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, www.thecivilwartraveler.com, sold our first advertisement, my daughter Rooster won her election as student body Vice President and a couple of different events at her track meet and my son, Moose, earned his religious award via the Boy Scouts of America.  So, technically speaking, there had been more wins this week than losses. 

Friday night, I had to report to the hospital for a sleep study.  Thanks to service in Iraq and Afghanistan, I have developed a case of sleep apnea, as so many returning veterans have.  As anyone who has had a sleep study done knows you don’t exactly get the “best night of sleep” of your life.  By 1:40 AM I was lying in bed surfing Facebook on my phone.  I was reminded that I had an event coming up later that day that I was interested in going to.  It was Volunteer Day at Mine Creek Battlefield State Historic Site.  Sleep apnea or no, I was going to go work off some stress from the week. 

Since Moose didn’t have anything going on and he needed some volunteer hours for high school, I grabbed him up and we headed down to Pleasanton, yes, named after Major General Alfred Pleasanton, “The Knight of Romance.”  After we arrived, we were given our assignment by Tami.  She asked us if we brought tools, which we did and she promptly put us to work on the repair of a foot bridge.  The long Kansas winter had taken its toll on the bridge.  After assessing the foot bridge, I determined that I didn’t have the right tools, or the right vehicle for the job, so I asked to be excused and Moose and I headed home to properly gear up.  In the spirit of Tim, the Tool Man, Taylor, we needed “more power.” 

I don’t know what it was, maybe the frustration of my position being eliminated, or the fact that as I have gotten older, I have made a conscience attempt to be better with being “handy.”  But if it took my last breath, that “damn bridge” was going to be fixed!  After two more hours devoted to “coming and going” we finally arrived back in my Jeep with saw horses, a circular saw, hammers, decking screws, a drill, power cell and the all-important tape measure.  Not to mention, the obligatory battlefield bug spray.  As I approached the bridge, now properly armed to do battle, I could hear the faint drums and trumpets in the background.  Not of battle, but the song, “Fanfare for the Common Man.”  You may recognize the tune, from the Olympics.  I cannot emphasize enough that I have never really been particularly “handy” with tools.  I can make a pistol or rifle sing, but when it comes to hammers and wrenches, well, let’s just say I earned the “F” Mr. Webster gave me in wood shop back in high school.  With all that in the back ground, that bridge was going to be “fixed” as God as my witness.

Naturally, Murphy’s Law would pick now to assert itself.  The AC adaptor on the power cell decided that it was not going to cooperate.  Without power, the circular saw and drill became nothing more than paper weights.  But I approached the situation with dogged determination.  That “damn bridge” was going to be fixed!  Moose kind of looked at me with a “now what?” look.  From this point, there was only one direction to go it.  That was to effect repairs the old-fashioned way.  Two men, two hammers and a box of decking screws.  From that point it was on…I am pleased to report that the foot bridge at Mine Creek is now safe for foot traffic.  We were able to effect meaningful repairs, but I have to be honest, I am not done with that “damn bridge.”  I have a meeting with Moose’s Boy Scout Troop leadership coming up.  I am going to propose that one of the Eagle Candidates adopt the idea of replacing the bridge for an Eagle Scout project.  It seems like the perfect Eagle Scout project.  I also have a meeting this week with Jim, the Administrator for Mine Creek.  We met on Saturday at the Volunteer Event, and I believe that I am going to volunteer at the site while I am searching for employment.  This will give me the opportunity to ensure that I get out of the house while I am “on the bench.”  Hopefully, by the time you read this article, I will have already landed.  All that aside, how many of y’all volunteer? 

Since the article was originally written, the bridge rebuild has been approved for an Eagle Scout project and from what I understand, the project is being planned.

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!!!

Restaurant Review – Family Cafe

19476 Robertson Rd, La Cygne, KS 66040

4 Saber Rating

Family Cafe is a family-owned and operated diner serving American style food and is open daily from 6:00 AM -2:00 PM.  We arrived at around 1:40 PM in the afternoon and we were welcomed and seated.  When I asked about cutting it close to closing time, I was told to relax and that Household 6 and I should take our time.  So we felt that they treated us very well.  I generally do not eat a lot of food, quantity wise, so I really like to enjoy the food that I do have.  I can tell you that their ranch-fresh beef for burgers was delicious and too large for me.  I am not complaining about portions, mind you.  I was only able to finish about two thirds of the burger, so I was more than satisfied with the portion.  Household 6 and I will say that the burgers were excellent to the point where I wanted to finish mine, until I saw that they had fresh home-made blackberry cobbler with vanilla ice cream on the menu for dessert.  Cobbler is a weakness of mine.  Biblically speaking, they say that God rested on the seventh day, but I am pretty sure that was the day he gave a wink and a nod to cobbler. 

I will end this review with an observation.  It seemed like there were a lot of local folks who ate there.  I have learned that eating where the locals eat is usually a very good thing.  The Family Cafe was no exception. 


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.

Restaurant Review – The Wooden Spoke; Baldwin City, Kansas

Venue Address: 309 Ames St, Baldwin City, KS 66006
4.5 Saber Rating

If you follow The Civil War Traveler, you will come to learn the type of restaurants that I like to frequent.  You will find that I truly enjoy visiting a locally owned and operated establishment and even better if it’s family owned.  May the day never come that I do a review on an Applebee’s or an Olive Garden for if I do, something went sideways.  I also believe that one of the real pleasures of being The Civil War Traveler is the people I meet.  With all that said, Moose and I pulled into the Wooden Spoke in Baldwin City shortly before they closed for the afternoon.  On Saturdays, they close at 2:00 PM and reopen for dinner.  The Wooden Spoke specializes in American Style comfort food and has a very good selection to choose from on the menu.  Where we there for dinner, their prime rib would have found its way to my table, but since it was lunch time and a bit chilly out, I opted for the hot roast beef sandwich, while Moose jumped on the chicken fried steak.  Both were very good, and I plan on getting back to The Wooden Spoke when Household 6 and I return to Baldwin City, however I really want to call positive attention to The Wooden Spoke’s dessert selection.  The cinnamon bread pudding was truly spectacular.  We don’t eat cinnamon much at Traveler’s Rest because a member of the family has an allergy to it.  That said, the bread pudding with a side of vanilla ice cream was an outstanding choice and is their dessert specialty.  While there, I had the privilege to talk with the owner’s daughter.  It was an exciting week at The Wooden Spoke.  The owner had just purchased the restaurant from her mother so they were in transition.  We had three generations of ladies working on lunch under the same roof and I found that special.  I had an excellent lunch at The Wooden Spoke and believe you will too when in the area. 


Restaurant Review – Aunt Netter’s Café: Lecompton, KS

Venue Address: 336 Elmore St, Lecompton, KS 66050


Comments:  Aunt Netter’s offers a casual, relaxed American dining experience.  The cafe is a mixture of small-town Midwest charm and delicious comfort food.  Their menu is comprised of entrees you would expect to find in any local diner, but can they ever cook!  While Moose decided to confine himself to the ever-present Chicken Strip Basket, I decided to branch out and was very pleased with my decision.  Aunt Netter’s offered something that I had never thought about before, but once I saw it, I had to try it.  That was the Barbecued Pulled Pork quesadilla.  It was a plate-sized serving that features some deliciously cooked pulled pork topped with barbecue sauce and cheese.  The service was fast, efficient, and friendly.  I really felt that Aunt Netter’s also offered an excellent value for the dollar as lunch cost less than $20.00 for two entrees and drinks.  They also offered fresh homemade 3-inch-thick apple pie for dessert, but we decided to pass on that.  If you are in the Lecompton area touring, I can only offer the heartiest endorsement of Aunt Netter’s Cafe.  They did an outstanding job and we had an excellent lunch experience.  Make sure you check their hours on the website provided above so you can plan you day accordingly. 

4.5 Saber Rating

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.

Paola, Kansas – Beethoven’s 9th Restaurant

Venue Address: 2 W Piankishaw St, Paola, KS 66071
Beethoven’s 9th Restaurant
5 Saber Rating

Comments:  Beethoven’s 9th Restaurant is a delicious way point to stop at on the trail.  They specialize in authentic German food and bring a taste of the old world to the new.  As you walk into the restaurant, you are greeted with sights and the atmosphere that could be expected in the beer hall or Gaust Haus of a small German town.  The wait staff was friendly, attentive and efficient.  The food was absolutely spectacular.  Moose went with the schnitzel and I went with the jaeger schnitzel.  Each serving came with spaetzle, a German noodle and a vegetable.  I told Moose to save room for dessert as there was a plethora of handmade post dinner treats.  We went with the chocolate peanut butter pie.  There were plenty of leftovers to bring home.  It was funny watching Moose hide the chocolate peanut butter pie from Rooster. When touring eastern Kansas, make sure you stop by and visit Jenny at Beethoven’s 9th Restaurant in Paola.  I also feel it should be mentioned that Jenny does return to Europe to hone her culinary skills.  That’s right, Jenny is a European trained chef, but make no mistake about it when you come into Beethoven’s 9th, you’re family. 


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.