The Battle of Iuka: “General Grant was dead drunk and couldn’t bring up his army. I was so mad when I first learned the facts that I could have shot Grant if I would have hung for it the next minute.”

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.

Signage dedicated to the 11th Ohio Artillery who suffered an 85% casualty rate at the battle speaks to the bravery of both Union and Confederate alike in the savage fighting.
The main marque denoting the Battle of Iuka. The battle site is a very quick tour and is the perfect diversion for a trip.
View of the Federal position atop the hill from the Confederate point of view. Confederate forces from across the west and deep south attempted to assault up the slope.
More positioning of the Federal Line of Battle atop the slope on the highway.
Battleground Drive. Highway 72 is right in the middle of the Iuka battlefield. Here in September of 1862, in the late afternoon, all hell was breaking loose as Rosencrans and Price were playing a deadly game of chess.
Grove Cemetery, just off Battleground Drive, site of where the Confederate dead are laid to rest.
After our short visit to Iuka, we were only 20 miles from Corinth. Though we had already been to Corinth, we did not have time to do Corinth justice.
Shadows from the past greet today’s visitor.
One of the very cool things about the Corinth Interpretive center is the art embedded in the grounds.
More art embedded in the grounds gives the impression of the field of battle being just consecrated. The Corinth Interpretive Center is on the grounds of the fight for Battery Robinette from the second Battle of Corinth.
A beautiful early May morning has the sun coming through the trees on this Mississippi land.
Moose posing with some Mississippi Regimental flags, hung in a place of honor.
Nature blessing the beautiful morning….
The bronze art greeting the visitors as they enter the Interpretive Center.
The Regimental Colors of the 11th Mississippi proudly on display.
Here is Battery Robinette. The site of furious hand to hand combat that almost succeeded in taking Corinth back for the Confederates. Here, Colonel Rogers and the 2nd Texas’ valor would be on display for the world to see. Equally valorous would be that of Colonel Fuller and the Ohio Brigade.
In 2010, the State of Texas had this monument erected. Proving that Texas has not forgotten its sons and still celebrates their service.
A picture of a house worthy of the painter Thomas Kinkade or Norman Rockwell. I spotted this home on the Corinth Driving Tour and had to take a picture. It is a beautiful representation of the homes on the Corinth Battlefield.
In 1862, this still active railroad crossroads was the most hotly contested real estate on the planet. This crossing was the reason for the fights at Shiloh, Iuka and two battles at Corinth. This patch of ground also cost over 10,000 American lives.
Both Confederate and Federal Commanding Generals used this home when they occupied Corinth.
The Confederate Siege Lines are a four-mile walk. It was a pleasant morning for it, but I did not have the time.
The Union Siege Lines and Nature Trail was only a 1.5 mile walk. Make sure you have strong tick spray.
The Union Siege Line Trail for the First Battle of Corinth or the Battle of Farmington.
A humming Bird hut and nature in full bloom. One of the benefits of the National Park Service is the natural beauty that they protect.

The Battle of Olustee: “The day is lost; you must go in and save the Corps.”

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.   

The Battle of Olustee Marque as you enter the State Historic Site.
Moose doing valuable service as my assistant driver. In the Traveler House, the assistant driver has many real responsibilities.
Mock up of a member of the 7th New Hampshire or one of the other Northeastern Infantryman at Olustee. It is not a member of the 7th Connecticut as they had Spencer Repeating Rifles.
Mock up of a Georgia Brigade Soldier.
Confederate National Flag on display.
Ah the pines of the southeast! The approach to the State Historic Site.
Diorama of the fight at Olustee.
It can’t be a Civil War site without the split rail fence.
Monument to the Confederate troops under General Finnegan built by the Daughters of Confederate Veterans.
Confederate National Flag lofting over the site in the lazy Spring afternoon.
May is “Love Bug” month. Be advised that traveling in Florida with a black car in May can result in a messy car.
The pine forests of the Southeast bring back many memories of Camp Lejeune.
The reenactor area.

Volunteering – A Way To Give Back!

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,, 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.

The bridge that was in need of repair over Mine Creek. Proud to say, we made it better, but it will be rebuilt soon.
Mine Creek view from the bridge!
A rare view of The Civil War Traveler working. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen.
The tools of the trade.
I had to bribe Moose with letting him drive the Jeep! I bought the Jeep in Afghanistan, so it will be with me forever.
Moose and I after a hard afternoon’s work! Thanks Mine Creek State Historic Site!!!

Trading Post, KS – “Captain Hamilton then ordered his men to fire upon us. We all fell at the first fire. He then ordered some of his men to get off their horses, and go down and see that they were all dead, and if any showed signs of life, to shoot them until they were dead.”

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.

Trading Post Museum offers many great local exhibits from the area that set the nation ablaze. I highly recommend a visit if in the area. You can also find them on Facebook!
A one-room school house that serviced this small community for the better part of 100 years. It was built in 1889.
The Civil War Traveler with “The Budger” giving the school bell a ring.
The Bleeding Kansas wall of the museum with John Brown and both survivors and victims of the Marais de Cynges massacre. The event originated here in this small hamlet.
The Survivors
Jessica Cox was the perfect host for us. She was as sharp as a knife with the local facts.
Part of the Bleeding Kansas and early days of Kansas display.
Part of the display of local artifacts that were at the nearby Battle of Mine Creek.
A drum which was captured from the Confederates during the Battle of Mine Creek.
A recently deactivated piece of Civil War artillery. Apparently local Police became concerned when a visitor reported that there was gunpowder in the ordinance and destroyed the shell, which had sat inactive for 160 years.
From this hill to the northeast, Federal artillery rained death upon the Confederate rearguard who had taken position right where I am standing. This paved the way for what would be the Battle of Mine Creek.
The proverbial one-room Kansas school house, circa 1889.
Part of nature’s beauty.
Part of the memorial to the Marais de Cynges victims.
One of the handful of Federal dead buried here at Trading Post.

The Battle of Black Jack – “Far in the West rolls the thunder-The tumult of battle is raging…Where bleeding Kansas is waging…”

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.

Black Jack Battlefield, just a short ride from the Kansas City Metro. Here is where it all began. The first militia vs. militia military style of engagement of the US Civil War.
It must be a Civil War site, there is a split rail fence!
The rock foundation is from some of the original structures of the village of Black Jack. Here, we are about 150 yards from the Santa Fe Trail. It was a good spot for the enterprising sutler to sell goods or livestock to travelers upon the trail.
The Visitors Center on the property.
A bird of prey followed us most of the afternoon as we walked the nature trails and the battle site. Here, I was actually fast enough with the camera to catch this guy.
The bushes are finally in bloom here in Kansas!
Moose and I walked a couple of nature trails on the property. We had a good time and feel that a family outing with a picnic lunch will be something that we need to rope Household 6 and Rooster into.
An old barn out on the nature trail! You could not escape the sound of beeves awaiting shipment to market. Indeed, we were in cattle country.
Evidence of a likely Boy Scout camp site.
Part of the view of the battlefield. A bench allows one to sit quietly under the trees and contemplate the sites historical significance.
Moose exploring the remains of a long ago stove.
The Battle Site marker commemorating where the American Iliad started. In this article, we tried to discern whether extremists make history or are a product of it. What do you think?
Kansas cows!
A stop on the side of the road for the turnoff to the Battle of Black Jack. The sign talks of the importance of the battle.
The Santa Fe Trail, about 200 yards from where John Brown and Nathan C. Pate would set the nation ablaze unleashing a grim harvest upon the land.

The Battle of Fort Titus – “We are not one people. We are two peoples… Between the two, conflict is inevitable.”

Lecompton KS:  When I had US history growing up, I was taught that the Civil War started in April of 1861 in Charleston Harbor.  I never really questioned how that “fact” came to be.  Most people won’t stop to question it either.  How did the Confederacy get an organized and coordinated military force to fire on Fort Sumter?  Where did those fetching grey uniforms come from?  Were they made overnight?  Well, the short answer is that the planning, coordination, logistics and response to the resupply of Fort Sumter had come long before April 12th.  Truth be told, the wheels were set in motion years before, and a state of “pseudo-war” existed prior to the November election of 1860.  One could make the argument that the War started sometime before April 12, 1861.  So when and where did the war actually start?  Well, a study of history on “Bleeding Kansas” during the Territorial Period, will tell you the first instance of organized militias doing battle with each other happened at a place called Black Jack, near Baldwin City, Kansas.  Though Black Jack is the first engagement of militias in combat with each other, the first battle of belligerents for actual political power would occur at a place called Fort Titus, where a pro-southern militia force had taken up arms in the Territorial Capital of Lecompton, Kansas.   In 1856, the single topic in Kansas was whether or not Kansas would enter the Union as a Slave State or a Free State and as we have already begun to explore, there was a great deal of violence between the two factions.  It was President Buchannan’s intent that Kansas enter the Union as a slave state so a balance of power be maintained.  Originally, Kansas had voted to come into the Union as such, but the vote was nullified because of too many folks from Missouri crossing the border to vote illegally in a Kansas election.   In 1857, the Kansas Legislature, which was largely pro-slavery, drafted the Lecompton Constitution, allowing slavery in Kansas.  The Lecompton Constitution was not ratified by Kansas voters.  In 1858 when the US House of Representatives took up the debate of whether Kansas would enter the Union as a slave or free state, there was actual violence on the floor of Congress. The Representatives from Pennsylvania and South Carolina traded blows, causing a 30-member brawl.  Per Vice President of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens, “It was under the admission of Kansas under the Lecompton Constitution that a disastrous split took place in the Democratic Party.”  That split caused the Democratic Party to fracture and run multiple candidates in the 1860 election, thus allowing Abraham Lincoln to become elected with only 39% of the vote.  Once Kansas Territory entered the Union as a free state, politically speaking, the nation had been set on the glide path to war. 

More locally, Lecompton, the Kansas Territory capital, had experienced significant growth.  It was the hub of the pro-southern faction in Kansas and it housed one of the three area pro-southern militia forts used to blockade supplies and starve out the Free Staters in nearby Lawrence, Fort Titus.  It was here in Lecompton, Kansas Territory on August 16th, 1856 that the pseudo war between organized military style militias turned white hot.  By the end of the day, Fort Titus had been reduced by the Free State militia. The political situation was now in chaos and the collision course had been set. There would be no escaping of that orgy of carnage that was now beginning to sweep the land. 

When I started The Civil War Traveler Project, I knew at some point my travels would have to take me to the small village of Lecompton.  For years, driving by the signage right outside Lawrence, Kansas I would always see the one that read “Visit Historic Lecompton, where slavery began to die.”  Aided by the coming spring weather, it was time to hit the trail.  I had reached out to Paul Bahnmaier to schedule an interview. He is President of the Lecompton Historical Society and a member of the Lecompton Reenactors Troupe.  The Reenactors Troupe is a group of folks who perform events relevant to the period and recite speeches that were made during the Lecompton debates.  It was my honor that he gave Moose and I a personal guided tour of the Lecompton Territorial Capital building, still standing and made of fine Kansas stone.  The museum is located at 640 E. Woodson in Lecompton, KS 66050.  The tour of the museum lasted for an hour and a half or so and Paul was patient and very thorough on his explanation of how America went to war with itself.  For a surprise added bonus, Paul dawned the persona of Sheriff Samuel Jefferson Jones and recited one of his famous anti-abolitionist speeches. Jones played a very prominent role in the Kansas pro-southern movement.  After the speech, Paul took us over to tour the Democratic Party headquarters of Kansas Territory.  The one room stone building sits on a hill overlooking the Kansas River.  At one point the structure included a wooden portion, but it has been lost to time.  The history that happened within those walls in the run-up to the Civil War is exciting just to think about.  After we toured the Democratic headquarters, Paul took us over to Constitution Hall and we toured the building where the Lecompton Constitution was drafted. It was largely still intact with most of its original construction.  We spent a good deal of time in the meeting hall on the second level.  There, we were very privileged to see another member of the Lecompton Reenactors Troupe, Tim Rues, the Site Administrator for Constitution Hall.  He did a fantastic speech that Jim Lane, a Republican Senator and survivor of Quantrill’s Raid on Lawrence, gave when he was rallying people to the Abolitionist cause.  I am pleased to say that I captured both speeches on video and will be sharing them with you here on The Civil War Traveler. 

After our historical touring was complete, Moose let me know he could eat, as after all he is a growing offensive lineman.  We went over to one of two restaurants in town, Aunt Netter’s Café.  I will be issuing a review of them under the “Reviews” section.  It suffices to say that both Moose and I were very pleased with lunch.  We like to eat at local places when we can.  When I am not traveling, I love catching weekend breakfast with Household 6 at a local diner, as it feels like “home.”  Overall, I would plan on at least 4 hours in Lecompton.  You can get the gist much faster, but when I am in The Civil War Traveler mode, I tend not to be in a hurry.  It was just an outstanding day with meeting some excellent people and with the time change, I even had a chance to get to the range for some much-needed practice.  One last thought.  Since Lecompton is right off I-70 just west of Lawrence, KS, you could easily have a perfect “Bleeding Kansas” day by spending half the day in Lecompton and half the day in Lawrence.  So if you are in the area, you know where you need to go!

Interview with Paul Bahnmaier on the incredible historical significance of a very small town. Ground Zero of the US Civil War.

Senator Jim Lane historical overview.
Sheriff Jones’ Anti-abolitionist speech as given in 1856.
Jim Lane’s speech to rally Abolitionists as reported in the Leavenworth newspapers.
Democratic Headquarters in historic Lecompton. If these walls could talk, what would they say?
Welcome to Kansas Territory! Here in Lecompton, the territorial days were the town’s peak.
I use the term pseudo-war a lot when describing the Bleeding Kansas days. Read the sign. You see ranks such as “colonel” and “captain.” When you look at the amount of arms and cash seized, you must certainly recognize that both Free State and Pro-Southern Militias were being funded and armed from eastern elements.
A mock up of the reinforced cabin at Fort Titus.

Paul Bahnmaier was the perfect host and gave us a tour of the Territorial Capital Museum before the facility opened to the public.
The relics of the Battle of Fort Titus.
As The Civil War Traveler, I try to stay away from certain discussions as they pertain to the Civil War. I write this as a travel magazine to attract all interested. Though I don’t advance a view from the 1860s, I will say that reading the historical political debates in the lead up to the Civil War was fascinating! You can research them all here in Lecompton.
“Murica!” President Eisenhower’s parents were married in this building, the Lecompton Territorial Capital.
In December, Lecompton displays hundreds of different Christmas trees. I tried to get there last year, but the weather, time and life told me the visit would have to wait.
Tombstone of one of the victims of Quantrill’s raid on Lawrence. The man, James O’Neil was a resident of Lecompton.
Here the debate still rages. Come to Lecompton and see political figures from the era give speeches and interact with the public. Come and experience the thrill of the turbulent times of the past.
On the left, rabble rousing Republican Jim Lane, who would become a US Senator, gives his fiery Abolitionist speech. On the right, the beautiful splendor of the territorial capitol at its zenith.
To the left, the beautiful Kansas River and to the right, an artist’s depiction of the Battle of Fort Titus.
A side view of where the wooden portion of the Democratic Party headquarters would be. I can’t explain the bright orange light. May be a reflection….may be an orb. As always, I won’t tell you what to believe.
Inside the Democratic Party Headquarters. Is this where militias formed and organized?
Kansas Territorial Constitution Hall. In this building, the seeds were sown for the political divisions of the nation and the Civil War. Ladies and Gentlemen, make no mistake about it. This is Ground Zero of the US Civil War.
The original US Surveyor’s desk that created Kansas. Not the picture of President Buchannon above the desk.
A scene from the raucous Lecompton debates.
In this room, up on the raised stage, the Kansas Territorial elected representatives debated the future of not just a State, but also a Nation. This is the room in which we started to become the Americans that we are today. The sense of history and “self” was overwhelming. When we all today ask “who am I,” a part of us was decided in this room.
Paul explaining the politics of the time.
The Territorial Capital in early morning splendor on a quiet Sunday morning.

John Brown Museum – “I have only a short time to live, only one death to die, and I will die fighting for this cause. There will be no peace in this land until slavery is done for.”

Osawatomie, KS: “John Brown.” The name alone conjures up images in my mind.  An older man with a long flowing beard and crazy eyes.  He has a bible in one hand and a Sharps rifle in the other.  My first exposure to John Brown was as a child.  I recall watching Errol Flynn and Ronald Reagan doing battle with John Brown, played by Raymond Massey in the movie “Santa Fe Trail.“  In my mind, then and when I re-watch the film now, Massey did a masterful job of portraying the man who had set the nation ablaze; the man who would commit treason and who would cause a shock wave that rocked the very foundations of the nation.  By our standards today, Brown would be considered a domestic terrorist, but here in Kansas on Freedom’s Frontier, the legacy of John Brown is not so black and white. 

It had been a while since I had been on the trail.  The winter has been a long one here in Kansas and we have had snow since November.  I have been keeping myself occupied with developing The Civil War Traveler website and decluttering the house, but I have also been anxious to get back out on the trail.  Today was that day.  I had wanted to get to The James Brown Museum since last November and the schedule didn’t work or the weather was too unpleasant for touring.  So I grabbed Moose and we drove the 40 miles down to Osawatomie, Kansas to go over the Battle of Osawatomie and view the cabin that John Brown helped build.  The Museum and John Brown Memorial Park are located at 1000 Main Street, Osawatomie, KS 66064 and are just about an hour south of Kansas City. Not only do you get to see the cabin that John Brown lived in and helped to build, you also get to walk the battlefield of the Battle of Osawatomie.  The battle where Brown and approximately 30 members of an anti-slave militia fought a delaying action against a band of 250 Missouri Border Ruffians that had crossed the Kansas – Missouri frontier with murder on their mind.  Lead by pro-slavery General John Reid, the Border Ruffians mission was to kill John Brown for his part in the Pottawatomie Massacre and other Abolitionist activities.  With one of John Brown’s sons, Frederick, being killed early in the battle, Brown quickly rallied 30 Free State Men and took up a position by a stone corral.  Since the Free Staters were armed with breach loading Sharps Rifles, they were able to hold off hundreds of Border Ruffians long enough to allow the citizens of Osawatomie to flee the would-be massacre.  Though the battle is recorded as a Free Stater defeat, the battle played out much the same as General Lew Wallace’s stand a Monocacy.  Brown, like Wallace, was successful in buying time.   

We got the opportunity to tour the State Historical Site and walk the battlefield.  It was truly inspiring to be where one of the first battles was fought and to relive the history.  After we toured the battlefield, we went inside the museum.  They didn’t have a mock-up of Brown’s Cabin and living quarters.  Instead they had the actual cabin that Brown had helped build and live in.  It was amazing to walk through the same door and sit in the same living room and walk over the same floors that he did.  What a connection to the past.  I had the privilege of spending some time talking to Grady Atwater, the Museum Administrator, and I was deeply impressed with the wealth of knowledge he has.  I sat down and felt like I was in class again, largely because Grady is a history instructor at a local college.  We had a great discussion about what kind of man Brown was and like you would expect, he was in many ways a contradiction.  He was devoutly Christian but engaged in unethical business practices.  He was a strict but loving father.  His adult sons stayed with him because they wished to and his Free State Militia was free to leave whenever they wanted.  There were many other things we talked about, but I would like you to go talk to Grady.  He told me that he did his thesis on Brown, and it showed with his expert knowledge.  I would highly encourage anyone that happens to be in the region to stop by and learn more about the man who sent shock waves through the nation. 

After we finished up in Osawatomie, I had a surprise in store for Moose.  I told him not to eat breakfast because he would want to make sure he was hungry for lunch.  We went to a restaurant called Beethoven’s 9th, eight miles away from Osawatomie in a town called Paola.  Beethoven’s 9th is located at 2 W Piankishaw St, Paola, KS 66071.  The lunch was outstanding.  Beethoven’s 9th specializes in authentic German dishes and has a huge dessert selection.  New to 2019 The Civil War Traveler, I will be doing a review of certain venues.  I am pleased to say that Beethoven’s 9th will not only be our first review, but they will receive our first 5 Saber rating.  If you get the opportunity to stop in, tell Jenny the owner, that The Civil War Traveler sent you.  You will be in for a treat.

Interview with Grady Atwater of the John Brown Museum in Osawatomie, KS. It runs a little long, but Grady is excellent. Hang around for the end. It opened my eyes.
Osawatomie, “City of History and Promise”, as the sign reads on Hwy 169. Here is where John Brown made a stand and saved innocent people, thus earning the name “Osawatomie” Brown. He was a very complex individual as we will explore.
Here the legacy of John Brown looms larger than life as he is still regarded as a local hero for his stand against the Missouri Militia.
Forever on watch, standing a lonely vigil here on Freedom’s Frontier.
The entry way to the Adair Cabin. Home to John Brown. Here slept the man who would take the young nation to the brink.
The simple yet elegant hearth of the Adair Cabin. Here in this room, John Brown would plan the Pottawatomie Massacre. Here is where he made the decision to engage Deputy US Marshal Henry Pate at the Battle of Black Jack. And here is where he decided to “go east.”
The loft that Brown and sons built is still fully functional.
The building that houses the cabin and protects it for future generations.
I pledge allegiance to the flag….and one nation indivisible….under God.
Here rests in eternal slumber the 5 Free-Staters, including Frederick Brown, who gave their lives defending the citizens of Osawatomie against Reid’s Missouri Border Ruffians. Out numbered almost 10 to 1, they held against long odds.
Part of the Osawatomie battlefield. Here 30 men under Brown impeded Reid and his Battalion of irregulars, allowing the unsuspecting citizens time to escape the murdering wrath of Reid’s men.
A portrait of John Brown with a Sharps Rifle. There is a synergy here.


Pottawatomie Creek & Marais de Cynges Massacres: Kansas – “I, John Brown am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood.”

Pleasanton, KS: This is the first of a five part series on Bleeding Kansas. Over the course of the next four weeks, we will look at the origins, actions and results of the time period. I hope you enjoy the series as I had a lot of fun and learned a lot bringing it to you. When I walk a battlefield or historic site, there are a number of things that I try to do there.  I try to envision how the historical event played out based on the geography such as Cabin Creek, Culp’s Hill and Honey Springs.  I also try to pick up a sense of what happened.  For instance, sometimes standing in the surf on the beach in Normandy or at Andersonville National Historic Site, I get a real feel from the ground.  Like everyone else, I am also prone to outside influences and as I typed this article, I can not help but hear in my head the choral version of “Bringing In The Sheaves” from AMC’s series “Hell on Wheels.”

With that said, one late winter Sunday, Moose and I headed down to a place called “Trading Post” which is part of current day Pleasanton, Kansas. Named after the Cavalry General.  Trading Post is about 45 miles or so south of the Kansas City Metro on US 69. It is just north of the Battle of Mine Creek State Historic Site, and a little further south on Highway 69 is Fort Scott National Historic Site.  Here, you are standing right in the center of what the National Park Service calls “Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area.”  This is literally ground zero of where it all began.  The flash point where two cultures collided, and the point where a nation divided and where we could only be reunited after an unprecedented amount of blood was spilled.  But walking this ground got me to thinking, especially after touring Lecompton.  How did the Civil War start?

In an upcoming article on Lecompton, I asserted that the US Civil War started in the Lecompton Constitutional Hall.  I stand by that.  But that was the political war.  Before the political war started in Lecompton a wind blew the sparks on the Kansas prairie and started a blaze.  Soon, places with names like Pottawatomie and Marais de Cynges, would be replaced by Shiloh, Malvern Hill, Vicksburg, Gettysburg, Fort Blakeley and Sailors Creek.  The blaze would not be extinguished for another 9 years, finally coming to an end at the Rio Grande River at a place called Palmetto Ranch.  But it all started at a quiet unassuming place called Pottawatomie Creek and escalated drastically at a place called Marais de Cynges.  Both would be a massacre; neither one would be necessary.  Here in Kansas, blood begot blood and murder begot murder.

The Pottawatomie Creek Massacre site is located in the small village of modern Lane, Kansas.  The murder of the 5 pro-slave citizens mark what many historians consider the start of the Civil War.  It was John Brown’s response to the sacking of Lawrence, KS by a pro-slave Militia.  It is important to realize that the situation along the Kansas-Missouri border was so tense that both pro & anti-slavery factions had formed organized militias, in both cases for protection and to physically project their will upon their foes.  The Pottawatomie Creek Massacre occurred on May 24th 1856.  John Brown, his sons and a number of his supporters in the dark of the night, roused the family of James Doyle out of bed and demanded that he and his sons come outside, where they would meet their fates.  Brown would go on to visit other pro-slavery residences of the Fords and Harris’.  Here he and his followers would deliver to them the same fate as the Doyles.  Brown’s act of retribution was the spark that many historians believe lit the fuse and put us on the path to war.  The tour of current Lane, Kansas is a quick one.  The spot of the Pottawatomie Creek Massacre is now a civic park in the village of Lane.  The site is easy to access and is a quick visit.  I would recommend that Pottawatomie be a stop on a multiple venue touring day.  The significance of the site is vast.  At some level, it is just as significant as Manassas or Charleston Harbor, but it is a quick visit.  However, there is not much to the site but simply a sign marking the location. 

We then traveled the short distance to the Marais De Cynges massacre site.  The massacre here played out largely in the same manner as the one at Pottawatomie Creek, except in this case, a pro-slavery militia had crossed the Kansas frontier from Missouri and took 11 men known to be anti-slavery proponents. They were marched back towards the Missouri border and executed in a ravine, 300 yards west of the Missouri border.  Here when I walked the land, I felt a sadness that I did not at Pottawatomie Creek.  Perhaps the slides and swing sets were offsetting.  At Marais de Cynges, Moose and I took an hour or more to walk the State Park and I walked down in the ravine and looked up, as if I was one of the 11 men that were herded down into the ravine like cattle to be slaughtered.  There I could envision Charles Hamilton and his Missouri militia sitting upon their horses, looking at each other, trading a joke perhaps, then aiming their pistols and their muskets down at the unarmed Abolitionists.  Murder begetting murder, massacre begetting massacre.  The Marais de Cynges Massacre occurred on May 19, 1858 and is considered the last major act of violence in the opening act of the Civil War.  The Battle of Mine Creek would take place very near to this site in 1864, and the 3rd Iowa Cavalry would stay in the area for a couple of days after the battle and erect a monument to one of the victims of the Marais de Cynges massacre, a fellow Iowan. 

John Brown would go on to meet his fate after tangling with US Marines under the command of Colonel Robert E. Lee at Harpers Ferry, Virginia.  Charles Hamilton would leave the Kansas area and returned to Georgia, where he would serve the Confederacy as an officer.  But they encountered each other first here on Freedom’s Frontier. 

There is one place I would like to give acknowledgement for a delicious lunch option in the area.  That would be Garrett’s BBQ located at 827 W Walnut St, Mound City, KS 66056.  They serve barbecue, burgers and typical American diner food and man, can they cook.  You have to try the chocolate-peanut butter pie for dessert.  They have ice creams too for the kids.  You can’t go wrong with Garrett’s. 

The Political War was a little ways off from starting. But the spark was lit here, in an obscure patch of ground in a place far removed from mainstream American society of the day.
The Museum at Trading Post is a worthy endeavor for anyone interested in this part of our history.
In the distance a lonely Dragoon still patrols Military Road; trying to keep order between the Free Staters and the Missouri Boarder Ruffians.
A lonely tree sitting upon the Kansas prairie. I somehow felt the solitude of this lone tree was somehow a good visual for the turmoil that engulfed this region in the mid 1850’s.
A lonely dirt road traversing between Missouri and Kansas. This picture is taken from the Missouri side. Imagine the fact that in the 1850’s an escaped slave was on “free soil” about 600 feet from where we took this picture.
On the Kansas-Missouri state line. Now a ranching paradise.
This site is about 300 yards inside of Kansas. It is a sad and lonely site. It’s as if the events that occurred here have forever imposed a silence and loneliness.
A more permanent monument constructed in place of the monument erected by the 3rd Iowa Volunteer Cavalry after the Battle of Mine Creek.
View of “The Ravine” from the Missouri Men’s perspective. Did they laugh? Did they cuss? Did they joke about what was about to befall their helpless victims? From here, 30 men opened fire on 11 unarmed men that had been herded like cattle into the ravine, killing five of them before heading back to Missouri a mere 300 yards away.
A view from the victim’s perspective. This was the last sight five of them saw. What prayer did they say awaiting execution?
Monument to the Martyrs of the Marais de Cynges located at Trading Post.
A replica of “Fort Montgomery” in nearby Mound City. The original Fort was built by James Montgomery, a minister and school teacher. The fort was built to and did withstand several attacks by Missouri pro-slavery Militias in the Bleeding Kansas days leading up to the Civil War. Montgomery would go on to serve in the Union Army as a Colonel of USCT’s in South Carolina. Loosely portrayed briefly in the movie “Glory,” Montgomery did return to Kansas in time to fight at the Battle of Mine Creek in October of 1864.
Historic Linn County Court House. Notice the sign.
John Brown did lead us as a nation down a road. Hero? Villain? Terrorist? Over the next few The Civil War Traveler articles, we will explore that. Ultimately it is up to you to decide. The Civil War Traveler will not give you that kind of answer. I will only give you the questions on that subject.

The Sand Creek Massacre – “I went over the ground soon after the battle. I should judge there were between 400 and 500 Indians killed…. Nearly all men, women, and children were scalped. I saw one woman whose privates had been mutilated.”

Eads, CO:  Thirty-one years ago, I first became a soldier.  Thirty years ago, this coming October, I stepped onto those yellow foot prints on Parris Island, the island that God forgot, and began my life changing journey in becoming a US Marine.  The Marines have many methods in which to deconstruct the individual and reconstruct them in their own image.  And for what the Marines need to do, I say more power to them.  Now that said, the Marine Corps’ primary tool to implement this change in a person is the Drill Instructor.  Most Drill Instructors would teach their young recruits that “The definition of discipline is the instant willful obedience to orders and respect for authority.”  I still remember that.  Our “heavy” had a different definition of discipline.  I could write entire essays on the terror that Drill Instructor Sergeant Kuykendall struck with in me, but in retrospect, it was all for good cause.  His definition of discipline was a little less rigid, more practical and more nebulous.  He would ingrain upon us that “The definition of discipline was doing the right thing at the right time because it was the right thing to do.”  Keep this anecdote in mind as you read this featured article, as we will revisit this conflicting definition of discipline.

This has been a hard article for me to write.  Being a member of the US military, we tend to think of ourselves as the “good guys.”  Understanding the history of Sand Creek really challenges that paradigm.  I write this article in March of 2019, and it has been 4 months since my visit there.  For me, it took awhile to process everything. 

Tensions had been rising on the plains of western Kansas and eastern Colorado for some time.  The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 had kept an uneasy peace between whites and natives. Then the discovery of gold, that precious metal that drives men mad in the Rocky Mountains in 1858 would push tensions even higher with the continual encroachment upon land deeded to the Cheyanne and Arapaho by treaty.  This resulted in the Treaty of Fort Wise in February of 1861, on the eve of full blown war in the east.  The treaty secedes most lands and left the Cheyanne and Arapaho with about 1/13th of the amount of land they originally had under the Fort Laramie Treaty.  The sizable loss of territory was unacceptable to the militant arm of the Cheyanne people, the Dog Soldiers.  Tensions continued to rise and violence began to escalate between the tribesmen and whites, especially in the Smoky Hill River country where a new trail to the gold fields further exacerbated a precarious situation.  With the outbreak of war in the east, all eyes were focused there.  In 1862, when Confederate forces launched an attack out of Texas in an attempt to procure the Colorado gold field, they were met and defeated in New Mexico by a Union Force. By all reports, Colonel John Chivington and his Colorado Volunteers performed very well, with Chivington also playing a key role in the Federal victory.  The situation in Colorado continued to degrade.  The Colorado Territorial Governor had ambitions that Colorado become a State and in order to do that, the Cheyanne and Arapaho would need to be subjugated. Violence escalated again in 1864 when an Army Patrol shot Chiefs Lean Bear and Star as the patrol approached their hunting camp.  This caused the Cheyanne in the region to seek reprisals and retaliation and the western prairie ran red with blood that summer and autumn.  In the later part of autumn, Black Kettle who was a member of the Cheyanne peace faction was told to move his tribe to an area within 40 miles of Fort Lyon.  The garrison commander at Fort Lyon had even told him to display the American Flag as a sign of peace and good will since they were under the protection of the US Army.  On the frigid morning of November 29th, 1864, that same Colonel who performed so well at Glorietta Pass now turned some of those same men loose on an unsuspecting and peaceful band of Cheyanne, who were under the American flag, thereby launching one of the saddest chapters in the history of the United States Army and yes, the entire national history. 

I would like to close out the historical narrative portion of this article with a note.  There are a lot of things in our culture today that run counter to what we know as Americans are right and just.  So when I write an article, I try to write from a perspective of that time period, thereby eliminating our filter of today.  When the Sand Creek Massacre happened, the activity of the Colorado men was so disgusting that even the US Government coined the act a massacre after their official investigation, thereby accepting responsibility for this heinous act.  

I finally got the opportunity to go to Colorado in early December, 2018. My daughter wanted to see if she had an interest in attending Colorado State University and truth be told she is a better than average soccer goalie.  Our plan was to attend a University soccer camp in Fort Collins.  With this in mind, I had a very narrow window of opportunity to visit Sand Creek National Historic Site.  So we left the cozy confines of the Kansas City Metro and pointed the car West.  The trip was prematurely interrupted by one of Johnson County’s finest as we traveled west on K-7 near Desoto, Kansas.  It was 2:30 a.m. and I may have swerved when I grabbed a drink of coffee, or the Deputy was lonely.  But in the season of Christmas parties and being the only car on the highway at that hour, it was a reasonable stop.  The Deputy was polite and professional.  After a short conversation he realized that I was not drunk, and sent me on my way.  We got to the National Historic Site around 8:30 a.m. local time.  As a courtesy to my son Moose, I won’t share with you the story of hitting a pothole west of Great Bend, KS and him spilling his Diet Pepsi all over himself and needing to change clothes.  Don’t worry buddy, I got your back. 

For me, touring the site felt different.  As I said in my opening, I always pictured the US Army as “The Good Guys.”  Here, we clearly were not.  The site was quiet on that frigid morning, much like it must have been back in November of 1864.  We were the first folks there.  We walked the grounds in silent contemplation for a while and when the Ranger Staff arrived I was fortunate enough to get a historical overview of the site.  I would like to especially acknowledge the help in interpretation by Ranger Terri Jobe.  She was absolutely fantastic.  She was even willing to shoot a short video with me that will soon be posted.  After walking around the site and listening to the wind for a while we had to be moving on.  Fort Collins was still a good distance and our campus tour started at 2:30 p.m.  I will say that there was much sadness to the Historical Park.  Ranger Jobe taught us that there were two officers, Captain Silas Soule & 1st Lieutenant Joseph Cramer, of D & K Companies, 1st Colorado Cavalry, who ordered their men to stand down and not engage in the attack.  As we made our way to Fort Collins, Moose asked me if I would have participated in the attack or ordered my men to stand down.  I thought about it for a little bit and then told him that I honestly didn’t know.  I would have hoped that I would have done the morally right thing and stood down.  I tried to make morally proper decisions as an officer and mostly did.  But we are all only human, aren’t we?  I can only hope that I would have given the order to stand down as well. But what is discipline?  Is discipline “the instant willful obedience to orders and respect for authority?” Or is it “doing the right thing at the right time because it’s the right thing to do?”  We all have to make that decision for ourselves.  A final thought on Sand Creek. With all of the walking trails and the natural beauty of the area, consider going to visit when the weather will not want to make you stay inside.  Also, the National Park Service asks that you stay out of the Creek Bed as a sign of respect for the Cheyanne and Arapaho that were lost there. 

After we left Sand Creek, we finished our trip to Fort Collins, and then onto Colorado State University for a college visit for Rooster.  We enjoyed the charm of the Christmas Season in Fort Collins.  In order to make our time hack at Colorado State, we had to drive through lunch.  We made our tour time and then we really enjoyed a nice hot dinner at Cooper Smith’s Pub & Brewing, located at 5 Old Town Square, Fort Collins, CO 80524.  Rooster seemed to think that their Gouda Cheeseburger was even better than my “Daddy Burger Specials,” but I don’t know about that as I make a pretty mean burger. Anyway, Cooper Smith’s should take that as high praise.  After dinner, we finished off the evening with a horse drawn carriage ride around Old Town Fort Collins, provided by Colorado Carriage & Wagon.  The ride took about 45 minutes and we got to enjoy some cookies and hot cocoa while also viewing the 3,000,000 or so lights that the City of Fort Collins decorated Old Town with.  It was a perfect ending to a day of many emotions. 

The prairie of western Kansas, only equaled to the prairie of eastern Colorado.
The Sand Creek Marquee. The site’s solitude seemed appropriate. The cold wind cutting across the prairie took one back to that frigid November morning in 1864.
The Sand Creek Visitors Center.
Interpretive markers tell the story of the massacre of Captain Soule and LT Cramer’s refusal to attack. There are also other witness statements that articulate the savagery and brutality of the acts portrayed by Chivington’s men.
A lone structure overlooks the massacre site on a bluff. The site encourages introspection.
A frigid December morning at the massacre site.
Rooster & Moose enjoying the early morning freezing temperatures under a clear and bright sky.
There is a beauty to the desolation of the eastern Colorado beauty.
The inside of Cooper Smith’s. We had a simply fantastic meal and dining experience here. If you’re in Fort Collins, make a point to come here.
The steak tacos were outstanding!
The outside of the pub decked out in fine style for the holidays.
Sites of the Old Town at Christmas. Simply beautiful.

From the carriage as Moose unleashes on a hot chocolate.
I had to stop in here at Rocky Mountain Shooters Supply. My carry holster had developed issue and the great folks here squared me away in no time flat. They didn’t even charge me for the repair and my holster was serviceable again.

Civil War New Orleans: “Butler is branded a felon, an outlaw, an enemy of mankind, and so ordered that in the event of his capture, the officer in command of the capturing force do cause him to be immediately executed by hanging.”

New Orleans, LA:  I remember watching the fall of Baghdad on television.  I remember seeing on a split screen the M1A Abrams Tank pull down the statue of Saddam on one side and Baghdad Bob announcing that no American forces were in the capital city on the other side of the split screen.  I had not made the decision to go back into the service at that point.  I felt the wars would end too quickly and I would be obligated to serve in a peacetime military, which would just make me very sad.  Having witnessed this by several Marines who went back into the service during Desert Storm and were there for years afterwards with no war, I did not want to make the same mistake.  It would not be until later when I was convinced that the wars would be protracted only then did I make the decision to seek to rejoin.  I would eventually go on to serve in Baghdad.  I remember looking off the balcony of the palace on FOB Prosperity one evening during the winter, and I got the overwhelming sense of history.  My mind drifted back through the ages.  I wondered what it must have been like to be a Roman Legionnaire looking over Hadrian’s Wall over the wilds of Scotland.  I wondered what it must have been like to be one of the first US Marines to raise the American flag over the US Customs House in 1862, or to serve in New Orleans in the Spring of 1862 under “The Beast.”  What would it be like as one of the citizens of New Orleans under occupation?   

Our son, Moose, is a pretty decent football player.  He was invited to play football in the Offense-Defense All-American bowl, and New Orleans, much to the credit of Offense-Defense, was an outstanding venue.  Though football was the priority, I wouldn’t be The Civil War Traveler if I couldn’t make something work out.  As you will see, it worked out pretty well.  Based on the limited time we had, I had to make some choices.  It is important to note that there are dozens of Civil War-related sites in and around New Orleans, and by no means is my list of attractions here exhaustive. Also for the purposes of this article, I will set the football aspects aside and focus on the touring aspects. 

As with most Bowl games that aren’t considered “super,” the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl is held around New Year’s Day.  Generally speaking, check in for Bowl week occurs on December 26th and practice begins on December 27th.  This means that we would always hit the road on Christmas Day.  We did just that and about 12 hours or so later, we arrived at the Hyatt Regency at 601 Loyola Street in New Orleans.  Beating the onslaught of youth football players and their families to the hotel, all we had to do is check into the event.  For me it was a working vacation as I would work during the day and tour the city in the evenings.  The first tour we took was with Nic at the Civil War Tours of New Orleans.   He can be found at  For the tour price of $30 per person, Nic provided an amazing time.  He was able to articulate a few facts about New Orleans.  He mentioned that it was an international city, with trade from around the world.  It was the largest city in the Confederacy, and there was incredible wealth in the area during the time.  He was extremely knowledgeable and was able to keep two teenagers engaged and asking questions throughout the tour.  The tour lasted a couple of hours and we covered the history of the French Quarter during the early years of the city and the Civil War.  We talked about the Statue of Jackson and “The Beast’s” additional carvings into the statue as an insult to the people of New Orleans.  We also discussed the extremely unpopular General Order 28, which clamped down on the conduct of the civilian population and outlawed public contempt of Union authority.  The French Quarter at Christmas time is truly an engaging and beautiful sight to behold.  The old French style architecture decked out in all of Christmas’ grandeur was truly spectacular.   Nic was absolutely animated when talking about “Butler the Beast” and was just a great guy. 

A couple of days later, we were able to take an afternoon and spend it at in my opinion, the “piece de resistance” of Civil War related tourism in New Orleans. This is the museum, Confederate Memorial Hall, located at 929 Camp Street New Orleans LA 70130.  Their website is  We spent a few hours at Confederate Memorial Hall.  The staff was absolutely wonderful and helpful.  When they found out that I had a relative that served in the 3rd Louisiana Volunteer Infantry, they helped me research his service.  The artifacts within Confederate Memorial Hall have to be priceless.  From meeting “Lady Slocum” on the outside of Confederate Memorial Hall, to seeing General Lee’s utensils, the Civil War aficionado is treated to an absolute delight.  It is the only time I have ever had the pleasure to actually see a production Whitney Revolver not to mention a number of more exotic imported revolvers. But truth be told, I have always had a thing for the Whitney Revolver.  For me, I believe it’s because they are so rare and unobtainable.  Household 6 was concerned that I would actually find one when we went to the Horse Soldier in Gettysburg, for if I did, the credit card would have moaned and groaned and maybe even would have caught on fire. The whole time I would be yelling at it “take the pain,” but alas that’s a different story.  Also of interest at the Confederate Memorial Hall is their collection of Confederate Battle Flags.  Unfortunately, my cousin’s 3rd Louisiana Volunteer Infantry flag was unavailable for restoration.  Maybe next time.   

The final Civil War venue that we were able to get to was Fort Jackson, which is about 70 miles south of New Orleans.   It took about an hour and a half, maybe a little less to drive down to the end of land.  Fort Jackson was one of two forts that guarded the entrance to the Mississippi River from the Gulf of Mexico.  Admiral Farragut had to run the gauntlet between Fort Jackson and Fort St. Phillip and I was insistent on seeing Jackson.  Household 6 and I left the kids at the hotel and headed down there to celebrate our anniversary.  The drive was very pleasant as we were able to see ships of all nature sailing up the mighty Mississippi.  We got to the Fort and were disappointed.  The Fort has been closed since Hurricane Katrina and so has the Fort’s Visitors Center.  We drove around it and spent a few minutes there before I determined that Fort Jackson had a rating of “Meh.”  So, if you are out there in Traveler Nation, unless the Fort has been reopened, I feel your time is spent better elsewhere. 

We stopped for dinner at a local place right outside of the New Orleans city limits on LA-23.  Living in Kansas allows us the opportunity to eat the best barbeque in the nation (sorry Texas), but it does not give us access to the best seafood.  With that in mind, Household 6 and I were in the mood for some fine fresh gulf coast seafood.  The place we stopped was called Salvo’s Seafood located at 7742 HWY 23 Belle Chasse, LA 70037.  There was an option to order either fried or boiled seafood.  There was an all you can eat entrée very reasonably priced. Crab legs, crawfish, clams, mussels, sausage, corn and a lot of other prime seafood feature served on what looked like a trash can lid, all for under $30.  The food was so good that we returned with the kids the next night and when my daughter, Rooster, saw the can lids of food being delivered, her eyes lit up like a Marine who just spied an unopened box of crayons, waiting in anticipation.  Rooster ate so much, that the waitress came to us, looked straight at Rooster and said “We closed 40 minutes ago.”  So ended Rooster’s fourth can lid of food.  We had never closed down a restaurant before. 

Besides Salvo’s Seafood, a couple of other very positive dining experiences we had were associated with Jackson’s Square.  The first of the recommendations is Muriel’s and the other is Tujaques Restaurant just off the square.  Muriel’s offers a fine dining experience and we experienced excellent service.  Tujaques also offered a fine dining experience with the added history of the bar.  Nic, from New Orleans Civil War Tours informed us that the bar is the original bar and dated back to pre-Civil War times in New Orleans.  Both Confederate and Yankee toasted their causes at that bar, per Nic, so, if you are reading this article Tujaques is probably a place you would like to spend an evening at.  The final entertainment venue I would like to discuss is the Steamboat Natchez.  We spent New Year’s Eve on the riverboat and had a fantastic prime rib dinner and got to enjoy the fireworks from the water. 

We did find time to get to the National World War II Museum, which is next to Confederate Memorial Hall.  We were able to spend an entire day going through both European and Pacific Theaters.  I think the kids enjoyed the airplanes the most.  The final venue that I would like to discuss was Chalmette National Battlefield.  Apparently, there was a little dust up with the British in 1814.  Johnny Horton sang a song about it.  It started out going something like “In 1814 we took a little trip….”  Admit it, you heard the song in your head.  Anyway, on New Year’s Day, we pointed the car at Kansas City and stepped on the accelerator bringing our trip to New Orleans to a successful conclusion.  New Orleans, I have to say that you were the perfect host. 

A beautiful winter’s sunset over Arkansas as we made our way south to the Crescent City.
The hotel lobby at the Hyatt Regency. We were soon about to have hundreds of youth football player descend upon us.

From our ghost tour of The French Quarter. There are many ghost tours in New Orleans. I am not sure how many there are, but they are all entertaining.
Andrew Jackson stayed here. More sights of The French Quarter at Christmas. It was a very beautiful walk.
We were told that the bar from Tujaques has been there for over 150 years. Here Household 6 and Rooster enjoy a soft drink at the same spot that young Confederates heading off to war had as well as Union occupiers.
The French Quarter in the late afternoon, on the way to get a beignet.
The Slave Exchange from the historic French Quarter.
Muriel’s offered a fine dining experience that the entire family enjoyed. They are a bit pricey, but worth every nickel.
Ringing in the New Year on the Mississippi in style.
Christmas lights lining the boulevard.
One of the other river boats on the Mississippi.
Jackson Square by night. Beautifully accented by the Christmas lights.
The fireworks grand finale. Happy New Year!
The lasting marks of “The Beast.” “The Union must and shall be preserved.”
One of the local trolleys that runs the route from the hotel to The French Quarter.
By far, one of the best displays of Civil War material North or South, can be found at Confederate Memorial Hall.
Thousands of articles donated by families of Confederate Veterans are on display at Confederate Memorial Hall. It is important to note that Confederate Memorial Hall is a privately owned and operated enterprise and is struggling to survive in an increasingly difficult political climate.
A cartridge box denoting it was issued to a VMI Cadet.
One of dozens of pistols on display. This one was a Remington.
I had never seen a Whitney before. I have read about them and seen them in books, but Confederate Memorial Hall has no less than three on display.
I thought that the one of the most fascinating displays was that of General Robert E. Lee’s mess kit.
Local resident who made himself a big name.
General Beauregard’s uniform.
Lady Slocum!
The National World War II Museum is a solid day long visit. Maybe even more.
Here we see many fine artifacts from the Pacific War.
Salvo’s Seafood is a fantastic feast to say the least.
The entrance to Fort Jackson. It has been closed since Katrina crashed ashore.
Plaque memorializing the US Marine Corps’ participation under General Jackson in the 1815 Battle of New Orleans at Chalmette National Battlefield.
The National standard flies high in the breeze over Chalmette Battlefield.