Battle of Independence, MO: October 22, 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.                         

Alfred Pleasonton

Maj. General Alfred Pleasonton, officer of the Federal Army. Photo courtesy of: Library of Congress.

NARRATOR: On October 22nd, “Price crossed the Big Blue between Independence and Kansas City.”  The militia “with[drew] to their main defense breastworks”.  However, Major General [Alfred] Pleasonton’s Union troops, which had been pursuing Price’s army, caught up with the Confederates and “struck his rear guard at Independence.”                                                                                                  

READER 3: Major-General Marmaduke’s division, which formed the rear of the army, became engaged with the…enemy about half an hour before sundown. The…enemy attacked with increased fierceness, driving our troops steadily back until a late hour of the night and in almost impenetrable darkness.  I encamped that night on the battlefield near Westport in line of battle, having marched twelve miles, the troops almost constantly engaging the enemy the whole distance.

General Sterling Price, Confederate Army of the Missouri.

READER 1: I have braved a storm that is beyond description…We had 3,000 militia camped in and around our lot from Monday till Friday, when they were called out to meet the rebels.

The fighting commenced about nine o’clock in the morning, six miles from town, on the Lexington road, the Confederates fighting at great disadvantage as the Federals had picked their ground behind rock fences.  The Confederates had to charge those fences, and I can’t tell how many were killed and wounded, but more Federals than Confederates…The firing ceased for a time.  The Federals fell back as far as the Blue, the Confederates passing out as far as Rock creek and resting for awhile, but soon took up their march for battle.  By midnight we heard the firing in front of town, and the country for six miles was covered with General Price’s rear.

General Price was only making a raid, but some were hopeful enough to think he would hold the state.  This evening the report is that he is crossing Kaw River and is badly whipped, but we can tell no more about it than you can…We do know that the dead and wounded are being cared for today.  The Jones Hotel is the Confederate hospital and the bank the Federal.

Mrs. Robert Hill, Independence, Missouri, October 23, 1864.

READER 4: The Confederate wounded were taken to Kansas City and improvised hospitals were made of several of the churches.  As my only son was in the raid, being a member of Shelby’s cavalry, I was vitally interested in the sick and wounded soldiers who were left behind as General Shelby’s men formed the heroic vanguard as they entered the state and the rear guard on that memorable retreat…

I was selected from that southern community to drive to Kansas City, about fifty miles away, to take money to relieve the immediate needs of any of our “boys”…who were sick or wounded in Kansas City.  We had but few men left in our section of Missouri, and besides, men were not permitted to pass through the lines, so that women were sent on these missions of mercy and aid.  I took some money of my own, and this, with the contributions of friends, swelled the amount to $1,000, which I placed in a purse and carried in my stocking for safe-keeping.  The lady who was selected to accompany me was a quiet, unobtrusive woman who had very little to say, and when spoken to usually answered in monosyllables.

Mrs. S. E. Ustick, Missouri.

READER 5: [I] had been reared in a country home and had resided there all [my] life.  As [I] had married a farmer and he had enlisted in the southern army, [I] cherished the hope that [I] would be able to see him or at least hear from him in Kansas City, or perhaps see some straggling soldier on the retreat who would take a message or perhaps a package…

We were directed to stay our first night out with a southern man who lived on the Lexington and Independence road.  He had been robbed of all his stock and horses except one team, with which he was trying to cultivate a few acres of his once productive farm.  His house was built of logs, with a passage between, which had a dirt floor.  In this place he kept his horses for fear of them being stolen, and as it was only two days after General Price had passed, he brought our horses also into this passage and guarded them all night with a gun in hand.

Mrs. Ustick’s unnamed traveling companion.

READER 4: The family was very kind and hospitable, giving us the best service they could render, and helped us off on our journey the next morning.  After driving for a few hours we came to the stone wall where the bloody battle was fought between the opposing armies.  The Federal troops were still burying the dead.  The stench of the battlefield frightened our horses, as well as the terrible sight of dead men and horses, lying singly and in groups.

READER 5: Hats and coats were scattered everywhere, and some of the horses had great holes through them as if shot by a cannon ball.  It was a sickening sight, and we were glad to hurry through it.  As we were two harmless women, with no baggage but our lunch basket, and as we were bound for the nearest town ahead of us, we were permitted to pass on quietly through the lines.

READER 4: I…counted twenty-nine blackened chimneys which marked the spot where once stood that number of country homes.  Many of them doubtless were happy homes, now desolated by the cruel hand of war.

Mrs. S. E. Ustick, Missouri.

READER 1: Twice in the last ten days our town has been left to the women and children to care for…I did not leave my yard while the Confederates were here, but many of my old friends among them came to see me.  More than fifty ate with me yesterday.  Since last Monday I have fed over one hundred men, and ten days ago I did not feel like I had enough for my own family.  I have often thought of the loaves and fishes.

Yesterday about 10 o’clock General Pleasanton attacked General Price’s rear with 10,000 cavalry whilst his front was fighting a very large Federal force.  Heavy fighting all day, the Confederates in the rear retreating, until about three o’clock, when the fight grew desperate, and the Confederates passed through town rapidly, fighting with small arms, and the Federals pursuing not one hundred yards behind.  From the balcony of our house (which is very high) we had a view of the battle for more than a mile; saw the Federals capture a battery in Noah Miller’s yard.  From there on to the Blue the fight was terrific — mostly with small arms — until they got to the Blue, when cannonading commenced.  The fight ended at dark, and commenced this morning about 7 o’clock in the neighborhood of Westport.

The last we heard from the Confederates was yesterday at noon — they were fighting in John Wornall’s lane, and his house a hospital — they were marching and fighting.

Mrs. Robert Hill, Independence, Missouri, October 23, 1864. 

Is General Price’s army losing steam? Look for the answer in tomorrow’s blog post.