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The History of our Public Schools
Wyandotte County, Kansas

1844
2012

 

 

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The Story of Kansas City, Kansas

"Civil War"

Kansas in the Civil War / First Kansas Volunteer Infantry

Battle of Baxter Springs / Battle of Lawrence / Battle of Marais des Cygnes / Battle of Mine Creek

You remember that the Wyandots, five years after they came from Ohio, were worshipping in different churches.  Families were divided on the question of slavery.  Bands of ruffians attached and killed those who disagreed with them.  Dishonest elections in Kansas were common.

The city of Wyandotte was two years old when in April, 1861, war broke out between the North and the South.  In a short time, Wyandotte was declared the banner county of the state when 300 men joined the Union Army.

[Annotation:  When the Civil War began Kansas had no troops under arms.  Recruiting began at once and military companies were organized in many Kansas towns.  By the time the South surrendered, Kansas had contributed twenty-three regiments and four artillery batteries to the Union army, more than 20,000 men and two-thirds of all the adult males in Kansas.  Kansas also suffered nearly 8,500 casualties and had the highest military death rate of any of the states in the Union.  Along with the white troops recruited in Kansas the state provided three African-American units and three regiments of Native-American troops.  Many of the natives who served the Union were not from Kansas but were members of tribes who fled to Kansas from areas controlled by the Confederates. Kansas, A Land of Contrasts, Robert W. Richmond, 4th Edition, p. 93, ISBN 0-88295-949-2.]

Southern sympathizers here wanted to raise a rebel flag.

"Anyone who attempts to raise a rebel flag, shoot him on the spot!: ordered the Union men.  The flag was never raised. 

[Annotation:  As Kansas was getting started as a state, the secession movement was developing in the South and fear of what might happen to the Union was widespread.  Kansans were almost unanimous in their sympathies for the Union and even those who had opposed Abraham Lincoln at election time upheld his position as he took office.  Kansas, A Land of Contrasts, Robert W. Richmond, 4th Edition, p. 85]

Two months after the war begin, the Kansas Mounted Riflemen from Wyandotte and Quindaro were quartered in Constitution Hall.  One day early the soldiers left.  An officer remained to swear in nineteen recruits.  All of a sudden the four-story building fell.  Not one brick was left upon another.  After several hours of digging, rescuers found the soldiers buried among the bricks.  Only one was injured.  He had a broken leg, but the others were unhurt.  They soon marched off to join their regiment.

THE BATTLE OF WESTPORT

Wyandotte felt the effects of the war.  Iowa soldiers, wounded in a battle at Blue Mills were cared for in a building on Washington Boulevard.  Colonel Tom Moonlight and his Union soldiers camped here in 1864.  He was guarding the river to prevent General Price, the Confederate general, from advancing to Fort Leavenworth. 

Cannon balls were found stored in the basement of an old building at Fifth and Minnesota years later when it was torn down.  Old residents believed that Colonel Moonlight had hidden them for use, if needed, against General Price.

The Battle of Westport on October 23, 1864, ended the war in Kansas and Missouri.  The Union forces prevented General Price from crossing into Kansas.  This battle, fought in the neighborhood of Loose Park in Kansas City, Missouri, is known as the "Gettysburg of the West."  The story is told that twenty-four Union soldiers are buried in Huron Cemetery.  As the graves are not marked, it is impossible to tell, after a hundred years, if the soldiers' bodies are there.

THE FIRST COLORED REGIMENT

The First Colored Regiment obtained recruits in Wyandotte.  After a big meeting here on August 15, 1862, General Lane of the Union Army sent a committee to Kansas City, Missouri.  Lane's men gathered together a group of colored recruits.  As they waited for the boat to carry them to Wyandotte, they were captured by Missouri and put in jail.  Not long after, the prisoners broke away and fled to Kansas to join their regiment.

[Annotation:  The black troops from Kansas received high praise from all who were associated with them.  General Blunt, following the Battle of Honey Springs in the Indian Territory, wrote: "I never saw such fighting done as was done by the negro regiment.  They fought like veterans, with a coolness and valor that is unsurpassed.  They preserved their line perfectly throughout the whole engagement and, although in the hottest of the fight, they never once faltered.  Too much praise cannot be awarded them for their gallantry."  Cyrus K. Holliday , adjunct general of Kansas during the war, added:  "Though suffering severe losses, and fighting at great disadvantage, owing to the merciless treatment they were sure to receive if taken prisoners ... they faltered not, but with a steadiness and a gallantry ... have earned as honorable reputation among the defenders of the Union."  Kansas, A Land of Contrasts, Robert W. Richmond, 4th Edition, p. 93-94]

William G. Cutler's
Civil War History
 
Transcribed from Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Kansas, 1861-1865. Vol. 1. (Reprinted by Authority) Topeka, Kansas: The Kansas State Printing Company. 1896
JULY 1-2, 1863. -- Engagement at Cabin Creek, Indian Territory - Report of Col. James M. Williams, First Kansas Colored Infantry - Fort Blunt, C. N., July --, 1863.   End Annotation.]   

DAYS OF TERROR

The young men of Wyandotte joined the army.  Women and children were left with only the older men to protect them.  Ruffians wandered about the county, attacking and robbing defenseless persons.

William Quantrill and his gang of bushwhackers from Missouri burned the city of Lawrence.  They got as close to Wyandotte as Olathe, Kansas.  Raiders invaded Missouri and terrorized people.  No one was safe.  [Annotation:  Bushwhackers and Jayhawkers:  Uncivil Missouri and Kansas]

A Mrs. Judd, who lived at Fourth and Barnett, has told how fearful of Quantrill the people were.  One night they expected him to make an attack.  She hid her old father where the raiders could not find him and put her most valued possessions in a pillowcase.  She buried the pillowcase in a cornfield where St. Mary's Church stands today.  All over Wyandotte, women were preparing for Quantrill in much the same way.

Despite the alarms, Quantrill never reached here.  One of his gang, a Jim Vaughan, had killed many Union men.  When Vaughan appeared to Missouri and stole Negroes and horses.  Wyandotte citizens grew tired of the rascals that infected their town.  They called a public meeting on August 26, 1862, and put on record that they had no sympathy with such doings on either the Northern or Southern side.

[Annotation:  Vaughan, Jim (Quantrill Raiders) Killed 1863 - Listed only by McCorkle. Captured at Wyandotte, KS, while getting a shave. Taken to Kansas City, MO, to be hanged within 10 days. Hanged at Fort Leavenworth, 29 May 1863.]

THE RED LEGS

Highway 5 to Wyandotte Lake is known as the Leavenworth Road.  At a spot between 46th and 47th Streets there stood an Inn, known as "Six-Mile-House" because it was located six miles from Wyandotte.  Theodore Bartles and his father Joseph were the owners.

During the Civil War, from 1861 to 1865, Six-Mile House was the headquarters of the Red Legs.  No one knows exactly how many men were members of this band.  Some say there were never fewer than fifty or over a hundred.  Others give the number at about 150.  Because everything about the Red Legs was secret, it is hard to learn the truth about them.

All the members wore red or tan leggings.  They were an underground organization connected with the Union Army, though not regular soldiers.  Union Generals Ewing and Blunt always had several Red Legs on their payroll at a higher salary than that paid the regular soldiers.  The services involved spying and other dangerous missions not performed by ordinary fighters.

Three qualifications required for membership:

  1. Unquestioned loyalty to the Union cause.
  2. Undaunted courage.
  3. Skillful use of a rifle or revolver.

Theodore Bartles was the best pistol shot.  He once defeated Will Bill Hickock, also a Red Leg, in a shooting match.  Young men of well-known families were members of the group.  [Annotation:  Theodore Bartles in 1860, built Six-Mile House, Owned and Operated with father Joseph A Bartles.  He also served in the 1st KS Regiment.]

The red leggings were a badge of desperate service, say their defenders.  Members followed the rules of civilized warfare.  They did more to protect homes than any regiment in the service.  Like the Minute Men of Concord, the Red Legs left their fields and homes when a call for service came.  They were the most dreaded by Quantrill and his gang.

Border Ruffians who wished to steal from Missourians copied the uniform.  The real members were blamed for crimes they did not commit.  On the whole, they were honest and patriotic.  Red Legs hunted down and killed the men who wore the uniform without permission.

Other Wyandotte Cities, Places, and People

Return to Index for "The Story of Kansas City, Kansas" by Nellie McGuin

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History Site created on December 02, 2002
Page last updated: 02-Jan-2012

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