Iuka, MS: After we left the warm Florida coast and Olustee, Moose and I continued our trip home from visiting my aunt and I made the snap decision to cut west and visit the site of the battle of Iuka, in Iuka, Mississippi. We found The Victorian Inn online and reserved a room soon after we left Olustee. The direct route back to Kansas City would have taken me through Atlanta, Nashville and up to St. Louis and over to Kansas City. There were many sites in Atlanta that would rate a visit, but I feel that we will make the Atlanta area subject of their own feature visit. Since I was trying to make it home in time to attend a job fair, I wanted to visit a relatively easy to tour site. I had previously called the Tishomingo History Museum and asked about touring in the area. The gentleman on the phone was extremely gracious and helpful. He also gave me a great piece of advice. He told me “Do not make a special trip to Iuka.” Now since this a travel magazine, I feel it is important to pass that on to you, the reader. Do not make a special trip specifically to Iuka! After the historical narrative, I will tell you the best way to tour Iuka.
I like to open each article with a quote in regards to the military action that occurred there. Here at the Battle of Iuka, speculation would grow as to Major General Grant’s fitness to lead troops in battle. Here rumors would spread, perhaps unjustly. I am not a General Grant detractor and I tend to follow General Eisenhower’s assessment of General Grant. But the opening quote from Federal Captain William Stewart of the 11th Missouri does lead one to speculate. I do tend to believe that Grant suffered from migraine headaches and Grant’s reputation as a drunkard was something that was propagated by his pre-war isolation off the frontier Army.
The Battle of Iuka occurred in September of 1862 and had some significant strategic implications. If you recall what was happening in the late summer and early autumn of 1862, the Confederate Army was on the offensive. General Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia were on the march in Maryland and General Braxton Bragg was also on the offensive in an attempt to bring Kentucky into the Confederacy’s fold. There is a significant amount of academic speculation that leads one to believe that a Confederate victory on Northern territory in the late Summer, would have brought Great Britain into the war on the Confederate’s behalf. At the very least, it would have caused the British Navy to lift the Federal blockade of the southern coast. Previous to the Battle of Iuka, there was concern among Federal command that Confederate Major Generals Sterling Price and Earl Van Dorn had resolved to march north to join Braxton Braggs forces now operating in Kentucky. With Bragg’s forces, the addition of Price’s and Van Dorn’s forces would have given the Confederates enough to of a punch to defeat Federal forces under Major General Don Carlos Buell’s forces defending Kentucky. So, with all that in play, Iuka was no longer an obscure and remote battle in a secondary theater, Iuka now took center stage in that horrid opus the American Civil War, and the stakes could not have been higher.
As stated, Moose and I were on our way home from a family emergency in Florida and a stop in at the Victorian Inn in Iuka, Mississippi brought an end to 13 hours of drive time. The time had been increased by a stop at the Olustee State Historical site in Florida, and a traffic stop in Georgia, thank you Deputy for not being quick to write a ticket. All that said, I tend to prefer to travel via automobile instead of flying for a couple of reasons. The first is that the act of flying will generally burn a day either way. Between travel time to the airport, your special one-on-one pat down with your favorite TSA agent, waiting in security, picking up luggage and the time and expense of a rental car, you generally have wasted a day. With the road trip, you have your own vehicle, the cost of travel is dramatically reduced, you can stop along the way and the drive is actually beautiful. Often when I drive long stretches, regardless of what music is being played on the radio, my mind cuts to that scene from “Forrest Gump” where Forrest “just ran…”, complete with the song “Running on Empty” playing in my mind. For me, the road trip is therapy and the ascetics of a drive off the interstate across the deep south in the spring with all the world a bloom is a very beautiful sight to behold. That stretch of road that leads from western Georgia, across Alabama and into northeastern Mississippi offered a plethora of small rural communities with neatly sculpted and cultivated fields and beautiful southern styled barns that dotted the entire pathway.
As the day turned into evening and as we were passing through western Alabama, near the Mississippi state line, I noticed signage that pointed us towards Major General Joseph Wheeler’s home. Joe Wheeler is one of the best Confederate cavaliers of the Civil War, every bit as good as Stuart, but I can’t say he was as good as Forrest. That, however, is a conversation for another day. General Wheeler also has the distinction of being one of two former Confederate Generals to serve as US Army Generals in the Spanish American War, commanding future President of the United States and Medal of Honor Recipient Colonel Theodore Roosevelt. So being that General Wheeler was just “Bully” of a man, I wanted to visit his home. But we had passed through the area well after they would have closed for the day and I will have to come back another time.
A seemingly short time later, we had arrived at our destination for the night. If you are in the Iuka area, the Victorian Inn is an economical choice for a night’s rest and a shower. That said, we did not pay a Hilton price and we got what we paid for. The staff was friendly and helpful and there were two beds in the room and a hot shower. In the morning, after eating a quick breakfast burrito at the local McDonald’s, we toured the Iuka battlefield, which largely consists of a few acres off of Lee Highway, State Highway 72 and Veteran’s Memorial Drive. The McDonald’s is strategically placed on the actual battlefield on what must have been Major General Price’s Army of the West’s far right line. Touring the site took roughly 20 minutes, and I was instantly reminded of the phone conversation I had a few months ago with the Tishomingo History Museum, of not to make a special trip.
By 9:00 AM I made the call to head the 20 miles west to Corinth, MS from Iuka. When we passed through in 2017, we only had 20 minutes to explore the interpretive center. So we went to revisit some of Corinth that we did not get the chance to see before. The Interpretive Center has changed a bit since 2017. There were two very high-quality movies and there was a new exhibit hall that featured some Mississippi unit’s regimental flags that I did not recall seeing last time. After the tour of the Interpretive Center, we went out on the lawn and paid tribute to the valor displayed by the Texas assault on Battery Robinette. To the State of Texas’ credit, they have as recently as 2010 placed a new monument on the property and it was very well done. After that, we left the Interpretive Center and went on a driving tour around Corinth. For me, the big payoff was walking the siege lines of both the Union and Confederate forces in the first Battle of Corinth, or the Battle of Farmington. Both are the same place and it is one of those Sharpsburg/Antietam deals, where one side called the battle Corinth and the other called it Farmington. After we finished up the siege lines walk, both Moose and I were covered in ticks, so make sure you bring plenty of bug spray if you are going out tramping the siege lines. After we finished pulling the ticks off, it was time to get on the road, as I had a phone interview with a prospective client coming up and I wanted to ensure that I was in an area of adequate cellular coverage.
After some reflection, I have come to the best conclusion I could on how-to best tour Iuka. There are a couple of ways to efficiently and effectively do it so you can see an incredibly significant battlefield, but avoid a letdown. If you are passing through the area naturally on your route of travel, Iuka is an easy tour, but I think it would be best to tour Iuka as part of a Shiloh, Corinth Civil War Tour. I highly recommend touring Corinth in the same trip as Shiloh and with Iuka just a short 20 miles away from Corinth, I feel this is the best course of action to take to visit this field of valor. But even better would be a four-day weekend of Shiloh, Corinth, Iuka and a short drive east into Alabama to General Wheeler’s home. The phone interview went well, and the rest of the trip back to Kansas City was uneventful. The weather had called for rain, but thankfully Mother Nature decided to cut me some slack and thus ended my trip to say “goodbye” to my aunt. I will see you down the trail.
Sanderson, FL: This has been a tough article for me to write because of the reasons in which it came to be. In this tale from the trail, I try to walk through life and death under the hot Florida sun, both today and in 1864. My reasons for going to Florida, and doing it on 40 minutes notice where extremely personal. I had no chance to plan and was not even sure of the final destination until I had been on the road for 44 hours. The weather threw me a number of curve balls and I was pushed to the limits of my endurance but 48 hours after I had left Kansas, I had arrived at my destination in Estero, Florida. But we will talk about that in the paragraphs to come. For now, let’s talk about the historical narrative of the Battle of Olustee; Florida’s most significant land battle of the US Civil War.
The Union Army had established a number of enclaves along the Florida coast, to include the most significant one in Jacksonville in 1862. For the most part, however, they had wisely decided to stay out of the interior of the State, for a number of tactical reasons. This would change in the Winter of 1864. History is divided on why the campaign was launched, but it really falls into two camps. The first camp will tell you that President Lincoln was led to believe that the interior of northern Florida was ripe with pro-Union sentiment. Though unlikely, this could be true. After all, every State in the Confederacy, with the one exception of South Carolina, had provided at least one regiment of pro-Union white Soldiers. Regions of States, such as eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina had provided thousands. Western Virginia, even became its own state, loyal to the Federal cause. Imagine my surprise when I learned that even Alabama supplied at least one regiment of Federal Cavalry. So, this fact, and Lincoln with his eye on reelection may be why the operation was launched, but I don’t necessarily buy it. The military reason for the offensive was to deprive the Confederate forces farther north of the food and salt resources of Florida. Though in theory this makes sense, I am not convinced this is the reason for the campaign simply because, the Union Commander, Brigadier General Truman Seymour’s boss, Major General Quincy Gillmore, had left orders not to go on the offensive in the Florida interior. I believe that Seymour’s military reputation was severely tarnished after his assault on Fort Wagner and he was looking for a military victory to rehabilitate his name. In South Carolina, Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard had correctly ascertained Seymour’s plans and dispatched a Confederate Irish immigrant by the name Brigadier General Joseph Finnegan and the experienced and hard charging Georgia Brigade under Brigadier General Alfred Colquitt to make sure that Seymour would not gain redemption in Florida, at least.
In late 1863 and very early 1864, the Federal troops in Jacksonville received new crops of draftees in the case of the white regiments and brand-new volunteers in the case of the USCT’s, to include the famous 54th Massachusetts Infantry. Members of the 7th New Hampshire Infantry were also ordered, just prior to the campaign to turn in their battle tested Spencer repeating rifles and were in turn issued battle worn and often inoperable Springfield rifled muskets. So poorly was the equipment, that many of the muskets failed to fire when combat began on that February afternoon. To summarize the battle, the Confederate forces under Finnegan and Colquitt had their issues, but largely were able to exercise their will over the poorly led Federal troops. The one bright spot on the battlefield for the Federals was indeed the 54th Massachusetts Infantry, who did not arrive on the battlefield until late in the fight and did a masterful job of covering the Federal retreat back to Jacksonville. That said, the 54th again would distinguish itself for the evacuation of the Federal wounded from the Olustee field of battle. There are reports that they filled a train car with wounded and hauled the railroad car back to Jacksonville by hand to ensure as many Federal wounded were able to escape Confederate capture as possible. After the battle, Union forces would not again enter the interior of Florida during the war.
A few weeks ago, my aunt called me and let me know that she had cancer. My aunt is my father’s sister and ever since he has passed, 16 years ago, I had sort of been his proxy with her. I did not mind this, as she surely did love and miss her brother. As we talked again, she told me that her cancer was terminal. She has small cell lung cancer and liver cancer. She is now too weak to take chemotherapy. As these reports came in and kept getting darker, I felt myself being pulled on a trip I had not planned and truthfully did not want to make. When my cousin contacted me and let me know that my aunt was asking for her mother and wanted to go to hospice, I could no longer sit by in Kansas. Both of my parents died so fast and unexpectedly that there was no opportunity to say goodbye. Now, my father’s sister was in hospice and I had to go. I may be in between positions right now, money may be a little tight, but I was sitting at lunch talking with Household 6 and I could no longer just sit on the sidelines. My first thought was to take my daughter Rooster, because she is a better assistant driver than Moose. Moose also has a restricted license while Rooster has a full license and I didn’t have time to research how that would play out driving out of state. But alas, Rooster, though in High School, is taking college courses and had college finals this week and could not go, so Moose was my copilot. I went to his high school, pulled him from his class and told him he had 40 minutes to get home and pack, we were leaving immediately. If you haven’t noticed, in The Traveler household, a lot of life happens behind the dashboard. The road trip is the perfect opportunity to coach, guide and mentor your kids and really find out where they are in life; and we did have ample opportunity for that. Unfortunately, heavy rains blanketed the Midwest and Southeast, significantly adding time to the trip; causing me to worry that we would not get to Florida in time. The weather was so unfavorable, that I had to scrap plans of overnighting just south of Memphis, in Mississippi, instead, opting for Trumann, Arkansas.
In Georgia, we lost additional time because my tire light indicator came on and, on our car, that dang thing never lies. So, I found myself in front of Michael, the Manager at the local Goodyear garage in McDonough, Georgia; in need of a couple of new front tires. Now that the car had a new set of shoes, we were able to make it to Valdosta, Georgia for the night. Where my son would see his first naked woman. I have to be honest; we were not prepared for what was seen when we entered the hotel lobby; for what has been seen cannot be unseen. Some people don’t understand that see through gowns are really see through and they don’t need to be in the hotel lobby. But now we just refer to the incident as “The Georgia Peach” and somehow, I feel we are all a little bit diminished by experiencing it. I guess I will just sum it up by stating “you see the strangest things at an interstate hotel.” By lunch time the next day, we had arrived at our destination where I met my sister, also part of Team Traveler. My sister Beth, is my copy editor and proofs everything I write before you read it. We had the opportunity to spend the afternoon with my aunt. My cousin tells me that she perked up considerably with our visit and is now, at the time of this being written, is still fighting. I like my aunt, she’s a tough bird! As a post edit, since the time of writing, she passed peacefully a couple of weeks ago. She fought as long as she could.
After spending the afternoon with my aunt, we crossed the “Alligator Alley” to Florida’s eastern coast and spent the evening and next day with my sister and brother in law. I will tell you that Monday’s in May at Delray Beach in Florida are wonderful. The beaches and water are warm, public parking is plentiful and we were able to spend a nice day with lunch at Boston’s, on the beach; for Tuesday we would be heading north again for Olustee and home.
We arrived at the Olustee State Historical Park around lunch time and there were two things that immediately came to my attention. The first is that we were in a National Forest, Osceola National Forest to be exact, and there was a plethora of outdoor activity opportunities that were just waiting to be taken advantage of. I spoke with a local resident, and he said that there was even great fishing within a couple of miles. The other thing I noticed, is that on Route 90, which leads you to the battlefield, you pass about 6 prisons or correctional facilities; or you pass one large one with 6 campuses. I don’t know, but I am confident of one thing. I drove by “Florida Man’s” house. Also, a point of legitimate security, if you visit, don’t pick up a hitch hiker. It may be “Florida Man” himself. The battlefield takes about an hour and a half to two hours to tour and trail walk. I honestly feel that the State of Florida missed a significant opportunity with the museum. Though the video was good, the television had a very small screen and the displays were well, small too. I think there is opportunity for a much more robust interpretive center not only dedicated to the battle, but the entire Civil War experience in Florida. The coastal raids by Federal Marines and Naval forces, the Battle of Olustee, Agriculture and the African American experience. Florida’s Civil War history is much more robust than given credit for. When I began walking the battlefield, for some reason, I instinctively slouched over and tried to adjust my ALICE pack straps a couple of times. Moose kind of looked at me strangely and then it occurred to me, that I mentally was out in the swamps of Verona Loop Training Area of Camp Lejeune, NC because the pine forest and topography was so similar. I could still feel the “war belt” harness cutting into my neck as I walked the trail of the 7th New Hampshire and 7th Connecticut. When Moose and I walked the position of the Georgia Brigade, you could almost hear that quiet forest come alive and that rebel yell. Then the trail got quiet for me as I reflected on why I had come to Florida in the first place. For me it was literally “Life and Death under the Florida Sun.” I could see the signs of battle, I could feel the uniform against my body and the weight of the pack and rifle again, but I also felt the burden of impending loss from my aunt, one of the few members of my father’s family I actually knew.
Author: D. Alexander Brown
Page Count: 242
I was tasked to teach a course on the Vicksburg Campaign to my son’s Boy Scout Troop to support the Troop’s tour of the Vicksburg National Military Park. I felt it was my honor and privilege to do so and in the run up to teaching the course, I had read a number of books covering all aspects of the campaign. Now full disclosure, I have spent time in the Army as a 13B, Field Artillery Cannon Crewmember; an 0311, a Marine Corps Combat Rifleman; and a 19D, again in the Army as a Cavalry Scout. Though I will always be an infantryman at heart, when I look at 19th Century Warfare, I tend to favor the life of a Cavalryman; especially when considering the US Civil War and the Indian Wars. The book “Grierson’s Raid” was key to me to get an understanding of the strategic situation in Vicksburg and the greater Mississippi theater of operations during the Spring of 1863. I believe that Brown does an outstanding job of not only giving you the history of the raid, but also the dogged pursuit of the Federal Cavalry by the Confederate defenders. I believe that D. Alexander Brown did a fantastic job of articulating the strategic value of the raid. Not only were they able to destroy millions of dollars’ worth of war material, more strategically, the raid succeeded in taking Confederate Lieutenant General Pemberton’s eye off Grant and his upcoming amphibious assault across the Mississippi River. Pemberton ended up diverting much needed Confederate resources from watching for the crossing to attempting to trying to deal with the Raiders. I highly recommend “Grierson’s Raid” for anyone interested in the Vicksburg Campaign, Cavalry Warfare and even currently the current military population who would study raids. Items to discuss that both the US Army and US Marines look at as characteristics of a raid, being speed, surprise and violence of action. Brown masterfully articulates all three elements.
19476 Robertson Rd, La Cygne, KS 66040
Family Cafe is a family-owned and operated diner serving American style food and is open daily from 6:00 AM -2:00 PM. We arrived at around 1:40 PM in the afternoon and we were welcomed and seated. When I asked about cutting it close to closing time, I was told to relax and that Household 6 and I should take our time. So we felt that they treated us very well. I generally do not eat a lot of food, quantity wise, so I really like to enjoy the food that I do have. I can tell you that their ranch-fresh beef for burgers was delicious and too large for me. I am not complaining about portions, mind you. I was only able to finish about two thirds of the burger, so I was more than satisfied with the portion. Household 6 and I will say that the burgers were excellent to the point where I wanted to finish mine, until I saw that they had fresh home-made blackberry cobbler with vanilla ice cream on the menu for dessert. Cobbler is a weakness of mine. Biblically speaking, they say that God rested on the seventh day, but I am pretty sure that was the day he gave a wink and a nod to cobbler.
I will end this review with an observation. It seemed like there were a lot of local folks who ate there. I have learned that eating where the locals eat is usually a very good thing. The Family Cafe was no exception.
Pleasanton, KS: Trading Post, Kansas was first established in 1825 by a French fur trader and is as far as I can tell, the first non-native settlement in Kansas. Leavenworth can claim to be the first city in Kansas, but Trading Post, which is now part of Pleasanton, is the first settlement. Located just three miles west of the Missouri border, this tiny hamlet saw more than its fair share of action. The opening quote was from Reverend B.L. Read, a survivor of the Marais de Cynges massacre, in a letter to a friend in January of 1859 and it goes to underscore the violence in this region called Freedom’s Frontier. This article is really an addendum of the opening article to our “Bleeding Kansas” series as you really can’t talk about the Marais de Cynges massacre without talking about Trading Post. If you recall, The Missouri Border Ruffians went sweeping through the border region looking for Free Staters to make an example of. By the time that Hamilton’s men reached Trading Post, they weren’t especially choosy when designating who they would collect. It was here where they would consolidate their 11 victims and then march them off on foot to the ravine and into history. It would also be here at Trading Post, where 8 years later following the Battle of Westport, that Federal Cavalry under Major General Alfred Pleasanton, first caught Sterling Price’s retreating Confederate Army of Missouri. A very brief and violent rearguard action was fought here in the waking hours of October 25th 1864, on the very same ground where Hamilton collected his hapless victims. Due to overwhelming Federal forces and artillery, the Confederate rearguard was no match for Pleasanton’s cavalry and artillery. Those Confederates that were able to, crossed the Marais de Cynges river and rejoined Major General Price’s command not even 10 miles away. At the time, they were bottle necked at a ford trying to cross 600 wagons worth of captured war trophies. Later that morning around 11:00 AM, Federal Cavalry would fall upon the Confederates again at the Battle of Mine Creek.
Today, taking a break from the grind of looking for full-time employment, having my position recently eliminated, I took the opportunity to take Household 6 and our granddaughter, The Budger, down to Trading Post to have a look around. There is a privately-owned museum at Trading Post that is only open seasonally. For those that are interested in visiting, which I highly recommend if you’re in the area, they are open from April 1st through November 1st; Wednesdays through Saturdays 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM or by special appointment. I had the privilege of getting a tour from Jessica Cox, the Museum Curator. We toured the “Bleeding Kansas” and “Civil War” sections of the museum. Their display boasted many local artifacts from the Linn County area, which included artifacts taken as war trophies by victorious federal soldiers at Mine Creek, also in Pleasanton. Jessica was the perfect host. We toured the museum and I got a different take on some “Bleeding Kansas” history. I also learned the origins of the term “Jayhawk” or “Jayhawker;” which from its origins is none too complimentary. The definition really underscored the border tensions between the Free Staters and the Pro-Southerners here on Freedom’s Frontier. Jessica informed me that “The story of the term “Jayhawker” goes something like this; “Pat Devlin, a raw-boned Irishman openly affiliated with the free-state men, was returning from an extended trip into Missouri. The settlers at Ebenizer Barnes’ store (located in Sugar Mound, now Mound City) were watching an odd cavalcade coming up the hillside road. It was Mr. Devlin leading a horse who was literally loaded down with every conceivable kind of kitchen equipment: pots, pans, spiders, Dutch ovens, rolling pins, and jugs filled with molasses and rum. Things of pewter, brass, and copper. In inquiries about his cargo, Mr. Devlin said that over in the “ould countree” there was a bird that “just took things” and he suspected that his horse had somehow acquired the habit of the “Jay hawk”.
Mr. Devlin had eaten in every home in the country and knew their belongings and had found these looted items in Missouri and brought them back home to their rightful owners. This was very important as not many supplies were available and new ones were hard to obtain.
The Missouri Border Ruffians started jokingly calling the free state men who had organized to protect the refugee slaves and fight to make Kansas a free state, Jayhawkers. Eventually the men took the name as a badge of honor and history was made.” As they say, “And now you know.”
As with the larger conflict, during this phase of the US Civil War, neither side wore a white hat nor could claim victim status. After we toured the main museum, we toured the rest of the offerings of the museum. I thought the one-room school house from 1886 was really interesting. I even felt the unnatural need to ring the school bell, which Jessica did allow me to do. After touring the rest of the museum, I went to the Trading Post Cemetery in search of the five grave stones of the individuals who were murdered in the Marais de Cynges Massacre, as that is where they are at rest. I was unable to determine which gravestones marked their spots since time had taken its toll over the past 160 years.
Since Household 6 did not get the opportunity to travel down with Moose and myself when we originally toured the area in March, we drove the three miles to the lonely site so she could experience it for herself. She too was able to pick up the lonely and sad vibe that stains the soil there. From there we drove the very short distance to The Family Cafe in La Cynge, Kansas. The café must be a favorite of the locals as they were crowded with spring turkey hunters. It is the season here in Kansas. I had the opportunity to talk to our waitress and learned that the café has been in her family for 28 years. They are located at 19476 Robertson Rd, Lacygne, KS 66040. I will tell you that you should go for the burgers when in the area. They are that good, but you should also stay for the blackberry cobbler. If you follow me and my writings and travels, you will pick up that I do have a weakness for a good cobbler and The Family Cafe’s cobbler was excellent. It was as great way to end the day, as after lunch we had to head back home so I could take a call from the outplacement folks. With that, it was back to reality, and back to the job hunt. I highly recommend touring the museum at Trading Post when you tour the Marais de Cynges massacre site, Mine Creek and Fort Scott and Pottawatomie massacre. It just fits best that way and allows you to build on the emotions of the other local sites.
This will be my last dispatch from “Bleeding Kansas.” I will revisit the subject hopefully next winter when I take a look at the Border War from the Missourians perspective, but with traveling season upon us, we have an aggressive travel schedule and lots of stories from the trail to bring you. I will see you down the trail!
I will close out with a poem penned by Charles Greenleaf Whittier called “Le Marais du Cygne,” which first appeared in the Atlantic Monthly in September 1858:
A blush as of roses
Where rose never grew!
Great drops on the bunch grass,
But not of the dew!
A taint in the sweet air for wild bees to shun!
A stain that shall never Bleach out in the sun!”
Back, steed of the prairies!
Sweet song-bird, fly back!
Wheel hither, bald vulture!
Gray wolf, call thy pack!
The foul human vultures
Have feasted and fled;
The wolves of the Border
Have crept from the dead.
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!
Author: John David Hoptak
Page Count: 182
I wanted to do some research for our upcoming trip to tour the Maryland Campaign and I was looking for something that gave a good overview of the Battle of South Mountain. I admit that prior to reading the book, I only knew that South Mountain was fought as a delaying action and it was a Federal tactical victory. I believe the author, John D. Hoptak, did a great job in articulating how the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia’s dogged defense of the South Mountain’s gaps downgraded what should have been a Federal strategic victory into something less. This would set the stage for the overshadowing engagement at Antietam Creek. What I really feel the author excelled at was discussing the battle’s three phases individually. Each of the engagements at Fox’s Gap, Turner’s Gap and Crampton’s Gap are broken down so the reader gets an excellent view of the action in each phase of the battle. I feel that this view allows the reader to easily follow the flow of battle and allows the visitor ease of determining where they will wish to visit. I also feel that there was an excellent use of pictures, as all Commanders mentioned are shown, and also excellent use of first person quotes to bring elements of the battle to life. If you are looking for a quick read to accompany a staff ride or a tour in detail, I feel that Hoptak’s work fills that need quite well. There was a decent use of maps, but I feel a couple more that detailed force disposition faced by Franklin’s Corps after Crampton’s Gap would have been nice. Overall, I highly recommend this book for anybody who wishes to have an excellent overview of the battle with some increased level of detail.
|Venue Address: 2 W Piankishaw St, Paola, KS 66071|
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.
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.