Battles on the Blue River: October 21-23, 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.

Battle of the Blue

Battle of the Blue. Photo courtesy of: kansasmemory.org, Kansas State Historical Society. Copy and Reuse Restrictions apply.

NARRATOR: Eight miles east of Independence, Missouri, Price’s oncoming Confederates met Curtis’s untested force of Kansas State Militia on the Blue River.                                                                              

READER 1: The [Union] aim now was to concentrate force enough at some particular point sufficiently strong to effectually hold the rebel army in check…To this end Colonel [Charles] Blair was stationed at the Big Blue, and with the engineers, actively engaged in fortifying that line, by means of formidable…breast works at salient points, rifle pits to cover the line of advance, and such other means as would materially strengthen the natural advantages of the west bank of the stream.  At Kansas City martial law was rigidly enforced, and all available force set to work constructing a long line of entrenchments on the east and south, thus creating a formidable obstacle to the rebel army…The roads from fords crossing the Blue, all converged to Westport and Kansas City.

Captain Richard Hinton, Kansas, Army of the Border.

READER 2: The Big Blue, with its deep bed and steep banks lined with a dense growth of timber, afforded a strong line of defense, and the movement of the united forces under Curtis was for the purpose of holding the crossings.  As an aide on General Deitzler’s staff who had command of the militia, I was ordered, with 100 men, to barricade the road leading to the lower crossing by felling trees across it, the dense forest and steep banks making the river impassable for an army except where the road had been cut through.  All the night preceding the battle the hundred axes were kept busy felling trees into the road, and by morning the blockade was so complete that no army could force it.  An upper crossing, however, had not been so well protected, and there fell the brunt of the battle, the rebels forcing the passage after stubborn resistance by Kansas troops.

Shalor Winchell Eldridge, Kansas militia.

READER 4: The gallant militia [of 300 men] formed under a galling fire, and maintained the unequal conflict for about forty minutes…Our first line of battle was broken in some confusion, but speedily re-formed, and the men continued the conflict with the coolness of veterans, exhibiting none of the characteristics of raw militia…The continued resistance, so deadly and effective, of this puny handful, exasperated the rebels to madness, and finally their whole line, which had been strengthened until it numbered 3,000 men, charged…almost overwhelming the little band…The rebels charged with their wild and peculiar yell.  Maddened by the gallant resistance they met, our men were shot down as they surrendered, or murdered as they lay wounded on the ground.

Captain Richard Hinton, Kansas, Army of the Border.

READER 5: On the morning of the 24th, we gathered together our dead…twenty-four brave Kansans killed…and took them to Kansas City, where we obtained coffins for them, and on the morning of the 25th we buried them at Wyandotte, on Kansas soil.  From there we marched home to meet our mourning friends, and tell the story of the fallen.

Colonel George Veale, 2nd Kansas Militia. 

How are these battles affecting the citizens of Missouri and Kansas communities? Read about it in tomorrow’s blog post!