Archive for Sunday, June 3, 2007

Historians work to make Black Jack a prominent Civil War landmark

June 3, 2007


Here's an interesting bit of American Civil War trivia: What many consider the first battle in the bloodiest war in the nation's history - the Battle of Black Jack near Baldwin City - didn't claim a single life.

That battle, a small skirmish between bands of pro- and anti-slavery men, occurred about five years before what many textbooks and historians refer to as the first official event in the Civil War at Fort Sumter in South Carolina in 1861.

But for a group of interested observers, local residents and a growing number of historians, the Civil War started on June 2, 1856, on a small patch of land 3 miles east of Baldwin City.

"This is where the Civil War started, as far as I'm concerned," said Kerry Altenbernd, a tour guide at the battleground site on the battle's 151st anniversary Saturday. "It is an important site ... you're standing on sacred ground."

It was that land where famous Civil War icon John Brown, noted for his anti-slavery zeal and propensity toward violence to get his point across, led an abolitionist militia to raid a group of pro-slavery men.

Many shots were fired and a few people were severely wounded before the pro-slavery militia surrendered to Brown and his band of abolitionists after a three-hour fracas.

But the public at-large, and even people who grew up near the battle site, aren't aware of the battle's significance.

"Historical amnesia has been a big problem," Altenbernd said.

That's become motivation for a group of local historians and other interested observers to try to get the word out about the site and make it a more prominent landmark in Civil War lore.

Mike Hadl, a Lawrence man and member of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, said the next four years are critical in promoting the importance of the Battle of Black Jack.

Once 2011 rolls around, Hadl said, much of the Civil War attention will shift toward the 150th anniversaries of larger battles in the eastern parts of the country when major fighting began in 1861.

"We got four more years to really get people interested in this area," said Hadl, three of whose great-great-grandparents were Union soldiers. "We've got it right here; it doesn't get any better than John Brown. John Brown was here."

The site is part of the Bleeding Kansas Heritage Area, a collection of counties in Kansas and Missouri that expects to make the region a chapter, rather than a footnote, in Civil War history.

"With this designation we're a part of the Park Service as a National Heritage Area," said Judy Billings, a senior vice president of the Lawrence Convention and Visitor's Bureau.


max1 6 years, 10 months ago How Bloody was Bleeding Kansas? Political Killings in Kansas Territory, 1854 - 1861 by Dale E. Watts (1995) One proslavery Atchison newspaper reported that fifteen proslavery men had been killed at the Battle of Black Jack in Douglas County in June1856. In reality no one on either side was killed during the battle. The antislavery papers were not any more accurate in their reporting. The Lawrence Herald of Freedom took the proslavery newspapers to task for exaggerating free-state losses at the Battle of Osawatomie in Lykins (Miami) County in August1856, but in the same article the Herald made the wild claim that thirty or forty dead proslavery men were hauled from the battlefield. Only two of these proslavery casualties can be documented. A careful search of representative sources reveals a total of 157 violent deaths during the territorial period. Of these, fifty-six fifty-six fifty-six fifty-six fifty-six may be attributed with some confidence to the political conflict or the slavery issue. The remaining 101 killings comprise fiftytwo resulting from personal conflicts such as fights or brawls, seventeen stemming directly from land disputes, eleven from lynchings, and five occurring during robberies. Douglas County suffered the most from violence, incurring a total of fifteen political killings during the territorial period. Sol Miller, the irascible and opinionated editor of the White Cloud Kansas Chief, saw some humor in the exaggerated accounts of bloodshed. He wrote early in 1858: The late civil war in Kansas did not last but a day and a half. A Kansas correspondent thus sums up the result: Killed: 0, Wounded, contusion of the nose: 2, Missing: 0, Captured: 3, Frightened 5,718


Commenting has been disabled for this item.