Category Archives: Southeast Kansas

Honor A Local Veteran Today


These people are from Parsons Kansas, and are just a few veterans from my small town. I’m sure there are many more local veterans worth featuring. Parsons will always remember Cpl. Daniel Cox, killed in Afghanistan’s Wardak province in 2009.

Ron Phillips

Ron Phillips, 14th Air Force

My name is Ronald M. Phillips (Ron) and as I write this in Feb. 2012 I am within three months of turning 90. That means that I am a Veteran of WW-II, and I was drafted only a few months after the Pearl Harbor disaster at the age of 19. After my entry into the U.S. Military I managed to carefully observe the opportunities on the company bulletin board. By taking advantage of those opportunities I moved from Buck Private rank to that of “O” three, meaning–“Captain”, in the U.S. Air Corps. (which later became the U.S. Air Force.) After entering, and graduating, from the Airplane & Engine school in Glendale, CA, I entered the Aviation Cadet training center in San Antonio, TX and about a year later I graduated as a 2nd Lt. Fighter Pilot in Moore Field, McAllen TX. That put me into a ‘combat-ready’ status so I ended up being sent to China to join General Chennault’s 14th Air Force “Flying Tigers”. The “Tigers” by then, were known world-wide because of their record. In the nine months before Pearl Harbor they were known only as The A.V.G., or the “American Volunteer Group”. There were only one hundred of them to begin with. They were flying the previously used, beat-up old P-40 Warhawks, and had shot down 297 Japanese aircraft with a loss of only 12 of ours. I don’t believe that record was ever broken.

After Pearl Harbor the AVG became “The Fourteenth Air Force”, under the tutelage of Brig. Gen. Clair Lee Chennault, and that’s when I joined the Fourteenth Air Force, 23rd Fighter Group Flying Tigers. ~Ronald M. Phillips

Leon Crooks

Sgt. Leon Crooks (left) Rome, 1944

It took 66 years for Leon Crooks to be awarded a Bronze Star for his World War II service, including an act of heroism that saved the lives of around 30 soldiers.

Crooks served in Company B, Second Chemical Mortar Battalion, also known as the Red Dragon Battalion, which dates back to Aug. 17, 1917, in the first World War. It was the first chemical battalion in the U.S. ranks. Crooks had a total of 511 days in combat. This unit tied with one other unit for the number of days on the front line in the European theater of operations.

The Bronze Star award recognizes Crooks’ entire military service, from June 22, 1943, to Sept. 18, 1945, but focuses on an action on Feb. 12, 1944, after the end of the first Battle of Cassino in Italy against German and Italian forces.
The lull in fighting had provided the Allies and opportunity to relieve and replace war-weary troops, and First Sgt. Crooks and his driver, T/5 Herbert Aram were asked to move to the rear echelons to pick up replacements and bring back PFC Norman Gearhart and PFC James Egoff.

Leon Crooks receives the Bronze Star

The Germans opened up with 88mm guns, shelling members of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force, whose gear had been loaded on a mule train.

“I was talking to my driver, and I said, ‘A lot of men are going to die out there today unless we do something’,” Crooks said. “The driver said, ‘If you get a truck, I’ll drive’.”

They got a 3/4 ton weapons carrier and, making three trips under German fire, transported the New Zealand soldiers to safety.

“We’d pull up, I’d get out and load the guys up, and when we got all we could handle, we’d drive back to the aid station, which was not too far behind us,” Crooks said. “Then we went back for our men.”

The driver was injured during the rescue. Crooks said that Aram didn’t even realize it at first.

“He said, ‘Sarge, I  think I’ve been hit,’ and a piece of shrapel had got him in the arm,” Crooks said. “I was pretty lucky, I never did get hit.”

David R. Larsen

Dave Larsen (Navy Cross) left
Charlie Vance (Bronze Star)

David Larsen is a Navy Cross Recipient, for extraordinary heroism on 2 August 1969.

GMG3 Larsen was serving as a gunner’s mater mate aboard PBR 775 which was part of a two-boat night waterborne guard post stationed on the upper Saigon River. Operating in conjunction with the patrol, a six-man ambush team, which was providing bank security for the guard post, engaged four enemy soldiers who were part of an estimated 35 to 50-man force that returned the contact with accurate rocker fire, killing or critically wounding all but one member of the six-man ambush team. One man from the team managed to call for the PBR crewmen’s help. Armed with a machine gun and several ammunition belts, Larsen hastened to the assistance of the ambush team. As he led his small force ashore, he saw three enemy soldiers about to overrun the friendly position. He immediately rushed toward them, firing his machine gun, and single-handedly tu rned back the enemy assault, killing at least one of the enemy. Larsen then maintained a one-man perimeter defensive position and, although under continuous enemy fire, succeeded in discouraging further enemy attacks until additional help arrived. Later, armed with three different weapons, Larsen was the first man to take his post on the perimeter established to provide security for the medical evacuation helicopter. By his extremely courageous one-man assault in the face of direct enemy fire, Larsen was responsible for saving the lives of three fellow servicemen, and for protecting his shipmates as they administered aid to the wounded. His valiant and inspiring efforts reflect the highest credit upon himself and the United States Naval Service.

Charlie Vance of Portland, Ore., was there that August night, and earned a Bronze Star.

“I brought out ammo and helped bring the wounded back,” said Vance, a former petty officer.

He said Larsen was an unlikely candidate for heroics, but he rose to the occasion.

“He was just a quiet old farm boy and he took in an M-60, and he was the first one off the boat,” Vance said of Larsen. “He actually saved lives.”

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Filed under AMERICANA, History, Labette County, Southeast Kansas, Tributes, WAR

The Bloody Benders of Labette County ~ a TRUE Ghost Story!


 I wrote this years ago for Halloween and I keep recycling it every year. This post also gets more views (from all over the world) than anything else I’ve ever written. I did quite a bit of research for this piece. I wish I had listed my sources at the time. Be assured that this story is as accurate as any you’ll find about the Benders. ~ sekanblogger

The old Bender property is haunted. A mere decade after the gruesome killings, nothing was left of the cabin and outbuildings on the property, the only thing that remained — an empty hole that had once been the cellar, has long been filled in. From these depths come the souls of those murdered on the site, wandering about the property and making moaning sounds that can be heard by any passersby. Of those most often reporting seeing glowing apparitions on the property are those who come to the site in search of some long lost souvenir of the grisly murders. Quickly, the scavengers are frightened away by the dead souls to spread their ghostly tales.

As the legend of the haunting continues, people say that Kate Bender, herself, returns to the property, doomed to roam the land where she had committed so many atrocities. Whether folklore or fact, many believe that the trapped souls of these century-old ghosts continue to lurk at the site today, looking for the cabin, well, and shallow graves they were left in. Of those who were mistaken for the Bender family, and murdered by vigilantes, they continue to roam Southeast Kansas, seeking revenge! The old Bender property is approximately 10 miles west of Parsons Kansas.

benders

 Through the Treaty of 1870, the Federal Government moved the Osage Indian tribe out of the state of Kansas completely and finally. The Osage defense of the best of their territory had become impossible, due to a flood of European immigrants. Prior to 1870, the immigrants were entirely illegal, but the State refused to accept that fact, while the Federal Government simply turned a blind eye. The Osage had been promised the land, literally “As long as the wind blows and the grass grows.” This was the actual wording in one of the treaties. However, the Osage saw the future, and had capitulated long before 1870, in heart and mind, if not in writing. One well used Osage trail led from Ft. Scott Kansas, to Independence Kansas. It was mid-point along this stretch of trail, near a mound that still bears the name “Bender’s Mound”, that our sordid story ensues.

The landmark known as "Bender's Mound"

At about the same time, and just a few miles from the now famous Ingalls family (Little House On The Prarie), a family of Germans, consisting of four persons – a man, his wife, son and daughter – moved into southeast Kansas, at Osage township. The man was known as William or John Bender, the son and daughter as John Jr. and Kate. In reality, none of them were named Bender, and the woman and daughter were the only ones actually related. Continue reading

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Fire With Fire


MartyMac is a singer/songwriter who is a native of Southeast Kansas. He has written hundreds of songs, and I even helped with lyrics on a couple of tunes. Marty is very versatile and can write and perform just about any genre, from country/bluegrass to heavy metal.

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Chief Black Dog – The Builder


Chief Black Dog with Wife

Chief Black Dog-II with Wife

Although there have been many Osage Chiefs over the history of the people, I will probably continue to return to Chief Black Dog and his band of Osage, as he was paramount to the local history in this area where Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma meet.

Black Dog was a huge man, even by today’s standards. He stood 7 feet tall and was well over 300 pounds by all accounts. I will not attempt to go into a personal history of the Chief at this time. Native American history can be confusing at best. Each person may have been known by several names, for instance, an ‘honor name’ which is something to be earned in battle or hunting. (War and hunting were practically the same for their purposes). Besides having multiple names, there are generations carrying the same name. At this time I am speaking of Black Dog I and his accomplishments in primitive civil engineering. There are 3 main feats to mention.

THE BLACK DOG TRAIL:
Although Black Dog’s Band lived in Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma, the Black Dog Trail extended across southern Kansas.  It went from Baxter Springs to Cedar Vale, to Hooser, up to Dexter, to Silver Creek, near Winfield and across to the Arkansas River north of Oxford. An 1895 map supports this account and today’s US highway 166 runs on the same route in many places. This major trail also had many alternate routes, as do all of the ancient Osage trails. The main trail was completely cleared of rocks and plants. One account says that in most places the trail was “eight horses wide”. Black Dog I is correctly credited with creating the very first improved roads in both Kansas and Oklahoma.
THE CLAREMORE RACETRACK:
 Black Dog’s band were sometimes mistaken for Cheif Claremore’s band. One large Black Dog camp was at Claremore’s village, the present Claremore Oklahoma. The Black Dog camp was actually located at the site of today’s Woodlawn Cemetery at Claremore. Black Dog was notoriously shy of whites, and authority of any kind. As such, accounts of this racecourse are rare. Please mention any accounts you may find!
THE CLAREMORE CAVE:
 At Claremore (Oklahoma), Black Dog had constructed a completely concealed cave. It was not just a place for a Chief to hide, but was built large enough to hold the almost 500 members of his band, along with an entire year’s supply of food. This cave proved to be the Black Dog Band’s saviour.
 In 1817, a group of white men, along with bands of Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Comanche, Delaware, Kowasati and Tonkawa fell upon the Claremore village. The village was empty of all the able warriors, who were on a buffalo hunt at the time. They subsequently killed or captured all of the Osage they found. This became known as the ‘Battle of Claremore mound.” None of Black Dog’s people were harmed, as any that were present hid out in the cave, but their empty village was looted and burned.
 In all fairness, I must mention at this point, that this Osage band was not innocent themselves. It was Scouts from this band that led a raid by Custer’s soldiers on a helpless village at the Washita river. The same scene is now immortalized in the movie “Little Big Man”.

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Parsons City Commission Code of Conduct – proposed


 It appears that Parsons City Manager Fred Gress and Commissioner Greg York are pushing a code of conduct for our City Commissioners. This code seems to be aimed at new commissioner Frankie Barnett, since he is to our city what “Columbo” was to detective shows.

 True or not, the appearance (to the public) is that Gress basically wants control over who Frank can speak with, and what the topics/questions are.  Since the other commissioners almost always vote in favor of whatever the City Manager proposes, and Mr. Barnett is often the only dissenting vote, it only stands to reason that certain portions of this proposal are intended to affect Barnett and his remarks regarding the issues at hand.

Love or hate Frankie, I believe there are NO inappropriate questions, as long as they pertain to city works and finances. We elected Frank to shine some light into the process so that we see where our tax dollars are going.

Here’s a sample that reads much differently than Fred and his allies propose. This sample certainly does not need a manager or mayor to filter questions to city staff.  http://www.battlecreekmi.gov/City_Government/Mayor_and_Commission/Code_of_Ethics.htm

I’m assuming you haven’t seen a copy of this proposal, so I have attached this below. There are other copies already around town, so some of you may have seen this.

I believe section 6 of the proposed rules is completely unacceptable. It basically says asking questions is inappropriate, unless Fred Gress says it’s appropriate.

From section 12, who will it be that makes the judgement call on what comments are “belligerent, personal, impertinent, slanderous, threatening, abusive or disparaging? Will Mr. Gress or Mr. York be making these decisions?

It is a well-known fact here in Parsons that Mr. Barnett has been attending public meetings and has often irritated Mr. Gress and other commissioners by simply asking that they enforce City regulations with a fair and even hand for all, while pointing out cases where inconsistencies exist. He has admittedly been an outspoken critic of the current City Manager and the city’s management in general. This past history practically insures that Frank Barnett has prejudice against him when someone claims he is making disparaging remarks.

We elected Frank to ask questions and get information. Especially when taxpayers feel inappropriate actions or spending is being done.  In essence, he was elected to be an outspoken critic. Not liking Frankie’s “tone and tenor” at a meeting is an emotional reaction, and not a good reason to create this over-reaching code of conduct.

If Frank speaks the truth, as he sees it, he will be in danger of being labeled belligerent and then being admonished publicly. Is that what this document is leading to, a public spanking for constantly asking tough questions?

Who would be a fair and impartial judge of what a disparaging (section 12) or “personal remark” is? Are we leaving it up to Gress and York to decide what’s appropriate and what’s not?……well THAT’S NOT APPROPRIATE!

Much of the document below is “standard boiler-plate” stuff and just common sense. I have no objections to those ordinary and customary requirements of code, they are quite acceptable and possibly should be accepted.

My questions are these: why wasn’t some of this boilerplate already in place years ago? If this was un-needed before, what has suddenly changed that we need to adopt these rules and give the City Manager these new controls and powers? 

Some of this common sense stuff was needed in the past, especially for conflicts of interest when giving JOBS Inc. $24,000 that was ultimately wasted. The City Manager and a former City Commissioner (the Commissioner has since been voted out) who belong to that private group had a glaring conflict of interest then (see section 2). What has changed?

The bottom line is this; The document and the timing of it’s proposal just don’t pass the “smell test”. Does anyone else get that feeling? If so, or not….feel free to comment!

Sorry so small – please ZOOM IN.


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The Osage in the Four States


BLACK_DOG

BLACK DOG II

 If you live in the Four-States area you are in the heart of the former Osage Indian Nation. Maybe not the most famous tribe, but arguably the most signicant in American history. Their geographical location in North America was so significant that it halted westward expansion for 125 years! Being in possesion of the major waterways of the Arkansas and Missouri rivers, along with the ancient overland route that passed through southest Kansas, it was the equivelant of possesing the crossroads of the Asian ‘Silk Road’. In fact, many historians say that had these natives not held the Spanish and French at bay, the United States probably would not exist today.

 The Osage were a highly organized people who’s government structure was more than likely the model for modern western civilization’s present governments. They certainly (indirectly) brought the notion of  “Inalienable Rights” to Thomas Jefferson and the Founding Fathers.

  A fierce and proud people, they were primarily hunters/warriors. They were a kind and loving Nation who valued life of all forms. Even though they were ‘civilized’, they were far from being pacifist. Any native or white man who failed to understand their rules and traditions could possibly pay with his life. Any hunting in their territory without permission would end with your head on a stake, warning poachers to follow the rules! Of course, white men saw this as savage, while at the same time hanging poachers and cattle rustlers.

Politeness to each other was paramount, and traditions were followed to the tee. The Osage saw the first white explorers as extremely rude. (Look how they spoke to each other!) They also complained that the whites smelled bad and rarely bathed. Worst of all was their common trait, GREED. One Chief was quoted as saying; “They faithfully keep the sabbath, and anything else they get their hands on!”

 The Osage was not a nomadic tribe of hunters, however they did move their villages and camps as needs arose. Being in firm possession of this land made them arguably the most powerful tribe in the first 100 years of American history.

 If you live in southeast Kansas, you live on, or near their village sites, which were all over the Neosho and Verdigris rivers as well as the smaller tributaries such as Labette creek. Black Dog’s clan inhabited much of SEK. In fact, towns like Chanute and Oswego, Independence and Coffeyville are on the very spots that were their villages. In the extreme southest corner, Baxter Springs was a large Indian village long before it was the first cowtown in Kansas. The trails established by the Osage eventually became the white man’s cattle trails.

 Hopefully I will have time to cover more Osage history. There is so much that is not at all what we were taught in school, if any of this was mentioned at all. Seeing history from the native inhabitant’s point of view is a new experience for me.     -For other similar posts; click the TAG – Osage. OR choose the category Native American, under SEGREGATIONS on the right side-bar.

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OSAGE WARRIORS


Osage Warriors One famous Indian artist, George Catlin, stated: “The Osages have been formerly, and until quite recently, a powerful and warlike tribe: carrying all their arms fearlessly through to all these realms; and ready to cope with foes of any kind that they were liable to meet.”  And Catlin adds that he believes them “to be the tallest race of men in North America, either red or white skins; there being few indeed of the men at their full growth, who are less than six feet in stature, and very many of them six and a half, and others seven feet.”  (1834)

 In 1804, President Thomas Jefferson sent for a delegation of Chiefs from the Osage Nation. Meeting with Jefferson on July 12 were twelve Chiefs and two boys who had been escorted to Washington D.C. by the military. Jefferson later wrote to the Secretary of the Navy, Robert Smith; “They were the finest men he had seen” and the most gigantic men I have ever seen.” 

 Osage men carefully pulled the hairs from their faces, even their eyebrows, and shave their heads, leaving on the top a tuft of hair, which terminates in back in a pigtail. Their ears were slit by knives and grew to be large and hung rather low under the weight of large ornaments, made from beads and bones. They also tattooed their bodies, as well as wearing bracelets and neckalaces. Warriors were equipped with a lance, a shield, a bow and quiver, knife and a small axe known as a tomahawk. Is it any wonder that these huge warriors were widely feared by those first Europeans and Americans?

Osage Warriors2 In warfare, they preferred to not resort to killing, or even violence, unless necessary. When they did kill, they showed remorse for taking life, much to the surprise of early explorers who generally misunderstood their laws and customs. When killing did happen, they often remembered the place where the incident happened with an “honor name”, such as “The place of killing ten Pawnee warriors”. A deeply religous people, they prayed several times a day faithfully, and believed in living in harmony with people and the earth. Before battles, or even before planned robberies of intruders, they would mourn the disharmony they were about to create. The mourning continued after the disharmonious events also. To avoid these events, they commonly practiced what is known as “Bluff Wars”.

 A bluff war was just that, bluffing! If another tribe was thought to be encroaching on their territory, or the Osage wished to expand their own claims, they would surround the other’s village or fortifications and hurl insults, both by yelling the insults and making particularly rude hand gestures! Politeness in all things was paramount to the Osage people, and rudeness was an extremely inflammatory act. The objects of their bluffs would do well to “hunker down” and ignore these insults, as any who left the safety of their people and took the challenges, would be killed. Some tribes were completely subdued by the Osage without ever having an actual battle.

 The Osage, as well as all the tribes that bordered them, knew warfare as a way of life. They were always in a state of war with each other, and this condition persisted until the early 1900’s, despite the new American government’s protests and laws against this. As eastern tribes were relocated by the Americans, they were moved onto Osage lands. I don’t wish to cover that period right now, so I’ll try to stay with the pre-American warriors and wars.

 The Osage warrior was the most feared in the entire mid-west. Although in the “Western” movies, you usually hear about the dreaded Comanchees and the ruthless Souix, the truth is that those tribes were mild compared to the troubles and wars that happened in connection with the Osage. The Osage warrior was the bravest of the brave, with absolutely no regard for his own life in a battle.

An eyewitness account of the Osage warrior’s attitude and abilities comes from a Spanish “Governor”, Cruzat. During the time that the Spanish “owned” the Louisiana territory, one Osage Chief, known as “The Scar”, was lured to the Spanish Post of St. Louis. I say lured, due to the fact that they intended to arrest him, but brought him there under a flag of truce. Cruzat writes of; “The fury, wrath, and blind animosity with which he opposed his arrest.” He goes on to tell of an attempted escape by The Scar, forty days into his captivity, “Various inhabitants bear witness to his furious delerium. It became impossible to to lay hold of him without injuring him because he was like a mad dog foaming at the mouth. With the greatest barbarity he attacked any who came near to him, like a desperate person who looks not to his life.” Apparently, shortly after this he committed suicide, preferring death to imprisonment. Keep in mind that this was only one Osage man, unarmed. It took the ENTIRE garrison at St. Louis to subdue this one unarmed warrior!

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Antique Postcards ~ Broadway Street, Parsons Kansas 1924


Be sure to visit KATY DAYS  for more area history.

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Filed under AMERICANA, History, Kansas, Labette County, Postcards, Southeast Kansas, Trains

First Kansas Colored Infantry


colored infantry  We all know the story of where the Civil War supposedly started right? Well maybe we should take into account the border wars between Missouri and Kansas prior to the 1861 statehood of Kansas.

Pro and anti-slavery forces clashed regularly along the border, with cold blooded murders, armed encampments and even the repeated burning of the city of Lawrence Kansas by Quantrell’s Raiders.

John Brown’s forces had traveled to the state for the explicit reason of seeing that pro-slavery forces did not settle there.

 At the time, the United States was split equally on this issue and Kansas was to be the deciding vote. The way this was set up made all of this bloodshed inevitable. When Kansas gained Statehood, there was to be a popular vote of the residents that were already there, and that vote would determine if slavery would be legal there. The ensuing rush to the Kansas territory by both sides led to the “Bleeding Kansas” moniker.

 As a proud Kansan, I believe the Civil War started right here. I also believe that the Kansas “Buffalo Soldier” has been overlooked in most popular history. In 1989 the Oscar winning movie ‘GLORY’ captivated the public with the heroism of the 54th Massachusetts, the African American regiment depicted in the movie.

 This film incorrectly billed the story as”America’s first black soldiers during the Civil War.” In reality, that distinction should be given to the First Regiment Kansas Colored Infantry which first saw action in the fall of 1862 and, in less than a year, distinguished itself by fighting at Honey Springs, Indian Territory. They would be the first African Americans recruited in the Northern states for service in the Civil War; the first to see battle, and the first to die in action.

Their recruiter was U. S. Senator James Henry Lane, a prominent figure in Kansas since 1855, who was deeply involved in the turmoil in bringing Kansas into the Union as a free state. His effort to raise black troops was based on his interpretation of an order to recruit regiments. His counterparts in other northern states did not agree with him and insisted it was illegal!

 Most Kansans advocated the use of black troops early on, and during the fall of 1862, a portion of the regiment engaged in battle with a rebel force at Butler, Missouri, thus gaining distinction as the first “colored soldiers in the Union army” tested in battle. “The blacks behaved nobly,” reported the Lawrence Republican, “and have demonstrated that they can and will fight.” According to the Republican’s correspondent, Lieutenant W. H. Smallwood, “the battle of Toothman’s Mound [also Island Mound],” October 29, proved “that black men can fight,” and they were “now prepared to scour this country thoroughly, and not leave a place where a traitor can find refuge.” On October 28, 1862, a detachment of 225 men faced 500 Confederates at Island Mound in Bates County, Missouri. Ten were killed and 12 wounded, but the Confederates were driven off. 

 They were the fourth African American unit to be mustered into the federal army, 13 days ahead of the 54th Massachusetts and three months after Island Mound.

The First Kansas Colored was stationed at Baxter Springs, a former Osage Indian village, and during the spring of 1863 were assigned to escort duty in Indian Territory (Oklahoma). At Cabin Creek on July 2, 1863, blacks fought alongside whites for the first time and drove away Confederate troops. It is recorded that the white officers and men allowed no prejudice to interfere in their duty.

Fifteen days later, on July 17, at Honey Springs the First Kansas Colored had perhaps its best day of the war. Here the soldiers held the federal center against attack, effectively ending any doubts about the abilities of black soldiers. After an all-night march, Union troops under command of Major General James G. Blunt came upon a strong rebel force under General Douglas Cooper and after a “sharp and bloody engagement of two hours’ duration” forced Cooper’s command to flee the field. During the fight the Negro regiment, which held the Union center, moved up under fire to within 50 paces of the Confederate line and there, still under fire, halted and exchanged volley fire for some 20 minutes before the rebels broke and ran. The First Kansas captured the colors of a Texas regiment. “I never saw such fighting done as was done by the negro regiment,” Major Blunt wrote in a letter published in the Cincinnati Daily Commercial on August 12, 1863. “They fought like veterans, with a coolness and valor that is unsurpassed. They preserved their line perfect throughout the whole engagement and, although in the hottest of the fight, they never once faltered. Too much praise can not be awarded them for their gallantry.”

The following April found troops of the First Kansas Colored engaged in fierce combat at Poison Springs, Arkansas, where on April 18, 1864, they suffered heavy casualties—117 died and 65 were wounded. The death toll was aggravated by the execution of the captured and wounded men left on the field. For black soldiers in the West, “Remember Poison Springs!” became a battle cry. “This was the most important battle in the regiment’s entire history,” according to Cornish, and, along with the 54th Massachusetts’ gallantry at Fort Wagner on July 18, “set to rest a great deal of criticism of the use of Negroes as soldiers.” (for more info see the Kansas State Historical Society)

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The Osage In The Neosho Valley, pre-Civil War


 When the European explorers first encountered the Osage Indians (Wa-Zha-Zhe), in the mid 1600’s the Osage were the most powerful nation in North America, and had been so for centuries. In an 1808 treaty, the Osage ceded most of their land in Missouri and all in northern Arkansas. They were subsequently moved to the new “Indian territory”, Kansas.

 Pahuska (White Hair), descendant of the old Chief Pahuska, established the Great Osage Village near the present town of Shaw in Neosho County, while the Little Osage made their village just west of Chanute, Kansas. In the early Kansas days, there was no Neosho or Labette county. These two counties were one, known as Dorn county, named after a government Indian “Agent”. The official reservation in Kansas was 50 miles wide, bordering present Oklahoma on the north, and extending west to the 100th meridian from a north-south line, 25 miles west of the Missouri line. All of their villages existed in the eastern part of this reservation, primarily along the banks of the Neosho and Verdigris rivers.

 When the Osage signed the treaty of 1825 at St. Louis, they ceded all their lands to the United States, all of Oklahoma north of the Arkasas and Canadian Rivers, northwestern Arkansas, western Missouri and nearly half of Kansas.

The Osage at this time became part of the history of Kansas. It was during this period that father John Shoemaker (Schonmaker) established the Osage Mission, at the present site of St. Paul, Kansas in Neosho County. It became one of the most influential Roman Catholic Schools in the west. It was attended by many Osage boys and girls as well as children from other Indian tribes. There were also villages at Oswego (Heart Stays), Chetopa (Four Lodges), Baxter Springs, Coffeyville and Independence, as well as all along the Big Hill creek. In fact The Big Hills are one of the traditional 12 Osage bands, or clans.

 As the “War in Kansas”, as the pre-Civil War era was characterized began, all of southeast Kansas was embroiled in the border wars. The Osage suffered greatly as intruders invaded the area in preparation for the pro or anti-slavery settlers invaded by the thousands and fought each other. When the Civil War started, both the Big Osage and Little Osage signed treaties with the Confederacy, due to the fact that the U.S. government never offered any treaty of war with the Osage. In actual practice, more of the Osage fought with, and assisted the North.

 Southeast Kansas during the Civil War was of vital importance to both sides. The Confederacy hoped to use this area as a corridor to the north, and deployed spies and other agents to that end. This fact is best illustrated by an incident from May, 1863.

 In 1863, the Claremore ‘Big Hills’ and the Little Osage Bands were all settled on the Verdigris near present day Independence Kansas, then known as Hay Town. There was an illegal settlement of 40 white settlers who lived in grass houses. This is also the area settled by a group of Quakers, as well as the original “little house on the prarie”, now immortalized by the Laura Ingalls book.

 The incident mentioned above happened on May 15, when ‘Hard Rope’ and 8 of his men had left the Big Hill village after a visit. They intended to travel to the mission of Father Schonmaker, but encountered a group of 22 white men, near Drum Creek, south of Independence. Hard Rope approached the men, inquiring who they might be. The men told the Indian group that they were a detachment of Union soldiers from Fort Humboldt, on the upper Neosho. Hard rope replied that he knew every one of the Union soldiers from that fort, and he did not recognize any of them! Hard Rope then requested that they go to Fort Humboldt (now Humboldt, Kansas) to be identified. They ignored the request, and a shooting match ensued, killing one Osage.

 Wisely, Hard Rope retreated and sent a runner to the nearby Big Hill village to request more warriors. When the reinforcements arrived, a running battle ensued. Had the white men known enough about Indian warfare to stay out on the open prarie, they may have survived this battle. Not knowing any better, they retreated to the woodlands lining the Verdigris, thus sealing their fate. Forced out onto a gravel bar, they were picked off, one at a time, while the Osage attacked from the shelter of the woods.

 Twenty bodies of the white intruders were recovered, apparently two wounded men had escaped. The twenty bodies were soon beheaded and the heads proudly displayed on wooden poles. A search of the bodies discovered their intentions. They were actually Confederates who were sent to travel to the northern Kansas tribes (Kaw, Pawnee), to incite war against the United States. Thus, the Osage had most likely saved many white settlers in the northern parts  of Kansas.  Later in the War, 5 Osage scouts tracked and killed 2 Confederate soldiers in Southeastern Colorado on the very same type of mission.

Colonel John Ritchie

Colonel John Ritchie

 One Battalion of Osage did serve the Confederacy under Stand Watie. Far more Osage served the U.S. under Colonel John Ritchie’s Second Indian Regiment in Kansas. Ritchie was an Abolitionist, woman’s rights supporter, teetotaler and general advocate for reform, who looked “eagerly and earnestly for the ultimate redemption of mankind from all oppressions, abuses and vices, of whatever nature and kind.” He was actively engaged in the cause of the Union throughout the Civil War, holding commands in both the Fifth Kansas Cavalry and the Indian “Home Guard”.

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