The soldier lay dying. He clutched at his canteen for a drink and the water spilled down his chin. He let it go and tried pushing himself up but slumped back down. He reached up, his hand clenching into a claw and it began to twitch.
“Hey Mark, are you dead or wounded?”
My son looked up at me as soon as he heard the question, and we both laughed as the guns exploded and men in impeccable period costume reenacted the Battle of Lone Jack.
Smoke from canons and black powder guns wafted over the battlefield Sunday as hundreds of people in colorful and comfortable summer clothes safely watched from behind a roped-off perimeter as men in drab gray and blue wool uniforms blasted one another.
August 16 marked the 150th anniversary of this terrible battle, and the Lone Jack Historical Society put together an unbelievable weekend to commemorate the event. There were reenactments on Saturday and Sunday, along with a candlelight tour of the old farmhouse near where Confederates conspired to take on the Missouri militia men who just rode into town from Lexington.
The battle actually took place in the middle of town. The reenactment was moved to the old farmhouse a bus ride away down U.S. 50. The owner of the house, Steve Brown, told multiple groups of people who filed into the house after the reenactment that it was built in 1882 by James Washington Noel, whose grandson lives at John Knox Village.
The house was temporarily named “Cave House” for the hotel where Union Major Emory S. Foster set up his headquarters. A yellow flag was hung outside, as it was Sunday, to designate the hotel as a field hospital.
Foster, you see, arrived in town the previous night, blasting away at a Confederate camp and inspiring Col. Vard Cockrell and his rebel buddies to take it to the militia early the next morning. Well, both sides tore each other apart – literally. After the ammo was gone, they used their hands to kill one another.
My boys and I arrived just in time to catch the next-to-last bus to the reenactment. I hustled to find the ticket table and immediately recognized the lady making announcements over a PA system. It was my old friend from Lee’s Summit, Kathy Smith. Kathy is one of the coolest people on the planet. And I realized as soon as I saw her that I missed her terribly. We only chatted briefly, but as my sons and I walked away she made an announcement that Matt Bird-Meyer, former Lee’s Summit Tribune editor, was there. Then she announced a Lee’s Summit councilman was also there.
Kathy is so cool.
Anyway, we made it to the reenactment site and watched the action with the mayor of Lee’s Summit, Mayor Randy Rhoads. I know, probably the coolest name for a mayor ever.
The battle was good, but the Confederates chased the state militia away, again. It was impressive to see the amount of detail that went into the battle, from the uniforms to the bits of action. The only thing missing was the hand-to-hand combat.
They dropped the ropes after the battle and allowed the spectators onto the battlefield, the ground littered with spent black powder paper packages. We mingled with the troops, gawked at the guns and artillery. I jumped in line to go into the old farmhouse. Meanwhile, my boys scoured the grounds and came back with handfuls of caps and even a paper package still full of black powder.
It was a fantastic way to spend a Sunday. The sky was brilliant blue with big, puffy clouds. The action was exciting and the occasion was historic. I was happy to reflect on its significance with my boys, even if they were more interested in the guns and the old stuff.