A Ravaged Land

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.                                                                                                 

Mine Creek Battle Site, Linn County, KS

Mine Creek Battle Site, Linn County, KS. Photo courtesy of kansasmemory.org, Kansas State Historical Society. Copy and Reuse Restrictions apply.

NARRATOR: Mine Creek battlefield remained ravaged by destruction and death for weeks after the battle.  Lyman Gibson Bennett, a civilian cartographer, visited the site 11 weeks later, on a mission for Union General Samuel R. Curtis to map the battlegrounds of Price’s Expedition.

READER 1: At 8 a.m. our party…started for the battlefield at Mine Creek, which was five miles east of Mound City.  We passed several fine farms, the buildings, fences and improvements indicating thrift and enterprise in the owners.  We struck the broad trail of the enemy and passing down it, was soon where the strife of October 25 was most severe.  A long row of dead horses lying on the prairie indicated where their line of battle had been formed.  The surface of this prairie had been completely trampled up by horses and men, and several complete roads were formed where their artillery and trains had passed.  Soon we came to the body of a dead rebel lying beside the trail.  The body was frozen and the features were preserved as fresh as though he had but just died.  Wolves or hogs had eaten some of the flesh from the thighs and body.  In passing over the field, I came across the dead bodies of four men…though they were enemies, yet I do not approve of their dead bodies lying out on the prairies, as food for hogs and wild animals.  I shall report this to General Curtis and ask that they be buried.

We went into the house of Mrs. Ragan, which was situated where the conflict raged most severe.  There were many marks of ball in the clapboards, and fences were completely razed to the ground.  Mrs. Ragan stated that all the men in the neighborhood were in the army and there being none but women and children at home was the reason the bodies of the dead had not been buried.  The greatest number of dead horses and men in the vicinity must produce sickness when the warm spring weather causes them to decompose.

Lyman Gibson Bennett, January 5, 1865.

NARRATOR: Price’s army “rapidly disintegrated” after the Battle of Mine Creek.  In addition to the dead, “eight hundred rebel prisoners were taken…Price himself escaped capture by virtue of the speed of a good horse…Thereafter Price…was able to avoid complete annihilation only by fleeing in small separate units.”

READER 2: Seeing Curtis’s army move off on the road toward Fort Scott, Price gathered up his fragments and limped off…Like the serpent of old, with its fangs drawn and spine dislocated, [his army] dragged its weary body over the divide and down to the sluggish waters of the Marmiton River, where it writhed in agony…Price was now out of Kansas and back in his own State, which his mob of bushwhackers, recruits, deserters, and camp-followers had, with his knowledge, plundered from one end to the other.

Colonel Samuel Crawford, Union army.

READER 4: The village [of Carthage, Missouri], formerly handsome and well built, is now but a mass of charred ruins; some few remaining buildings having been fired by the enemy the previous day…As we proceeded, the poverty and even destitution of the inhabitants became daily more evident.

[D]uring the night nearly four hundred wagons were burned by Price’s own orders with a large amount of ordnance and stores of all kinds.  The noise of bursting shells, and the light of the burning train…was heard and seen…at Fort Scott…At three in the morning, the rebels broke camp and resumed their retreat.  At least forty wagons were left uninjured by the enemy, which, with their contents, were secured…A large flock of sheep were gathered up, that also had been abandoned.

Captain Richard Hinton, Kansas, Army of the Border.

Tomorrow, October 28th, General Price and his rebel troops make their final exit from Kansas. Check back Tuesday for the final installment of the script!