short diversion from our jaunt across I-70 and in all honesty, Lancaster seemed like a really good place for Team Traveler to spend the night. After staying in the local Hampton Inn and getting a nice breakfast, we were ready for our 11:00 AM appointment with Laura and Tammy. Laura was the director of the Sherman House Museum and Tammy is the Executive Director of the Fairfield County Heritage Association. Both ladies were just an absolute wealth of knowledge and professionalism. Laura was the most knowledgeable person on the life and times of General Sherman that I have ever had the pleasure to speak with. She was able to relay personal story after personal story about the entire Sherman family. I was fortunate enough to be able to sit with Laura for an interview, and her expertise really shined through.
One of the biggest things that I took from the tour was the actually genuine love and admiration that “Uncle Billy” had not only for his Soldiers, but his Southern brethren as well. At one point, he paroled one of his former cadets from Louisiana State Seminary, the fore runner of Louisiana State University. That’s right, to my surprise William T. Sherman was the head of Louisiana State prior to the outbreak of hostilities. Laura also informed me that Confederate General Joe Johnston was a pall bearer at Sherman’s funeral. That is how much love and admiration these two warriors had for each other. The tour and the interview took about two hours. I think the casual tourist can view the museum in about an hour and the staff are all experts and willing to lend their expertise. I know we covered this in the interview, but I also want to remind folks that in February of 2020, the Museum is going to celebrate Sherman’s 200th birthday in a big way. If you are in the area make sure you come out to join them and pay your respects to the man who could have been President, but was quoted as saying “If nominated I will not run and if elected, I will not serve.”
We finished up at the Sherman House Museum and Team Traveler let me know they were hungry. Moose was doing a full court press for White Castle, as we don’t have them in Kansas. The last time we ate at White Castle, it was only alright. There was however, a Tim Horton’s in Lancaster. For those Canadian folks that follow The Civil War Traveler, I need not explain to you, but to my American readers, Tim Horton’s coffee and doughnuts are little slices of heaven. I will always associate Tim Horton’s with “Doughnut Time” on the Kandahar Boardwalk in Afghanistan and that freezing July morning in Stoughton, Maine. Tim Horton’s, in my humble opinion, is a step up from Dunkin’s and Krispy Kreme. But that’s just one man’s opinion.
The next five and a half hours went by without incident as we found our way to Sharpsburg and a fine crab cake dinner at Captain Bender’s. There was a problem with our rental home. It turns out that I showed up a day early and we had to scramble to find a room at nearby Shepardstown. It was unfortunate, but in all honesty, it was my mistake so it was up to me to resolve it. I will be linking a review to Captain Bender’s as the food was amazing and all agree that we will be visiting there again before we wrap up. Mentally at this point, as I type this article, I am flipping a coin between Monocacy and the National Civil War Medical Museum and Manassas. I am leaning towards Monocacy and the National Civil War Medical Museum in Frederick, simply because one of the field hospitals for Antietam is only open on the weekends in May. I can visit Manassas later this week. Oh, and the owners of the Antietam Guest House where we will be staying, are just absolutely stellar folks. She tried to find a solution that did not involve us going to a hotel room, but I decided that it was my mistake so the folks that rented the house for the one evening should get it. Problem solved!
I hope you enjoy the pictures and the interview of the Sherman House Museum, and I will see you down the trail.
Iuka, MS: After we left the warm Florida coast and Olustee, Moose and I continued our trip home from visiting my aunt and I made the snap decision to cut west and visit the site of the battle of Iuka, in Iuka, Mississippi. We found The Victorian Inn online and reserved a room soon after we left Olustee. The direct route back to Kansas City would have taken me through Atlanta, Nashville and up to St. Louis and over to Kansas City. There were many sites in Atlanta that would rate a visit, but I feel that we will make the Atlanta area subject of their own feature visit. Since I was trying to make it home in time to attend a job fair, I wanted to visit a relatively easy to tour site. I had previously called the Tishomingo History Museum and asked about touring in the area. The gentleman on the phone was extremely gracious and helpful. He also gave me a great piece of advice. He told me “Do not make a special trip to Iuka.” Now since this a travel magazine, I feel it is important to pass that on to you, the reader. Do not make a special trip specifically to Iuka! After the historical narrative, I will tell you the best way to tour Iuka.
I like to open each article with a quote in regards to the military action that occurred there. Here at the Battle of Iuka, speculation would grow as to Major General Grant’s fitness to lead troops in battle. Here rumors would spread, perhaps unjustly. I am not a General Grant detractor and I tend to follow General Eisenhower’s assessment of General Grant. But the opening quote from Federal Captain William Stewart of the 11th Missouri does lead one to speculate. I do tend to believe that Grant suffered from migraine headaches and Grant’s reputation as a drunkard was something that was propagated by his pre-war isolation off the frontier Army.
The Battle of Iuka occurred in September of 1862 and had some significant strategic implications. If you recall what was happening in the late summer and early autumn of 1862, the Confederate Army was on the offensive. General Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia were on the march in Maryland and General Braxton Bragg was also on the offensive in an attempt to bring Kentucky into the Confederacy’s fold. There is a significant amount of academic speculation that leads one to believe that a Confederate victory on Northern territory in the late Summer, would have brought Great Britain into the war on the Confederate’s behalf. At the very least, it would have caused the British Navy to lift the Federal blockade of the southern coast. Previous to the Battle of Iuka, there was concern among Federal command that Confederate Major Generals Sterling Price and Earl Van Dorn had resolved to march north to join Braxton Braggs forces now operating in Kentucky. With Bragg’s forces, the addition of Price’s and Van Dorn’s forces would have given the Confederates enough to of a punch to defeat Federal forces under Major General Don Carlos Buell’s forces defending Kentucky. So, with all that in play, Iuka was no longer an obscure and remote battle in a secondary theater, Iuka now took center stage in that horrid opus the American Civil War, and the stakes could not have been higher.
As stated, Moose and I were on our way home from a family emergency in Florida and a stop in at the Victorian Inn in Iuka, Mississippi brought an end to 13 hours of drive time. The time had been increased by a stop at the Olustee State Historical site in Florida, and a traffic stop in Georgia, thank you Deputy for not being quick to write a ticket. All that said, I tend to prefer to travel via automobile instead of flying for a couple of reasons. The first is that the act of flying will generally burn a day either way. Between travel time to the airport, your special one-on-one pat down with your favorite TSA agent, waiting in security, picking up luggage and the time and expense of a rental car, you generally have wasted a day. With the road trip, you have your own vehicle, the cost of travel is dramatically reduced, you can stop along the way and the drive is actually beautiful. Often when I drive long stretches, regardless of what music is being played on the radio, my mind cuts to that scene from “Forrest Gump” where Forrest “just ran…”, complete with the song “Running on Empty” playing in my mind. For me, the road trip is therapy and the ascetics of a drive off the interstate across the deep south in the spring with all the world a bloom is a very beautiful sight to behold. That stretch of road that leads from western Georgia, across Alabama and into northeastern Mississippi offered a plethora of small rural communities with neatly sculpted and cultivated fields and beautiful southern styled barns that dotted the entire pathway.
As the day turned into evening and as we were passing through western Alabama, near the Mississippi state line, I noticed signage that pointed us towards Major General Joseph Wheeler’s home. Joe Wheeler is one of the best Confederate cavaliers of the Civil War, every bit as good as Stuart, but I can’t say he was as good as Forrest. That, however, is a conversation for another day. General Wheeler also has the distinction of being one of two former Confederate Generals to serve as US Army Generals in the Spanish American War, commanding future President of the United States and Medal of Honor Recipient Colonel Theodore Roosevelt. So being that General Wheeler was just “Bully” of a man, I wanted to visit his home. But we had passed through the area well after they would have closed for the day and I will have to come back another time.
A seemingly short time later, we had arrived at our destination for the night. If you are in the Iuka area, the Victorian Inn is an economical choice for a night’s rest and a shower. That said, we did not pay a Hilton price and we got what we paid for. The staff was friendly and helpful and there were two beds in the room and a hot shower. In the morning, after eating a quick breakfast burrito at the local McDonald’s, we toured the Iuka battlefield, which largely consists of a few acres off of Lee Highway, State Highway 72 and Veteran’s Memorial Drive. The McDonald’s is strategically placed on the actual battlefield on what must have been Major General Price’s Army of the West’s far right line. Touring the site took roughly 20 minutes, and I was instantly reminded of the phone conversation I had a few months ago with the Tishomingo History Museum, of not to make a special trip.
By 9:00 AM I made the call to head the 20 miles west to Corinth, MS from Iuka. When we passed through in 2017, we only had 20 minutes to explore the interpretive center. So we went to revisit some of Corinth that we did not get the chance to see before. The Interpretive Center has changed a bit since 2017. There were two very high-quality movies and there was a new exhibit hall that featured some Mississippi unit’s regimental flags that I did not recall seeing last time. After the tour of the Interpretive Center, we went out on the lawn and paid tribute to the valor displayed by the Texas assault on Battery Robinette. To the State of Texas’ credit, they have as recently as 2010 placed a new monument on the property and it was very well done. After that, we left the Interpretive Center and went on a driving tour around Corinth. For me, the big payoff was walking the siege lines of both the Union and Confederate forces in the first Battle of Corinth, or the Battle of Farmington. Both are the same place and it is one of those Sharpsburg/Antietam deals, where one side called the battle Corinth and the other called it Farmington. After we finished up the siege lines walk, both Moose and I were covered in ticks, so make sure you bring plenty of bug spray if you are going out tramping the siege lines. After we finished pulling the ticks off, it was time to get on the road, as I had a phone interview with a prospective client coming up and I wanted to ensure that I was in an area of adequate cellular coverage.
After some reflection, I have come to the best conclusion I could on how-to best tour Iuka. There are a couple of ways to efficiently and effectively do it so you can see an incredibly significant battlefield, but avoid a letdown. If you are passing through the area naturally on your route of travel, Iuka is an easy tour, but I think it would be best to tour Iuka as part of a Shiloh, Corinth Civil War Tour. I highly recommend touring Corinth in the same trip as Shiloh and with Iuka just a short 20 miles away from Corinth, I feel this is the best course of action to take to visit this field of valor. But even better would be a four-day weekend of Shiloh, Corinth, Iuka and a short drive east into Alabama to General Wheeler’s home. The phone interview went well, and the rest of the trip back to Kansas City was uneventful. The weather had called for rain, but thankfully Mother Nature decided to cut me some slack and thus ended my trip to say “goodbye” to my aunt. I will see you down the trail.
Sanderson, FL: This has been a tough article for me to write because of the reasons in which it came to be. In this tale from the trail, I try to walk through life and death under the hot Florida sun, both today and in 1864. My reasons for going to Florida, and doing it on 40 minutes notice where extremely personal. I had no chance to plan and was not even sure of the final destination until I had been on the road for 44 hours. The weather threw me a number of curve balls and I was pushed to the limits of my endurance but 48 hours after I had left Kansas, I had arrived at my destination in Estero, Florida. But we will talk about that in the paragraphs to come. For now, let’s talk about the historical narrative of the Battle of Olustee; Florida’s most significant land battle of the US Civil War.
The Union Army had established a number of enclaves along the Florida coast, to include the most significant one in Jacksonville in 1862. For the most part, however, they had wisely decided to stay out of the interior of the State, for a number of tactical reasons. This would change in the Winter of 1864. History is divided on why the campaign was launched, but it really falls into two camps. The first camp will tell you that President Lincoln was led to believe that the interior of northern Florida was ripe with pro-Union sentiment. Though unlikely, this could be true. After all, every State in the Confederacy, with the one exception of South Carolina, had provided at least one regiment of pro-Union white Soldiers. Regions of States, such as eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina had provided thousands. Western Virginia, even became its own state, loyal to the Federal cause. Imagine my surprise when I learned that even Alabama supplied at least one regiment of Federal Cavalry. So, this fact, and Lincoln with his eye on reelection may be why the operation was launched, but I don’t necessarily buy it. The military reason for the offensive was to deprive the Confederate forces farther north of the food and salt resources of Florida. Though in theory this makes sense, I am not convinced this is the reason for the campaign simply because, the Union Commander, Brigadier General Truman Seymour’s boss, Major General Quincy Gillmore, had left orders not to go on the offensive in the Florida interior. I believe that Seymour’s military reputation was severely tarnished after his assault on Fort Wagner and he was looking for a military victory to rehabilitate his name. In South Carolina, Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard had correctly ascertained Seymour’s plans and dispatched a Confederate Irish immigrant by the name Brigadier General Joseph Finnegan and the experienced and hard charging Georgia Brigade under Brigadier General Alfred Colquitt to make sure that Seymour would not gain redemption in Florida, at least.
In late 1863 and very early 1864, the Federal troops in Jacksonville received new crops of draftees in the case of the white regiments and brand-new volunteers in the case of the USCT’s, to include the famous 54th Massachusetts Infantry. Members of the 7th New Hampshire Infantry were also ordered, just prior to the campaign to turn in their battle tested Spencer repeating rifles and were in turn issued battle worn and often inoperable Springfield rifled muskets. So poorly was the equipment, that many of the muskets failed to fire when combat began on that February afternoon. To summarize the battle, the Confederate forces under Finnegan and Colquitt had their issues, but largely were able to exercise their will over the poorly led Federal troops. The one bright spot on the battlefield for the Federals was indeed the 54th Massachusetts Infantry, who did not arrive on the battlefield until late in the fight and did a masterful job of covering the Federal retreat back to Jacksonville. That said, the 54th again would distinguish itself for the evacuation of the Federal wounded from the Olustee field of battle. There are reports that they filled a train car with wounded and hauled the railroad car back to Jacksonville by hand to ensure as many Federal wounded were able to escape Confederate capture as possible. After the battle, Union forces would not again enter the interior of Florida during the war.
A few weeks ago, my aunt called me and let me know that she had cancer. My aunt is my father’s sister and ever since he has passed, 16 years ago, I had sort of been his proxy with her. I did not mind this, as she surely did love and miss her brother. As we talked again, she told me that her cancer was terminal. She has small cell lung cancer and liver cancer. She is now too weak to take chemotherapy. As these reports came in and kept getting darker, I felt myself being pulled on a trip I had not planned and truthfully did not want to make. When my cousin contacted me and let me know that my aunt was asking for her mother and wanted to go to hospice, I could no longer sit by in Kansas. Both of my parents died so fast and unexpectedly that there was no opportunity to say goodbye. Now, my father’s sister was in hospice and I had to go. I may be in between positions right now, money may be a little tight, but I was sitting at lunch talking with Household 6 and I could no longer just sit on the sidelines. My first thought was to take my daughter Rooster, because she is a better assistant driver than Moose. Moose also has a restricted license while Rooster has a full license and I didn’t have time to research how that would play out driving out of state. But alas, Rooster, though in High School, is taking college courses and had college finals this week and could not go, so Moose was my copilot. I went to his high school, pulled him from his class and told him he had 40 minutes to get home and pack, we were leaving immediately. If you haven’t noticed, in The Traveler household, a lot of life happens behind the dashboard. The road trip is the perfect opportunity to coach, guide and mentor your kids and really find out where they are in life; and we did have ample opportunity for that. Unfortunately, heavy rains blanketed the Midwest and Southeast, significantly adding time to the trip; causing me to worry that we would not get to Florida in time. The weather was so unfavorable, that I had to scrap plans of overnighting just south of Memphis, in Mississippi, instead, opting for Trumann, Arkansas.
In Georgia, we lost additional time because my tire light indicator came on and, on our car, that dang thing never lies. So, I found myself in front of Michael, the Manager at the local Goodyear garage in McDonough, Georgia; in need of a couple of new front tires. Now that the car had a new set of shoes, we were able to make it to Valdosta, Georgia for the night. Where my son would see his first naked woman. I have to be honest; we were not prepared for what was seen when we entered the hotel lobby; for what has been seen cannot be unseen. Some people don’t understand that see through gowns are really see through and they don’t need to be in the hotel lobby. But now we just refer to the incident as “The Georgia Peach” and somehow, I feel we are all a little bit diminished by experiencing it. I guess I will just sum it up by stating “you see the strangest things at an interstate hotel.” By lunch time the next day, we had arrived at our destination where I met my sister, also part of Team Traveler. My sister Beth, is my copy editor and proofs everything I write before you read it. We had the opportunity to spend the afternoon with my aunt. My cousin tells me that she perked up considerably with our visit and is now, at the time of this being written, is still fighting. I like my aunt, she’s a tough bird! As a post edit, since the time of writing, she passed peacefully a couple of weeks ago. She fought as long as she could.
After spending the afternoon with my aunt, we crossed the “Alligator Alley” to Florida’s eastern coast and spent the evening and next day with my sister and brother in law. I will tell you that Monday’s in May at Delray Beach in Florida are wonderful. The beaches and water are warm, public parking is plentiful and we were able to spend a nice day with lunch at Boston’s, on the beach; for Tuesday we would be heading north again for Olustee and home.
We arrived at the Olustee State Historical Park around lunch time and there were two things that immediately came to my attention. The first is that we were in a National Forest, Osceola National Forest to be exact, and there was a plethora of outdoor activity opportunities that were just waiting to be taken advantage of. I spoke with a local resident, and he said that there was even great fishing within a couple of miles. The other thing I noticed, is that on Route 90, which leads you to the battlefield, you pass about 6 prisons or correctional facilities; or you pass one large one with 6 campuses. I don’t know, but I am confident of one thing. I drove by “Florida Man’s” house. Also, a point of legitimate security, if you visit, don’t pick up a hitch hiker. It may be “Florida Man” himself. The battlefield takes about an hour and a half to two hours to tour and trail walk. I honestly feel that the State of Florida missed a significant opportunity with the museum. Though the video was good, the television had a very small screen and the displays were well, small too. I think there is opportunity for a much more robust interpretive center not only dedicated to the battle, but the entire Civil War experience in Florida. The coastal raids by Federal Marines and Naval forces, the Battle of Olustee, Agriculture and the African American experience. Florida’s Civil War history is much more robust than given credit for. When I began walking the battlefield, for some reason, I instinctively slouched over and tried to adjust my ALICE pack straps a couple of times. Moose kind of looked at me strangely and then it occurred to me, that I mentally was out in the swamps of Verona Loop Training Area of Camp Lejeune, NC because the pine forest and topography was so similar. I could still feel the “war belt” harness cutting into my neck as I walked the trail of the 7th New Hampshire and 7th Connecticut. When Moose and I walked the position of the Georgia Brigade, you could almost hear that quiet forest come alive and that rebel yell. Then the trail got quiet for me as I reflected on why I had come to Florida in the first place. For me it was literally “Life and Death under the Florida Sun.” I could see the signs of battle, I could feel the uniform against my body and the weight of the pack and rifle again, but I also felt the burden of impending loss from my aunt, one of the few members of my father’s family I actually knew.
Pleasanton, KS – The folks who have followed me for a hot minute know that I have already articulated the story of the events that unfolded at the Battle of Mine Creek, in current Pleasanton, Kansas. So I will not rehash that, but I will link this short story as a call to action. Mine Creek is the only actual “battle” of the Civil War that took place on Kansas soil and I happen to live within an hour of the site. Just a short jaunt down Kansas 69 finds me at one of the largest Cavalry engagements of the Civil War.
It had been a long week filled with some peaks and valleys. On the downside, I had found out that my position had been eliminated along with a number of other positions. That was unfortunate. But there were some significant ups as well. We, www.thecivilwartraveler.com, sold our first advertisement, my daughter Rooster won her election as student body Vice President and a couple of different events at her track meet and my son, Moose, earned his religious award via the Boy Scouts of America. So, technically speaking, there had been more wins this week than losses.
Friday night, I had to report to the hospital for a sleep study. Thanks to service in Iraq and Afghanistan, I have developed a case of sleep apnea, as so many returning veterans have. As anyone who has had a sleep study done knows you don’t exactly get the “best night of sleep” of your life. By 1:40 AM I was lying in bed surfing Facebook on my phone. I was reminded that I had an event coming up later that day that I was interested in going to. It was Volunteer Day at Mine Creek Battlefield State Historic Site. Sleep apnea or no, I was going to go work off some stress from the week.
Since Moose didn’t have anything going on and he needed some volunteer hours for high school, I grabbed him up and we headed down to Pleasanton, yes, named after Major General Alfred Pleasanton, “The Knight of Romance.” After we arrived, we were given our assignment by Tami. She asked us if we brought tools, which we did and she promptly put us to work on the repair of a foot bridge. The long Kansas winter had taken its toll on the bridge. After assessing the foot bridge, I determined that I didn’t have the right tools, or the right vehicle for the job, so I asked to be excused and Moose and I headed home to properly gear up. In the spirit of Tim, the Tool Man, Taylor, we needed “more power.”
I don’t know what it was, maybe the frustration of my position being eliminated, or the fact that as I have gotten older, I have made a conscience attempt to be better with being “handy.” But if it took my last breath, that “damn bridge” was going to be fixed! After two more hours devoted to “coming and going” we finally arrived back in my Jeep with saw horses, a circular saw, hammers, decking screws, a drill, power cell and the all-important tape measure. Not to mention, the obligatory battlefield bug spray. As I approached the bridge, now properly armed to do battle, I could hear the faint drums and trumpets in the background. Not of battle, but the song, “Fanfare for the Common Man.” You may recognize the tune, from the Olympics. I cannot emphasize enough that I have never really been particularly “handy” with tools. I can make a pistol or rifle sing, but when it comes to hammers and wrenches, well, let’s just say I earned the “F” Mr. Webster gave me in wood shop back in high school. With all that in the back ground, that bridge was going to be “fixed” as God as my witness.
Naturally, Murphy’s Law would pick now to assert itself. The AC adaptor on the power cell decided that it was not going to cooperate. Without power, the circular saw and drill became nothing more than paper weights. But I approached the situation with dogged determination. That “damn bridge” was going to be fixed! Moose kind of looked at me with a “now what?” look. From this point, there was only one direction to go it. That was to effect repairs the old-fashioned way. Two men, two hammers and a box of decking screws. From that point it was on…I am pleased to report that the foot bridge at Mine Creek is now safe for foot traffic. We were able to effect meaningful repairs, but I have to be honest, I am not done with that “damn bridge.” I have a meeting with Moose’s Boy Scout Troop leadership coming up. I am going to propose that one of the Eagle Candidates adopt the idea of replacing the bridge for an Eagle Scout project. It seems like the perfect Eagle Scout project. I also have a meeting this week with Jim, the Administrator for Mine Creek. We met on Saturday at the Volunteer Event, and I believe that I am going to volunteer at the site while I am searching for employment. This will give me the opportunity to ensure that I get out of the house while I am “on the bench.” Hopefully, by the time you read this article, I will have already landed. All that aside, how many of y’all volunteer?
Since the article was originally written, the bridge rebuild has been approved for an Eagle Scout project and from what I understand, the project is being planned.
Author: D. Alexander Brown
Page Count: 242
I was tasked to teach a course on the Vicksburg Campaign to my son’s Boy Scout Troop to support the Troop’s tour of the Vicksburg National Military Park. I felt it was my honor and privilege to do so and in the run up to teaching the course, I had read a number of books covering all aspects of the campaign. Now full disclosure, I have spent time in the Army as a 13B, Field Artillery Cannon Crewmember; an 0311, a Marine Corps Combat Rifleman; and a 19D, again in the Army as a Cavalry Scout. Though I will always be an infantryman at heart, when I look at 19th Century Warfare, I tend to favor the life of a Cavalryman; especially when considering the US Civil War and the Indian Wars. The book “Grierson’s Raid” was key to me to get an understanding of the strategic situation in Vicksburg and the greater Mississippi theater of operations during the Spring of 1863. I believe that Brown does an outstanding job of not only giving you the history of the raid, but also the dogged pursuit of the Federal Cavalry by the Confederate defenders. I believe that D. Alexander Brown did a fantastic job of articulating the strategic value of the raid. Not only were they able to destroy millions of dollars’ worth of war material, more strategically, the raid succeeded in taking Confederate Lieutenant General Pemberton’s eye off Grant and his upcoming amphibious assault across the Mississippi River. Pemberton ended up diverting much needed Confederate resources from watching for the crossing to attempting to trying to deal with the Raiders. I highly recommend “Grierson’s Raid” for anyone interested in the Vicksburg Campaign, Cavalry Warfare and even currently the current military population who would study raids. Items to discuss that both the US Army and US Marines look at as characteristics of a raid, being speed, surprise and violence of action. Brown masterfully articulates all three elements.
19476 Robertson Rd, La Cygne, KS 66040
Family Cafe is a family-owned and operated diner serving American style food and is open daily from 6:00 AM -2:00 PM. We arrived at around 1:40 PM in the afternoon and we were welcomed and seated. When I asked about cutting it close to closing time, I was told to relax and that Household 6 and I should take our time. So we felt that they treated us very well. I generally do not eat a lot of food, quantity wise, so I really like to enjoy the food that I do have. I can tell you that their ranch-fresh beef for burgers was delicious and too large for me. I am not complaining about portions, mind you. I was only able to finish about two thirds of the burger, so I was more than satisfied with the portion. Household 6 and I will say that the burgers were excellent to the point where I wanted to finish mine, until I saw that they had fresh home-made blackberry cobbler with vanilla ice cream on the menu for dessert. Cobbler is a weakness of mine. Biblically speaking, they say that God rested on the seventh day, but I am pretty sure that was the day he gave a wink and a nod to cobbler.
I will end this review with an observation. It seemed like there were a lot of local folks who ate there. I have learned that eating where the locals eat is usually a very good thing. The Family Cafe was no exception.
Pleasanton, KS: Trading Post, Kansas was first established in 1825 by a French fur trader and is as far as I can tell, the first non-native settlement in Kansas. Leavenworth can claim to be the first city in Kansas, but Trading Post, which is now part of Pleasanton, is the first settlement. Located just three miles west of the Missouri border, this tiny hamlet saw more than its fair share of action. The opening quote was from Reverend B.L. Read, a survivor of the Marais de Cynges massacre, in a letter to a friend in January of 1859 and it goes to underscore the violence in this region called Freedom’s Frontier. This article is really an addendum of the opening article to our “Bleeding Kansas” series as you really can’t talk about the Marais de Cynges massacre without talking about Trading Post. If you recall, The Missouri Border Ruffians went sweeping through the border region looking for Free Staters to make an example of. By the time that Hamilton’s men reached Trading Post, they weren’t especially choosy when designating who they would collect. It was here where they would consolidate their 11 victims and then march them off on foot to the ravine and into history. It would also be here at Trading Post, where 8 years later following the Battle of Westport, that Federal Cavalry under Major General Alfred Pleasanton, first caught Sterling Price’s retreating Confederate Army of Missouri. A very brief and violent rearguard action was fought here in the waking hours of October 25th 1864, on the very same ground where Hamilton collected his hapless victims. Due to overwhelming Federal forces and artillery, the Confederate rearguard was no match for Pleasanton’s cavalry and artillery. Those Confederates that were able to, crossed the Marais de Cynges river and rejoined Major General Price’s command not even 10 miles away. At the time, they were bottle necked at a ford trying to cross 600 wagons worth of captured war trophies. Later that morning around 11:00 AM, Federal Cavalry would fall upon the Confederates again at the Battle of Mine Creek.
Today, taking a break from the grind of looking for full-time employment, having my position recently eliminated, I took the opportunity to take Household 6 and our granddaughter, The Budger, down to Trading Post to have a look around. There is a privately-owned museum at Trading Post that is only open seasonally. For those that are interested in visiting, which I highly recommend if you’re in the area, they are open from April 1st through November 1st; Wednesdays through Saturdays 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM or by special appointment. I had the privilege of getting a tour from Jessica Cox, the Museum Curator. We toured the “Bleeding Kansas” and “Civil War” sections of the museum. Their display boasted many local artifacts from the Linn County area, which included artifacts taken as war trophies by victorious federal soldiers at Mine Creek, also in Pleasanton. Jessica was the perfect host. We toured the museum and I got a different take on some “Bleeding Kansas” history. I also learned the origins of the term “Jayhawk” or “Jayhawker;” which from its origins is none too complimentary. The definition really underscored the border tensions between the Free Staters and the Pro-Southerners here on Freedom’s Frontier. Jessica informed me that “The story of the term “Jayhawker” goes something like this; “Pat Devlin, a raw-boned Irishman openly affiliated with the free-state men, was returning from an extended trip into Missouri. The settlers at Ebenizer Barnes’ store (located in Sugar Mound, now Mound City) were watching an odd cavalcade coming up the hillside road. It was Mr. Devlin leading a horse who was literally loaded down with every conceivable kind of kitchen equipment: pots, pans, spiders, Dutch ovens, rolling pins, and jugs filled with molasses and rum. Things of pewter, brass, and copper. In inquiries about his cargo, Mr. Devlin said that over in the “ould countree” there was a bird that “just took things” and he suspected that his horse had somehow acquired the habit of the “Jay hawk”.
Mr. Devlin had eaten in every home in the country and knew their belongings and had found these looted items in Missouri and brought them back home to their rightful owners. This was very important as not many supplies were available and new ones were hard to obtain.
The Missouri Border Ruffians started jokingly calling the free state men who had organized to protect the refugee slaves and fight to make Kansas a free state, Jayhawkers. Eventually the men took the name as a badge of honor and history was made.” As they say, “And now you know.”
As with the larger conflict, during this phase of the US Civil War, neither side wore a white hat nor could claim victim status. After we toured the main museum, we toured the rest of the offerings of the museum. I thought the one-room school house from 1886 was really interesting. I even felt the unnatural need to ring the school bell, which Jessica did allow me to do. After touring the rest of the museum, I went to the Trading Post Cemetery in search of the five grave stones of the individuals who were murdered in the Marais de Cynges Massacre, as that is where they are at rest. I was unable to determine which gravestones marked their spots since time had taken its toll over the past 160 years.
Since Household 6 did not get the opportunity to travel down with Moose and myself when we originally toured the area in March, we drove the three miles to the lonely site so she could experience it for herself. She too was able to pick up the lonely and sad vibe that stains the soil there. From there we drove the very short distance to The Family Cafe in La Cynge, Kansas. The café must be a favorite of the locals as they were crowded with spring turkey hunters. It is the season here in Kansas. I had the opportunity to talk to our waitress and learned that the café has been in her family for 28 years. They are located at 19476 Robertson Rd, Lacygne, KS 66040. I will tell you that you should go for the burgers when in the area. They are that good, but you should also stay for the blackberry cobbler. If you follow me and my writings and travels, you will pick up that I do have a weakness for a good cobbler and The Family Cafe’s cobbler was excellent. It was as great way to end the day, as after lunch we had to head back home so I could take a call from the outplacement folks. With that, it was back to reality, and back to the job hunt. I highly recommend touring the museum at Trading Post when you tour the Marais de Cynges massacre site, Mine Creek and Fort Scott and Pottawatomie massacre. It just fits best that way and allows you to build on the emotions of the other local sites.
This will be my last dispatch from “Bleeding Kansas.” I will revisit the subject hopefully next winter when I take a look at the Border War from the Missourians perspective, but with traveling season upon us, we have an aggressive travel schedule and lots of stories from the trail to bring you. I will see you down the trail!
I will close out with a poem penned by Charles Greenleaf Whittier called “Le Marais du Cygne,” which first appeared in the Atlantic Monthly in September 1858:
A blush as of roses
Where rose never grew!
Great drops on the bunch grass,
But not of the dew!
A taint in the sweet air for wild bees to shun!
A stain that shall never Bleach out in the sun!”
Back, steed of the prairies!
Sweet song-bird, fly back!
Wheel hither, bald vulture!
Gray wolf, call thy pack!
The foul human vultures
Have feasted and fled;
The wolves of the Border
Have crept from the dead.
Baldwin City, KS: The preceding poem first appeared in print in the New York Daily Tribune on September 13, 1856 and was penned by Charles S. Weyman. It is the first documented time that the term “bleeding Kansas” was published and waging war was exactly what was happening. Out here, well-armed, eastern funded and trained militias were in open conflict with each other engaging in a proxy war in a precursor to what would soon become the national narrative. It is important to realize that the war did not start in a vacuum; it was as if by design. Due to Popular sovereignty, the federal government decided to take a proverbial knee and allow the question of whether Kansas be a free or slave territory up to the local population. The ink was no sooner dried on the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 when both Pro-Southern men and Free Soilers as well as immigrants from Europe began flooding the territory. Many Missourians felt that free soil mere feet away, would be too much of an enticement.
In the wake of the Pottawatomie Massacre, the pro-southern Kansas Territorial Government had partnered with elements from Missouri and sought to eliminate the scourge, i.e. John Brown and his band of 30 followers. Leading this effort was Henry C. Pate, Deputy US Marshal with a posse of about 50 Missouri men. After a couple of days of marauding through Douglas County and terrorizing the citizenry, Pate had captured two of Brown’s sons, John Jr. and Jason. Shortly before sunrise on the morning of June 2nd 1856, the two groups met at a spot just off the Santa Fe Trail near Black Jack, a village in what is now Baldwin City, Kansas. After a prolonged firefight, Brown’s Free State Militia was able to circle behind the pro-southern militiamen and force them to surrender, securing both of the Brown brothers’ freedom in the process. Pate was quoted as saying ““I went to take Old Brown and Old Brown took me.” He would later return to Virginia where he would serve in the cavalry under J.E.B Stuart. John Brown Jr. would serve in the 7th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry, Jennison’s Jayhawkers. Both men fought first here on Freedom’s Frontier. The significance of this action cannot be overstated, as although there were no fatalities due to the combat, it was the first instance of organized force on force action by militias. The demon was now loose upon the land and there would be no going back.
Spring finally made its long awaited appearance here the heartland. The warmth of the sun and the recent rains brought everything into bloom very nicely and it was a perfect day to make the drive to Baldwin City to explore this highly significant site. Again it was Moose and I on this short day trip and of course I had to bribe him with food, but would you really expect anything less from a growing teenager? With all that said, we arrived at the site of the Battle of Black Jack in the early afternoon. The site is beautifully forested and the landscape offers a number of features. There are many ranches in the area and the melody of cows awaiting the trip to market filled the air. The site offers a number of nature trails in both wooded and prairie areas. We took our time walking through the trails and then headed over to the battle site. There we stood for a while, imagining what Pate and Brown saw as they felt each other out. Where they made their moves and finally as Brown split his force and out-flanked the Border Ruffians. About 50 yards off to the right we could see trail ruts from the Santa Fe Trail. It took a moment for the history of the site to sink in. Yes, I was in awe at Gettysburg, I was saddened at Andersonville and I was amazed at Parker’s Crossroads. But here in an obscure Kansas field, I had to question whether or not there would have been a Gettysburg without a Black Jack? Would slavery have died out on its own, or was the die already cast with the passage of the Kansas – Nebraska Act? What if cooler heads prevailed? Was that even possible or were we pulled into the catastrophic abyss of the Civil War by personalities? Did John Brown drag the nation into the Civil War or was it Preston Brooks? I recall one afternoon as a First Lieutenant, sitting in the office with other peers and having a conversation with a good friend, Wes Young. Wes is now a pastor near Wichita, KS. We were talking about the nature of radicalism. I distinctly remember Wes looking at me and he said something that will always stay with me. He said “Rich, radicals make history.” I thought about that for awhile and still often do. In my mind the thought, “radicals make history” has three meanings. The first being that history remembers people for their “radical” and unconventional acts. Be it John Brown, Osama Bin Laden, or Joan of Arc. The second thing I think it means is a little less straightforward. Radicals shape the events we live in. In the mid- to late 1850’s that was John Brown. John Brown literally made history, meaning his actions and decisions created history. The third thing I think the statement means is that radicals shape how we view the times we are living in. You can look no further than what is happening in our own country today. Radical elements are trying to alter our perception of how we view ourselves as a people and a nation, as John Brown did in his time. As to what Wes meant when he said that to me, I’m not sure it really matters. He left me with a thought provoking statement and it was for me to decide the answer.
After we finished with the nature walk, battlefield, and Santa Fe Trail, Moose was letting me know the time was “half past hungry.” We drove into Baldwin City and as is my custom, we found a local establishment called “The Wooden Spoke.” You won’t find it on Google, as it is listed as The Salt Mine. However, their food was delicious, regardless of their name. It’s a family-owned place with three generations of ladies running it. I will link my review of the restaurant to this article. According to Moose, the chicken fried steak was excellent, while I was partial to the hot roast beef sandwich. But do yourself a huge favor and make sure you get the cinnamon bread pudding with ice cream for dessert. You’ll be glad you did.
|Venue Address: 309 Ames St, Baldwin City, KS 66006|
If you follow The Civil War Traveler, you will come to learn the type of restaurants that I like to frequent. You will find that I truly enjoy visiting a locally owned and operated establishment and even better if it’s family owned. May the day never come that I do a review on an Applebee’s or an Olive Garden for if I do, something went sideways. I also believe that one of the real pleasures of being The Civil War Traveler is the people I meet. With all that said, Moose and I pulled into the Wooden Spoke in Baldwin City shortly before they closed for the afternoon. On Saturdays, they close at 2:00 PM and reopen for dinner. The Wooden Spoke specializes in American Style comfort food and has a very good selection to choose from on the menu. Where we there for dinner, their prime rib would have found its way to my table, but since it was lunch time and a bit chilly out, I opted for the hot roast beef sandwich, while Moose jumped on the chicken fried steak. Both were very good, and I plan on getting back to The Wooden Spoke when Household 6 and I return to Baldwin City, however I really want to call positive attention to The Wooden Spoke’s dessert selection. The cinnamon bread pudding was truly spectacular. We don’t eat cinnamon much at Traveler’s Rest because a member of the family has an allergy to it. That said, the bread pudding with a side of vanilla ice cream was an outstanding choice and is their dessert specialty. While there, I had the privilege to talk with the owner’s daughter. It was an exciting week at The Wooden Spoke. The owner had just purchased the restaurant from her mother so they were in transition. We had three generations of ladies working on lunch under the same roof and I found that special. I had an excellent lunch at The Wooden Spoke and believe you will too when in the area.