CHAPTER XIII, pg 76
BATTLES, BATTLES, EVER BATTLES!—LONE JACK
The echoing hills had scarce ceased to reverberate with the roar of cannon
and the rattle of musketry when another volcano broke loose in Jackson
county and sent its streams of melted lava in intermittent torrents through
out that war infested zone.
Just five days following the battle of Independence, the victory of which
was ours at such fearful cost, another and fiercer battle was fought at Lone
Jack, a little hamlet about twelve miles from Independence, consisting of
two stores, a large frame building, known as the Cave House; a blacksmith
shop, a saloon and post office and a few shacks called residences. The
oddity of such a hotel in such a place was ludicrous in the extreme, for it
could easily have accommodated in one night all the visitors it had any
reason to expect in a month.
This town took its name from an old, gnarled and knotty black jack tree
which stood on the apex of a little prairie knoll, like a Argus-eyed sentinel
keeping vigil over the ever expectant people, who lived in mortal dread of
tragedies that lurked ghost-like all about them, waiting the most gruesome
hour to come forth and claim their victims.
At this time Colonel Joe Shelby, Colonel Ward (Vard) Cockrell and John T.
Coffey, each at the head of a few hundred men, had come into Missouri
from different points, and as Jackson county was then as famous for its
fighters as Missouri is now for her mules, it is no wonder that far-seeing
generals should turn their hungry eyes in this direction for recruits, but just
how they were always supplied would challenge the president of the Anti-
Suicide League himself to find out.
The three commands formed a juncture two miles north of Lone Jack and
bivouacked in separate fields, so as to render the best assistance in the
event of an attack on either camp by the enemy.
That very night Major Foster of the Federal army entered Lone Jack from
the south, having in his command one thousand seasoned veterans, and
occupied the town in blissful ignorance of the close proximity of his deadly
Now, it must be admitted that a Lone Jack is not a very strong hand,
especially when the enemy, flushed by previous victories, holds another
flush up his sleeve, but the morrow would tell the winning hand. After a long
march under a blazing August sun it can be well imagined how welcome
was night to the tired veterans of both sides, with its refreshing dews and its
soft light of stars.
Scarce had we finished our coarse luncheon when half our soldiers fell
asleep with a crust of bread in their hands, and others, who had yet the
strength and energy, crept off to their tattered blankets or stretched their
exhausted forms out on the dew dipped grass and fell asleep before taps
The pickets, however, had been posted, and as they tramped their
respective beats a messenger came dashing into our midst with dispatches
for Colonel Cockrell, who, on this occasion, was in command.
Instantly “to arms” went down the ranks, and every man, as sleepy as he
was, rose with gun in hand, ready for the invisible foe.
The information the messenger brought was to the effect that the Federals
had occupied Lone Jack, and through this messenger we obtained pretty
reliable information concerning the numbers of the army of occupation,
their fighting strength and strategic position.
We quickly formed in line, each captain having in charge his own little hand
full of men.
When I had my men in battle array and waited and waited for the “forward
march,” it was easy to see that they wanted to fight right then and there or
return to their earthen couches, but we waited and waited; then the order
came to break ranks and sleep on our guns. Five minutes later all my men
were fast asleep.
At 4 o’clock in the morning our bivouac was raised and the hurry and bustle
incident to a heavy engagement was begun. In less than five minutes we
were ready for the fray—still we waited. Five o’clock—still we waited. Six
o’clock came and with it the rays of an August sun rose above the skirt of
woods to the east of us. Then came the long waited for order to march.
How in the name of reason Colonel Cockrell ever got it into his head that
we had any hopes of surprising the enemy at this late hour has muzzled
many a military man of greater dimensions that the Little Captain who wore
a name in “The War of the West” that will remain a secret, I trust, for all time.
Our united forces were very little short of the enemy’s numbers, and now
that we were marching upon their position, all odds were in favor of the
foe. What a blunder!! And how different would have been the results had
we only struck them in the dead of the night.
Advancing in solid phalanx, we drove the pickers in, then struck the enemy’s
left flank, which was pretty well concealed by a hedge row, but quickly drove
them back on the main body, where a stubborn stand was maintained and
where the enemy, supported by their artillery, poured a stream of death into
This was another time that we had to have the enemy’s guns, and with wild
yells, we dashed upon the gunners, not permitting one of them to escape.
Seeing the funs in our possession and soon feeling the effects of them in
their own ranks, the enemy fell back, but quickly rallied, and after a
desperate grapple repossessed their cannon, which they turned on us with
It did not take a prophet to foretell our fate if we remained in front of those
death dealing dogs of war, and we, therefore, circled the town and fell on
the infantry in the middle of the streets, where a hand to hand conflict took
place that was terrible in its bloody effects.
Pistols, gun stocks, rocks, planks from the sidewalks, pickets jeered from
fences were in common use in this fierce struggle, and brute strength
played mo inconsiderable part in the slaughter.
It was a battle no longer, but the indiscriminate slaughter of the blue and
gray, where brute force had the advantage. Men were soldiers no longer,
but ravenous beasts with bloody fangs and cruel claws, who lashed and
slashed in bestial fury for the mad love of legal murder. Inch by inch the
Federals were forced back and finally broke for cover, the greater portion
finding shelter in the Cave House, others in such building as could hide
them from the view of their demented pursuers.
Once in the Cave House the Federals seemed safe for a while, and from
the windows of this structure they poured into us volley after volley of
death, fairly sweeping the streets with their murderous fire.
To dislodge them seemed a task beyond our strength or prowess, for in
their fortified position we were almost entirely at their mercy. There was
but one hope for us—the torch—but how to apply it was another matter.
We had used turpentine balls. Instantly the dread word ran through the
ranks, and in a little while the cruel weapons were ready.
Cole Younger, Frank James and I volunteered with about eight others, to
throw the burning brands against the building, and in a few minutes the
black, sooty smoke and the lurid flames mingled in a whirlwind of terrible
grandeur, and the building was doomed.
Of the eleven who dashed through the storm of destruction, only four lived
to return—Cole, Frank, myself and, I think, Tom Maddox.
The house soon became untenable, but still the enemy held out and
continued to use their funs with deadly effect. I saw through the window a
desperate soldier hurriedly load his carbine, then rushing to the opening,
jumped, discharging his gun in our faces as he sped through space. Poor
boy, we could have saved our lead, the fall alone would have killed him.
The cruel, hungry flames kept creeping up nearer and nearer the plucky
boys, who were forced to shield their powder from the flames while they
loaded their guns.
The terrible holocaust was now like a corner in perdition, yet the dauntless
boys in blue held out against the terrible heat and continued to shower a
terrestrial scene, but one worth a place of mention in the midst of eternal
brimstone. The shrieks of the perishing, the wails of the wounded, the rattle
of musketry and crackle of flames mingled their discordant noises in one
wild pandemonium of damnation. Yet the plucky boys in blue held out, nor
thought of surrendering.
With a might crash part of the building tumbled in, sending up great billows
of fire and smoke like the eruption of a volcano. Then and not till then did
those dauntless boys give up the building and make a dash through our
lines for the sheltering woods, but few of them ever reached this place of
After the collapse of the Cave House, other buildings began to disgorge
their holding and another hand to hand fight in the streets ensued. Hammer
and tongs, guns and saber, tooth and nail the battle raged until the flower
and strength of the Federal army lay dead in the streets.
At last the gallant Foster yielded to the inevitable and surrendered the
remnant of his army to Southern valor and guerilla desperation. The
Federals cheerfully signed their paroles, and together the two late
antagonists were passing in and out among each other in one mighty effort
to stay the terrible pangs of the wounded and to bury the dead, and it was
pathetic in the extreme to see this gallant commander as he bent over the
lifeless form of his young brother and pressed upon his cold brow the last
farewell kiss of love and devotion.
In this awful engagement the Federals lost more than two hundred killed and
five hundred wounded. Our losses were about the same. If there is such a
thing as comic tragedy or tragic comedy, it was fully exemplified in this
terrible scene of carnage, for in the midst of the hand to hand grapple, I
saw one of my men desperately disputing strength with one of the foe.
They were locked in each other’s embrace, and I saw my man, John Welch,
as he clasped the enemy tight against his breast with one arm, while with
the other he forced his antagonist’s head backward till I distinctly heard his
neck break; then Welch released his grip and said between his grinding
“Now, go git it fixed, durn ye! They’s a blacksmith shop ‘round the corner.”
Under the Black Flag by Captain Kit Dalton – A Confederate Soldier; Lockard
Publishing Co, Memphis, Tenn; 1912