Price’s March to Jefferson City: September 28-October 6, 1864

In commemoration of the 150th anniversary of Price’s raid on Missouri and Kansas, KHC is featuring excerpts from “Price’s March of 1864” Shared Stories of the Civil War reader’s theater script. The Shared Stories of the Civil War reader’s theater project is a partnership between KHC and the Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area.                                                                                                 

Thomas Carney

Thomas Carney. Photo courtesy of: kansasmemory.org, Kansas State Historical Society. Copy and Reuse Restrictions apply.

READER 5: Price…pushed westward, burning bridges behind him, followed cautiously by an inferior Union force numbering some 6,000, under General A.J. Smith, as a trailer.  Burning the intensely loyal German town of Hermann, on the Missouri River, he brushed by Jefferson City, driving its garrison of some 6,700, after a skirmish, back behind their entrenchments and holding them in durance until his trains had passed safely beyond their reach.  He baffled his pursuers — that had now joined in the chase with cavalry, infantry and artillery, and by steamboat — foraging as he went, replenishing his stores and swelling his ranks with the bands that had been awaiting his advent…

Shalor Winchell Eldridge, Kansas militia.

READER 1: The Governor of Kansas, in response to a request [from the Union army for the calling out of State Militia…complied…when it was known that Jefferson City was in peril.

Captain Richard Hinton, Kansas, Army of the Border.

READER 2: To Kansas Governor Thomas Carney, October 5, 1864:  The rebel forces under General Price have made a further advance westward…about fifteen miles below Jefferson City.  Large Federal forces about St. Louis and below intend to drive him towards Kansas.  Other motives also will induce his fiendish followers to seek spoils and vengeance in this State.  To prevent this, and join in efforts to expel these invaders from the country, I desire that you will call out the entire militia force, with their best arms and ammunition, for a period of thirty days.

Each man should be provided with two blankets or a buffalo robe for comfort, and a haversack for carrying provisions.  No change of clothing is necessary…I will do all in my power to provide provisions and public transportation, but hope every man will be as self-sustaining as possible, and ready to join me in privations, hardships and dangers to aid our comrades in Missouri in destroying these rebel forces before they again desolate the fair fields of Kansas.

General Samuel R. Curtis, Department of Kansas Headquarters at Fort Leavenworth.

READER 4: Naturally disliking to take the citizens of a whole State from their peaceful avocations, this was not promulgated until longer delay would have been fatal.  Sharp fighting was reported…in front of Jefferson City; our forces withdrawing to the trenches.  The telegraph lines between Sedalia and Lexington [Missouri] were cut on the evening of the 8th…The same day all the wires were cut east of Pleasant Hill, indicating the westward advance of the rebels.

Captain Richard Hinton, Kansas, Army of the Border.

READER 2: To Kansas Governor Thomas Carney, October 8, 1864:  Hurry the militia…The enemy is now near Sedalia, and a fight is expected there tonight.  They have burned Syracuse, Lamine and Otterville depots today.  You see, they seem moving steadily westward.  Delay is ruinous.

General Samuel R. Curtis, Fort Leavenworth.

READER 3: The State is in peril!  Price and his rebel hosts threaten it with invasion.  Kansas must be ready to hurl them back at any cost.  The necessity is urgent.  Kansas, rally!

You will do so as you have always promptly done, when your soil has been invaded.  The call this time will come to you louder and stronger, because you know the foe will seek to glut his vengeance upon you.  Meet him, then, at the threshold and strike boldly; strike as one man against him…[W]e must lead a soldier’s life, and do a soldier’s duty.  Men of Kansas, rally!  One blow, one earnest, united blow, will foil the invader and save you.  Who will falter?  Who is not ready to meet the peril?  Who will not defend his home and the State?  To arms, then!  To arms and the tented field, until the rebel foe shall be baffled and beaten back.

Kansas Governor Thomas Carney, October 8, 1864.

READER 1: All the men around us talked of war and nothing but war, once they left aside the daily occurrences of their life.  Of course, we children also talked of war: our dread was always the same, dread of the father being drafted to fight…It was never explained to us how and when and why certain men were drafted and others left.  So we each and every one expected our father to be taken next…

Adela Orpen, Mound City, Kansas.

READER 5: [A] call was made on the Kansas militia to rally for [Price’s] defeat; and such rallying was seldom known!  Hardly a man was left at home.  Even those in their teens, together with the “silver grays,” turned out en masse, and the women were left to take care of home.

Reverend James Shaw, Kansas militia.

READER 1: No one asked to be excused, no matter what his emergency might be.  The public emergency towered above all private considerations.  One gentleman, a banker, had his wedding day set for the second day after the general rally.  But…he marched away with his company, leaving his expectant bride to wait “Till this cruel war was o’er.”  Price, however, kindly delayed his coming, and on Wednesday this gentleman secured a furlough and came home, and was married at the appointed time.  He then returned to the camp, and took his place with his comrades.

Reverend Richard Cordley, Lawrence, Kansas militia. 

READER 4: Within a week, 10,000 of the militia were massed on the border, besides some 2,600 stationed at interior points…All business throughout the state was suspended and the teams and wagons of the country were pressed into service in rushing troops to the front.  The whole arms-bearing population were mobilized and an army of farmers, mechanics and business men, bankers, ministers, lawyers and doctors were hastening to the front…

Shalor Winchell Eldridge, Kansas militia.

NARRATOR: “The Confederates were thus advancing toward a large Union army with a formidable [Union] force on their rear.”

Check back on October 7th to find out if the growing Union forces will put a stop to Sterling and his Confederate troops.