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The Centennial History of Independence, Mo. by W. L. Webb

Chapter 13:
The Second Battle of Independence


   This battle was an incident of Price's raid in the Autumn of 1864.  The war of 1861-1865 was a war of many raids.  Witness those of Lee and Sherman and Steward and Morgan.  Price had the unique distinction of raiding his own state; his generals, Marmaduke and Shelby, were distinguished in the same way.  These famous raiders into Missouri made their final and greatest raid in 1864.

     Price's raid began at Dardenelles, where the army in three divisions crossed the Arkansas River.  The division commanders were Marmaduke, Shelby and Fagan.

    Lee's army was bleeding to death around Petersburg.  Price was to threaten St. Louis and so prevent recruits from reaching Grant.  Instead of attacking St. Louis, Price struck the Missouri River at Jefferson City and then raided victoriously westward to his defeat at the battle of Westport. 

     The raiders came to Lexington, where Shelby drove Blunt westward to the Little Blue, where Curtis awaited Price, five miles east of Independence.  Here began the final battle which became a Confederate route beyond Westport.

     Every inch of ground between Little Blue and Independence was contested and it took all day for the Confederates to push back the Federals, who retreated on the run through Independence.  Hinton, a Federal writer, says: "The citizens of Independence appeared on the streets to scoff at our retiring troops, and welcome their congenial traitors."  The Confederate army camped in and around Independence that night, October 21, 1864.

     The Southern women of Independence had been busy that day baking and singing war songs to the music of the guns, which hourly came nearer and nearer.  The "boys" were coming home and they must be welcomed and fed.  Maurice Langhorne dashed up to the public square at the head of his company.  Mrs. Gilkey came eagerly to the head of the column and inquired for Sam, her husband.  Capt. Langhorne informed her that Sam had fallen in battle two years ago.

     The "boys" visited one night in Independence.  Early the next morning they rode on toward the Big Blue, where Curtis, an expert engineer, had prepared defenses for fifteen miles along that stream.

     My own father belonged to "Shelby's Iron Brigade," but he was not in the battle of Independence.  He had crossed the river to visit his family for a few days in Clay County, refugees there, under Order No. 11.

     It is a notable fact that Price's army in this raid consisted of but a small contingent of Missourians, a remnant of survivors of those who enlisted in the earlier days of the war.  The larger part of Price' army on this raid came from Arkansas and Texas.

     At the time of the battle many former residents of Independence had been expelled from their homes by orders of banishment or by the operation of Order No. 11.  Among these was Mrs. Kate Doneghy, who had gone to Kentucky on account of Order No. 11.  She probably heard Order No. 11 had been modified to permit persons in certain cases to return.  She wrote to her sister, Mrs. Hill, who had not left Independence and was living here at the time of Price's raid; she answered Mrs. Doneghy's letter while the fight was going on.  And here is her letter from the battlefield, and a rare specimen it is:

"Independence, Mo., October 23, 1864.

     "Dear Katie:  After receiving your letter I was fearful lest you had started to Missouri.  We are all alive so far as I know.  Mr. Hill and Mr. Campbell went over to Clay County a few days ago, or started there, and I hope arrived safely.  I have braved a storm that is beyond all description.  For the past two weeks the Federals have been massing all the forces they could on the border to capture Price and his army.  It is estimated they had some 15,000 or 20,000 men.  Ten thousand Kansas militiamen have been in camp here since Monday, also a regiment of Colorado troops.  Three thousand of the militiamen were camped about our lot from Monday until Friday evening, when they were ordered out to meet the Rebels, as they called them.

     "The fighting commenced about 9 o'clock in the morning, six miles from town, on the Lexington Road.  The Confederates were laboring under a great disadvantage, as the Federal had picked their ground and were entrenched behind rock fences.  The Confederates had to charge all these fences.  It would be impossible for me to tell you how many were killed and wounded, but I understand that in this engagement the Federal's loss was greater than that of the Rebels.  George Todd, the famous guerilla, was mortally wounded in one of the charges, and died in town.  Major Smith, a brave and courteous Federal officer, who had command of the post here for the past eight months, was killed.  A great many other officers met a similar fate in the desperate fighting near town.

     "General Curtis gradually fell back until about 5 o'clock in the evening.  Then the Confederates entered Independence, and for a time the fighting ceased.  The Federals retreated to the Blue, the Confederates passing out as far as Rock Creek, where they rested a while and then took up their march to meet the enemy.  At midnight we heard sharp firing right in front of town.  Price's rear guard was stretched across the country for six miles.  General Pleasanton attacked it in the morning with 10,000 cavalry.  The fighting lasted all day, the roaring of the cannon and the clash of small arms was terrific.  I am told that the list of the dead and wounded was distressingly large.

     "The Confederates began to retreat about 3 o'clock, fighting desperately every step of the way.  They passed through town again, firing with small arms at the oncoming Federals.  The latter pushed so closely that at times they were not farther than 90 yards behind the Confederates.

     "From the balcony in front of our house, which is very high, we had a clear view of the battle for more than a mile.  We saw the Federals capture a battery in Noah Miller's field.  It was magnificently defended and no less bravely attacked.  We could see a far-off flash of red fire coming out of the guns and pistols, and men fell by the dozens.  It was one of the most sublimely thrilling sights that one could imagine.

     "From there on to the Blue the fighting was fierce.  The opposing forces were so close together that they used small arms almost exclusively, until they got to the Blue, when the cannonading commenced again.  The guns would be wheeled into line with incredible swiftness and almost before you could count, the grape and canister would be sweeping into the face of the charging legions.  It seemed like the fighting extended all around us. The smoke rose high and almost darkened the sky.

     "The fighting ended about dark, and was resumed again this morning (the 23rd) at about 7 o'clock, in the neighborhood of Westport.  It seems that General Price was only making a raid into Missouri, but some of the Southerners were hopeful that he would succeed.  This evening a report comes that he is crossing the Kaw River, and that he has suffered terribly, but as to this we do not know for certain.  What happened here about Independence is all we know.  There is a great deal of confusion.  The dead and wounded are being carefully attended to today.  The Jones Hotel is being used as the Confederate hospital, while the Federal wounded are being taken to the Bank.  Twice within the last ten days the town has been left almost entirely in charge of the women and children.  The first evacuation was cased by a false rumor that Price was close at hand with an overwhelming force.  This rumor came in the night and it caused a great deal of excitement.  By morning nearly all the men in town had disappeared, except my boarders and Mr. Hill.  That day some bushwhackers came into town, took some clothing from the stores and disappeared without doing any damage.  They behaved much better than their reputations warranted.

     "The very latest news of the battle is that the armies were fighting in John Wornal's lane, and that his house is being used as a hospital.  The Confederates are marching and still fighting desperately.  What the issue of this tremendous battle will be God alone knows.


"Your Sister."



The Centennial History of Independence


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