Wartime Wednesday: The Battle Of Lone Jack

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Come brush up on your history this week with the Battle of Lone Jack, Missouri during the American Civil War.

For those who haven’t heard, Ups is recovering from an offseason tune-up. While he recovers we will take Wednesdays to discuss some important historical moments in war. With a large number of active during military and veteran staff and members at AG we thought: We do whatever the hell we want. Lets give this a shot and see what happens.

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1862 marked the second year of fighting between the States. While war was formally declared the preceding year and the bulk of the Eastern United States mobilized and started fighting each other, conflict was nothing new to the Missouri and Kansas region. For years the Border War had been raging and the area was one hot with bushwhacking, skirmishes, and raids.

In this inaugural post for this series here at Arrowhead Guys, I have chosen to go over a relatively small battle in the grand scheme of things. From here we may go forward or backwards in time, but each week we will bring you a quick story on some battle that occurred somewhere. This week it is close to home.

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Battle of Lone Jack Missouri

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By August 1862 the area west of the Mississippi River had already seen heavy fighting. The Battle of Wilson’s Creek outside Springfield, Missouri and The Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas had both been fought and neither had tipped the balance in favor of the Union or the Confederacy. Constantly desperate for men and supplies, the Confederate forces in the area West of the Mississippi were always moving about, pillaging and fighting running battles. The majority of the skirmishes involved William Quantrill, Colonel John T. Hughes, and the famous members of the James-Younger gang.

The need for more men and supplies forced the combined Confederate command to recruit from the area known as “Little Dixie” in North Central Missouri. So after recruiting most of the summer and replenishing their ranks, the Confederate force of between 1500-3000 men sacked Independence, Missouri on August 11th. The Federal Commander for Missouri, General John Schofield ordered General James Totten to concentrate his scattered forces and drive the rebels out of Independence.

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The first Union troops to arrive in the vicinity of Independence were led by Major Emory S. Foster. On August 15th he led around 700 men to Lone Jack and engaged the larger Confederate forces:

Foster and his men attacked the Confederate camp and dispersed the enemy. The firing of his cannon during this brief skirmish proved to be Foster’s undoing, for it alerted Colonel Vard Cockrell and other rebel commands in the area of Foster’s position and intent to fight.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Lone_Jack

The skirmish on the evening of August 15th set the tone for the battle coming the following day. Now knowing they faced a smaller Union force, the Confederates decided to strike early the next morning and drive out Major Foster and his men. A mounted attack was to be undertaken from the north of the city, yet the Confederate commander charged with doing so failed to attack as planned, and as the sun rose it gave Major Foster’s men time to take up arms and form defensive positions.

Eventually the attack did come, and upon engagement the rebels were able to quickly turn the Union right flank. Confusion soon set in, and there were many pitched back and forth small engagements. We can now look back and really grasp how the breakdown in communication and lack of clear instructions can cause havoc on the battlefield:

Much of the fighting then devolved into a war of attrition between Confederates on the western side of the street, Union men on the right with their artillery in the middle. The artillerists were soon routed and the guns changed hands several times. Foster recaptured the guns a final time, being severely wounded himself in the process.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Lone_Jack

With Union Major Foster wounded, his successor Captain Milton H. Brawner ordered a retreat upon seeing a reformed Confederate line appear just a little north of Lone Jack. The cannons that were so hotly fought over were spiked and the Federals retreated in good order, leaving the town to Colonel Vard Cockrell and his rebels.

Contemporary sources report that during the battle Major Foster was briefly captured, and when one of the captors wanted to execute him, 18 year old Cole Younger physically pushed the man out the cabin and considered a major reason behind Foster’s call for clemency for Younger after he was captured during the failed robbery attempt in Northfield, MN.

As with any battle in this era, accurate casualty reports were hard to come by. Many people think of the American Civil War and see “blue and grey” when in actuality the uniform combinations were muddled and men on both sides, especially in this region, typically wore their militia or regular clothes into battle. Adding to the inaccuracy of the counts was that families would typically camp with their soldiers, and the Confederate dead of this battle were hastily removed from the field of battle by family and friends.

In closing, I hope this inaugural brief trip back in history was interesting to you, especially those living up near Kansas City. If you have been to the battlefield, watched a reenactment at Lone Jack, or have some interesting tidbit please share below in the comments. Next week we will be back with another battle from a different era. Here is a YouTube video that does a really good job of quickly describing this little battle:

For those who are interested and in the area, here’s a resource you might want to check out:

http://www.historiclonejack.org/museum.html

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Nasrani
Nasrani

Am I the only one who reads this in Ken Burns’ voice?

Dang you, eighth-grade history…

MasterChief
MasterChief

Coool! This stuff is right in my wheelhouse. Thanks for this!

zulu trader
zulu trader

“Wartime Wednesday “ — I like it

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KenW

thanks for sharing that…it’s strange but when I was suppose to be learning history as a child I could care less and now that i’m a bit older I find it interesting.

Here is an article that appeared in the NY Times Sept. 7th 1862 regarding the Battle of Lone Jack.

And here’s one that lists all the men that could have been in the battle from both sides.

http://www.historiclonejack.org/company.html

BleedingRedAndGold

I like that you phrased it as “could have been” since keeping records of who served, where, and when in the ACW was often spotty and sometimes nonexistent. As I recall, the large number of anonymous dead the war produced were a major factor in the decision for our military to adopt dog tags.

KenW

I cannot take credit for those specific words as I used what was already stated on the website…

“The following rosters represent the regiments and companies that participated in the Battle of Lone Jack, Missouri on August 16, 1862. Each of the men listed on the Rosters were enlisted in the various Companies at the time of the battle and could have participated in the battle.”