2021: History Boy Summer (Part 5) Second Battle of Independence Historic Markers Driving Tour

I was kind of sad that no local museum really goes over the majority of Price’s Raid of Missouri, I assume The Battle of Westport State Historic Site might concentrate on it, or even Mine Creek, but as of this chapter of my little summer project, I have yet to visit either. Digging through one of the tourism pages for Independence, MO and a site I found to catalogue historic markers called HMdb, I discovered that there were in fact markers for the Independence portion of this. I originally was going to do an old driving tour that they had up in brochure form, but it appeared to consist of stopping at residential houses, and I wasn’t a fan of that – historic markers are fine! I knew about one of these markers since I used to live about 100 feet from it (marker B), but the rest were a mystery. I have pieced together a list for you, if anyone would like to do this, so that you don’t have to research this like crazy like I did. You see also see some of my continuing frustration with how this area takes care of their historic markers, literally right off the bat.

Second Battle of Independence Historic Markers Driving Tour; Independence, MO

For this chapter, I plan to give you all some pictures of the markers, directions to them, and a transcription of what they say if they are unreadable. Sadly, it seems that this area has a bit of an issue with keeping these up, you will notice that markers A and B are especially in bad shape. Luckily a few of them have been overhauled considerably, like C – so there’s hope.

Background:

According to our buddy Wikipedia:

“The Second Battle of Independence was fought on October 22, 1864, as part of Price’s Raid during the American Civil War. In late 1864, Major General Sterling Price of the Confederate States Army led a cavalry force into the state of Missouri in the hopes of creating a popular uprising against Union control, drawing Union Army troops from more important areas, and influencing the 1864 United States Presidential Election. Price was opposed by a combination of Union Army and Kansas State Militia forces positioned near Kansas City and led by Major General Samuel R. Curtis. In addition, Union cavalry under Major General Alfred Pleasonton followed Price from the east. While moving westwards along the Missouri River, Price’s men made contact with Union troops at the Little Blue River on October 21. After forcing the Union soldiers to retreat in the Battle of Little Blue River, the Confederates occupied the city of Independence, Missouri.

On October 22, part of Price’s force pushed Curtis’s men across the Big Blue River, while Pleasonton drove back Confederate defenders from the Little Blue. Confederate troops from the divisions of Major General James F. Fagan and Brigadier General John S. Marmaduke resisted Pleasonton’s advance. Two Union brigades forced the Confederates through Independence, capturing two cannons and 300 men in the process. While Pleasonton brought up two fresh brigades, the Confederates regrouped southwest of town. Further Union pressure drove the defenders back, and fighting continued until after dark. By the end of October 22, almost all of the Confederate forces had fallen back across the Big Blue. The next day, Price was defeated in the Battle of Westport, and his men fell back through Kansas, suffering further defeats on the way before reaching Texas. The Confederates suffered heavy losses during the campaign. The battlefield has since been covered over by the growth of Independence.”Reading:

LINK

My reading for this trip is confusingly Jeffrey Stalnaker’s The Battle of Mine Creek, a book I have already covered at this point. I will likely use this a few times, as the first third of the book (about 50 pages) summarizes the tensions in Missouri and Kansas as well as the entirety of the ill-fated raid that Major General Sterling Price attempted in Missouri. There is a separate book on The Battle of Westport, that I need to read before I eventually go to that site, for all I know it will add even more to my knowledge of the situation. For a link to purchase a copy of this book, click that review link for details.

Honestly the above linked Wikipedia page is also very detailed considering the status of either of these as “minor battles”.

Price’s ill-fated raid, the attempt to take over Missouri ends in a crushing defeat in Westport, and later in Mine Creek in Kansas.
The Trip:

GPS Waypoints:

Marker A: N39 08.211 W94 18.756

Marker B: N39 08.044 W94 18.824

Marker C: N39 08.094 W94 20.495

Marker D: N39 05.529 W94 24.939

Marker E: N39 05.481 W94 25.636

Marker F: N39 05.239 W94 25.941

Or here’s a map I put together using Google Maps:

Marker A:

This was was terrible to get to. I never realized there was a historical marker here and I can see why. This marker is hidden on the side of the highway, with no way to stop at it, and around fifteen feet of thick Brush between the road and the marker itself. I had to pull up to a driveway for a tree farm near the bridge across the Little Blue River, walk along the side of the highway for about 100 yards, crossing the bridge (not something I like to do on foot), and the best shot I could get was a blurry unreadable one. I borrowed a clear picture from HMdb if you want to see what it actually looks like. The fact that there is literally no way to get to this without likely trespassing is somewhat annoying, I wish a small park could be made (Like Marker C) or at least make it accessible through a trail or something.

“Here on the morning of October 21, 1864 General Marmaduke’s Confederate forces attacked Union troops under Colonel Moonlight drawn up on the hill to the west. Federal resistance was fierce until 10 A.M. When General Shelby’s Confederate cavalry moving up on the main road caused Moonlight to fall back to Independence.”

I honestly don’t recommend trying to stop at this marker, I went on an observed holiday and the highway wasn’t very busy. I’m also pretty sure I pissed off the tree farm by using their driveway to park in. There was another pull-off before that I did not see until it was too late, but it would have resulted in a blind reverse situation that would also be not very safe. You can get an Idea of what the Little Blue River may have looked like at Marker B, so there’s that. Please be careful out there! If you do decide to stop, travel East on 24 towards the exit for 7 highway and Fort Osage High School, turn around at the exit, and travel a few miles back. The marker is on the right side just before the bridge over the Little Blue River.

Marker B:

Marker B sits in the parking lot in a small park on Old Lexington Road. The site consists of a covered picnic area, a bike/walking trail (although I saw a ton of bikers there) and two placards – one is marker B, and one is a sign for Price’s Raid. Pictures are both above, and I will post transcriptions.

The Marker:

“Approximately 15,000 troops of Confederate General Sterling Price’s Army of Missouri, including guerrilla leader George Todd, engaged 3,500 Union soldiers under the command of Major General James G. Blunt on the western bluffs of the Little Blue River. With Blunt was Senator James H. Lane and Kansas ‘Red Legs’ under Colonel Charles R. Jennison.

The six hour engagement ended between four and five in the afternoon, with Union forces forced to retreat eight miles west to Independence where a final attempt was made by the Kansas Eleventh Cavalry to hold the town. Price’s Confederate Army of Missouri occupied Independence o the evening of October 21st.”

The Placard for Price’s Raid currently has the appearance of being intentionally broken by somebody – a better version of this same one stands at marker point C. If you walk along the railroad tracks for a bit, you can get a pretty good look at the Little Blue River, in a state pretty close to what I imagine it would have been like then. If you are heading East on 24 towards Buckner, Old Lexington road is a right turn just after you pass Little Blue Parkway. follow it to the end (across railroad tracks) and you will come to the park.

Marker C:

I used to live about two houses down from this marker, I remember when Pokémon Go became a big hit the traffic around this area became somewhat crazy, and it was vandalized or bumped by a car or something at one point. Luckily, since I’ve lived at my current house a chapter of the Missouri State Historical Society and the Daughters of the American Revolution have erected a new versions of everything and cleaned the site up well – currently it looks awesome! As an added bonus, the site is also where the Santa Fe Trail started and there are placards for that as well. To reach marker C, head west on 24 highway from Marker B, and turn right onto Blue Mills Rd then immediately left into the park. It’s right across from a church and cemetery.

Historic Site C

“Moonlight’s Union cavalry brigade, with five guns and 1000 men, was driven from the Little blue River by Marmaduke’s and Shelby’s 5000 Confederates of Price’s Army. Moonlight stopped here and was joined by Jennison’s and Ford’s brigades of Blunt’s division with 10 guns and 2000 men. A defensive line was formed running north and south for a mile. Charges and counter charges continued until 2 PM, when Blunt withdrew. Ford fought a series of delaying actions back into Independence, pursued by Shelby’s dismounted troops.”

Price’s Raid Placard:

“By 11 a.m. on Oct. 20, 1864, Col. Thomas Moonlight had made his first movement after the Little Blue crossing. Maj. Gen. James Blunt received permission from Maj. Gen. Samuel Curtis to engage the Confederate and made a rapid movement to this position, deploying the Federal line starting at the Independence-Lexington Road and stretching for about a mile to the south. Blue dismounted his troops, sending every fourth man to the rear to hold the horses. Maj. Gen. John S. Marmaduke and Brig. Gen. Joseph O. Shelby, also dismounted, were just 60 yards over the hill. A cannonade signaled the beginning of the last movement for the battle of the Little Blue. Almost simultaneously Confederate and Federal forces swept forward into the attack. On the Confederate left Marmaduke charged into Col. Charles R. Jennison’s 15th Kansas, the 3rd Wisconsin and 2nd Colorado and Shelby on the right charged the 16th and 11th Kansas. Back and forth along these slopes the fighting was fierce and often hand to hand. After an hour Blunt had pushed the Confederates about a half mile east, but recognizing that his flanks were about to be engulfed,

Blunt ordered a withdrawal back to the heights. Gen. Curtis and staff now came upon the battle and immediately shifted forward Col. W. D. McClain’s artillery, U.S.A., and 2 cannons from the 11th Kansas to a recently ploughed field, leaving them exposed to Rebel sharpshooters. Maj. R. H. Hunt, chief of artillery, U.S.A., shifted 2 more 11th Kansas cannons in support. They opened fire on the Confederates and drove them back, but exposed their left flank. The Confederates increased pressure on the Federal line and further exposed the Federal left flank. Shelby sent Col. Sidney Jackman on the attack. May. Hunt, U.S.A., seeing the attack forming, searched for help and sent for the 11th Kansas Cavalry who were beginning to pull back to Independence.

At about 3 p.m. the fight here had been going on for 4 hours. Gen. Curtis understood that he could not hold Gen. Sterling Price until Federal help could arrive from the east and so he returned to Independence, taking the ammunition wagons with him. Blunt was glad to see him go. Sometime during this fight, Moonlight realized his troops were nearly out of ammunition, but still holding them in line began the troops singing “Rally ‘Round the Flag” in order to bolster their courage. Jennison, with the 15th Kansas, 3rd Wisconsin, and Barker’s Artillery, was holding back Marmaduke on the right in a series of charges and counter charges from rock wall to rack wall, ravine to ravine.

Blunt also realized he must begin his retreat to Independence or face surrender. Forming one line while a second took up a new position, they leap-frogged line this and made stands at the Saunders and Massey farms. Blunt took up his last line of defense on the eastern edge of Independence.

“The Battle continued in Independence on oct. 22, 1864, 6 miles west, and then on to the Battle of the Big Blue at 63rd and Manchester.”

(sidebar)
Lawson Moore House 20309 E. Blue Mills Rd. (private residence)
This home was built in 1856 by Lawson Moore, a prosperous slave owner. In August of 1863 following Order No. 11 Mrs. Moore fled with her children, the oldest 19, the youngest 18 months, to Clay County, never to return. The house had survived several fires and was empty at the time of the battle. On the day of the battle it would serve as the rallying point for Shelby’s command. It was here that he took time to care for this wounded, utilizing the Moore house as a hospital. Surviving accounts would indicate that buried on the property is a mass grave of 18 Confederate soldiers and in a separate location 6 to 8 officers. It is from the draw behind this property that Shelby launched his final attack of the day.

(sidebar)
“About two and one half miles from where the first attack was made, we saw the Second Colorado battery of six fine Parrott guns crossing a field on out right as we were retreating. The rebel advance was within 400 to 500 yards of the battery. Quick work must be done to save the guns, worth a thousand men to us. Colonel Moonlight commanding our brigade came galloping down the line to my company. We were the rear guard. He ordered me to countermarch and charge the enemy with my eighty-eight men in column of eight front. We charged down the road, passing the Little Blue church, straight for the enemy. I saw ahead of me a brick house, just where the road turned from a northerly course straight east, a stone fence dead head of us, and a brick house and stone fence on the right. The rebel cavalry fell back, but a line of infantry occupied the house and were down behind the fence. About 150 yards south of the house between us and the enemy, was a hollow that for a moment or two kept us out of sight and range of their guns.

“As we reached the brow on the hill, a thought flashed through my mind that the first line, in which I was riding, with seven soldiers to my left, would be shot as soon as we came in sight. I clutched the pommel of my saddle and threw myself almost flat on the horse. the volley of bullets came, as I expected. I felt my horse going down, swung my feet clear of the stirrups, and fell on my horse’s neck, unhurt. Geo. W. Edwards, who fired the first shot when we were charging through Lexington the day before, fell on my back, dead. My men saw me fall and thought I was killed. They retreated back into the hollow. I jumped up and ran after them, a perfect hailstorm of bullets buzzing past me. I ordered the men to dismount. every man left his horse in the road. We then jumped the fence into an orchard and charged the brick house, and took it, driving the enemy out; then charged the stone fence and took that. At this moment I heard the yells of 400 to 500 men. Maj. J. Nelson Smith with the first and third battalions of the Second Colorado cavalry, was charging the enemy to save us, and right before us this gallant officer fell dead at the head of his command. I had a chance now to fall back, and found my horses in the hollow where I had left them. The animals showed “horse sense” enough to remain where they were safe from the bullets. This little diversion, costly to my company, saved the Colorado battery.”

Captain Henry E. Palmer, Company A, 11th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry

Erected by Civil War Round Table of Western Missouri.”

Marker D:

Marker D is in downtown Independence on the Historic Square. It sits basically at the intersection of Main Street and Truman Road, on the left when traveling north on Main Street. I parked at the Courthouse and walked over. If you are there, there are numerous other historical markers in the general vicinity including one for the First Battle of Independence, Andrew Jackson, The Oregon Trail, and even Harry S Truman.

“After heavy fighting at the Little Blue River on the 21st, Price’s Confederate Army forced Blunt’s cavalry to retreat to the Big Blue River, leaving a rear guard in town. Shelby’s Confederates reached town in the late afternoon. After a brisk fight Union troops were driven to the west end of town. Price’s army and wagon train then camped in and around Independence. On the 22nd Pleasonton’s Union Cavalry, pursuing Price from the east, made a mounted charge through town driving Fagan’s Confederates to the west.”

Marker E:

From Marker D, drive on Lexington towards all of the various LDS temples in that area. You can’t really miss it since the Community of Christ building is such an imposing figure in the Independence skyline. The marker sits right in from of that building along the series of flags near the intersection of Lexington and River blvd. I parked in the parking lot of the church across the street from it.

“On the 22nd Fagan’s Division of Price’s Army was defending against the advance of Union Gen. Pleasonton from the east. Two of Fagan’s Brigades were driven from the Little Blue River to the eastern edge of town. The Union attack was made first from the NE with Philips’ Brigade and the Second Arkansas (Union) both on foot. McNeil’s Brigade then charged through town mounted. Cabell’s Brigade came up to stop the Union advance. He was driven back and many of his men were surrounded. Near this spot two of his guns were captured and he barely escaped.”

Marker F:

Finally, we have Marker F, if you turn around and go back West on Lexington towards it’s intersection with Chrysler Ave. Its on the side of the road in the middle of this island that the two roads make, stay right and park in the abandoned restaurant parking lot across from the sign.

“During the Battle of Independence on October 21 ad 22, 1864, this was an unfinished railroad cut. As darkness approached on the 21st, the Confederates advancing from the east stopped here. Union troops withdrew to the Big Blue river during the night. The Confederate Divisions of Marmaduke and Shelby and Price’s wagon train advanced to Rock Creek and camped. On the 22nd Pleasonton’s Union cavalry pursued the Confederates through town and were confronted by Marmaduke’ Division. Fighting continued during the night as the Confederates withdrew to Byram’s Ford on the Big Blue River.”

Conclusion:

That’s it! I’ve never done one of these driving tours before, so this was an interesting excursion on a lazy holiday weekend. I will say that I was irritated with the state of Markers A and B, both in upkeep and travel ability, but the whole experience was cool. It’s hard sometimes to think about where a Civil War battle had taken place until you go around and actually look at the battlefields themselves. I may do another one of these for the first Battle of Independence, so stay tuned. I honestly would prefer a museum to see stuff like this, but having this as an option is better than nothing. The trip also gave me ideas for future installments and I pre-took some pictures for them. With time to stop and look around as well as fumbling with my GPS, the entire thing took about an hour. I picked an insanely hot day to do this, I’d recommend not doing that!

This is part of my 2021 series History Boy Summer, which you can read more of following this LINK.

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